winter, winter, go away

Thursday, March 28, 2013

bleh, bleh, bleh.

maybe i should start by saying I'm sharply aware that other people have real problems.  Real problems that are big and devastating and awful compared to this #firstworldproblem #healthyfamily complain I'm about to go off on.  And I have no business complaining about a single thing in my life when I woke up this morning warm, breathing and with a kind-hearted husband and two healthy babies.

That being said, bleh.

It's snowing again today.
and it snowed yesterday.
and we had a bit of a white out the day before that.
and I am just so tired of winter.

I don't want to be that girl.  I don't want to be that girl that gives power to the seasons for my emotional state...but I'm there.  I've been there for a few weeks now, but this week I am sitting deep in a muck of frustration - solely related to cold and snow and slush.    I'll work out and move my body more when its nice outside and these kids aren't wrecking everything in the house.  The kids will log less screen-time when we can get outside.  We will be less sick when we can breath fresh air and open the windows.  The dogs will get on my nerves less if they can be running outside for most of the day.  I will be generally happier if I don't have to wrestle small children in enormous padded coats in and out of their car seats.  

I am fully aware that the weather outside really has no bearing on my happiness.  I choose how I'm going to feel all day and how I'll react to things that happen in my life.  I know this - I rejoice about this; that I determine the way that I feel.  That's why I meditate and read books like The Happiness Project and write in a gratitude journal and fake laugh until I really start laughing.  And yet, I cannot shake this gloomy mood.

And then I caught a glimpse of this picture from Easter last year and let out an audible groan.

Last week it felt like things were moving in the right direction.  We had weekend weather in the high 50's/low 60's.  The snow was all melted and the yard was a mess of mud and grass.  I tried to remain unhopeful as the weatherman predicted more winter. But I am hopeful girl - so my fingers were crossed and my spirit picked up...but the weatherman was right.  And that little glimpse and then gone of the next season was enough to make me extra crabby.

Brandon and I have moved into full-on dramatics now about the weather.  Everything that seems to go wrong is put to blame on Winter.

The internet is spotty today:  must be the snow!
Grey threw up at 3am last night all over our bed:  It's because of this weather.  
We were 20 minutes late to our tax meeting last night:  getting out the door on time is impossible with this cold!
Kids aren't sleeping through the night:  they aren't tired enough because they can't play outside...because of this weather!

We sat at dinner the other day trying to one up each other with the most ostentatious statements we could muster:
Can you even remember what it's like to walk outside without a coat on?
It's feels like a year that I've even felt the bite of sun on my nose and cheeks!
Remember what it's like to roll down the windows in the car and stick your hand out?
With each new outlandish statement, the depth of our yearning for summer was revealed further.

And we are a pair that relishes the four seasons.  We often chat about how much we would miss the seasons if we ever moved away from them.

We feel romantic and hopeful in the spring.
We rejoice and soak up the summer.
We feel nostalgic and excited in the fall.
And we cozy up and feel peaceful in the winter.

But when any of the seasons stay a little too long - we start getting frustrated; our moods become the orchestra playing the winners off the stage toward the end of their acceptance speech.

We appreciate all four of you! we want to shout.
Give someone else a chance! we beg.
Don't overstay your welcome there Jack! we wish to scold.

And we don't want to be them!  That's not our MO.
Sometimes all you need is a little change in your life to make the difference.

So these three things are our very small plan to stop being bitter to the Winter that is overstaying her welcome:
1.  We're putting indoor plants in the bathrooms and kitchen
2. We've moved the furniture in all three bedrooms - something about rearranging a room makes me feel renewed
3. I am sending some cyber traffic love to my 'blog friend' (we're friends, right?) to Shelly in Bush Alaska that has waaaaay more winter than me and who gracefully navigates and reflects on her life as a momma to three sons and a supportive wife to her hubby.  If she doesn't complain about having three boys stuck in the house virtually all the time - then I need to get it together over here!  She always has interesting posts- but I especially love reading about her 'living in rural Alaska' posts - Like this one and this one and this one!.  And Brandon and I read this one together (he had some hunting envy - warning it's graphic)  Head on over her way to be inspired if you have the winter blues like me.  Thinking of you Shelly and sending you love from PA xoxxo

my life today

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Everyday, I am keenly aware of the passage of time.  It is not just because my thirtieth birthday is looming, alas, for most of my life I have been aware of how quickly time moves - and more accurately how quickly my daily life and the things that are important to it at that moment seem to shift and move.  Lindsay over at a Design so Vast has been writing about the passage of time recently, and her words (even more poignantly in this piece) have crept under my skin to haunt me in recent days.  I have caught myself looking around at the memories that fill our daily lives and asked myself, 'what is the expiration date on these moments?' with a heartache that is colored with gloom.

I have never had a good long term memory and it has always astonished me when my sisters can recall some obscure memory from our childhood in which I draw a complete blank on - unless there was a photograph or a video of it, or unless I had written something about it down in my journal - I got nothing.  Now that I have my kids, it is actually a little terrifying to know that someday they will ask me about that one time when they were little and I may not have the memory stored somewhere.  That is why I have write here, and why my iPhone storage yells at me daily, and why I have always kept some kind of a journal (gratitude or otherwise).  It is also why my digital photo albums contain pictures like this - because it is a snapshot of what our life looks like today.  I don't want to forget that there was a time that most of our day looked like this.

Maybe because of my journal writing and then later reading, I have this somewhat deep thrill of imagining that I could speak to myself at different time periods of my life.  Like I could go back and speak face to face with Tabitha at 16 when she was worried about a fight with her boyfriend Brandon and I could smile and tell her, "Hang in there honey; you just wait and see how this whole thing turns out."

Or talk to Tabitha at 21 and hug and her and say 'Thank you, I am so proud of you.' because she was the Me that applied to and accepted a move to New York City with Teach for America, that has been one of the defining moments of our life.

And maybe me and Tabitha at 22 can go back together to Tabitha at 16 and show her the engagement ring that Brandon just gave us and we could all hug and scream and jump in a circle together.

Even if I could go back and see Tabitha at 27 and whisper in her tired, in-the-middle-of-the-rotten-8-first-weeks ear and tell her to snuggle with tiny baby Greyson and smell that sweet neck as much as you can, because he is going to wiggle out and run the whole day through so soon.  'They were all right, honey, you'll blink and it'll be gone.'

There is a solace in me to know that as much as my life has changed and the things that were important to me has shifted or moved - I look back on all the versions of Me and still recognize her as a friend.  Someone who I'd like to catch a drink or dessert with and laugh and compare notes with.  Someone who could maybe help me remember the memories that are still yet fresh in her mind but under a few layers of dust in mind.  Maybe because I think of Teenage Tabitha often and her big sweeping emotions and that belly full of butterflies - maybe that's the reason that I tend to look at my current life still with a hint of those swells and hills of feeling.  (thank you for that Teenage Tabitha).

So for a future version of Me, or maybe a past version of Me that needs a reminder that things will work out - here is Tabitha at 29 and a half's current life.

Our life is very messy in all facets.  We made a huge list called "THE To do List" and we have it filled up to currently 88 tasks of things that have weighing our on mind that need to get done.  Things ranging from (87) take a daily vitamin to (16) refinance our mortgage to (57) clean out the chest freezer to (28) figure out iPhone storage.  So far we've crossed off eleven in two weeks.

Every decision I make related to how my own time will be spent - it is weighed and measured.  Will I get up early to write a blogspot or get a jumpstart on work?  Should I fold these clothes (that have been sitting here for 2 days) or jump in the shower while the baby is napping?

Actually, if we're being honest here, I have not taken a proper shower in 4 days, outside of the 'hose down' after swim class two days ago.  It just has not seemed an efficient use of time this week with B working such long hours.

During dinner (after the kids have thrown enough of a fit about being done), Brandon and I sit at the table to finish while the kids run around the table.  Grey has always done this and now Gem has started doing it.

In the first shelf of the cupboard to the left of the sink in the kitchen I have a spare toothbrush for each kid, vitamins, lotion, and band-aids.

There has been a packing-tape road mapped out on our kitchen rug for the past 6 weeks and a box of toy cars stationed under the kitchen table.  They occupy the kids at least once a day for 30 minutes - nothing else can sustain that amount of occupied-child time, except Netflix streaming on the iPad which may just be the saving grace of our current life.

Gemma is only happy if I am holding her and standing up between 5p-7p everyday.  She will eat blueberries and grapes to the point that I am concerned about her poor little belly.  She has a sweet tooth and if she sees someone eating sweets, she goes directly over to them and whines until the give her a piece.  The girl wants what she wants and if she doesn't get it she throws a full tantrum with arms up, back arched, and a shrill scream.  But when she smiles, oh my, when she smiles - you have never seen a more beautiful face than that.  Even her big brother is overcome when she smiles at him, and he runs over to her and touches her cheeks softly and giggles, "Oh Gemmi girl, you're a sweetheart."  She can say, Mumma, Bowl (Bullet), Booboo, Baba (Abba), Gigi, Di-Do (thank you) - but she is very best at saying Dada which introduced me to a smile on Brandon's face that I had never seen before.  He walked upstairs last night after work and Gemmi happily shouted, "Dada!" and I watched Brandon's heart endure a small explosion in his chest.

Greyson thinks that skeletons and scarecrows are both called skeletons.  He calls marshmallows 'marshmuffins.' He still says "Hold you" when he means he wants me to hold him.  He said to me the other day, "Mum, hold you because I love you so much."  He still has sleeping issues with being afraid.  We've exhausted all of our efforts and have resolved to lay with him until he falls asleep and then succumbed to him coming into our bed sometime in the middle of the night.  Most mornings I wake up with his foot puzzled-pieced into my neck.  He knows all the curse words and will call us out if we let one slip saying, "Don't say that, its a curse." But he knows to whisper or giggle one out himself if he is in the presence of his Dad and Uncle Jonny - nothing gets them laughing like a 2 year old cursing or announcing that he has "balls - big balls." He frequents horrible growing pains in his knees where he cries, "I don't want to grow, Mumma, I don't want to hurt."  Which tears at my heart because he has so much growing and hurting to do in his life.

We are tired.  We are so so tired.  Both from work and kids and life.  For the first time in our life we drink coffee twice a day - once in the morning and again before dinner. We struggle nightly with not falling asleep with Greyson in his bed.  I lost that battle last night and woke up at 1:30a only to Brandon sleeping on the couch.  At 2a I was unloading and re-loading the dishwasher while B took out the garbage.  Then we stayed up in bed talking about the day until 3a only to struggle again to get out of bed in the morning.  It is a vicious cycle.

Brandon can still make me smile when I'm tired and make me blush with a kiss to my neck.

It is a messy and tiring life -but we recognize that it is our life right now.  And with each new phrase that comes barreling out of Greyson's mouth, "We don't fight for money - we fight for HONOR!" and with each new milestone that Gemma overcomes, like sliding down the playground slide all by herself - we take a gulp that this messy, annoying, overwhelming, and very lucky life is floating by at  speed that appears sometimes too slowly but more often too quickly.

Somewhere there is a Tabitha at some age yearning for this life because she can't wait to grow up or because she wishes it wouldn't have passed so quickly.  I strive to be the Tabitha actually living this life that appreciates it as fully as she should each day.

Gemmi's music and dance first birthday party

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

We like to plan our kids birthday parties according to the things that they like at the time of said birthday, like everyone, right?  Well, when our son was one, he liked balls, so we planned a 'ball themed first birthday.'  And now that it was time for our girl to turn one (eek!) we went with what Gemmi likes best to plan her party.  And Gemmi-girl likes music and she likes to dance.  Boy, does our girl like to dance.

So we set to have a music & dance first birthday party for our little darling.  I ordered a fancy girl tutu dress from Frillerup on etsy.  We pulled a few pinspirations for snack necklaces and dancing ribbons.  And we ordered her invitation from Shutterfly.

Then it was time to party and dance and shake it for Gemmi's first birthday!

We had dinner - Gemma's favorite:  Pizza and then it was time for the activity:  Snack necklaces & ribbon dancers!

We had great success with our snack necklaces.  We had lots of little bowls filled with circle snacks (or similiar) like gummi life savers, peach rings, flavored cheerios, and pretzels.  We used gift ribbon for the necklaces and we taped one end of the ribbon to the tablecloth to keep the snacks from accidentally falling off the other side while making them.

From teacher experience, I will tell you - the key to getting children to follow directions is placement:  you need to tell them to sit and exactly where to sit.  For events, we always use a big blanket or a plastic tablecloth to designate the kids' activity area.  Using a big tablecloth was handy too because we could just fold it up -crumbs and all - and shake it outside when we were done. Once kids know that they have to stay on the designated sitting area - things go a lot more smoothly.   Expectations on what their body should be doing is really important when attempting to get young children to do an activity.

Our ribbon dancers were made out of shower curtain rings (I got the cheap ones for 6 for $1 at the dollar store) and various colors of ribbon (clearance rack at Walmart).  We just looped the ribbon in half then pulled the loose ends through the loop.  The ribbons aren't tight to the ring so that you can change them around if you want.

After the snack necklaces and ribbon dancers were done, we got to the dancing part of the party!

We opened a few presents; since Gem is so young - she has barely any interest in opening gifts at all - let alone all of the gifts she so luckily receives from our friends and family (thank you everyone!).  We usually just open a few during the party.

And then it was time for cake (and the traditional first birthday cake smashing event).  Brand and I were standing next to Gem while everyone who loves her best watched and sang her happy birthday and I had to swallow a huge lump in my throat.
How is our girl one already?
Oh, babies - why do you grow so fast and break your mumma's heart so?

Gem was sporting a low grade fever at her birthday party, so although she didn't nose dive into the cake chowing down on sugar - she did smash the thing to smithereens pretty well.

And then its off to the bath for her to clean off the cake (hence the reason we strip our kids to their diaper for their first birthday cake smashing session), followed by jammies, and then she fell asleep in her pappy's arms shortly after.  It's her party, she can cry sleep if she wants to!

It was a great party and we were reminded (yet again) how lucky we are to have such amazing and caring people in our lives, but even more importantly, in our kids' lives.  Our kids greatest gift is that they have family and friends that love them, would protect them to the ends of the earth, and daily live their lives as examples of what a 'good person' looks like.  Thank you to all of you who helped Gemma celebrate her day.

And to you, our sweet one year old Gemmi Girl, 
happy birthday, darling.  You made our family infinitely better just by being born a year ago.  You have helped each of us grow and learn and be a better person because you are so perfectly and wonderfully you.  Thank you for being so silly and full of personality.  We are so lucky that you are ours.  Happy first birthday Gemmi angel girl.


Tips for planning a one year old birthday party from Team Studer:
In terms of party planning for a one year old - we have now done two of them and they both ran the same schedule.  Maybe its the teacher in me - wanting it planned out - but it has worked both times and seems to create the type of party that all guests don't hate (hah!)

For a one year old's party (and all low number birthday parties where there are more adults than kids, generally) I always think to myself, how much does a non-kid, non-grandparent actually want to be at a one year old's birthday party?  Probably about ten percent and that ten percent is probably generated from solely just loving the birthday child. So, in general,  I like to keep the party moving and give opportunities to help or escape if non-kids/non-grandparents choose.

1st birthday party schedule:
1. Food & drink /meal time
2. Child supervised activity & organized playtime(grownups not interested in participating or helping can be child-free in another room/area)
3. Gifts (abbreviated when possible)
4. Cake
5. Bath for birthday baby - cake/ice cream for guests
6. Cool down/goodbyes

The other two keys to the party is to have designated people that will help you - since you are the momma/parent of the birthday child - you cannot expect that you're going to be able to do everything and enjoy the fact that your baby is having their first birthday party!  So we always designate two specific roles out to someone else:

Photographer:  one or both of my sisters
- this person hangs on to your camera (and they had my phone/instagram too) and knows that there are certain moments that they HAD to capture (cake, brother&sister, our whole family, etc)  (thank you Kayla & Tasha!!)

Right hand-man/lady :  my mom
- this person acts like you would if you were not the birthday baby's parent.  They re-fill chips&pretzels, tell guests where to find the toothpicks, they cut & distribute the cake while you bath the baby,etc (thank you Mum!!)

The last piece to the party, is to send out meaningful thank you notes.  Written thank yous (at least in my opinion) are the final and a critical piece to birthday parties.  Make sure to include any non-gift related information - (like thanking your grown-up-with-no-kids best friends for staying late just to help clean up - ahem Jon&Nin).  The way I look at it is our family and friends took the time to buy a gift and spend two hours of their weekend celebrating our daughters birth - the least I can do is take a few minutes to thank them in a meaningful way.

We ordered Gemma's thank yous from Shutterfly (duh, we love them).   Since we ordered them, we got to include a little picture from the party - but any thank you will do, as long as you mean it :)

Do you have other tips for planning or hosting a one year old's birthday party?

30 girlfriends getaway trip

Sunday, March 17, 2013

A few weeks ago, I went on a girlfriend's getaway trip with my two best friends in celebration for the year we all turn thirty.

thank you to Garden Candy for the great '30' glasses to celebrate.  Visit her Etsy shop here.

We went to Nashville, TN for a long weekend (Thursday-Sunday) and ate a lot of good food (like a lot, #PuckettsGrocery #417Union #Merchants #buffalofeathers) and enjoyed quite a bit of booze.  We danced to country music on Honky Tonk Row, we visited the Grand Ole Opry, we popped around little boutiques in Hillsboro Village.  We laughed on the NashTrash tour, we had a celebrity sighting at the Flying Saucer, we face-timed our kids and pets, someone bought a fanny pack, someone else bought six headbands, someone else bought a replacement breast pump.  It rained, we waited over an hour for a cab, we made up code words in case any of us got kidnapped, we cancelled a cab - to which the driver responded, "shiiiiiiiiiiat."  And we made up our own hashtag on instagram and eagerly filled it up with 30 pictures from the weekend.  (you can see them all at #akt30trip )

And we laughed.  We laughed and giggled and laughed some more.  We made up new inside jokes and brought up the old ones.  We talked about our husbands and about our old crushes.  We shared dessert and hair supplies.  And we all smiled when our waiter asked if we were sisters.

We were back together again and it was perfect.  Not because everything went perfectly, but because we were together and everything is more fun and funnier when we are together.

And because I'm feeling particularly nostalgic right now - here is a brief history of the three of us in pictures.

Sometimes (usually) I am so humbled by the luckiness in my life.  Like having two best friends that want to spend a long weekend together laughing every time something unfortunate happens instead of complaining or getting upset.  And having a husband that stays home with our kids and pets happily so that I can get away with my best friends.  thank you Kate, Karp, and B.  I am so grateful that you are in my life.

Being a total sap, I sent a 'reflection' worksheet to Kate & Karp a few weeks prior to our trip in hopes that they would comply because they know what a weird, sentimental nerd I am.  Luckily, they do know that I'm a weird, sentimental nerd - and they are a little bit weird and sentimental too - so we each filled out our own 30 year reflection worksheet.

We talked through our all of our answers over drinks one night during our trip and we giggled, and belly-laughed, and choked back some tears.  A lot of the answers were memories re-hashed, as we have been in each others' lives for 12 of the 30 years we've been alive.  But some of them were new memories to share with each other - reaching back into our childhood and teen years.  It was so much fun and a really cool way to look back on 30 years of our life with our best friends who could laugh and cry about the memories along with us.

Our favorite part of the reflection sheet was to 'write a letter to ourselves (the three of us) at graduation.  All of our letters had us watery-eyed and smiling thinking of how wonderful it would really be if we could go back and talk to those girls who seem so young now - so full of potential but also nervous to move away from each other and be 'real grown ups.' 

all three letters were beautiful and touching.  I don't have copies of Kate and Karp's, so this was mine to share:

Dear Kate, Karp, and Tab, 
You have been so lucky.  So lucky to have met each other - and even luckier that this friendship will last a lifetime.  No matter the distance between you or the differences in your life; you will remain friends because of what is in your hearts.  You believe in each other.  A lot of people (most?) don't get friends as good as you have.  Know that this is not the end - nor the best days.  You have each others' weddings and the births of each others' babies, and girlfriend getaways and so many more glasses of wine and champagne together.  This is far from the best days.  You have been so lucky to meet each other so young and you have so much time together yet to come. 

Below is the full list of reflection questions to use for your own upcoming birthday if you are so inclined :)

30 Years Questionnaire
Our 30th Trip/Girlfriend Getaway

1. What memory would you like to re-live exactly the same as it happened?
2. What memory would you like to re-live for a 'do-over'?
3. Best kiss?
4. Worst kiss?
5. You made the first move kiss (give yourself a high five!):
6. The 'How the F did that just happen?' kiss:
7. Favorite night out (with each other):
8. Favorite night in (with each other):
9. Favorite overall year (pre-30):
10. What would you like to repeat in the next 30?
11. What would you like to definitely NOT do again in the next 30?
12. Who was your crush of your teens (celeb and/or non-celeb)?
13. Who was your crush of your 20's (celeb and/or non-celeb)?
14. What song takes you back to your teens?
15. What song takes you back to your 20s?
16. What smell/food takes you back to your teens?
17. What smell/food takes you back to your 20s?
18. Best travel destination/trip?
19. Looking back, can't believe you did that because it was so stupid/embarrassing/dangerous?
20. Looking back, can't believe you did that because it was so ballsy/amazing/proud?
21. Wish you would have...?
22. Lessons learned (even the practical ones):
23. Any/biggest regret?
24. Want to thank you teen self for doing something brave, necessary, or scary?
25. Want to thank your 20 self for doing something brave, necessary, or scary?
26. If yourself at any age pre-30 knew you now, what would she be shocked to know about your life?
27. If yourself at any age pre-30 knew you now, what would she be proud to know about your life?
28. Big goal of your 30's:
29. Theme song of your 30's:
30. Write a letter that if you could, you could give to us when we were graduating: