Around Here Twenty One: 5/19-5/25

Friday, May 26, 2017

A glimpse into what it is like to live in our home just this minute...and what a week it's been!!

photo credit:  Adliv Collective

photo credit:  Adliv Collective 

photo credit:  Becky Conn













Intentional Outdoor Hours:  137+ hours (of 1000)
Only a few hours this week because this weather has been Bleh to the extreme.  We worked together as a family out in the flower bed at the turn in our driveway; trimming bushes, clearing the trimmings, weeding, and cleaning it up.  Brandon and I were joyful over how quickly we finished because all the big kids were pitching in!  So that's why we have all these kids!?  (HAHAHAH, kidding). We also snagged a few hours from baseball and volleyball games.

Reading The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood and almost it's finished!  I also passed along The Gift of an Ordinary Day to our aunt and current momma to a teenager.  And I also used the quote from it (that I wrote a whole blog post on) in my Scholarship award winner speech.  That book made an impact with my soul.

Blown away by an incredible evening out with some brave, handsome, and generous local Dads - including my number one man.  My sisters organized an awesome fundraiser event called The Dad Bod Affair to raise money for our local Women's Help Center.  We somehow convinced ten local Dads to participate in short skits set to sultry music while they did....wait for it...household chores.  It was so amazing.  Brandon mopped and I could have died.  Let me tell ya, I felt pretty starstruck to take my own Dad Bod home....for everyday of our life! (Amazing job to my sisters and all the ladies who helped us plan the event.  Thank you to the Dads and the men who helped serve tables - all around stellar event).  To see all the photos you can find them on facebook here at You in Flood City.

Cancelling on all of our plans for Sunday because the kids were down with sickness.  I was so bummed to text and call a bride (Lyns!) and a friend (Dunbars!) to last minute bail on a bridal shower and birthday party that day.  But after the surprise in the kitchen at 9am when Violet meekly said, "Sorry I throwed up on you, momma" followed up with Gemma doing the same a few minutes later and Grey sleeping in past 11:30am (unheard of) - I was all like, "Well, goodbye Sunday."  !

Baseballing most nights of the week - as long as the rain doesn't interfere!  Grey had two games and one cancelled this week - so that means...make up games! ughhhhh, this weather.

Volleyballing!  Our co-ed volleyball league officially started this week and after two years out of the game (omigosh!) it was amazing to get back on the court.  I headed to the game while Brandon went to Grey's baseball game that night (boohoo for having to split up).  Our team worked a few kinks out and then got into our swing together by game3.  So much looking forward to the whole season!  Since I was flying solo at the game, Uch and I grabbed a beer and a long chat afterwards and it was exactly what I needed to keep my spirits up for our busy week!

Enjoying a grown up night out with our aunt & uncle at Press Wine Dinner night.  Way back at Christmas we promised to do a wine dinner with them but between both of our families' basketball schedules and then baseball and track meets - we only now, 6 months later!, had a free night in both our schedules.  The food and wine was great, the company was great - and it was such a refreshing double date evening out!

Grateful for family and friends - we had something scheduled every night this week and our family - especially the grandparents pulled in tight to make sure we had sitters and kids covered for all the places we needed to be.  THANK YOU!!  We also had our Miss Hannah babysit for us during the Dad Bod event and arrived home to her on the couch with both girls asleep in her lap!  (she's the best!!) We are so blessed and grateful for these family and friends who love our kids, especially when this life takes so much juggling!

Counting down these last few days of school.  we are all so anxious for summer to be here (and warmer weather, please!)  I ordered Gemma's backpack for Kinder this week because hello, sale at LLBean.  We ordered Grey's backpack from there (because it's lifetime guarantee) and let me tell you - after being with that wild boy for two years...you'd still think that thing was new.  Yeah, never looking back, it cost a little extra - but worth it for sure.

Barricading all the things as Rust man, on the crest of his first birthday (his party planning in the works! waaaaaah!) has been into everything.  He finally took a much delayed attempt at the stairs and scaled it so fast that we've been calling him a little gecko.  He just waddles all over the place picking stuff up and hiding it (Brandon found his truck keys in the washer this morning), pulling every toilet paper off the roll, trying to dunk his hands in the toilet water, and splashing all the water out of the dogs' dishes.  He does the alligator roll when you try to change his diaper and has this ear-piercing screech that means both joy and anger.  He's still so squishy and does love to give a good hug and kiss at random.  This baby!  He makes us all so happy even when he crazy.

Awarding our ninth annual Studer Scholarship to a CV high school senior at their senior banquet last night.  I took Violet as my date and we were happy to sit with Aunt Uch and Kevin too.  The banquet is always so inspiring to see the accomplishments of the young people getting ready to head off into the world - and of the donors who sacrifice and save to be able to provide any financial help they can.  Seriously, I am floored every year.  Our winner this year was the incredibly kind and sweet, Kara Pisczek.  This has been one of our 12 Months of Kindness tasks since the start of our 12 Months of Kindness!

Making chicken & zucchini casserole, taco Tuesday, this Hawaiian chicken (slow cooker, 3 ingredients!), and for dessert we made chocolate chip pecan cookies with the girls and shared some with Grey's busdriver too. I started the 21day fix regime again this week and I've been doing great so far with eating a diversity of foods (instead of mainly my one favorite type: all the carbs) and with the exercises everyday.  The girls hop in and out on the workouts and then cheer me on.  My motivation is that the idea that someday I'll be comfortable to just get dressed to leave the house with no feeling of being uncomfortable.  I haven't updated my wardrobe in (i'm not exaggerating) seven/eight years - like since before having kids, and I have no interest in spending money on new clothes - so I'm just going to work on getting my body back in shape to fit comfortably in those clothes again (hah).  Maybe it being a financial motivation will keep me up with it!  Whatever works, right?!

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.

xxoxo

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!