Violet Mary, five and a half years old.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

My peanut,
Girl. you are something.
It's hard to put into words the light that seems to shine from your insides out. You are still the kid that people most request to 'keep' (that sounds weird, but that's how grown ups talk when they see our big family - "...oh, I'll keep that one for you if you want"). There are so many things about you that dazzle, delight, and make people curious about you. 

I don't know how I got to be your momma, but I did something right somewhere and somehow because, Girl, you are the jackpot. 

You are now smack dab in the middle of our kids and I know the middle child gets a bad rap - but you soar as a middle. No doubt my easiest kid to parent - I feel like I never have to tell you something twice and half the time you already just did the thing I wanted you to do. You wake up and get dressed, brush your hair and teeth, and put in your own ponytail. The outfits you choose are always so perfectly quirky that all your Violet-ness is apparent even in the way you dress. You can go from overalls to two skirts layered on top of each other to a dress up ballgown in a day. You don't let things limit you, you just live out loud in all that you do and it makes me so proud and in awe. 

You and Rusty are absolute besties. Sometimes I don't see you two for hours because you're both so deep into some pretend play world that you created together. The way you two are with one another gives my momma-soul peace to know you'll always have each other; both of you fierce protectors and caretakers of each other. Gemma brings out the big girl in you and it's not always your first choice to play together, but at night you two stay up talking and giggling and rolling your eyes at me. As a sister myself, I am eternally grateful that you have each other; I know the two of you have wildly different personalities, but your differences will be what makes you both strong. Grey brings out the silliness and it is all giggles and goofiness when you two are together. You look at him with these big moon eyes and want so much to make him laugh. You love that you're all of his teammates honorary little sister. You are a great big sister to Red, but also very nonchalant about it - like you've been doing this big sister thing for a hundred years. You casually pick him up and walk around, get his binkie without any fuss, and are helpful when I need some help getting out the door with all the baby supplies. A new baby brother, yeah, he's adorable but no big deal to this chick. 

You love your Pappy with all your beating heart and your Dad is totally smitten with you, he can barely stand himself with how precious you are. I fear you will never be older than three in his mind - so yeah, good luck with that. You know who you like and can decide within moments of meeting someone whether you don't like them, think they're okay and you can tolerate them, or they are your actual best friend ever in the world. Grady W and Andrew H stand at the top of your bestie best friend ever lists. Kitty's friend Michael is up there too. If you like someone, they know because you seek them out to spend time with them, otherwise you are just sweet and polite. You are adaptable and I obviously am grateful for that as your momma (thanks babe). 

You are getting ready for kindergarten now (gulp), and have found yourself stuck in this uncomfortable transition period between little and big. It doesn't help that everyone in the family still calls you and Rusty "the babies" even though we have an actual baby in the house. You love the perks of being one of the babies in the house (less chores! more snuggles! you prefer to be carried up to bed each night by daddy because 'your legs don't work' after a long day of playing! hah!) but you are also starting to recognize the benefits of being a big kid (sleepovers! trust! freedom!). We will get through it, but this is the roughest patch you've gone through growing up yet - you completely skipped over the terrible 2's and 3's, so I'll give you this one. We'll get there together, peanut. 

You love playing Barbies most of all, but you still love painting and coloring as a close second. You can ride a bike with no training wheels, pop a little wheelie on said bike, write your full name in bubble letters, catch a chicken with the best of them, do a cartwheel, and have the strongest upper body strength in the house per body weight (you can do 15 push ups, or 5 chin ups, or climb straight up a 15 ft rope with no support). You are a fish! You would swim and swim until you drown (that's not funny because you almost did drown last summer from swimming so hard you ran out of gas and it was one of the scariest moments of my whole life). You can now swim down nine feet deep and pick up sinkers off the pool floor (thanks to the encouragement and patience of your big bro Grey who stuck by your side until you could do it yourself). 

You are just so unapologetically you, Vi. You take no one's crap and I love that about you (even though that includes me sometimes and your eyes roll to the actual back of your head because "Moooooooooom, come on"). You have a little mischievous streak in your heart that sometimes we have to remind you to not be a Disney villain (beautiful face with an evil heart, lol). You have those dimples that slay people, a giggle that knocks everyone off their feet, and a concrete understanding of things that surprises us regularly. You explained to Rusty the other day, "Mom is mean because she's trying to learn us to be good people." (lol forever). and you deadpan joked to our STEAM teacher who's toads we are summer babysitting, "we killed your frogs." (not true). You sing curse song lyrics because, as you justified to us, 'the curse doesn't count it if it's sung in a song' (actually true though), so we can hear you singing from your booster seat, "ooooh child, tired of the bullshit" and "feeling good as hell" out loud and proud to Lizzo. 

You are still bite-sized for your age and if I have any hope of not being the shortest person in our family someday in the future, it will be me and you holding it down. You refuse to have Daddy help pull your loose teeth out - you wait and wait until they are so loose it's disgusting (you've lost two already!), you can blow a bubble with gum, you can whistle, and wink. You also love scary/spooky movies (just like I did when I was young) some of your favorites are Ms. Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, The Quiet Place (!), all the Jurassic Parks, and Tremors. 

My Violet peanut girl, 
gosh do I feel lucky everyday to be your momma. 
even more lucky to see how you live life out loud exactly as you are inside your heart
you ain't gonna take nobody's nothing 
and you will paint, color, and build the make believe land that's in your head out into this world
being the middle child is not a burden to you, it's exactly where you shine brightest
big enough and little enough to be both at the same time
thanks for always being hilariously and ruthlessly honest. 
Give 'em hell, baby girl. 
I know you will. 
love you forever and ever
for all the days
even when you're bigger and sassier and maybe making me cry with your honesty and beauty. 
I love you peanut. 

Around Here Week 25: 06/14-20

Monday, June 29, 2020

A glimpse into what it is like to live in our home just this moment (green phase and week 14 of Covid-19 pandemic). 

photo cred: Jenn V

Intentional Outdoor Hours: 169+ hours (of 1000)
Up 24 hours this week with plenty of summery shine encouraging us all to get outside. We had fun dinner swim with our Garrettson cousins this week with pizza and snacks poolside. B had all the kids helping to put stone around the chicken coop to make it more rain water puddle proof. I snagged some reading and kid snuggle sessions in the hammock too. The meatballs (Vi & Rust) have been bike riding maniacs and Violet even taught herself to pop a willy! Rust is a speed demon on his Strider bike (it has no peddles and is supposed to help learn balance) while Violet is full fledge no-training wheels. A few more blooms of my peonies opened up and we have a lot of color blooming on our bee and butterfly plants/bushes. Ah! The yard is abuzz with life and the sunrises and sunsets have been beautiful up here on the mountain. 

Reading The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy. I was gifted this beautiful book of words and drawings by my bestie, Kate who knows my heart song. I also started reading Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo while I'm upstairs and reading Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson while I'm downstairs in the house. We also bought two baguettes at Aldi on our grocery trip this week and read Nanette's Baguette by Mo Willems (one of our favs!) over breakfast and it blew the kids' minds. 

Listening & Learning about the Original 33 and more about the Reconstruction era including these videos from: CSpan, ATTN, CBS, and Crash Course with John Green. I also purchased a book for each family member written by a Black author: my book is I'm Still Here by Austin Channing Brown, Greyson got Crossover by Kwame Alexander, Gemma's book was One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia, Violet got Sulwe by Lupita Nyong'o, I ordered You Matter by Christian Robinson for Rusty (it's on back order), I pre-ordered the brand new Anti-racist Baby from Ibram X Kendi for Red, and I got the audible copy The Unkind Hours by Dwayne Alexander Smith for Brandon who would rather listen to a book than read every day of the week.

Switching out clothes bins. Ugh. one kid of five done this week - I tackled Rusty's clothes switching out size 3 to size 4; organizing the size 4 summer vs. winter clothes; and sifting through shoes that are the correct size. Only four more kids to go - LOL.  

Playing in the stone piles! Rust and Violet were thrilled that we got a huge load of pea gravel delivered (and a load of regular stone) to fix up the chicken coop and the driveway. They have been playing in the pea gravel pile everyday and rubbing their bodies down with the gray dust. Their scalps are caked in pea gravel dust and their little limbs look ghostly. At least they play for actual hours, so whatevs. 

Grateful for the return of grandparent special days. Now that we are green phase for the pandemic, the kids have been getting some much needed one-on-one or small group time with their grandparents. The girls spend time with Gigi and Pappy on Monday (thank you!!). Grey went kayaking/fishing with Chum on Wednesday and then to get new sneakers (thank you!!) In a big family, these small pockets of time that the kids get to receive such dedicated attention and care is so important. 

Throwing in the nursing towel. I have been feeling some postpartum blues building over the last few weeks. I just do not feel like myself and after all these weeks of isolation and having a newborn with four other kids and virtual teaching and finishing my college class while recovering from a c-section has just completely swallowed me whole. On Thursday, I finally just blurted out to Brandon, "If I have to nurse this baby again today I am going to sob."In his standard Brandon-is-my-life-vest fashion, he just smiled shrugged and said, "Babe, then give him some formula. You're okay. You're more than okay." So since then, I've been supplementing with formula and pumping too. Even after five babies, even after all I preach to other mommas about surviving the day, even after nursing for 2 and a half months exclusively - I still carry that momma guilt of breast is best so heavily, but I also know deep in my soul that being overwhelmed and disconnected isn't the best care of Red or my other babies either. So, we move forward as best we can and keep on trying, right? It's all we got, mommas.

Celebrating Juneteenth with sparklers and red velvet cupcakes on Friday. The whole family watched this clip from The Roots about Juneteenth and also watched this reading of Juneteenth by the author of the book (!) Vaunda Micheaux Nelson on Conscious Kid facebook page. And can I just shout out real quick for my talented friend Zina (we met in college) who is a voice actor and did this video with NextGen America which is an incredibly clear description of what Juneteenth is all about #proudfriend 

Hiking to Yoder Falls with Chum, Abba, Uch, and Kevin to make Father's Day a special event. Everyone came to our house in the morning to have breakfast before we headed out to the trail. We had hiked it in late April, but to see it now in full blown green was beautiful! Everyone had a good time and the kids wore swimsuits with full intention of getting into the waterfall pool at the top. Grey, Gem, and Violet all went the whole way in to get doused by the waterfall! After the hike, we had ice cream at Silver Bell (B ate a whole upside down banana split! If you are familiar with Silver Bell, that equals about a quart of ice cream! hahha!) It was a great day and we were so grateful to get to spend it with our Chummie. How lucky we are to have you Chum!

Ringing in summer solstice with a pool party at the McKool's. The kids were all happy to spend time with their friends and Red, Gemma, Rusty, and I hung out for awhile until Gemma's fever returned (3rd time in a month!) and we ended up coming home with a call into telehealth for antibiotics. Grey, Violet, and B stayed until after dark playing cornhole and to watch the fireworks. Thanks for having us McKool's! 

Summer sporting with two volleyball matches (just I went because B had a school board meeting) and my parents hung out with the whole crew at the park while I played (thank you!!) Grey had his first baseball game for the year and is playing shortstop and pitcher. He is happy to be playing again and even though it's up in the bigger league - he gets to play alongside some of his best friends (who got pulled up too) so at least for that. Grey was so proud to officially introduce Red to the team after the game, and it was clear that another Studer little sibling got adopted by Grey's teammates. They are all such a great 'big brothers' to my babies. 

Making Sheet pan Ranch chicken and potatoes, sloppy joes, baked ham & cheese sliders on hawaiian rolls, and leftovers. On Saturday we had egg sausage casseroles before heading out to our Father's day Hike and the kids and I made breakfast pizza with a shredded hashbrown crust for breakfast once this ewek 

Around Here week 24: 06/07-06/13

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

A glimpse into what it is like to live in our home just this minute (green phase of Covid-19 pandemic!)

Intentional Outdoor Hours:  145+ hours (of 1000)
Up 25 hours this week with some beautiful summer weather. I was able to snag some reading time in the hammock (bliss!) and we logged some time at the fire pit on the back patio too with some smore making. Brandon moved a bunch of dirt into the goat pasture to build them a little mountain under the shade of one of the trees as we have found that our goats love both dirt mounds and shade - always learning! 

Reading and finishing (in 3 days) A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi. Oh, I loved it so much! It is one of the Project Lit books from last year and again proves that they are all incredible YA choices. I am continuing with Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson too. 

Listening & Learning from Black voices. Brandon and I watched Just Mercy (it's free to rent for the whole month of June!) We made a donation to to help support the awareness and adoption of 8 restrictive use of force policies that every police department can enact immediately to save lives. And I can't stop thinking about and rewatching the Hanifa Pink Label virtual show. I actually watched it when it was released on instagram at the end of May, but I cannot get it off my brain and keep telling people about it. The lockdown has made everyone have to think outside of the box to survive in these 'new normals' but Anifa Mvuemba (who is only 28 yrs old!) took these challenges and is THRIVING. 

Throwing a water battle birthday party for our four year old Rustman!It was a beautiful weather day and perfect for water balloons and water guns. The kids needed very little direction, but we did have a target water gun shoot, a water balloon battle, and I sprayed everyone with the hose. The goats were a big hit with all the guests and everyone seemed to have enough food and merriment to kick off the green phase of the pandemic in PA. 

Wishing a happy birthday to our Aunt Kitty!

Receiving official notice of my PA teaching certification approval!!

Feeling buried alive by laundry. Why are there so many clothes? Why does this chore never end? 

Printing off a list of all the updates we put into the house and yard since we moved in back in 2011. It was empowering to go through each room and the outside and write down each thing we had spent time, money, and labor of love into this house. I had read that it was a good thing to do and then give to the appraiser when they come to the house and it was actually really validating for B and I to remember all the work that we've done together while we create this home. It so easy to look around and see how much more we have/want to do and get caught up in the daily chores of raising a family (laundry, sweeping/mopping, dust) - but to see a comprehensive list of all the projects we've completed in nine years was pretty cool. 

Getting the house appraised which meant a lot of tidying up and then loading Sheila up with all five kids AND both dogs and driving around for an hour so that the appraiser could do what he needed with no distractions. Everyone did really good for about 45 minutes and then it was just too much - Violet was whining from the way back, "Muuuuuuum, please can we get out. Trixie is breathing into my mouth!" We had to get the appraisal to get a loan to buy the land surrounding our property, so we will (finally!) own everything around us, including the parts of the yard we have been mowing/maintaining for the last 9 years even though we didn't own it. So yay!! 

Deciding that Red has Rusty's eyes and the rest of Grey's face. Redland is still the sweetest little nugget on the planet and none of us can stand how cute he is. Rusty literally says all day, "He's soooo cute I could pop his head off!" 

Congratulating Gemma who figured out how to swim underwater without holding her nose this week! 

Trying to donate blood but coming up short on iron. ugh. 

Fixing the water pipes in the basement which has been on our to do list for forever! My dad came over to help Brandon unhook the well filter and rework the pipes and even though it only took half a day - it has been amazing to be able to turn on all the hoses again (the water line to them was leaking before this fix) but even more than that - we have no moisture in the basement anymore! We have been running a dehumidifier for NINE YEARS in the basement and now it's not needed. Our minds are blown - thank you so much Chum!!

Playdating with friends. Gemma got to have a fun day of swimming with her friend Amiyah (thank you!), Rusty and Violet spent the day at Abba and Chums and Violet slept over (Rusty chickened out - he's going through a momma thing - thanks 'rona). Miss Hannah came to babysit after 12 weeks of missing our personal Mary Poppins during quarantine while B and I had our volleyball games. We had a visit at our house with our besties the Fiores where the kids got to meet our goats, Soph and I talked books and favorite authors (I gave her a list of the Project Lit middle school titles too! Soph and I basically need our own book club) and Kate and I got to chat which is always my favorite. Grey had a sleepover at his cousin Caleb's house (thank you Heather!) and all of us had dinner after the scrimmage at the Bittner's house. 

Summer sporting with our first co-ed Roxbury game of the season! Due to the shortened seasons (thanks 'rona) we are playing multiple matches each week, so first week back after 12 weeks in quarantine, we played 6 games and omigosh, it was a little rough. hah! It was so nice to be back with our team though (two teammates are my former students!) Grey had baseball practice twice and then a scrimmage on Friday night. 

Making Kit Kat candy cake for Rusty's birthday party, hot dog leftovers, salads & fried cheese curds (thank you Heather for bringing our favorites from the Ligonier Farmer's Market!), spaghetti and homemade garlic bread with leftover hot dog buns from the party, breakfast bowls with eggs, sausage, and cheesy potatoes, take out from the Tollgate. I made banana oatmeal cookies with some brown bananas and whipped up some blueberry scones for breakfast this week.