our ABCs of summer

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Antisocial App - keeping me under control. I have been using the app to help curb my social media addiction since the beginning of the year. It basically runs in the background and tracks your smartphone usage (how many times you unlock, which apps you use and for how long, etc). For the summer, I turned on the schedule blocking feature which means it blocks me out of opening social media between the hours of 10a-2p and from 4p-8p.

Bedtime - is not a real thing, hah. we have a #nobedtime summer schedule so the kids usually stay up as long as they want/can and then end up sleeping long into the late morning (which I love so I can get lots of chores done before anyone is hanging off of me or requesting food and drinks. Grey sleeps on the couch almost every single night and the other kids have been rotating who sleeps downstairs too.  It means cleaning up blankets and pillows every.single.morning but also it's whatever. Beginning in August though, we start to reel it back in and couch sleeping is reserved for weekends only and we incrementally bring back bedtime fifteen minutes earlier each week. Have to re calibrate again before school!

Community Arts Center Camps and Classes - for Gemma and Violet. Gem attended their musical theater camp with a little production of Break the Cycle, which she totally loved. I've been itching to get Violet signed up for an art/painting class because she is still my little artist baby girl. She is so intentional and abstract with her painting (it seriously blows my mind) and I think she would love to get her little hands on new material and have a real instructor to learn some new techniques.

Daydreaming - about next school year for all of us. I am such a school nerd and look forward to the beginning of the school year like a kid waits for Santa. I caught a glimpse of the school supply aisle in Dollar General the other day and my heartbeat quickened #truestory. I hopped into a going-out-of-business store and snagged three lamps for my new room and scored two adorable new signs from this Spanish teacher's etsy shop to add to our decor. I've visited my new classroom twice already this to move and organize and decorate. While I was there, I saw my new Spanish novels have arrived and I went through my email to see my subscription to SeƱor Wooly is opened (geeking out so hard). Thankfully we have Miss Hannah who will be with us two days a week for the last three weeks of summer so I can squeeze in some precious planning/organizing time to prep for the school year. 

Eggs - on our mind. We had been checking daily in on our robin's nest that has four perfectly blue eggs inside, to then four sweet hatched little baby birds, to finally four too-big-for-that nest robins! It was so fascinating for all of us to watch the whole process and see how hard the mom and dad robin work to feed all those babies. What a gift this summer that was for us! The chickens also started laying at the very end of July- the kids were so excited to see two sweet brown eggs waiting for us in the hatching boxes. We average about 6-8 eggs a day (!) and have already delivered a full dozen to our neighbors (and we've eaten a ton). I told the kid that if we have 3 dozen by next Thursday, they can go sell them at the community farmer's market!

Free Range - to the kids to play and imagine their own summer days.  At the beginning of the summer I felt a few fleeting moments of pressure to organize and plan our days at home down to the hour and then I was like, yeah - no. I've been giving them lots of space to fill their summer days with whatever their imagination can come up with. Their chores have allowed me a little extra freedom too - I have laundry, dishes, and cooking helpers!

Garage - emptying, cleaning, updating, and reorganizing. This entire project was never even on our giant summer project list, yet its the one that has taken the most time, energy, and money (hah! typical.) It was a project that probably needed done for the past seven years since we moved in but holy moly it is a lot of work! We are finally on the last stage of putting things back in - which also has us think minimally and efficiently. (thank goodness)

Hospital - waiting room hopping, as we work through the overwhelming medical news about someone we love very much. It has been a difficult few weeks, but we continue to get very positive news and incredible doctors, nurses and surgeons who work together as a team to put effective plans in place.Thank you so much to all of you who have been praying and keeping us in your thoughts. We have felt your love and positive vibes and are so grateful to you for thinking of us and also giving us time and space to breathe.

Indulging - in the little joys of summer life. It took a whole month for me to realize I need to be better dedicated to eating good stuff (hah, whoops!) The kids have got great use out of our Amazon Firestick this summer, some of their favorite flicks have been Karate Kid, Matilda, Hook, and good grief - Mamma Mia. The blackberries are in bloom around our yard and the paths behind our house which is one of my all time favorite summer indulgences; walking the dogs and snacking on blackberries right from the bush. I have even indulged in the central air this summer as the mugginess has been so extreme (ugh).

Jumping - on the trampoline. Brandon and I wholeheartedly agree that the trampoline was the best money we ever spent on a kids' toy.

Kayaking - the Quemahoming Dam and falling love, every single person in our family! We already purchased two youth kayaks for Gemma and Violet and we've been on the look out for kayaks for B, Grey, and I to complete the family set (Rusty can ride with a grown up still). We live in such a perfect location for kayaking in western PA and the fact that every person in our family loves being out on the water - family kayaks just makes sense!

Library - late fees. We were doing so well getting to the library at least every two weeks for half of the summer (and enjoying free library lunch) and then we fell out of schedule and I've had 12 children's books out on late fees for two weeks. We are steadily marching through our 100 picture books for the summer though and it makes me so heartwarmed that all four kids come like moths to a light if I sit down with a children's book in my hand and start reading.

Modifying - plans as the summer has taken some unforeseen twists and turns for our family. We last minute RSVP'ed a no to a cousin's wedding (congrats Kyle & Alyssa! We love you both!) and we postponed our 10th year Beer Olympics! Our hearts just were not in the planning and preparations. We are so grateful to have the amazing friends that attend that event who were so sweet and patient with our updates - many of whom reached out immediately to offer prayers and help. (we love you guys!) We've had family and friends be flexible for babysitting and changing plans and even more patient with my terrible text response time issues. (thank you!)

Norwex - cleaning. Uh oh, I jumped on the Norwex train and I ain't ever looking back! My baby sis had a party and I was amazed and loved that it is simple, deep cleaning, and environmentally friendly. One rag to get the whole house done - and easy (and safe!!) enough for the kids to do to - TAKE ALL MY MONEY.  hahha.

Ordering - clothing boxes for the girls and myself. I hate clothes shopping - for me, for the kids - I loathe it. I ordered the girls Kidpik boxes and they came a few weeks ago. They were over the moon and oohing and ahhing each time they pulled an item out of the boxes. Gemma's box was perfect - every single item was exactly her and a perfect fit.  Violet's box was a perfect fit and we will probably keep everything because she ripped half the tags off while trying them on (#SweetLord) but she also has so many handmedown clothes that it's a little harder to justify brand new clothes for her (...but I guess she needs her own stuff too. #bigfamilymomguilt ) I signed up for Stitch Fix to get my Teacher wardrobe ready for the new school year and also loved everything in my box! Capsule teacher wardrobe - nearly updated!

Playing - volleyball with our co-ed team at Roxbury. I love our little motley crew of a team that all call me mom/momma and that act like they hate saying 'meow' in our team huddles (but I know they're lying, they love it). We made to playoffs but ended up losing in the first round. It is always so bittersweet to end our summer league volleyball season.

Quemahoming Dam - visiting. We live only a few minutes from the Que and it is one of our favorite summer spots. The scenery is gorgeous with the water surrounded by our beautiful PA rolling, lush green mountains. The family recreation site includes a sanded beach, playground, pavilions, fishing doc, walking trails, kayak & paddle board rental shop, and a volleyball court. It is the perfect place to spend a summer day and wear the kids out tired from all the fun.

Rainbows - rain clouds, wind, and humidity. The weather this summer has been so wacky and frustrating. We never know what the weather might bring one day to the next - there hasn't been any consistent pattern. It was so windy the other day that it was uprooting our garden vegetable plants (!?) and the so hot and humid only to rain for four days in a row straight.

Sassy - mouthed little children. Oh sheesh, our two biggest kids have been testing and pushing the second half of the summer with their smart mouths and back talking. We've had more discussions about respect  and more day/afternoon grounding to their rooms, and loss of privileges that we anticipated for raising our 8 and 6 year old. I know it will only continue to get harder as they move to the land of tweens and teens - but we're trying to get a handle on it now before they ever get the chance to turn into full blown brats. Gosh, parenting is tough - I'm sending all my love and patience to you mommas and daddas out there trying your darnedest to not raise aholes.  Us too! We feel ya!

Truck - research. Brandon has been on a months long mission to find a new truck for us and I swear it is has consumed his mind, body, and soul. I am not a car person - AT ALL - I literally couldn't tell you the name of any vehicle on the road and cannot see the difference between vehicles beyond shape and color. And yet, he continually passes me his phone with the 543rd truck he's found only to have to listen to me comment on the color.  HAHAHAHAHA. For the love of all that is holy, Pick one, babe!  (love you B xxox)

Underwater - the kids are little fish and we can never get in enough swimming to satisfy them. Grey and Gemma are full blown swimmers and are slowly opening up to the idea of swimming without googles (mom goal: the less accessories we need for any given activity the better! ha) Violet can swim but she still tires pretty easily but won't take a break stage (hahha! she's just like our dog Bullet - I swear that dog would swim until he drown himself). Rusty has been getting the arm and leg movement down, but his head is so big, he can't keep it above water LOL.

Visiting - family and friends in place of a bonafide vacation. We didn't get to go on any big fancy trip, but we have had so much fun spending time with family and friends. We've played at Idlewild, spent the day swimming at Friendship Village campground, slept over our cousin's houses, hosted sleepovers and playdates at our house. It's been a mixed up summer - but still a good one with a lot of memories and smiles.

Woods - exploring behind our house. The dogs and I have gotten in quite a few walks together and I love so much the sunset view on the path behind our house. It feels me with such joy and gratitude I can't even explain it. (#PAiloveyou) The kids worked together earlier this summer to try to build a treehouse in the woods and they did a pretty good job, except for the fact that they stole a bunch of Brandon's tools from the garage and never returned them.

eXploring - new-to-us restaurants. I've been pretty terrible at meal planning this summer which has us using that as an excuse to try local restaurants we've never been to before. We've enjoyed food and libations this summer at: Tulunes Steak & Alehouse, The Fat Squirrel, Out of Fire Grill, Tap 814 Speakeasy, Nyko's (new to B), and Stone Bridge Brewery.

Yard - animals roaming all over the place. We had two sweet fawns that stop by once a day, Brandon even bought them a little salt cube that is down near the chicken coop. We have about three million bunnies and a family of groundhogs living in our sand mound. We also have a skunk living down by the driveway which makes for a tricky evening situation with the dogs - by the Grace of all that is holy, somehow the dogs have not been sprayed all summer (probably just jinxed myself!) We have two little baby fox living on the other side of our driveway that we see anytime we come home after dark. And the funniest of all - we have a whole flock of swallows (I'm talking like 15-20) that bomb dive and swoop us while we mow the lawn or Brandon weed whacks. We are thinking that the mower kicks up bugs and butterflies and the swallows come out in full force for harvest. It is like something out of the Hitchcock Birds movie the way they are everywhere in our yard but instead of scary - we all laugh and shake our heads in disbelief.

Zucchini - is nearly the only thing that will grow in our garden. We planted broccoli but the bunnies ate every single bit down to the dirt. We have some tomatoes that are starting to pop up - although Rusty keeps pulling them off while they are green and saying 'apple!' - and we have about two little banana peppers trying to make it. No green peppers or jalapenos either. But our zucchini (or as Violet calls it 'bikini'), is growing like crazy and we love it.

-thanks for the inspiration, Ashley from The Big White Farmhouse, to kick me out of this writer's block.

Around Here Week 31: 07/29-08/04

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

A glimpse into what it is like to live in our home just this minute.


Intentional Outdoor Hours: 352+ hours (of 1000)
Up 20 more hours this week. I had a joyful hike at 1000 steps with my sis, Kayla while we trekked up the mountainside via rock steps and then hiked all along the top. Gosh, if I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times, Pennsylvania is so beautiful. Honestly, I gush like a heartsick teen over these rolling hills and valleys, every darn day. Not even in just spectacular views like at 1000 steps, but while driving the country roads by her house - like a total maniac, I lean out the open window and shout, "I love you Somerset County.' that's not a joke, I legit do that. I have not, however, been such a fan of this weather this summer with it's days long worth of raining followed by extreme mugginess. I make a motion to surrender to the new weather shift and change the summer months now to August-October. Let's all just agree that the new spring runs May-July because you know we'll be sweating all the way through football/cheer season. Fall is basically November and like the first half of December and then we have winter from Christmas to April (waaah, but also true). Let's just adjust the school year, yes?

Reading and finishing The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah. It was a great book, I'm still digesting my feelings on it because as Hannah's way, there's no neat and tidy all is well that ends well when you close the book - it feels more like life in the way that things get kind of messed up but everything is bound together by love so somehow we can endure it all. I kind of love that because it feels heartbreakingly true to life, but also I don't mind a fictional happy ending too, ya know? The Great Alone was my 12th book of the year, which means I've checked off that task on my 100 small things list! And I finally returned our library books (12 of them!) two weeks past their due date - try to guess what those late fees added up to?!

Completing the garage floor! fi.na.lly. Good grief, this project took so long but was really worth it. We got the floor all epoxy'ed and now all that is left is to put it back together - but not before making some major decisions about what stays and what goes (garbage/donation).

Hosting our cousin Reid at our house for a few days. Grey was in heaven getting to spend time with Reid all week. They roamed around the woods, took a bike ride with my Dad to Staple Bend, made afternoon snacks for all of us, and sword fought on the trampoline (with wiffle ball bats, hah). We taught the kids how to play Spoons and it was hilarious.

Fall sporting it at minors football practice and flag cheerleading practice. Coach daddy has had the football boys conditioning and practicing through the rain and mud all week - all to their supreme delight (hah) Grey loves every second of football season. My sister and I (coach Uch & coach momma) started cheer practices this week with our little munchkins - and they are so sweet and hilarious. Uch choreo'ed a great little halftime routine for them and they've already impressed us with what they've learned. Thank goodness for the minors cheerleaders and coaches that have let us double up on cheer/chant practice; our little girls love learning alongside the older girls.

Finishing up co-ed summer volleyball league at Roxbury. We had a great season and we just love playing with that crew. Playing in the summer makes it tricky with getting a sitter for the kids on tuesdays and shuffling between practices and school board meetings - but every year B and I feel so grateful to get to play on a team together and to play with this team and these people. We really love it.

Collecting eggs. We are all fascinated about collecting our chicken eggs. We've been averaging between 2-5 a day - usually they are where they are supposed to be (in the nesting boxes) but we've been finding them in the chicken coop run, in the garage, and in the yard near where the chickens like to wander. It's like Easter over here! We are learning so much, all of us, it has been so much fun researching and finding answers to the kids questions. We've learned about shell-less eggs and how to prevent them, egg yolk colors and why our yolks are dark orange sometimes red, and about cleaning and to fridge or not to fridge eggs. Our chicken T'challa (named after Black Panther because of her black tail feathers) is the most bold and is always near the house and even hopped in Sheila the other day while I was buckling the kids up.

Watching our baby robins grow like crazy. The first picture was from Monday morning and the last picture was from Saturday. They are getting so big (and so fast!) that they can barely fit in that nest - where is the momma sleeping?! The kids love to sit all the way on the opposite side of the porch to watch the momma robin (and Daddy robin I think - because there are two robins feeding these babes) bring in bugs and worms for them. If we sit really still and quiet, she will fly right up to the nest so we can see and feed those screeching babies.

Celebrating my momma's birthday with dinner out and karaoke at Ohio Street Lounge. One of my mum's best friends shares her birthday which made it doubly special as we celebrated the both of them (hi, Becky!) We put on a hilarious rendition of Summer Loving with the boys who came out to celebrate and then later my sisters, Russell, and I sang Super Trouper like we were actually Donna and the Dynamos - so it was pretty amazing. My girls are so proud. #mammamiaobsessed still.

thankful for family who scoops our kids up when I need it most. Like mum and dad who took all five kids (including Reid) so we could play in volleyball playoffs, and Taush who grabbed my little ones at cheerleading/football practice to go to the community bbq at Greenhouse park, and my sister Kitty who is always up for wild, high energy adventures with the kids that make them smile. and our Gilmore cousins who had a sleepover with B and the big kids before Grey's one year later broken wrist check up (he's all good!) Gem adores her cousin Audra and loved those 12 hours to sleepover and play together!

Making tacos, hawaiian meatballs over rice, french dip sandwiches with au jus in the crockpot, shredded bbq chicken sandwiches, and kielbasa with corn on the cob and zucchini. B made eggs and gallo pinto for breakfast because he knows the song in my heart. The kids and I whipped up a batch of peanut butter cookies and Grey and Reid made us some puppy chow that was gone in literal minutes. Despite a (let's be honest, half) effort to do better with eating and tracking, I'm still up another pound or so this month - but at least I slowed the gain down, right? On to the next month and working towards turning that needle back downwards!

Around Here 29 & 30: 07/15-07/2

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

A glimpse into what is like to live in our home just this minute.

Intentional Outdoor Hours:  332+ hours (of 1000)
Up another 34 hours - we snagged a few hours with a night swim at Gigi and Pappys and a few walks with the dogs. This weather has been so wacky all summer. We had winds so strong the other day that it was uprooting our vegetable garden (?!) but the kids loved running around the yard pretending it was blowing them away (it may have actually been blowing Rusty away a little bit, LOL) The big kids have really been into riding their bikes the past few weeks and they even tried their first bike jumps and made their own ramps down our steep retaining wall hillside.

Reading The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah and enjoying it. A few weeks ago I read The Nightingale from her and it was probably one of the best books I've ever read in.my.whole.life so it's hard to go in with that kind of expectation, hah.  I do really love Hannah's great strong female characters and her descriptive writing. Brandon is reading The Dry by Jane Harper - like he's already over half way through the book - which has me all emoji heart eyed.

Visiting Idlewild, just the six of us for about three hours before it started thunderstorming. It has been such a mixed up summer that we hadn't been yet at all (even with our season passes!) and we needed a little family getaway...even if the getaway was only a half hour away and for a few hours. The kids had fun riding all the rides and even RustMan got to ride a big ride - well the Balloon Race with me. hah. Then the three little kids got to go again with Abba and Chum the next week (swimming and riding!) while Grey got to spend the day with Caleb (thank you all!)

Working on the garage; clearing all the things out and putting them into piles (keep, donate, garbage), power washing, and dry-lock painting the last wall. Bud and Jon jackhammered the drain pipe hole for the new wash basin going in and then B and my Dad cemented it all back in place. Final few steps to go - etching, epoxy painting, and then putting everything back in! We can almost see the light at the end of the tunnel!

Enjoying my best friends and their kids. Karpy and baby James flew up from NC and we all got together to spend the evening at Katie's house with her kiddos. I love that no matter how much time is between seeing any of us - we pick up right in the conversation wherever it was that we left off last time. We had a great time catching up and the kids always love playing together. We got to take Soph home with us for a sleepover (yay!) and then we got another few hours in together at the pool splashing, talking, and laughing together before Karp & James had to head back to the airport (only to get their flight delayed and then rescheduled for the next morning!! You are a supermom Karp- thank you so much for coming up to visit. And thank you Kate for hosting and feeding us!! love you guys - akt forevs)

Feeling so blessed with people who have been so kind, patient, and helpful during this summer. The kindness and thoughtfulness of everyone has been overwhelming -- one small example --while I was ordering a little door sign from Rachel at LightofMine514 etsy shop - she went out of her way to be incredibly generous and put a rush on the order (thank you!)

Prepping for the new school year. Brandon has been rolling his eyes at me for the last two weeks as I keep bringing home supplies and decorations for my classroom spent with our own money (it's particularly frustrating as he's the business manager of the school - but he also gets to see first hand how teachers do this to give our kids/students all.the.things). I also got into my new classroom to do some organizing and it makes me so happy. It's bigger and I have tables (!!) and I love it so much. I got to meet with a fellow Spanish teacher for lunch and just chat chat chat about school and kids and Spanish it was amazing (hi Tonya!) Back to school always has me all nerded up and I love it.

Collecting chicken eggs! Our chickens are starting to lay and the kids are so excited about it. We even cooked up a few and it took a conversation or two explaining the different color of egg yolks and how it relates to the chickens' life and diet. So far we have only one (or two) chickens laying, so we're working on getting our first dozen - but soon we are going to be up to our ears in chicken eggs!

Day-dating. Our first time visiting  The Fat Squirrel  and then sushi at Nyko's another day. We're figuring that two lunch dates count for a 'date night. In any case - delicious food, handsome company - what more can a girl ask for

Clapping for Gemma and her musical theater camp friends as they put on their production Break the Cycle after a week with the Community Arts Center staff. She played Dee in the show (she had only two little lines) and learned five new songs, some choreography, and stage blocking. She loved it and made some new friends. Our girl honestly wishes that real life were a musical (#justlikehermomma) and has watched Mamma Mia on Netflix every day for the past two weeks. So after her own musical, I took the girls to see Mamma Mia 2 at the movie theater and well, we're all obsessed.

Sending love and prayers to the sky with balloons for the one year anniversary of the passing of our sweet, precious friend and soccer teammate Inez. We miss you Nez.

Making what feels like nothing because I've been so terrible at meal planning. We did get some garden zucchini this week, so we had zucchini bread (grey helped) and their little minds were blown realizing that something we grew in our own garden could make something so delicious. #gardentobreakfasttable B had to grill up the trout that Grey and my dad caught on their little fishing excursion as I made the mistake of telling him if he caught a nice one that we'd make it for dinner (oops). It was okay but it was awfully cute to see how proud Grey was to catch us dinner.