the 5 year plan revisited

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

While poking around in the 12 years worth of blog posts (!) a few months ago, I found this post from August 2012 and smiled and laughed my way through it. In that post, I had written to myself five years younger (24 year old Tabitha) to tell her about all the things she would be surprised to know had happened in only five years time. Then, I had written a list out to future Tabitha for five years from then (Tabitha of 34 yrs) and guessed, hoped, dreamed at how our life would change in another five years. 

Since I didn't uncover it until this year (seven years later!), I smiled as I checked off the list while astonished, as always, at how time slips by; ya blink, man, and ya almost miss it. Tabitha from 2012 had written these thoughts for five years in the future: 
  • we will have added to our human family by 2 - yes! plus (almost) one more than that!
  • we will NOT have moved again - yes!
  • we will have traveled to Europe - no
  • we will still be doing 12 months of kindness - yes, but loosely - we just try to live with kindness and give our own personal gifts out as generously as possible
  • i will be working with kids again - yes! 
  • my kids will be bilingual - hahha, no. they tell me to "just talk regular" 
  • b and i will have renewed our vows - no, but our whispered declarations of love and gratitude to each other in the small moments of hectic life of raising up kids carry so much more weight than any ceremony or party could ever
  • i will be a published writer - ugh, no. although I did write my first short story and Brandon blew it up 300% size and framed it and hung it in our dining room
Seven years ago, I was 29 (oh, how precious!) with two kiddos aged 3 and under. I was right in the beginning states of understanding there is no way to figure this mom'ing gig out; just scratching the surface at the realization that there is no right way, fix-all, or perfect in raising up kids. Gosh, how I wanted there to be one though - because I am a researcher and planner and tryer-outer and I was determined to overturn every darn rock to discover the way to do this thing the right way. How sweet and ambitious of a young mother she was - how tired and frustrated she was; mostly with herself. 

I had learned so much in three years of mom'ing, but I had so much to go yet - so much experience, so many more kids (hah!), so many more mistakes and successes that needed to come through to get me to where I am now...still not knowing what I'm doing, but finding solace in recognizing that it's a good thing to get to continue to try better and grow each day. To see that what works today and is beautiful right this moment might only last for just this moment. And what is a chaotic, messy disaster today will be something we laugh about tomorrow. Because, girl, this is a damn circus. But it's our circus and we have our favorite freaks in our freak show and we wave that flag loud and proud, baby. 

Sweet, ambitious, beautiful, exhausted, brilliant Tabitha of 29. My darling, you will be surprised to find out that in the last seven years, these things have happened: 
  • you are back in the classroom teaching high school Spanish (for 3+years now) and you are the Spanish club adviser, prom committee adviser, and Project Lit book club co-founder
  • you're in college again (online) while teaching full-time and pregnant to take one class that the department of education is requiring you to take to be PA certified (after passing all the PA Praxis tests last year)
  • you were a stay-at-home mom for three years and it was the best and loneliest job you have ever had
  • Brandon took a huge pay cut and changed jobs for a much more balanced work-home life and a healthy, hearty beard and you could not be more grateful
  • Brandon was a varsity basketball coach for six years at your alma mater
  • you have not traveled out of the country in over five years
  • you and Brandon coach youth sports almost year round (you: youth cheerleading and soccer and Brandon: youth football, basketball, and baseball)
  • you started running and have run and finished many 5Ks, a 10k, and a half marathon
  • you read real books again, like a lot of them (20+ a year!)
  • you started a small book publishing business with your best friends that create and sell outdoorsman related children's books
  • loved, prayed, weathered, and researched through a year and a half of pancreatic cancer treatments for Gigi
  • you lost your final grandparent, pap, and carry the heaviness in your heart of being a grandparentless grandchild
  • you and Brandon took a long weekend trip to the Adirondacks to celebrate 10 years of marriage (!) and it was incredibly blissful and memories of that little window of just the two of you helps you stay grounded when our normal life is so loud and busy
  • you said goodbye to both of your cats who live in cat heaven with cat Jesus now
  • Brandon has most of his fish still - Big Daddy the catfish lives on still!
  • you currently have 7 chickens
  • Bullet is still the biggest pain in the butt of the family. Trixie still only wants to sleep and snuggle
  • in there, we've also had hermit crabs and a hamster (rest in peace with hermit crab Jesus and hamster Jesus)
  • you and Brandon eat high school lunch together regularly during the school year because you work in the same school district now
  • you drive a mini van; her name is Sheila. We are pretty sure she has a mouse living in it #kidsnacklife and we call him Marvin and say he's Sheila's pet 
  • you still have pink carpet up the steps and that tile that you hate in the kitchen
  • your oldest son has gone to kindergarten (such a traumatic momma milestone, you cried and then survived and now thrive), broken his wrist when he was staying with cousins three hours away, would choose hunting and fishing over you (hah, but seriously), plays every sport with the athletic freak genes he possesses, and is almost a decade old
  • your oldest daughter has gone to kindergarten (still heartbreaking but with much less trauma because - girl you been here before), struggled in school academically, has best friends that are 2-3 years older, carries a deeply empathetic heart around each day that needs regular caring and tending to, and fought for human rights by teaching classmates that "flesh" is not a color of crayon and telling kids on the bus that boys can marry boys and girls can marry girls
  • your middle daughter has registered for kindergarten, kissed a boy (!), has special powers that might include seeing the future, almost drown last summer, and has dimples when she smiles mischievously 
  • your second son does not stop talking, has the sweetest lisp you've ever heard, whiplashes between a cherub angel and a demon, eats chocolate and chips for his main nutrition, and can not wait to be a big brother so he's not the littlest
  • your baby boy, Studer #5 (!) is scheduled to arrive in 6 days with your first c-section due to a low lying placenta and possible cord the middle of the covid-19 pandemic. his life will be no doubt be full of adventure. 

29 year old Tabitha,
I love you for your ambition and hopes and dreams. Thank you for using moisturizer, and trying crazy pinterest things when you had the time, money, and energy. Thank you for hanging in there when the first swing at motherhood is so shocking and scary and hard - so so hard is that first time out of the gates! I get to live this life today because you lived that life seven years ago and I am so grateful for this life today - in all it's loud, messy, madness. I am proud of you and thankful for you. 

And to future Tabitha - 42 year old Tabitha out there. I cannot even imagine, nor do I want to even go there yet thinking about the life you lead with bigger kids and bigger problems - teenagers! all five kids in school! boyfriends/girlfriends! permit drivers! 

omigosh, I can cry just considering it. But maybe if you make me do it - I hope these things might be true about our life in five years: 
  • you will not have moved but found a way to make this home and space more of what you want
  • you will have more farm animals (goats? sheep? ducks?)
  • you will WRITE THE DAMN BOOK
  • you will have taken some/all children on a volunteering trip
  • you will still be teaching
  • you will have stuck to your guns on the no cell phone until 8th grade rule
  • you will still be making Family Yearbooks
Good luck out there future Tab. I love you, I trust you. 
Do this life; this loving your handsome bearded husband, this raising up kids, this teaching students and coaching kids, and giving generously with an intentional, grateful heart. 
It's all going to be okay - and if we're lucky - it's all going to be imperfectly wonderful. 

Around Here Week 13: 03/22-28

Monday, March 30, 2020

A glimpse into Week 2 of covid-19 lockdown life.

Intentional Outdoor Hours:  25+ hours (of 1000)
Lots of great time outside this week between the rain and thunderstorms. The kids are killing it outdoor time wise and spend probably 6-7 hrs outside daily. I'm snagging time everyday between chores, meal making, cleaning up, and school/college. I have been making a daily walk down the driveway to the mailbox and on Tuesday afternoon our whole family took the dogs for a super long walk behind our house in the farm fields. It was so lovely and at one point I was laughing to myself thinking, this is just a random weeknight evening that we are all out here for a two hour walk together - what a blessing! The kids found a huge lot of frog eggs in one of the big puddles, Gem practiced her one-handed cartwheel 300 times, and Rusty used a stick in every imaginative way possible (a horse! a sword! a pretend weenie! #boymom) Everyone was sufficiently dirty and tired after that which was another big bonus! Nothing better than dirty, tired kids.

Reading the same two books and not getting really anywhere with either. ugh. I'm going to commit to one this week so I can knock it out before the end of the month!

Distracting ourselves from the news by getting totally sucked into Tiger King on Netflix. - we finished the series in two days.

Leaving a thank you note and snack bag for our mail carrier!

Singing happy half birthday to our Violet girl who celebrated her five and half birthday this week! Celebrating half birthdays is about eating dessert, singing, and measuring the kids' heights on our kitchen door frame. Nothing very fancy, but a little special added to regular days is always welcome.

Setting a plan for this baby brother. I had another ultrasound this week for a final check to see what the situation with his cord is - and it is still in the way and doesn't appear that there is any way for it to move out of there before go time. With just three weeks left to go, I am to take it easy and make it to the goal of 39 weeks without going into labor on my own. I feel grateful that despite the reasoning, I am blessed to be home right now than walking around a classroom all day; if I need to lay down or put my feet up - at home I can do that. And the kids have been very patient and helpful. We scheduled a c-section (my first!) for Monday, April 6th which would be exactly 39 weeks and fully cooked for this kid who will be born into a pandemic. The whole thing is wild and someday will be a great story for him - but good grief. Thank you for all your well wishes and prayers; I am doing okay mentally/emotionally. I feel grateful to have a date in my mind and I'm focused on making sure to take it slow and get things done before then. I am so deeply blessed to have my cousin, Meg as my midwife and Dr. Khouzami, my newly assigned high risk doc/surgeon - and all the nurses and ultrasound techs who have helped keep us both safe this whole time.

Social distance visiting with Aunt Uch when she stopped by to drop off a baby gift of a new diaper bag swagged out with Hello Bello supplies, adorable onesies, and hidden chocolate for me post-birth! (thank you so so much!!) and some milk and snacks because she deeply understands her nieces and nephews. It was heartbreaking to tell the kids, "Aunt Uch is on her way, but we can't give her a hug. You can talk to her, but we have to stay back so no one gets sick." The kids complied but it was still sad and I could use a hug from my sister (both and parents!) but with this baby pending - there is no messing around with germs.

Girl timing with Gemma on Saturday night with some charcoal face masks. She helped me make dinner and while she was being helpful, the other three kids used up all of her and Violet's face masks they got in their stockings. So, she and I had a little special time just the two of us after dinner, clean up, and jammies. It was good for both of us - we are so much alike that we clash heads and hearts quite a bit so a little one-on-one time goes a long way.

College'ing by writing a few more pages to my research paper and checking in to my online course site regularly for any updates.

Homeschooling loosely again this week. We watched a few days of Lunchdoodles with Mo Willems, we went water bear searching in moss with Gemma's microscope. (do you know about water bears? they are fascinating!) The kids are obsessed with Guardians of the Galaxy 2 right now (thanks Disney+) and have even asked if we can call the new brother, Baby Groot when he's born (um, yes please). So we did a color assignment and then a leveled writing exercise for each of the kids to go with it. We learned about the life cycle of a butterfly and then ordered our caterpillars from Insect Lore so we can raise Painted Lady butterflies over the next few weeks. As a family, we incorporated dancing through the #Blindinglightschallenge into our curriculum (ha) and shared it on Insta stories (on my Covid-19 highlights).

Virtual teaching again this week and extending it at least another week and a half. As of now, PA is set for teachers to go back to school to prepare for students the second week of April (I will not be returning as of my new c-section plan). So, I worked on another week's worth of plans, answered students' emails and questions, and enjoyed receiving photos from students as they work on their #isolationmotivation challenges. We had another Zoom staff meeting and I participated in a teacher survey phone interview this week. I also got assignments ready for the next week since our lockdown has been extended another two weeks. I've been holding off on making decisions about Prom so far - we are supposed to return to school after Easter which would give us a small window to try to pull this thing off - but if we get another update that the virtual learning is getting extended beyond that, we are going to have to reconsider our prom plans for May 8.

Making all the food all the days. We received another week of Hello Fresh meals which has been a real delight to our meals and also teaches us new ways to prepare food (and with fresh ingredients!) If you have ever considered doing one of the mailed meal plans - I think right now is a great time to try it out. (I'm not getting any perks from suggesting this) We have tried Blue Apron a few years ago and Hello Fresh now. We won't be continuing with a subscription because it's too expensive for normal life with a big family - but it's a nice little change to our normal meal routines: I like to select meals that I wouldn't normally make myself but that I think the kids would enjoy still. (the apricot-balsamic pork was a huge hit with the kids - they were losing their minds and Rusty told me, "This is so good, momma, I will pay you some money!")

Breakfasts:  waffles, banana bread, cinnamon sugar toast, cupcakes (Violet's half birthday!), eggs with hashbrowns and sausage, peanut butter energy balls, and eggs with biscuits and sausage.

Lunches: lunchmeat sandwiches, 'lil smokies in crescent rolls, Apricot-balsamic pork loin (Hello Fresh), meatball sandwiches, leftovers (twice), and making white chocolate & sprinkles popcorn for a snack!

Dinners: leftovers, frozen pizza (twice), frozen fruit smoothies and homemade bagels (recipe from 1000 hours outside insta stories), hamburgers & cheddar brats, sweet and sour chicken with fried rice, and Figgy pork loin (Hello Fresh)

Around Here Week 12: 03/15-21

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

A glimpse into what it is like to live in our home just this hunkered down moment of the first week of covid-19 lockdown.

Intentional Outdoor Hours: 18+ hours (of 1000)
Up over 5 hours this week with plenty of time to get outside. Kids were probably outside 10x as much as me, so yay for 'outside school.' Brandon and the big kids spent multiple days chopping wood, moving cinder blocks, chainsawing a fallen tree by the driveway, and moving bricks so that all of the spaces that have been previously piled high with random supplies - has been cleared and organized! Grey loves chopping wood (hah!) and Gemma was obsessed with driving the tractor - so they were actually huge helps and they didn't mind working for hours at a time. While we were at the bottom of the driveway, the kids took a break to climb trees and Grey found a nest with two mourning dove eggs in it! (we guessed they were mourning doves because we know they live down that way and then google images helped confirm!)

Reading Nyxia by Scott Reingtgen and Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson but not too much because working and homeschooling and the news is distracting me quite a bit. I got in a little reading at my two non-stress tests though.

Stocking up on groceries on Monday so we are all good for a few weeks (except for Milk - we need a cow I think). Brandon stopped by two different stores after work and we replenished all the necessary items we might need if everything gets shutdown. Some essential Studer items: frozen chicken, white rice, ketchup, breakfast sausage, crescent rolls, fruit snacks (!), cereal, and yogurt. We got some yummy produce too and if all else runs out - we have our chickens giving us eggs everyday!

Hunkering down in a big way. We go nowhere and see no one in person. Except Daddy who is working on modified hours for half a day. All this week 'pregnant women' have been declared high risk and not high risk (who knows!?) but we aren't taking any chances and plus I'm a little psychotic these days worrying about this kid getting out yeah, we are on self LOCKDOWN. We are really good at social distancing from others - but in this house, we still operate under the standard 'no personal space' boundaries. There are lots of snuggles, hugs, kids on laps, backs, and necks & so much wrestling.

Getting tricked by that sneaky leprechaun again on St. Patrick's day! The kids painted rocks gold and set up an elaborate trap, alas! He figured out that the rocks weren't gold, wrecked the trap, drew X's over the kids' faces on a photo, and stole some of our lucky charms from the cereal cupboard! He is such a pesky rascal!

Thankful for my handsome fella who agrees to be magical creatures with me at 5am throughout the  year. i love you.

Smiling about nightly kid campouts in the living room or in one bedroom. I don't know how long this will last, but I love that they want to be all together every night.

Long distance visiting with family and friends via video chat, zoom, and phone calls.

Checking off the #boymom list that we had our first broken window from a ball thrown this week. Made it all the way to Grey being nearly 10 years old! Luckily it was a double pane, so we just taped up the outside window and moved on for now.

Overwhelmed by the generosity and thoughtfulness of our family friends. We received a surprise care package in our garage this week from my parents (thank you Abba & Chum!) Aunt Kitty bought us a baby bathtub for baby brother and Aunt Uch gave us a free trial with Hello Fresh that amped up our meals! I received a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book from my sweet friend Ashley from The Big White Farmhouse. I cried actual tears upon opening the kindest care package from a sweet college friend that included a beautiful bag, two of the softest onesies, diapers, a teether, and almond chocolates for me. Her daughters drew us pictures for their wishes for me when the baby arrives (having fun and ice cream!) and it was so kind (Haley, thank you so so much - I just can't believe you!) Our cousin Heather dropped off a grocery haul at our mailbox on Saturday that included all sorts of kid-friendly options for isolation like snacks, cutie oranges, and lunchmeat & cheese (and toilet paper & paper towels!) Just overwhelmed with the love, thank you guys so much, especially as I am locked up and trying to focus on a healthy and safe delivery for this little dude.

College'ing as normal as my class was already virtual. As long as I stay in contact with my mentors and college professors, I should still be on track to finishing my certification in May. I did some reading of articles for my research paper. Only two weeks until that sucker is due and then just a few more mini assignments, I should be in the clear!

Homeschooling loosely all week to keep the hours moving throughout the day. Our 'homeschool' plan includes one hour dedicated to practicing skills from school (thank goodness for free worksheets from TeachersPayTeachers!), and then lots of outdoor time and chores. It has been so helpful to keep tv/movies/screens off until after 3p because the kids have been pooped with the outdoor time and using their own brains/creativity to fight boredom. On Tuesday, we watched this video to learn how to dance the Irish Jig and this video about a family's vacation to Ireland to see if it looks like where we live. We got to talk about Spring themed things too like the life cycles of frogs, the parts of a caterpillar, and what we know and wonder about flowers. Technically the kids' school is not doing virtual learning - but we sent some pictures to their teachers to let them know we are still working at home!

Teaching virtually. We use Google classroom to post and collect assignments and I keep them updated on my teacher instagram account too. Basically I have to be available to them 10a-2p each day for questions but other than that - I have them working on a Spanish Choice board to immerse themselves in Spanish for at least 30 minutes a day. It was also the end of the third marking period this week - so it was grading and finalizing scores from home! We used Zoom to hold our Project Lit book club meeting on Friday and I loved seeing the students and chatting about our last book Scythe by Neal Shusterman and I had a Zoom staff meeting on Friday too!

Making all.the.meals. I have been marking out what we will be having for all three meals of the day to try to make sure I'm inventorying what gets used and what we still have to manage our supplies ( #lockdownlife) We had one special day to celebrate (St. Patrick's Day!) so I made potato soup and irish soda bread for dinner. For breakfasts this week we've had baked oatmeal bars, egg & sausage wraps, cereal, pb&j toast, honey ham & cheese biscuits, and breakfast sandwiches. For lunches we've had turkey & cheese crescent rolls, buffalo chicken dip, 2 days of leftovers, hot dogs over the fire, and frozen pizza. And for dinner we've enjoyed chili over noodles, pepperoni rolls (that I bought from a fundraiser), chicken Parmesan in the slow cooker, thai basil beef bowls (Hello Fresh), doctored up Potato soup left overs with shrimp and corn, and butter basted chicken breast with brussel sprouts (Hello Fresh).