12 Months of Kindness Mid-Year update

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Kindness and giving back is fundamental to our family and one of the ways that we try to keep that in the forefront of our minds and hearts is to commit to a task of kindness, (at least) once for each month of the year.  The important piece about 12 Months of Kindness is making sure that you plan out and/or track  your efforts each month.  Otherwise (as we've found in the past), it's easy to forget about your dedication by the end of the year...because you know, life.

Here is where we stand now at the mid-year point in our 12 Months of Kindness commitment.  First quarter of the year update.

January - it took us until March (!) for Violet and I to finish up our January kindness when we headed east to visit a high school friend who had recently had her first baby (hi Renee and Ava!) to visit for a little while and drop off dinner and dessert.  It was a great visit and I loved catching up and talking about all things newborn and new momma.

April - the kids and I put together a special care package to send all the way to the Democratic Republic of Congo to Raph, our WorldVision sponsor kid.  The kids worked hard on drawing colorful pictures and letters for him and we stuff that envelope full of pencils, erasers, toothbrushes, colored pencils, and stickers.

May - Gemma accompanied me to the Conemaugh Valley Senior banquet in May to award our family scholarship to two deserving twelfth graders.  We have students complete an essay explaining the positive impact they believe they've had while attending Valley and we've selected scholarship recipients for the last seven years! This year, Brandon and I selected Kaitlynn and Becca.  Our scholarship is one of my favorite kindness tasks and I so appreciate getting a peek into the lives of young people into our community and all the good that they do!

June - I led the efforts with the amazing help of the Conemaugh Valley Alumni Association to put on the second annual 5K and family fun run/walk in June.  This year we had a blue and white theme and a scavenger hunt for the family portion.  The 5K begins early in the morning, followed later by the family fun run/walk scavenger hunt.  We had several 5K runners even return to walk the trail again with their families.  As always, this event reminds me how lucky I am to have supportive people in my life ready to help and volunteer wherever they are needed.  This CV community has something very special and this event was another reminder of that.

If you're seeking some inspiration, check out my Kindness Pinboard here, or the 12 Months of Kindness Pinboard here that I collaborate on with Ashley from The Big White Farmhouse.

There are also amazing opportunities in your own local community if you keep you eyes and ears open for it.  I recently joined the Family Service Group - Johnstown, PA (thank you, Megan!) in which projects and ideas are presented each month that are geared specifically towards families with kids.  This month we are saying thank you to our local heroes (firemen, police departments, EMS teams, etc).

Also, you can check out:
12 Months of Kindness 2015 intro post
#12mokp (on instagram)

the end of the bubble era

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

this one's for all the mommas who are sending their first baby to school this year.

Grey got a letter in the mail yesterday.  It had his name neatly printed on the front in green marker and was decorated with stickers.  As I flipped it over to open it for him, my heart jumped to see a long, rectangular sticker with smiling cartoon animal faces that announced, "Welcome to Kindergarten."

Grey pulled the three pieces of paper out and I'm proud to report that I made it to the fifth sentence of the letter from his new teacher before my voice audibly wavered.

"You will be learning letters, sounds, reading books (voice shake), playing on computers and iPads, (clears throat), counting to 100, (another voice shake), and so many more fun things!"

I did finish reading the whole letter aloud but it was with red-rimmed eyes and with a voice on the verge of breaking.

I can barely stand myself.

I remember before Greyson was born, having a giddy conversation with Brandon that we were getting new names; Mom and Dad.  How thrilling and foreign that seemed to us then - and to think now sometimes Mum is the only name I hear called for me all day (and at a rate of about 12 times a minute sometimes).

And here we are again, getting ready to receive new names once more, this time; Greyson's Mom and Dad.  Ugh, even more jarring: Mr. and Mrs. Studer (of which I was recently called at vacation bible school by the sweet high school student who befriended Gemma each day.  It happened in front of Gigi and she immediately started cracking up hysterically and then looked at me lovingly and with the faintest expression of nostalgia and said, "I remember how weird that was to get used to").

I'm not sad he's going to school (despite what my watery eyes and flashes of panic will tell you), it's more that I can sense that this era in our life is coming to an end.

Gah, the bubble era.
This phase of motherhood in which all year long, our days and weeks stretch before us like unmarked trails in the woods.  Our days are ticked not by times on the clock but by the rumble in our bellies and the next fun thing the kids feel like doing.  The years have been tracked by seasons, celebrations, and traditions, we get through the year by happily leaping from one holiday to the next.  The years move steadily, but gradually as we count down days until the next big thing.

But now, we are getting ready to make the transition to years marked by two main distinctions:  the school year and summer.  How much does it speed up a year when divided only by two?  I can only imagine how time will be counted in blinks.

Safe in our bubble for the past five years, there has been one entrance and exit in our lives here; people, ideas, tv, movies, words, activities - they all passed our customs check first.  We prepared, delivered, answered questions, gave guidance, followed up, checked in, asked questions. If something did sneak by us, the kids felt comfortable, confident, and safe to bring it up with us.  The topics on which we have given explanations and answered questions have been hilarious, random, and unnerving.  But so far, we have been the main point of contact.

That's not to say that we've tried to limit the world to them (many would probably argue -myself included- we've tried to do the opposite of that), but we have tried to frame the world for them.  To provide a foundation for understanding the world; to encourage problem solving, to try again, to respond with empathy first.  Outside of our bubble, this is not always the case and I wonder, now on the brink of the bubble pop, did we do enough?  Is he prepared for a world that sometimes is not as beautiful and kind as what we try to see everyday?  Does he have enough foundation in our morals to stand tall in the face of unfamiliar harshness.
I don't know.
How I hope though.

no, sad is not the right word.
melancholy, then?
I think the most accurate description might be: preemptively nostalgic

it's the clear marking of time that slices away at my heart; it's always the distinction between now and then that stuns me.

Time passes a little bit each day, but its hard to recognize the transition from when you go, for example, from two kids who communicate to three.  Like all those weeks of Violet babbling and watching us has now slowly, gradually turned into her communicating; signing and pointing and trying to convey meaning to us.  The change is slow then one day it just is and there wasn't a moment to try to grab at the sand before it slipped by.

But this is one of those clear border lines, and my hands are empty but repeatedly grasping at air and every tiny thing in our day appears tinged in rose.

It's a blessing and a curse to be able to look at the present through the eyes of the future.  My mind naturally paints romance around the commonplace because somewhere the recognition is written inside of me that everything is more beautiful, vibrant, and meaningful when you look back on it.

So, in these last few days, of the unrestricted freedom of the bubble era, I'm trying my best to act out of gratitude and joy.  Late morning starts, meals outside, spontaneous afternoon activities, feeling undeniably grateful for this time that I was able to be at home with these kids, just us.  It was so short of a time, but also so long everyday.

Oh, Time,
you are both cruel and lovely.
I both hate you and love you.
Greyson's mom

a young family watches a meteor shower

Thursday, August 13, 2015


Mom:  Sweetheart, do you want to see the falling stars?
Daughter:  yes, mumma
Mom:  okay, you'll have to wake up then and come with me
Daughter:  can we catch them?

Mom:  You're supposed to make a wish when you see a shooting star.  How many wishes do you think we'll get to make tonight?
Daughter:  eight
Son: one hundred and ninety and fourteen

Mom:  Oooh!  we saw a big on while you guys were getting the blanket!
Son:  Did it fall in our yard?

Son:  Hey, look!  the dipping thing!
Dad:  yep, you're right!  The big dipper!
Son:  it's cool that the stars make things in the sky

Son:  it looks like we're looking up at a big city up there in the sky, huh?

Daughter:  wow!  do you see that blinking green one?
Son:  Gem!  That's just the dog's collar

Mom:  close your eyes! I'm going to take a picture
Daughter:  why close our eyes?
Daughter:  don't ever do that again, Mumma!

Son:  What did you wish, Mom?
Mom:  that everyone in the whole world would choose kindness
Daughter:  I wished I could be a human
Mom:  You are a human, silly!
Daughter:  no, a human who makes ice cream.
Mom/Dad/Son:  mmhmm, good wish.
Son:  I wish I could see the boulders in space
Dad:  you mean like an astronaut?
Son:  Yes!
Mom/Dad/Daughter:  mmhmm, good wish.
Mom:  what about you Dad?
Dad:  I wish for a blanket

Daughter:  what's that blinking one moving?
Mom:  It's an airplane
Daughter:  wow!  Up there with the falling stars, it better be careful!

Son:  you know, Gem, there are aliens flying in some of those meteors
Daughter:  oh, okay.
Mom:  What!?  no.  Grey!

Dad:  I'm cold, what do you guys think, one more meteor and back to bed?
Mom:  that sounds good, it's almost quarter after
Dad:  over that way I saw a whole bunch of little ones
Mom:  but the biggest ones I saw were over here
Dad:  well what are you going for here, size or quantity?
Mom:  I'd take one big one over a bunch of little ones every time
Dad:  that's what she said

Daughter:  oh! I saw one.  it was so fast though
Mom:  must of been, I didn't see it
Daughter: yea, it's all the way to the Dominican Republic now.

Mom:  thanks for watching the meteor shower with us, guys
Dad: that was pretty cool, huh?  that was a lot of shooting stars!
Son:  and a lot of wishes! maybe everything will be mixed up tomorrow
Mom:  because of everyone's wishes coming true?
Son: yea
Daughter:  maybe! I think it will switch all of our beds around
Dad/Mom/Son:  .....
Daughter:  that would be funny.


July: Recently

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Because I have not been able to get it together for a weekly Currently post about all the summer fun, we've been having - I'm taking a cue from Shellie from Just Another Manic Monkday and doing a full month's recap - so here it goes...

In July, we've recently....

Finished out Greyson's teeball season with his first trophy ever, celebrated America's birthday and the Fourth of July and I started writing again. (one Currently post from this month!)

We hosted our 7th annual Studer's Invitational Beer Olympics and it was awesome and hilarious and fun as usual.  We do this yearly event only because of the people that come to it.  We are so lucky to have so many amazing people in our life.  We raised money for Baby Redden, who's momma contacted me this week and said "I'm so honored you would even offer this.  Simply incredible.  Thank you for doing this, for praying for and loving on us, and for sending money our way.  Your donation actually paid two major bills at a time we  needed it most....THANK YOU..."

We worked on an Art Month in which I had the kids working on art projects throughout the weeks to gear up for one of my 100 small things items to host a 'gallery opening' at the house for the kids art projects.  We sometimes do organized art projects, but art month gave us the opportunity to try out some new things and the kids really had fun.  We're still doing some (recently tried Coil Pottery with molding clay!) because we're not quite ready to do our gallery open.  So it's been a fun change up for us adding some organized activities into long days of summer free play.

Brandon and I finished out our summer co-ed volleyball league with our awesome teammates.  We didn't go as far as we would have liked in playoffs, but it was a great summer of volleyball with this group of people that we consider our volleyball family and to whom our kids call "Dad and Mum's team players.'

I've been jogging with Bullet all month when possible.  It's been a hot month and lots of days we didn't make it out to run until dusk - just me, bullet, and the fireflies (hah!) but we put in 20+ miles in July and we're slowly chipping away to try to get in 30 miles in one month!  

We've been outside:  playing, eating, working, grilling, exploring, napping; enjoying the sweet sweet summertime.

The kids and grandmas and I took an amazing weekend trip to Baltimore this year to visit and explore the city.  It was our first year going to a different city than my beloved NYC but it was a nice way to expand our yearly adventures!  We hope to continue exploring new cities as well as keeping NYC in the rotation occasionally.

The kids were brave enough to ride a kiddie rollercoaster for the first time ever!  Thanks to Uncle Juice taking them to the Ferndale Jubliee one afternoon (I got to vacuum and mop uninterrupted - miracle of miracles! thank you Uncle Jay!) and they had so much fun riding the rides and being spoiled with a thousand games and snacks.  Does this mean now that they'll be roller coaster riders with their momma?  Please, I hope!

We had fun playdates with our friends!  A visit at home with our favorites, the Fiores while the kids ran free in the yard in their bathing suits and Kate and I got to chat like real life grown ups!  Then spending a full afternoon at the Quemahoming Dam with the Stifflers while the kids played all day so contentedly.  It was oddly calm and beautiful and not even that loud - how did that happen?  Can we make it happen again?  such a perfect summer afternoon!

We attended our second of three family reunions with our Plunkett side (paternal grandmother's family).  It was such a wonderful day and the kids kept asking if we could come back to this reunion again soon.  They had a great time giggling and playing with their extended family and cousins - and so much good old fashion fun like softball and old school dodgeball.

My mom and our cousins got together to start to clean out Gram and Pap's collections in their attic and basements after the passing of my grandfather this past spring.  My Pap was a big collector (of many things) and although ardous to go through everything, I found it fascinating and interesting to see what they kept, what brought back fierce and loving memories.  I found a huge stack of poems typed by my Pap, signed "Al Mesaros Amateur Poet" and have been pouring over them over the past couple of weeks.  So that's where I've inherited this writing bug, eh?  Pap was holding out on me, many of them are actually quite good and it inspires me so much more to know that he and I have this connection towards writing our words down.

Greyson: Still running on full throttle every single day.  We've now adjusted to recognizing that he goes turbo speed all the time and then about every two months he'll just have to have a 'booboo recharge day' where he does nothing but sleeps.  boys.  He is very into climbing trees right now and I feel like I'm holding my breath for a broken bone.  Hasn't happened yet, thank goodness, but surely it's inevitable with this wild boy I raise.  He's so ready for school and to make friends and be pushed academically.  He's ready, the girls and I probably are not as ready to be without him all day - but we'll get there together.  Gulp.  Lately I've been picturing him from the back wearing his little backpack and waving goodbye and my eyes start watering.  help me.

Gemma:  calling everyone by their first name followed by "Studer."  So when she talks to me in regular conversation she'll say, "Can I have a drink, Mumma Studer?" Even if your last name isn't Studer (like my mum for instance) - Gem is still going to do it.  She tells my Mum, "Can I have some gum please Abba Studer?"  For her siblings, she adds a little flair by adding in their middle names; "Greyson Rudy Studer, I was playing with that!" or "What are you doing my sweet Violet Mary Studer?"  Gem also does an excessive amount of 'telling stories' also known as lying - but we're trying to get her in the routine of at least announcing when it's something she's making up or something that really happened.  She'll dive into these monologues about how she got her foot stuck in a car door and a firemen helped her get it out while I was in the house folding clothes and Grey and I just stare at her like, 'um, no that's not real, Gem."  I'm going to pretend that means she's a storyteller/writer like her momma.

Violet:  time, why?  She seems to me to have made a huge leap this month in her age and it makes me want to cry and rejoice at the same time.  She's blazing all over this place crawling and loves to climb to the top of the steps and then joyfully shout to us until someone retrieves her so she can do it again.  She's signing already (faster than the other two did) and she communicates with us by showing us the baby signs for:  More, All Done, and Outside.  She also 'talks' to our pets by whispering "Sssss, Ssss" whenever she seems them (is she attempting whistling?  maybe.) and if we ask her what a puppy dog says she pants.  She's pulling herself up and taking moments of bravery to let go of things and balance without support.  and her hair!  So so so incredibly blonde, maybe so blonde it's a tinged red?  but so so blonde that random people will come up to us and say, "Now that's a towhead if I've ever seen one!"


Reading*:  finished A Tree Grows in Brooklyn  by Betty Smith (how I love thee) and our June/July book club book Make it Happen: Surrender Your Fear. Take the Leap. Live On Purpose by Lara Casey .  I finished Paper Towns by John Green in three days, started our August Inspired Readers Book Club Book:  Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng, and slowly making my way through B.J. Novak's One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories (compilation of his short stories) and loving it with ferocity.  Found my current favorite short story among them:  The Comedy Central's Roast of Nelson Mandela (amazing, amazing stuff).

Baking:  This super yum, super easy Jalapeno Popper Shredded Chicken sandwiches (leave off the jalapenos for kid-friendly yet still delicious), Prosciutto wrapped asparagus, Grilled Cabbage all summer long please, these country-style pork rubs with mustard and dry rub, Grilling pizza (because Brandon and I cannot get enough of jalapenos, we made Jalapeno Popper pizza for us), and all of the zucchini everywhere in every way, but especially in this Chicken and Zucchini casserole.  Chocolate Chip & Walnut cookies (my fav cookies), Chocolate Chip and Pumpkin muffins (i want these every morning please), and this Blueberry Breakfast Cake,   (I'm such a great baking sweets momma when I have PMS.  It's like my body's natural way of saying - here family, I'm sorry for being horrible right now, enjoy some delicious snacks, HAH)

Bring it on August, we ready!

*includes affiliate links:  thank you for supporting Team Studer.

Why I'm choosing to send my kid to public school

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

In three weeks, I will be watching my first born child, wearing his little backpack and that sideways grin walk out this door and start his thirteen year journey through school.  Our first child, our first day of school ever.

Kindergarten looms, friends.

Let's be serious, I'll cry.  I'll get that hot, tight, can't-swallow feeling and my eyes will get all red and blurry but I'll paste a huge smile on my face in case our Kinder looks at me for encouragement.  And then I'll probably sob at the real goodbye.  And maybe catch myself in far off stares of melancholy for the rest of the day.

Mostly though I'll cry because it will mark the beginning of a new era for us.  One that we were just discussing will run over the next twenty years of our life; the our-year-runs-on-school-year-calendar-time.  The one where nine months of the year has it's own schedule and then the glorious summer months.  The schedule that makes the years go by at blink pace.  The next twenty years!!  Can you imagine what life will look like over the course of the next twenty years - but at the pace of one blink for each one.  no.  crying forever, goodbye.

Lots of people send their kids to public school, I know this, and I'm not out of the status quo in terms of the general populous, nor my physical community...sending their kids to public school is just what people do.  Is this an actual decision or just what happens?

I know I am blessed in my life as a stay at home mom that this is an actual decision.  I have the time and means to choose other options if I wanted.  That alone is a reminder that I am firmly located on the side of the fence that is blessed and fortunate.

And I have no shortage of amazing examples of homeschooling mamas within my blogging community, who I admire, learn from, and appreciate.  They are doing incredible things and I'm inspired (usually on the daily) by all that they do to provide, love, and nourish their kids' minds.

And now, since I'm no novice in the world of the internet, let's air some common sense because if there's one thing that erases common sense from people it is public comment sections on the internet, right?

The thing that's tricky about supplying a rationale to any decision is that it somehow then automatically asserts that you are then 'against' the other choice. Let me be clear, Internet, this is not always the case.  Yes, there are lot of people (at least with the shield and muscles of the internet to boost them) that claim to have no gray area in their hearts and minds.  People that proclaim wholeheartedly that they believe in only one way to do any one thing and that's it.

Let me assure you, I am definitely not one of those hard border line people.  I see gray everywhere, I see a thousand ways to do any one thing, even if I don't choose to do it the way you're doing it.  You do you, and I'll do me and let's just be nice to each other while we each do our own, okay?

I don't think this means I lack a backbone - I think it means my first instinct is empathy.  but that's a post for another day.  But for today, let's get on with it, shall we?

Why I'm choosing to send my kid to public school

I, as they say, believe in public education.  As a former teacher and armed with a passion for education, I hold high hopes and expectations about public education.  I care deeply about not only how my kids' school is doing, but how the neighboring town's school is doing as well.  I believe that every child deserves access to an excellent education, every child includes my children, and your children, and their children.  All of OUR children.  I am eager and excited to see how having a child in the school system will bring deeper awareness to me about what education feels like today - for my kid.  for all our kids.

I want their world to look like THE world.
  The world can be a pretty weird, scary, mean place sometimes. And we've created a fairly idyllic bubble over here for our kids for the last five years, we don't even say the word stupid in our  house.  That bubble is about to pop in a big way and I'm okay with that.   I believe (hope) we've done the nurturing and guiding so far (and will continue to do so) to help our kids grow up into kind, empathetic, and compassionate kids despite the ugly in the world.

  The world can also be vastly beautiful and interesting.  I've grown the most when placed into a situation in which was uncomfortable or unfamiliar.  When your world is bigger, your heart and mind have to get bigger and I cannot wait to see how much our world grows as our kids bring new people, experiences, challenges, and LIFE through their years in school.

I want our kids to be accountable for themselves.  We are big on independence already and encourage our kids to be responsible for themselves, their siblings, and their friends (as appropriate).  We know the world doesn't revolve around them and strive that they recognize that too.  "If they want to be extraordinary, they need to actually be extraordinary."  If they see or experience problems, we already respond with, "find a solution." This is their own life, we're just lucky enough to be along for the ride; waiting in the wings to answer questions and guide while sitting in painful patience as they fall on their face, dust off, and try again a trillion times.

We want our kids to benefit from a whole network of people that care about them.  We've created a circle of support around them already; us, grandparents, godparents, aunts, uncles, close friends.  But with public school that's going to expand further; teachers, coaches, their friends' parents...so many more people that can inspire, support, and encourage our kids.  It takes a village and we'd prefer the village is the whole world.

We believe, however naive or narcissistic it might be, that the world will benefit from our kids, too.  Their ideas, their kindness, their empathy, the way they stand up for others, their curiosity, their problem-solving, their leadership...What can our kids do for their friends, for their community, for the world?

I cannot wait to watch and encourage and guide and support.  Because our job isn't even close to being over.  We aren't viewing the introduction of formal education as a chance to tap out.  No.

We will be the anchor.

The tether to the ground.  The place where they can go to rest, think, and get back together.  A place to be encouraged when it feels too hard, cheered when it's going great, and comforted when it feels like everything is falling apart.  A place that is safe when it's scary but will remind them it's okay to let the line out and test the waters.  Always there, not to hold back, but to hold steady in the foundation that we hope is flourishing in the root of their character.

We have a lot to learn and experience coming up in this journey through public school.  But we're going at it with intention, open minds and hearts, and with the firm belief that it's what is best for our kids, for us.  

So, here's to the start of a new school year, whatever that might look like for you and your family:) xxoxxo