what is set as...

Monday, July 29, 2013

On the way to our family reunion this weekend, B and I were flipping through our phones to check the weather and we started laughing about the different cities each of us had set in our weather app...and that got me wondering if that was any secret insight into our inner psyches.

So in the same fashion as a previous post (What's on your..), I am digging into the things that are 'set as'  - those things that are already set and run almost automatically in my life.  What do each of these settings tell about me?  hahha - here we go!

What is set as your

alarm time - 6:14am and the message says, "Get moving mumma!"

ringtone: Strum (iPhone) for everyone but Brandon's ringtone is the Motorcycle revving up

cities on your weather app:  Davidsville, Johnstown, Pittsburgh, and Altoona (all PA); Punta Cana, Dominican Republic; Chiang Mai, Thailand; Negril, Jamaica

car radio button #1:  Froggy 95 (our local country station)

thermostat:  it's set at nothing right now (it's off) because its been beautiful and in the low/mid 70s for the past few days.  However, B and I have an on-going battle during the summer about the AC:  he wants it on and I like it off (I think there is value to 'suffering' a little and feeling hot during the summer.   #firstworldproblems).  We generally like it around 69-70 degrees indoors though.

computer background - the laptop is set to (super boring) automatic landscape backgrounds. The iPad has a pic of all four of us on it.

internet home screen - chrome 'most visited sites' (blogger, facebook, pinterest, apple trailers, gmail, and youtube).

bookmark in your current read:  2 pictures and the hotel receipt from our AKT Nashville trip (why? hahha)  They are on page 279 of The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.

song/artist/title of the last playlist listened to in pandora - Garrett Hedlund (from the Country strong movie).

mood in your house around 5:30p - unfortunately, the mood in our house at this time would be considered, 'on edge.'  the kids are hungry, Daddy isn't usually home yet, and I'm on my last pinch of patience.  We just try to get to dinner and Daddy home before losing my marbles generally at this time.  Generally, dinner makes everyone perk up again before bedtime, but from about 5:30 to 6p is called the Bewitching Hour around here.  It ain't pretty.

Play along!  What is set as your...

buy sunglasses - do double good.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

I've heard some news through the grape-vine and wanted to share it with you today!

Warby Parker is already a do-gooder of a company - which in and of itself makes me have a slight crush on them.  Their buy-a-pair; give-a-pair program allows that for every pair of frames purchased, they give a pair of prescription glasses to someone in need.  You can read more about their amazing work here and also read how this summer they've surpassed over a half million frames distributed to people in need worldwide.

So besides being founded out of the idea that classic and flattering eyewear should not cost upwards of $300 and being one of the only carbon-neutral fashion brands in the world (if it sounds like I'm a little star-struck, you're right) - Warby Parker also has a new program launching today(!) in collaboration with one of my favorite doing good sites:  Donor's Choose!

Donor's Choose is a site that allows regular folk; like you and I, to get a glimpse inside some amazing classrooms and reach out to help fund projects and programs that dedicated teachers want to complete but can't do so without financial support.  Donor's Choose has been one of our month's activities since we started our 12 months of Kindness project five years ago.  Last year, we donated to a classroom needing learning disability support for their morning meetings and the year before that was to a local school learning about our community's historic floods.

Warby Parker x Donor's Choose

Warby Parker has created a sweet little pair of shades that are educationally-inspired with an adorable 'school bus yellow' detail that will make you swoon.  For every pair of their Gardner Tortoise shell sunglasses purchased - not only can the buyer (or gift recipient) feel good about the standard buy-a-pair;give-a-pair program - but they will also receive $30 to donate towards the classroom project of their choice at Donor's Choose.

Yes - you read that correctly:

You buy the Gardner glasses for $95, someone in need of corrective eye wear also receives a pair of glasses AND you get $30 to donate towards a classroom project of your choice at Donor's Choose.  

That's double good, folks.  And with the Gardner glasses on your face, you make doing good look pretty dang cool.  I mean, seriously...my birthday is coming up (ahem, Brandon).

Doing double good is pretty awesome.  So awesome in fact that even the cool kids are doing it - and by cool, I mean funnygirl Mindy Kaling  - who I have a serious BFF-crush on.  (sidenote:  just caught a re-run of the Valentine's Day Mindy Project episode and couldn't stop giggling.  omi, I love everyone on that show).

Mindy is a fan of Donor's Choose because she likes that its helping without 'so much bureaucratic stuff between me and actually helping.'   So she teamed up with Warby Parker to promote their new collaboration with Donor's Choose and to help spread the word.

Charles Best (CEO & founder Donor's Choose) and Mindy Kaling (actress, comedy-writer)

And when I heard about the collaboration - that's exactly what I wanted to do as well - spread the word.  Because doing good does not have to be some big, huge gesture.  Doing good can be as simple as making consumer choices that you can be proud of.  If you already need sunglasses (or know someone with an upcoming birthday) - why not buy a quality, great-looking pair of shades that through your purchase you can also help others?

I am not receiving any kickbacks for this post from Warby Parker or Donor's Choose.  I just heard about the program and wanted to offer my small corner of the web as a highlight of the good things that are happening in the world.  Please check out the Warby Parker x Donors Choose details and use your consumer power to spread some love.  

To the beginning..

Monday, July 22, 2013

Growing up I always considered 28 to be 'the' age.  Like someday when I'm 28 - I will have figured it all out - and then I never considered being any older than that.  So when I turned 29, I had a little bit of a meltdown recognizing that very soon I would be 30.  Which quite honestly seemed impossible for my entire life up until that point.

And its continued to feel very strange to be turning 30 next month (August 26th to be exact).  Its felt surreal and weird and a little scary for almost the entire past year.

That is until a few weeks ago.

Suddenly, it's as though it had been made clear that for the past 30 years, I've been busting the pavement to arrive exactly where I am.

All the test taking, traveling, moving, and the waiting for the some-day-when.  The mistakes, the heartbreak, the learning-as-I-go.  The sweeping big feelings, the first times, the clarity that comes with hindsight.  All of the hurry ups, the just-get-through-this, and the being patient.

It was all fun and young and wild and free.
These first 30 years were awesome.
Truly, awesome.

But there has also always been this thin layer of feeling like I wasn't quite who I was supposed to be, or where I was supposed to be.  I was always working towards getting somewhere other than where I was.  With my eyes set on the future, it has felt like the present day has been slightly out of focus.  Everyday felt vaguely like tracks whose primary purpose was to get my train to the someday-when.

And somehow the past few weeks have felt like I've finally arrived at the station.

I feel like things have come into focus.  I know what I like and don't like.  I know the friends that I enjoy spending time with.  I have made peace with my body in all of its beautiful and unique imperfections.  I enjoy snuggling on the couch with a three year old's foot in my neck and a one year old tapping my teeth - just as much as I like finishing a bottle of wine at dinner with my sisters or best friends.  That very same boy that gave me butterflies when I was sixteen - just this morning kissed my mouth so tenderly after we both woke up with that three year old between us in bed - that I couldn't help the corners of my lips from turning up into a smile.

I've made it!

I've arrived at the place in my life where I feel like I am finally going to start living mindfully.  Not that the hard work is over, nor is the changing, growing, or learning finished.

There will be hard times ahead and surely there will be moments that I have mistakes, and heartbreak, and learning-as-I-go.  And undoubtedly there will be sweeping big feelings, and more first times, and even more clarity that comes with hindsight.  And thousands of more hurry ups, and the just-get-through-this, and the being patient....but instead of feeling like I'm not who I am supposed to be yet - it will all be experienced with a confidence of knowing firmly who I am and where I stand.

With a mindful understanding that I am my own friend and this is my life; today.  

The other evening, Brandon, Jon, the kids and I were sitting on our patio talking the sun to sleep.  We were just chatting and laughing while Grey made ninja-fighting noises on the trampoline and our resident mourning doves sang, and Bullet and Trixie chased each other in the yard.  It was a regular evening; one that we maybe have had hundreds of time before.  But this time, I was present; I was mindful of the sky and the sounds and the warmth and the happiness.  I was there and so very grateful for everything that had ever happened before that contributed to making this evening just as it was.

And the blue sky made a beautiful backdrop for the white, billowing clouds splashed with red, orange, and purple.  And that waxing gibbous was so big and bright with just a one-eyed smile of that man on the moon.  And inside my beating chest was the feeling of expansion; not feeling panicked or worried, but rather filled up; whole.

And the only thing I could think was that maybe the whole beautiful world was inside of me and it was sometimes so wonderful I could hardly bare it.

And we picked up our cool beers in the balmy evening hours and lightly clinked our glasses for a toast:

'to thirty being the beginning.'

5th Annual Studer's Invitational Beer Olympics

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

We recently held our fifth annual Studer's Invitational Beer Olympics and it was a huge success.  You can read more of my thoughts on how our Beer Olympics event is a lot more than just a day of drinking in this post.  

This year we had so many participants signed up that we held our biggest event yet - ten teams of four people and we drank our way through five half kegs.  Like in previous years, we start with registration & waiver signing and then a quick game of sloshball (kickball with beer).  
Beer Olympic Planning Tip:  We ask participants to pay a $30 fee which includes a tshirt, cost of beer, and a donation to a charity for that year.  Spectators (non-players/refs) are asked to pay a $20 fee.  After the event we then reimburse for the beer and tshirts and any proceeds left over get donated! 
We got our ten teams together (using all of our favorite team names from the past four years) - including our reigning champion team: The Buccaneers. 

Each year, we learn a little bit more about what works best for the flow of the day and how to keep the games moving along as smoothly as possible.  This year, we decided to install 'quick challenges' following most events as opportunities for teams to earn a couple points to try to catch up if they didn't do well during a main event.

The only problem with this initially ambitious idea, was that our roster of participants included a significant amount of 'Rookies' and the thing about Rookie players is that they believe their 'beer muscles' are pretty big at the beginning of the day.  Our Veteran players stand by and laugh to themselves while they watch the Rookies drinking in between events.  As my husband said to me, "Do you see these Rookies?  They just have no idea how much drinking we have to do today yet.  They're finishing full glasses of beer between games!"  Needless to say, we emptied one whole keg before we even finished our first event.  
Beer Olympic Planning tip:  Generally games will consist of players drinking a beer per game.  Rookies will drink more at the beginning of the day and then slow down.  The more quick challenges you have (chug off, keg stands, etc) also adds to the amount of beer.  Generally for 8 teams of 4 players - three to four half kegs suffice.  It is always a good idea though to have a sober driver or two available to make a keg run during intermission if needed.
Our Olympics has always start the same way:

Main Event: Beer Pong tournament

Our quick challenges were optional events that as many players on a team could try to get a few extra points.  So if all four players on the team successfully completed or won a quick challenge - they'd receive 8+ points (2 pts per player)

Quick Challenge:  7 second Upside-Down, Backwards Keg Stand (2pts)

Main Event:  Dingbat Relay (similar to 'dizzy bat')

Beer Olympics Planning Tip:  It is helpful to have several big pitchers available to keep participants cups filled and to fill cups for events throughout the day.  Pitchers are also the main drinking vessel for one of the main events.  We have 10 pitchers on hand at our Beer Olympics.
[Skipped] Quick Challenge:  Quarters (possible +3)

Beer Olympics Planning Tip:  We had to skip a few events and quick challenges due to time and beer consumption.  Hosting a successful Beer Olympics depends greatly on everyone's ability to be flexible.  With so many teams and participants, our events and challenges were taking a lot more time than we had anticipated.  We needed to drop some of our events in the interest of daylight and also to maintain our beer inventory.
Main Event:  Slippy Cup (flip cup with a slip&slide)

Beer Olympic Planning Tip:  See the guy above holding the hose?  That is one of our spectators/Refs that attend the day.  It is very important to have non-participating people attend the Beer Olympics.  We are lucky to have several - which help keep pitchers and cups full, watch for first teams finished, spray hoses during slippy cup, pump and hold tap systems for keg stands, run stopwatches, and swap out and load full kegs.  It is impossible to be the host and do everything that needs to be done during the day.  The refs & spectators are a huge reason for why our event works.
Quick Challenge:  Chug-offs (+2 points to the winner)

Main Event:  Canoe Races

Main Event:  Anchorman

Beer Olympics Planning Tip:  If you do NOT want people to throw up in your yard...do NOT include neither Canoe Races nor Anchorman in your scheduled events.  We have had players throw up after both events every year we have played them.
Scheduled Intermission

[Skipped] Main Event:  Flip Cup Tournament
[Skipped] Quick Challenge:  Beer Duels

Main Event:  Bong Races  (also the inspiration for our tshirt design this year!  Thank you, American Eagle Screenprinting for the awesome design!!)

[Skipped] Quick Challenge:  Monkey Chug
[Skipped] Main Event:  Survivor Flip Cup
 - this was going to be a new game that I read about from The Canfield Olympics.  We made a few changes to the rules so that it would still be a team game, but used the same general concept - thanks Canfield for sharing!  Read about it here - it sounds both hilarious and amazing.  Wish we could have done it this year, but by this point in the day - we were almost out of daylight and most of our players could barely stand up straight..

Quick Challenge:  Chug-offs (again!  it's a player favorite!)
Main Event:  Booze Cruise Obstacle Course
(no pictures as it was about 9:30p and dark.  Included tire run, trampoline army crawl, rolling down a hill, running up the slip&slide, leap frog, and finish with a beer chugged.)

After a full day of events and copious amounts of beer intake - it should come as no surprise that a dance party broke out, in large part due to Robin Thicke's Blurred Lines on repeat 36 times in a row.

Our unscheduled dance party was followed up with a spirited awards ceremony where we hand out awards to the players based off of observations from the refs all day.  We give away awards for things like "Zophagus" (fastest chugger), "Shark" (doesn't look like a beer drinker but is awesome), "Hit the Deck" (first one to bow out of the competition), and ''Puke 'N Rally" (no need to explain that one).

After our awards ceremony, we then make team place announcements all the way up to our new 2013 Studer's Invitational Beer Olympic Champions:  Team Joker

And since our beloved 'Das Boot' has broken three times in the past years - we have now instated 'The Studer Torpedo' to be given to the champion team for first drinks before passing it around to all the participants while Queen's We Are the Champions plays loudly in the background.

And then we all continue eating and drinking and sitting by the fire long into the night.
Beer Olympics Planning Tip:  Ask players and spectators to bring a dish to share.  We set our garage up with extension cords and coolers and as our friends arrive it gets filled up with crockpots, containers, and roasters filled with awesome food.  Everyone gets more than enough to eat and the cost of food and non-alcoholic drinks is distributed across the whole group - rather than included in the cost of the day which helps contribute to a greater donation.
Beer Olympics Planning Tip:  Expect and/or demand family and friends to either sleep over (tents and air mattresses happily accepted) or be picked up by a sober driver.  There is little to no participants capable of driving home after the day.  Keeping everyone alive and safe should be main priority.  Always.
It was another year of fun and games this year.  Best of all - through our participation fee we were able to raise $506 dollars for Miss Tay  - a little girl from our community that has hydrocephalus.  You can help support her too by checking out her Go Fund Me Page - she is preparing to receive her final cord blood infusion in the next few weeks!

Thank you to all of our amazing friends and family that participate, help set up & clean up, play with positive attitudes and make this event possible.  We are so lucky.

Beer Olympic Planning Tip:  The biggest reason that we have been able to hold our Beer Olympics for five years in a row is in large part due to the people that attend.  That is why we have kept it an invitational event.  It also is because our invitees understand that although we spend the day playing drinking games, it is ultimately for a greater cause (the donation recipient).  The point of the day is not to get sloppy, puking drunk as fast as possible (although that does happen) - it is to spend the day with good friends, making memories, and raising money for a worthy cause.  

my kids' mixed tape

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

it's my last week at work (eek!) so I'm a little in over my head right now.  Please bear with :)

but in the meantime - after watching Greyson and Gemma jam out to the radio this morning on the way to daycare, I got to wondering what my kids would put on a mixed tape...if they were teenagers...and if it was the late '90s...and if audio cassettes were still being used.

So if all of those things were true - my three year old and one year old might put together a mixed tape that would look like this:

Johnny Yuma - Johnny Cash
Pontoon - Little Big Town
Wagon Wheel - Darius Rucker
Team Umizoomi theme song - Team Umizoomi
Stay - Rihanna
I love it - Icona Pop (radio edit, obviously.  this link however is not radio edit)
Tennessee Flat Top Box - Johnny Cash
I feel better - Doc McStuffins' toys
Bad to the Bone - George Thorogood
Who let the dogs out - Baha Men

And definitely this song
Heeeey, Studer Kids Come 'on - Tabitha (Mum) Studer

And then the whole mix tape would be played over and over and over again for eternity.
thank goodness we don't use audio cassettes anymore.
and also that it's not the late '90s.
and also that they aren't teenagers.

yes, thank goodness for all of that.

p.s. #sorryimnotsorry if any (or all?) of those songs are now stuck in your head.
p.s.2. because they are always stuck in mine.

a short letter about your Uncle Jonny

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Dear kids,

The legend goes, when Dadda was in high school, he attended a basketball camp where one afternoon upon returning to his room from practice, he found a stranger eating his food.  They smart mouthed each other for a few minutes and then somehow -in the way the universe weaves magic- they eventually ended up going to college together, playing on the same team, and becoming best men at each other's wedding.  We had a baby boy and that food-stealing, smart mouth man became our child's godfather.

And that's the brief history of how 'Koch' came to be your Uncle Jonny.

May 2007
Right now in time, as you are very young, Uncle Jonny is staying with us a few nights a week because he is working in town.  Grey - you like to say that he's 'having a sleepover,' because that's what it feels like when he's here:  fun!  Generally, after stepping foot in the house, he has one (or both) of you draped over him while he spends his evenings laughing about all the cute and weird things that either of you do.

Somehow Uncle Jonny staying with us is not weird at all since we all laugh at the same jokes, and like the same food, and we all have a place for Bullet and Trixie in our hearts (even though they snuggle too much and have stinky farts).  The only way it could be anymore fun is if Aunt Ninny was here too (do I have to bring up sister wives again, Nin?  hehhe - but not kidding).

The other day at dinner I was joking that I'd love to be a daddy (since Dad usually gets all sorts of fun and I -the Mumma - usually tackle the task of setting rules).  I said something like, 'oh to be a Daddy; best job in the world.'  And Uncle Jonny laughed out loud and said, 'Uncle Jonny ain't so bad of a job either.'  When he said that, you were sitting on his lap, Gem, and he tried to make it sound like a joke - but because I know him well enough - I could hear the love and honesty hidden between the lines.  It would be impossible to tell you, what it means as a Mum to know that other people truly love you; my babies.

The universe may have brought Dad and Uncle Jonny together - but know, my darlings, that we have kept him close on purpose, because your Uncle Jonny is one of the good guys.

Grey, he has your back now and always will.  If there is anything that you ever need help with and are too embarrassed to come to Dad for, let Uncle Jonny be the first place you turn.  He's the sort of guy that drops whatever he's doing at 11p and drives two hours to help track a deer (actually he's done that for Dad once).  If you need him - Uncle Jonny will be there, no questions asked.

And Gemma, sweet Gemma - I'm already sorry for your future dates, honey.  Not only because Dad and Uncle Jonny will be standing at the door (and Uncle Juice, I'm sure), but also because your future boyfriends have some impossibly big shoes to fill as you have been blessed with examples of good men in your life.

For your whole life, my babies, please keep your hearts open to accept the people that the universe places in your path.  You never can tell when someone might just come into your life and take up residence (both literally and figuratively).

The point of this story, my darlings, is to remind you that blood is not the only thing that makes family and you are so lucky to have Uncle Jonny and Ninna as your family.

I love you forever and ever, 

Why we have Beer Olympics

Monday, July 8, 2013

We had our fifth annual Studer's Invitational Beer Olympics event this past weekend.  We had a total of 42 participants this year (more than ever!), and finished off five half-kegs of beer (also, more than ever).  Our day was enhanced by a borrowed sound system, complete with a microphone (which I loved) and beautiful weather (albeit a tad warmer than comfortable).

It was a great, great day.  Tons of games, fun, and laughter capped off with an awards ceremony that always makes me giggle to see the honest pride in the eyes of the winners of the various honors - including 'Rookie of the Year', 'Shark,' and 'Zophagus.'

And I could even try to be cute and pull a Jeff Foxworthy and say things like..

'If you ever felt pride at the sight of your teammate who just threw up, return and finish their ice cube tray in canoe races..you might be a Studer's Invitational participant.'

'If you ever uttered the question, How's it flowing?, in reference to the keg tap system before you attempted an upside down keg stand...you might be a Studer's Invitational participant.'

'If you ever woke up with suntan lines on your face in the shape of an octopus...you might be a Studer's Invitational participant.'

And the details of the day deserve its own proper post (especially for Pinterest's sake, obviously), but as a very brief highlight of the day; I'm here to tell you it was definitely a good year for Beer Olympics.

And I imagine it's very easy for young people and optimistic party planners to re-pin my posts about Beer Olympics because they want to try to spend the day 'getting wasted' and playing drinking games.  They might pump their fists and think its an excuse to drink an excessive amount of beer.  Optimistic party planners might even call it a cool use of time, money, or planning.

And just as easily, naysayers may dismiss the day, roll their eyes and shake their heads at our event.  They might think its trashy or just an excuse to drink an excessive amount of beer.  Naysayers might even call it an inappropriate use of time, money, or planning.

But both the optimistic party planners and the naysayers would be wrong.  Because, just as everything in life, your perception depends on what angle you take the picture.

And neither see the participants, many of whom only come together once a year- hugging, laughing, and cheering each other on.

And they don't wake up to their facebook newsfeed filled with new friendship notifications of people who only met the day before.

They don't get to smell and taste the donated food brought by participants that line both walls of our garage in roasters, crockpots, and tupperware containers.  Or see our kitchen counters filled with donated breakfast foods and coffee for the morning after.

They didn't watch as participants and spectators helped each other carry tables across the yard, put obstacle course tires into place, replace empty toilet paper rolls, tap new kegs, clean-up spilled food, re-fill cups and pitchers, and fix running toilets.

They didn't hear the announcement halfway through the day to raise more money for extra kegs so no money would be taken away from our donation fund and then watch while participants dug in their pockets and ran to their cars to give more money.

They didn't hear the whole lot of fifty plus people chanting, "Miss Tay! Miss Tay!" while holding up their blue support bracelets - sending thoughts and love her way.

They don't see our guest beds used, the seven people sleeping in our living room, the three in the dining room, and four tents in our yard the next morning.  (Which we take as a compliment that our home is both welcoming and comfortable).

They don't watch how those that slept over spend their morning organizing supplies, stacking chairs, taking down tents, washing pitchers and roasters, and wiping down tables before driving home - some of which had two hour plus drives.

They didn't see a group of eleven of us- the last of those to leave - giggling and recalling the day before over bagels and coffee on our back patio; a mixture of friends and family - really all connected only by this one day.

To both the optimistic party planners and naysayers: we say - yes, we hold a day long drinking event at our house.  And yes, we emptied five kegs this year.  And yes, when we wake up in the morning and look at our house, yard, and garage - it takes a short moment to wonder if its been irreversibly trashed.

But Beer Olympics is so much more than a day of drinking;  maybe its more than what is possible to understand from the outside.  Because from the inside; from our angle - it is one of the most generous, inspiring, and uplifting days of our entire year.

If we're being honest - its hard to know who the day most benefits.  Is it our donation receipt, or the participants who make new friends and memories, or maybe most of all Brandon and I?  Because we get an enormous reminder of the flat out decent and good-hearted people that surround us.

If you seek to take the picture from the pretty side, your life suddenly becomes a whole lot more beautiful.  And we will tell you - our life is really quite beautiful indeed.

To all of you that are a part of this event, we are so thankful- because without you, we couldn't do it. We don't know how we got so lucky to have this many amazing and kind people in our life - but we are infinitely grateful and proud to know you and call you a friend.

Happy Birthday, America!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Oh, beautiful

for spacious skies

for amber waves of grain

for purple mountains majesties

above the fruited plains



God shed His grace on thee

And crown thy good with brotherhood

from sea 

to shining sea.

Happy Birthday, America.
We love you real bad.