Around Here Thirteen - 3/24-3/30

Friday, March 31, 2017

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

Intentional Outdoor Hours:  32+ hours (of 1000)
I'm up five hours this week as we got some beautiful weather days which allowed me to take the dogs for a walk and also get a run in (with the two big kids!) as the sun was setting around the neighborhood.  Grey and Gem did great and jogged the whole 2.5 miles with me (Grey runs super fast then walks until me and Gem slowly catch up) and then they both fussed about their legs being sore the next day (hah).  It is so nice to know that spring is really on her way and we are all itching for nicer weather!! Speaking of itching - I had a tick on me from the dogs' walk this week and then I started googling raising Guinea fowl for the sole purpose that they eat ticks.  The last thing we need is more pets, but seriously.  It was my third tick this year already!

Reading The Gift of an Ordinary Day by Katrina Kenison I particularly liked this quote and find it so true in my own parenting, "Every time I'm able to let go even a little - of control or judgement, of my need to be right or my inclination to worry - I'm rewarded....and I'm reminded once again that a simple change in focus can improve the tone of a day." (p.126)

Volunteering as a family (minus the two littlest ones) at our church's fish fry last Friday.  B manned the take-out orders and Gemmi helped me wait tables.  Grey flipped back and forth between take-out order duty and busing tables.  The kids even raked in some serious tip money (!) and really did a good job.  Shout out thank you to Aunt Uch and Kevin who had the baby kids (thank you!) Another 12 Months of Kindness task complete!

Celebrating our Vially two-and-a-half year old girl.  She is still so squishy and so very silly.  B says at least daily, "how can you not just love that child?!" She is pretty difficult to be mad at it - even if she's throwing a level five tantrum - and she comes out with the goofiest observations and one-liners.  Potty training has taken a nosedive and she's been sneaking 6p naps while I make dinner and then staying up until almost midnight on occasion (#lawdhelpusall).  But we just love sharing a family with this funny, wacky, beautiful girl. 

Doing some small biz work with The Hunting Daddies again last weekend at the local elementary school's vendor & craft fair.  It was kind of like a day date with just B and I together for a full afternoon alone!  We did pretty well: sold a few books and met a lot of really cool outdoor families. All four kids were with Pappy & Gigi at an indoor play center (playing laser tag!) - thank youns! - and we even had time to make it home and clean a little bit before the gang arrived back home! #parentingfantasies (hahahha)

Learning at home while we turn up the heat a little with Gemma's 'homework.'  Grey's former kinder teacher reached out to me after her K testing and said she had a bunch of printouts and fun activities for her!  She sent them home with Greyson from school and Gem has been so motivated and calling it her 'real homework' from her 'real teacher.' I'm seeing incremental progress but it's progress when we've been stuck for so long in a frustrated standstill.  Seriously so blessed to have these teachers who care so much about our babies.  #icriedoverit #obviously Grey is doing a lot of learning too and has told me that reading has felt so much easier since our Reading Boot Camp project together.  He's been a lot less combative about homework and is killing spelling recently (even words like through and the ar/er/ir/ur words!) 

thankful for family, as always, but we got a lot of family time in this week.  Playday with Lainey bug at our house and watching Caleb's hockey game on Wednesday night.  Uch and Kevin did serious babysitting duty this week (twice!), we got to have a visit with Aunt Kitty on Friday and got in so much chatting(me) and playing (kids).  It was also the anniversary of my grandma Irene's passing this week too.  Which is so startling every time to realize that years have passed although it never feels like more than days since the last time I've talked to or hugged her.  

Starting new seasons.  Grey had his first official baseball practice this week (he's overjoyed that it's baseball season) while B got swept up into coaching Gemma's tball team which will start this coming week with practices and schedule organizing.  And then fishing season is just about here.  Grey and Bud went out to Spruce Creek to fish for native trout last Saturday only to discover that Grey has absolutely grown out of his like a lot(HAH!) and all of them are desperately awaiting the second Saturday in April (mentor day) and the third Saturday (first day of trout) while I'm planning Grey's seventh (!!!) birthday party which is obviously...outdoor/fishing themed.  

Giving myself grace and space.  Since the beginning of this year I've been feeling such a pull to slow down and settle into a more simple way of life.  I've had the urge to clear out clutter (slowly), move things around & deep clean, and recognize that none of my chores need done immediately - that it's perfectly fine to instead to jump into imaginative play with the kids at the moment. Whenever I start to feel myself getting anxious about 'keeping up' with anyone (!!I should have read more books by now!! -- !!Our house should have more style/be more clean/be more organized/we should move all together!! -- I need to be doing all the things, all the time!) I take a deep breath and give myself some grace; I try to let peace, love, gratitude, and 'okayness' remind me deep in my bones that my goal is to be like the tortoise and not the hare. 

Making some use of beautiful weather by grilling out - steaks and veggies and these Cheesy Ranch potatoes.  B also made Chinese green beans and ground turkey over rice while the kids and I took our run. I threw in some slow cooker cream cheese taquitos which were a huge hit last night. Gem helped make oatmeal chocolate chip cookies which are already totally eaten up.

Six of our favorite kid-pleasing dinners

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

It's the end of another month and I'm getting ready to start my next month's meal planning and grocery list building.  If you read here regularly, you'll know that I do monthly meal plans and we do one big grocery trip a month and supplement produce (and lots of gallons of milk!) throughout as needed.

I've been planning my meals monthly for about three-ish years now and it suits my sanity levels come dinnertime.  My method is to plan five meals during the weeknights and mark them in my planner on those particular days.  Weekends are left to leftovers, grandparents house visits, eating out/ordering in, or something we are craving (like buffalo mac&cheese this past weekend!)

Now, if we arrive at the actual day and I glance at my planner and for whatever reason have an aversion to whatever it is I had planned weeks ago, I skim the rest of the week's plans and swap the days' dinners.  And sometimes if we're having a particularly difficult day (kid tantrums, surprise challenges, etc) then I will slip in one of our favorite kid-pleaser meals because the one thing this momma can't handle on top of an already difficult day - are kids that whine about dinner.

So if you are in the middle of a particularly challenging kid day - or you just need to add some kid-pleasing meals to your rotation - here are six of our go-to favorites.

1. Spaghetti 
As plain and boring as possible.  We literally make the noodles (our kids prefer 'spaghetti' noodles. They think other kinds aren't as good - I personally like Linguine noodles best, but what the heck do I know, right?!) and we heat up spaghetti sauce (our favorite is Meat flavored Aldi sauce).  All you parents out there know too just how much sauce gets added to each kid's pile of noodles, amirite!? Hahhah, parenthood is full of tiny little details you get to learn and  The kids add Parmesan cheese on top of their own then for the final touch.  We don't add any ground beef, or meatballs, or chicken. nothing - the more plain and boring, the more widely pleased everyone is.  It's crazy.

They also are happy to have garlic bread or jelly bread (weird Studer tradition) to dip.

Grown up version:  I sometimes top my spaghetti with steamed veggies and add a salad on the side.

2. Chicken, veggie, stuffing casserole
I found this recipe a million and a half years ago in a Real Simple magazine advertisement and I tore the page out and have kept it in a big white binder I have in our cupboard.  I almost have the recipe memorized by heart but I like to glance at it just to make sure I have the temp/time right.  This is a pinterest copy of the same recipe that I have on my little torn out magazine ad - it's from All Recipes 

I 'cheat' a little and boil the chicken (slow cooker) first all day and then shred it before adding it to the casserole.  We use greek yogurt instead of sour cream too just because we always have greek yogurt in the house and rarely do I remember to buy sour cream.  The kids eat several bowls of this and we almost never have leftovers.

3. 3B porkchops
This one is befuddling, but our kids love breaded, baked, boneless pork chops (aka 3B).  I usually can enlist a kid to help in the breading too which adds a little fun to the process.

We dip the porkchops in egg and then drop them in a plastic ziploc with breadcrumbs and a dry dressing packet (either Ranch or Italian depending on what we have on hand).  Then we put them on parchment paper and bake at 375 degrees for about 35 minutes (all approx and super unchef-like of me).

We switch up the sides - sometimes rice, sometimes noodles.  And we include a veggie (our kids love corn, broccoli, and salad).  They like to dip their porkchops in ketchup because they are cave people.

4. Korean beef
Super big win the day I discovered this pin!  So very easy and so delicious.  We love Asian-inspired food in most forms, so this one is always a big hit.  We eat it over white rice and I like to add broccoli on the side (or mixed right in!)  Here is the recipe using ground beef on pinterest and it comes from

Grown up version: Brandon and I put Red Pepper flakes and Green Onions on top.

5. Tacos
Our kids love Taco Tuesday (every single week, hah).  We keep it fun and fresh by switching up between ground beef and chicken tacos (our kids prefer soft shells).  We've also done taco pasta (just putting the taco meat over cooked pasta (elbows and bowties work best).  The kids like their tacos with Ranch dressing and cheddar cheese.  If they're feeling wild, they'll add in some lettuce and corn.

Grown up version:  lots of additions:  sour cream/greek yogurt, salsa, jalapenos, lettuce, rice, beans.  Switching it up to a taco salad instead of soft shells, etc.

6. Chicken & Gravy over mashed potatoes
This is my 'pick'em up' meal if someone had a big or hard day.  I have made this meal for the first day of school for the past two years...and it gets made if someone needs a little comforting, loving boost...or just needs reminded that their momma loves them and this is home and we are family.  I think I'm giving too much credit to this meal, but it makes my children happy and makes me feel like I'm giving them a childhood memory of a hug in the form of food.

Toss frozen chicken in the slow cooker with two packets of chicken gravy, some water, and a can of cream of chicken soup.  Cook all day, shred the chicken and return it to the slow cooker.  Pour chicken/gravy over top of mashed potatoes and serve with sweet corn.  Here's our favorite version on pinterest from the Magical Slow Cooker blog. 

Grown up version/left overs:  B and I love these as open-faced chicken & gravy sandwiches too!

Does your family have some kid-pleasing meals that always seem to do the trick when you just can't hear any dinnertime whining?  Please share - mommas & daddies need to unite in the name of enjoyable mealtimes!  xxoxo

Around Here Twelve - 3/17-3/23

Saturday, March 25, 2017

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

Intentional Outdoor Hours: 27+ hours (of 1000)
We had some beautiful weather mixed with really chilly weather this week.  The girls and I headed outside one afternoon and explored all the deer paths we could find since the weeds aren't all overgrown yet in 'the tunnel' (two rows of parallel pine trees between us and the neighbors).  The girls climbed trees and picked up pine cones and danced in the fields behind the house.  It always feels like a hassle to get every suited up in coats and boots and trek outside, but I've never regretted it - no matter how much of a starved, overtired tantrum it might (always) dissolve into.

Reading The Gift of an Ordinary Day by Katrina Kenison 

Getting tricked by that sneaky leprechaun! He did fall in our trap, but then cut a hole in the box and escaped!  He even left us one single gold (chocolate) coin just to tease us! That mischievous little guy!!

Celebrating (although bittersweetly) the end of indoor soccer season.  It was a great season and really brought out something in our Gemmi Ro that wasn't there before (balance, control, and a love for the game!) Grey grew so much this year and learned so much about passing the ball and helping his teammates learn too - while also pushing himself to play on the 8-10 year old team (and really compete!) It was an awesome season!

Participating in a local author's fair at our library as The Hunting Daddies.  It was a great event and our first time on the other side of the biz.  We usually attend Outdoor expos where everyone is already interested in our topic - but this time we learned so much talking with people who know the difficulties and struggles that come with book creation, publishing, and marketing.  It was nice to do some networking and have a chance (for me) to talk with other writers...where I also dipped my toe back into talking about picking up my novel again and maybe getting into a local writer's monthly group.  It's got my brain and heart spinning again which I am grateful for.

Spending time on the slopes!  The snow tubing slopes!  My parents and sisters took the two big kids out on Saturday after the soccer games (the little ones stayed with Pap and Gigi) and then after the author fair, Bud and I drove out to watch them have the best time ever ("!!!") The kids loved it big time and loved being with their aunts and grandparents (and I loved seeing how much our kids keep our parents young, moving, playing, and giggling!)

Introducing some Waldorf learning into our home routine.  I still harbor some worries about Gem's learning styles (especially when it comes to the alphabet & name recognition) so I've been doing some research and so much of what I've read up on Waldorf sounds so much like Gemma - it just feels like her.  So I've been incorporating some of their methods in how we do things at home.  I have requested her help in the kitchen (cooking, dishes) everyday this week and we've been making a point to make meals feel a little more special (candles, place settings).  We've also been using natural elements (painting pinecones) and doing more music and  movement together.  It's definitely engaging for her which is promising.  And after Gemma's kindergarten Dial4 testing this week, I got a chance to chat with a few of the K teachers afterwards and they gave me a lot of fun suggestions for working on the alphabet with Gemma which was helpful and encouraging.  We have more work to do before the end of August, and we are both excited about digging in and learning together.

Kon Mari'ing the upstairs linen closet (100 small things task!) which looks incredibly less stressful now.  Then I headed into the upstairs play area and I cleared out a half-busted bookcase that has been burning the back of my mind for months.  And then that domino'ed me into sifting through my book collection where I was able to donate/share my books with five other people who will get to enjoy them! (thanks facebook!) After the book case was cleared out, I went bananas with the toys and what a difference a garbage bag and an afternoon can make!  The kids love the less-is-more feel of it and keep claiming that they'll keep it clean (HAH!) but so far it's been good actually and they have been so much more engaged in their play now that there is less to play with!

Missing Daddy all week while he was away for a school admin conference for four days/three nights.  The kids were all pretty well behaved and helped a lot - but we were all feeling the aches of homesickness while missing Brandon.

Making irish soda muffins for breakfast on St. Patrick's day (so yum!) grilled church picnic chicken (one of our favorites!) with grilled veggies to celebrate the first day of spring! We had sloppy joes one night and baked pork chops (bread crumbs & dried italian) with green bean almondine.  We also got a waffle maker and I preceded to cook every.thing. in the waffle maker for a whole day (hahhha!) I scrambled eggs in it, made churros, and pizza wafflewiches.  (I may need an intervention).  And Gemma made (mostly by herself with direction) baked ravioli and korean beef.

Around Here Eleven - 03/10-03/16

Friday, March 17, 2017

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

Intentional Outdoor hours: 24+ hours (of 1000)
ugh.  too cold. I was out for under 10 minutes the other day but I'm not even including it because I was miserable and the wind made my eyes water.  The kids are doing a lot better than me and have been out almost daily for at least a half hour.  Their little skin is tougher than mine!  I can't wait for it to warm up a little bit so I can get back to running.  I'm a wimp, but that cold air hurts my throat and lungs to breathe it in!

Reading The Gift of an Ordinary Day by Katrina Kenison and loved this bit: "It occurs to me that perhaps I don't have to push at life quite so hard after all, that sometimes the best thing we can do is allow our lives simply to take us where we need to go." -pg.86

Buzzing through the weekend with lots of plans and places to go. The kids are down to their final two weeks of soccer (Grey played three games back to back on Saturday for an hour and half! He loved every second of it). Then Gem and I headed out to a baby shower for our cousin while the little two kids spent the afternoon at my parents' house.  Grey and B headed out to watch a jr. high basketball tourney and then attended BBgun shooting league.  Sunday buzzed by with teaching CCD and attending church, then indoor baseball practice for Grey and then he got to go ice skating with cousin Caleb (thank you Heather!) By the time Sunday night rolls around, we're tired again! hahaha, so much for relaxing weekends, but I supposed that's how life goes with kids, amirite?

Giddy to watch Rusty work on his baby sign language.  He's up to three consistent signs now (All done, More, and Sleepy) and we're working on 'Play' and 'Bath.'  He looks downright relieved and proud to communicate to us too.  He had the biggest, sweetest smile the other day when I asked if he was done and instead he signed More and I gave him a few more marshmallows. (his super favorite).

Cozied up with our whole family for two snow days in a row!  Now that B works in education, he was home with us too and we spent the days lounging around, making enormous messes (the kids), cleaning up (all of us), and trying to get healthy again after letting common winter viruses make homes in our sinuses for the last few months.  It was glorious to all be together and to have not a literal thing to have to do or a place to go.  We did not leave the house in 48 hours and it was amazing.

Completing our March Madness tourney brackets.  My sister organized a family poll for the kids and I found these awesome kid-friendly mascot March Madness brackets from Simple Play Ideas that they are having so much fun with.  All three were excited to circle the real winners after yesterday's games and were so engaged in those final few moments of the Northwestern/Vandy game (our house was split on that one!) B and I filled out ours to compete against each other (100 small things list goal!) and he will not stop teasing me about Winthrop which I chose to be a Cinderella team making it all the way to the elite8! (oops!)

Making crockpot three pack roast, Rich man's Ramen, this slow cooker general Tsao's chicken and jalapeno popper chicken wraps for Bud and I (while the kids had the never-fail chicken & gravy over mashed potatoes).  Grey and I have been on a poached eggs for breakfast kick (random but delish). The girls also helped make these cream cheese chocolate chip cookies (literal best cookies I've ever made in my life), and the two big kids helped make green shamrock shaped Spritz cookies for St. Pat's!

two things about love.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

our dearest kids, 
Daddy and I have been together for eighteen years.  

I have been kissing Daddy for over half my life!  

This is not all that impressive to you guys because Daddy and I have been kissing for ALL of your lives, but believe us - when you grow up, kissing the same person for over half your life is a long, long time. 

Now, we aren't claiming to be experts at love...but we do have a lot of the experience in the things that is needed to make one an expert.  For example, that 10,000 hours theory?  we blow that thing out of the water.  

And have great mentors?  yep, got those in our parents, grandparents, and lots of friends who have great love and inspire us to continue to work at it no matter what challenges pop up.  

And we encourage each other everyday towards the 'deliberate practice,' living out love in more ways than just 'showing up.' 

So, in those ways, we have a little bit to offer you, our babies about what we've learned about love. 

Mainly, it comes down to two, big things: The first is that there are ups and downs in love.  
let me say that again, there are ups and downs - no matter how much you love each other, no matter how amazing it feels in the ups - there will be downs.   

Understanding this has been liberating for Daddy and I, because when we've been in the middle of a down, we anchor ourselves in the knowledge that the up is in our future; that we'll get out of this rut or argument or whatever it might be that has us questioning everything about our relationship and get back to a place where nothing makes sense without the other.  

And, truly, knowing there are downs in the future has helped us to keep our ups humble.  When we're on an up (like we are right now), it can feel invincible - which is amazing and makes up for any of the down parts in the past.  it is the bit of life that makes everything better.  

But, the ups can also make the downs feel worse than they actually are.  So, knowing that the ups are part of a longer track that have lots more ups and downs up ahead, help us to cherish and soak in all that joy but with a sense that we've worked hard to get here and there will be more work to do in the future too.  There is no 'we've made it' in love; no ending destination - that's why they say, 'in good times and in bad,' because that is what love is - a long winding path of good and bad.

The other thing we've learned about love is that it takes a willingness to bend.  Lots of times on the ride, especially in the transitions to the ups, someone is going to need to be the one to adjust.  It shouldn't always be the same someone who is making adjustments - but someone needs to give a little.  Otherwise, if there is no bending, it breaks. 

It's doing the thing you don't feel like doing because you'd rather bend than break.  It's realizing and acknowledging and being grateful when the other person is doing the thing they don't feel like doing to bend rather than break.  It's not holding all those bends in a grudge inside your heart to throw out later.  It's sharing life's burden of constant adaptation with another person.  And in sharing that little bit, you also get to share the incredible gift of life's joy (doubled!) and life's sorrows (halved). 

So, babies, the thing about love is it's unpredictable in it's bumpiness but predictable in the way that there will be ups and downs, no matter who your riding partner is. And it's unpredictable in how much you will need to bend, and how often and how much and how often your partner will need to bend...but predictable in the fact that you will need to be flexible and so will your partner.  

your parents' love is not perfect, it is messy and hard and beautiful and safe and exciting and familiar...but not at all perfect.

our love is not perfect and never will be.
and our life is not perfect and never will be.
but we will keep choosing to love each other
because sharing this unperfect life together 
is worth all of it.

if you learn anything from our love, i hope it's that.

love you forever, 
even when you get bigger than us!
mum & dad

Around Here Ten: 03/03-03/10

Monday, March 13, 2017

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

Intentional Outdoor Hours: 24+ hours (of 1000)
Only added an extra hour this week with a beautiful (and much needed) four mile jog.  It felt really good to get out in the 50degree weather even if it was so crazy windy that I was actually laughing at various points.  Four miles feels great right now which is astonishing coming from me - someone who was overwhelmed by the thought of jogging one mile in the not so distant past.  But considering in only two months, I need to run four miles three times in a row (plus another mile and change on top of that)...well that's a little concerning.  Slow and steady though, right?

Reading The Gift of an Ordinary Day by Katrina Kenison. plugging along and still really enjoying it.

Volunteering at our church's fish fry on Friday night for the first time.  I waited tables while Brandon helped out on the phone with take-out orders and the time flew by.  We actually had a great time seeing so many faces and lending our hands to help.  We have some upcoming Friday night commitments, but we've already scheduled our next stint at the fish fry for later this Lenten season!  (It's also our March 12Months of Kindness task!)

Chilling at the indoor soccer games all Saturday morning watching Gemma and Greyson play on their teams - it's the last three weeks of the season which feels sad.  They love it and look forward to it all week long.  It's been so nice to watch Gem grow and learn how to play a team sport and to see Grey progress from last years' first try at soccer.

Sleepover hosting and sending out!  Gemma had her special girls night sleepover with Aunt Uch for her birthday and got all fancy dressed up, went out to eat and had special dessert and then had a sleepover at her house!  Meanwhile, at our house, Grey had a school friend spend the night.  They played football and epic diving catches onto our couches, downloaded sports game apps on the ipad (hah), and watched Rookie of the Year.  Two separate successful sleepovers in one night!  We are moving into big kid territory!

Getting Sheila back and into regular action.  The kids were sad to see Uncle Juice's Navigator be returned ("it's so much cooler than Sheila!" ..true), but it feels good to have her back and all fixed up from her tire issues.

Settling into Brandon's new work schedule and loving it.  It is so nice to have him home earlier and when he's here, he's fully here.  We are knocking out to do/to clean tasks and evenings have never been easier.  We may have to be more (much more) serious about our budget and making choices about spending - but it's the life I would choose a million times over to have him here with us instead.  Also, that beard though (xxxox!)

Feeling like this week sure flew by in a hurry!

Making haluski but with zoodles (and it was yum!), crockpot Hawaiian meatballs, chicken & rice soup with these super easy garlic knots, and chicken tacos. We also made some pumpkin/brownie mini muffins for afternoon snack.