Around Here Week 34: 08/18-24

Saturday, August 31, 2019

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

photo cred: Miss Hannah

Intentional Outdoor Hours: 562+ hours
Up 33 hours this week thanks to day camping, Friday night high school football game, and some last summer days (swimming, outdoor playing, and visits) helped boost our hours this week. I can already feel though the crunch down on time with the school year around the corner- there's a little pressure on time for getting all the things done and I know I'm going to have to be intentional with my outdoor time to keep my numbers up as we head into the next season!

Reading I'll Think It You Say It by Curtis Sittenfield and really enjoying it. I read a few chapters in the hammock this week and it felt like such a full circle for the summer when I was reading so much outside in early June fresh out of school. gah, time - why do you move so swiftly?

Singing happy HALF birthday to our Gemmi Ro who turned seven and a half this week! We had muffins for breakfast and she got to spend most of the day with Miss Hannah - so it was a pretty good half birthday for that little chickie.

Listening to Violet retell all about her amazing adventures on her special day with Gigi&Pap. They drove out to Gettysburg on Wednesday to visit The Land of Little Horses Farm Park  She had such a great time and enjoyed so much to have one on one time with her Gigi and Pappy. (thank you!!)

No bummer summering with the Fiores at Delgrosso's amusement park on Wednesday! Kate and I took Rusty and Charlie around the smaller rides while our three big kids spent their afternoon riding the big rides - they even got enough courage to ride the big drop! We had pizza and snacks in our pavilion and then the kids were anxious to head back to the Fiore house to swim. Always the best day when it's the Fioder crew.

Day camping at the Que with Abba & Chum who rented our favorite two Que camping spots for the weekend. The kids were thrilled to spend most of Saturday at the dam; kayaking, swimming, playing in the hammock, and eating campfire food. Our friends, the Huffmans came out to visit, my parents' friends Pam & Al came to camp out too, and the kids were overjoyed to have Aunt Kitty all to themselves for playing and rock skipping on the water. It was a perfectly lovely last summer camp day before the new school year begins!

Teacher-prepping with a visit to my classroom that turned into mostly catching up with my fav coworker (hi Renee!) and a student who was working on her schedule that day (hi, Alysha!) Thank you to Miss Hannah for staying with the kids for my classroom visit AND then so that B and I could grab our annual back-to-school coworker lunch date. The school year officially started on Friday with our first teacher In-service day. We had some meetings and then had an opportunity to get in our classrooms to get ready for the kiddos coming next week!

Fall Sporting with two cheer practices (including finishing our run through sign painting!) and a Path of the Pride cheer spirit event at the varsity football home game opener. The boys had three football practices, they served the Varsity players a meal one night with Common Grounds outreach (thank you Loni for the great idea!), and had a scrimmage vs. CV. Grey is so excited to be back in a helmet and pads and seeing those boys work together always has me smiling.

Frugal Living was on the light side this week. I packed a cooler with snacks, juice, and homemade cookies to take with us to the amusement park and I made double batches of banana bread with all six bananas that went brown at our house (all 6?! come on!)

Making turkey taco crunchwraps (!), pizza tostadas, bowtie spaghetti, three ingredient chocolate breakfast muffins, chocolate chip cake batter cookies, and banana bread.

Keto'ing and bumping up to 12% carbs from strict 5% carb keto. I was really running low on juice (fall activities/back to school prep) and after some research figured out that I should probably up my carbs a little bit. Now instead of under 20 net carbs, I'm getting under 55 net carbs - which is still officially 'low carb' but not as strict as keto. I'm still getting used to it, because it feels like cheating a little bit makes me want to cheat a lot (LOL). I made keto bagels and had my favorite breakfast: keto bagel, avocado, feta cheese, and sunflower seeds. We had salmon and green beans (and then leftover salmon over salad), keto 'bread' sticks, and church picnic chicken with cheesy brussel sprouts.

Birthday reflection exercise

Thursday, August 22, 2019

It's nearly my birthday, 36!, and every year I find a way to make it weird on all the people that love me and want to celebrate me (hah, sorry). I just really feel that birthdays, at least for me, are meant to be for internal reflection. The only person who deserves to be celebrated on my birthday is my mumma who did all the work that day 36 years ago - Thank you Mum! Love you more. 

So, every year around my birthday, my husband and family has to endure as I go through a few days that have me all weepy with gratitude and quiet with contemplation while I keep telling them to stop making a big deal out of it. (poor Brandon, I love you for putting up with me, babe).

Mostly for me, my birthday is a yearly reminder to be grateful for this life that I get to live. 

There are days that are so long and challenging that I find myself grateful to sink down into bed at night with relief that it is just over. But most days, I cannot believe I get to live this life filled with so much beauty. 

All the tiny regular moments through the year, 
sips of coffee
catching Brandon's eyes across the dinner table
hots showers
a warm day with a cool breeze
the sound of turning a page in a book 
the weight of my babies in my arms
they all collectively add up to this incredible life that I get to live each day. 

The people who show up for me and the people who need me to show up.
The places that I usually find myself and the places I got to explore. 
The laughing and crying and hurting and rejoicing. 
I feel so undeserving but deeply grateful to get to be the one who walks this single, unique, ordinarily extraordinary life. 

My life isn't perfect, but I remain focused on the ways that it is wonderful and all the ways that I can choose to make it better or be grateful for what I do have. 

It comes down to perspective and how you frame your experiences and memories. 

These are some things that I find myself reflecting on each year around my birthday. We get this one year in this one precious life. I want to make them all count. 

1. What lessons did you learn this year? 
Sometimes you learn the hard way, sometimes you learn to be more efficient - both count. 

2. Are you living your daily life in a way that is reflective of the kind of person you want to be remembered as some day?
I often imagine my children and my future grandchildren remembering me or telling stories about me when I am very old or gone. I want to work towards living a life right now that their stories will be the kind of a person I want to be remembered as. That I made time for them and others. That I laughed and smiled. That I made food that felt like a hug. That I found time to be silly and have fun and snuggle. That I behaved as though mess and the loudness and the chaos didn't matter as much as the togetherness. That I was patient and looked at them and listened to them and read a lot of books.....for these stories to be true - I need to live this way right now. 

3. If you had to describe the You you were this year, what words would you use to describe him/her?
She was one part overwhelmed, distracted, and worried and another part ambitious, determined, and patient. It was a strange year of life last year. A challenging year at school, a scary year for health of a loved one but then that half of the year drove the other half towards being intentional on doing better; being more aware, taken advantage of health and youth and the beautiful expanse of summer free days of possibility. 

4. Who did you admire this year? Who do you want to be more like? Why? How?
Reflect on who you were surprised by or who impressed you this year. Who made you think, I want to be more like that. Maybe it was a small, kind gesture from someone you know personally or maybe it was something big on a large scale that inspired you from someone you simply read about. Think about what it was that inspired admiration; is it something that you already have inside you that just needs to burn a little brighter - or is it something you want to change or add to yourself? 

5. How were people supportive to you this year? How can you be supportive to others in the same way you felt supported this year? 
Think back to the people who were in your corner this year - how did you know they were there for you? Did they show up? Did they reach out? Did they lend a helping hand? Do you show support to people you love in the same ways that gave you support? How can you do better? Who needs you in their corner? 

6. Reflect on the titles you held this year. 
Spouse, parent, child, sibling, aunt/uncle, grandparent, friend, job title, coach, etc. Which of these were easy and fulfilling? Which were challenging? Do you need to re-prioritize this year? Do you need to change any? Do you need to add any? 

7. Reflect on the things you accomplished this year. 
What did you volunteer to do? What were you forced or pressured into doing? How many times did you say Yes? Why? Was it worth it? How many times did you say No? Why? Was it worth it? Where in your life should you try to say No more? Where in your life should you try to say Yes more?

8. In what small moments did you fill most like your true self? 
When you are your true self, who is with you? Are you alone? What were you doing? How can you make more moments for you to be your true self throughout the year, months, weeks, days. Are there daily routines that bring peace of mind that you can continue? Are there moments where a routine or tradition can help bring you peace of mind this year? 

9. You will never be this young again in your life, what can you do this year to take advantage of this youthfulness that you still have? 
What are things your mind, body, and health allow you to do right now that you can't guarantee as you get the privilege of growing older? Will you take better care of your body this year; healthy whole foods? exercise? moisturizer and sunscreen? meditation? get a check up? Will you learn a new skill; knitting? a musical instrument? calligraphy? a recipe from an elderly family member? Will you expand your horizons; travel? learn a new language? take up a hobby? participate in a local sports league? volunteer your time for others? 

10. Plot this year on a big imaginary scale with all other years, where does this one fall? 
Maybe looking back it will be one of your favorite years and you know already you'll look back and think, 'oh to be that age again!" Or maybe it belongs in the worst/scariest/most challenging years category. If it was a hard one, that's okay - sometimes life is like that, but look at you - you persevered and for that you can be grateful; even if just because that year is over.  If it falls in the rating of Meh, how can we make that different next year. You get one year this age and that's it! We should be living in a way that no years turn out to be just 'meh' years! 

Around Here Week 33: 08/12-08/17

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

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

Intentional Outdoor Hours: 529+ hours
Up 16 hours this week. The kids and I took the dogs to the Que for a quick swim on a gloomy day much to Bullet's extreme happiness. Trixie could care less about swimming, but Bullet would swim until he drown (which I was worried a few times when he swam really far from shore). We swam at Pappy&Gigi's house on Friday afternoon and scored some more hours at fall sports practices. At 529 hours and 55 minutes to date, I have officially surpassed all previous years' outdoor hours! Last year, I called my full year count at 529 hours and 23 minutes! So yay me...and thanks camping!

Reading  and finishing Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick your Ass by Meg Medina, I really enjoyed it! I also read and finished a new language learning novel that I will use this year in Spanish 2; El Silb√≥n de Venezuela by Craig Klein Dexemple about the Venezuelan/Colombian spooky legend of the Whistling Man.

Half Marathon Training this week: 5 miles
Ugh, I did pretty poorly at my half training schedule this week, but I think my body did need a little bit of a break. I took rest days Monday-Wednesday and then ran 3 miles from our house to cheerleading practice! It was so efficient to run there and then drive home after practices with the fam, so that helped beat my running boredom which has become a real thing for me. I did some modified training (hah) on Friday night with a 2mile dog walk.

Swinging by the library with the kids to return and pick up one last book haul before the end of the summer. Grey read and finished The Man Who Wore All his Clothes by Allan Ahlberg in preparation for AR tests this school year (haha/yay!)

Videochatting with my college this week to make sure I am all set to go for the upcoming school year. I have a teaching practicum in the fall (multiple observations by my principal and mentor teacher) and another semester of the teaching practicum and a 15 page research paper due in the spring, then I'll be all done with my PA certification by May 2020!

Singing happy birthday to our Uncle Kevmoo for his 30th with a late evening cheesecake after football and cheer practice. We love you Kevin Duck!

Letting out a deep sigh of relief when Gigi received the news of another clear scan this time 3 months post-chemo! Thank you for all the continued support, prayers, and good thoughts.

Back to school prepping with a shopping trip with the girls on Saturday. We picked up some clothes for all four kids, bought updated hygiene supplies, and grabbed some pencils and folders. The babies got new lunchboxes and the backpacks have been cleaned out and washed (we reuse our LL Bean backpacks each year - they're lifetime warranty!) B and Greyson got their hair cuts on Friday and Grey had his dentist appointment. The big kids just need new shoes and then we will be all ready to go!

Ordering delivery Aldi through Instacart. So instacart is kind of like Uber or Grubhub but for groceries. A person gets your grocery list and then goes and picks up your food and delivers it to your home. We had ours delivered to Gigi & Pappy's house while we were swimming because our zipcode isn't included yet. It was a good experience but we get such a huge order that it makes more sense for me to just do it myself I think in the future. We are all set for the school year though, so that's a relief!

Resolving our rooster problem. We had four roosters (!!) and they were really getting mean and bossy. One of them tried to flog Rusty, it was constant trauma to our hens all day long, they were fighting each other, their crowing was constant - and we figured that all that noise was probably calling in the predator that's been picking our hens off one by one all summer. So I had enough and told Brandon, it just needs done. We did keep their breasts to cook and some hackle for Grey's fly fishing supplies. It certainly wasn't fun, but it needed done - especially before the winter - and our coop is peaceful and happy again. Rest in Rooster Heaven Peace.

Being an outdoorsman's wife. The whole year is outdoorsman season, but we are really creeping into the most intense season and the boys are itching to get out in the woods. Brandon and Grey spent Friday morning setting up tree stands and checking trail cams with our Gilmore cousins. On Saturday morning they went out with cousin Jesse and his bird dog Gunner for a pheasant/chukar shoot. Grey harvested three chukars! And even Rustman got in on the action while B helped him shoot his BB gun at the target in our yard while the girls and I were shopping.

Teacher-prepping by finalizing all first week lesson plans and syllabi for all levels. I hauled all four kids to school with me on Thursday so that I could decorate some more, hang my word wall, and organize a bit. I got to have a chat with my teacher bestie, Renee too and the kids watched The Book of Life on the projector. I received the best surprises from our classroom fairy godmother (Ashley) this week too! I asked her to help build our reader's theater prop collection and she found and sent the most hilarious and perfect props, including - top hats, nerd glasses, animal masks, and a super hero cape! The kids are going to be so much more theatrical as we read our novels this year with so many costume options! Thank you Ashley!!

Fall Sporting with two cheer practices and one picture night. We painted three of our six run-through banners on Thursday nights and they are awfully colorful and creative (lol). Grey and Brandon had three football practices and their picture night too. Grey was nursing a stoved thumb back to better this week after jamming it in a basketball game with his cousins last Sunday. We were worried for about 5 minutes that maybe it was broken, but with repeated thumb-ice baths and tylenol, it was almost back to normal by the weekend.

Frugal Living digging all through the football/cheer shed to find last year's run through paper so that I didn't have to buy another roll. Harvesting our first (teeny) tomato from the garden! Saving the breasts from our four roosters and the three chukars Grey harvested during the bird dog hunt. We saved some neck hackle from the roosters for Grey's fly fishing collection too. The girls and I used a Starbucks giftcard for our back-to-school shopping snack that covered our whole order and I did at at-home dye for my fall hair using Nutrisse's light brown instead of going to the salon.

Making ground turkey with green beans over rice, chicken, veggies & stuffing casserole, sloppy joes and mac&cheese, buffalo chicken dip, and keto chili which the kids woofed down and loved.

Keto'ing right along. I am continuing with Keto, still tracking my macros while B has taken a more lax approach since he doesn't want to lose any more weight. We had really delicious chicken, broccoli, alfredo casserole this week and I made another batch of chocolate cream cheese fat bombs. Grey made me a delicious Keto friendly breakfast (eggs, cheese, & strawberries) and B whipped up some chicken fajitas (sans tortillas) with pepperjack cheese on the grill.

5 Things Children Really Need

Friday, August 16, 2019

First of all, I'll be the first to say that I'm no expert, and I've only been at this gig for nine years. There are days when I look around stunned into silence because one of our kids did exactly the thing we've been talking about and I think 'holy crap, I'm amazing.' and then there are most days that I feel like I'm totally screwing our kids up and wonder when in the world I am ever going to figure this parenting thing out.

Kortni from one of my favorite instagram accounts ( ) explained how I feel about every day of parenting best this week when she wrote
"There were days when my heart was so full I thought I might explode, and there were other moments when my senses were under such intense assault that I was certain I'd lose it....It was too much and not enough. It was loud and silent. It was brutal and beautiful. I was at my very best...and my very worst."
This is hard work; raising kids - it always has been in the history of the world. There are limitless kinds of ways to be a great parent, and each child comes with their own unique and individual needs. Parenting requires a daily (sometimes hourly) ability to make changes to the game plan. Because, friends, this thing is hard but literal most important job of our lives.

I am a mother of four (ages 9-3) and a teacher of about 120 high school students in a small, rural town for three years, and a former teacher of about 70 elementary school aged English Language Learner students in Brooklyn, New York. I'm a flag cheerleading coach of two years, an AYSO soccer coach for 4-7 year olds for two years, and a Sunday school teacher for fourth and fifth grade students for 6 years. In other words, I have some experience with children of all ages and demographics.

And in my limited and humble experience, I have observed that there are five things that kids really need to grow and flourish. All the other stuff is great and important, but also it's all just extra.

Our kids need these five things every day for all the days.

1. Conversation
This can start from the very beginning. Children want and need communication. You've all seen this video of the dad and his baby, this is real engagement and communication. That sweet babe already understands that he has a voice that matters. The advice that I read when I was becoming a mother was that you should respond to your baby's coos and goos; engage with them - look them in the eye and encourage more sounds. Baby sign language was such a blessing to me because the hardest part of those beginning years is not knowing what your baby wants when they cry.

The important thing about conversations are that they are two-way. Each person involved gets to talk and gets to listen. Questions, answers, memories, inside jokes, understanding, empathy, being vulnerable, finishing each other's thoughts, laughing, and crying - these are all things that come out of real conversations. The kid gets to both talk and listen; as does the parent. The insight into feelings and behaviors is invaluable when we let our kids do the talking.

This can be practiced with parents and family members, but should also be played out in real life. We have our kids order their own meals at restaurants as early as they can speak (sometimes toddler language needs translated, but they try first!), kids can call and order the pizza, they should be able to speak with their bus driver, the maintenance staff at school, the resource officer, and their teachers; these are all adults that help get them through their days. We constantly remind the kids that when an adult asks you a question - you look into their face, answer clearly and loud enough, you should practice attentive listening (nodding your head, maintain eye contact, etc).

Cellphones/social media have added a layer of murkiness to conversations. I was fascinated to listen to this TED Talk Connected, but Alone by Sherry Turkle and I have read multiple articles that say that texting, emailing, and social media captions are breaking down the ability to have face to face conversations. Kids (and adults) are becoming dependent on the crutch of filtering and editing themselves. There is a different flow in the way we speak, listen, and respond when you have to do it on the spot in a face-to-face conversation; a vulnerability, and our young people are not getting regular practice at this.

My high school students have a visible need to be looked at and engaged with. They are obsessed with being seen on social media and maintaining their Snapchat streaks with their 'friends' but that can flip within a class period if someone posts something about them. Kids becoming distracted with constantly refreshing if they believe that another student's vague, cryptic (or worse, blatantly obvious) post was targeted at them. I loved this article called Middle School Misfortunes Then and Now and how it illustrates the loneliness that our kids are experiencing today from a lack of meaningful connections and conversations.

Kids today get to live a more 'connected' life than we ever did but that connection is almost all surface; there's no deeper roots that can form without the relationship building of face-to-face conversation. I make a heartfelt attempt to look into the face of every student and say their name each day. The way my students respond when I stop by their seat and quietly whisper, 'hey, you okay?' when I notice that they seem off, is shocking - as though they can't believe someone noticed them and looked them in the face. We aren't going to get rid of the technology at this point (obviously) but we can still carve out spaces for face-to-face conversation. Our family's no-screen zones include: meal times, games/practices, the car, and bedtime. Our policy is to be with the people who are there.

2. Touch
This one is fairly easy for families with little kids, because what is more huggable than a little squishmiester toddler? But this becomes increasingly more difficult as children grow into bigger kids who go through that awkward puberty stage and drive you crazy and say you're embarrassing them. When our babies are little, I ask aloud, "But how many kisses is too many kisses?" as I nearly suffocate myself in their neckfolds (oh Lord, how I love those loose skinned baby necks!) So much touch all day - hugs, snuggles, kisses, 'hold me's.' It is nearly non-stop touching when they are little. But then it slowly tapers off as kids get bigger and move faster and gain more independence.

Recently when I asked Grey (9yrs) the best part of his day his answer was, "When you pet my hair on the couch while we were watching tv." My Grey said that! Who most wants to run, jump, and tackle. My Grey, who the last thing he does anymore is initiate a hug and who slips his hand out of mine when we are crossing the street with, "I'll walk right next to you, Mom." Touch can be as simple as sitting next to each other on the couch, or a twirl through the parking lot as you hold hands, or rubbing their back on your way past their seat at the breakfast table.

I see what lack of touch does to my high school students- the students who most desperately need it will come up to me and ask for a hug (high school students!) but for those that aren't as forthcoming with their need for human contact, I sneak it in (it's the momma in me) and as I walk through the room and put my hand on a shoulder, or twirl a ponytail - it's a visible reaction; how they lean into the gesture like a flower pointing towards the sun. I often silently wonder, 'How long has it been since someone has held your hand, or tucked you in, or pushed your hair out of your eyes?'

They are big (most of them taller than me) but they are still little kids inside and they are so starved for human touch. I have a weird theory that teenage male students are better behaved in class if they have a girl/boyfriend. Sometimes I think it's because they have bigger things to think about in class than causing behavior issues, sometimes it's because they realize that what they do is now reflective of someone they care about, but lots of times... I think it's because they are getting the hugs they needed so badly.

Bottomline mommas and daddas- we need to keep hugging our kids even as they grow taller than us.

3. Outdoors
There is something about being outside that reminds us all that we are connected to all living things; that we are just a small part of a great big world made up of other people, but also all the animals and insects and trees and plants. To feel the ground beneath your barefeet and the wind in your hair and the sun on your face is to remember that you are alive and brings gratitude deep into your veins.

There is a strange calmness that comes over children when they are let loose outdoors, you can almost see them turn into a different child. They become curious, inquisitive, relaxed, and filled with wonder. No need for toys, because imagination turns every stick, dirt mound, and flower into something magical. The creativity and problem solving that comes from boredom and wide open space will astound you. Throw an animal into the mix and you see gentleness and tenderness shine through little hands. There is no greater advice than "Just add Water" if you have a cranky child who needs only a creek or a sprinkler to start to smile. Muscles strengthen from climbing trees and jumping off of rocks, dreams can grow bigger when they have the space all the way up to the clouds to imagine, impossibles turn into possibles when they watch an ant carry something four times their size. A freedom of worry and a sense of gratitude comes from laying in the shade of a tree and listening to the songbirds. Energy is burned, imagination slows and steadies the mind; I love the phrase, "Children can't bounce off the walls if you take the walls away." There is a peace that settles in their little hearts, not to mention the sleep that comes to them easily and soundly after a day outside.

I have done a lot of research and I am weirdly passionate about fiercely protecting, encouraging, and promoting childhoods outdoors. I believe they get this one sacred childhood and it should be spent exploring and muddy and beneath the shade of a tree with wind and sun on their cheeks. If you are a normal reader here, you know this; it's like I'm a broken record (haha, I will die on this mountain!). If you aren't quite there yet in understanding the incredible and vastly important connection between children and nature, please check out some of these:

1000 Hours Outside (facebook group/website)
Many Children aren't physically ready to start school (article)
What's the best STEM toy for kids? Playing Outside (article)
The Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv (book)
There's No Such Thing as Bad Weather by Linda Akeson McGurk (book)

4. Freedom
Freedom to try on their own, to take risks, and to make decisions. We need to give them the skills, the space and patience, and the tools to be able to do it for themselves. It's so much easier to just do the thing for them; you know it will be done correctly and quickly - but that strips away the opportunity for our kids to practice the action and build the confidence in doing it themselves. Our job as parents is not to remove obstacles from our child's path, but to give them the practice and support to first believe in themselves and then be able to overcome those obstacles on their own.

Children need the freedom to grow into whoever it is they are going to be. This doesn't mean they don't need rules (!) but they need the opportunity to shine at the things that make them who they are. They need confidence built up in themselves not from trophies and medals, but because they learn to trust in themselves; in their abilities, capabilities, and own unique strengths. Sometimes who they are going to be looks a lot like who we are, and sometimes it looks nothing like who we are. Our job as parents is not to raise shinier, younger versions of ourselves - it is to support people who are kind, confident, and capable in their own ways.

They need so much practice! They need to get to watch you do it, then do it with you, then the chance to try it by themselves while you watch, and finally do it on their own and tell you how it went. Sometimes this means skinned knees, or burnt fingers, or enormous messes, or hurt egos - but even all of that results in opportunities for growth. Our children will never believe in themselves, if they don't experience us believing they can do it first. Oh, you can be panicking in your mind, "OMIGOSH, this is going to turn out to be a disaster!" but plant a smile on your face, give an encouraging head nod, and hold a hope in your heart that you'll work through the aftermath together.

One of the most frustrating parts of teaching today is that I have so many kids who are afraid to try. I say all day long, "Don't give up before you try - take a swing!" So many kids are afraid to make a mistake; they haven't had the practice of trying - messing it up- and getting back in there and trying again. (I have some theories on how standardized testing contributes to this too). Kids need lots (and lots and lots) of practice to see that mistakes are opportunities to grow and have the freedom to rely on themselves to succeed. That disappointment is a fleeting feeling and the more you sit with it, the easier it is to overcome next time.

This is some of the most heartbreaking part of parenthood; the truth that from that first moment, we are teaching our kids to need us a little less every single day. I've written before, "how hard and sad it is to know that the whole of parenthood is a slow goodbye after that first incredible, miraculous, hello." To do that properly, we need to give our kids freedom, no matter how much it breaks our hearts; we must let go of their hand and trust that they'll do everything we've practiced.

5. Accountability
Children should learn that they are responsible for themselves; that there is cause and effect to all situations. Kids not only learn from these opportunities, but get they pride in contributing in a meaningful way. Their self confidence and self worth improve in a way that is founded in something quantifiable and concrete.

There are lots of way to start building accountability - children as young as two and three can feel like they have a positive impact in their home by participating in chores. Our oldest son and daughter get so much pride from cooking for our family members. Taking care of pets, cleaning up their own messes, organizing their bedrooms, being responsible for their own backpacks and sports equipment - can all be small opportunities at accountability.

Children should get practice at speaking to adults that are part of their life; teachers, coaches, friends' parents, family members, and service personnel. It takes a lot of guts to go up to the grocery employee and ask them where the mac & cheese is located - but afterwards the smile of pride in themselves on their face will be enough to give them confidence to do it next time with less anxiety.

We also practice sibling accountability in our family; that brothers and sisters should watch out in the best interest for each other. Violet has tackled Rusty in the playground to stop him from getting to close to the road. Gemma has been changing diapers since she was three years old. Grey has piggy-backed his siblings home on long walks, Rusty has even come to get me in the kitchen when Gemma fell and had a bloody knee in the garage. This bleeds into friendships and schools too. We try to raise our kids with the confidence and practice that they can speak up for those who don't have a voice, or need help but are too afraid to ask for it themselves.

Children should be aware that they exist in a world with other people. Our famous family line is, "You are not the only person in this family." We, as a family, must work together and be patient, and sometimes do things that we don't want to do. In public spaces, we remind our kids of this awareness by whispering to them, "look around. all these people are trying to enjoy their day too - let's behave respectfully so that everyone can have a good time." We talk a lot about consent at age appropriate levels - right now that means understanding that when someone says No when you are playing; you stop immediately. You also stop even if they don't say No but they are crying. Learning to recognize other people's emotions and reacting in empathy. Learning to recognize that feeling in your belly that something is wrong and if you are uncomfortable you need to speak up!

Some young people today are struggling so much with accountability. I cannot begin to express the frustration that comes as a teacher/coach to receive a message from a parent with a question (or accusation) when it should come from the young adult. We live in a world of finger pointing and 'well, what about...' distractions. Our kids see and hear that and are quick to dodge the responsibility and truly reason that nothing is their fault. Rather, that things happen to them which also means that they truly believe that they have no control over their own life. If things always happen to you, you don't have any power to improve and make positive change in your own life. This is emotionally crippling and I often speak to kids who are honestly bewildered at connecting the dots between their actions lead to consequences.

This list is the culmination of all the mothers & fathers who have inspired me, of my own childhood, of the books I've read, the students who have changed me, of my own children and what they have taught me, and my reflections on all the things I love most about this world and all the things that scare me about our world.

Around Here Week 32 Part 2: 08/07-08/11

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

A glimpse into what it was like to live in our home just this (last part of a) week:

Intentional Outdoor Hours:  513+ hours (of 1000)
Up 52 hours in the last part of this week alone in huge part to camping- in which I racked up 16, 22, and 7 hour days over the weekend! The difference to my soul is palpable. I know this is broken record over here all the time, but honestly - what the whole world needs is to go outside and breathe some fresh air and see the birds all the way up in the sky, and watch the ants crawl in the grass, and listen to the winds rustle the leaves.

Reading Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick your Ass by Meg Medina. It is really good and I am loving Piddy's perspective through high school, so so interesting and relatable for young people I think. Greyson was very sweet (and trying to be sneaky) this week when he casually questioned me about our next Books & Brews book choice. I told him that it was You Think It, I'll Say It by Curtis Sittenfeld and guess who surprised me with an early birthday present on Saturday after his Gigi helped him buy it at the book store? That Greyson Rudy, he knows his momma's heart.

Half Marathon Training this week: 9 miles
I did a lot of substituting of runs this week (bleh). I substituted our 1000 steps hike for my 3miler that day and then my mom & I brisk walked 4.5 miles at camp on Saturday evening in place of my 5miler. Yikes. After a full day on Sunday night, I bumped my 3mile to Monday. Good grief! I need to get back on track - the half marathon is scheduled for Oct 26!

Swinging by my classroom and discovering that everything I ordered at the end of the school year had arrived! Gah, totally geeked out over all the new language learning novels that arrived, my school supplies (post its, crayons, and index cards galore), and new posters and signs that will give students quick reference for using Spanish in class. So.Excited! B came down to help hang up some of my decorations that go on the ceiling #shortteacherprobs while Rustman got out every prop I own from my closet to try them on. Ja ja!

Hiking up 1000 steps to celebrate my mumma's birthday. She mentioned to my sisters and I that she wanted to try to do it earlier this summer and we were all available on her actual birthday to make the trek. The trail is in Huntingdon (a little over an hour away) and we chatted the whole way out in Sheila with my sisters, Mom, and Becky (one of mom's besties who shares the same birthday!) It was pretty humid, but Abba, Kitty, and I made it all the way to the top! My mom was such a rockstar - it's a really challenging trail, especially on her 59th birthday (!) and I am so proud of her for pushing for the next 100 steps the whole way until she made it to the top. Happiest birthday, mumma.

Organizing for the upcoming school year. I made lists of things to do around the house and things we need to do to be ready for school. I purchased this rolling cart on Amazon to turn into a mobile homework cart. I meal planned for the rest of the month, and the two biggest kids and the parents had our yearly eye appointments!

Stocking up on our camping supplies! We bought a new tent that can fit all of us (plus some!), a cast iron skillet for Dad's famous camp breakfasts, and a new canopy tent because ours busted this summer after baseball season.

Camping at the Quemahoming Dam from Friday to Sunday. The Que is less than 10 minutes from our house, and it is gorgeous - so it's the perfect getaway for our family. We can still run home in the morning and evening to tend to the dogs and chickens which makes it so convenient. I thought I had reserved our favorite spot, but it turned out I read the map wrong and reserved the spot right next (#35) to it (oops!) Even still, it actually ended up being pretty lovely and the people staying in our favorite spot (#34) let the kids use the rock that juts out in the lake to jump from for swimming. (They had the sweetest pup with them too named Kevin that our kids adored).

Not sleeping for more than 15 minutes at a clip on Friday night at camp because it was so cold and so uncomfortable. Brandon and I woke up and walked out to the fire on Saturday morning and looked at each other and both started cracking up because He said, "We can't do that another night." and I said, "I think permanent damage has been done to my spine." and he said, "I slept with my hoodie up and tightened all the way so there was just a small hole open so I could breathe." and I said, "I slept on my stomach with my face in my elbow crook so my own breath would keep it warm." We upgraded on Saturday night with more blankets and the pads from our patio furniture and it was slightly better; tolerable.

Sorrynotsorry that I took 50 pictures of the moon over the lake while camping this weekend.

Thankful for the calmness that the outdoors brings to our kids' hearts, minds, and bodies. It feels like everyone has the wide open space to be their best selves when we spend massive amount of time outdoors. Especially, Grey, who completely turns into a different kid. His normal restlessness and persistent teasing of his siblings falls away and he becomes quietly inquisitive, creative, and slow moving. He took his kayak out and trolled in the lake, fiddled with a homemade bottle fish/crayfish trap, and fished off the bank for hours.

Resolving that even though I don't love camping, there are enough glorious, incredible, perfect moments throughout the camping trip that I can see how valuable it is to our family. As a big family with parents both in education, we don't have bank enough to take these kids on a proper vacation. But camping gives us all those memories and more (and at the Que, right in our neighborhood)! The kids l.o.v.e. camping with every little fiber in their bones. And so for them, just like most things, yeah - this momma can do it.

Visiting my great grandparents' home in Patton, PA with our family. The kids had so much fun playing with their distant Adams cousins while we meandered around the farm listening to stories from long ago from my Dad and our cousin David (who lives there today). Grey was so pumped to fish in the pond and yanked out bass, crappies, and sunnies while the other kids zoomed all over the yard on four wheelers.

Wandering through the Smithmyer's Sunflower Maze on Sunday evening with Chum, Abba, Kitty, Uch, and Kevin. They have hundreds (thousands?) of sunflowers in a field with a path mazed throughout. The kids tried to complete their scavenger hunt and we all marveled at how beautiful the flowers are and watched as the bumblebees buzzed by. We all went out to dinner together afterwards too (celebrating Abba's birthday) and it was the perfect ending to a fun and nature filled weekend!

Fall Sporting with one cheer practice this week where I taught the girls half of their halftime dance! They did so great and I am impressed with how quickly they caught on. Now, just to get them to learn the stunt (oh boy!) Brandon and Grey had three football practices and started tackling this week.

Frugal Living by ordering my Walmart pick up through the Ibotta app ($3 back each time!), meal planning for the rest of the month, and using mason jars that we already had to help keep our supplies organized on our new homework cart.

Making hot dogs, kielbasa, and sauerkraut in the crockpot and peanut butter protein bites for dessert. At camp we had mountain pies, lunchmeat sandwiches, walking tacos, and cinnamon rolls over the campfire!

Keto'ing and cheat-o'ing off and on between mini vacations. We have been eating tons of almonds (#obsession) and trying to make better choices even while cheat-o'ing. I am going back to strict keto after our mini vacation week and B is going to go more lazy keto since now he's lost more weight than he wanted (ugh. boys.) Despite no weight changes (still), I had a non-scale victory this week! I switched my Fitbit bracelet to the small size because it was too loose even on the tightest setting!