Life Lately.

Friday, March 28, 2014

The lack of warm weather and green in the month of March always makes me feel like life is on hold.  Like we're just waiting around for Spring.  The holidays have died down, the busyness of basketball season has ended, we're all experiencing cabin fever.  It doesn't feel like anything is happening; we're just sort of waiting around; getting through the days.

Lenten countdown chart from here
But one look at my iphone photo album and I know that's not really true.  We have lots of little magic happening everyday and sometimes it's that sort of electric charge of looking in the mirror of a photo album to see that life is indeed wonderful and exciting right now.

Despite the cold, we still try to get outside for at least 20 minutes a day.  Sometimes its with the kids on the trampoline, or at the playground, or just by myself with the dogs.  

Yesterday was uncharacteristically warm (in comparison to the past few weeks at least) and we spent the afternoon at Greenhouse park chasing ducks and pretending to fish.  Oh spring, how we yearn for you.

Studerbaby #3 makes me blissfully happy when I try to imagine their little face and how the kids will no doubt love and dote on him/her.  September seems like a lightyear away still but I am certainly feeling pregnant.  I'm finding it hilarious (and horribly discouraging) that at 14 weeks pregnant my belly is as big as it was at 17 weeks pregnant with my first.  Oh body, how I love you and also I'm sorry.

In the meantime, we've been loving getting pic updates and facetime opportunities with our new favorite little baby, Andrew in NC with his mumma, my best friend Karpy.  He is precious and Gemmi makes up songs for him that are comprised of the words, "Andrew, I love you" sung over and over.

I feel newly liberated as we finally set up various 'holiday' accounts at our bank to separate saved money so that we know why and how much money we are actually saving.  Despite the sinking feeling that came with transferring money out of our savings account and watching that amount decrease - it is so inspiring to see money set aside for real purposes (vacation, home improvement, real Emergency, and gift giving/holiday).  

We had a great time last weekend, celebrating the wedding of two of our good friends in Ohio.  It was so wonderful to be back together with most of Brandon's W&J college friends and to laugh and celebrate such a beautiful couple.  In my hormonal state of bumphood, I had tears in my eyes repeatedly over a vast array of the mother/son dance to seeing Brandon with all of his best friends again.  No doubt I'll be in the background of many pictures weeping like a fool.  Tis the life of pregnancy though, eh?

The Hunting Daddies has slowed only slightly thanks to the wrapping up of our expos in early March.  We met so many families who are similar to us; raising their kids up in the outdoors - it was inspirational and re-energizing.  

We are now moving into Easter season with some awesome packages available just in time for Easter:)  Check them out if you're looking for great gifts for the outdoor kids (or grown ups!) in your life here:  The Hunting Daddies Gear.   

I found the following pic on pinterest recently (thanks Carli!) and although incredibly simple, it has been on my mind for the last few days.  (Picture from Elisa at Grateful for the Ride and Bored Board idea from Becky at I Lift Heavy Things).  There really is no reason to feel bored or uninspired - even when the weather is bringing me down.  And when I do - I just need to remember to recharge my batteries with any of these suggestions.

But whether or not Spring is on its way - we are on the path to an exciting April; Grey's 4th birthday, fishing season, Easter, and my sister's wedding.  Gemmi received her flower girl dress and Grey has been measured for his ring bearer tux.  So we've been practicing slow dancing and talking about birthday games, hoping Gem will finally get out of her Croods obsession ("Croods on"), and trying to talk Grey out of asking for a baby chick for Easter. Just the everyday sort of magic over here.

What is happening in your life lately?  Happy nearly April (and hopefully Spring!)

Bigfoot & Us

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

While growing up, I always dreamed of becoming a mom and raising little kids.  I'd try to imagine what their sweet faces would look like and even blissfully daydreamed about their sticky little hands and how giggling and tiny feet would fill my future home with happiness.  But no matter how much you try to imagine the future; I know now that it is almost never like you thought it would be.

For example how I could not have guessed my current daily interaction with all things related to Bigfoot. we talk about Bigfoot in our house.

Sometimes we tell stories that involve Bigfoot, we seek out shows and kids' movies that include Bigfoot  (or anything close to him - there's more than you imagine:  Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer, Scooby Doo), we ask the Librarian for books about Bigfoot, or we pretend we are Bigfoot.

It is all about Bigfoot over here.

It started a few months ago.  Grey was watching a prank show with his Aunt (hi, Uch!) and someone in a Bigfoot costume was getting ready to scare his friend.  The show started feeling especially spooky, so Uch changed the channel before the reveal that it was all just a joke.  Which was actually turned out to be more scary than just watching the whole thing.  oops.

So for a few weeks, Bigfoot was really scary.  After lots of talking, stories, and reassuring, Bigfoot started to change from scary to fascinating. And because we just kept talking about it, now Bigfoot is a full fledged family friend.  Even Gem knows and speaks about BigFoot now and when she hears a noise outside, she says, "Bigfoot outside?"

So I spend my days making up little stories about Bigfoot, and pretending to be Bigfoot, and wondering aloud what BigFoot might be doing at any given moment.

How strange the path of motherhood is, no?

thank YOU thursday: Jamie A

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Dear Jamie,

In real life we've met like, what? two times maybe?

We met through work, both project managers and so most of our initial conversations began via phone and instant messaging.  We spoke mostly in hilarious hashtags while I checked that I was on mute 64 times during our con calls because I was usually cracking up so loud.  We were hashtagging before everyone was doing it; before it was like a real thing.

Then you left work.  Then I left work.  And really, where would this friendship have to go?

But our friendship did have somewhere to go.  Because we live in the age of the internet. And, Jamie A, you have become my internet guide to happiness and inspiration.

Maybe that's weird to say and doesn't seem like an actual thing.  But I think that your role as wise internet guide is massively important in my creative life.  And go figure, my creative life is enormously important to my everyday life.

There is so much junk and garbage and mindless scrolling possible in the age of the internet.  But then my internet guide of happiness and inspiration (read:  that's you) steps in with these hidden gems to remind me why having access to all of the world's knowledge can be so wonderful.

You introduce me to funny stuff (Honest Toddler), beautiful passages about being a Mom that stick with me long after reading them (The Sweet Spot), and inspiration that calls me to action (Robyn's story, thus leading me to mine)

And not only do you send out these small gifts back from your adventures in internetland, but you also encourage and support me in my own small village of the web.  You comment on my statuses with "I can't wait to say I knew you when!" and you send me links to register for online writing courses for moms.

Jamie A, seriously.  thank you.

Your pinboards, random emails with a shirtless Joe Manganiello, and sharing of inspirational blog posts have a true and impactful effect on my creativity.  The internet was created with the assumption that there are people like you out there that make sure others can find the good and inspiring in a sea of questionable content.


we're growing

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Spoiler alert:  by the end of September, we will be bigger by one tiny human!

Yep!  I am currently growing a new little Studerbaby and our whole Studer zoo crew is overjoyed!  Brandon and I have this strange contradictory feeling that we kind of know what we're doing (being two kids in and all) and yet this abyssal fear that everything is about to be drastically new and impossible to manage with an official outnumbering.  Grey has been very sweet and caring, especially if I tell him that the baby is making me feel sleepy.  And Gem's favorite thing on the planet is babies - so she is already practicing intensely on being a little mumma herself.

We found out in mid January - actually Bullet was the first to give us an inkling as he became weirdly attached to my side and after two years of sleeping under our bed at night is now persistent at sleeping on the bed at my feet.  No matter how many times we kick him off, he comes back up while we're sleeping and that's where we find him in the morning.

after a night of bad dreams = EVERYONE is in our bed!?!!
We were planning on keeping it a secret until we had our whole family over for dinner one Sunday and Gigi joked that she thought we were bringing everyone together to announce a new baby, everyone laughed and then I got visibly awkward and weird and my Mum was like, 'wait....are you?' and I was like, "um....uh, what?  I don't understand the question."  worst.secret.keeper.ever.

So our family has been keeping it under wraps for the past two and a half months with us (good job family!  Love you!!).  We finally made it 'facebook official' (that's a real thing in today's day and age; insanity) last Friday on my 12 week date.  And now with this post - the cat is officially out of all the bags!

Being pregnant the third time around has been interesting.  I unconsciously compare how I feel this time to the two times before - sort of like a barometer for everything ranging from which gender this babe might be to how pregnancy differs with each subsequent child.

Just like the first two, I'm thirsty for milk and I have heartburn.  Unlike the first two, I have absolutely no interest in drinking coffee (wah!) and I am dead tired.  Like falling asleep while standing up tired.  It's ridiculous and part of the reason my blog posts have been so far between (sorry).  I just cannot get it together.  I'm hoping now that the first trimester is coming to a close that I'll get a little boost in my step, because this has seriously been ridiculous.

I've even googled multiple times "third pregnancy exhaustion" just to make sure something wasn't weird.  Newsflash - it ain't.  Apparently you're more tired because, go figure - you already have wild babies to take care of on top of another little bean sucking all of your life force out of you to ya know, grow into a real live human.  hah!  And I'm pretty sure my body is just like, "Seriously?  SERIOUSLY?"

I have been resting and taking it easy waaaaaaaaaaay better than I did with my first two pregnancies as well - which feels horribly inefficient but also a relief to just do what my body asks without fighting it every step of the way.  I'm asleep before 9pm almost every night.

This will be my first summer pregnancy which despite everyone's warnings - still seems exciting and fun (talk to me again in July, right?)  For now, we are relaxing and doing a lot of talking to and about the baby.  The kids know that we'll have a new baby by Halloween (which could be 7 years from now for all they understand about time, HAH).  And at least once a day they ask to talk to the baby and say strange things to him/her like "Do you have a blankie and pillow in there, baby?"  or "we ate pizza today, baby"

The only thing I'm sure of right now is that this baby is seriously loved.  We are so blessed.

a year of meal planning

Monday, March 10, 2014

If you would have told me about a year and a half ago that I could successfully meal plan for an entire 12 months, I would have never believed you.  There was a time that meal planning was slotted in my 'really ambitious' goal for myself.  But last January, I was determined to put one oven mitt in front of the other each week, and I made it bit by bit through the whole year planning our family's meals - and haven't stopped since!

I have no big secret or science to how I did it, it was really all about making it a habit.  I am so relieved that I am in this place now that meal planning is just something that I do.  It has changed and grown over the course of the year and is still evolving into what works the best for us.

This post is written in hopes to inspire or assist other Mums who look at meal planning as the daunting and scary mountain that I used to view it as.

How I got started:
1. weekly meal plans:  since I never used to meal plan at all, it was all about starting out slow.  I started by picking a day each week (Tuesday because that's when the grocery ads come) and planning out next weeks' meals based off of meat sales.  I planned one week at a clip and wrote it down (in pink or red pen) on each weekday for the following week.

2. Pinterest:  One of the big obstacles for me for meal planning has always been getting bored.  Sometimes, I just feel like if I have to eat another grilled chicken breast, I'm going to lose my mind.  Hah!  Enter from stage Left, Pinterest who provides 4528 recipes for chicken.  Seriously.  When my meal planning/eating boredom strikes, I start pin-searching new recipes and suddenly I'm energized with newness again.

3. Learning what my family likes:  It has been a year of learning about my families eating habits through meal planning.  I know the kids love spaghetti best of all, but that also has translated into watching them joyously eat other spaghetti like food (meatball sandwiches, pierogies & sauce, chicken parm). We have found by accident that the kids both like eating salad with dinner too (woohoo for veggies!) and our families #1 favorite side is steamed broccoli with corn on the cob a close second.  We are definitely meat-eaters over here and if I make a meat-less meal, there is mass confusion and a need for a protein fix asap (we go through eggs over here like no one's business).

deer meat sandwich!
How I stuck with it:
1. bi-weekly meal plans:  after getting comfortable with weekly planning, I bumped it up to planning two weeks at a time.  It freed up every other Tuesday, but also we started seeing more grocery bill savings since we were really only make a big trip every other week to the grocery store.

2. the slow-cooker:  we have a slow-cooker cooked meal probably 2-3 times a week.  I love slow cooking, its so easy and done when it's time to eat.  See Pinterest for approximately 8979 recipes on different things to cook in the slow cooker ranging from full meals to soup to desserts.  It's seriously the best invention ever.

3. adding breakfast & sweets to the planning:  I also started to incorporate a planned 'real breakfast' two times and a weekly dessert after getting more comfortable with dinners.  it allowed me to feel accomplished that the kids and I were eating anything other than toast/oatmeal for breakfast and the sweets were like a little love-pick-me-up through the week.  Plus, it's easy to get the kids in on helping to bake and provided a fun afternoon activity for us weekly to bake cookies for our family.

My top 3 benefits from meal planning:
1. less stress:  there is an amazing sense of calm that comes with simply knowing what your family will be eating come dinnertime.  So much happens during the day and by dinnertime I am generally too tired and brain-fried to attempt to assemble a meal with what I think may be available in the fridge & freezer.  Just having the meal written down in my planner to glance at the night before or the day of has made all the difference in my stress level come 5:30/6p each night.

2. money saved:  Since meal planning, we have found that we have saved money for a variety of reasons.  First, if something is already planned, I am less likely to tell B to just bring something home because I'm too tired to cook or clean up afterwards.  I mean, it's already setting out or slow-cooking, so we're good.  Also, we're not impulse buying at the grocery store because we only need the things on the list - and we're going to the grocery store fewer times during the month.  Granted, we still buy random stuff (hello Pringles), but it is at an extremely less often rate than pre-meal planning.

3. confidence:  through planning and preparing meals for my family, I have increased my self-confidence in what I am capable of in the kitchen.  I have found that I am trying out new flavors for foods that I may not have been brave enough to try before, and also not afraid of suddenly realizing I'm out of a particular ingredient (there are tons of info on substitutes for everything.  My fave:  applesauce in place of eggs).  There are meals now in my repertoire that I think, 'hmm, I wonder if this dinner will be something the kids will think of as one of Mum's meals when they move away.' I am a different home chef than I was a year ago and that makes me feel powerful.

Grey helping with mardi gras themed chocolate covered pretzels

Where I am today:
1. Monthly meal plans:  this year, I've been trying out planning out the whole month of meal planning at one time.  This is in an attempt to only do one big grocery trip (supplemented by the milk/eggs/bread sort trips occasionally) and really learn to start digging and using the stocked items we have in the pantry.

2. Planning 5 days a week:  This seems to work best for us, I plan 5 dinners a week for the 5 weekdays.  Most often, one day will be covered by left overs and then that will bump a planned meal to the weekend, or we'll eat dinner at one of our parent's houses, or have frozen pizza or something unplanned.  Of course, we occasionally eat out too, so all 7 nights are covered with little stress even when I only plan for 5 nights a week.

3.  Lunch:  since the kids and I are home everyday, lunch isn't ever planned outright but rather usually consists of leftovers from last night or bento-style lunches for them (salad or a sandwich for me).  Even though its the most obvious chart on the planet - somehow this little thing has really helped me when whipping up lunch for the kids:

So, that's how I overcame something that seemed so scary but also so necessary for my sanity as a Mum.  It is with relief and pride that I now can include myself as a meal-planning Mum:)

And for some meal-planning inspiration - here have been some of our favorites over the past year -

Our top 10 favorite new-to-us recipes
(that we've discovered and made multiple times over the past year):
Korean Beef (with ground beef)
Cheesy Vegetable Chowder  - like broccoli and cheese with more veggies
Slow Cooker Kielbasa and Cabbage
Meatball Sub Casserole
Quick Baked Potatoes - this has essential become my fallback potato recipe; so good, so easy.
Slow Cooker Brown Sugar & Garlic Chicken
American Goulash
Crockpot Meatballs
Grilled Country Style Pork Ribs
Slow Cooker Three Envelope Pot Roast

And how about top 5 desserts too:
Iced Oatmeal Cookies - the entire family went bonkers for these.  Brandon ate four at a time.
No bake energy bites
Thumbprint Jelly Cookies
Monster cookies -our go-to cookie recipe
Homemade Granola Bars - we add m&ms and chocolate chips to ours

And because breakfast can get so boring,
how about these top 3 favorite 'real' breakfasts:
Blueberry Banana Bread
Breakfast Enchiladas

10 Real Physical Dangers of Raising Toddlers

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Everyone knows that the biggest danger of parenting any child is a broken heart.  Like smashed into smithereens broken heart.  And for lots of things.  Seeing your child in pain, listening to them cry it out, hearing them whisper "I love you" as their heavy sleepy eyes close.  Oh my, there's just so much that breaks and tears and shreds and stabs a parent's heart.

But not many people talk about the other kinds of pain that come with parenting kids, mainly toddlers.  These little beings that spend their day blurring the line between the distinction of human child and animal.  They have little control over their limbs, almost no depth perception, but somehow can orchestrate a mess that even if you were trying your very best, you as a grown adult with knowledge of trajectory and science, could not replicate to be as catastrophic.

So here's my top 10 of the physical pains we've endured as raising our toddlers.  The nose bleeds, the fat lips, and the bruises in the shape of a tiny mandible all included below.

1. Hair-pulling
It starts out in infancy out of sweet, precious curiosity.  It continues from there but with less wonder and more out of sheer disregard for anyone else's body.  I've had hair pulled by hands, teeth, and stepped on by feet.  And this is not just localized to head hair.  We have our arm hair pulled both by accident and on purpose.  My husband has also suffered through leg and chest hair pulling as well.

2. Biting
We've both been bit by accident when putting food into our little one's mouths, as they didn't realize (or care) if our fingers were out of the way before they chomped down.  Then as our daughter grew, we discovered she was a 'biter,' and would target shoulders when she didn't get her way.  Our poor son was once bit so hard on the stomach (after a disagreement with his little sis) that it immediately bruised a deep color of purple.  Thankfully she's seemed to grow out of it and now only grinds her teeth like an angry lioness at the first sign of conflict as a reminder to us all of the danger we could be in.

3. Stomach pummeling
This is Hollywood's go-to move for child on parent abuse.  You know the image; parents peacefully asleep while children sneak in and go full WWE on their parent's unprotected midsections.  It looks so idyllic, doesn't it?  This sort of stomach pummeling doesn't only happen in the morning before waking - it also happens anytime you find yourself in the horizontal position.  They'll sneak up on your unsuspecting relaxed pose, stand on the couch armrest, and take a flying leap directly landing on your gut (or worse - see #10).

4. Book corners to the face
This is a phenomenon that I can't explain.  The accuracy in which picture book corners with hard covers have barreled into my face is mind-blowing.  I am thrilled my children love listening to stories, but in the sheer delight of hearing another story, these books are strongly suggested with a shove in our direction with horrifying speed.  Somehow after a book corner makes contact with my face, I'm ashamed to say, my character voices just aren't up to par.

5. Head butts to the lip
In their defense, this is almost always by accident, but goodness does it hurt.  The forcefully thrown back head usually occurs from a child's extreme happiness or excitement, in which they throw their head back with joyful giggling only to make a direct contact with your unsuspecting face.  The vast array of strange unfunny things that cause a child to do this is wide and diverse - which gives it the constant element of surprise.

6. Disease
Our flu season lasts from October to April in our house.  We spend these months with tissues and hankies within constant reach.  If one of us catches something, the rest are sitting ducks.  We like to try to timeline our sicknesses; like Mum is 4 days in while our youngest is a day behind, our son just got it, and well, sorry Dad, you're the next in line.'

7. Shoulder dislocation (or at least soreness)
There is a scientific equation that I've discovered since becoming parent.  It's goes something along the lines of:  item that child is holding in backseat will always be dropped thus being the catalyst to insistent whining until said item is retrieved.  This requires a parenting move where the parent (driving a moving vehicle!) then rotates their shoulder to an unpleasant position to flail about aimlessly on the backseat floor to attempt to retrieve the fallen item.

8. Assault by feet
First, there's the kicking; during the diaper change, or when trying to remove themselves from a hug they've deemed too long, and the ever popular no warning direct kick to the shin in a drive-by sprint around the room.  There's also the stomping on various body parts by accident or entirely on purpose depending on their mood.

9. Lower back pain
It's the up-down-up-down-up-down-hold you motion throughout the day.  It's the two kids on your lap while reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar for the fourth time in a row.  It's the sitting next to the toddler bed for 45 minutes rubbing their back when they're sick.  The kneeling and reaching at the edge of the bath tub.  It's the always needing more yoga and more time at the chiropractor.

10. Crotch shots
The problem with an adult crotch is that it is almost exactly eye level to a growing toddler.  It's like an impossibly easy target for punching from a child's point of view.  It also always warrants a dramatic response which makes it even more hilarious.  There's the standing assault, but also the flying from across the bed/room/couch to land with dangerous accuracy directly in the nether-regions.  It's like a pain magnet; look no farther than every.single.episode of America's Funniest Videos; without fail there are videos of children punching their Dads in the crotch.

Somehow though, as is the great paradox of parenthood, none of this pain or suffering ever amounts to much of anything.  It is all swept under the rug with the bat of an impossibly long eyelash or the surprise kiss of a tiny, sweet face.  Like all parents, I'd choose the beatings every time over the alternative of not living with these wild, maniacal, perfect, toddler ninjas.