the last time

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

I have been famous for asking my friends and family with real bafflement, 'how do you know when you're done having babies!? I can't imagine not having a new baby in my home!"
You guys, I was not kidding at all.

But now, I finally get it.

We are in the very final stretch of awaiting Studerbaby#4 - he will be here by Friday, as he's getting evicted via induction.  At this point in pregnancy, as most mommas will agree, even three days feel much too long to have to wait - but alas, here we are getting things crossed off the to do list and counting down minutes.

No one is counting down more than the mumma, let me tell you.  It felt harder this time for me, whether it's because this is the oldest I've ever been pregnant or if the busy of life with three small kids under six and all of our activities and plans.  I don't know, but it felt like the longest and most uncomfortable and most frustrating pregnancy so far.

Truth be told, I don't 'do' pregnancy well.  I mean, my body does - we have no trouble getting pregnant and then it's a very 'boring' pregnancy in terms of how our little beans have grown(which I am so very grateful).  But mentally, pregnancy and I are not great friends.  I have inappropriate efficiency standards set for myself and pregnancy could care less.  I know I could make it so much easier on myself if I could just loosen up a little and chill - but it's just not in my nature.  So I spend the 9+ months frustrated and fighting against myself to run at standard operation, when my growing belly and pregnancy symptoms make it very difficult to do so. 

It has also seemed incredibly obvious this time that I haven't been able to meet my own parenting standards for our other three little gremlins.  Ya know how us mommas go to bed every night and wonder if we loved our kids enough that day?  Well being pregnant and tired this time around has really highlighted that little worry in my mind each night.  Grey is so very active and there have been times when he's asked me to just play catch with the baseball and I had to flat out tell him that I was too exhausted to get up.  To stand in the yard for more than 3 guys, it's crushed me to not feel like I was giving my best to the other three.  

I'm ready to be all in again - to be able to physically and mentally be all in for the kids and have more patience than I have after a full day of exhaustion and heartburn and lower back pain.  

For awhile now, we've been getting glimpses of what it will be like to grow up with our family, instead of continuing to grow more of our family.  Little flickers of life with kids who can tie their own shoes, and take their own showers, and that don't require a diaper bag.  Big kid personalities that leave us cracking up and proud and worried and excited for all the things they get to learn and experience on their own in the coming years.

We feel so very blessed and excited and in love about getting to do this all one last time, all the baby snuggles and top-of-head-sniffing and first words and steps and clothes that look small enough to fit on the girls' baby dolls.

I'm aware though too that each first for our fourth baby will feel a little bittersweet as it will be graced as the 'last first time.'

We've pulled the crib out of the attic for the last time.
We've made it to the final month of pregnancy for the last time.
The hospital bags are packed for the last time.
we'll head to the hospital to deliver a new baby with that giddy feeling of disbelief, relief, and pure joy for the last time

But finally, the 'last first time' finally feels like something that we are ready to put into a cherished little treasure box.  I'll miss it so much, I have no doubts, nostalgia runs thick inside of my veins naturally, and I am sure I will spend many nights in the future wishing back for the days of diapers and bubbas and crib sheets.  But I also feel a palpable excitement and confidence that we are at the last; the last of the homegrown babies.

Goodness, sweet boy.
we can no longer stand ourselves, we are all so ready to meet you.
the kids have been asking multiple times a day if today is the day you'll come out.
I get daily texts from your grandmas and my best friends that literally only say, 'baby?'
we cannot wait for your birthday, little man.
the amount that you are loved already is staggering.
you, my last little darling.
come see your family.
we love you forever.
even when you get so big,
your mumma. 

Around Here Twenty-One: 05/20-05/26

Friday, May 27, 2016

A glimpse into what it is like to live in our home, just this minute.

Intentional Hours Outdoors total:  169 hours (of 1000)
I went for a long solo walk with both dogs on Sunday and it was blissful, even in the rain! We headed out as a family to the Quemahoming to squeeze in some fishing  (also in the rain).  But the weather really started to perk up this week and it's been sunny and beautiful for most days.  we are LOVING it.  The kids have been so glad to get outside and burn some of that energy (thank goodness!) On Monday night, we loaded all the kids up in the car, stopped by McDonalds for dinner, and went to Daddy's basketball game in Indiana and the kids and I spent most of the game out in the parking lot so that they could roller blade and ride the scooter (Violet pushed her stroller around).  Grey has been a maniac in the garage asking daily about rollerblading and playing hockey, and we pulled out the water balloons one evening for 'batting practice.'  We've had the baby pool set up outside all week and the girls have loved playing cooking, barbies, and babydolls in it everyday.

Reading The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho - my second favorite book of all time and #62 on my 100 small things list! I also ordered the Inspired Readers book club book for June: Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Dicks and I'm ordering Here's to Us by Elin Hildebrand on audible so that post-baby, I can start walking again with the dogs and listening to a great book while doing it!

Appreciating our sweet Gemmi Ro.  She has been so helpful the past few weeks and really patient and kind to her baby sister - which I have been so grateful for in these final days of pregnancy.  Gem will sit and read with Violet (who is a book fanatic these days) and Gem fetches clothes or diapers for me upstairs as Violet is very into stripping down to nothing and peeing all over the house (and sometimes in her potty) right now.  I swear that girl is going to potty train herself at 20 months! Like my sweet friend, Jenn, always tells me - 'by the third kid, they're basically raising themselves!' hahahha (hi, Jenn!)

Answering Grey and his increasingly baffling questions - like this week he said, "Mum, what's the end of the numbers?  Like when you count all the way to the last number."  Which then I found myself trying to explain infinity and how there is no end, ever and then my own brain was lost in that black hole of science and math and outer space thanks to my six year old.

Enjoying our local festivities here in Johnstown.  The big kids and I attended the Empty Bowls dinner on Friday and then went to check out the kayakers and canoes at the Stonycreek Rendevous at Greenhouse Park.  We have been rallying up for the Path of the Flood Race this weekend too!  Although I'm not running (hahha, obviously), my sis and I have organized a Rally Squad through You in Flood City to encourage non-runners to show up on the sidelines to cheer the participants on (#42 on my 100 small things).  The kids and I made signs on Wednesday night and plan to be stationed in Franklin (Blue Jay Country!) on Saturday morning to cheer and high five runners!  There are over 625 people signed up to run either the 5K, the 12K, or the half marathon.

Counting down the days until our new baby brother arrives.  I got our official 'golden ticket' this week at my appointment for my induction, set for Friday, June 3rd.  After the crazy that followed Gemma's birth, my sweet midwife (and cousin! hi Meg!) has vowed to not let me go over my due date.  So we are within a week as of today of meeting our new brother!  I was 3 cm dilated on Wednesday though, so maybe after all of my cheering on Saturday, this baby will just be ready on his own :) hahha, a fourth time momma can dream!

Cutting and highlighting my hair!  Finally and #33 on my 100 small things!  It's been over a year and I figured if I didn't go now, it'd be at least another few months until I'd be able to make the time for an appointment.  So, as Brandon is now on his quasi-paternity leave, I was able to sneak away to Salvatore's to see my favorite hairstylist (and long time friend) Billie Jo and she seriously worked a miracle.  I wanted it to go short because once it gets long enough, all I do is pull into a ponytail and I don't want to do that.  So she got me all beautifully cut up and highlighted and I'm like a new woman.  THANK YOU Beej!! I came home and Grey immediately started in on a question but was all, "Muuuum, is it time to go noWhoa, you don't even look like my Mum!" and Brandon said, "I really like it, although, give me a minute, it's like a have a new wife here."  Gem was, of course, my best reaction and told me about 46 times that she loves my new hair and that I look beautiful.  (fyi: Violet didn't notice at all, hah).

Celebrating the seniors of our alma mater high school at the sports banquet on Sunday night and again last night at the senior banquet where we awarded our scholarship (for the 8th time!) to Megan Paonessa and Brandon Galasso.  It was a great evening and kind of a date night with my handsome hubs.  I always get all sorts of emotional listening to the scholarship donors and learning about all the amazing things the seniors have planned for after graduation.  It's one of my very favorite 12 Months of Kindness tasks of the year.

Making homemade bread, actually Greyson made it all by himself!  It's this really easy 4 ingredient recipe and even though he hated how it felt when it was all sticky, he hung in there until it was all formed and perfect.  Brandon, Violet, and I finished a whole 9x13 pan of Chicken and Zucchini casserole by ourselves because we have zucchini obsession issues. We also did our big grocery shopping trip for June/post-baby so we are all stocked up on freezer, quick favorites (like waffles and chicken nuggets, and pizza!)

June Mealplan - aka post baby easy meals

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

I finished meal planning for June yesterday with the knowledge that all the while we will have our new little baby here for the meals, probably sleeping, but still - we will be all together. I love that part of the ending of pregnancy when you start seeing dates and thinking to yourself, 'oh, our baby will be here'  Like even the perishables in our fridge have an expiration date that exceeds our new baby. 

With the excitement and blessings that a new baby brings, I am also feeling deeply grateful while meal planning after the big kids and I attended our first Empty Bowls event last week.  One of the local high school's key clubs spent the last few months creating hundreds of pottery bowls all for the special night.  Greyson, Gemma, and I each got to choose a bowl we liked best and then had a meal of soup, bread, and drinks where the proceeds went to local organizations that help combat homelessness and hunger.  The kids love their new bowls and literally keep showing them off to anyone that visits our house (hah), and as we talked about on the way home - the bowls are our reminder that lots of people and kids have bowls that our empty while ours are full of dinner every night.   

In terms of meal planning for next month, I tried my best to choose meals that are both easy to throw together (read: a lot of 'dump it all in the crockpot or casserole dish' type meals) and also that the other three kids wouldn't complain about too much.  I had previously set a goal for myself that I'd try to make five post-baby freezer meals, alas - life and exhaustion, and three kids, and low motivation sort of derailed that goal.  I did manage to freeze half the potato soup the other week to count for one.  And my momma and I made enough enchiladas to count for another - so two out of five baby freezer meals ain't too bad, right?

We made a big shopping trip this week too and bought a lot of quick type meals, just in case all momma-zombie breaks loose in those rotten first eight weeks and our meal planning efforts crumble. So we are stocked up on frozen pizzas and chicken nuggets, and lots of frozen breakfast foods as back ups.  And I'm super blessed that Brandon starts his vacation tomorrow through the second week of June as sort of a quasi-paternity leave - so he will be here with extra helping (and cooking) hands through the first two weeks to keep us all nourished (bellies and hearts!)

June/Post Baby Mealplan:

June 1-3
W (Last day of school!):  hot dogs and smores over the fire
R: Chinese green beans & ground turkey over rice
F: cowboy casserole

June 6-10
M: grilled steaks & grilled garlic parm zucchini
T:  meatball subs
W: spaghetti (with leftover meatballs) & salad
R: chicken, stuffing, and veggies casserole
F: hamburgers on the grill

June 13-17
M: chicken & gravy over mashed potatoes
T: tacos
W: grilled lemon salmon & veggies
R: crockpot sweet & sour meatballs
F: candied kielbasa

June 20-24
M: slow cooker chicken parm sandwiches
T: korean beef over rice
W: potato soup (baby freezer meal) & salad
R: ham & cheese tortellini
F: crispy shrimp alfredo

June 27-30:
M: pizza mountain pies over the fire
T: enchiladas (baby freezer meal)
W: teriyaki chicken casserole
R: sweet sausage & broccoli rigatoni

What are some of your favorite post-baby meals (or snacks! I need some breastfeeding snack ideas!)

Book Review: Brad Street Gate by Robin Kirman

Sunday, May 22, 2016

With the small teases of summer weather we've been getting here in western PA, I have been itching for some easy summer reads.  You know, the ones you can't see to put down and you buzz through them quickly and then look up at the end and seriously wonder how you caught everything when you're brain was reading so fast.  For this exact hope, I chose to read Brad Street Gate by Robin Kirman as Good Housekeeping had deemed it, 'un-put-downable.' listed right there on the cover!

The book is set up like a mystery...kind of, spanning several years during and following the Harvard graduation of three college friends (well, they're kind of friends) that all have a front row seat (kind of) to a murder that happened their senior year of college.  There's a whole lot of kind of going on in the book, which is why I can say I kind of enjoyed it.

It was difficult for me at the start of the book as the story is told in a flip flopping time frame where the narrative reveals itself through the three friends' personal lives depending on the chapter, and almost never in chronological order.  It was hard for me to get a grasp on who was who and why they reacted to certain things in a particular way because I couldn't remember their back story (or hadn't read their full backstory yet).

By the middle though, I was pretty invested in the characters and learning about what exactly did happen their senior year.  It was captivating to me the way the story continued to unfold, showing that despite some drastic life differences following college, that one tragic event was still holding them together.  The story is incredibly researched - so much so that I was mentally giving Kudos to Kirman for how much effort she put into the details of the character's professions.

Just as I was anticipating a look inside the truth of both the event and the bottom of each character and their motives, the book ended.  It was one of those bizarre moments when you look up from the book and say (in my case, aloud), "that's it?"  It was not so much disappointing as puzzling - I didn't feel like the mystery was resolved in any concrete way, nor did I have a firm idea on how the characters and their relationships to one another finally evolved.

There were glimmers of really interesting storytelling, and as I said the amount of research was astounding and admirable.  But truth be told, it wasn't 'un-put-downable' for me.  I don't think it was a waste of my time, just not a book that I would immediately recommend when pressed for a 'good read' suggestion.

I received this book from Blogging for Books, but all opinions are my own. 

Around Here Twenty: 05/13-05/19

Friday, May 20, 2016

A glimpse into what it is like to live in our home just this minute.

Intentional Hours Outside:  (155 hours of 1000)
Up only 17 hours this week...It was a weird weather week here in western PA.  We had snow on Sunday, SNOW!  No accumulation obviously, but you could see it laying on the the middle of May.  insanity.  Then it was mostly gloomy and chilly, if not raining, for every other day this week except for yesterday when the sun finally remembered where we live! We did get a chance to head out to Greenhouse park when Caleb was over for a playdate so that the kids could run their energy out on the playground and near the creek.  And did I try to literally 'walk my baby' out on Monday by taking two walks and getting over 10,000 steps on my fitbit?  I'm not going to say that didn't happen, hahhaa, but it also didn't work, so boo.  Two baseball games also had us outside in the evenings and yesterday the girls and I spent the whole afternoon lounging (literally on a blanket) in the sunshine.  Violet even got a little sunburn on her shoulders (!)

Reading and finished Brad Street Gate by Robin Kirman and Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv.  Started reading our second book from the Inspired Readers Book Club summer reading challenge for May: When I Found You by Catherine Ryan Hyde.

Mowing the grass.  Hallelujah!  The kids were even making 'big foot nests' in the tallest parts of the yard before we were able to get to it!  The grass is mowed after Uncle Dave and Brandon finally got the mower deck all fixed up.  We are so very grateful to have it back and working (especially Violet who waves hello to 'Dadda's Tracker' every morning).!!!

Celebrating friends and family at our cousin Morgan's confirmation and our friend Bryn at her bridal shower last weekend.  Summer is always filled with so much shared happiness and reasons to come together for good food and happy memories.  Grey and I also celebrated the last day of CCD for the year and I said farewell to my sweet fifth graders that I will miss but am so glad we got to spend the year together.

Calling off Violet's afternoon nap twice this week.  It has been such a struggle to get her to sleep at bedtime recently.  She was up fighting us until after 11:30pm one night!  Brandon and I were both falling asleep pleading with her while she ran circles around us laughing.  So I cancelled her nap on Wednesday and Thursday and she was asleep (for 13 hours, until morning) both days by 7:00p.  I don't think this is the end of naps, but maybe it will have to be every two days instead of every day from here on out.

Finding all the ways to distract myself from the last three weeks of pregnancy.  I do not do well with waiting, you guys.  Plus I'm feeling particularly sluggish and bad and angry that I can't be the Mum I strive to be to my other three gremlins when I'm so exhausted and miserable.  It's a very frustrating time for me; these last few week (hahha, remember this blog post from Violet's last few week's of pregnancy! Still applies, friends!) and so I've been trying my best to distract myself by digging into projects.  At her request, I put Gemma's hair in rags on Saturday night, just like my grandma taught me to do and she loved it (also #59 on my 100 small things list!)  My sis and I have been busy planning the celebrations leading up to our baby sister's wedding later this fall, I'm working on setting up an alumni intramural kickball league with a fellow awesome CV alum, and I started the plans for our Disney vacation next year!

Introducing Gemma to the movie Bring It On when I was feeling particularly crummy and tired one afternoon.  She's officially obsessed (even more!) with all things cheerleading now.  She is my girliest of girls daughter and has me laughing all day everyday at all the ways she reminds me of me (only times 100) during my ultragirly childhood and tweenhood.  She has been carrying around her babydolls even more than usual too, dressing them up, stealing Violet's diapers to put on them, and shushing them to sleep.  There's three main ones on rotation (sometimes they're her triplets!) but one favorite that she calls "Calissa" and she goes everywhere, even gets buckled up in Sheila (our van) when we leave the house.

Releasing our beautiful Painted Lady butterflies yesterday and sending them off with wishes and kisses.  Grey named the one that was last to 'hatch' Little Joe because he seemed like the runt and he was the last one we took out of the habitat to let fly away after he hung out in Grey's hands for a little while.  One of them (Grey named her 'beautiful') sat contentedly on Gemma's nose for about thirty seconds which made her feel so special.  It is such a fun spring tradition in our house and the kids are already asking when we can get more caterpillars.

Enjoying Shaffer's ice cream last night after Grey's baseball game because he caught a fly ball!  We told him at the beginning of the season that if he hit it to the fence while batting OR he caught a fly ball in the game, we all get to go for ice cream.  After he caught the ball, he turned around to Brandon standing behind second base as an assistant coach, pointed to him, and mouthed, 'ice cream, baby.'

Making just a little. I threw one of our favorites three envelope roast in the crockpot this week and I made broccoli and wild rice soup another night.  I tried a brand new meal this week: chicken sausage and spinach pasta.  I was the only one that really liked it, but the kids did eat...because I blindfolded them first, hah.  Sometimes they whine about eating it before they even taste it because they don't like how it looks - which I knew would be the case with this meal, so we threw blindfolds on them and let them take a few bites ("yum, it tastes good") before removing the blindfolds.

Around Here: Nineteen 05/06-05/12

Friday, May 13, 2016

A peek into what it is like to live in our home right this second.

Intentional Hours Outside:  138 hours (of 1000)
Up 16 hours from last week, but it was another gloomy week here in western PA and that combined with my 36+ week baby bump woes, we kept it pretty easy this week in activity.  We were still able to rack up hours at the baseball games and our SFW trip to visit Stackhouse Park last Saturday, but I mostly tried to do a lot of resting and relaxing inside as the rain and gloom persisted outside.  Yesterday we had some bouts of beautiful, hot weather between thunderstorms, so the kids and I were ecstatic to get outside to get in some bubbles, outdoor lunch, and played (twice!) hose trampoline sprinkler.  Violet was hilarious and loved being sprayed by the hose!

Planting lots of flowers around the patios on Friday (in the rain!) We stopped down to our favorite local nursery, Stuver's, and picked up a bunch of flowers to fill in the flower beds around the front and side of the house and for some flower pots.  I have an actual romantic crush on our planters outside our front door that were inspired from this pin.

Celebrating Mother's Day on Saturday and Sunday.  We got to spend time with Pappy and Gigi on Saturday night at our house with dinner and cupcakes.  On Sunday after CCD and church, we had lunch at Abba and Chum's house with Aunt Uch before stopping to visit my grandmother's graves and leaving flowers and prayers.  Then we headed downtown to go for a ride on the Incline Plane and eat ice cream on top of the city.  It was a great day and ended with playing in the backyard at home with the kids and Brandon.  Basically perfect. 

Moving our chrysalis caterpillars to the butterfly habitat and waiting for them to start wiggling and coming out! The kids cannot wait (well, me neither!) 

Trying to get our tractor fixed.  Uncle Dave has been so amazing helping us get to the bottom of our tractor troubles and getting all the parts ordered and put on.  We have not mowed our grass in the year 2016 at all yet.  You should see this hay growing in our yard - HAHAHAHA.  Brandon and Uncle Dave are hopeful that it might be done by this weekend (fingers crossed!) but in the meantime, the kids have loved getting to spend time with Uncle Dave and Aunt Cindy as they make frequent visits to help us! 

Finishing our family yearbook for January-August 2015!  It took a lot of thought, but I finally decided to start running our yearbooks now on the school year schedule September-August.  It seems to fit better with Grey in school now and basketball this past yearbook just had to cover the last little bit of our 'bubble era' when we ran on our own schedule.  I'm really happy with how it turned out (we order from Shutterfly) and after working on it very slowly for the last six months, I can't wait for it to arrive as a finished product! 

Anxiously awaiting this studerbabe#4.  I was miserable on Monday, so miserable with Braxton-Hicks and heartburn and just feeling like he was hanging down to my knees.  I felt so bad, I made the girls come sit in the van with me for half of Grey's baseball game so that I could just sit and breathe!  At my doc appointment on Wednesday, my midwife confirmed that I'm about 1.5 cm dilated - and thank goodness she did because I may have just cried if she didn't have anything to report after Monday.  HAH.  I feel a little bit better to know that at least something is going on in that department and it's like a reminder that the end is nigh and he will actually be out soon.  Cannot wait to see that sweet face.

Hosting an Usborn/Kane Miller online party last night and it got me so excited and stocked up for the summer months.  I've been worrying a little about making sure Grey has readable books (independent reading) for the summer months to stay in practice, and success!  Also, new books for all three other kids too including babe#4.  If you're interested at all in buying books for your home or gifts (baby showers? birthdays?) this order link will be open through Sunday 5/15 until midnight EST:

Making just about nothing.  for reals.  my mealplan sits there and laughs in my face every time dinner time rolls around because I just can't get it together to concede to making, serving, and cleaning up dinner.  HAHAHAH.  We had baked frozen pizza and popcorn at the baseball game one night and another Brandon brought take out home and another night Uncle Dave and Aunt Cindy brought us take out tacos.  I did manage to toss some sweet sausage and peppers in the crockpot one evening, but besides that - this babe#4 is just over everything.