Around Here Week 32-33: 08/05-08/18

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

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

Intentional Outdoor Hours:  390 + hours (of 1000)
Up 38 hours in two weeks with some off and on weather (honestly, this summer has been so ridiculous). We've been snagging hours at evening practices and through our travels and activities.  We found a resident walking stick bug this week twice! He was hiding out on Grey's rollerblades and the kids were freaked out at first until we talked about his awesome camouflage and they realized he didn't bite (hah). After holding him for awhile, we put in him our tree by our back patio but then Violet found him (or another one?!) all the way over on the other side of our house a few days later. We relocated him to our robin nest tree (they've moved out) and we'll see if he pops up somewhere else next time!

Reading Walking to Listen by Andrew Forsthoefel and reading through my brand new Spanish novels for this year: Tumba, La Llorona, and Esperanza. My local book club; Books & Brews met up at Press Bistro to discuss The Woman in the Window and it was a pleasure as always to chat and talk with grown ups and eat delish food.  We decided on our next book This is How it Always Is by Laurie Frankel (thanks for the idea Shelly!) and I read the first few pages just to get a look into the book and o.mi.gosh obsessed already.

Enjoying some home upgrades. my Dad (chum) helped install our new kitchen sink faucet which we really needed (thank you!). We finished the garage project and put everything back in that we are keeping. There is only one final pile to go to the Salvation army for donations and one bigger pile to go into the dumpster we will be renting in the few days. I did some serious back-to-school nesting and went through the girls' and boys' bedrooms and the upstairs toy area and garbage bagged and donation bagged a ton of stuff. We moved Grey's fly tying station down to the basement which brought a little inventory creation resurgence in his etsy shop. I reorganized and moved furniture around and it's been a lot easier to clean up. Then I hunkered down and went through all the different handmedown totes to update the kids' sizes (worst job ever) and got it done! And then, joy of all joys, I embraced reality and finished the 2016-17 family yearbook and swallowed my need for it to be perfect and opted for just finished instead. I ordered it and when it arrived, I actually hugged it. LOL. The kids loved looking at all the pictures (and still have pulled it out almost every day for the past week and a half) and it honestly makes me so happy. I claim that besides our living family members (children & pets) - in a house fire, the only material item I would grab would be those family yearbooks!

Smh with my Gemma Ro. First, she got prescription glasses at the eye doctor which I thought maybe was going to be a great thing. It's just a tiny prescription, but she does complain about headaches after a long day of playing school (or going to school) and she struggles still quite a bit with reading. The doc said she should wear them during school and any homework activities. And then, in total Gemma fashion, she lost them within two days. Good grief. When I got home, I coined the phrase, "Gemma, glasses on your face or in your case" and must have said it six hundred times and even still. We're all in on trying to locate them before next week and the start of school.

Visiting Idlewild with our favorite friends, the Fiores. We have not been so good on our "no bummer summer list" (that's almost entirely my fault! thanks for loving us still!) but we did get to spend a fun afternoon riding rides, getting sprinkled with rain, and (in Kate and my case) getting very dizzy. The kids are between the sizes of being able to ride the big kid rides but not yet without an adult - so we alternated who rode each time and it was hilarious and horrifying how our grown up equilibriums are so evolved (ie: old). I mean, we can still do it, but once is enough - tell that to our little hooligans though when wanted to ride the tilt-a-whirl back to back times!

Saying goodbye to spike. Our sweet hamster passed away this past week and broke all of our hearts a little bit. He was about 2 years old, so pretty standard life span for a hamster, but it didn't make it any easier to bear. rest in peace in Hamster heaven Spiker (with Hamster Jesus, as the kids say)

Egg hunting. We usually get about 7-8 eggs a day in the nesting boxes, but we stumbled up on a little nest that T'Challa has been making secretly near the garage. By the time we found it, she had laid 10 eggs there! hahah! The kids were cracking up laughing. The chickens have been having a great week eating up watermelon too (their favorite treat!)

Catching up with our family at the annual (50th!) Uzelac family reunion. I have a very big family on most sides, including the Uzelacs - my grandma had 13 siblings (!) and we all get together each year to spend the day eating good food with good company. The kids LOVE seeing their cousins and playing home run derby and performing karaoke.

Showering our loved ones in love at bridal and baby showers. Our cousin Clerissa is expecting her first baby, a boy, and the girls and I headed out to Indiana for her adorable shower. Then our cousin, Morgan is the bride to be this October and Violet is her flower girl. Her bridal shower was perfect and had a 'little black dress' theme on a Friday night at Flair of Country (so delish). Then we gave some love to the Stankan family, expecting their third, a girl - at their co-ed baby sprinkle. The kids had a blast playing with their besties and we had beautiful weather all day.

Exploring the Jim Mayer trail with the kids. I have been eager to check out this local walking/biking trail and I'm so glad we finally went. I braved it by myself with all four kids and thanks in large part to the shady trail and the over 100 (?!) millipedes we 'rescued' walking across the path. It seriously blew my mind how many we found.We walked for two hours and there was minimal whining or fussing. Time in nature is always the solution. I seriously believe that.

fall sporting at football and cheerleading practice. It makes for some wild evenings; B and Grey at football practice, Gem, Uch, and I at cheerleading practice, and Rusty and Violet at the playground living out all the Lord of the Flies scenes (hahah, only half kidding). Thank you so much to all the parents and older siblings who keep collective eyes on all those younger siblings who have cheerleader & player older siblings (especially our cousin Taush who brings her two littles over to play with ours!)

Classroom organizing and setting up. I was lucky to get to visit with my girls' volleyball players while they were at camp and got a ton of stuff done in the room for prep for the upcoming year. I got the sweetest package delivered from my dear friend, Ashley from The Big White farmhouse. She emailed me a few weeks ago and asked if I would put together an Amazon wishlist for my classroom and then she went on and acted as my own personal classroom angel. Seriously had tears in my eyes - thank you Ashley!! xxox

Making slow cooker cream cheese chicken taquitos, kielbasa, zucchini, and corn on the cob, cheesy chicken and potatoes in the slow cooker, tacos, spaghetti, sausage & potato soup, chicken & zucchini casserole, and slow cooker chicken teriyaki bowls. For breakfast, we had our favorite 3 ingredient chocolate muffins, french toast, banana bread, zucchini bread, along with lots and lots of egg sandwiches.

our ABCs of summer

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Antisocial App - keeping me under control. I have been using the app to help curb my social media addiction since the beginning of the year. It basically runs in the background and tracks your smartphone usage (how many times you unlock, which apps you use and for how long, etc). For the summer, I turned on the schedule blocking feature which means it blocks me out of opening social media between the hours of 10a-2p and from 4p-8p.

Bedtime - is not a real thing, hah. we have a #nobedtime summer schedule so the kids usually stay up as long as they want/can and then end up sleeping long into the late morning (which I love so I can get lots of chores done before anyone is hanging off of me or requesting food and drinks. Grey sleeps on the couch almost every single night and the other kids have been rotating who sleeps downstairs too.  It means cleaning up blankets and pillows every.single.morning but also it's whatever. Beginning in August though, we start to reel it back in and couch sleeping is reserved for weekends only and we incrementally bring back bedtime fifteen minutes earlier each week. Have to re calibrate again before school!

Community Arts Center Camps and Classes - for Gemma and Violet. Gem attended their musical theater camp with a little production of Break the Cycle, which she totally loved. I've been itching to get Violet signed up for an art/painting class because she is still my little artist baby girl. She is so intentional and abstract with her painting (it seriously blows my mind) and I think she would love to get her little hands on new material and have a real instructor to learn some new techniques.

Daydreaming - about next school year for all of us. I am such a school nerd and look forward to the beginning of the school year like a kid waits for Santa. I caught a glimpse of the school supply aisle in Dollar General the other day and my heartbeat quickened #truestory. I hopped into a going-out-of-business store and snagged three lamps for my new room and scored two adorable new signs from this Spanish teacher's etsy shop to add to our decor. I've visited my new classroom twice already this to move and organize and decorate. While I was there, I saw my new Spanish novels have arrived and I went through my email to see my subscription to SeƱor Wooly is opened (geeking out so hard). Thankfully we have Miss Hannah who will be with us two days a week for the last three weeks of summer so I can squeeze in some precious planning/organizing time to prep for the school year. 

Eggs - on our mind. We had been checking daily in on our robin's nest that has four perfectly blue eggs inside, to then four sweet hatched little baby birds, to finally four too-big-for-that nest robins! It was so fascinating for all of us to watch the whole process and see how hard the mom and dad robin work to feed all those babies. What a gift this summer that was for us! The chickens also started laying at the very end of July- the kids were so excited to see two sweet brown eggs waiting for us in the hatching boxes. We average about 6-8 eggs a day (!) and have already delivered a full dozen to our neighbors (and we've eaten a ton). I told the kid that if we have 3 dozen by next Thursday, they can go sell them at the community farmer's market!

Free Range - to the kids to play and imagine their own summer days.  At the beginning of the summer I felt a few fleeting moments of pressure to organize and plan our days at home down to the hour and then I was like, yeah - no. I've been giving them lots of space to fill their summer days with whatever their imagination can come up with. Their chores have allowed me a little extra freedom too - I have laundry, dishes, and cooking helpers!

Garage - emptying, cleaning, updating, and reorganizing. This entire project was never even on our giant summer project list, yet its the one that has taken the most time, energy, and money (hah! typical.) It was a project that probably needed done for the past seven years since we moved in but holy moly it is a lot of work! We are finally on the last stage of putting things back in - which also has us think minimally and efficiently. (thank goodness)

Hospital - waiting room hopping, as we work through the overwhelming medical news about someone we love very much. It has been a difficult few weeks, but we continue to get very positive news and incredible doctors, nurses and surgeons who work together as a team to put effective plans in place.Thank you so much to all of you who have been praying and keeping us in your thoughts. We have felt your love and positive vibes and are so grateful to you for thinking of us and also giving us time and space to breathe.

Indulging - in the little joys of summer life. It took a whole month for me to realize I need to be better dedicated to eating good stuff (hah, whoops!) The kids have got great use out of our Amazon Firestick this summer, some of their favorite flicks have been Karate Kid, Matilda, Hook, and good grief - Mamma Mia. The blackberries are in bloom around our yard and the paths behind our house which is one of my all time favorite summer indulgences; walking the dogs and snacking on blackberries right from the bush. I have even indulged in the central air this summer as the mugginess has been so extreme (ugh).

Jumping - on the trampoline. Brandon and I wholeheartedly agree that the trampoline was the best money we ever spent on a kids' toy.

Kayaking - the Quemahoming Dam and falling love, every single person in our family! We already purchased two youth kayaks for Gemma and Violet and we've been on the look out for kayaks for B, Grey, and I to complete the family set (Rusty can ride with a grown up still). We live in such a perfect location for kayaking in western PA and the fact that every person in our family loves being out on the water - family kayaks just makes sense!

Library - late fees. We were doing so well getting to the library at least every two weeks for half of the summer (and enjoying free library lunch) and then we fell out of schedule and I've had 12 children's books out on late fees for two weeks. We are steadily marching through our 100 picture books for the summer though and it makes me so heartwarmed that all four kids come like moths to a light if I sit down with a children's book in my hand and start reading.

Modifying - plans as the summer has taken some unforeseen twists and turns for our family. We last minute RSVP'ed a no to a cousin's wedding (congrats Kyle & Alyssa! We love you both!) and we postponed our 10th year Beer Olympics! Our hearts just were not in the planning and preparations. We are so grateful to have the amazing friends that attend that event who were so sweet and patient with our updates - many of whom reached out immediately to offer prayers and help. (we love you guys!) We've had family and friends be flexible for babysitting and changing plans and even more patient with my terrible text response time issues. (thank you!)

Norwex - cleaning. Uh oh, I jumped on the Norwex train and I ain't ever looking back! My baby sis had a party and I was amazed and loved that it is simple, deep cleaning, and environmentally friendly. One rag to get the whole house done - and easy (and safe!!) enough for the kids to do to - TAKE ALL MY MONEY.  hahha.

Ordering - clothing boxes for the girls and myself. I hate clothes shopping - for me, for the kids - I loathe it. I ordered the girls Kidpik boxes and they came a few weeks ago. They were over the moon and oohing and ahhing each time they pulled an item out of the boxes. Gemma's box was perfect - every single item was exactly her and a perfect fit.  Violet's box was a perfect fit and we will probably keep everything because she ripped half the tags off while trying them on (#SweetLord) but she also has so many handmedown clothes that it's a little harder to justify brand new clothes for her (...but I guess she needs her own stuff too. #bigfamilymomguilt ) I signed up for Stitch Fix to get my Teacher wardrobe ready for the new school year and also loved everything in my box! Capsule teacher wardrobe - nearly updated!

Playing - volleyball with our co-ed team at Roxbury. I love our little motley crew of a team that all call me mom/momma and that act like they hate saying 'meow' in our team huddles (but I know they're lying, they love it). We made to playoffs but ended up losing in the first round. It is always so bittersweet to end our summer league volleyball season.

Quemahoming Dam - visiting. We live only a few minutes from the Que and it is one of our favorite summer spots. The scenery is gorgeous with the water surrounded by our beautiful PA rolling, lush green mountains. The family recreation site includes a sanded beach, playground, pavilions, fishing doc, walking trails, kayak & paddle board rental shop, and a volleyball court. It is the perfect place to spend a summer day and wear the kids out tired from all the fun.

Rainbows - rain clouds, wind, and humidity. The weather this summer has been so wacky and frustrating. We never know what the weather might bring one day to the next - there hasn't been any consistent pattern. It was so windy the other day that it was uprooting our garden vegetable plants (!?) and the so hot and humid only to rain for four days in a row straight.

Sassy - mouthed little children. Oh sheesh, our two biggest kids have been testing and pushing the second half of the summer with their smart mouths and back talking. We've had more discussions about respect  and more day/afternoon grounding to their rooms, and loss of privileges that we anticipated for raising our 8 and 6 year old. I know it will only continue to get harder as they move to the land of tweens and teens - but we're trying to get a handle on it now before they ever get the chance to turn into full blown brats. Gosh, parenting is tough - I'm sending all my love and patience to you mommas and daddas out there trying your darnedest to not raise aholes.  Us too! We feel ya!

Truck - research. Brandon has been on a months long mission to find a new truck for us and I swear it is has consumed his mind, body, and soul. I am not a car person - AT ALL - I literally couldn't tell you the name of any vehicle on the road and cannot see the difference between vehicles beyond shape and color. And yet, he continually passes me his phone with the 543rd truck he's found only to have to listen to me comment on the color.  HAHAHAHAHA. For the love of all that is holy, Pick one, babe!  (love you B xxox)

Underwater - the kids are little fish and we can never get in enough swimming to satisfy them. Grey and Gemma are full blown swimmers and are slowly opening up to the idea of swimming without googles (mom goal: the less accessories we need for any given activity the better! ha) Violet can swim but she still tires pretty easily but won't take a break stage (hahha! she's just like our dog Bullet - I swear that dog would swim until he drown himself). Rusty has been getting the arm and leg movement down, but his head is so big, he can't keep it above water LOL.

Visiting - family and friends in place of a bonafide vacation. We didn't get to go on any big fancy trip, but we have had so much fun spending time with family and friends. We've played at Idlewild, spent the day swimming at Friendship Village campground, slept over our cousin's houses, hosted sleepovers and playdates at our house. It's been a mixed up summer - but still a good one with a lot of memories and smiles.

Woods - exploring behind our house. The dogs and I have gotten in quite a few walks together and I love so much the sunset view on the path behind our house. It feels me with such joy and gratitude I can't even explain it. (#PAiloveyou) The kids worked together earlier this summer to try to build a treehouse in the woods and they did a pretty good job, except for the fact that they stole a bunch of Brandon's tools from the garage and never returned them.

eXploring - new-to-us restaurants. I've been pretty terrible at meal planning this summer which has us using that as an excuse to try local restaurants we've never been to before. We've enjoyed food and libations this summer at: Tulunes Steak & Alehouse, The Fat Squirrel, Out of Fire Grill, Tap 814 Speakeasy, Nyko's (new to B), and Stone Bridge Brewery.

Yard - animals roaming all over the place. We had two sweet fawns that stop by once a day, Brandon even bought them a little salt cube that is down near the chicken coop. We have about three million bunnies and a family of groundhogs living in our sand mound. We also have a skunk living down by the driveway which makes for a tricky evening situation with the dogs - by the Grace of all that is holy, somehow the dogs have not been sprayed all summer (probably just jinxed myself!) We have two little baby fox living on the other side of our driveway that we see anytime we come home after dark. And the funniest of all - we have a whole flock of swallows (I'm talking like 15-20) that bomb dive and swoop us while we mow the lawn or Brandon weed whacks. We are thinking that the mower kicks up bugs and butterflies and the swallows come out in full force for harvest. It is like something out of the Hitchcock Birds movie the way they are everywhere in our yard but instead of scary - we all laugh and shake our heads in disbelief.

Zucchini - is nearly the only thing that will grow in our garden. We planted broccoli but the bunnies ate every single bit down to the dirt. We have some tomatoes that are starting to pop up - although Rusty keeps pulling them off while they are green and saying 'apple!' - and we have about two little banana peppers trying to make it. No green peppers or jalapenos either. But our zucchini (or as Violet calls it 'bikini'), is growing like crazy and we love it.

-thanks for the inspiration, Ashley from The Big White Farmhouse, to kick me out of this writer's block.

Around Here Week 31: 07/29-08/04

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

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


Intentional Outdoor Hours: 352+ hours (of 1000)
Up 20 more hours this week. I had a joyful hike at 1000 steps with my sis, Kayla while we trekked up the mountainside via rock steps and then hiked all along the top. Gosh, if I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times, Pennsylvania is so beautiful. Honestly, I gush like a heartsick teen over these rolling hills and valleys, every darn day. Not even in just spectacular views like at 1000 steps, but while driving the country roads by her house - like a total maniac, I lean out the open window and shout, "I love you Somerset County.' that's not a joke, I legit do that. I have not, however, been such a fan of this weather this summer with it's days long worth of raining followed by extreme mugginess. I make a motion to surrender to the new weather shift and change the summer months now to August-October. Let's all just agree that the new spring runs May-July because you know we'll be sweating all the way through football/cheer season. Fall is basically November and like the first half of December and then we have winter from Christmas to April (waaah, but also true). Let's just adjust the school year, yes?

Reading and finishing The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah. It was a great book, I'm still digesting my feelings on it because as Hannah's way, there's no neat and tidy all is well that ends well when you close the book - it feels more like life in the way that things get kind of messed up but everything is bound together by love so somehow we can endure it all. I kind of love that because it feels heartbreakingly true to life, but also I don't mind a fictional happy ending too, ya know? The Great Alone was my 12th book of the year, which means I've checked off that task on my 100 small things list! And I finally returned our library books (12 of them!) two weeks past their due date - try to guess what those late fees added up to?!

Completing the garage floor! Good grief, this project took so long but was really worth it. We got the floor all epoxy'ed and now all that is left is to put it back together - but not before making some major decisions about what stays and what goes (garbage/donation).

Hosting our cousin Reid at our house for a few days. Grey was in heaven getting to spend time with Reid all week. They roamed around the woods, took a bike ride with my Dad to Staple Bend, made afternoon snacks for all of us, and sword fought on the trampoline (with wiffle ball bats, hah). We taught the kids how to play Spoons and it was hilarious.

Fall sporting it at minors football practice and flag cheerleading practice. Coach daddy has had the football boys conditioning and practicing through the rain and mud all week - all to their supreme delight (hah) Grey loves every second of football season. My sister and I (coach Uch & coach momma) started cheer practices this week with our little munchkins - and they are so sweet and hilarious. Uch choreo'ed a great little halftime routine for them and they've already impressed us with what they've learned. Thank goodness for the minors cheerleaders and coaches that have let us double up on cheer/chant practice; our little girls love learning alongside the older girls.

Finishing up co-ed summer volleyball league at Roxbury. We had a great season and we just love playing with that crew. Playing in the summer makes it tricky with getting a sitter for the kids on tuesdays and shuffling between practices and school board meetings - but every year B and I feel so grateful to get to play on a team together and to play with this team and these people. We really love it.

Collecting eggs. We are all fascinated about collecting our chicken eggs. We've been averaging between 2-5 a day - usually they are where they are supposed to be (in the nesting boxes) but we've been finding them in the chicken coop run, in the garage, and in the yard near where the chickens like to wander. It's like Easter over here! We are learning so much, all of us, it has been so much fun researching and finding answers to the kids questions. We've learned about shell-less eggs and how to prevent them, egg yolk colors and why our yolks are dark orange sometimes red, and about cleaning and to fridge or not to fridge eggs. Our chicken T'challa (named after Black Panther because of her black tail feathers) is the most bold and is always near the house and even hopped in Sheila the other day while I was buckling the kids up.

Watching our baby robins grow like crazy. The first picture was from Monday morning and the last picture was from Saturday. They are getting so big (and so fast!) that they can barely fit in that nest - where is the momma sleeping?! The kids love to sit all the way on the opposite side of the porch to watch the momma robin (and Daddy robin I think - because there are two robins feeding these babes) bring in bugs and worms for them. If we sit really still and quiet, she will fly right up to the nest so we can see and feed those screeching babies.

Celebrating my momma's birthday with dinner out and karaoke at Ohio Street Lounge. One of my mum's best friends shares her birthday which made it doubly special as we celebrated the both of them (hi, Becky!) We put on a hilarious rendition of Summer Loving with the boys who came out to celebrate and then later my sisters, Russell, and I sang Super Trouper like we were actually Donna and the Dynamos - so it was pretty amazing. My girls are so proud. #mammamiaobsessed still.

thankful for family who scoops our kids up when I need it most. Like mum and dad who took all five kids (including Reid) so we could play in volleyball playoffs, and Taush who grabbed my little ones at cheerleading/football practice to go to the community bbq at Greenhouse park, and my sister Kitty who is always up for wild, high energy adventures with the kids that make them smile. and our Gilmore cousins who had a sleepover with B and the big kids before Grey's one year later broken wrist check up (he's all good!) Gem adores her cousin Audra and loved those 12 hours to sleepover and play together!

Making tacos, hawaiian meatballs over rice, french dip sandwiches with au jus in the crockpot, shredded bbq chicken sandwiches, and kielbasa with corn on the cob and zucchini. B made eggs and gallo pinto for breakfast because he knows the song in my heart. The kids and I whipped up a batch of peanut butter cookies and Grey and Reid made us some puppy chow that was gone in literal minutes. Despite a (let's be honest, half) effort to do better with eating and tracking, I'm still up another pound or so this month - but at least I slowed the gain down, right? On to the next month and working towards turning that needle back downwards!