Around Here Fifty-Two: 12/23-12/31

Sunday, December 31, 2017

A last glimpse into what it is like to live in our home in 2017

Intentional Outdoor Hours: 523 hours (of 1000)
So, I'm calling it. 523 hours of 1000 for the year - over half way to my goal and beat last year's attempt by 13 hours. So, I'm moving in the right direction, but I know that I can do better and I'm still striving for that lofty goal of 1000 hours for the year. Shoot for the moon, right?

Reading and finishing my Christmas Santa's workshop gift from Greyson: Riding Freedom by Pam Munoz Ryan which brings me up to 11 new-to-me books this year read. I'm about 100 pages short of finishing my 100 small things goal of 12 books read! Hah, only a little bit more to finish in Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott and I'm there, so I've been squeezing in quick stints for the past two days (among the incredible to do list I have) to try to cross that one off before we ring in the new year!

Doing all the celebrating possible in the past week...

Mimi's Christmas with all of her kids, grandkids, and greats! Everyone was able to make it to Mimi's this year and it was so nice to catch up and enjoy Mimi's great food and laugh and squeeze into a single photo frame! 

Christmas Eve mass and grandparent mini party at our house afterwards. The kids were so excited about Santa coming. We sang Happy Birthday to Jesus in our nativity set and said goodbye to Marco. We went back through all our straw kindness slips from Soft Enough for a King. We delivered cookies and cards to our neighbors, made it through Christmas Eve mass without too much disruption (ahem, Rusty) and Grey even wore real actual pants for his mother's Christmas wish. And then we had the grandparents over for a late dinner and excitement while the kids put out reindeer food and milk and cookies and asked Alexa fifteen million times where Santa was on his route. 

B and I stayed up until 2:30a finishing up and then barely fell asleep before Grey woke us up at 4a asking if it was time to get up yet. Um, no. Then again at 4:57a when I just told him to sleep with us and wait until 6a. Gemma woke the three of us up then at 7a and told us our stockings were in the hallway outside of our rooms. We got the babies up and opened up stocking gifts in our bed before heading downstairs to the shrieks and squeals of the kids' delight to gifts under the tree. 

Then it was Christmas at Gigi and Pappy's for lunch, gifts, and hoverboard riding; followed by Christmas at Aunt Dar & Uncle Mike's with our Adams family, then back to Gigi and Pappy's for a little napping, more eating, and singing Happy Birthday to baby Jesus; then finally to see our Tap Run Ski Club friends at the Siwy's house. In bed on Christmas day by midnight!  

The day after Christmas we had Adams cousin cookie baking at our house, one of my favorite traditions, complete with a toast of raw sugar cookie dough in honor of our Gram. Aunt Kitty had arrived all the way from Bermuda (!!) and we had cousin Morgan from Montana there, cousin Kara from Missouri there, and cousin Janell from York, PA there!  Uch and Kev brought pizza an d hot chocolate and while the girls rolled, cookie cut, and iced - the boys all played Madden on Grey's new xbox to his delight. After we hugged our cousins goodbye, the kids and I took a two and a half hour (much needed) nap before spending the evening at Uncle Sam's Christmas party with our Uzelac family.

Wednesday was a day visit from our Gilmore cousins (so fun!) and then an afternoon swim at the YWCA with our Garretson cousins and a sleepover at our house with Caleb!

And then it was Daddy's basketball game on Thursday with haircuts for the three big kids after that - when I asked Violet if she wanted a haircut, she said, "Yeah, I need normal hair" (LOL). She got the most adorable pixie cut!

Friday was Christmas at Abba and Chum's house for dinner, pretend snowball fights, boxing, and even a visit from Santa Claus himself!

And Saturday, B and I tackled the garage while the big kids went bowling with our family and then we had the Stankan family over for dinner and a playdate! 

Feeling real joy in my heart every time our door opened this past week with the faces of people we love walk through and their voices calling out, "Hello! Merry Christmas!" Gosh, is there anything that is more 'the season' then hearing the door open and having family and friends walk into your home? I love it so much.

Cracking up about how Rusty can say "cheese" so perfectly now because he has taken so many pictures in the past week.

Reflecting on this past year and looking forward to the year to come. I transferred birth dates and important upcoming dates into my new 2018 planner. Santa brought me a new magnet fridge family calendar that I love. I combed through my 2017 100 small things list (blog post to come) and started on my new 100 small things list with excitement and anticipation. The kids (with a lot of encouragement and suggestions) created three goals for themselves for this upcoming year. And I re-worked our 12 Months of Kindness list to be more kid-centered for 2018. Every year, new years has me all like, "yeah, let's do this!"

Cherishing this weird week off from school between Christmas and New Years. We leave our Christmas decor up to celebrate Orthodox Christmas on January 7th - so it always feels like we're in a suspended time in this week. Despite all the running around and busy we've had - B and I tried to keep every spare moment of downtime as relaxed and unfussed as possible. Jammies all day until we had to change, lots of hugs for the kids, maintained 'homework' time to keep the kids' brains from melting (hah), and embracing the no work/school few days.

Making lots of meals with leftovers...we were both laughing yesterday about how if we eat ham for one more meal we might keel over. We've thrown some other meals in there too to offset all the holiday food: salads, ramen noodles (oh gosh, hilarious story about that and Bullet!), sloppy joes, and blueberry muffins.  But seriously, mostly cookies and pumpkin roll has been everyone's diet for the past week over here.

sending so much love to you and yours for the holidays and the new years. thank you for following along and commenting, liking, and reading these Around Here posts all year. They are mostly for me in a few years when everything runs together in my mind and I want to peek back on the way it used to be in our house with younger kids. But if they were somehow also a bit of silliness or recognition or bit of joy for you too - then that is such a humbling bonus to me. thank you for stopping in to this little piece of the web about the people I love. You, those that read these pages I write, are certainly among those people I cherish.  xxoxo

Around Here Fifty-One: 12/16-12/22

Sunday, December 24, 2017

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

that's a chicken finger he's the tub...with a diaper on


Intentional Outdoor Hours:  523 hours (of 1000)
same. no change. bleh.

Reading and finishing The Nix by Nathan Hill, reccomended from me with high reviews. Just an incredible writer - so many times I had to pause let the words and sentences sink in before moving on. So so good.  I had library duty for an hour and half on Friday at school during our Pickleball tournament day and so I picked up Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon off the shelf to pass the time. Affter my library stint was over, I had already read about a third of the book, so I check it out and finished it...that day.  Very cute and I loved the way the illustrations were sprinkled throughout (wife author and husband illustrator duo!). It was an easy read (and a little predictable) but enjoyable.

Spreading some kindness in our neighborhood with little notes to say thank you for all the beautiful light displays we have in our neighborhood. Grey and Violet dropped some in mailboxes and others straight to the door to the neighbors' delight. They even got candy canes at one house! The following day, we were so surprised and touched to receive a visit from one of our neighbors who gifted us a big box of Peanut Butter meltaways to say thank you for our note! She told us that her grandkids live in Georgia and she loved getting the kids' drawings and notes in her mailbox. It was the sweetest!

Cheering Gem on at her first Cheerleading showcase (she did great!) She had practice this week and is loving practicing her routine and moves 24 hours a day around the house (and for anyone who will watch). I think it's helping a little bit with her memory and counting even - so double win!

National Lampoon Christmas'ing on Monday night when Gigi brought the big kids home from her house she called me from the driveway to tell me Bullet had something in his mouth. So he comes prancing up all proud to the porch with a dead possum in his mouth?! While Gigi and the kids try to squeeze in the door, Bullet sneaks right through - with dead possum - and drops it right under the Christmas tree. Grey was all like, "MUM! GET THE POSSUM OUT FROM UNDER THE TREE!" While Gem was sobbing, "Bullet killed him!" and Gigi was like, "um, I gotta go." HAHAHAHAHA. Thanksfully, B was home from practice about 10 minutes later and did some Bullet's Christmas Surprise Removal.

Basketball season mode with four games this week. The kids and I attended the two home games and loved getting back together with our basketball family. The other coaches', their wives, and their kids, the players and their parents, the old timer fans, our own grandparents who schlep out to the games to see B coach and bring snacks for the kids so we don't go bankrupt from the concession stand and half court shooting contest; these are our people and they help us survive this crazy season.

Giggling about Vially and all the silly little ways she creates language. She's been helping get the mail when we come home from school and she requests that instead of buckling up for the ride up the driveway can she "just be holding onto my horses?"

Speaking of mail....for all of you out there that sent us holiday cards, know that they were money and effort well spent for our house. Our girls are delighted to open the mail everyday and swoon over all the pictures and card designs (equal to my love for them!) They each open a stack on the kitchen table then swap piles, and make comments and say every single day, "Look at all these people who were thinking about us at Christmas!" We got a green card the other day (it was a wreath on the front) and Violet said, "Oh boy, this one's probably from the Grinch!" And Gem loves hearing stories about the cards that come from "Mum's friends from college and New York." Sharing this little bit about people who I miss and love every day brings all that is holly jolly to my heart.  Thank you all so much for thinking of us.

Surviving the final sprint to Christmas. The big kids had a themed week, classmate gift exchange, teacher gifts, and a class party (God Bless you Homeroom Moms and party volunteers!!) Little Kids had a Grinchmas day at preschool and a holiday party. Then B and I each had a work food day and I celebrated La Navidad with my Spanish Club on Friday (food, a piƱata, and a white elephant gift exchange!) For home prep - I went from about 10% shopping complete on Sunday (ohmygosh) to four hours later and online shopping carts full - I got to about 90% shopping done! Thank you Amazon, Bedford Candies, and Social Print Studio !

Making all the Christmas cookies and the kids have been helping every step of the way. So far we have Honey Oat Raisin, Pumpkin Spice, Peanut butter blossoms with Hershey kisses, and Monster cookies. On the to do list still: chocolate covered pretzels, pumpkin roll, snickerdoodles, and if I can pull it together pretzel/kiss/m&m bites!  For dinners we had cream cheese taquitos (a family-wide hit), and sheet pan steak and veggies. We hit up the concession stand quite a bit since we brought the food for it (hah) sloppy joes and hot dogs & kraut. For our work food days, we made cheesy potatoes, veggie pizza, and 4 ingredient beer bread.

p.s. merriest wishes to you and your family. Let the season be filled with smiles and hugs and all the people you love.  xxoxo

Around Here Fifty: 12/09-12/15

Saturday, December 16, 2017

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


Intentional Outdoor Hours: 523 hours (of 1000)
Racked up enough minutes to reach one hour more this week. If it wasn't bitter cold, it was snowing so I was pretty lame this week.

Reading The Nix by Nathan Hill and devouring it. I'm at the point where doing anything but reading my book is annoying (hahah, holiday to do list can wait no) and I just want to finish the book and get the full story. Almost there!  My full Christmas wishlist is books and my family continues to call me boring to which I shrug and smile. #nerdforever

High-fiving Grey and Chum after their successful hunt on Saturday morning. They harvested a doe and Grey helped drag it all the way into the yard and was so proud. He loved repeating the story to everyone. The kid is hooked and a redneck through and through.

Celebrating Greyson while he made his first reconciliation at church on Saturday. He was so nervous leading up to the day and then as soon as he got into the confessional he said he realized it was no big deal! We had cupcakes and milk in a little party at the church hall put on by the third graders!

Setting up our outdoor holiday decorations just in time for the first big snow of the season! Brandon and I (and Rusty) worked together to get our outside decorated after Brandon confessed that all the Hallmark Christmas movies we've been watching has inspired him to feel more like decorating (hahah! a.may.zing) And to see the snow falling down on our sweet little lighted mini evergreens outside really did feel so holly jolly this week.

Plowing through these final two weeks of school before break. The kids are all antsy (the snow doesn't help and only has the kids repeating the same question thirty million times a day, 'we getting out early?') and I feel like I have a stack of papers to grade up to my ears, but I'm determined to continue real learning in these final days. We have a Spanish club holiday party coming up next week, a day or two of special Navidad stuff, and I sent in my request for Spanish novels for the new year!

Smiling at the kids' funny choices at the school Santa's workshop. Grey got me a chapter book and Gemma got me an owl necklace and some earrings. For B he got a grunt call from Grey and a camo hat from Gemma (#westernPA santa's workshop win).

Spending time with our besties at our annual Polar Express party with Fiores. Kate and I got to chat the evening away while the kids chowed down on pizza, Bedford Candy popcorn (#bestever), and hot chocolate. All of our holiday get-togethers are my favorite part of the season. I am not a gift person (at all), but the spending time together, enjoying yummy food and warm drinks and talking - that's all the gift I ever need. I'm trying to keep a handle on all the extra school stuff for all four kids. There's special dress up days, and class gift exchange gifts, and teachers' gifts, and school party donations to buy....hang in there, mommas! we got this!

Relaxing and getting in a long evening of rest and self care as all four kids went to see a Christmas display at Olgeby's with Pappy and Gigi. It was amazing and restored my soul (thank you guys!)

Loving Violet's words to describe plans; "lasterday" (yesterday) and "nexterday" (tomorrow).

Enjoying the morning off when my school (and Brandon's work) had a two hour delay for the weather and the big kids' school had a snow day! My dad amazingly was willing and able to come out to our house to spend the whole day with all four kids (!! even braving snowsuits and sledding!) while B and I enjoyed the shortened work day. It was Gemma's first ever school snow day and we made them watch the news old-school style to figure out what their school was doing for the day. Grey was cheering and throwing himself all over the floor when he read their school name off the screen.

Diving head first into competitive cheerleading with Gemma who had her first practice on Thursday night. She loved it and would not stop talking about and asking if she was getting out of school early now to go to practice (hah! no) I am so excited for her to get a solid 'win' at something since she's been busting her butt in school and tutoring. Now it will just be about figuring out how to make all our schedules work

Making spaghetti, Hawaiian meatballs over rice, and butter/italian crockpot chicken over egg noodles.  Gem helped make some 3 ingredient pumpkin chocolate chip muffins for 2hr delay/snow day breakfast. I've been mentally cataloging what kind of Christmas cookies we will be making and I think I've settled on Pumpkin spice, Honey Oatmeal raisin (both cookie tubs from the school fundraiser for the win!), green & red monster cookies, peanut butter blossoms, chocolate covered pretzels, and maybe something with almonds. Oh, and a pumpkin roll for B. Who is doing this again? and when? LOL.