Around Here Fifty-Two: 12/23-12/29

Friday, December 30, 2016

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

Intentional Hours Outdoors:  510 hours (of 1000)
Snagged another hour this week on a long walk with the two big kids and the dogs.  It was a beautiful, albeit chilly day and we got some fresh air and our bodies moving.  We walked all the way to the road back by 'the forest' and the kids ran and jumped over the stumps and rocks.  Gosh, it was such a reminder of how much good wide open space does for all of us and had me reflecting a lot about my goal for increased outdoor time this year - and what that might mean for next year too.

Reading and finishing The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins and picked back up again where I left off a few weeks ago in My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell you She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman

Celebrating Christmas!! We buzzed around for four whole days with lots of hugs, good food to eat, presents to open, Baby Jesus birthday candles to blow out, laughing, dancing, game playing, and even some wrestling thrown in there.  Whew, it was so much fun and so busy -but always a reminder of the love that surrounds us on all possible sides.  I've been fielding the question "Is Santa coming?" from Violet since December 20th and it still continues at least once daily.

Welcoming a new addition to our family; Greyson's hamster, Spike.  Pappy and Gigi took Grey to pick him out on Monday afternoon and the three big kids are enamored with him.  He is a sweet little tan and white hamster that lives in Greyson's room in his new cage.  He's already proved to be quite an escape artist and Brandon and I found ourselves...

Staking out half the night for Spike to show up following his cage escape after less than 24 hours in our home.  Good grief.  Grey woke up on Tuesday morning and came into our room and said, "I don't think Spike is in his cage..."lo and behold, he wasn't.  So we spent Tuesday morning and half the night listening and setting up makeshift schemes to find him (including: plates of food, stuffing towels under doors so he couldn't get into various rooms, and even trying to let Bullet on the pinch collar sniff him out - but all he found was a half eaten Poppy Seed roll in the playroom!)  At around 11:30p on Tuesday night while Brandon and I were snuggled up and fully asleep in the hallway, Bud awoke with a start and claims that Spike was standing on his hip, looking him the eye.  We both scrambled up and flicked on the light but Spike had already disappeared by then.  About fifteen minutes later (and one child size recliner disembowled), Spike ventured out again to the hallway and we were able to scoop him up in a toy bin and return him to his cage, thus now secured by bungee cords.  #lawdhelpme

'Grounding' our two big kids TWO DAYS in a row this week.  Grounding for them means they get restricted to their rooms for the whole day and can only get out for meals and the bathroom.  On both days they got in trouble for using things that weren't theirs and for things they aren't intended like standing on top of Sheila outside with the indoor blankets and pillows laughing and dancing when they were supposed to be cleaning up so we can find Spike....not kidding, this is my motherhood).  When they asked what they were supposed to do while grounded in their rooms, I shouted, "Read books or stare at the ceiling and be bored!" hhahhha.  They both ended up falling asleep on the first day (which is probably exactly what their bodies needed) and on day two they were allowed out of their rooms to go to Daddy's basketball game - but were not allowed to have any snacks from the concession stand (which is near physical pain to them).  We've been doing better each day since then about asking before using things that aren't theirs and cleaning up one mess before moving onto the next mess.  Baby steps, friends. #worstmomever

Easing back into normal routine life again at the slowest pace possible.  Everyone's sleep schedules are still all out of whack (no school bedtime isn't helping any), new gifts are still needing to find their correct place in the house, laundry is getting done at a snail's pace, and decorations are all still hung as we remain holiday cheermeisters until Orthodox Christmas on January 7th!  This little bit between Christmas and New Years always has me feeling untethered - I think it might be one of the reasons I love New Years and planning so much.  We are all in need of a fresh restart.

Making our Christmas eve spread for the grandparents - we had cheesy sausage balls, wedge salad dip, mini hotdog wreath, and twice baked potatoes with broccoli & cheese.  And ever since Christmas, it's been a whole lot of leftovers reheated and a Taco Tuesday, an awesome Thai fried noodle meal, and a picked up Pizza because we needed a break from the holiday-food.

2016 100 Small Things wrap-up

Thursday, December 29, 2016

oh, this week between Christmas and New Years has me all off-kilter over here.  Gifts need put away and left-overs galore for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and the feeling like there's so many ends to tie up and so many new strings to grab before the new year.  yeesh. 

But I've been looking over my 100 small things list from this past year and feeling accomplished at all the things I finished (and partially finished).  But still kind of bummed that I didn't get even half of my list done.  Brandon and my conversation though went like this - 

me: ugh, I only finished 38 of my 100 small things list this year!
bud: you did better than I did.
me: you didn't even have a list. 
bud: exactly, that means you really did better than I did. 

he's always erasing my selfdoubt #thanksbabe

So in any case, I did finish up 38 full tasks and I kind-of started another 11 tasks.  We also had at least 6 unexpected additions to the list that gave our days some interesting and meaningful new life. 

2016 100 Small Things wrap-up

Done (38 of 100)
4. Surprised five friends with dinner
7. Tried Blue Apron
8. Finished the first section of Buddhism for Mothers 
9. Figured out the kids' bedroom situation
11. Read Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover with Brandon
12. Paid off two loans:  we paid off our furniture loan and our tractor loan this year!
13. Ran in three races:  The Bunny Race 5K, The Que Classic 5K, and The Great Santa Run 2miles
14. Tried Zumba: with my sis Uch and we went a bunch of times.  So so fun!!
15. Created and finished 2015 Family yearbook:  I've since switched to school year yearbooks and I'm finishing up the 2015-16 yearbook now (finally)
20. read 14 (two more than my goal!) new to me books this year
23. Konmari'ed three rooms: our room, walk-in closet, and bathroom so far.
26. Made enchiladas with my mumma 
31. Watched fifteen TED talks
33. got my hair highlighted
41. Read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone aloud with Greyson (we read the illustrated edition)
42. helped plan the YIFC Path of the Flood Cheer Rally
43. Volunteered in Greyson's classroom (a couple of times)
45. Set up TED-like talks at CV for the seniors
50. Updated my blog tabs
53. Cleared out the laundry room and made solutions for the kids coats/backpacks! Thank goodness!
54. hung our bat house (still no bat sightings though)
59. Put Gemma's hair in rags (twice!)
60. finished 52 weeks of 'Around Here' posts about our ordinary weeks (as of this Friday!)
62. Re-read The Alchemist (still love it)
68. Celebrated our pets' birthdays!  So fun and will definitely be an annual tradition :)
71. Bought a minivan! SHEILA!
72. wrote 100 blogposts
76. taught Greyson and Gemma to ride bikes without training wheels!
78. organized the kids' handmedowns:  I haaaaate this job and it already needs done again, ugh.
79. bought four new fish but then also had an Ick epidemic hit our tank this year!  We are down to three fish left?! 
80. camped out in the backyard 
84. added more books to the kids' Easter book collection 
94. got my eyes checked and bought myself a 'bubba chain' and I'm getting better at wearing my glasses (although that's partially out of necessity!!)
95. started a CVAA intramural league - we played kickball this past summer!
98. got our blood work checked (both B and I)- updating our life insurance was the catalyst for that, otherwise we never would have done it!
99. created yard flower arrangements for our table: the kids were able to do this one all summer!

Partially Done (11 of 100)
1. Over 510 hours outdoors this year (more than half).  I have so so much to say about this and my thoughts on adding outdoor hours and screenfree-ness.  I know, I'm a broken record, I don't care.  haha.  full post coming up in the next day or two :) 
18. Brandon visited Austin, TX for his friends' wedding, so at least one family member made it there.  We had hoped that the whole crew could attend, but when it came down to flying all six of us and Rust was within the first rotten eight weeks - it just was not the best decision for all of us.  bummer.
24. watched 3 of 5 (the goal) documentaries.  I watched Meet the Patels, Living on One Dollar, and The Champions
36. I hosted One big family dinner at our house - for Christmas Eve like we do every year
48. visited two new-to-us local spots in town (Nykos and Bella Silia)
51. Kind of reinstated the days of the week activities with the kids at home, but it was inconsistent.  What's cooking Wednesday is all of our favorite)
52. Eating meals at the dinner table has been a lot better this year than others - but I still wouldn't say we did it at least once a week.  
64. Still working on potty training Violet.  Santa brought her Paw Patrol underpants for some motivation....we shall see. 
88. added KidYoutube and shut down some of the adult apps on the iPad, but I still have a lot to learn about child setting and profiles, etc. 
91. get in contact with my Costa Rican host family - I did and I'm facebook friends with my host siblings too!  (so glad) but I want to do better than that and send my host mum and email or two and share some photos with her.  
96. it wasn't a monthly game night, but we did have a few family game nights and the kids were over the moon about it like it was the most fun thing on the planet.  We really need to continue to take advantage of the fact that they like spending time with us right now (hah) before age wears that out of them!?!

We also added a few unplanned extras to our list this year: 
-we added additional Valentines' Day books to our kid holiday collection
-Tab got a part-time substitute teaching job as a Spanish I teacher
-Brandon got a new job!
-we met our new financial planner and made positive changes towards our future and planning
-Greyson got a new pet:  Spike the hamster
-Gave the blog template a mini-makeover

I've been reflecting on this year and thinking forward to the next.  I'm a list lover and goal maker, but I'm also in need of a big 'ole dose of dialing it back a notch or two.  I want to move in the direction of simple but intentional living.  I'm going to try to use this as a guide as I craft up my 2017 come soon :)

cheers and adios to 2016! 

the gifts.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

While planning for Christmas this year and taking into account Brandon's new job that offer so many incredible perks to our life, it did also come with a significant decrease in pay.  It has been an adjustment in everyday life, but we knew it was going to be important to really make plans to make the holidays work within a budget.

So, we sat down and did some planning.  
I ordered our Christmas cards earlier than ever and with as many coupons as I could scrap together, we pared down our kids' gift list to a financially reasonable (and a they-don't-need-more-crap) amount, we budgeted our lists, shopped online with coupons and early, and tracked each spending closely to make sure we were on target.  But it was clear right from the start that we'd be forgoing presents for ourselves.  

Truthfully, we don't mind all that much because neither of our main love languages is gifts, but it did feel a little funny every time we checked in with each other like, "wait, really don't buy anything for me.  I'm not buying anything for you!" and "but seriously, nothing.  put the money in the white envelope fund!" 

In the end though, we did decide together that Santa would bring one gift for us.  
A letter left under the tree, addressed to Mum & Dad.

The thing is, 
we have so many gifts, 
so many blessings.  
Four healthy, kind kids.  
A comfortable, warm home.  
Family and friends who love, support, and encourage us. 
A Daddy who has more time to be with us.
Who needs gifts under the tree when you have a life like this?

So as we spend our Christmas Day bustling to four different homes today;
homes that throw open their doors and welcome us in with arms outstretched with the smell of delicious food floating in the air, and smiles on everyone's faces...we resolve to keep looking around.
All of today.
and tomorrow.
and all in the new year.
Because, truly, all the gifts we could ever want are already right here in front of us.  

Merriest season to you.  
Look around, friends.
There is so much good.
and so much love.
xxoxo tab

Around Here Fifty-One: 12/16-12/22

Saturday, December 24, 2016

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

Intentional Hours Outdoors:  509+ hours (of 1000)
bleh. week before Christmas got Mrs. Claus like whoa.

Reading The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins and I want to ignore my motherly duties to keep reading. hahha, I've been reading it during Rusty's bedtime and sneaking in a few pages while making dinner too.

Layering on the holiday cheer thick.  We have lots of silly Marco antics daily, a Christmas celebration with my CCD students, watching holiday movies like it's going out of style (The Santa Claus, The Grinch, Polar Express, and Mickey's Christmas), knocking off holiday shopping lists, delighting over the Holiday cards we receive in the mail, and secretly picking up loads of packages from the post office and our neighbor's porch (he's our unofficial UPS drop off since they don't want to come up our long driveway nor deal with the dogs.  He text messages Brandon "The brown sleigh was here" to let us know we have something to pick up.  I love our neighbors, seriously.)  The last week before Christmas is just so wild - I've really felt a little bonkers with the holiday lists (shopping, baking, party calendar) bopping around my head while I'm also checking off this weeks' lesson plans and regular chores.  So much madness, but also kind of exhilarating.  Santa is coming whether we're ready or not, right?! hahahaha.  #wegotthismommas !

Grateful for our family that pulls together to make holiday miracles happen for our family...and particularly this momma right here!  Gigi and Pappy took the three big ones to the mall so I had time to get stuff done at home for a few hours last week.  The girls had their own sleepover (and even made necklaces for their favorite ladies!) at my parent's house (Abba & Chum) and Grey loved being home with just me and Brandon and Rust.  And then Grey had his own sleepover with Abba and Chum - and any mum will tell you the dramatic difference when even only one kid is off having fun somewhere else!  Morgan and Nick babysat for us this week one day and had cleaned the whole downstairs!! Cousin Taush picked up Greyson from Good News club while my two little ones slept and cousin Heather dropped off Brandon's favorite lady lock cookies to share with us (thank you Gail for making some for us!)

Celebrating with family and friends.  We cheered for our cousin Caleb at his sixth birthday party at the ACRP indoor playground (love that place) and then hosted a dinner and playdate at our house with the Jurichs.  Mikey and Brandon were high school best friends but he and his wife Shan have lived in Nebraska and Texas the past few years as they are an Airforce family.  We haven't seen them in four and half years!  It was such an awesome night catching up with them and getting all our kids together to play.  And then (!) we had our annual Polar Express Party with our favorites the Fiores at our house.  The kids exchanged gifts, watched the movie, snacked on pizza and popcorn and played all over the house while Kate and I got to sit and snuggle Rusty and drink coffee and chat.  (the mommas getting to chat is always the best part).

Volunteering my time, first to help decorate Greyson's classroom for his first grade Polar Express party!  I spent part of Tuesday night sneakily with other school moms getting the whole place set up and ready for the big surprise in school on Wednesday (PJ day too!) I told Grey I had a meeting and he suspected nothing and was so excited to tell me about the day full of Polar Express Centers and fun.  And then we had our annual CV Alumni Association Human Library event (rescheduled from the snow day last week).  I was a little worried that the rescheduled date and time would prevent alumni from being available - but we had fifteen alum show up and two of them were super last minute additions (I love you Russell and Michael!)  It was another great year for it and always inspires me so much to see how generous and kind our young alumni (and students) are.

Making all the Christmas cookies!  We made these nilla 'cake' cookies, chocolate covered pretzels,  these 4 ingredient Almond Joy cookies (aka "the best cookies you've ever made' -direct quote from Brandon Studer after he ate three in a row), Morgan helped the girls make Peanut Butter cookies while she babysat this week (thank you!) and these snickerdoodle cookies that Gemma and I both love a little too much (we're asking for bellyaches as many as we're eating!) and five ingredient toffee with graham crackers. For dinner this week, we've enjoyed chicken tacos, creamy chicken & broccoli soup, and we made chili and haluski for our playdate with the Jurichs.

Around Here Fifty - 12/09-12/15

Friday, December 16, 2016

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

Intentional Hours Outdoors: 509+ hours (of 1000)
holding steady with no new hours to report as it's been freezing raining, snowing, and near zero temps all this week.  yeah, I'm a big baby about it.  hah.   Does getting stuck in the driveway on Tuesday night with Shelia count?  HAH.  Actually, I stayed in Sheila while Brandon pushed us up the driveway about 100 yards and then ended up having to pull her up over the turn with the truck.  We didn't get all into the house and in bed until almost 11p.  Sheesh.

Reading The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins and really loving it.

Baking my grandma's sugar cookies with boiled icing Christmas cut out cookies with my Adams cousins (and sisters & mum & aunt!) as is one of our holiday traditions.  We packed up and headed out to Pittsburgh for the day on Sunday as my sis Kayla hosted this year.  As is also tradition, we always have a toast (or a few) with a bit of raw cookie dough and send many prayers and good wishes up to heaven.  We even got to see Kara (and Brett) in Kansas City, MO via facetime for one of the toasts!  After all the rolling, cookie cutting, baking, icing, and decorating (and eating) - we closed out the evening with a game of PIT (another childhood favorite from Gram & Pap's house) before making the trek home.  This tradition is in my top three favorite of the year, every single year.

Eternally grateful for all the people that live on the fringe of our daily lives who make my kids' lives so full of kindness and patience and magic, even.  Greyson's dental hygenist and dentist could not have been more patient with our two curious little girls peeking into watch closely at the cleaning of their big brother's teeth.  They asked them questions and listened to all of their answers and gave out stickers to all of them for being good at the appointment.  And our post office workers who hand out lollipops every single time we stop in to pick up packages (even when it's multiple times in one week) and then who write back for our Santa Claus letters that we sent last week with no expectation whatsoever of a response.  And our basketball "family" who let my girls "help" run the concession stand at the games and walk hand-in-hand with them back from the lobby, or who let them share their snacks or make funny faces and talk about nonsensical topics to keep them occupied during the 32+ minutes of game time.  My kids truly believe that the world is a beautiful, kind place and it's because at every turn that's what they see - kindness and patience from nearly everyone we come in contact with.

Starting to look forward to the new year with excitement.  It still feels far away as there are lots of items to still cross off of my Christmas to do list (yikes!) but I'm getting that butterfly-feeling about the fresh start that I pretend the new year brings.  I'm down to less than 20 days left of my part-time teaching which feels bittersweet (I will really miss the classroom and teaching, but I am very much feeling called back home to this family of ours).  I've been feeling like it's been a game of catch-up this whole latter part of the year (even still from having Rusty in June), but 2017 already feels like the year that we're not only going to catch up - but start moving in the right direction in a lot of ways and I'm so excited about it.  The thought of my fresh new planner has me giddy #geekingout

Competing with Brandon and Greyson on school delays and cancellations.  We have our toes in four different school districts in our area; Brandon works at NS, I teach at RHS, Greyson goes to CT, and Brandon coaches (and I do alumni volunteer projects) at CV.  So with the freezing rain at the start of the week, followed up by the arctic temperatures later - we have been teasing each other depending on who gets 'the call first'.  This week alone, we've had six 2-hour delays, and one afterschool cancellation (no bball game), and today (technically not part of this week's Around Here post - but I'll probably forget next week) Brandon and Grey had 2 hour delays, and I had two school cancellations!  One for teaching and the other for the CV alumni volunteer event I plan annually (in the works to reschedule for next week!)

Relieved to hear we're not the only ones that suffer so much destruction under the hands of our children.  Shelly wrote about broken things this week (although she has much greater patience than me - teach  me your ways, O wise one!) Brandon and I are astonished daily at the amount of mess and actual breaking of our things that happen.  Broken things this week include:  plaster in the girls' bedroom where Grey punched it as a joke (not funny now is it?), four ornaments, two bowls (although to be fair, that was the dogs), and the back wiper on Sheila (and that was from Brandon's trying to push in the snow, so maybe that one shouldn't count).  And that's not even counting how many things were lost this week - Greyson has FOURTEEN single socks awaiting to find their match in his drawer.  Fourteen, friends.  How is this even possible?!  #thisiswhywecanthavenicethings

praying and sending wishes of peace to Aleppo.  so very heartbroken to hear all the news coming out of there, not only this week, but for far too long.  If you are inspired to help in some way, see here or here.

Making lots of a yummy dinners this week, including round steak over egg noodles, make-more-please meatballs, slow-cooker General Tsao's Chicken, and haluski (because cabbage and I have a love affair going on).  We had buffalo chicken mac&cheese this past weekend and Brandon and I almost made ourselves sick eating so much of it in one sitting (so, so good).  I even squeezed in this comfort breakfast bake on one of the 2hr delay mornings.

8th annual Studer's Invitational Beer Olympics

Thursday, December 15, 2016

We held our 8th annual Studer's Invitational Beer Olympics event this year in October, a big change from our normal summer party. But this awesome event only a few weeks after the birth of our fourth baby was just not going to fly in our sleep-deprived rotten eight weeks.  So, we postponed it until early October and our friends and family braved the rain and chill to have a great time for a great cause!

The event is held at our home and as I say every single year, we could never ever do this without the help, graciousness, enthusiasm and kindness of our participants.  This day always reminds us of how incredibly grateful we are to be surrounded by so many amazing people.   And they all show up with a spirit of generosity and fun as we play together to raise funds for specific charitable goals.  This year, we were able to raise over $370 dollars for a local family that experienced health scares all  year - and who regularly inspire kindness and faithfulness to our entire community.

This year, we split up our 24 participants and organized them into eight teams of three for the day.  We gave them all Halloween themed team names (and corresponding face paint and hairspray!) and then dove right into the games for the day.  

After our customary warm-up game of Sloshball (kickball with booze), we follow our list of events and rules throughout the day while scores are doled out for each event to the teams depending on their performance.


We also sprinkle special 'challenge' competitions where each team member can earn a few extra points toward their total score.  We even incorporated the Dizzy Waitress game that made it's viral rounds around the nets this year.  


Now in our eighth year of the Studer's Invitational, it is mostly a self-running entity.  We have enough veteran players that everyone can assist with rule explanations to the newbies on their team, all players and observers come loaded down with food and drinks to share, and all day long we have people step in to help in any way during the day (replacing kegs, refilling toilet paper, cleaning up spills, and any other last minute tasks that come up.

Our favorite part of the day is always is the end of the night Award Ceremony where we hand out our individual awards for participants ranging from Loud Mouth to Teacher's Pet to Crybaby, to Most Valuable Drinker.  And then we end the day with the announcement of team's in their final order.  This year, team Pumpkin were the winners which means they'll have their team name added to our trophy stand and they got the first sips out of our Studer Torpedo.

It was another great year of Beer Olympics fun and another giant reminder that we are surrounded by people who are up for anything and who support our weird big ideas to help others.  Thank you to all of you that help make this day such a success.  we appreciate you all so much!