Friday, February 12, 2016

Around Here Week Six: 02/05-02/12

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

Intentional Hours Outside:  9.18 hours (of 1000)
I just said to Brandon, how many hours would you consider lame at this point in my goal? He said, 'I don't know, probably less than ten?' waaaaah.  I agree.  Less than ten feels definitely lame at this point after six weeks, but as Bud always said, 'what are you supposed to do when it's less than ten degrees outside?' which it has been for half of this week.  So, I'm getting out when it's 15 degrees or above and still plugging away at the goal....anxiously awaiting higher temps.

Reading Dear Mr. You and still cherishing it slowly.  Also listening to Tell the Wolves I'm home on audible and just started our next Inspired Readers Book Club choice: A Man Named Ove to be ready for discussion on Monday!

Recognizing that sometimes you have those weeks that while you're searching for the tv remote behind the couch cushions and you grab a handful of questionable items covered in dog hair and snack crumbs, you just shove it back down in there while ashamedly thinking, 'no, I can't take care of that right now.'  It was one of those kinds of weeks...okay fine, that actually happened this week.

Celebrating so many mini-holidays this week!  I'ts part of our favorite bits of the winter season, but the holidays were all stacked up in this one week!  We hung paper lanterns and enjoyed homemade fried rice for Lunar New Year on Monday (year of the Monkey!), then ate Kings Cake for breakfast and the girls made cereal snack necklaces in green, yellow, and gold for Mardi Gras on Tuesday.  By Wednesday, we pulled out our Lenten countdown calendars for the kids to color while we await Easter and the kids finished up their Valentines for the friends at school and gymnastics this week too.  Whew, it's might be kind of boring now through the winter weeks that we knocked those all out this week, hah!

Feeling like a part of the fake society The Secret Lives of Coaches' Wives as we prepared for senior night on Wednesday.  There were the senior day programs that needed created, printed, and folded.  The gift bags that needed final purchases and packed - including Gemma on my shoulders to reach the water bottles on the top shelf at Dunhams (hah!), we needed nine of them and the cashier was giving me confused glances until I finally said, 'senior night! we have nine this year on the team!'  Senior night went well and is the official herald of nearly the end of the season which is bittersweet because we love the team, but we are all about ready to have Daddy back on a regular schedule!

Meeting our new baby cousin Brooke and giving her so many snuggles.  It's crazy how you don't remember how teeny babies are at the very beginning.  I just had a newborn only 16 months ago, and I then I saw Brooke and held her and was shocked.  How?  How do mommas forget how tiny and precious and sweet-smelling those newborns are so quickly.  It was touch-and-go there for a few minutes as to whether or not I was just going to straight up kidnap that baby and keep her forever (haha, only half kidding Taush!) but seriously, Gemmi and I were over the moon about baby Brooke and both held her twice in the forty five minutes that we spent visiting and dropping off some dinner for our cousins - a family of six now!!

Not missing our toys (and the mess that went with them) that I stashed away a few weeks ago, still!  We do have a few items out (sports balls, a babydoll or two, and plenty of books), so the kids have been playing chase and fixing up fake dinner with our pots and pans while I cook meals, and lots of coloring and drawing.  Maybe those toys will never return, mwhahhaha.

Relieved that I can feel our fourth little baby swimming about in my ever growing belly (yep, fourth baby belly at 23 weeks that looks like I'm eight months pregnant- hah!) We also had a regular check up this month and all is going well in there and as expected.  I'm in the auto-pilot phase at this point, but still battling feeling worn out throughout the day.  Also, still very hungry until about 5p when the full blown heartburn kicks in.  Gemma has been talking so much about our new brother and asking always if I'm going to cry when I get him out.  This week, she put a babydoll under her shirt and wanted to have a fifteen minute chat about our pregnancies together.  I mean, that girl is outrageous in all the ways.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

The geography of home

When I have lived in the country of my youth, the geography of home is the rolling hills and green lush of the Appalachia in western Pennsylvania.  It's the ability to walk in front of a window stark naked without the fear of being seen by any neighbors (although, our mom was always telling us to close the curtains, girls!)  Home is the windows down with the radio on and a hand rolling through the wind.  It's the slam of a screen door, the distinct scent that precedes rain and the only minutely different smell just before it snows.  Home is the night sky visible stretching from each horizon uniquely lit depending on the moon phase.  I have grown to love the sad song of the mourning doves and relish in taking hearty deep inhales of fresh cut grass or the lingering scent of someone's backyard fire.  Home is the sound of leaves and gravel crunching under boots and the taste of wild blackberries pulled off with stained fingers from the bushes back by the woods line behind the house.

But somehow, when I lived in the city, the geography of home was pliable and bent and curved into something comfortable and familiar for my new life.

Home became the steep stairs up from the subway to the glint of sunlight and skyline above to feel like you were emerging into life again.  It was the steady flow and rhythm of pedestrians on a crowded sidewalk in midtown on Saturday afternoons.  I came to love the melody of different languages and accents as they wove together in an original score for each day of commute as I walked along in blissful anonymity; the invisibility of living in a place along with a million other people.   Home is the individual heat signatures that my footprints left on the paths I followed each day on top of those billions of other footprints left before and since mine.  The lines my soles wore into the sidewalks each morning on my commute, past my morning hot tea and bagel shop; a kind greeting with the old man behind the counter, up and over the pathway, winding past the wall where graffiti messages were painted that felt like personal messages just for me, up the school steps and into the building to receive wide grins and hugs around my waist from my students.

If I have a home that is steadfast and true; one that doesn't adapt to my physical surroundings, it is the landscape of his arms wrapped around me and the nook in the space between his jawline and collarbone that seems as though it was carved out specifically for me at the beginning of time, or maybe has been so worn in after all these years of snuggling in as sleep slipped behind our eyelids.  It is the feeling of warmth and safety from his arm carefully weaved beneath my neck and down along my side as the steady rise and fall of his chest keeps my rested hand moving in time to his breath.  Home is the familiar, smooth motion of his hands pushing aside my hair so his lips can find the nape of my neck.  It's is the smell of him that gets caught in the seams of his white tshirts; a mix of chewing tobacco and cologne and whatever it is that makes him him.  A scent that smells so good even when it shouldn't.  Home is the sound of his voice from across the other side of the phone, the room, or the pillow.  His very nearness can transform any place into home, the background blurs and fades, and we're together and that's all that mattered anyway.

The only map of home I've ever needed are the lines on his face where smiles meant just for me are held.  Nestled there in the crook of your neck, that is my home.

happy valentines day.
(our seventeenth, this year.
and i still like you as much as our first!)


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  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.