Around Here Week Eight: 02/19-2/26

Friday, February 26, 2016

A weekly review of what it is like to live in our home right this minute.

Intentional Hours Outside:  13.45 hours (out of 1000)
Woohoo!  We had absolutely beautiful weather last weekend and we spent a ton of time outside just soaking in the fake spring weather.  While the weather was warm, we all headed outside and got the trampoline all put back together and the kids were thrilled to get in some jumping time again.  We had a few pick up games outside (football, soccer, and keep away) and they even were running around in barefeet! As the weather started to cool off again though, we still made a point to get outside and rode quads at Gigi and Pappys house, and I miraculously remembered to charge the kids' jeep and the girls had fun driving all over the yard and exploring the tree line despite the chilly temps. 

Reading:  A Man Called Ove with our book club (still loving it), and still slowly sipping Dear Mr. You and still loving it so much.  In spare moments, I'm slowly chipping away at Buddhism for Mothers: A Calm Approach to Caring for Yourself and Your Children and it is almost like a bit of meditation.  I always walk away from the readings feeling lighter and more intentional in my parenting.  (it's also on my 100 small things list!) 

Celebrating our Gemmi Rose's fourth birthday.  She was a big helper on Friday getting ready for her movie star make-up party.  We had a great turn out and lots of fun at the various makeover stations followed by a dance party and photo booth.  Gemma loved being the star of the show and took it upon herself to pass out everyone's dinner plates and napkins.  We are so blessed to have so many people share our kids' birthdays with us and celebrate their lives.  I always get so choked up at the birthday song and candle moment, but I try to hold it together.  THEN she got her ears pierced!  Brandon was probably more nervous than her, she did a great job and there were no tears!  

Cheering on Grey at his indoor soccer game on Saturday morning.  Grey was so proud to play and the girls loved clapping and shouting out for their brother and his teammates.  My dad is one of the assistant coaches and it makes me happy to see their shared enthusiasm for the sport and for the time they spend together. 

Surprised on Saturday afternoon when we walked into my parents' house expecting a small lunch with my parents and sisters, to discover that we were in the middle of a surprise baby boy sprinkle.  My sisters put it all together and we were completely blindsided and so happy.  Brandon's parents, Mimi, and Studerbaby4's godparents, our dear friends Taryn and Matt, and their baby girl Claire were all there to celebrate too.  We had a little cake for Gemma's birthday and opened some gifts and I could not get over the little boy clothes!  It's been so much girl, pink, tulle, and glitter over here for so long that seeing all the blue and boy stuff really got me feeling so excited about having another little guy around here.  It was such a wonderful and unexpected surprise!

Making little moments big as we said farewell to my sister on her way back home on Sunday night.  Granted, she was only headed back to Pittsburgh and we'll see her sometime soon, but we made it an event by taking the kids down to the train station to see her off.  They were very excited to watch the trains come and go and we all waved goodbye in full on SCF obnoxious fashion as she pulled away.  We were all giggling and it was a weird little magical moment at the end of a busy weekend.

Feeling proud of one of our family friends, Taylor, a high school senior and amazing basketball player.  She's such a good person and excellent role model for our kids.  Their team unfortunately didn't win on Tuesday, but they were able to pull out a win at their game last night and are now headed to the State playoffs!  Go Taylor and the CC girls' basketball team!!

Enjoying a little grown up time last night at Brandon's work winter party at Seven Springs.  We dropped the kids at Brandon's parents' house and  we were able to arrive early enough that I got to take a long hot, uninterrupted (!), shower before heading down for a delicious meal (that I didn't make and I got to eat while it was still hot!).  We got to mingle and have adult conversations before we headed back late last night to grab the kids at 12:30am (!!!Thank you Gigi!!) so that Grey could get on the bus this morning for school.  We're a little tired today, but still definitely worth it! 

Baking my favorite cookies:  Chocolate Chip Walnut cookies and finishing off the last of Gemma's birthday cupcakes and the no-bakes that Mimi brought to the party.  It was a big dessert week in our house (hah!) And seeing the truth to what my Aunt once told me, 'you have to host a party occasionally at your home if only to remind you to get some stuff cleaned up and cleared out!' Because of Gem's party, our dining room table (our regular 'catch all area') has been cleared all week and we had Taco night dinner there this week.  The kids helped set and clear the table and it gave normal family dinner a little extra something.  (to eat at the dining table at least once a week is another of my 100 small things list!)

embracing winter

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

I've lived in the northeast all my life, so imaging a life that didn't include all four seasons feels like it would be missing something.  But that doesn't mean I don't whine and complain about all the crappy parts of winter; the cold, the slush, and the cold, slushy, wet little kid boots that track melted snow all through the house.  Mittens that fall off little hands, socks that slip down halfway off of little feet that lead to so much whining.  The wind!

I read a really great post that Ashley shared about the Norwegian's Secret to enjoying their long winters and I can't stop thinking about it.  It's not so much that I hate winter, but in cold places like we live, it's natural conversation for small talk to complain about all things cold.  And I can hear myself complaining about it within earshot of the kids and I've been wondering how that's rubbing off on them, especially after reading the article.

Like most kids, they love seeing the snow and sled-riding and eating snow by the handfuls, but is my short patience about winter raising them up to think that winter is something to endure instead of something to enjoy?  Deep inside, I know I don't want to live without all four seasons, and so I'm trying my very best to live and talk like that's how I feel.

Mostly due to one of my 100 Small Things goal this year of reaching 1000 hours outside, I have been adamant about taking the efforts to go outside if the temps are above 25 degrees, if only for a few minutes.  The weather has really been inconsistent this winter for us, so we've had freezing days that we had to stare longingly outside, to days that were in the low fifties (that we even pulled out the bikes and the kids got in some trampoline time!)

I loved that in the article in Norway they say, 'there's no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing!' and I've been keeping that held close to my heart when I don't feel like bundling them up and getting outside when the fresh air and wide open spaces are the exact thing that will make us all feel better.

We are also trying to embrace the coziness of the winter by snuggling up and leaning into some chilly favorites like warm blankets, candles, and lots of hot cocoa.  We've been baking a weekly dessert (is the motivation winter or pregnancy, it's hard to tell) and it gives the kids a chance to get their little hands on measuring tools and cookie dough spoons to lick clean!   

Wintertime also means, it appears, earlier bedtime routines, the kids put on their jammies and we all head up to their bedrooms to read extra books and snuggle awhile, sometimes even taking homework up to finish on the bedroom floor with snacks before bed.  Surrounded by the coziness of their blankets and the little lamp, there's something incredibly cozy about this time when in great contrast in the winter, the kids are barely making it into their jammies until well after the sun goes down and with dirty barefeet from running through the yard until almost 10pm!  

One of my favorite ways that we try to embrace winter is by celebrating all the mini-holidays throughout the cold, winter months.  We try to hit up as many winter holidays as possible to bring some joy and bursts of excitement into the long months.  This year, we've celebrated Orthodox Christmas, Martin Luther King Jr.'s bday, Groundhog's day, Lunar New Year, Mardi Gras, President's day, Valentines day, and Gemma's fourth birthday.  We are now awaiting Violet's half birthday (March 25!) and St. Patrick's day (Greyson is already drawing up his leprechaun traps, ha).

We've even celebrated National Popcorn day, Thank-a-Mail-Delivery person day, and howling at the February Full Moon; aka the Snow Moon.  We have our Lenten countdown calendar posted for the kid's to color each morning and we slowly decorate for the next big holidays by creating little crafts (thanks pinterest) weekly.  Just little ways to bring surprise and newness to our winter days seems to bring a special kind of magic to the season.  Spring, summer, and fall somehow feel like a celebration in an of itself with all the opportunities for exploring and outdoor activities.  So winter gets its own kind of attention with all of our little parities.

Here in western Pennsylvania, no matter what the Groundhog has said, we still have at least a month or two of winter left to go.  I bought the kids' their Easter clothes yesterday while we were out and about (matching dresses for the girls, obviously!) and they've been stored away in my closet as a reminder that spring is on its inevitable way - both as a hopeful reminder and as a reminder to hold tight to winter while it's still here.  Hold tight to the coziness and closeness that naturally comes with winter.

Do you settle in and cozy up for the season?  What are some your favorite winter perks?

Around Here Week Seven: 02/12-02/19

Friday, February 19, 2016

A weekly review of what it's like to live in our home right this second.

Intentional Hours Outside: 9.71 hours (of 1000)
Imagine my letdown when calculating my minutes this week to discover that I still haven't pushed past the 10 hour mark.  Polar Vortex, people.  I got out only two days this week and even then it was still below 20degrees.  ugh.  anxiously awaiting the temp to rise above 32, I need some serious time outside..and not just to make up hours - but because I need the space and the air and the freedom.  as do the kids and the dogs...big time.

Reading:  A Man Called Ove with the Inspired Readers book club and really falling in love with the story.  It's a shock at first because it felt like the main character was so brash and so not my style in the first chapter or so, but you get small peeks into who he is and why and his backstory and suddenly you just want to hug him.  Also, still in slow sips reading Dear Mr. You - it's one you have to take a break between each chapter as it sort of taps into a deep part of my soul and I need to let it settle before going in for another letter.  Listening to Tell the Wolves I'm home on audible while outside, which was barely this week (!)

Cherishing family for Valentines day and enjoying a slow, easy heart-shaped cinnamon roll breakfast on Sunday since CCD was cancelled due to the super freezing temperatures.  Daddy had brought home a bouquet of roses for each of his girls and Gemma about flipped her lid, and they looked beautiful at our Valentines breakfast table.  The kids spent a big part of the day with my parents at an indoor playground which was the greatest day ever for them and while Brandon had basketball practice I got to hang out with my baby sis watching the TWD marathon and talking wedding (ha! perfect combo).  We closed out the night with an extended bedtime of books and then finished a movie with Brandon AND The Walking Dead season premiere.  so basically, it was perfect.

Closing out basketball season this week.  The team had a playoff game on Monday night and it was such a great game and came down to the last few minutes.  It was such a bittersweet ending, so heartbreaking to see the boys sad to see the end of their season (especially the seniors) but also a relief to know that we'll have Daddy back on regular programming moving forward.  At 24 weeks pregnant and being able to see my toes less and less by the day, I could use the extra facetime and help from that handsome guy.  Gemma held a mini conference with her favorite senior after the game, she called him over (with her legs crossed all grown up girl, of course) and said, 'why were you crying after you lost? Didn't you hear me cheering for you?' and sweetly laughed and gave her attention like she was the most important thing in his teenage life right now and it was the perfect image of exactly why we so fully support Daddy's coaching high school basketball.  Those student athletes, basketball players and cheerleaders alike, are role models to our children of what it means to be a teenager that we can be proud of.   thank you, blue jays.

Feeling nest-y this week with studerbaby4.  I combed through all our girl handmedowns for our new cousin baby Brooke and was at first worried that I would feel sad to let go of the girl clothes considering that we're pretty certain this babe is our last babe.  But, surprisingly as I packed them all up, I mostly didn't.  There were a few little outfits that I stashed away in hopes that my sisters' daughters will someday get, but about 90% of the clothes were packed up and dropped off with Brookie and it actually felt amazing.  Packing up the baby clothes also led me to dive into the beginning stages of figuring out bedroom arrangements for post-baby (exciting!) and although we're not doing anything quite yet, I'm starting to see it now in my mind and map it all out.

Enjoying a snow day (more like a freeze day; not snow but cold temps that caused the cancellation!) We stayed in and invited our cousin Gracie over for a playday!  The three big ones played so nicely together all day, it was a super productive day for me!  It was so nice to turn an already special day (no school!) into even more special because of Gracie!

Faceswapping with the kids and Greyson and I were laughing so hard we almost peed our pants.

Preparing for a birthday party tonight!  OMG you guys, it's a make up party for our Gemma Rose.  She was all hyped up on excitement last night so Brandon and I were each up with her separately in the middle of the night trying to coax her back into sleep as she was all kid-on-Christmas-eve'ing it with anticipation.  We have cupcakes to make today, and cleaning to do, and make-up station setting up to prepare.  It's going to be a long one, but also an awesome one.

Making right now muffins for breakfast and they smell so good (they're from a bag and I just added milk, so don't go thinking I'm super mom or something).  We have glitter cupcakes on the agenda for today(party!), and we made chocolate chip cookie cake this week which went in seriously a matter of seconds - so yum.  I tried to make Long Boy Burgers last night and boy, she wasn't kidding when she said if you leave any bread un-meated that it would burn.  I ate some, but put the rest of the batch in as a meatloaf.  Two big hits this week for dinner with the kids (YAY!), we had Chicken and Gravy in the slow cooker over mashed potatoes and we all love Ranch Porkchops (just baked breaded porkchops that have a packet of dry Ranch mixed in before you shake 'em).

Gemma Rose at four years old

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Dear Gemmi Ro,

at four years old, you are the pixie dust to our lives.  it's as if we can see an actual sparkling trail you leave as you twirl, skip, flitter, and float about the house, the way you move sometimes, it appears maybe you do have little fluttering, invisible fairy wings that keep you hovering a few inches off of the floor...

...or maybe those are your high heels that you proudly click about the house pretending to be a 'grown up' with your painted fingernails and smudged on lipstick talking about how you and Daddy are getting married.  Goodness, do you love your Dad.   You ask him to dance and buy you gummy bears and daily pick out his morning suit and tie.  I look at you two with giggles and send out little prayers to the days when you're fifteen and you're breaking his poor little heart into a million pieces.

You are our family snuggle master, always ready to squeeze into tiny spaces on the couch next to anyone and share their air.  You have no preferences as to who you are sitting with - me, Dad, your brother or sister or our pets.  You're always pulling over the blankies and getting 'all snugly and cozy.'

I call you my shadow and have to remind you about twenty times a day that sometimes mommas need space.  I can't turn around without bumping into you.  You are very helpful and so eager to do things independently.  You've mastered feeding the dogs and getting them water from the bathroom sink.  You like making your own waffles, using butter knives and scissors, and making scribble notes in notebooks that you leave all over the house claiming that it's your work.

And girlfriend, can you ever talk.  From the moment you wake up until the moment you finally close your eyes, you have so much to say.  The stories and questions are endless and Dad and I find ourselves repeating (especially at mealtimes), 'Gemmi, please be quiet for a couple minutes." The other day at lunch I said, "Gemmi, why are you talking all the time?" to which you answered, "I love to talk Mum. And eating.  And snuggling.  So if we could eat lunch on the couch with a blankie and talk too.  That's like the best day ever in my whole life."

Talking about getting bigger and being a grown up is some of your favorite discussions.  You can't wait to drive a car and have a purse and buy stuff and be a mommy, and, obviously, marry Daddy.  But if somehow that conversation leads to ME being older (ie. your kids' grandma) then you half yell, half cry telling me that it will NOT be like that because 'you're NEVER getting old mom! and i'm never living in a different house and i don't want to talk about this ever again!" thank you, my sweet four year old gemmi ro...i will hold on to you saying this when you are eighteen and counting down the days until you get to move away.

You currently have your first bonafide crush of your life.  I'm counting it as legit because occasionally you'll completely out of the blue, wonder aloud if he's thinking about you and send little whispered wishes out into the universe that he'll come to rescue you when you're in danger.  by the way, your crush is the fairy prince Cornelius from the animated movie Thumbelina.  this has been going on for three weeks.

We were listening to the music channel on tv yesterday, having a good ole fashion, no holds barred dance party, when 'Sorry' came on and you caught sight of the picture of Justin Beiber and whipped your head around to me with big round eyes.  I burst out laughing immediately, recognizing this face as my own tween self and said, "what?" to which you pretend fainted onto the ottoman saying dramatically, "He's SO handsome!"  Good Lord, do we have trouble coming.

At four years old, we are already catching glimpses of tween Gemma, in all your hair obsessed ('does my hair look crazy'), best friend jealousy ('I don't want her to play with anyone else but me!') and i-want-a-boyfriend talk.  This week, you've even pulled out the line - 'You're ruining my life!' even though you don't quite understand the gravity of the statement but you definitely know that it means someone (me) is doing something you really don't like (asking you to clean up the mess in your room).  Your current favorites movies/shows are Thumbelina (um, hello Cornelius), Teen Beach Movie 2, Disney Descendants, Princess Sophia, and Barbie Life in the Dreamhouse.  You've requested a 'make-up' party for your birthday, so we're doing movie star make-overs with a photo booth, you are over the moon about the three new lipsticks and the glitter cupcake icing you got to select for the party.

Gem, you have this life that bubbles up and out of you in the brightest and most honest way.  You act out tenderly and maternally to anything smaller than you, mimicking me as you push back Violet's hair, kiss her on top of her head and whisper, 'you're a good baby.'  You make up the words to books and little songs that mostly include words like:  lovely, fantastic, and magical.

You love to have us watch you doing your made up dances and gymnastics routines, your pretend songs and dramatic reenactments of your favorite love stories, but only us.  Right now it is only reserved for immediate family as you suffer from severe stage fright if you know people are watching you, going so far as to break down into tears.  You demand a spotlight, baby, but I'm kind of glad that you just want to share your full sparkling spirit with us for now.

You are truly like a little pixie with your long eyelashes and your xylophone voice, and your rotating wardrobe of mainly dresses (the twirlier the better!).  You can't be bothered with whether you know the right words for your lip sync routine, or if you know what letter is called what, or what the rules to any game is.  You only care if everyone is smiling and if there is 'hot gum' for you, and if everyone is being family and hugging and if we can please talk some more and be happy together.

Oh, gemmi, you are so much like me and also so very different from me.  it's like I know all the words to the song, but the melody is different; which makes it both so beautiful and mystifying to watch you grow.

Roey, girl.  we are so very proud of you.
i love you forever and ever.
even when you keep getting so big,

a grateful heart

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

when I pray, I always include this plea, "help me to live each day of my beautiful life with a grateful heart, even when it feels difficult and frustrating.  help me remember to be thankful each moment."

it's easy to have a grateful heart when, in those rare moments, everything is going smoothly, like the other day when our whole family was awake uncharacteristically early for church and I had time to get the girls in the bathtub while I sipped coffee and gently rubbed my baby bump and Greyson and Brandon played basketball in the kids' room.  my heart whispered out, 'how lucky to be in this warm house while the outside is so cold with my three kids all perfectly content and all of us under this one roof and in no hurry right at this moment.'

sometimes a reminder to be grateful comes in the tiny hands reaching for mine, and the 'you're the best mom ever! thank you for letting me use the glue!' shouts of glee, the full on tackle hug I still get at the bus stop at afternoon pickup, and the welcome home kiss from my husband.  No matter what the day has brought, these little sparks of pure love stop my heart in its tracks for a moment to recognize, 'this is your perfect.'

often times, i have to dislodge it from my throat and try to choke the gratitude down in the difficult moments that make up a mother's day raising very young kids.  the messes that are twice the size of their bodies (we're raising creative and imaginative humans), the mealtime whining (we are lucky to not know what it means to really be hungry), the bedtime negotiations (they still need and want me around), the keys that are missing because he doesn't put them back where they go (we said for better or worse and he gets his fair share of my worst).

i try my best to extend a grateful heart to all the conveniences that we have and so many do not.  i whisper to myself in moments that feel frustrating, 'first world problems, tab.' and i remember to take a grateful breath.  so, i flip on the spigot and send a thank you for immediate clean water.  i send a thank you out to the 'hide' button on facebook when my newsfeed becomes particularly disheartening.  i thank the electricity for my nuked coffee for the third time today, for the food in the deep freezer, for the internet and the connections that it gives me to people i don't get to see everyday (or ever!),  for laundry baskets of clothes that, alas, need folded but are in fact clean.  my gratitude for certain luxuries i used to take for granted before becoming a mum that now are almost extolled in a ludicrous amount like an uninterrupted hot shower, and clean bed sheets, forgotten chocolate discovered on a difficult afternoon.

i try to look at the people that surround me and my family with a full and grateful heart. there are people who love us despite all of our flaws and frustrating habits.  people who answer our calls in the midnight hour of need.  those who show up, no questions when we are celebrating and when we are mourning.  we have people in our lives who bring practical help and a hand extended.  strangers that show up at just the right moment and offer help or advice just as we realize we need it.  people who give us nothing more than patience as we learn and grow and figure our way through this life.

and i extend my grateful heart to myself  when its difficult to be a part of a world in which it feels like so many other people are ungrateful or at the very least, unaware of the opportunities in which to be grateful.  i am in charge of me, i am in charge of my own reactions and emotions.  despite all else, i can find a way to go on with a grateful heart in this small little area that i occupy in the great big space and time of history.

when i'm feeling particularly gloomy or in a rut, i know that the first step to feeling right again is to dig deep in gratitude.  to take stock of this one, precious, beautiful life as it is right in this moment and I can put one foot in front of the other; feeling lighter and more joyful with each step.

Around Here Week Six: 02/05-02/12

Friday, February 12, 2016

A weekly review of what it is like to live in our home right this minute.

Intentional Hours Outside:  9.18 hours (of 1000)
I just said to Brandon, how many hours would you consider lame at this point in my goal? He said, 'I don't know, probably less than ten?' waaaaah.  I agree.  Less than ten feels definitely lame at this point after six weeks, but as Bud always said, 'what are you supposed to do when it's less than ten degrees outside?' which it has been for half of this week.  So, I'm getting out when it's 15 degrees or above and still plugging away at the goal....anxiously awaiting higher temps.

Reading Dear Mr. You and still cherishing it slowly.  Also listening to Tell the Wolves I'm home on audible and just started our next Inspired Readers Book Club choice: A Man Named Ove to be ready for discussion on Monday!

Recognizing that sometimes you have those weeks that while you're searching for the tv remote behind the couch cushions and you grab a handful of questionable items covered in dog hair and snack crumbs, you just shove it back down in there while ashamedly thinking, 'no, I can't take care of that right now.'  It was one of those kinds of weeks...okay fine, that actually happened this week.

Celebrating so many mini-holidays this week!  I'ts part of our favorite bits of the winter season, but the holidays were all stacked up in this one week!  We hung paper lanterns and enjoyed homemade fried rice for Lunar New Year on Monday (year of the Monkey!), then ate Kings Cake for breakfast and the girls made cereal snack necklaces in green, yellow, and gold for Mardi Gras on Tuesday.  By Wednesday, we pulled out our Lenten countdown calendars for the kids to color while we await Easter and the kids finished up their Valentines for the friends at school and gymnastics this week too.  Whew, it's might be kind of boring now through the winter weeks that we knocked those all out this week, hah!

Feeling like a part of the fake society The Secret Lives of Coaches' Wives as we prepared for senior night on Wednesday.  There were the senior day programs that needed created, printed, and folded.  The gift bags that needed final purchases and packed - including Gemma on my shoulders to reach the water bottles on the top shelf at Dunhams (hah!), we needed nine of them and the cashier was giving me confused glances until I finally said, 'senior night! we have nine this year on the team!'  Senior night went well and is the official herald of nearly the end of the season which is bittersweet because we love the team, but we are all about ready to have Daddy back on a regular schedule!

Meeting our new baby cousin Brooke and giving her so many snuggles.  It's crazy how you don't remember how teeny babies are at the very beginning.  I just had a newborn only 16 months ago, and I then I saw Brooke and held her and was shocked.  How?  How do mommas forget how tiny and precious and sweet-smelling those newborns are so quickly.  It was touch-and-go there for a few minutes as to whether or not I was just going to straight up kidnap that baby and keep her forever (haha, only half kidding Taush!) but seriously, Gemmi and I were over the moon about baby Brooke and both held her twice in the forty five minutes that we spent visiting and dropping off some dinner for our cousins - a family of six now!!

Not missing our toys (and the mess that went with them) that I stashed away a few weeks ago, still!  We do have a few items out (sports balls, a babydoll or two, and plenty of books), so the kids have been playing chase and fixing up fake dinner with our pots and pans while I cook meals, and lots of coloring and drawing.  Maybe those toys will never return, mwhahhaha.

Relieved that I can feel our fourth little baby swimming about in my ever growing belly (yep, fourth baby belly at 23 weeks that looks like I'm eight months pregnant- hah!) We also had a regular check up this month and all is going well in there and as expected.  I'm in the auto-pilot phase at this point, but still battling feeling worn out throughout the day.  Also, still very hungry until about 5p when the full blown heartburn kicks in.  Gemma has been talking so much about our new brother and asking always if I'm going to cry when I get him out.  This week, she put a babydoll under her shirt and wanted to have a fifteen minute chat about our pregnancies together.  I mean, that girl is outrageous in all the ways.