Saturday, October 3, 2015

Last days of summer

There was an actual moment in early-August, that I did a double take at the calendar.  Realizing we only had a few weeks left in our last wild and free summer gave me a jolt of panic.  I looked at the calendar, then looked at our list of things we wanted to do this summer, then looked at the calendar again (this went on for some time) I did as any maniacal mom would do...I set out to fill up our last days of summer with all things...well, summer.

We had a sleep out in our yard with the big kids, and by we I mean Brandon and Bullet slept in the tent with them, because I still have a fantastic excuse that Violet had to sleep in her crib, thus I had to sleep in the house too.  hooray, another year of avoiding tent sleeping for me!  When they woke up in the morning, Brandon cooked us breakfast over the fire and everyone loved it.  The kids have asked to sleep out in the tent again  approximately four hundred and sixty three times since then.

We logged some hours in nature, taking walks and exploring.  My parents joined us for a walk with Bullet and Trixie (which is generally an adventure in and of itself).  The dogs were so happy to roam free in un-smelled territory and Bullet is always ecstatic to get to swim.  It was a great hike (thanks Abba & Chum!)

And walking here behind our house through the woods and cornfields.  Jogging with a happy Bully-Boy.  Walks with the kids are always a big lower-back workout for me with Violet-too-heavy-for-the-carrier in the carrier up and down the hills.  Sometimes with Gemma on my back even because:  threenager, my legs are too tired.  Thanks to Grey and Caleb for helping her get through it - hah.

We tried to get in as many meals outside as possible because something about eating outside feels special.  The kids are always more interested in running and playing outside for long into the dark when we eat dinner outside which adds to the feeling of wild and free in the summer.  This year we enjoyed breakfast, lunch, and dinner multiple times outside!

We had a farewell summer day with the Fiores, first visiting the Splash Park and playground in Hollidaysburg.  It was a little cloudy that day, but the kids still loved it.  Then we spent the long afternoon at their house playing until we headed out to the Curve baseball game that night.  And luck of all that is lucky (!) they even had fireworks that night.  Talk about a send off to summer!  It was Violet's first time with fireworks, so as long as I kept repeating "Wow, Yay!" with a huge smile on my face, she held back her tears.

We spent a beautiful day at Delgrosso's amusement park with Mimi (their great grandma), Aunt Eileen and our cousins riding rides and visiting the water park.  It was the first time Grey got the guts to ride on an actual big kid ride (thanks to having his brave older cousins Ariel and Gracie beside him) and there was no turning back after that.  He rode the Rockstar ride about sixteen times that day, plus a hand full of other must-be-at-least-42inches-tall rides.  Violet and Ben had their first taste of kiddie rides and quickly became obsessed.  Their little smiles and shouts of pure joy were so infectious.  Oh, those two!  It was such a fantastic day and I'm so grateful that our kids have such wonderful cousins to grow up with.

We met our cousins Tete, Mallory, and Hunter at the Living Treasures petting zoo to spend the day visiting with the animals and having lunch together.  Violet was in awe of all the animals so close to her and was pretty brave about feeding them (ahem, sheep picture below!)  The kids love spending time with Mallory and Hunter and their little conversations are always hysterical.  Gemmi was thrilled that the guys cleaning the rabbit tent stopped for a minute to let her pet and hold their white bunnies (the animal she requests for a new pet at least once a week). We even got to hear the lion roar a few times (so beautiful and loud!)

We headed out to the local Drive-in movie theater as a family on one chilly Friday night to see AntMan.  Violet slept the entire movie, and the kids and I slept for about half of it in the bed of the truck.  Brandon was the only one who saw the entire movie, but we tried - hah. 

And too officially close out the last bit of summer, we invited our friends and family to spend the last Sunday before school started at the Quemahoming Dam for a picnic lunch and playing.  We were lucky to have a beautiful weather day and even live music from a local church that was having their picnic there too.  We ran into some friends unexpectedly (hi, Karen and Lincoln!) and I even had a surprise Happy Birthday song and cupcake! 


Whew, it was such a great summer and when we got down to those last weeks, we really turned up the fun.  It was awesome and I'm so grateful to be able to meet up with some many of our friends and family to make memories that will be lodged in our kids' memories.  What a great, great summer.  Now, it's time to settle in and slow down and that feels alright with me. 

Friday, October 2, 2015


Cheering Grey on at his karate belt test last week where he moved up into the next belt color (white with an orange stripe).  He even axe chopped a board in half!  Who is this kid!?  Pappy takes him every week, so it was Brandon and my chance to see his cumulative understanding and application of everything he's been practicing weekly.  So proud of that boy!

Running in the Que Classic 5K with my parents and sisters on Saturday.  We all signed up to run together and I even had the kids signed up to run in the kiddie race too.  The kids did a great job and then Brandon hung back with the girls in the stroller (Grey went to a hockey clinic with Heather & Caleb - thank you!!) while my sisters, and parents, and I took off on the 5K course.  We all stuck together and finished together too (more pictures to share soon!) but it was a great day and so fun to do all of us together! 

Celebrating our one year old!  Our Violet Mary turned one last Friday and we had a big big celebration for her on Sunday evening with so many of our friends and family.  The weather held out for the party (thank goodness!) and we all had a great time.  She wasn't thrilled about sticky icing hands, but she got in a few good bites of her cake.  Still not walking (kind of happy about that, hah!) but she's so close, I know it's a matter of days.  My baby big girl! 

Reading The Winter of Our Disconnect with the Inspired Readers book club which is really inspiring me to think about how we use technology and for what purpose.  Granted, our kids are pretty small so technology hasn't completely taken over their minds yet (although, they sure do love them some Netflix), but it's a really pushing me to think about my own overuse of technology and for no good reason really.  The chapter on boredom and technology was mind blowing.  Also making my way (slowly) through I Know This Much Is True .  It's such fantastic writing, just unbelievable how seamlessly he gets everything in there - I'm both in awe of the writing and very interested in the story.  Bravo Wally Lamb! 

Volunteering with the Johnstown Backpack Project this week as a family.  We spent Monday evening loading up bags of weekend snacks for local kids in need.  The snacks are delivered to local schools that have kids that have requested assistance for food items on the weekend.  The Johnstown Backpack Project also collects small hygiene products for distribution too.  This is a cause near and dear to my heart as a former educator and I saw firsthand how many of my students would come in Monday ravenous for breakfast and lunch, as school was the only place they were able to get a complete meal.  The kids loved loading the bags up (Gemma was like a little machine!) and it was a good lesson and chat about how we are blessed to be able to have plenty of food to eat ourselves.

Switching out winter clothes with summer ones.  Yeesh, it's been rainy and chilly all week, especially today, and my last dwindling thoughts of hot fall have been squashed out.  It's time to get the full blown sweat pants and winter jammies out (hah).  I'm also going through the insanely ardous task of switching kids' clothes sizes in and out of boxes from the attic.  It's such a pain in the behind, but I refuse to forgo hand-me-downs.  I pulled out Gemma's old jean & pink hooded jacket today for Violet and instinctively brought it to my face for a hug.  Gemma was watching and laughed at me.  I don't care, hand-me-downs get me in the feels and also the environment (fist bump, Momma Earth).

Loving how much the kids are into reading by themselves these days.  Gemma is always my biggest self-reader and is hysterical when she mashes together the bits she has memorized with her own little made-up words for the books.  My favorite is her self-reading of The Dot when she says, "And then she was so rude to the teacher with that bang of her marker!" Violet has found her own love of books, her favorite being Little Blue Truck (her birthday party theme!) and she will sit and flip pages in her little board books contentedly the whole time it takes me to fold a load of her laundry!  And Grey loves listening to books, but this week he lost his mind over Ed Emberly's Go Away, Big Green Monster! I have found him reading it multiple times to himself or his sisters and he's requested it at bedtime every night this week.  And I just discovered there are a whole bunch of these Green Monster I'm tucking that away to add to Santa's list for a surprise for him :)

Helping at Grey's school this week for Marathon Fun Day which was an afternoon of fun games and stations for the kids.  He was so happy to have me there and the kids in his class are too sweet.  Gah, it had me really missing teaching.  Just waiting on my fingerprints cert to return so I can volunteer weekly in his classroom and the girls can get a weekly afternoon to hang with my mom (thank you!)

Blowing all the noses.  well, everyone except Brandon's.  hah.  All three kids have had runny noses this week and I'm just getting over one myself now.  Violet's sporting a fever today (I think she has some teeth coming in though) and Gem is taking a much needed nap after I made her get a how shower to break up that congestion! Cranky, sick babies = tired momma.

Doing really poorly at working out. Like, none this week.  The weather?  yeah, let's blame that.  Also the dark in the morning and the dark so early in the evening.  Actually, it's really just me making excuses, but I'm hoping to get back into jogging with Bully asap.  We both need it and soon it will be too snowy to go!  Make the most of this season, Tabitha!

Cooking in my pantry digging mode as we have yet to go grocery shopping for the month of October.  Even though it's a tad stressful, it's feels so good to use something that has been hiding out in the pantry or the bottom of the deep freezer when other yummier things were options.  It's pushing me to be creative and I made Chicken & Loaded Potato last night (with jalapenos added for Brandon and I, obviously still heavy on our jalapeno addiction) and it was awesome.  We were both sad when it was all eaten up.  And October starts our no dining out month too!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

fall and the winds of reflection

Fall gets me.
or maybe I get fall.
but in any case, fall and I have a special connection.

And I don't even mean because of all the beautiful colors on the trees and the mums (!) and the pumpkins.  Or the hoodies and pumpkin spice flavored treats, or even Halloween...although, I do love all of those things.  

My heart connection to the fall season actually has to do with the the overwhelming sense of reflection that I get each year around this time.  It starts with the back-to-school aisles, all those rows of perfectly organized pencils and markers.  Back to school always gives me a sense of wild excitement. It's the combination of office supplies (because, puhlease, I'm such a sucker for a box of crayola markers, and a stack of post-it notes) and the idea of getting back into a routine.  

I was trying to explain to Brandon that growing up, since we were kind of rural kids, we really didn't see our friends over the summer (except for west point road kids, shout out to Krista!) because there was no internet, no cell phones, no public transportation,so yeah, that's part of the reason why my sisters and I are so tight (hah).  The start of school really did mean seeing our friends again which was fantastically exciting and I still have that butterfly feeling in my stomach every single year just lingering over from childhood days long gone. 

The start of school jitters ease and with the first sight of a changing leaf on a tree, or the sound of rustling fallen leaves on the road, my heart swells.  

This season feels like permission to shed my own figurative leaves too.  A visual reminder that it's the season for reflection, shaking off whatever's been holding on too long, and a time to settle in for the winter months. 

Instead of associating fall as the heralding in of winter, I liken it to the shedding of the summer.  Our summers (and spring...well also our winters too in the smack dab of basketball season) is so full of plans, celebrations, traveling, and events.  It feels like the other three seasons fly by in a whirlwind  and I find myself going back through the photo folders and catching myself thinking, 'omigosh, I forgot we did that.'

But fall,
fall is different.

We still have plans and celebrations and places to be, but somehow fall feels like we've tied up the loose ends of summer's wild ride and the busy of Christmas is still far away.
In suspension almost.
We're not awaiting the next thing, we're just here right now in our hoodies and re-reading our favorite Halloween books for the three hundredth time, and relishing in the last days outside before the cold forces us in.

This year, I'm finding myself doing a lot of reflection on the day to day of our life; what are my routines?  Am I making choices about the way I spend my day with intention or is my day to day activities just happening...and if that's the case, what will be the things I remember back on this time when my kids are so young?  What will my young kids remember back on this time based off of our daily activities?

In our Inspired Readers book club, we're also reading a very timely book for my fall season reflection; The Winter of Our Disconnect as it has me really thinking on how we, as a family, experience technology and how that technology helps us or (eek!) hinders us in experiencing life.

I know the kind of person I want to be each day, and I know what I hope/want my kids to remember back on about this time in our life - it's just a matter of putting in the time and effort to make those things happen (even if only a little bit) each day.  What's that Annie Dillard quote again...

We've made ambitious plans for October already that will hopefully address some of the ways we'd like to live our days more like how we hope to live our lives:

We're tackling my 100 small things items:
For a whole month, no eating out (life goals: save money, be more daring in the kitchen, continue to eat dinners as a family)

and also For a whole month, blog everyday (life goal:  make time to write every single day, Tabitha!!!)
Actually, this goal will technically run from September 29-October 29, because I took a cue from Ashley of the BWF when she said don't wait to 'start' something if you're ready now! Thanks as always for the inspiration, Ashley!

Do you love the fall season too?  Are you living  your days like you hope to live your life?  Share how!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Tough Mudder 2015

Earlier this year, Brandon's cousin (and Violet's godfather) Ryan asked him if he'd join his team for the Tough Mudder Pittsburgh race in August.  The Tough Mudder is a 10+mile military-style obstacle race that supports the Wounded Warrior Project (raised over 8.5 million for WWP to date!)  The Tough Mudder is all about teamwork and camaraderie and many of the obstacles cannot be completed without the help and support from your teammates or strangers running alongside you pushing through both physical and mental fears and challenges.  It's legit, you guys.

So in the last weekend of August, our family drove up to Slippery Rock, PA to support our 'Outdoorsman Tough' daddy at the Mudder.

Team Hunting Daddies consisted of Brandon, Jon, Ray, and Ryan while their cheering squad included me and our three kids and Lisa (Ray's wife) and their son, Reid.  It was practically an entourage.  

We got to follow the guys around for many of the obstacles that ran along the observer path.  It was awesome to be able to see so much of it, and it kept the kids mostly occupied during the day by weaving along the paths and watching all the participants.  We were also lucky that much of the race ran alongside wooded areas, and as outdoors kids themselves, the three biggest kids were thrilled to be able to occupy themselves in the trees and weeds.

The obstacles were a mix of physically difficult and mentally/emotionally taxing - pushing all kinds of fears:  height, tight spaces, water, and darkness.  The boys were pretty amped up during the race between all the adrenaline and camaraderie and so they mostly enjoyed themselves while also becoming progressively exhausted.   Between the thirteen obstacles, there were short distances of running/jogging, so they all agreed that it was a nice mix between the two.

I was so grateful to Lisa for pushing the stroller most of the way (thank you!!) as our little Violet was discontent to be locked in the seated position (there's so much to see!)  I had her in the carrier for most of the race and many times Gem on my shoulders!  Where's my headband for the Mommy Mudder, right?  hahah  (actually multiple people stopped to say that to me, so that's not an original thought - hah)

It definitely would have been easier to leave the kids with a babysitter and just go myself to cheer the boys on - but this is an example of the ways we try to instill in the kids that we are all a part of this one family together.  That Daddy was doing something awesome and so we should all be there to see it - even if that makes it hard.  We are a family and we support each other.

After a break to eat, we lost the team for awhile.  It was hard to tell time-wise which obstacle they'd be on now that we had taken a break for food - so we let the kids play freely while Lisa and I stared at all the runners trying to recognize anyone's face who was in the group before or after them - hah!  We finally found the guys again (after about 45 mins though!) and were able to see them finish the last three obstacles before receiving their Tough Mudder headbands at the finish line.

The whole Hunting Daddies team did amazing and I am so proud of them for pushing themselves to their limits in this race and for this organization that supports such a great cause.  I'm not usually all "My Man!" but I think the Tough Mudder race is an exception.  Brandon is an incredible athlete, it's just in his bone marrow and I'm crazy proud to confirm that he successfully completed every single obstacle the Tough Mudder threw at him.
So, seriously you guys,  my man!