Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Around Here Week Five: 1/30-2/5

A weekly review of what it's like to live in our home right this minute.

Intentional hours outside:  7.85 hour (of 1000) 
This week was a turning point for me in looking at my outdoor hours. For the past month it felt like a chore and something that needed checked off the list. But this week, it was ha,tingly obvious that making outdoor time a daily occurrence is such a relief to my soul. When things start to unravel with my patience and the kids are especially wacky, a trip outside to stomp about in mud puddles or a walk to the mailbox does incredible wonders for all of us.  It's the best kind of 'distraction' tool I have for restarting the day for both the kids and me.  I'm feeling pretty excited and energized about this goal! 

Reading Dear Mr. You by Mary-Louise Parker. I held off on reading it until our January book club book was all finished. I knew it was going to be a big deal for me after I read one of the 'letters' from the book and cried my eyes out; weeping all over myself and trying to catch my breath. Then I tried to read it aloud to Brandon and had to keep stopping because he couldn't understand me through the sobs. I officially started it this week and got through one paragraph before closing it and kissing the front cover (yeah, I'm that girl).  I love it and I'm already mourning the fact that I'll probably finish it this week as I'm taking it intentionally slow to read to drag it out as long as possible. Also, we have selected the February book for the Inspired Readers book club and we've selected A Man Called Ove: A Novel and we begin on February 15, so there's still time to join! 

Struggling with our current laptop situation. Miss Violet dumped an entire cup of my warm coffee on top of the laptop on Thursday and I got there just as she was laughing maniacally holding the empty mug. I snatched up the laptop and rushed it off to dry tent-position on the drying mat in the kitchen, sort of lightly tapping any leaking coffee out. A few hours later, with no hope, I plugged it in and much to my total surprise, it worked! Well kind of...everything was clickable and opening but they keyboard is on the major fritz (the "i" key isn't visibly stuck, but is pretending it is and no other keys work).  Thankfully, I immediately uploaded all of our January 2016 pictures to Shutterfly (and amazingly had the weird karmic foresight to have uploaded all 2015 photos just last week!), so at least for that. We lost no photos for eternity. I tried to blog today but the keyboard still doesn't work and so I restarted with full understanding it may never come back on again. It showed some promise but then a super loud buzzing alarm-type noise starts to sound and so I've given up twice today so far. Thus, this is being done on the iPad which is the cause for weird photo sizes or style issues (#FIRSTWORLDPROBLEMS)

Loving getting to know big kid Greyson.  I know I just said this recently but he is really turning into a real boy and it's so much fun to get to know him as a big kid who comes up with his own ideas and jokes and unique Greyson-isms. He came home yesterday and asked if I knew what Bloody Mary was! (He wasn't scared more like curious and kind of excited to be 'in the know') I said I didn't hear about it until I was at least in fourth grade and he said the third graders on the bus told him about saying it in the mirror and she'll come out and kill you.  I was cracking up - because really? Still, some 25 years laters we are still telling the same urban legends in elementary school? Amazing what stands the test of time, no? He asked if it was true and I told him, "I don't know, I was always too afraid to do it." Because I like keeping mystery and magic and a little bit of spookiness in life.  He can figure it out on his own.  And for my sake when he is fifteen years old and hates my guts:   He also told me last night on the way home from the basketball game: "I'm glad, like really glad that you're my Mum." 

Being followed by "my little shadow" Gemma Rose. Honestly, I can't turn around without her being there.   Her little chatterbox mouth and her twirling around is every.where.i.go and I know someday I'll miss that so much, but can a momma get a minute to herself? Hah. She's been testing out my limits this week too by ignoring me or trying to negotiate with me when I ask her to do anything and it's endlessly exhausting. She has been fantastic at playing with Violet and always caring and ready to cuddle, but she's pushing it right now as she's on the verge of being four!! 

Celebrating a new cousin with a baby sprinkle party last Friday night with our Studer family. We had a yellow themed shower (gender is a secret) and spent a nice, low-key evening getting excited for a new baby cousin.  Our new cousin was actually just born this morning!!  So we are wishing a very happy birthday to our newest cousin (who's name I can't yet share but whom we already love)!!!! We also enjoyed Groundhogs day this week which brought the kids much joy to be "right" that they guessed (or wished) for an early spring. Although, we got more snow today and Gemma said, "but I thought the hog said winter was over."  And we joined in on National thank-a-mail-delivery-person day in Thursday by leaving some sweet treats for her in the mailbox. Thanks to Ashley of The Big White Farmhouse for alerting us to this special day

Enjoying yummy eats and treats this week because momma is pregnant. Ya know.  The kids are on a hot cocoa kick and in honor of all the hot cocoa drinking we have going on, we also made hot cocoa cookies which were a massive hit.  We got our first Blue Apron delivery I'm not kidding I could have eaten the entire 4-person portion of Peanut noodles by.my.darn.self.  So, so good.  We've also had multiple days of ice cream sundaes, hahhaha #secondtrimesterfeedingfrenzy 

Preparing for the 17 month old mark of wildling for our Violet Mary. She's only at 16 months, but she seems to be ahead of the game as she's been particular naughty this week. Both Grey and Gem at 17 months fell into what we call the Wild Thing stage and they don't come out if it until about three and a half. It's a lot of crazy, nonsensical. tantrum throwing, destruction, and silliness. It's like living on the edge of hilarious and horror.  Here we go again, just as Gemma is exiting! 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

February Meal Plans

Happy Groundhogs day!  I'm sharing this month's meal plans today.  We were pretty bad at meal planning and dinner last month (and by 'we,' I mostly mean me and this pregnant belly!)  I think it was the combination of finishing out the holidays, plus basketball season, plus pregnancy...and yeah, I just really let the ball drop on that one.

But I'm back in full action this month and excited to include our first try at Blue Apron this month (which is covering four nights this month for our meals).  I added it to my 100 small things list because I like the idea of stretching my cooking comfort zones out into foods I don't normally make because it includes weird-to-me ingredients or methods.  Our first delivery actually arrives today and I'll have a full update on our thoughts later this month after we give it a go!

This month also includes lots of our favorite little winter holidays, the start of Lent (meat-less Fridays!), and our Gemma Rose's fourth birthday!  So all of those things needed to be considered in my meal planning to make sure we can work with the plans set for the weeks.

--I meal plan for our weekly dinners at the beginning of each month.  I don't usually plan breakfast or lunch (unless it's a special holiday), nor do I plan for desserts (again, unless it's something special).  I try to do 'real breakfast' (ie. not cereal/toast) at least twice a week and the girls and I try our hand at making dessert once a week (on 'What's cookin' Wednesdays!)  Lunch can usually be covered by left-overs and the weekends sometimes include home-cooking, left-overs, grandmas' cooking, or a special out-to-eat stop!

M:  Orange Crockpot Chicken
T: Blue Apron:  hoisin-glazed roast Pork with peanut noodles
W: Slow cooker Potato Soup
R: Ham & Cheese Sliders
F:  Blue Apron: bbq Chicken wings and sweet potato salad
M (Lunar New Year): Baked sweet & sour chicken
T (Mardi Gras):  *Kings Cake (breakfast), kid-friendly Jambalya
W (Ash Wednesday): Meatless spaghetti, salad, and garlic bread
R: Long boy burgers
F: Pierogies and fish sticks
S: Valentines day  bacon wrapped salmon (grown-up), hot dog hearts with cheese arrows (kids), and chocolate chip cookie cake
M: bacon and pea mac&cheese
T: Slow cooker Chicken & gravy with mashed potatoes
W: Ranch porkchops
R: Korean beef
F: Gemma's Birthday Party! (pizza, salad, cupcakes!)
M: Chicken tacos
T: Blue Apron:  Seared chicken and potato salad with sweet sour cabbage
W: Skillet beans and rice with kielbasa
R: Blue Apron: Roast Pork and smashed potatoes
F: Fish Fry at our church!
M: Sundowner burgers (cheeseburger with a fried egg, mustard, onions, and chili on it...don't judge us, it's a Johnstown thing, heh).

This month, I also found myself really trying to choose meals that I was almost certain that I wouldn't have to negotiate with the kids at dinner.,,even if meant repeating meals that we've had recently.  Granted, the kids aren't too picky- they do at least try, but with studerbaby4 stealing all of my energy (especially obvious and frustrating around dinner time), dealing with food complaints and arguments is something I just don't have the fight in me for at that hour.  So, if you have any yummy kid-approved meals that you can share, I'd really love to hear 'em for next month!!

Friday, January 29, 2016

Around Here Week Four: 1/23-1/29

A weekly review of what it feels like to live in our home right this minute.

Intentional Hours Outdoors
: 5.25 hours (of 1000)
I did a little better this week with my outdoor hours, but I still found myself some afternoons during naptime choosing chores and laying on the couch (ok fine, half asleep) instead of stepping outside.  Can I blame it on the baby I have brewing?  please?  hahhaha.

Reading the first few chapters of Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover Workbook and listening to Tell the Wolves I'm Home on audible.  We finished up Big Magic this week in our Inspired Readers Book Club.  I really loved the book and I'm finding a lot of inspiration and comfort in the last part about how so often in life the things we defend as being sacred turn out not as important as the things we do every day, or have the creativity to make new and change.  I've slowly been discovering this myself in lots of different lens, but it seems even more so recently with studerbaby4 on the way.  The concept in my mind isn't clear enough to write down, but it's starting to come together in my heart and it finally feels like maybe I'm understanding something I've really fought hard to struggle against.  

Saying aloud to the kids on repeat this week (but also for my own benefit and reminding), "For your whole life, there will be people that choose to be mean to you; who try to hurt your feelings and make you feel bad.  Do you know what are family does to people like that?  WE KEEP BEING NICE.  We don't get to choose how other people act, but we do get to choose how we act.  and WE are kind."

Digging out of the snowstorm Jonas this weekend.  We got about 18 inches in a matter of 12 hours and we were straight up snowed in.  Our driveway is about a quarter of a mile long, so it took Brandon seven hours to get us all dug out with our tractor - and it was only that quick because we had help from our neighbor Mike for the last two hours!  The kids were so happy about the snow and luckily for him, Grey had spent the night at my parents' house right as Jonas was arriving - so he had full attention and reign to spend tons of time outside.  The girls and I did the old outside for 20 minutes, back in to thaw for an hour before going back out again dance and it suited us just perfectly.  We got some rain later this week and temps in the forties that really melted a lot of it, but there's still enough now that the kids can enjoy some outdoor shenanigans.  (update: it's actually snowing again right now).

Receiving the kids' Valentines books that arrived this week to add to our previously very limited collection.  I love having holiday-specific books that only come out during certain times of the year and we got some new goodies.  We also put out the few valentines decorations that we own.  The girls and I will be making some new decorations in the coming weeks on Make Something Mondays to make the house extra 'lovely' (one of Gem's favorite words right now).

Feeling proud of Gemma at gymnastics this week.  It was the first time after she's moved up to a bigger girl class (she's the youngest by two years!) that she 'allowed' me to sit on the bleachers with all the other parents.  Up until now, she was getting really intimidated by what the other girls could do and she'd get so flustered that she'd start crying and has asked that I 'sit close by.'  Thankfully, her sweet coaches have agreed since she is only three and half and despite being strong enough to do the stuff, she's not quite emotionally mature enough.  But she did it this week all by herself!

Smiling about the kids and their funny little ways and descriptions of life
Greyson:  "Are the Blue Jays playing in the regular gym tonight?  Ya know, the one where Daddy's name is on the wall?"

Gemma:  "Momma, that shirt looks so fablious on you."

Violet has taken a huge leap into toddlerdom this week and it's blowing everyone's minds.  Just this week we've had three different people ask us how old she was and were shocked when we told them she's 16 months.  It really is a third child situation in which she just copies everything her siblings do and also she's fearless when it comes to climbing.  She added "Go!" to her vocabulary this week and learned what the point of a path in the snow is after she walked straight into the snow piles face first twice.  I think maybe she thought it would just move away (like a cloud?) but she figured it out finally.

Greyson gave me a 'One-er' when I asked him for a high five on the way home from the bus stop (he tapped one finger on my palm) and when I shouted "Nooooooooo, not a one-er!!" he died laughing and proceeded to give me also a 'two-er, three'er, and a four'er' until finally bent in half laughing hysterically gave him a high five.  He's been doing weird big kid stuff like that and cracking himself up and I love getting to know this bigger kid and laugh with him over goofy things that are funny only because he is laughing at himself so hard.

Gemma keeps asking everyone to come to her birthday party or her house sometime to sleep over.  This is slightly normal for her to ask our family members (grandparents, aunts), but this week with the knowledge that we are planning her birthday party, she's also asked some of the Blue Jays, our friends at the basketball games, and yesterday, complete strangers outside of a store.  I told her, "Sweetheart, we have plenty of people coming to your party who are our family and friends, we don't know those people." to which replied, "Well I was about to ask them their names, MOM!"

Violet was sitting on my lap as I was reading aloud a blogpost to catch errors and when I stopped to correct something, she started babbling in the same rhythm and loudness that I had just been reading, like it was just her turn now to read aloud.

Wondering frequently this week about how long phases will last in our home in a way that has had me feeling prematurely nostalgic.  Little things like the stuffed animal Belt (from the Croods) has been stuck in the tree outside since summer and first we kept forgetting to bring it in the house and then it sort of turned into a little reminder of beautiful chaos and there he was still hanging after snow storm Jonas and I was all emotional about him in there.  #blamethepregnancy And then what about Grey playing basketball in the kitchen with this little ball and hoop anytime I'm in there cooking or cleaning up.  And how long will he keep asking Brandon to play P.I.G. with him during breakfast?  Is there an age cut off to when that little ball and hoop will stop being fun, or maybe the cut off is when Grey decides to sleep in instead of playing in the kitchen early in the morning?  Gosh, life is so long and also so short and it stretches my poor little mumma heart so.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

thank a coach

I'm writing this from various different perspectives.  First, as a former athlete, I've played sports all through most of my young life - from elementary school up through college, mostly volleyball, but basketball and cheerleading sprinkled in there too.

 I loved the sport(s), I loved being on a team, I loved pushing myself to places I didn't think I could go for the sake of my teammates.  I may never have been the 'best' player on any of my teams, but I was certainly one of the most enthusiastic.  I have a journal from my senior year of college that I wrote in after a big win where I wrote in all caps, "NEVER FORGET THIS FEELING!"  That's where sports can get you:  to the upper highs of emotion.  It also can get you to the lowest of lows but then it taught me how to recover from those, making that 'brush yourself off and get back up' reaction stronger for the next million times that life inevitably knocked me on my behind in a thousand different ways.

The sum of what I learned from playing sports has always been greater than the parts, and I think most athletes would agree.

I'm also writing from the perspective of the wife to a Varsity coach.  My husband's team is considered part of our family all year, but especially during the season.  We wait for Daddy to come home to eat dinner, usually past bedtime, we travel to home and away games, and we all talk, worry, and cheer all season long. Our young kids know the players' names and numbers, get to know the players' parents, families, and girlfriends and then  pretend to be them when they play at home.  These teenage boys near celebrity status to our three kids as they give them high fives, knicknames, and ask them how they played after the games as though the opinion of a three year old was the most important thing they had ever heard.

And finally, I'm writing as a parent to kids that have their own coaches.  We have a strong belief that raising kids takes a village, and our kids' coaches are part of that village.  We write thank you notes at the end of the season, ask how we can support the team through volunteering our time or talents, and remind the kids to include them in their prayers at night.  Having their coach's familiar face at practice and the games gives our kids the confidence to believe in themselves.  These coaches, just as their teachers, become our partners in teaching our kids how to grow into their best selves.  We regard their opinion, advice, and suggestions highly because we fully understand that they get to know our kid, not better than us, but differently than us.

So, from those perspectives, I'm encouraging you, today, to Thank a Coach.

  • Thank the coach that made you better than when you started.  Whether that was the little league coach that taught you the rules at the start of your career in the sport, the coach that cleaned up your game as you started in a higher league, or the coach that got you pumped up at the start of the second half of a game your team was losing.  


  • Thank the coach that had to try to schedule practice fairly, who organized fundraising projects, and who threw in their own money when it ran out in the account and paid out of pocket for the pizza.  
  • Thank the coach who gave you your knickname, or learned your team celebration cheers, or perfectly executed that dumb phrase you and your teammates made up - because to your coach, you all were much more to them than your jersey number.
  • Thank the coach who had the difficult job of keeping you and your teammates under control during the season.  There's nothing quite like the bond that comes through long bus rides, common hatred of suicide drills, and post-win huddles.  Through the whole season, you and your team continue to get closer in friendship, but also weirder and sillier. Thank the coach that put up with you and your teammates' antics and goofball jokes.

    • Thank the coach that gave you hope to come back again tomorrow to try again after a hard loss, a painful injury, or a difficult time in your personal life.
    • Thank the coach who said to you, "I don't care what anyone else out there is saying, you are playing because I believe you are the best person for the job, so BE the best person for the job."  And then you became your best.
    • Thank the coach who stood on the sidelines arguing with the ref about an unfair call in your defense.  The sight of their emotion and hand motions was a reminder that someone had your back.
    • Thank the coach who showed up to cheer for you at your other activities.  The coach who shows up at your graduation party.  The coach that shows up through mailed notes of congratulations and encouragement as you move through life.
    • Thank the coach that sacrificed their time.  Every minute spent at practice, traveling to games, in the office to meet with you, watching game film, taking phone calls from parents, making calls to colleges, talking with the newspapers, tallying up individual players' performances, printing programs, writing letters of recommendations, meeting with teachers about grades and discipline...every minute of that - they were choosing you over everything else.

    • Thank the coach that celebrated with you after the wins and stood beside you through the losses.  Who was the first to say, 'here's how we're going to move forward from this.' Who encouraged your team to rally at the end of a close game or at the end of a difficult season.  The coach you looked at incredulously when it seemed impossible but there they were still over there drawing up crazy plays and shouting from the sideline, "You got this!" 
    • Thank the coach who stops to talk when you see them around town and asks how your life is going - even though it's been a long time since they've been your coach.  Know it's fine if you still call them Coach, great even- because, to them, YOU will always be considering one of their 'kids' no matter how much time passes.
    • Thank the coach who you reach out to for advice and encouragement someday when you become a coach and think to yourself, 'wow, I had no idea.' 
    • Ya know what?  You can even thank the coach that you thought was unfair and unreasonable.  Thank them because when your boss at work is being unfair and unreasonable, you already have practice on the feelings of frustration and how to move past them.  

    Thank a coach because just as all of those drills and practices paid off because 
    you put in the time and effort to be a better athlete, 
    your coach put in the time and effort to help you become a better person.  

    Tuesday, January 26, 2016

    Things to embrace on your 2nd+ pregnancy

    When you're pregnant for the first time, everything is new, sometimes that newness is magical and sometimes that newness can be overwhelming and scary.  But regardless of how you felt about pregnancy the first time (loved it or endured it, hah!), there is a common thread among all first-timers:  being pregnant was new and thus, generally consuming of the thought, of the heart, of the worry.

    Then you get a baby and it really is all consuming.  My husband and I recently looked back on the year we had our first baby and sat baffled out how we took little to no other pictures of anything else happening that entire year.  We had our first baby and so everything that happened that year was seen through the lens of that first and only child.

    Then we got pregnant again, and it wasn't that it was any less special, it was just that we had a real human child that was demanding attention, so the pregnancy felt slightly less consuming, but also more difficult.  Because instead of just feeling worn down because well..human growing, we also had a child that expected their regular operating momma.

    I'm in my fourth pregnancy (!) and if I'm being honest that's how long it took me to embrace the things on this list, but I understand some mommas are a little quicker on the draw than me (and hopefully most are!).

    If I could talk to my 2nd pregnancy self, I would try to convince her of these five things.  But alas, here I am with babe#4 cooking and I'm grateful to finally be in a place where I can fully appreciate and enjoy these little bits of wisdom.

    Five things to embrace in your 2nd+ pregnancy: 

    1. Embrace cereal for dinner:  in other words, let yourself off the hook a little bit, momma.  Pregnancy brings with it a sort of forced slow down which can be so very frustrating, especially for those efficiency-craving mommas like me.  Up until this point, you've finally figured out how to survive as a family of how many ever of you as there currently are, which usually means a lot of juggling and hurrying to keep all the balls in the air.  But pregnancy can make you tap the brakes (or sometimes slam on the brakes) of your normal operating mode. Dust bunnies collecting in the living room , no biggie.  Those clothes can be folded tomorrow, or ya know what, pull them out of the clean laundry baskets as they're needed! Give yourself a little extra grace, ya know what your child will remember?  That you still made time for love, not that you had cereal for dinner a few times (actually, kids love cereal for dinner).

    2. Embrace help offered:  There is a reason that the quote, 'it takes a village,' has hung around for so long.  You are amazing, momma, a superwoman, truly!  But you are only one woman, and it can be both helpful and meaningful to receive help from whoever it is that makes up your village.  Look around and you'll most likely find people who are eager to help - maybe it's by offering a playdate with your kid(s) so you can rest, meeting a grandparent at the grocery store so you don't have to solo-shop with kid in tow, or someone that asks, 'is there anything you need?'  Take their extended hand, friend. They love you, they love your kid, they love that baby you have cooking.  Don't be hesitant to accept the help because you think you are putting them out.  You get the benefit of appreciated help and your child gets the benefit of fun and attention and building relationships with people you trust and your village gets stronger!
    Sidenote:  When you are capable of offering help to your pregnant family or friends in the future - offer the help you appreciated! Be a friend that you'd like to have!

    3. Embrace the future:  be kind to your future self now.  Think back on those first few weeks of having a newborn and then try to imagine your current wild child there too.  Instead of being afraid of that future(hah), try to do some things now for that future tired momma you'll be.  Before your new babe arrives, try to get ahead on some lingering headaches (bills, appointment scheduling, and bulk item shopping), and throw together a few freezer meals or request them as 'gifts' from your village.

    4. Embrace the uniqueness of this pregnancy:  Even though you've been through this whole thing before, it doesn't make it any less special.  Having a human child already can be quite distracting (I mean that it in the most loving way possible obviously), and so you might have to be extra vigilant in finding ways to document this pregnancy for both you and your baby in the future.  Do whatever seems to work best for you and you're own creativity.  Take occasional baby bump photos, mark down notes about how you're feeling and what you're craving in a baby book or notebook.  Talk to you current kid about their new sibling, let them be apart of the pregnancy too by letting them 'help you,' or read books to your belly, and make special artwork for their sibling's nursery.

    5. Embrace the view:  look around the dinner table, stare into the sweet cheeks of your sleeping babies in their beds, watch how your spouse plays and rough-houses with your kids.  The sounds and the sights that you have in your home right now will soon be different. What is your normal now will be replaced with a new normal as soon as that little family member arrives.  Embrace today's normal in all it's wild, exhausting, loud, fun, and beautiful messiness.  A bigger family means the beauty and love in your family will multiply, make no mistakes, but it is an irreversible change.  Literally embrace your family today and cherish this snapshot of how it feels to be your family just as you are in this moment.