Tough Mudder 2015

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Earlier this year, Brandon's cousin (and Violet's godfather) Ryan asked him if he'd join his team for the Tough Mudder Pittsburgh race in August.  The Tough Mudder is a 10+mile military-style obstacle race that supports the Wounded Warrior Project (raised over 8.5 million for WWP to date!)  The Tough Mudder is all about teamwork and camaraderie and many of the obstacles cannot be completed without the help and support from your teammates or strangers running alongside you pushing through both physical and mental fears and challenges.  It's legit, you guys.

So in the last weekend of August, our family drove up to Slippery Rock, PA to support our 'Outdoorsman Tough' daddy at the Mudder.

Team Hunting Daddies consisted of Brandon, Jon, Ray, and Ryan while their cheering squad included me and our three kids and Lisa (Ray's wife) and their son, Reid.  It was practically an entourage.  

We got to follow the guys around for many of the obstacles that ran along the observer path.  It was awesome to be able to see so much of it, and it kept the kids mostly occupied during the day by weaving along the paths and watching all the participants.  We were also lucky that much of the race ran alongside wooded areas, and as outdoors kids themselves, the three biggest kids were thrilled to be able to occupy themselves in the trees and weeds.

The obstacles were a mix of physically difficult and mentally/emotionally taxing - pushing all kinds of fears:  height, tight spaces, water, and darkness.  The boys were pretty amped up during the race between all the adrenaline and camaraderie and so they mostly enjoyed themselves while also becoming progressively exhausted.   Between the thirteen obstacles, there were short distances of running/jogging, so they all agreed that it was a nice mix between the two.

I was so grateful to Lisa for pushing the stroller most of the way (thank you!!) as our little Violet was discontent to be locked in the seated position (there's so much to see!)  I had her in the carrier for most of the race and many times Gem on my shoulders!  Where's my headband for the Mommy Mudder, right?  hahah  (actually multiple people stopped to say that to me, so that's not an original thought - hah)

It definitely would have been easier to leave the kids with a babysitter and just go myself to cheer the boys on - but this is an example of the ways we try to instill in the kids that we are all a part of this one family together.  That Daddy was doing something awesome and so we should all be there to see it - even if that makes it hard.  We are a family and we support each other.

After a break to eat, we lost the team for awhile.  It was hard to tell time-wise which obstacle they'd be on now that we had taken a break for food - so we let the kids play freely while Lisa and I stared at all the runners trying to recognize anyone's face who was in the group before or after them - hah!  We finally found the guys again (after about 45 mins though!) and were able to see them finish the last three obstacles before receiving their Tough Mudder headbands at the finish line.

The whole Hunting Daddies team did amazing and I am so proud of them for pushing themselves to their limits in this race and for this organization that supports such a great cause.  I'm not usually all "My Man!" but I think the Tough Mudder race is an exception.  Brandon is an incredible athlete, it's just in his bone marrow and I'm crazy proud to confirm that he successfully completed every single obstacle the Tough Mudder threw at him.
So, seriously you guys,  my man!

the first days of school. ever.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Whew!  We've made it through the first week of school....ever, and so far are living to tell about it.  Don't mind my melodrama over here, but seriously, thank goodness we've come out the other side of that tunnel.

We started Grey's school year (our first ever as parents) on my 32nd birthday with Kindergarten registration.  The rest of the school district went about their regular first day of school while the kindergarteners (ahem, their parents) got to ease into it.  Grey was so thrilled he could barely stand himself that morning.  My Dad came up to stay with the girls (thank you!) while B and I spent the morning at registration.

We got to meet Greyson's teacher, and get lots of great info and calendars (so many calendars, right?  lunch menu, snack calendar, district events calendar, yeesh), and even got to have lunch together.  I did great (as Brandon says) and didn't cry outright at any point.  Inside blubbering mess, but not on the outside - yay me! Definitely never feeling sad about it, just so so excited and also like, holy cow how was he just this little tiny babe and now spending huge parts of the day on his, 'hope you do all the things we've been practicing for the past five years, buddy!'  gulp, gulp, gulp.  Here's a perfect explanation of how I felt in article form that my friend Tara shared with me (thank you!!)

The following day was Greyson's 'first day,' like get on the bus-glass box of emotion for momma - first day.  Greyson was still feeling really excited and  happy and when the bus pulled up, he practically flew (actual off the ground floating) and hopped up on like a champ.  It pulled away and I finally let all that pent up excited/nervous/disbelief/happiness spill out in several (ahem) tears and semi-silent sobs.

Then Gemma walked over to Brandon and I and sobbed, "I'm sad!!!" To which I replied, 'me too, baby."  We decided we both wanted Greyson to "stay home and play with us," but after several hugs from Daddy, his girls pulled it together and continued on with our day.  #dadprobs

That first day at bus pick up time, we made it a family affair (both dogs included!) and met Grey while he sprinted off the bus joyously.  And it continued in this manner (minus the dogs and sometimes Daddy at drop off and pick up) for about another day. And then, the crying began.

And it continued for fourteen days.  TWO full weeks of daily crying (before and after school) from Grey about not wanting to go to school. I'm sharing this because, real life, friends.  As most things in life, the start of school for our family went nothing like I had imagined and well then, you adjust and figure it out.  Which is what we tried to do.  

I'm' a problem solver at the core of me (one of my favorite responses to my family, "don't come at me with your problems, honey, show me the solutions") so I tackled Grey's school worry with all sorts of methods.  
We tried to be encouraging: talking about how much he's learning, asking about new friends, making a big deal over homework and classroom book choices.  
We tried understanding and giving him space to understand his feelings were normal by talking about our own school worries and reading supportive books:  The Kissing Hand , The Invisible String , Pocket Mommy , and Wemberly Worried .  
We tried to be loving by giving him trinkets to take with him to remind us that we were still with him (a necklace of Brandon's when he was a kid, a note with stick figure versions of me and Grey, a marker-drawn heart on his hand).  
We tried to learn more:  I spoke to his teacher at Open House to get her thoughts, I talked to my family and all my friends sending their kids to school.  
We tried giving him extra attention at home:  reading books at night in our bed together, having solo breakfast together.  
And we tried to be no-nonsense too:  "Grey!  There is no getting out of school, we are going to keep doing this every weekday until May...and then every schoolyear until you're eighteen; we got a long way to go here, Buddy."  and "All of your friends are going to school every morning, same as you, and I've talked to their Mommies, honey, and none of them are crying about it!"  

Suffice to say, it was incredibly emotionally taxing.  I wanted to feel like he was 'okay,' but it was also like, "Dude, you're not the only one in this family."  (which I may have said aloud to him during the no-nonsense bit).  

So, after all that, no-nonsense method seemed to strike a chord with him (he is an Aries after all who gets most motivated at the hint of competition) and a combination of becoming more comfortable in his class (figuring out how he fit among a group of twenty kids) and making actual strides in learning new things (letter sounds, word blending! number sense!)  It has been a huge relief for Brandon and I that it feels like 'we made it' somehow through that totally unexpected and very whiny phase.  

Now that Grey is comfortable going to school, we're working on the next phase of figuring this whole thing out which is learning about balancing what feels like us and also running on a third party clock.  The mornings seem to be getting there - although I'd still like to wake up a little bit earlier to have a solid half hour before anyone else wakes up (these dark mornings though have me struggling to get out of bed).  And the afternoon routines need some kinks worked out yet for snack, homework, free play, and making dinner - not to mention any activities or plans we might have scheduled for the evenings.  Ugh, still working on that.  Some evenings, I look at the clock and think, 'omigosh, it's time for bed and we still have baths, homework, and dinner clean up to do!?'

And the homework! Which I am currently photocopying each day because obviously Gemma needs to work on 'her homework' too while Grey does his.  He loves to be in charge, so it works out that he gets to 'teach' her in the process too (double practice for him!)

And it's great to see some run-off of Grey's enthusiasm for learning trickle down to Gemma.  Grey is pretty self-motivated to learn new things (he's like his mumma), but our Gemmi Ro is wired a little differently and needs to also have meaning or emotion attached to things before she's invested in doing well at something.  She knows all her colors, can count to twenty, knows her ABCs - but she just doesn't care if she gets it right every time.  Like no big deal if she just called that blue cup a yellow cup.  Getting the color right is just not that important to her heart/brain.  It's such a foreign concept to my own brain that it can be incredibly frustrating (for me!).  But Grey's learning seems to be inspiring her.  I'll take what I can get, you guys.  

And the girls and I are learning more about what it means to be home just the three of us, while Grey is at school.  It is a lot less loud - we still have those high pitched screams and shrills, but over the general sense of the day it is more quiet.  And more gentle too.  So far it's been baby doll playing and book reading by the boatloads over here.  Board games, dancing, and dress up time too.  It is fun getting to see the two of them in their own special little lights that I am so grateful to be able to do.

We're working on our own little routines together too.  Chores, baking cookies, and giving Gemma and Violet more opportunities to choose our activities at home.  We're trying to work out how naptime looks for Gem - giving her an opportunity to have alone time (choosing her own Netflix show - miraculous for her as the little sister!) and getting me some alone time (hello blog and reading!)  Last week, Gemma started her Preschool Storytime class which is a fun way for us get in special projects, read new books, and make new friends!

So, we're working towards feeling like we've got our groove back now that school is a thing we do.  In the next week or two, I'll also be adding volunteering in Greyson's class once a week to help with guided reading, which will add even more routine to our week.

We're getting there.  slowly, but all together.

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Violet Mary, one year old

Friday, September 25, 2015

Our dearest Violet Mary,
You are one today and that means we've had a year (already!) of getting to enjoy you.  That's what we've really done all year, just enjoy you.

You are what many people have literally called "a good baby," and by that everyone means pleasant.  You're mostly just happy and easy going.  Sure you chat up a storm in church when you're supposed to be quiet, you spill the dog's food and water dishes, and you steal everyone's toys - but you do it all so pleasantly that it's hard to say you're anything but a 'good baby.'  You're just nice to have around, already at only a year old, you're just good company.

And you're growing up quickly little babe, I guess that comes with the territory of having two older siblings.  You try to talk so much with astounding inflection that we can practically understand your babbling for real words.  You use sign language, pointing, and sometimes instead you'll just go ahead and do or get whatever you want for yourself!  Your siblings delight when they recognize that you've learned something new - celebrating with huge smiles and clapping, "Mum!  Violet signed thank you!,' 'Mum, she made a cat noise when I said Lulu!" There has not been a tiny milestone that has gone uncelebrated in your first year.  For that you'll either be fantastically confident or incredibly spoiled, but it is what it is I suppose.

But it doesn't just go that one way - us always celebrating you, because you, our sweet baby child, somehow also find your own little way to make us feel like shining stars.  The hugs you bestow, where you snuggle-in like you've been professionally trained to hold on for as long and as tightly in the exact amount that the receiver needs to feel uplifted.  Or the way you give us that scrunch-nosed smile that has some sort of smile contagion infused.  Violet Mary, you have the power within you to make people feel like a million bucks, my girl.

I think most of all, Violet girl, I want you to know that you somehow make our family, more of our family.  I don't know how to say it the way that it feels, but because you are here, we are more US.  You bring out something in each of us, and in the collective us that makes everything feel more natural and comfortable.

We are so blessed that you are in this life with us.  You are a joy. 
Happy first birthday, Violet Mary Studer.

I love you forever and ever.
even when you get so big.

Kid Chatter

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Greyson: I'll be a good Dadda some day
Mum:  I think so too, buddy.  How many kids do you want?
Greyson:  Probably three boys and three girls
Mum:  That sounds nice
Greyson:  I think the boys should be named:  Lightening, Prince, and Antler.  And maybe the girls can be named Princess, Castle, and how about, Sendalia

Gemma:  Let's talk about something.
Mom/Greyson/Dad:  Okay, like what
Gemma:  Let's talk about Lulu's skin
(Lulu is our cat)

The kids are in charge of composting our veggies and they take them out to the hillside and use the vegetable pieces to build "Bunny Caves" for the wild rabbits.

Greyson and I were walking the dogs back in the fields behind our house.
Mom:  I'll hold both Bullet and Trixie's leashes for a little while, in case there are deer back here and they want to run after them.
Greyson:  I can hold Trixie
Mom:  I know, but I don't want Trixie to pull you too hard if there's a deer and then you'll have to let go of her leash because she'll run to the deer.
Greyson:  So
Mom:  Well then maybe the deer will be afraid and think it needs to fight Trixie and it will kick her in the face or something
Greyson:  oh, okay I get it.
Mom:  cool
Greyson:  Because then maybe Trixie's teeth would get knocked out and then the tooth fairy would bring her a bone for her tooth and then Trixie and Bullet would fight over it.

After Greyson got on the bus for the first day of school and Gemma and I were both crying.
Gemma:  I thought you said we were going to CATCH the bus!!!
Mom:  Honey, that's just how you say that Booboo was going to get on it
Gemma:  No!  I thought we were bringing the bus home and Greyson was staying!

At the Tough Mudder, Gemma realized I had moved from the spot where she thought I was standing and instead found an older woman sitting there (the woman recounted the following conversation to me later).
Gemma:  have you seen my momma?
Woman:  I don't know, what does she look like?
Gemma:  Well, she looks like me.
Woman:  Does she have a baby in a carrier on her belly?
Gemma:  Yes!  She does!
Woman (pointing): Is that her?
Gemma:  Yes!  Thank you!