Around Here Thirty-Four 8/19-8/25

Sunday, August 27, 2017

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

Intentional Outdoor Hours: 434+ hours (of 1000)
Up fourteen hours this week, I got in a few walks with the dogs, we ran through the wind in the yard right before a big rainstorm hit last weekend (the kids were cracking up as the leaves blew off the trees around them), and we watched the lunar eclipse on Monday. We had only about 79% coverage up here in western PA, but it was still pretty cool and gave off a weird eerie lighting during the peak of it. On Friday night, the youth football players were recognized on the field and then the kids had a blast playing with all their friends in the grass area during the game.  Brandon and I kept saying we were leaving any minute for two hours (!) and then we finally didn't actually end up heading home until the game was totally over and we were some of the last cars left in the parking lot - just too much fun catching up and chatting with friends and family!

Reading not so much on my end.  I got in a few pages of Emma by Jane Austen and we read The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn with Gemma after kindergarten orientation.

Visiting with some of favorites: We had breakfast with Uncle Jonny and baby Tessa on Saturday morning and then the Gilmore brought home our busted wrist boy later that morning, along with Audra who got to spend the whole day with us, much to the joy of Gemma and Violet.  The fellas (minus Grey who needed the rest) spent the day hanging treestands and then we all shared dinner that night and enjoyed a fire while the kids laughed and giggled with their cousins for half the night. We had a fun last backyard fire at our Kuma and Uncle Buck's house with all of our cousins on Sunday night with mountain pies and quad rides.

Feeding the animals at Living Treasures zoo with Gigi to celebrate the end of summer and Gemma's half birthday (five and a half!) While the boys spent the day shooting clays at Nemacolin Woodlands to celebrate Butter's birthday - we visited and fed as many animals as we could in the park - including getting to touch a baby sloth (!!) We got ice cream afterwards and it was the perfect finish since we were all so hot from that late August sunshine.

Lining up childcare for the two little ones with a tour and visit with a local daycare/preschool.  Violet was so excited to see their outdoor playgrounds and get a chance to play with all their toys during the visit. When we left, she was crying and pleading, "but I don't want to leave my new school and friends!" Well, that seems like it might be an easy transition! HAH The two little kids will start after Labor Day, so we have a few weeks of adjusting to new routines to get used to - but we're moving in the right direction.

Starting the new school year!  We had to do all our regular annual check ins (create our signs with the kids' future professional hopes and write their name in the grade level spot in their baby books).  Greyson caught the bus on Wednesday for his first day and then left school early to head out to his wrist appointment in Hershey.  Gemmi and I went to Kinder orientation together on Wednesday where we got a tour of her classroom and met her classmates and then had lunch together.  She was so excited and pumped up and at the last minute when we were to separate for awhile, she burst into tears and came running to me.  Luckily, her teacher, Mrs. Roman, scooped her off of me and got her calmed down and feeling better by the the time they got to the hallway. I was pretty nervous about the bus on Thursday (Gem's first ride) and knew if she could just get on the bus that she'd be fine, the danger zone was going to be between me and those bus doors.  So, we had a little chat with Grey about not running ahead and sticking by her side the whole walk over to the bus and then come Thursday - she did it! She got on that bus and despite a few little teary eyed moments this week, she still comes home each afternoon beaming and exclaiming that she loves school! She got to pick a few books from the Scholastic book order form for her first week of school prize too!

Starting my new school year!  The first official day was Friday (in-service) and thanks to some help from my mum, aunt Dar, and Miss Becca who took shifts all day so that all the kids and bus departure was covered (thank you!!).  My room is nearly complete and lesson plans, curriculum maps, and syllabi are in need of finishing touches only. All but a few posters have arrived for my supplies that I requested and I met a lot of helpful and kind teachers that have answered all my random lingering questions,  like where is the teacher's lounge microwave (hah). We have one more in-service/Meet the Teacher event and then students arrive on Tuesday!

Making all the kids' dinner favorites in celebration of the first week of school.  We had burgers on the grill, ordered in Fox's pizza, chicken and gravy over mashed potatoes, 3B porkchops, and spaghetti! Gemma and Audra whipped up some oatmeal chocolate chip cookies for our cousin sleepover (almost entirely by themselves!) and Grey helped me make Fruity Pebbles confetti muffins for our last day of summer breakfast tradition.  Violet helped make easy, delicious cake mix chocolate chip cookies  and Cheerio & PB bars for after school snacks this week.

Around Here: Thirty-Three 08/11-08/18

Monday, August 21, 2017

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

photo cred: Steph Oakes (thank you for the pic text!)

Intentional Outdoor Hours: 420+ hours (of 1000)
ugh. Only up 13 hours from last week - we are feeling pretty pulled at the seams with this end of summer last minute mania, new job start up, curriculum planning, and day care searching spiral of death we are in right now (HAHAH). I did get a few walks in with the pups, and some of our fun activities and visits we had lent themselves to outdoor time.

Reading, ugh, again.  Same issues with the spiral of death comment above.  I have been trying to squeeze in a chapter or two of Emma by Jane Austen for my local book club when I can (the chapters are nice and short so I can get them in while I wait for a pot to boil or while I drink my first few sips of coffee.  But it's not been too fruitful of a reading week.

Playing with cousins at our annual Uzelac reunion.  We spent Saturday with our extended family catching up, playing games, and singing karaoke at the 49th annual family reunion (my grandma Irene; my mom's mom, was one of fourteen! so it's a big extended family!) The kids are always so thrilled to see their cousins and it is undoubtedly a great summer day each year. Grey has a blast with the abundance of boy cousins playing softball in the morning, followed by the wiffle ball homerun derby, and then cornhole - I barely see the kid all day.  Rusty got plenty of hugs and kisses and found a new BFF in his teen cousin Duncan, and the girls went all day long with Mallory and Maddy. Then we had the Burgh kids and Tete sleepover at our house to the kids' absolute delight.

Spending some serious time and brain power in my classroom and working on curriculum and lesson planning.  At times I feel a huge wave of overwhelming terror creeping towards me but I just try to remind myself that it's not going to be perfect and I need to embrace the long, slow process of building my room and lessons like I envision them to be. It can feel so scary to try something new (or something you haven't done in a long time) with a lot of unknowns - but that means it's all the more reason to do it. As Abraham Maslow said, "At any given moment we have two options: Step forward into growth or to step back into safety."

Updating my closet.  Ya know how sometimes you go clothes shopping and you hate everything you see on the racks and also hate everything you try on and it's a total bust?  I had the opposite of that happen this week and was overjoyed to score a bunch of new clothes - especially pants - to finish my capsule wardrobe for teaching.  joy of joys!

Feeling grateful for family and friends who continue to reach out and love us and help and offer dinner and playdates even when I don't answer text messages for a minimum of 32 hours.  My parents came by this week to hang out with the kids and I, help clean, and attempt to fix our broken toilet handle.  Our besties; Katie, Michael, Sophia, and Charlie invited us over for an outdoor movie and dinner which was such a perfect summer-is-almost-over playdate.  Grey's school friend, Halen, invited him over for a swim and playing at their house (thank you Angie!), Gigi and Pappy watched the three little kids so I could go clothes shopping without children (a vacation in itself!) and on Caleb playdate day, Heather surprised me with the sweetest teacher cup & straw with my name on it (from Baby Claire Designs)!

Roadtripping to Erie for a sleepover visit with our friends the Plummer girls.  Jess and I have been friends since seventh grade (like 'circle yes or no - will you be my best friend' friends xxox) and we've tried to get together at least once a year for the last few years. The girls and I left mid afternoon on Thursday and after a quick stop for some drive through dinner- I must have tapped randomly on my phone gps and then just followed it for AN HOUR. Finally, we were precariously low on an empty gas tank and with lost signal that I pulled over to ask where we were...and with an incredible sense of despair, the girls and I learned that we had driven backroads an hour back south.  #LawdNo.  I filled up on gas and sweet reassurances from the girls that it 'was alright momma, you're still the best mom ever' (hah, yeah right) and we headed back North (again) and arrived five and half hours later instead of the three it should have taken (hate myself).  It was definitely worth the extra driving though, we had a super fun Girls Only visit at their home in Erie; chatting, playing, and hanging out.  Jess and I adjusted to any little glitch that came up (bad news phone calls like the one below, sick kids, messes, etc) while remaining calm and enjoying our time together.  #momlife  It was the perfect little mini-getaway before the madness of school starts (thank you JP!)

Taping my momma heart back together after getting a call while in Erie from Brandon (who was in Johnstown) that Greyson (who was visiting his cousins in Elizabeth town) had broken his wrist on Friday afternoon.  (For non-PA readers, each of those locations are three hours from each other). Grey was luckily in the such capable hands with our cousins Ray and Lisa who both have medical degrees and three kids of their own.  He was riding a scooter down a steep hill and went to stop himself with his foot but flipped over and landed hard on his left wrist. They confirmed with X-rays that it had broken through the growth plate and he'd need a long cast (up to the armpit) for at least 1-2 weeks to make sure it set right again.  And then a short cast for another 4-5 weeks. His first question on the way to the hospital was, "What about football?" and then after he got his cast on, his first question was, "We're still going fishing tonight and sleeping over, right?" HAH. I waited to talk to him until he was all cast-ed up and on pain meds because I knew hearing my voice would only make him realize how miserable it all was (a guy can be tough as nails until he sees/hears his momma!) and B and I were so grateful that he was with Ray and Lisa if he couldn't have been with us.  It was heartbreaking to be so far away from him for B and I - but he was totally strong about it and we grew a little as parents too.

Making chicken, veggie, and stuffing casserole (a no-complaints family favorite!), grilled teriyaki chicken, and tacos.

a chat with Grey and Gem

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

I had a chat with Grey and Gem this weekend and started with 'remember a long time ago when white people thought black people should be slaves' and followed with a chat about the civil war and Martin Luther King Jr, and how that was all so crazy and such a long time ago and Grey said, "Mum! We know about this already, why are we talking about it, it makes me feel mad?!" and I said, we're talking about it because something bad happened in Virginia and it's about people who think that having white skin is the best skin.

They asked questions, like "you mean this wasn't a long time ago, but now?" and I told them about the statue being removed and the Confederate flags and how the marchers were upset that they were being removed even though what they stood for was a disgraceful and hurtful part of our history.  They asked lots of "but why?" to which I offered that maybe they didn't read enough, or travel enough, or have enough friends that help them see that the world is big and beautiful and different and has room enough for all of us.

And then because they asked about the other flag, we got into a discussion about WWII and Nazis and how lots of people during that time didn't say 'this is wrong' because they weren't the ones being hurt. And we talked about the brave people that did find ways to help and assist those being persecuted even though it meant putting themselves in danger because it was the right and decent and human thing to do. And I told them about Heather Heyer and how she was there to say 'this is wrong' even though she had white skin and wasn't the one they were marching about.

Gemma cried because she got worried about her godfather Uncle Juice and sobbed 'he has brown skin, do they not like him too?' And Grey tried to rationalize that it wasn't happening in our town, so all the people we love that are brown and black are fine and that we don't really have to talk about it.

And I told him, "honey, we do have to talk about it because not talking about it is like pretending it's not happening or pretending its okay because it's not happening to us or to the people we love. What's wrong is wrong regardless if it's happening to us or not."

and I showed them the pictures of the group of people with the torches and said, "it's especially important that we talk about this because these people who stand for something so terrible look just like us."

Resources for opening up a discussion with your kids:

Team Studer: How we talk to our kids about privilege

Cup of Jo: Raising race conscious children

Washington Post: How silence can breed prejudice

All Parenting: How to talk to your kids about white privilege 

Medium: It's time for white parents of white kids to bring the resistance home. 

Raising race conscious kids  

HuffPost: Preserving my children's innocence is an act of preserving white supremacy 

Around Here Week Thirty-Two: 08/04-08/10

Friday, August 11, 2017

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

Intentional Hours Outdoors: 407+ hours (of 1000)
I totally geeked out this week on my dog walks and how beautiful the corn field looked in the golden hour may have seen on my insta stories totally dedicated to Mother Earth, hah. We had a perfect day at the 'beach' at Quemahoming with the Stiffler crew and Grey naturally wanted to fish the entire time while the rest of us waded in the water and the kids went to town on a mountain of a new sand pile! B and the kids had a couple trips into the woods to check trail cams while I logged some yard laps jogging and listening to the Showtime Spanish podcast (so fun!)

Reading Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld and starting Emma by Jane Austen for my local book club group!

Getting in a ton of cousin time with playdates and special outings.  The smallest two Garretsons and Caleb spent Saturday morning at our house.  It felt so much like autumn outside that Grey secretly snatched the spray paint out of the garage and painted a kid-sized football field in our yard for all the cousins. Then Grey was invited with Caleb (thank you Heather and Albert!) to watch the Pittsburgh Steelers practice and have a sleepover! And later this week, cousin Ariel came over to babysit for an afternoon!

Snuggling up and loving on sweet baby Tessa who had a sleepover with Uncle Jonny at our house last weekend.  Gemma was in her full on momma-glory mode and wanted to do every single thing to care for Tessa.  The two of them even got cozy enough and took a little snooze together on the couch for awhile. Rusty loved petting Tessa's head while saying "ooooooh" and Tess had a ton of visitors and got royally spoiled with hugs and kisses.  Thank you Ninna for letting her sleep over! She was well (over?) loved for sure!

Volunteering at vacation bible school all week and smiling about how much fun Gemma and Violet are having attending.  The tweens and teens who are also volunteering inspire me and make me proud of the decent and patient young people that are growing up right now.  Miss Hannah and Miss Becca (hi!) are the total best and have been so willing and enthusiastic about following Violet (and even Rusty last night!) around to keep them happy and safe each night (thank you girls!! xxox)

Doing something 'small but productive' towards our life that currently feels in total shambles #endofsummerprobs It's been summer loving so full tilt that everything, everywhere is out of sorts. Instead of letting the overwhelming sense of panic wash over me, I've been repeating to myself, "Do something small but productive" when I look around and get that terrible feeling of defeat (and also when I feel like I'm scrolling too much). So I deep-cleaned one whole side of the kitchen (yep, just half was all I could get in a day!) and I moved a bunch of 'donation pile' stuff to the garage, and I finally ordered an external hard drive for the laptop so it would stop warning me about storage, and I uploaded four months worth of phone pictures to Shutterfly.  Such a random assortment of tasks, but all of which were weighing on me.

Getting the official call that I was hired as the new Spanish teacher at a local school and feeling so excited, inspired, and energized about starting the new school year.  There are still a lot of adjustments that we need to figure out for our whole family (some we don't even know exist yet, no doubt) but Brandon has been so supportive and excited about the new changes too that I can't help but push those worries to the back of my mind and dive full in with his support.  Thank you so so much to all of you who have sent your congratulations and good lucks my way! I had a chance to visit my classroom and meet my across the hall neighbor (hi Allison!) and start to envision my days back in the classroom.  My brain is whizzing and swirling about a million miles an hour (on top of my already constant's a wild place inside this head these days!) and it is exhilarating and only a teeny bit overwhelming (the good kind).  Our school business manager asked me out to lunch while I was on campus this week (LOL.  I fear co-worker jokes will never get case you're confused, Brandon is the school business manager, hah!). Bring on the new school year!

Digging in as Rusty goes full blown toddler-boy-destruction-mode.  It is near impossible to do anything of value while he's awake because left to his own devices for thirty seconds he can flip a room upside down and shake the contents out.  His favorite activity is to pull himself up onto a kitchen chair then pull himself up on the kitchen table and then march and laugh a mere three feet off the tile floor...that's not a panic attack every.single.time. His least favorite activity is being restrained in car seats, or his dinner chair, or being held too long.  #sendhelp

Convinced that Brandon and I are so sleep deprived now after parenting for seven years that we won't ever make it up.  We have said four nights in a row that we were going to stay up (and by sta up I mean past 9:30p)  and watch (the DVR'ed) Unabomber series on Discovery Channel and have been completely unsuccessful every night.  I even fell asleep while showing Brandon a video clip on my phone and dropped my phone down between the bed and the wall (how?) when I dozed off for that split second. We are just so hilariously lame.

Making grilled honey garlic pork chops, and slow cooker French Dip Beef Au Jus sandwiches (so, so yum).  We also had slow cooker potato soup; a double batch because I forgot we had a whole 5lb bag of potatoes that needed to be used or trashed - so yay for a frozen meal ready for back to school time.  For breakfast I made the ever-favorite banana, blueberry muffins. Big thanks to Heather for providing me with the bananas for the muffins and dinner one night this week - Pierogie & Kielbasa casserole!  We've been blessed with an abundance of zucchini and summer squash this season from one of Brandon's co-workers (hi Cecelia, thank you!) and so I spent awhile on Saturday morning whipping up some Lemon Poppyseed Summer Squash quick bread and these summer squash muffins.  Then I polished off the rest we had by shredding and freezing some for the long winter months.