Around Here Eight: 2/17-2/23

Friday, February 24, 2017

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

Intentional Hours Outdoors:  21 hours (of 1000)
(that's eight more hours than this time last year! whoot whoot!) we racked up some time this week with the weather unusually beautiful for February.  I'm talking 55-70 degrees almost everyday this week.  Several days we got out for two hours or so even which made for very sleepy kids which is always the added bonus of outdoor time.  We even headed out to the high school track one night this week as a whole family so I could get in a three mile run while the boys tossed the football back and forth and the girls played pretend on the bleachers and argued over who got to push Rust in the stroller.  We've had the windows open and a blanket out on the grass with snacks, it's gotten us all mixed up about the seasons.  I had to remind the kids that it is actually still winter and that the cold will blow back in next week, so we're hoarding up on the vitamin D before it disappears again until actual spring.

Reading The Gift of an Ordinary Day by Katrina Kenison and can I just again say how much I am loving the timing of reading this.  It has really been sitting on my shelf for two years and it just feels so timely for my current state of mind.  Did you ever see this quote: 

An example of just that happened to me while reading this week, Kenison, while writing about a new home that she and her husband were building while her two sons were adolescents, one of whom was getting near the end of his high school career.  She wrote, "Henry (her eldest son), if all goes well, will have a year in which to sink his roots in with ours before heading off to college."  That phrase, "sink his roots in with ours" struck a deep chord in my heart and upon reading it, I took a deep breath and set the book down for a few minutes.  Isn't that all we're trying to do over here, Bud and I, to give our kids good soil to sink their roots in.  Adding water and sunshine along the way and lots of whispers of love to get these kids to grow, grow, grow as big and bright and beautiful as all that is in them to become.  To keep their roots well taken care of and if we're lucky enough, intertwined enough with ours that they will always have a place to come back to when the weather turns or someone comes and plucks their most beautiful blossoms.  That thought very well may help shape my mothering from now on and it comes from a mere phrase of a sentence...this is why I love reading. 

Congratulating Grey on hard work well done!  He came home last Friday with a certificate announcing his success at moving up his Reading score - which was especially important to him as he needed to do it to attend the first baseball practice of the season on Sunday.  He was proud and we were proud and a little relieved too.  In the days leading up to the re-test, Brandon and I were speaking in hushed whispers about what our plan was if in fact he didn't reach the goal.  He worked hard every  night in our 'Reading Boot Camp' tasks and was really pushing himself personally.  I felt pretty confident that he'd be okay, but we were both a little nervous.  Joyfully though, he got a chance to see firsthand how hard work reaps benefits.  We're still working on our Reading  Boot Camp each night because he has one more retest again in two weeks to make sure he is up on target.

Celebrating our best friends Jonny & Ninna at their baby shower on Saturday for their sweet baby girl due in April.  Nin had a beautiful shower and I loved so much to see her glowing and smiling like the amazing momma-to-be that she is  (she's practically my sisterwife, so don't mind my over-the-top adoration, hah).  Both of my sisters, Gigi, and Taryn were there too which made the celebration even sweeter! We got to spend the rest of the day at Jon & Ninna's house while the kids chased chickens around and tired themselves out.  Seriously cannot wait for that sweet little babe to arrive!!

So grateful to our family that is always there to scoop up all our misplaced pieces and hold us together to keep this party (as in our family) going.  The grandparents that are always willing to step in for last minute (oops I forgot until just this second) babysitting and last minute 'can you add an extra six people for dinner' requests.  My sisters who wake up before the sun to drive all the way out here to pick up our big kids and haul them to soccer games.  Uncle Juice who without any hesitation offers up his Navigator (big enough to fit our whole family) as Sheila is on the fritz (yet again!  Shelia?!!?!!).  We could not do this life without all of you - honestly thank you so so much.

Singing happiest birthdays to our Gemmi Roe for her fifth birthday and Pappy too - who's birthday is the day right after Gemma's.  We had a little mini party at Gigi & Pappy's house on Sunday and on Gem's actual birthday we sang over cinnamon rolls for breakfast, took Daddy out to lunch at Hoss's (where they sang!), and then Gemma chose tacos for dinner that night.  Second year in a row where the weather on February 20th was beautiful and we spent a big part of the day outside (?!)  Her actual party is this weekend (mermaids!)

Bidding bittersweet goodbyes to basketball season as we finished 'er out with a playoff game this week at Portage.  We usually give ourselves about a week or so of patience and grace to come up out of the crazy that basketball season has left us in with chores way backed up (I'll be trying to get out of this laundry backlog for two weeks at least!) and major Daddy/Family time to make up.  It feels really exciting to be on the brink of getting the first real taste of Brandon's new work/life balance in his new job now that basketball is over.  He started his new gig at the start of the season, so we haven't felt any real difference yet, but having him home this week by 4p and then he's just done with work...for the whole night (!!) has been amazing.  I can't wait to get the hang of this new schedule!

Taking it s.l.o.w.  In part due to my reading selection, but also because I'm just there mentally and spiritually.  I want to slow down and enjoy this life; I'm so exhausted about being fed up and angry about clutter and chores that never end and messes and the busyness of it all.  I started a pin board about my Slow Living Goals and I took extra care this week in not being in a hurry...I'm just not doing it.  I yelled less (although still yelled), and smiled more, and didn't get so down on myself.  Ya know what's not going to wreck my day, that pile of toys over there in a huddled heaping mass.  It's just not.  I have tea to sip and a load of laundry to move from the washer to the dryer and a baby to make laugh.

Making these chicken and cheese enchiladas which are a huge family hit (I don't include the Green chilies), Chicken, ranch, and cheese stuffed french bread to use up the left over that we took home from Sunday dinner from Gigi and Pappy's house, and Baked Italian breaded pork chops with Green bean almondine that was divine.  For breakfast we had these super easy chocolate croissants because we are flat out of cereal, bread, and waffles (!!) because somebody (ahem, me) needs to get to the grocery store for real.  The girls and I whipped up some oatmeal chocolate chip cookies too and they're already gone, naturally.

Gemma Rose at five years old

Thursday, February 23, 2017

my dearest Roey,

it seems impossible both because it's happened too fast and because surely you've been older than five for forever now.  If we get asked one more time if you're our oldest child by a random stranger again I think Grey's going to pull his hair out!  (he dislikes being asked if you two are twins only slightly worse).

You, Gemmi, have always been trying to be older than you are - even since you were only one week old flashing those bonafide smiles at everyone.  You walked at ten months and have been chatting off all of our ears as soon as you realized you had a voice that could communicate.  You have always acted older than you are and yet, every year at your birthday I am shocked that we are celebrating another year of the brilliant, shining star that you are.

Our Gemmi, who feels each emotion with every single cell in her body.  The joy that floats off of you, I swear, comes with it's own sweet melody that can be heard in reverberations from your belly laughs.  And the tears, my sweet girl, you hold the curse (and blessing) that comes with an empathetic heart that feels all the worlds' sorrows (and beauty).  Sometimes you look at me and whisper, "I don't want to be crying, momma, but my eyes are just doing it." We've had plenty of talks about how sometimes we cry when we're sad, or mad, or so happy even.  We have plenty more of these talks to come.

Gem, you are also our little emotional barometer, you can walk into a room and immediately know who needs their hand held or a smile without anyone speaking a word.  You try to distract during arguments in your effort to diffuse and you lean down to give hugs and kisses for anyone who feels the tiniest bit of sadness.  

But make no mistake, you will also stand in brave defiance should anyone think for one moment they could wrong one of your siblings....'not without going through me first' say your set eyebrows and stoic mouth. 

You still love babies and I find purses and diaper bags all over the house filled with babydoll supplies and real diapers and old cellphones that lost their chargers long ago.  I gifted you my old planner this year when I got my new one and you'd have thought I gave you a million dollars.  You love acting like a grown up (especially a mom, hence babydolls) and you like scribbling over all my old to do lists and pretending you have places to go and grown up things to do.

You are so caring and nurturing - it is in your deepest heart of hearts to take care of people.  I feel so very blessed that my kids, your siblings, get to have you as their sister, Gemma Rose.  And a tiny part of me feels peace to know too that someday when I'm not here, my other babies will still have you. I pray everyday that you will find someone who takes care of you like you take care of everyone else, my sweet darling.

You still are, probably always will be, our resident snuggler.  Always, you have some part of your body touching some part of someone else's body; even if it's just making sure your foot is resting on ours while we share the couch (but usually it's your entire body leaning on us precariously so that the slightest movement will send you toppling).  Your unspoken philosophy is that hands are made for holding and arms are made for hugging and snuggling.  If you need a little pick-me-up during the day, a twirl and a dip can change your whole attitude. 

With the exception of the leaning-on-people, you are otherwise incredibly balanced and strong.  You can do cartwheels and round-offs and we're working on a backhandspring (so slowly but promising already).  You can do a perfect push up, have six pack abs, and the freestyle dance moves you throw out, girlfriend, they are legit.  

And, Roey, our performer girl who brings theatrics and dramatics to any situation.  Who makes three to four wardrobe changes a day, who knows the importance of faking a smile to get the picture taking over with, who practices her British accent while reading books to her baby brother, and who can win any family lip sync contest hands that Roey Girl...I'm telling you - when William Shakespeare said, "All the world's a stage," he was speaking to someone like you.

You be you, Gemmi Rose Studer.
We are all just lucky enough to bask in the light that shines out of your eyes.

happiest fifth birthday, my beautiful old-enough-for-kindergarten girl (!!)
i'll love you forever and ever
even when you get so big

Tips for making family yearbooks

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

look what we got in the mail today!

Our newest Team Studer family yearbook to add to our collection, which makes our coverage through six years now:  every year of our family since having kids!

I first started making our family yearbooks in 2012 and as you can see above, as it was my first year and I had little self control, I went overboard with photo selection and ended up making two books just to cover the one year! As time has gone on, I have become more selective as to what makes it into our yearbooks and how they are organized.

I try to make our yearbooks cover most of the things that make up our days in any given year.  A glimpse into what it is like to be in our family for that time (kind of like my Around Here posts but only stretched out over the course of an entire year).  It is one of my very favorite activities to sit and look back through the years over a cup of tea in the afternoon with kids asking questions about every page and begging, "when can we do that again!?"

some photos of older yearbooks' spreads
Now, six years experience under my belt of making yearbooks, I know what I like and how to make it possible to continue this activity - even with a plate full of kid raising and activities that we always have going on.  This is something that's important to me personally, and also a responsibility that I feel like I have as the in-house memory keeper (and photo taker).  It is definitely hard work, but every time we get a new yearbook (or look through past ones) I'm reminded again at how important I think they are.

Here are my top five tips for creating family yearbooks without losing your mind:

1.Organize your photos:  Keep your photos somewhere all together and in an organized way that you know what you are looking at.  I keep my 'real' camera photos (from my DSLR) on my laptop organized by month of the year.  I upload those photos to my Shutterfly albums (also organized by month) occasionally through the year.  I do the same for the photos I take on my phone and upload them (organized by month) through the Shutterfly app to keep both 'real' camera photos and phone photos all together for each month.  So when I'm making my yearbooks, I can easily find photos from someone's birthday to add to the yearbook.  And it helps remind me the events or moments that need added to the yearbook after I give the month albums a glance over and realizing I completely forgot about that trip to the water park!

2.Don't be in a rush:  It honestly takes me about six months (at least!) to complete our family yearbook.  I set time aside on Fridays in my planner that say "yearbook work" and as much time that the kids are willing to give me uninterrupted on each Friday - sometimes that's 20 minutes, sometimes that's an hour (thank you Netflix!) - and I do a page or two, or edit pages that are already done.  There are certainly options where the books can be made for you with a click of a button and the magic of the internet, but I like being in the driver's seat when it comes to photo selection/size/color theme/etc so it takes me a while to get it all polished and complete.

3.Think about layout:  one of the best decisions I made for my own sanity was to organize my yearbooks by category instead of going month by month.  Now I have a intro section which walks through our current family status, including a page for Dad & Mum where we answer questions about the year (what was our favorite tradition/event? our favorite husband&wife moment, #parentingfail of the year, our best lessons learned, our favorite family meals, and our struggles&challenges that year)

And in every one of the yearbooks, the kids each get their own page always with the same photo format (twelve photos around the border) and I write a little bit about the kind of kid they are right at this particular age (personality, likes/dislikes, favorites, hobbies, etc)

From there, the yearbook is divided into seven categories:
What was it like to live in our home this year?
With whom did we spend our days?
What milestones did we accomplish?
What gave us cause to celebrate?
What seasonal traditions did we enjoy?
Where did we go to visit?
What do the holidays feel like?

And then activities and moments are organized throughout those categories.  So things like my volunteer work with the alumni association goes under the Milestone category, and the first day of fishing season falls under seasonal traditions, etc.

4.Hop around the book while working on it - it doesn't have to be perfect the first time through.  I start by laying out the categories and then depending on how I'm feeling on any particular day determines what page I work on.  In the dead of winter, sometimes working on our summer days to the lake are just what the doctor ordered.  I also pull more photos than I need for any page and use them for my People pages (sections: with whom did we spend our days and what was it like to live in our home).  A picture of the grandparents at the hospital for Rustin's birth actually ended up on our family page instead of Rusty's birthday page.  Our family and friends' pages - along with the kids' individual pages get photos slipped in all along the way of creating the rest of the book.  (And usually the very last page done is the Dad & Mum questions because it helps us remember the last year as I do my final lookover of the whole book when it's done, hah!) 

5. Remind yourself that the real gift isn't the photos in the yearbook, it's the memories that the photos help you remember. The thought of this has helped me be much better about selecting the photos that make it into our yearbooks (I'd guess less than half the pictures I take all year make it into the actual yearbook!) I try to make sure the photos that go into the pages evoke the feeling of what it is like to live this life right now in this age and stage of our family.  The photos and pages themselves turn out to be jumping off points for reminiscing and laughing about particular things that happened.  We spend more time talking about the pictures and the past while looking at the books together than we do reading the captions.

Do you do a family yearbook of sorts?  Or how do you keep and cherish all the photos you take along the year?  Any helpful tips to share? 

I have used Shutterfly for every year of my yearbook creation because I have been loyal to them since they have without any issues have held all of my photos since 2004 when I was studying abroad in Costa Rica.  Those were back in the days when I had to upload & dump my camera card after every weekend trip while abroad and then pray to the internet gods that my only proof of my experience was being saved on the Shutterfly website.  It was.  AND STILL IS.  in perfect condition, so I will always be loyal to them. (thank you Shutterfly!)  I find their book creation easy and beautiful and they are also my go to for holiday cards, birthday invites, and photo gifts.  This post has not been sponsored.  I just have always had a great experience with them and I'm sharing the love for a company that has taken good care of my some of my most precious memories. xxox