Around Here Twenty: 05/12-05/18

Friday, May 19, 2017

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

Intentional Outdoor Hours: 129+ hours (of 1000)
We racked up our outdoor time this week with volunteering at a local event, baseball games, outdoor daily playing, and a mother's day walk! The weather took a turn for the beautiful and warm (mid-80's some days!) and we are all eagerly counting down the days for summer vacation.

Reading The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood and posting our Inspired Readers book club Summer Book Checklist.  Make a goal for ten books this summer - or double them up and try to just get them all checked off.  Our book club is all online and open to new readers - join us! Happy Reading! (The Handmaid's Tale is going to count for my first checked box - first the book, then the Hulu Series! yay!)

Volunteering at the Rec the Alleghenies expo that my little sis, Tasha, set up for the community.  The event was held on Saturday all day in Greenhouse park and Brandon, Greyson, Rusty and I were on hand to help - along with join in on the fun demonstrations offered by the various active groups.  I did yogasong, zumba, and pound (so fun!) Grey threw knives at wooden blocks with the Renaissance reenactment group and played nerf obstacle course with his cousin Caleb until he nearly passed out.  Also there were therapy goats and I wanted to keep one.  The girls came after our cousin's bridal shower with my Mum and Kayla and they both rode horses and enjoyed the bounce house.  It was an awesome - 7 hours worth of outdoor time! - day!!

Celebrating Momma's Day.  We spent the evening at Gigi and Pappy's house on Saturday and Brandon made us all dinner (delicious) and we got to just relax and catch up and me and Gigi get all weepy because that's how we do (love you Geeg!) And on Sunday, I had a special breakfast just for me (my favs!) and surprise chocolate covered strawberries (really my fav!!) and a "dime-on" necklace from Greyson that he made me at school.  Later that afternoon my mumma, dad, and sisters came to our house where Bud cooked again! (I'm a lucky lady) and we had a big feast and spent some time together.  We also have our second annual "Mother's Day walk" late in the evening and we all take the dogs out for a short walk in the woods.  It was bliss, all of it.

Finishing our CCD year this past week.  Grey and I attended our last class and he said thank you to his wonderful teacher for the past two years, Ms Cindy.  I told her though, 'every time you 'graduate' a Studer kid there will be one to come up in their place!' Gem will start CCD Kinder next year.  I said a loving farewell to my fifth graders - fourteen of them!- and said 'see you next year' to my fourth graders as they'll have me for two years.  I'm so grateful to get to know these young people in our church and be an active member, alongside the other incredible teachers.

Baseballing.  holy cow.  We were at the field Friday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday this week.  Hello so many concession stand snacks. The kids not playing in the game do really well with constantly being there and since we have a no-devices rule at games/practices - they use their imagination to find ways to pass the time.  They watch the game, Grey helps coach the teeball kids and even pairs up with some players in the outfield to help them, take naps (!ha), or they make friends with other kids at the ball field.  It's surprisingly near painless, especially now that Rusty is walking better - he loves free range baseball games! And always so grateful for the family and friends that come to cheer on our kiddos.  (thank you!!)

Patching Grey up all week.  He slid into home to try to get a runner out and ripped his elbow pretty good, so we've been bandaging it and then watching it rip open again after each subsequent baseball game (hah!) Then during yesterday's game he slid into second and the second baseman went to catch the ball but missed and it came down and cracked Grey in the shoulder.  oh, and he had pink eye.  Goodness!

Mending three sick snot kids too this week - While Grey was bruised from baseball, the other three were sporting serious stuffy noses, coughs, and runny eyes.  Gemmi get so mucous-y that she ends up throwing up just to get it out of her.  I'm hopeful these warmer temps and sunny days are here to stay to smack the sickness right out of everyone.

Saying goodbye to our Painted Lady butterflies this week.  They were all anxious to fly away, so Gem got to hold one on her nose for about a second and Violet had the last little one linger on her cheek for a few seconds.  As they fly away we yell, "We love you! Good luck!" One of our favorite spring time traditions!

Giggling about Violet - she really is coming out with some funny little one liners these days.  We were walking across a parking lot this week and she said, "Here we come Sheila Rose!" (Sheila, our van, has a new middle name apparently - so fancy). She also asked us "Is the boat in there?" when we reach our local poll station to vote on Tuesday because we kept saying we were going to vote, and well, boat made more sense to her.

Making Korean ground turkey with green beans over rice, slow-cooker Au Jus beef sandwiches, chicken tacos, and bbq/coke slow cooker kielbasa.

mend the part of the world

Thursday, May 18, 2017

I recently finished reading Katrina Kenison's The Gift of an Ordinary Day, A Mother's Memoir and found myself reflecting and dog-earing my whole way through.  Her attention to the minutia of being a mother and raising kids up, while also trying to figure out how you (as your own actual person with dreams and feelings of your own separate from motherhood) were eloquent and so very relatable to my own inner dialogue.  Most of the pages are turned down so I can remind myself in the future during my inevitable re-read of this book that there was a sentence or two that spoke to me directly.

In the last chapter titled Pansies though, I had a moment of real connection with the author and the poet she quotes in this section.  This connection is part of the reason I am such a lover of reading - those rare moments as a reader when you feel that maybe the author writes a line specific just for you.  Sentences alone sometimes can bring the two of you together; reader and writer; to look across collapsed space and time and experience and see a familiar soul.  This is why readers read and writers write; to reach across all of everything to hold hands for a moment.

The chapter is in large part about a neighborhood woman that the author notices and then slowly comes to learn about, learn from, and be inspired by.  The neighbor woman is incredibly limited by health complications and yet she deeply loves and cares for all the parts of the world she can reach - which amount to their one mile stretch of back country road.  It's a beautiful story (the whole book is so well done, it comes with high recommendation from me!) and Kenison relates this woman to a quote from poet and writer, Clarissa Pinkola Estes -

As soon as I read that line, I could feel my heart swell.  I had uncovered an intention to hold in my soul.  It's so easy to become drowned out in the daily grind of raising kids and household chores and that 'squeeze-in-some-romance when ya can' living.  On top of all of those balls to keep juggling, I always have real passion in my heart to do something - make a difference in a real way to the earth.  To be kind, to volunteer, to inspire other people towards being grateful and kind and intentional.  But gosh, take one look around this messy house, and this overstuffed negative newsfeed and the wind gets sucked right out of my sails.  Often times I feel so small, so inconsequential - I'm sure we all do - and it's frustrating and sad and makes you want to throw your hands up and say, who cares?! and then binge watch a series on Netflix.

But what if the intention in my heart each day was to mend the part of the world that was within my reach.  just the part of the world I can reach.  these people; my people.  this house, this neighborhood and community.  this teeny corner of the web.  this is the circle of the world within my grasp, and what if I set my heart to mend just that; to lighten the burdens of the world.

For me, then, on any given day, it might mean
to kiss that booboo knee.
to read one more book, please mum before bedtime.
to call instead of text.
to put down my phone.
to pack his lunch for work.
to weed our flower bed.
to let the dogs snuggle up to me.
to keep writing.
to make time for thoughtful and honest conversations.
to dole out my smile freely and abundantly.
to laugh off the small stuff.
to be silly.
to hug.
to be patient.
to listen.

And to also be gracious and observant to all of the people and creatures in my life who lighten the burdens of the world for me.

those who whisper I love you momma.
he who never forgets a kiss hello or goodbye.
those who bring me handfuls of dandelions and buttercups in the midst of imaginative play.
those who send a text to say, 'miss you! love you!' and with no expectation for a text in return (#theyknowme)
those who remember when we're worried or stressed
those who remember our favorite candy and snacks and seem to have them on hand every time
those who send me something they've read or watched because they knew I'd appreciate it
those who snail mail
those who pick up our kids for practices, games, or playdates.
strangers who smile and hold doors and offer to help.
those who look me in the face and say, 'you're doing good momma, hang in there.'
those who show up even when (likely when) it's last minute.
those who laugh and shrug off the small stuff.
those who give grace.

Over the past week or so since reading these words, I have found myself repeating them when I start feeling overwhelmed or caught up in the commotion of life.  "Mend the part of the world within your reach." and immediately my eyes become more clear in intention.  The part of the world within my reach is my most favorite part of the world; to lighten it's burden is my greatest honor.


Screen Free Week 2017 Reflections

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The first week of May, our family participated in our fifth annual Screen Free Week where we pulled out the plugs from our screen devices (tvs, laptop, tablets, and the social media on our phones) and spent the week unplugged and looking up.

At five years in, everyone in our family is pretty familiar with how the week operates and has turned into basically a standard 'holiday' week that we celebrate at this time year; like Mardi Gras or St. Patrick's Day, or Shark Week.  In fact, at these ages (with no phones or devices of their own), the kids enjoy screen free week mostly because they get us all to themselves as WE (the parents) are not stuck with our noses in our devices.

And so, as in years past, I tape up a reminder note on the television and flip off it's surge protector, I tuck the iPad on top of the fridge and let the battery waste away, I close my laptop down, and we stow our phones on the kitchen counter in hopes of forgetting about them. And we get about to living.

There is plenty of time for cooking, baking, and eating during Screen Free week.  The kids made our Taco Tuesday dinner all by themselves and the girls jumped in on helping to make Surprise monkey bread and blueberry cookies for snacks.  There is also a lot of time for sitting together and enjoying meals together.  We have a standard no devices at the dinner table rule - but often times during lunch, I'll admit, I feed the kids and eat mine at the counter 'on the go' while paying our bills online or blogging or sending emails.  This week, I just sat at the table and had lunch with them which was certainly a change of pace --so.much.endless.talking from both girls.

Also, during Screen Free Week, we read, a lot. 
We never did make to the library because by the time the girls woke up, Rust was already headed for his first nap of the day, and then by the time he woke up and lunch, and then it would be cutting it to close to the bus stop for Grey..blah blah blah, we just never made it.  But no worries as our in-home library is pretty extensive and we had plenty of reading material available to keep everyone satisfied all week.  And I logged some serious hours and finally finished the book The Gift of an Ordinary Day by Katrina Kenison that I had been slowly (blissfully) chipping away at all year!

We did our regular weekly chores and got them all finished each day! Plus, I even threw in a few extras like wiping down baseboards and cleaning out the pantry/refrigerator of expired/un-used items, and deep cleaning the couch cushions.  Probably the second best part as a Mum about screen free week is how much gets down in terms of household duties.  It's amazing the amount of time I have when devices are removed from the picture (ugh, hate admitting that every year, but seriously).  

Besides a few little bonus chores, I also took the speedrail into crazytown.  Meaning = I loaded up all the toys into garbage bags (six of them by the end!) and hauled everything to the attic where it will stay for some other day - months from now when I have the sanity to go through it all (sorry future Tab).  

This act, then prompted a deep clean and furniture rearranging in the kids' bedrooms, playroom, and living room.  After coming home three days in a row from work where the house looked drastically different than the day before, Brandon finally said, "It's like a home renovation reveal show every time I come home from work!"  I was highly productive during the unplugged week, but also flat out, dead tired every night - so, another perk -  9:30p bedtimes on the daily. 

Lola is judging me and my descend into the 'get-rid-of-all-the-things' abyss.
The kids have been playing so much better now that the overwhelming amount of choices have been removed from their play things.  Which is what every minimalist ever has said before but is darn near impossible to believe until you see it with you own eyes.  It takes me now FIVE MINUTES to clean up the entire upstairs.  It's amazing.  They've only asked for two things that have been removed (Barbie doll house and a whole mess of babydoll clothes) and when I told them it's in the attic they say, "Oh yeah...okay." 

Oddly enough, we also spent a lot of time focused on bugs.  The girls liked using our Usborne Big Book of Bugs to try to figure out what kind of insects they were seeing.  Gemma was very interested in locating caterpillar nests outside in the trees and bushes (ew).  And we were able to move our chrysalis caterpillars into the butterfly habitat to wait for them to 'hatch.' 

We spent four evenings at the baseball diamond cheering, playing, coaching, and eating (both concession stand and our own homemade 'fast food' in tupperware containers).  It was kind of a chilly weather week though, so we had to really bundle up and hang in as all-weather fans.  Thank goodness for the baseball because our outdoor hours for the week were relying on our time there - otherwise, we were too chilly (or cleaning too much! ha!) to spend much time outside during the day.  

Another thing that always becomes glaringly obvious during screen free week are the small pockets of time that I find to squeeze in one-on-one time with each kid.  Having four can usually send me to bed each night with a guilty conscious, endlessly worried about whether or not each kid had enough of Me during the day.  Did I give enough individualized attention with personal love language to each child?!  

Inevitably, cutting out screens creates lots of little moments for paying closer and more intentional focus to normally rushed parts of our day - and since everyone is a little more tired than usual from using their own actual brains instead of zombie'ing out in front of screens - that means I get more individual time with kids while other ones are resting or napping.  

All in all, the verdict is in - we are refreshed and grateful after another year of participating in Screen Free Week.  I, personally, really needed the restart as I've felt so loaded down with the constant and overwhelming access to information; of any kind.  There's a lot of pressure to be 'in the know,' about so much today, about your social media friends and their posts and the news and television shows that get binged and the latest movies and gossip.  Gosh, it's exhausting even just writing all that.  A week away is such a strong reminder for me that it all goes on whether I'm looking or not.  

I've tried to be more conscious of my own use of screens in our regular non-holiday celebrating days.  I've found I'm much successful in avoiding mindless scrolling when my phone is left out of sight, so I park it on the kitchen counter and leave it there.  And now that the toy clutter is gone - it's lit a spark under both Brandon and I to reel in the rest of the house and all the unnecessary things that can be collected for donation (or the trash pile, honestly). 

I think the most important thing about Screen free week is that it reminds you that our relationship with screens is one that is in need of constant reflection and readjusting if necessary.  Screen awareness is always what I am reminded of after our week being unplugged.  Life feels so much more enjoyable, and real, and valuable when we're looking up and into the faces of the people we love.

Did you participate in any way? I'd love to hear about it! 

Around Here Nineteen: 05/05-05/11

Friday, May 12, 2017

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

photo credit: Jenn Valentine

Intentional Outdoor Hours:  107+ hours (of 1000)
We snagged some outdoor hours in the yard on the tractor, Gems' teeball game last Friday, our marathon, and a hike in the woods and some tree climbing with the little kids.  Gosh, I am so anxious for warmer weather - we had that little taste

Reading The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood for the second go around.  The show inspired by this story on Hulu looks incredible and I can't wait to watch it when I'm done!

Finishing our first ever half marathon in Pittsburgh on Sunday.  Full story here.

Closing out our fifth year of Screen Free week and loving the chance to be fully present and intentional.  I do have a whole post on my reflections coming yesterday asap!

Smiling at Greyson's spring concert as the kinder and first grade students sang a medly of songs.  Grey even had a 'solo' where he spoke into the microphone, "Strawberries."  All week long we were trying to talk him into doing it in all sorts of voices (high pitched, opera, etc), but he was pretty nervous to just say it in his regular voice.  He was even practicing the word in the mirror before we left (I die).  It was really a sweet program and the kids did great.  All the grandparents were in the house to see it which was so special - and the girls have been singing all the songs all week.  I swear, "Miss Lucy" can make a momma go crazy - hahha.

Prepping and getting excited about an event my sis and I have helped organize for this weekend to showcase all the great, active groups that are in our area.  We spent an afternoon at the playground/park (Greenhouse Park) where the Rec the Alleghenies Expo will be held this Saturday from noon-6p.  There will be demonstrations (horses! kayaking! a bounce house!) and information about local organizations available.  All free to the public - stop on by!

Watching our butterflies hatch from their chrysalis in the butterfly habitat.  The kids are loving it (so is our cat who has made swatting attempts at them flying around.  As soon as the weather gets a little warmer (!!?!) we'll be setting them free!

Touched by Gemma's generous heart.  I asked her why she had so little milk in her cereal and she said, "Well there was only a little bit left and I wanted to make sure I left some for Violet." She's not tall enough to see that there was a full gallon unopened on the top shelf.  I gave her a big squeeze and told her how proud I was of her thinking of her little sis and being so generous and thoughtful.  Then I filled that cereal bowl to the rim.

Marveling at our children growing.  One part screen free week focus and one part mother's day coming up, but it's been staggering obvious this past week how our kids are growing.  Rusty is walking all around this place and really giving us his personality (such a gemini! sweetest angel boy ever or crazy madman).  Violet pulling out hilarious jokes and trying big words on for size in perfect context.  Gemmi Ro, our almost kindergarten girl still wanting so much to be a teenager.  And our Booboo, such a big boy - so sweet and helpful sometimes, but also stretching his big boy wings and testing us with some major sass lately.  They just keep growing which is beautiful and heartbreaking.  I always keep one foot on the truth that my big purpose as a momma is to raise these babies up so that they need me less and less each day - and it's both a terrible job and an incredible honor.

Making Taco Pasta for taco Tuesday, Grilled Salmon and Baked Scallops for our monthly grown-up meal (kids had mac&cheese and hot dogs), 3B Porkchops, and chicken and rice soup with 4 ingredient cheddar beer bread.  I finally got to the grocery store yesterday and stocked up for about a month and a half.