Around Here Week Four: 1/23-1/29

Friday, January 29, 2016

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.

thank a coach

Thursday, January 28, 2016

I'm writing this from various different perspectives.  First, as a former athlete, I've played sports all through most of my young life - from elementary school up through college, mostly volleyball, but basketball and cheerleading sprinkled in there too.

 I loved the sport(s), I loved being on a team, I loved pushing myself to places I didn't think I could go for the sake of my teammates.  I may never have been the 'best' player on any of my teams, but I was certainly one of the most enthusiastic.  I have a journal from my senior year of college that I wrote in after a big win where I wrote in all caps, "NEVER FORGET THIS FEELING!"  That's where sports can get you:  to the upper highs of emotion.  It also can get you to the lowest of lows but then it taught me how to recover from those, making that 'brush yourself off and get back up' reaction stronger for the next million times that life inevitably knocked me on my behind in a thousand different ways.

The sum of what I learned from playing sports has always been greater than the parts, and I think most athletes would agree.

I'm also writing from the perspective of the wife to a Varsity coach.  My husband's team is considered part of our family all year, but especially during the season.  We wait for Daddy to come home to eat dinner, usually past bedtime, we travel to home and away games, and we all talk, worry, and cheer all season long. Our young kids know the players' names and numbers, get to know the players' parents, families, and girlfriends and then  pretend to be them when they play at home.  These teenage boys near celebrity status to our three kids as they give them high fives, knicknames, and ask them how they played after the games as though the opinion of a three year old was the most important thing they had ever heard.

And finally, I'm writing as a parent to kids that have their own coaches.  We have a strong belief that raising kids takes a village, and our kids' coaches are part of that village.  We write thank you notes at the end of the season, ask how we can support the team through volunteering our time or talents, and remind the kids to include them in their prayers at night.  Having their coach's familiar face at practice and the games gives our kids the confidence to believe in themselves.  These coaches, just as their teachers, become our partners in teaching our kids how to grow into their best selves.  We regard their opinion, advice, and suggestions highly because we fully understand that they get to know our kid, not better than us, but differently than us.

So, from those perspectives, I'm encouraging you, today, to Thank a Coach.

  • Thank the coach that made you better than when you started.  Whether that was the little league coach that taught you the rules at the start of your career in the sport, the coach that cleaned up your game as you started in a higher league, or the coach that got you pumped up at the start of the second half of a game your team was losing.  


  • Thank the coach that had to try to schedule practice fairly, who organized fundraising projects, and who threw in their own money when it ran out in the account and paid out of pocket for the pizza.  
  • Thank the coach who gave you your knickname, or learned your team celebration cheers, or perfectly executed that dumb phrase you and your teammates made up - because to your coach, you all were much more to them than your jersey number.
  • Thank the coach who had the difficult job of keeping you and your teammates under control during the season.  There's nothing quite like the bond that comes through long bus rides, common hatred of suicide drills, and post-win huddles.  Through the whole season, you and your team continue to get closer in friendship, but also weirder and sillier. Thank the coach that put up with you and your teammates' antics and goofball jokes.

    • Thank the coach that gave you hope to come back again tomorrow to try again after a hard loss, a painful injury, or a difficult time in your personal life.
    • Thank the coach who said to you, "I don't care what anyone else out there is saying, you are playing because I believe you are the best person for the job, so BE the best person for the job."  And then you became your best.
    • Thank the coach who stood on the sidelines arguing with the ref about an unfair call in your defense.  The sight of their emotion and hand motions was a reminder that someone had your back.
    • Thank the coach who showed up to cheer for you at your other activities.  The coach who shows up at your graduation party.  The coach that shows up through mailed notes of congratulations and encouragement as you move through life.
    • Thank the coach that sacrificed their time.  Every minute spent at practice, traveling to games, in the office to meet with you, watching game film, taking phone calls from parents, making calls to colleges, talking with the newspapers, tallying up individual players' performances, printing programs, writing letters of recommendations, meeting with teachers about grades and discipline...every minute of that - they were choosing you over everything else.

    • Thank the coach that celebrated with you after the wins and stood beside you through the losses.  Who was the first to say, 'here's how we're going to move forward from this.' Who encouraged your team to rally at the end of a close game or at the end of a difficult season.  The coach you looked at incredulously when it seemed impossible but there they were still over there drawing up crazy plays and shouting from the sideline, "You got this!" 
    • Thank the coach who stops to talk when you see them around town and asks how your life is going - even though it's been a long time since they've been your coach.  Know it's fine if you still call them Coach, great even- because, to them, YOU will always be considering one of their 'kids' no matter how much time passes.
    • Thank the coach who you reach out to for advice and encouragement someday when you become a coach and think to yourself, 'wow, I had no idea.' 
    • Ya know what?  You can even thank the coach that you thought was unfair and unreasonable.  Thank them because when your boss at work is being unfair and unreasonable, you already have practice on the feelings of frustration and how to move past them.  

    Thank a coach because just as all of those drills and practices paid off because 
    you put in the time and effort to be a better athlete, 
    your coach put in the time and effort to help you become a better person.  

    Things to embrace on your 2nd+ pregnancy

    Tuesday, January 26, 2016

    When you're pregnant for the first time, everything is new, sometimes that newness is magical and sometimes that newness can be overwhelming and scary.  But regardless of how you felt about pregnancy the first time (loved it or endured it, hah!), there is a common thread among all first-timers:  being pregnant was new and thus, generally consuming of the thought, of the heart, of the worry.

    Then you get a baby and it really is all consuming.  My husband and I recently looked back on the year we had our first baby and sat baffled out how we took little to no other pictures of anything else happening that entire year.  We had our first baby and so everything that happened that year was seen through the lens of that first and only child.

    Then we got pregnant again, and it wasn't that it was any less special, it was just that we had a real human child that was demanding attention, so the pregnancy felt slightly less consuming, but also more difficult.  Because instead of just feeling worn down because well..human growing, we also had a child that expected their regular operating momma.

    I'm in my fourth pregnancy (!) and if I'm being honest that's how long it took me to embrace the things on this list, but I understand some mommas are a little quicker on the draw than me (and hopefully most are!).

    If I could talk to my 2nd pregnancy self, I would try to convince her of these five things.  But alas, here I am with babe#4 cooking and I'm grateful to finally be in a place where I can fully appreciate and enjoy these little bits of wisdom.

    Five things to embrace in your 2nd+ pregnancy: 

    1. Embrace cereal for dinner:  in other words, let yourself off the hook a little bit, momma.  Pregnancy brings with it a sort of forced slow down which can be so very frustrating, especially for those efficiency-craving mommas like me.  Up until this point, you've finally figured out how to survive as a family of how many ever of you as there currently are, which usually means a lot of juggling and hurrying to keep all the balls in the air.  But pregnancy can make you tap the brakes (or sometimes slam on the brakes) of your normal operating mode. Dust bunnies collecting in the living room , no biggie.  Those clothes can be folded tomorrow, or ya know what, pull them out of the clean laundry baskets as they're needed! Give yourself a little extra grace, ya know what your child will remember?  That you still made time for love, not that you had cereal for dinner a few times (actually, kids love cereal for dinner).

    2. Embrace help offered:  There is a reason that the quote, 'it takes a village,' has hung around for so long.  You are amazing, momma, a superwoman, truly!  But you are only one woman, and it can be both helpful and meaningful to receive help from whoever it is that makes up your village.  Look around and you'll most likely find people who are eager to help - maybe it's by offering a playdate with your kid(s) so you can rest, meeting a grandparent at the grocery store so you don't have to solo-shop with kid in tow, or someone that asks, 'is there anything you need?'  Take their extended hand, friend. They love you, they love your kid, they love that baby you have cooking.  Don't be hesitant to accept the help because you think you are putting them out.  You get the benefit of appreciated help and your child gets the benefit of fun and attention and building relationships with people you trust and your village gets stronger!
    Sidenote:  When you are capable of offering help to your pregnant family or friends in the future - offer the help you appreciated! Be a friend that you'd like to have!

    3. Embrace the future:  be kind to your future self now.  Think back on those first few weeks of having a newborn and then try to imagine your current wild child there too.  Instead of being afraid of that future(hah), try to do some things now for that future tired momma you'll be.  Before your new babe arrives, try to get ahead on some lingering headaches (bills, appointment scheduling, and bulk item shopping), and throw together a few freezer meals or request them as 'gifts' from your village.

    4. Embrace the uniqueness of this pregnancy:  Even though you've been through this whole thing before, it doesn't make it any less special.  Having a human child already can be quite distracting (I mean that it in the most loving way possible obviously), and so you might have to be extra vigilant in finding ways to document this pregnancy for both you and your baby in the future.  Do whatever seems to work best for you and you're own creativity.  Take occasional baby bump photos, mark down notes about how you're feeling and what you're craving in a baby book or notebook.  Talk to you current kid about their new sibling, let them be apart of the pregnancy too by letting them 'help you,' or read books to your belly, and make special artwork for their sibling's nursery.

    5. Embrace the view:  look around the dinner table, stare into the sweet cheeks of your sleeping babies in their beds, watch how your spouse plays and rough-houses with your kids.  The sounds and the sights that you have in your home right now will soon be different. What is your normal now will be replaced with a new normal as soon as that little family member arrives.  Embrace today's normal in all it's wild, exhausting, loud, fun, and beautiful messiness.  A bigger family means the beauty and love in your family will multiply, make no mistakes, but it is an irreversible change.  Literally embrace your family today and cherish this snapshot of how it feels to be your family just as you are in this moment.

    Around Here Week Three: 1/16-1/22

    Friday, January 22, 2016

    A weekly review of what it's like to live in our home right this second.

    singing happy birthday to Dr. King this week during cinnamon roll breakfast
    former toy bins...EMPTY.

    Intentional Hours Outdoors:  3.43 hours (of 1000)
    you guys.  exactly same number as last week because at NO point this week did I make time to intentionally go outside.  I can make a million excuses about hurting my toe (broken maybe?), and being sick, and also it's been horribly cold here (below 20 degrees everyday), but regardless - I didn't and I'm fessing up.  boo on me!

    Reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert still for the Inspired Readers book club and started Chapter One in Dave Ramsey's The Total Money Makeover Workbook!

    Drinking all the liquids.  I have some sort of sinus situation going on this week and I've been going from coffee in the morning to hot tea in the afternoon and about ten glasses of water throughout the day.  The bathroom breaks are out of control (and the sneezing is precarious with fourth pregnancy status), but I know the hydration should be helping with my immune system, so I'll deal.

    Giggling about Violet and her bounds in growing this week.  She's saying more understandable-to-not-just-us words like "up!" and "no, no, no!" and she's understanding so much more.  She's been following verbal directions this week "Go get your shoes" and "clean up the toothbrush."  She's so eager to get big and be like Grey and Gem - it's sad a little and a little nice too.

    Preparing for the 100th day of school with Grey!  We organized his collection of 100 things to take in for the celebration (100 mini marshmallows) and we counted by 1's, 5's, and 10's to check and double check the number!  He's been struggling a little with his reading the last week or two as they move into more difficult sight words and concepts ("there" and silent e), but he's not giving up and is still motivated to learn and try.  The end of Brandon and I spelling things out to keep them a secret from the kids is so close to being over!  eek!

    Making last minute frivolous purchases on Amazon and signing up for Blue Apron before we dive head first into Dave Ramsey.  I know this is the absolute worst approach into making big changes toward better money management.  I bought two books for myself on Amazon (Dear Mr. You and the Notorious RBG) and FINALLY ordered my 2016 planner.  I also purchased Valentines day and Easter kids books (one of my 100 small things tasks) too because I know those are the kinds of things that are going to be stripped away while we figure out financial stuff.  (again, horrible someone who's about to go on a diet who downs a box of oreos in preparation..look away, friends!  don't judge me! hahaha).  I also signed up for a Blue Apron order for next week both because it's on my 100 small things list AND because we have been so horrible about going grocery shopping!  The weather has been so cold and either me or the kids have been sick -so I have just refused to go, the food is coming to me next week!  I'll keep ya posted on our reaction!

    Planning some upcoming events and trips, which is really kind of my favorite use of creativity, so it has me motivated and really inspired!  I'm planning a baby sprinkle with an aunt for a cousin, helping to organize a special ceremony for a super fan with the our high school alumni association, looking into plans for our summer Austin visit (hello airbnb options!), pin-searching for Gemma's birthday party next month, brainstorming with Uch about her wedding and a bar crawl she's organizing, and thinking ahead to our next AKT & kids playdate in April!

    Garbage bagging  I went straight up crazy mom on Saturday and bagged up ALL the toys.  like, all of them.  I had just had enough of asking the kids to put their stuff away and had enough of looking at how much stuff they have and just went total bananas.  Everything is bagged up and closed off in the playroom and the kids have been warned if they sneak in there and touch anything, it's all getting burned ( I wasn't kidding about the 'crazy mom').  I'm giving it at least a month (or two) before we go back through and decide what stays, what needs actually trashed because it's busted, and what gets donated.   My Dad and I are working on playroom organization plans, including a built-in that should help for long term, but for now the kids are doing just fine with the limited exceptions that were left out of the garbage bags (sports balls, a couple baby dolls, a purse for gem and violet, books, and puzzles have been the only exceptions).

    Hitting the half way mark in pregnancy!  We're at twenty weeks (banana length baby!) and I'm feeling lots of little kicks from that little boy and we're daydreaming about his name and what he'll be like when he finally arrives.  Even though we're halfway through, it still feels like a very long time until he'll actually be with us.  We're taking it slow, definitely through at least the end of basketball season, and then we'll start to make some headway on things that need done before this guy arrives!

    Feeling particularly grateful to be a stay-at-home Mum.  I always feel grateful to be able to do this, of course for all of the obvious reasons:  I don't have to change out of yoga pants if I don't feel like it (!), I don't have a demanding boss (unless you count these little tyrants we created), I have access to do chores all day long, etc.  But this week reminded me that my role as a stay at home parent is also important and valuable for our kids and our family.  Gem has been fighting with a runny nose and slight fever and because I'm home, I know B can go to work and basketball with the peace of mind knowing that she can stay home and get the rest (and massive amounts of snuggling) she wants/needs to feel better.  Because I'm home, I also am available for emergency babysitting for our family and friends, like this week when we got the chance to spend the day with a little sweetheart that our cousins Heather and Albert got called in for last minute foster care the night before.  Sometimes in the busy of life it's easy to forget that what I can do because of and in this role is not just lucky, but valuable too.

    Splash Lagoon Visit

    Thursday, January 21, 2016

    Since both Brandon and his Dad harvested bucks in archery season last year, when it came time for the first day of rifle they decided to make the most of the day by planning a steelhead fishing trip in Erie, PA instead.  Gigi, the kids, and I got wrangled up in the plans somehow and we turned the whole thing into an excuse to visit Splash Lagoon.  HAH.

    We made the trip to northern PA early Sunday morning and the two guys headed straight for the stream with our cousin Kevin to get their lines wet.  They had a great day of fishing, albeit really cold, and got in some memorable father/son time too.

    While the guys were busy with their 'reindeer games' (as we call their outdoor adventures), Gigi, the kids and I stopped for a quick breakfast and indoor playground jaunt at McDonalds (woohoo) and then got checked into the hotel quickly before scampering over to Splash Lagoon. 

     We got hotel rooms at the Comfort Inn which actually adjoins to the water park, which was really nice considering we didn't need to worry about finding parking and also with the three kids and all their supplies - it was easy to let the kids lead the way in the walkways connecting the building and park.  I think walking through the long hallways was actually Violet's favorite part of the trip!  She thought it was so funny and she was such a big girl! 


    After a long afternoon swimming and sliding, we took the kids back to the hotel room for a little while to rest, eat snacks, and jump on the beds until the boys got back from fishing.  So after we got the fishing scoop and the kids back into swimsuits - we headed back over to Splash Lagoon for awhile with the whole group!

    Since it was Gemma's first time sliding on any of the 'big kid' slides, she became the slide cheerleader, congratulating our group for going down any big slides.  She and Grey were both brave and even tried some of the dark slides (and liked them!)

    Gigi even went down a 'big kid' slide at the coaxing and persuasion of Grey and Gem.  To which Gigi said upon sliding:  "This is what I'd do for these grandbabies!  Waterslides at fifty plus years old!" Such lucky kids!

    Then finally, it was back to our room for showers, pizza ordered-in, and falling to sleep with Disney movies playing on tv.  We were all pooped (no one more than first trimester pregnant momma! hah)

    The next morning, we said goodbye to Gigi and Pappy who were headed back to home early while just our family spent another morning at Splash Lagoon to make full use of our hotel/park passes that we had through our booking.  The kids were pretty pooped from the day before (and a little cranky), but we got in some swimming, sliding, and a stop in the arcade one last time before packing up around lunchtime.

    We try to plan our departures around kid sleepy times of the day, but we weren't quick enough on the draw for Miss Violet!  After a day and a half of Splash Lagoon fun, she was snoozing in her car seat before we even got out of the parking lot, so she spent lunch (at Smokey Bones, yum!) fast asleep.  The other two hung on for about an hour into the three hour drive before falling asleep too.

    By the time we got home, Marco and the note from Santa was awaiting us and we dove right into the madness of the Christmas season - so it was a perfect little getaway before the end of the year!

    12 Months of Kindness: 2016

    Tuesday, January 19, 2016

    We really enjoyed our 12 Months of Kindness last year; it seemed that in the 7 years that we've been committing to the project, that we finally had a great fit for our family in all the tasks.  Last year, we were able to finish all tasks (with one change to November's task) and they were manageable for us in both time and financially.  I wanted to work from some of our tasks from last year, but also build upon them this year to really allow opportunities for the kids to be involved more as they are getting a little older.

    To create our 2016 list, Brandon and I looked at last year's list and discussed the things that really worked well and then I also headed to pinterest (kindness pinboard, 12 Months of Kindness board) to look for new projects that might work well for us this year.

    As in each year's planning, we make sure to factor in certain events that we know are coming in the  year and might limit (or enhance) opportunities for giving back.  For example, this year, we had to consider that we're expecting a new baby in June and so I wanted the task to be both reflective of that celebration in our lives, and easy for the kids to do by themselves with a little supervision.

    So, it is with excitement that we can share our 2016 12 Months of Kindness Project
    (#12mokp on instagram and 12 Months of Kindness Project on facebook)

    January:  Create and deliver blessing bags to St. Vincent's
    February:  Give some love to a classroom through Donors Choose
    March:  volunteer time at the Johnstown Backpack Project to create weekend meal bags for local students in need
    April:  Purchase and deliver Baby & Mom supplies to our local YWCA
    May:  Select and award our 8th Studer Scholarship to CV seniors
    June: Create and deliver Birthday Boxes to our local food pantry/soup kitchen
    July:  Host the 8th annual Studer's Invitational Beer Olympics
    August:  Purchase and donate needed supplies to our local Humane Society (visit with the animals!)
    September:  Talk with our school and donate extra school supplies and backpack for students in need
    October:  Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF
    November:  participate in Giving Tuesday
    December:  Start the 'white envelope' gift tradition in our home

    Our 12 Months of Kindness tasks listed above, are the twelve big tasks that we do for each month in the year.  As I've said a million times before, it is so very important that we plan them ahead of time for each month and leave the tasks posted in a high traffic area in our home (our kitchen fridge) so that we are constantly reminded of them because the chaos and busy of life tries so hard to keep us distracted.  Even with them planned out and posted, sometimes we find ourselves at the end of a particular busy month scrambling to finish a task, because life...for real, guys.

    Besides our commitment to these 12 tasks, we also try to find small ways to give out generously and kindly throughout the year too as we can in our time, talents, and financially.  Some of these ways include:

    • we sponsor Raph from the Democratic Republic of Congo through WorldVision
    • we sign up and participate in local runs/races that support a cause
    • we contribute to GoFundMe requests from family and friends
    • I donate blood and try to encourage my family and friends to donate too
    • we deliver little messages and snacks to our mail carrier randomly
    • we participate with our local Family Service Club group with their projects
    • we participate with our high school alumni organization on projects that benefit the students and community
    • we donate half of our trick-or-treat candy to Operation Gratitude to the troops
    • we choose Christmas gifts that matter (through Oxfam America and WorldVision)
    • we deliver homemade holiday cookies to our neighbors (Christmas, but sometimes for Valentines day and Halloween too)
    • Above all, we strive to react with kindness and patience in all situation...with each other, our family, friends, and strangers

    Are you committing to 12 Months of Kindness this year?  What kinds of ways do you give back each year?  Are there service projects that have worked especially well with your kids?  I'm always interested in hearing about how other families incorporate giving and kindness into their life!

    Around Here: Week Two 1/9-1/15

    Friday, January 15, 2016

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

    Intentional Hours Outside to date:  3.43 hrs (of 1000)
    So, I did a little bit better than last week (barely, but whatevs) I had a mixture of walking/exercising outdoors this week and getting out with the kids.  Violet had her first full snowsuit experience and I thought for sure she was going to be miserable...turns out - I was the biggest baby!  We went out on the super windy, snowy day this week and I was the first one whining to go in (!!hahah)  I got out this morning with the girls today too and I need to find a way in my mind to settle my heart and see that it IS time well spent, just following them around and not doing anything else.  I'm always trying to find the most efficient use of my energy and I'm not yet (in my mothering? in my life experience?) to see that not doing anything else is an efficient use of my time.  Being aware of it though is the first step, right?  right?!

    Reading:  Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert with our Inspired Readers book club and listening to Tell the Wolves I'm Home on audible while walking.  Thank you guys all for the suggestions last week on a light, fresh read for bed!  I'm awaiting my most recent Amazon purchases now ;)

    Recognizing the differences between Violet's bringing up compared to Greyson's bringing up...yoi, the cliche difference between the first born and the (current) baby!  I think we had Grey off of a bottle at like 12 months exactly - like on his first birthday we were like, 'Dude!  You're big now, on to sippy cup full time!' and with Violet we are so lax about it that at almost 16 months she still takes a bottle (along with sippy cups, but still).  Greyson, both sorry and you're welcome, little man.  Violet, you too, sorry and you're welcome.

    Cheering for the Blue Jays!  We had three basketball games this week (one tonight) and so we are full on basketball season right now.  It has been kind of hectic here this week, between Bud's work schedule and basketball schedule we get to see him for approximately 30 waking minutes a day, unless of course we are counting Violet screaming "DADDA!" while pointing at him in the huddles during the game (hah).  It's a busy time, but we love it and are grateful to be a part of it all.  Shout out thank you to all the people (there are SO many) that help us during the games!!  Grandparents, friends, players' families, players' girlfriends, other coaches' kids....If 'it takes a village,' you all are certainly my basketball season village.

    Thankful to see the resurrection of multiple items that have been randomly reborn again this week.  Gemma's old pink rainboots have been brought down from the attic as they now fit Violet - she's so happy to be able to slip on her own shoes!  We brought the little jungle gym in from the cold to put in our living room (hah, basically has taken up the Christmas tree space that has freed up).  The kids love having it inside and it's been used traditionally and creatively (as a tent! as a reading nook! as a lunch picnic spot!) in a big way.  AND I brought the Mickey table down to the dining room from the playroom where it's been discarded for the past few months.  The girls had breakfast and lunch there and I was shocked how much easier it was to clean up afterwards.  That's it, they are all staying around for at least a little while!

    Celebrating, and celebrating, and celebrating finding out that we are expecting a new brother!  I really went in the absolute calmest I've ever gone in for an ultrasound.  Maybe because it feels like the last one and I'm really just so grateful to feel like we're all together now...who knows, but I was relaxed about it being either a sister or brother.  As soon as the technician said, 'yep, it's a boy!' Brandon let out this huge sigh of relief that I started cracking up!  He said he was so happy for Grey and he also thought it would be so awesome to see what another little Studer dude would be like.  We've been talking a lot about finding out the gender with the kids in advance, explaining to them that no matter what we get (bro/sis) we are lucky because we get a new baby at all.  We were most excited to tell the kids and we let Grey read the ultrasound paper.  Gem was disappointed, mostly because she didn't 'guess right' and Grey is super duper excited.  I'm honestly just so content to know that this is our family, all together and I just feel peaceful.

    Eating all the toaster strudel because we have it.  Seriously, if toaster strudel is in the house, my kids are eating every.single.morning until it's gone.  There's no alternating breakfast choices, if it's here, that's the only thing they want.  So, the three boxes we got on sale on Wednesday are down to only four toaster strudels left.  (but seriously, so yum).

    Confused why the children have so many toys but they only want to play with things that aren't toys.  Like our shoes, and my make-up drawer contents, and the party paper dishes and cups from the built-ins, and my serving utensils, and (sweet Lord, why) the scotch tape, and also my sharpies.  Patience, please, always in need of patience.

    Laughing about the kids' current favorite phrases.  Gemma says things are "fab-lee-ous" and she wants me to "Pinkytail promise" (we also call pigtails/pony tails 'pinky tails,' but that's been going on forever).  Violet is very into crowing when she sees any birds outside (and sometimes when she just looks outside even if there aren't any crows or birds) and screams "CAW! CAW! CAW!" and thinks it's hilarious if we act like we think she's a real bird.  She also still puts everything possible in her mouth just so that we'll make her take it out.  New worst thing she's put in her mouth this week (beating tiny hair elastic bands): a opened safety pin!!!

    Taking a hit on our bank account as we had to choke down purchasing four new tires for the truck when I was flat out stranded at the bus stop this week after the snow/ice hit.  Luckily, our new neighbors came to our rescue to get us to the house and then B spent two hours that night getting the truck out of the ditch and up the driveway (sideways!?)  So, four new tires it had to be for the price of safety, and that seems a little fair I guess...but still, ouch.

    Having the best day of Gemma's whole three and a half years of life.  We went to see Aunt Uch try on her wedding dress and then headed to Alfredo Angelo to try on flower girl dresses.  Gemma was over the guys, I can't even tell you how obsessed she was.  She picked seven different dresses (thank you salesladies for your patience) and absolutely loved showing them off; standing on the little pedestal, and then discussing each dress with Uch about how they felt and how they twirled and how much Gemma liked them.  Spoiler alert: she'd like all seven of them, 'Next week, we'll pick them all up and bring them home, right Mum?' thank you very much.  It felt like a real moment in wedding planning for Uch's wedding (our babyiest sister!?) and I loved every second of it and now I'm all hyped up on wedding planning koolaid #obnoxiousbutdon'tcare