April Meal Planning

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Another month is nearly upon us and I am in the mood to pretend that spring and warm weather is really here to stay (...and that there's no snow in April's forecast, bleh.)  So, I boosted April's meal plans with some serious grill time.  Nothing says nice weather like grilled food, amirite?  And the grill also means Daddy dinner because that's' his little kingdom back there with his tongs in hand.  (True story: once I tried to grill burgers and burnt them so much that they could have been mistaken for actual charcoal nuggets.  To this day, I have yet to live down my 'burger brickettes' with Brandon). 

As the size of my baby bump gets bigger, the kids seem to be testing their limits on how long it takes for their whines about dinner until I finally cave and tell them they don't have to eat whatever I made.  (hint: it's not very long because at dinnertime, 8months pregnant mom has very little energy for mealtime complaining).  Luckily, we have had plenty of leftovers so their option is either eat what I made tonight, or eat what I made last night (HAH!)  

And with the insane amounts of Easter candy we have stockpiled since last week, a little dangling of the 'Easter candy is for dessert' prize seems to be enough to encourage them to try a little harder at eating what's on their plates for dinner...I'm not above bribery occasionally;) 

What do you have in your sights for the month of April? 


T: grilled pork loin & grilled cabbage
F (Greyson's 6th birthday & party!):  soccer cupcakes for sure.  And dinner is yet to be determined by the birthday boy!  He's told us he's trying to decide between a build-your-own-sandwich bar, hot dogs, or pizza - hahha!)

M: Meatloaf
R: grilled steaks, baked potatoes, & grilled veggies
F (Fishmas Eve!): frozen pizza & salad

W: Out to dinner for a family birthday :)
F (earth day!):  chicken salad wraps & Gigi's macaroni salad for an outdoor picnic
Earth day afternoon snack:  pretzels trees

M: St. Gregory's Chicken (our church's recipe!)
T:  Asian pork chops & fried rice

Violet at 18months

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Our Violet girl.
She sure is something.  She had her 18month birthday last week and it's hard to believe that girl is growing into a real life kid already.  I'm so grateful to still give kisses on those sweet baby cheeks, and admire those thick baby wrists, and giggle at that always full belly pushing out her tshirts. There's still a lot of baby left in our toddler, but we can sadly already see it slipping away day by day.

She is an easy going little thing as she's been hauled about to all of our family activities and events without any choice since she was born, especially since it was just a few months before the mayhem of basketball season.  She likes waving and saying 'hi' to strangers and has her little signature move with her shoulders up, wrinkled nose, and cheesy grin.  She is pretty cuddly, but only when she wants to be.  She'll climb up in our arms, or reach up saying "old you" and lay completely boneless with her chin over our shoulder and her limbs draped around us; dead weight.

Now that she can walk, run, jump, and climb - she loves being outside.  It gives her the kind of freedom and independence that she craves and she plays happily alone for incredible amounts of time.  She loves to play rough and tease her siblings because they generally let her get away with everything.

She's talking up a storm these days and although we are the only ones who can really understand what she's saying consistently, her vocabulary bank and the clarity of her words is improving daily. My favorites of hers right now are: poush (push), hoise (horse), buddies (birdies), and chicky (our dog Trixie).  She isn't interested in television yet, and will sit for only one youtube video of an arctic wolf howling.  She still loves drinking a bubba before she sleeps (!) and likes taking baths, brushing her teeth, playing chase with Grey, Gemma, or Lulu our cat, and giving the dogs bones and her food from her plate.

Her little rebel streak is gaining momentum and I watch with both trepidation and pride as she purposefully acts out in sneaky, little naughty ways.  As the third born, her older siblings are always encouraging her to do the things that they won't do for fear of consequences.

Their little interactions play out in such a familiar way to me, as my sister and I encouraged our third born sister in just the same way.  We tried to get her to do things out of our own curiosity to see how it would play out, but also because we knew (or assumed), as the two older, physically stronger, and more experienced sisters - we'd be able to fix it or get her out of whatever might come - whether it have been a punishment from our parents or her imminent physical danger.

I can already see how this is contributing to Violet's personality in little hints as she marches fearlessly through toddlerhood.  She is brave and confident but also knows that with the slightest squeak or pouted lip, someone will arrive at her rescue.  She has a confidence that is backed by the laughter and cheers of her siblings. All of these things remind me in a lot of ways of my baby sis, and if our Violet grows up to be like her, that won't be such bad thing at all.

There's something about her that can't be quantified into words, or caught in a photo.  Sure, she fits all the adjectives people have said about her, 'beautiful, smart, brave, fearless, strong,' but with a drop of something odd and unique added into the definition.  She's all of those things, but not any one of them bluntly. She's something else, something I don't quite have the words for.  Something 'other' that maybe will reveal and name itself as she grows, but for now - she's simply our Violet.  She brings joy, and silliness, and brightness into our life every single day.

we love you, our Violet Mary girl.
even when you get so big.
forever. and ever.

Around Here Twelve: 03/18-03/25

Friday, March 25, 2016

A glimpse of what it looks like to live in our house right this minute.


Intentional Hours Outside:  42 hours (of 1000)
With a slow start to the official first day of spring (it was snowing here!), we have warmed up this week in weather, even reaching into 70 degrees yesterday where we spent the longest amount of time outside yet this year (5 and a half hours!)  I'm upping my outdoor game too by trying to get both dogs on a walk at least three times a week and the kids are loving the freedom of outdoor exploration (especially Violet) and the snacking and picnicking outside too.  I'm working on an official outdoor post soon, but I can feel how this goal is effecting me in all the ways and I'm really appreciating this challenge this year.  Hoping to break 70+ hours before the end of next week(!)
Bonus: no new ticks this week!  so our total still stands at 3

Reading Better Than Before with our book club and The More of Less by Joshua Becker.

Painting nails with the girls this week.  We've been on a little nailpolish kick and Violet is so funny about it, being so proud and showing them off to everyone.  She'll mosey over to me, hold out a bottle and plop down in my lap.  Her favorite part is when Gemma and I blow on her nails afterwards which makes her laugh.  Gemmi loves to be the painter and is happy to paint my nails on the daily and with her little kid nail polish, that's actually necessary as it comes right off in the shower.  These moments are what my girlmom dreams were made of when I was young and daydreaming about my future life with Brandon.  Sometimes the realization of those doodles coming true is enough to knock the wind out of me.  How I wish sometimes I could chat with 17 year old me.

Kissing bumps and bruises this week! With spring brings a major increase in booboos over here.  Violet went too fast over the concrete step with her kid push mower and hit the cement nose first leaving her with a brushed burned nose and bruised forehead for half the week.  Gemma fell approximately 600 times and has the cut, black and blue, and scraped knees to prove it.  And while Greyson was looking in the outdoor toybox yesterday, the wind blew the lid down hard on his forehead and it immediately swelled up and turned into a bright pink quarter-sized circle at the bridge of his nose.  Easter photos, here come the Studers!

Celebrating that I passed my one hour glucose test!  Violet's was the only one that I failed (and then passed the three hour) but after having to do the three hour last time, I was really hoping to not have to do that again.  Who has three hours to blow?  Definitely not me, so I was really relieved that all went well, labs done, Rhogam shot done, and Studerbaby4 is ninja kicking and growing in there great.  Our entrance into the last trimester has been a steady one and I need to keep looking at the calendar to remind myself that preparations for this little man should probably get started anytime now.  HAH.  I'm finding myself saying things like, 'well after Easter,' or 'Grey's birthday party in two weeks and THEN we'll get moving,' Who knows, I might wait until that natural nesting instinct kicks in and try to do everything at once!

Enjoying some extra time with Greyson this week as his Easter break is five days long!  Although, as is custom in our family it seems when a holiday rolls around, the kids get hit with a sickness.  It appears the croup has settled in for all three of them.  It's mostly just annoying (and sounds terrible) but they are all still in good spirits and playing like normal.  So cough drops and warm tea and some nighttime medicine it is to get us through the busy weekend!

Dropping the truck off at the shop to finally get the power steering pump replaced.  Although that means we are down to a one car family for the next few days...which my pregnancy brain completely forgot when yesterday I was texting our cousin for a playdate at the playground, and it wasn't until I had the diaper bag packed, the kids all dressed and we were heading out to get in carseats (!!) before I realized, 'oh wait, we don't have the truck.' goodness, i miss my brain.

Making Easter colored sugar cookie sandwiches inspired by these cookies (but I cheated and used pre-made sugar cookie mix from a bag).  We had sort of a homerun week in meals with Slow cooker cream cheese taquitos,  an Alfredo kielbasa bake that Brandon and I loved it and the whole family enjoyed Slow cooker BBQ pork chops and roasted potatoes last night for dinner.

writer's block means personal survey time!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

extreme writer's block of here.  so sorry.  here's a survey because it's the best i got today.  xxoxxo

my middle name Irene was my grandmother's name (my mother's mother)

Last week

yes!  it's a mix of print and cursive and truthfully has become more sloppy as I've aged, but I still like it and think it's pretty.

my bologna has a first name it's OSCAR

Yes, three and another due this June!

I think so, yeesh, i hope so.

not really.  I think it's so easy for others to misunderstand and I always feel worried that I hurt someone's feelings after I leave a conversation anyway.

no!  my sister Tasha and I got them removed on the same day, hahha, our poor mom and dad had to take care of both of us

I think so.  It would have been a definite YES before I became a momma.  Now I find myself hesitating for a few seconds before answering on things that could potentially be dangerous.  with our babies depending on me, my reflex is to lean toward slightly safer activities.

Special K red berries.  or Life.  or let's be serious, Lucky Charms

no.  efficiency, man.

emotionally, mentally, spiritually? yes, but always interested in pushing myself to bigger, brighter, and higher heights within these categories.
physically? kind of.  I can carry a kid on my shoulders and one in a front carrier while holding two 90lb dogs' leashes...so yeah.  but holding dry wall over my head makes me want to die.  or a chin up, you've got to be kidding me, I can't even do one. 

boring vanilla cone with sprinkles.  this girl won't pass up a hot fudge sundae though either.

their posture


I like things how I like things, so it's annoying to me when things aren't how I prefer or how I think they are done 'best.'  Exhibit A:  loading the dishwasher

gosh, I miss my grandparents every single day.  It is ten years now for two of my grandparents passing, 6 years for my namesake grandmother, and one year for my grandfather...and still to this day, sometimes I go to pick up the phone to call them to ask them a question or tell them something funny.  I don't understand a lot about time, but I do know that when love is the frame to time; it becomes something you can't measure in standard ways.

Yes! I have four tattoos and would like to get a 3/4 sleeve tattoo on my left arm.  we shall see..

do i ever!  I like to read, write, photograph, create family yearbooks, go on walks/jogs with our dogs, volunteer, and make plans and to do lists.

none.  i'm barefoot, like almost always.  also, i hate socks.

a pb&j, lemonade, and cool ranch doritos.  i'm 29 weeks pregnant, so i'm not kidding I could eat like three hamburgers right now, a large fry, and like half a chocolate cake.  HAH.

Gemma talking in her imagination game of being a girl at her office working hard (she's typing on a broken laptop) and Law & Order SVU marathon on tv (I've seen this episode like four times but still won't change it.  I like to pretend that Benson and Stabler are my real friends).


Brandon's neck, bacon cooking, newborns, baby shampoo, fresh cut grass, summer wind, and pine trees


oooh, so hard to choose.  to be our home that we live every single day? mountain hideaway.  but if we're talking vacation than beach house.  I love the beach, but I love the seasons and varying weather more.

American football on tv, basketball and volleyball in real life.

dirty blonde


No, but I really should.

pizza.  i'm a child.  I could eat pizza everyday.  I also love zucchini, asparagus, and build-me-own salads at Hoss's.  also, chocolate, all the chocolate.

happy endings.  Rom Coms make me feel smiley and mushy inside.

Before We Go (it's on Netflix right now).  It was sweet.

Brandon's white v-neck tshirt.

all the seasons!  right now because we are just finishing winter, I'm looking forward to summer.  but I also love winter and spring.  and Fall is my favorite of all of them.


it's just so hard to choose, i love chocolate and dessert so much, but walnut chocolate chip cookies tend to never fail me.



Better than Before by Gretchen Rubin and The More of Less by Joshua Becker and listening to Tell the Wolves I'm Home on audible. 

I'm on a laptop, silly.

rain, thunderstorms, the rhythm of our children's breath after they've fallen asleep, country music on the car radio when the windows are down in the summer, windchimes, the song of the mourning dove

a love of the rolling stones are in my genetic make-up, but I also can't deny the beatles.  this isn't a very nice question.


making up songs or stories for the kids on the spot.

Johnstown, PA

Johnstown, PA


green (and it's a truck)

nothing! joy of joys.  playing outside with the kids, dinner, a walk with the dogs, The Voice, and reading before bed.  bliss.

Around Here Eleven: 03/11-03/18

Friday, March 18, 2016

A glimpse at what our life looks like just this moment: 

Intentional Hours Outside:  (31.5 hours of 1000)
We did quite a bit of hiking this week as it was so beautifully sunshiny. We headed out for a walk to the 'big rock' of my childhood with my parents, and then the kids were overjoyed to see that our neighbors (two horses and a pony) were finally out this week for the first time.  When we went to see them again another evening, they weren't out so we climbed trees, collected pinecones and ran wild in the fields instead.  Because of my outdoor hours goal, the girls and I were motivated to attend Grey's first outdoor baseball practice on Thursday night where we shivered as we explored the various empty dugouts and added another hour to our weekly count.
...and this week, I can add a new tracking point...

Collective family tick count to date: 3
Gemma, Greyson, and I each had a tick attached this week from being outside. I got a great suggestion on a kid-friendly bug repellent (No Bite Me cream from SallyeAnder) that I'm ordering this afternoon to try to keep us tick and mosquito free as we continue with our outdoor adventures this summer!

Reading our Inspired Readers book club choice for the month Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin and loving it.  I've decided to work on three habits 1) being consistent on a nightly routine and in bed by 11p 2)cleaning clutter and 3)taking time to write for an hour daily.  Still listening to Tell the Wolves I'm Home on audible and finished Dear Mr. You by Mary Louise Parker, it was just wonderful and one that I'll hold on to for my own library to revisit again later.

Learning to make my Mum's enchiladas!  They are so so delicious and one of her signature dishes that was passed down to her from her Aunt Mary.  We spent Tuesday evening at my parents' house where we made enough to eat for dinner and TWO frozen enchiladas meals for after Studerbaby4 arrives!  I also got to check off Number26 on my 100 Small things list!

Supermomma moment this week came from my solo trip to the vet with our two nearing 100lb dogs, a four year old, a 17 month old, and my 28 week pregnant belly.  The vet nurse literally looked at me with panic in her face and asked, 'how are you doing this right now?!' hahahhahaha.  When I have hard tasks to do, I make myself feel better by creating mental lists of all the things that could be worse, like it could have been raining...but it wasn't!  One of the girls (or worse, both) could be sick that day...but they weren't!  Then before I got out of the truck, I gave myself a final confidence boost by whispering, 'if this is the hardest thing you do today, you are blessed.' and it wasn't so so bad, and Gemma was such a big helper girl, and now the dogs are all caught up, and it's d.o.n.e, done.

Being bested by a pesky leprechaun once again this year!  The two big kids set up their trap on Wednesday night which included a spot for the little guy to sit and rest and a place for him to put his gold where a box would fall on the gold and trap it!  But, the leprechaun was too smart for us and tricked us by leaving marshmallow cereal instead!  So not a total loss.

Chugging my glucose drink this week with both girls in tow.  Longest hour of my life.  They weren't too bad really, just a lot of finding things to do.  Since out and about are considered handheld free zones for us (sports games and practices, waiting rooms, restaurants, etc), we did some walking in the halls and they had a little snack, and said hello to about 150 nurses and patients that were walking the halls.  I know it would be so much easier to put an iPad or phone in their hands, but I'm old school and think they need to learn how to deal with boredom on their own (and it's good practice for me too; the dealing with boredom!)

Flabbergasted about Gemma the fashionista who when I asked her to please go upstairs and get dressed, fifteen minutes later had not changed at all and had only color-coded her clothes in the closet.  She also rolled her eyes at me on St. Patrick's day and explained, "Mom! Some people wear green on Patrick's day, but I don't!" I also had to make the statement this week, "Roey, high heels aren't really the best shoe choice for the baseball field, honey." There's a whole lot of drama crammed into that one little girl.

Making for the first time these Cranberry Banana muffins.  We had two mostly brown bananas left and I wanted to make banana-blueberry muffins, but alas no frozen blueberries on hand.  We always have dried cranberries around (they are our favorite salad topping!) and so I tried them out and we all loved the muffins!  We also Irish'ed up our chuck roast on St. Patrick's day by adding sauerkraut and it was a big family hit, one of Violet's favorite meals this week! and for dessert I made Brookies (half brownies, half cookies) and my baking streak of perfection has thus officially ended.  Boo.  I have been whipping up some great desserts and breakfasts as of late, but not with these brookies.  They turned out edible, but certainly not up to snuff on my recent baking and it was a little disappointing, I had high hopes.

Twenty quick and practical tips for raising little kids

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

In my experience as a Mum over the last six years raising three kids (and working on growing our fourth kid), I have scoured the web, highlighted books, and interviewed my family, friends, and other moms about a variety of parenting topics.  The thing is there is no manual for raising kids and it's not because there is a lack of suggestions, but rather there is nothing that works for every kid and every family and every situation.  It's all just a guessing game (hah, sorry kids) until you find something that works for your kid, for your family, and for your specific situation.

Along the way though in my personal journey of mommahood, there have been tips and tricks that have been helpful to me to adopt - things I've heard from the moms I admire, or pinterest, or blogs I read.  I heard about the tip, I tried it, and miraculously it worked!

But sometimes, the trick has had to be adapted to suit us a little better but were definitely inspired by another momma's advice.  It didn't work exactly the same for us, but with a little tweak or by a little inspiration, it has become something that is ours.

And, well, sometimes the tips and tricks simply are born out of trial and error or one of those rare eureka (!) moments.

Today, I'm sharing twenty of my favorite quick and practical tips for raising little kids.  I'm being specific about the age of the kids, because that's where my experience so far has been contained.  These are the quick tricks I use to stay above the daily overwhelming blur that comes with loving and raising and managing a house of wild little ones.

1. a pizza cutter is an excellent tool for plating kids' breakfast foods quickly: pancakes and waffles

2. setting 'screen free zones' is an easy way to stay consistent and vigilant to screen time hours.  (our screen free zones are mornings, cars, and bedtime)

3. somehow kids whine less about eating the meal when it's divided up and put in weird little bowls bento-style, this works especially at lunchtime

4. having a 'hygiene day' (ours is Thursday) means that you at least know for sure the last time the kids' bodies and hair were washed and their nails were trimmed

5. an ice cream scoop is an excellent tool for quickly filling muffin and cupcake tins and filling it half way is a great way to put raw cookie dough to the pan for baking!

6. meal planning makes a difference in both the financial sense and the momma-emotional sense

7. the slow cooker is the best invention of all time

8.  a bath can usually turn cranky kids into cheerful kids

9. always pack pajamas in the diaper bag

10. sleep begets sleep in children ...it also seems to work the other way around: not sleeping begets more not sleeping

11. the kids will always find the 'circle' in your house, you can use this to your advantage.  babydoll strollers, cars and trucks, and when they get bigger in the winter, have them run 'laps' while you count them out. (our 'circle' is the hallway, past the kitchen, through the dining room, and back around through the foyer)

12. try baby.sign.language.  even if it's only a few words (we taught our kids: more,all done, play, bath, sleepy, hot, please, thank you, and sorry).

13. nothing cures bad moods like being outside

14. when you go to the park or playground, PACK SNACKS

15. as hard as it can be to swallow, sometimes the quiet and play it brings can justify the mess it makes

16. when a kid hurts another kid, this is the phrase we use:  "I'm sorry, how can I fix it?" and the hurt child can ask for a hug, high five, space to be alone, or a joke.

17. keep an extra toothbrush and toothpaste for the kids in a kitchen cupboard so they can brush after breakfast downstairs when you're running late

18. never underestimate the power of recalling memories with the kids, from when they were babies to even something that happened yesterday.  this is particularly helpful at mealtimes, riding in the car, or passing time in a waiting room.

19.  to learn to put on a coat independently when very young, have kids lay the jacket on the floor, stand above the hood, put their arms in the holes and flip it over their head

20.  when you are unsure of how to answer your kids' questions, a good place to start is by asking them, 'hm, what do you think?' their answer will provide a framework of what they already know and what is appropriate for their current thought processes.

Maybe the most important tip to remember is that even if something works a million times, some days there are no rules or tricks, some days it's just hard and the best thing to remember on those days is that bedtime will come and then you'll get to try again tomorrow.


What are some of your tried and true tips and tricks as a momma?  Please share in the comments, or on your own blog.  We mommas need to stick together and share our best practices either to copy or to be inspired!  xxoxx

Around Here Week Ten: 03/04-03/11

Friday, March 11, 2016

A glimpse at what it looks like to live in our home just this second.

Intentional Hours Outside: 26 hours (of 1000)
Mother Nature shined down this week and offered up some beautiful weather for most days and I was so happy to feel that sunshine on my face, I seriously can't even tell you how much.  The girls and I were generally outside by 9:30a just to get our body moving and some freedom in our life.  When Grey got home most nights he was quick to ask, 'we can play outside today, right?!' and then we spent large parts of the evening on the trampoline or walking around the yard and even made it to one of our favorite parks one night!

Reading to the end a Man Called Ove by Fredrick Bachman with the Inspired Readers Book Club and started our next book Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin (we begin discussing on Monday 3/14, so grab your copy today and join us!) Nearing the end of Dear Mr. You by Mary Louise Parker and just savoring it so so much.  Finished Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover and feeling so energized and excited about our plan moving forward financially.  Liberating!

Moving furniture...basically cardinal rule#1 when you're pregnant of what you're NOT supposed to do, hah.  But I had Brandon doing most of the heavy lifting as the kids spent the day with my parents last Saturday and we had the entire afternoon to move their bedroom furniture around to make for boy and girl bedrooms.  In the boys' room now we have a double bed for Grey (he loves it) and the baby's crib along with a dresser for Grey and the changing table/dresser for baby4.  In the girls room we have the bunk beds (de-bunked) and they are sharing Gem's big dresser.  I still have the closets to switch and organize and the girls are lacking a bookcase as the one that was previously in there straight up died when we tried to move it.  But in small projects, we should be all ready to go by June!  As Brandon declared upon finishing the moving of large items, "Ya see, this house fits six people just fine!"

Tracking my step count!  I finally remembered to charge my fitbit this week (thanks to a reminder from Ashley!) and was motivated to reach 10,000+ steps two days in a row. I need to keep that up because I'm walking in a 5K in two weeks with my friend Stacy! (we will definitely be the slowest participants, but it's about finishing, right?...right?!  hahahha, i can't wait!)

Giggling about Gemma who will not stop telling everyone that she had 'such a fantastic time on a date' with her Daddy.  She went with him to the Duke Andrews (elementary basketball league) banquet this week and was over the moon to be his 'date.'  They had spaghetti and she listened to him say a few words to the basketball players and she thought he was the 'handsomest and nicest' in the whole world.

Breathing in and out slowly to stay calm as I had a very cranky littlest daughter this week.  So very clingy and she wanted held all the time.  She fell asleep in the strangest places as she was really trying to put up a fight about naps, and was such a little soldier of destruction making messes three times her size.

Feeling excited for this little baby brother cooking away in there.  I had a doc appointment this week and that little guy is doing just fine swatting away at me at regular intervals.  The big kids love feeling him kick and Violet doesn't quite get it, but when I ask her what's in my belly she says, "Babeh!" (obviously, there's one in hers too she thinks).  With moving the rooms around and then also getting a huge lot of baby boy handmedown clothes from cousin Tausha (including the ones I gave her from Grey) I am feeling like it's really happening!  hah, I've made it to the third trimester now so it's time to put the green light on for nesting!

Getting over just a crap day on Wednesday.  It wasn't anything major, just a whole bunch of little things all happening at once on top of being hormonal and pregnant.  Thank you all so much for your cyber high fives and support.  We all have days that are just like that, just crap, and it's somehow easier to carry to know you are one of many people who are also having their own version of hard days.

Proud of these funny little kids who keep learning in leaps and bounds.  Being a stay at home mum, I feel like the learning happens so incrementally that it's hard for me to notice because I'm with them all.the.time and it's not until they surprise me with something brand new-never done before that I am startled again by how quick the grow up.  waaaah.  Grey learned the sight word 'said' this week and somehow that feels like it opens a whole can of beans in terms of reading.  Said is like a legit word (he already had like 40+ other words under his belt: can, up, down, he, we, little..) but SAID - that's like an actual book word and has me giddily excited (please excuse the former ESL teacher in me for being a weirdo).  Gemma can do the monkey bars all the way across all by herself! and Violet keeps asking us 'why?' in her tiny high pitched little sweet voice.  I don't think she actually knows what it means, but she does know that when she says it, we keep talking to her.  She also told me this week that 'Bullet' was in her belly and I said, 'what? Bullet?!" and she said, "and Tricky."  and then I laughed for about five minutes straight. how is our 17 month old making up legit jokes already?

Watching Zootopia! The kids and I headed out to the movie theater last night to see it and it was Violet's FIRST movie at the theater.  The movie was awesome from my perspective, Grey and Gem were a little afraid (there's a mystery about why some of the predator animals start going wild and biting/scratching/showing their teeth).  Violet did okay for her first try, but it will be a quite awhile until I take her again (hah).

Making these yummy and quick no-bake energy balls for afternoon snack and these cake-mix cookies because oops I forgot we were out of flour.  We also had 'please make me meatballs', a family favorite over mashed potatoes and one of my favorite casseroles: chicken and zucchini because zucchini is my love language.

the real deal

Thursday, March 10, 2016

yesterday afternoon, the kids were jumping on the trampoline and the sun was setting behind them and it was just too perfect of a photo to not capture it.

but if you knew the truth, i was so so frustrated and just plain mad when i was taking this.  it was just such a hard day, and i had straight up indignation sloshing about in my insides when i took this idyllic photo in time.

so many times when i talk to people (in both real life and through the internet) they confess that they think everything in my life seems so perfect and easy. i believe it's mostly because i have a tendency to try to (borrowing Jack Johnson lyrics) 'take the picture from the pretty side' to remind myself that above all else, i have nearly everything to be grateful for.

but when people, other moms especially, say things like that - it can be frustrating and overwhelming because, I can assure you a thousand times over...it ain't.  every.single.day i reproach myself at one point (or twenty points), "why are you not better at this?!" "this" being a multitude of things ranging from being a mom, to reacting to disappointment, to tackling mess and clutter.

usually days are sprinkled with hard things but mostly seems fairly ordinary with the little magical moments of gratitude that keep my head above water.

but yesterday, no.
it was the fight with my husband followed by uncontrollable hormonal cryfest before he left for work and then the clutter (dear God, the clutter ev.ery.where.i.look.), and the 27 week pregnant belly in my way and makes nearly every activity uncomfortable, and my inability to ask for help, and the vaccine that made my arm muscle so weak and sort of numb, and the four year old who threw a stage5 meltdown at gymnastics after i had a stare down with trixie, our dog, to come in the house so i could load all three kids up in carseats to get them there while the whole of the gymnastics parents watched (or at least it sure feels like that, doesn't it? everyone's watching and waiting to see how your parenting unfolds during public tantrums) and our one year old literally ran out onto the floor and commandeered the gymnastics equipment.  and the dogs got in a fight with each other after barking for thirty minutes at the quad riders in the woods behind the house that i had to break up by throwing rocks at them (honestly, yesterday, sweet Lord.) and the baby wanted held all day, and our five year old talks in a megaphone voice constantly, and i was tired and pregnant and constipated and yet also so hungry, and i had kind of a runny nose which the sneezing only led to peeing my pants a little every single time, and the entire time my inner voice rolls her eyes at me and shouts, "YOU know other people have REAL problems, tabitha!" which instead of making me feel better and grateful makes me feel worse because it's like, seriously "why am i so sad and mad about things that are dumb when my life is beautiful?! i'm the worst."

for reals, you guys.

and i know some of my amazing friends and family are reading this right now calculating in their minds the ways they can reach out to me with kindness and help -and because you have that autoreflex of taking a moment of pause alone: please know that is why we are friends and why i hold you so close to my heart and in my life.

honestly this post is in no way meant to be some kind of cry for help.

me writing this is just a way to get all of this out so that it stops stirring about in my guts and bringing me down, man.  because today isn't nearly like yesterday, but all that yuck is lingering and i need to shed it out of me little by little (warm bath, reading, being outside, and tackling to do list items has each already contributed to combating the blues!)

and this post is also to tell whoever else out there who might be feeling sad and mad but also battling that incredible guilt that comes with holding gratitude in your heart for a beautiful life that really has nothing to be sad and mad about: me too.

so much, me too.

ps. seriously! don't text me or call me or send me food! i love you solely for reading this post and long distance high-fiving me because you too sometimes.


gratitude journaling

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

I have been feeling bleh.
like in a big way.
and really the fastest way for me to start feeling un-bleh is to take account of the things that bring brightness and joy to my days . so here goes.

1. sunshiney days
2. Greyson and his current interest in drawing and writing funny little notes and taping them all over the house.  this kid and tape!
3. Gemma, our resident snuggle master - always up for a hug and a giving us a free hula dance lesson and saying things like, 'hello sweet Violet baby, you look fantastic!'
4. Violet, miss independent, who stomps about with these little hilarious feet and her arm swinging to make her go faster and repeating everything we say, most recently "Hi Babe!"
5. studerbaby4 who gives me swift kicks to remind me to sit the hell down for a second
6. brandon, who works so hard and always remembers to give each of his girls a kiss and a hug before leaving and upon coming home
7. longer days
8. our new tiny laptop that is so lightweight and the battery life is out of this world and was super affordable (Lenovo IdeaPad 100s was only $179 at Staples!!) and seriously i love this little thing.  (Violet's coffee dumping on our old laptop was clearly a messy blessing in disguise)
9. random texts from my sweet friend Heather to check in and give each other motivation toward living debt free (we're doing Dave Ramsey at the same time to keep us accountable and excited!)
10. planning and daydreaming about the upcoming trip to Richmond, VA with my two best friends and our six kids!
11. coffee
12. chocolate chips that i sneak from the baking cupboard every afternoon during naptime
13. our budget and knowing where all of our money is going.  surprisingly and incredibly liberating
14. maternity clothes that fit and are comfy and are plentiful (thank you Taush!)
15. my book club (Inspired Readers)
16. charging my fitbit and tracking my steps again (after a four month hiatus)
17. our windchimes
18. grandparents who babysit almost always at the last minute because i forget to ask in advance
19. my sisters and the weirdest most perfectly timed texts and instagram tags that make me laugh when my days feel isolated
20. two children's books that arrived as a surprise thinking-of-you gift from my sweet friend Shelly who somehow thinks of me when she just had her fourth baby (! you are amazing and thoughtful!)
21. my crockpot
22. leftovers that make for easy lunch box packing for daddy
23. clean sheets on our bed
24. law and order SVU
25. evenings that have no practices and no plans except dinner at home and bedtime
26. working on the 2015 family yearbook
27. cold, cold water to drink
28. my goal to get 1000 hours outdoors this year because it is seriously sometimes the exact motivation i need to get outside and get moving.  it's making a difference in my life - for real.
29. birds singing
30. having time and motviation to write

Around Here Week Nine: 02/27-03/05

Friday, March 4, 2016

A look into what it feels like to live in our home right this second.

Intentional Hours Outside: 17.5 hours (of 1000)
I did great this weekend and the early start of the week, but then winter came a'blowin' back in and took the wind right out of my outdoor sails.  The girls and I got out despite the high 30's in the beginning of the week (I got in some outdoor book reading!) but then we had appointments and the cold and I sort of bailed come mid-week.  So...see next point...

Awaiting spring.  I KNOW.  I am trying to be better about embracing winter, and it really has been a mild winter this year - but the cold.  I just can't.  We get these little tastes of sunshine and warm every few days and then we wake up like this morning and there's snow on the ground and it's freezing outside.  Stop teasing me nature!  We are ready for blue skies and warm breezes and wide open spaces to run off all this cabin fever pent up energy!  Get me outside foreverrrrrrrrrr.

Making a wet mess one night this week when Grey decided he wanted to have a squirt gun battle with Brandon.  He got the idea from watching Fuller House (we are loving it!) and then we set out a full squirt gun for B on the porch so they could battle as soon as he got home late one night from work.  It was hilarious and the two boys were cracking up and chasing each other everywhere joyfully. The girls and I were following them around and laughing too (Gemma was so worried though someone was going to get their feelings or body hurt of course, our sensitive little lamb).  It was such fun and ya know what, water dries - so whatever to the mess.

Extending patience to Violet who moved to a toddler bed this week and hasn't quite gotten the handle on staying in her bed during naptime.  Night has been going great, but naptime has been a struggle as she bang, bang, bangs on the door and yells at us; not crying more like, "MUM! Memma!" to try to convince us to let her out.  When I go in to check on her after she's quiet, and she's asleep on the floor right next to the door so I can't open it more than a smidge.  It's both pitiful and sweet, but she'll get there.  The other two moved at 17 months too because of their climbing genes, and plus I'd like her to be well adjusted before June and the new babe comes.  It's also part of our very slow transition from big kids sharing a room to gender rooms!

Preparing for Easter by decorating our little tree out front with Easter eggs and starting to put together some Easter basket gifts with an online Usborne book party (so fun!) We're planning to keep it pretty simple this Easter with just candy and one book each - but it feels good to know that we're mostly ready already as the kids continue to color down their Lenten charts each day.

Calling off the whole evening of activities on Wednesday after I decided the baby bump and I were just too tired and it was just too darn cold to try to get everyone loaded up in the car for Gemma's gymnastics.  Instead, everyone got long baths, a hot homemade dinner (see Baking below!), and an early bedtime.  It was actually blissful, and although I hate cancelling plans - this night was definitely worth it.

Baking these three-ingredient muffins to celebrate Dr. Seuss's birthday and then real live homemade bread...like no bread maker, with my own two hands!  It was delicious and went perfectly and so deliciously with this Loaded Potato Soup that left our dinner table silent for a few minutes as everyone just ate and enjoyed.

Praying.  It was a heavy hearted week as we shared the burden of sorrow with some of our friends through their sadness.  a son gone far, far too soon and a mother's light who is now missing from this Earth.  if you have extra prayers to give, please pray for peace - both in the world and for those who are suffering and mourning.  One of the most helpful tips I've read is from this article about being there for others in moments of sadness.  Basically, you figure out where you are in the circle of suffering and then only pour love into the circle (to those closer to the center of the pain) and dump out all of your own sadness (to those who are even farther away from the center of the pain).