Around Here Week 29: 07/13-18

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

A glimpse into what it is like to live in our home just this moment. (week 6 of 'green phase' with masks required in indoor public spaces for the covid-19 pandemic)

Intentional Outdoor Hours:  287+ hours (of 1000)
Up 17 hours this week with some beautiful weather sprinkled with some summertime thunderstorms. The kids and I installed two tires in the goat pasture but haven't been able to convince the goats to balance on them yet (heh). We got in a lot of swimming, including a night swim at Pap and Gigi's. Red even got to take a few dips - he loves water so much! 

Visiting the chiropractor this week for Violet and Gemma. Violet has been running so awkwardly for awhile now and we were suspecting her hips were out of alignment, but it turns out her ankles are so flexible that she's overcompensating in her hips/knees so that she doesn't roll her ankles. She will be wearing a little brace during the fall/winter to stablize her ankles better so that after a few weeks, her ligaments can start to tighten up. Gemma got an adjustment and then also took an eye muscle & tracking test to see if her eyes are contributing to her reading challenges. The test showed that she does have difficulty tracking horizontally and has extended time on fixations of words. 

Practicing wearing masks. We have been stopped multiple times asking how we get our kids to wear their masks so well. First, we have really comfy masks that the kids love - I ordered these from Etsy. (the kids say they make them feel cozy and safe). Secondly, my kids are invested in staying safe because we have our Gigi and Mimi who are both high risk. Gigi is a pancreatic cancer survivor and Mimi is 82 with asthma. Wearing a mask is a small price to pay to keep our grandmas safe. They just get it. (I would vehemently argue that if your kids don't have someone close to them that is high risk then the only thing that you should be preaching is gratitude for your very blessed, healthy relatives). 

Preparing for the hunting seasons with licenses for Brandon, Grey, and Gemma this year. It will be her first time heading out with her Dad, brother, and grandpas and she is so excited.

Napping! Kitty, Uch, and Kevin stopped by with pizza and salads fro dinner on Wednesday (thank you!!) and then scooped up the four biggest kids and took them to the Ferndale Jubilee food trucks. Brandon and I had full intentions of cleaning up and meeting them at Gigi and Pappy's but then Red was asleep and so we laid down for "just a minute" and that was it - we passed out asleep for 2 hours. When I woke up I literally thought it was the next day. #exhaustedparentsprobs 

Checking our teeth at the dentist. Gemma, Violet, Rusty, and I all had dentist appointments this week and it was so good to get that item checked off the list. It was Rusty's first dentist appointment ever (thanks coronavirus). He was a little nervous, but he has the best big sister, Gemmi who let him lay on top of her during the appointment so that he felt safe (I was getting my check up at the same time as him). 

Picking blueberries with our besties at Stutzman farms. Grey wasn't feeling great, so he stayed home with Brandon and Redland. Gem, Vi, Rust and I went straight from the dentist office to meet Kate, Soph, and Charlie at the farm. It was a super hot day but we got several pounds of blueberries. We had enough to keep some fresh in the fridge and freeze 4 cups for those long winter months when we need a little summer boost in muffins or breakfast bread. Gemmi went home with the Fiores for a sleepover (best!)

Proud of my man as he was selected for the third team of best high school basketball players in our area of all of the 2000s. The article and all selections were printed on Saturday and we knew he was picked for something when the AD of our high school reached out to us for a senior picture from high school earlier that week. We got to dig through Brandon's memory box and smile at lots of old photos and newspaper clippings. The kids were cracking up at all the pictures of B and I with our young, not tired faces (LOL). 

Catching fireflies. We have had so many in our yard this summer, it makes the evenings feel so magical.

Summer sporting with two baseball games for Greyson this week, one of which got rained out. Brandon and I made the first volleyball match for our summer league and then had to skip out on the second match for Grey's baseball game. We knew we had to be available the following week for playoffs and miss Grey's game that day. But then we missed playoffs by the smallest bit - ughh! So it was actually our last game for the volleyball season - bummmmmer. We are hoping to have a little end-of-season picnic with our team that we love so much. 

Making buffalo chicken dip with veggie dippers, shrimp scampi over zoodles, chicken parmesan, ribeye steak and zucchini on the grill, zoodles and cabbage. I am still going strong on Keto and feeling the wonderful focus and attention that comes with it. 

10 years and 5 babies later, here's what I've learned.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

They say it takes 10,000 hours at doing something to be considered an expert. And yet at over 87,000 hours at being a mom I definitely don't feel like an expert (do parents ever? the job keeps changing with each new age and stage for the child and over the course of time as the world changes - yeesh, this job is tough!)

But after 10 years and a literal handful of kids later, I think I know some stuff. Or at least some stuff that has worked for our kids. So take it or leave it, here's what I have come to find is my 'expert' level momma knowledge earned on the job. 

10 years and 5 babies later, here's what I know to be true. 

1. water fixes things
if the day is going to crap, get 'em to water. a bath, a sprinkler, a swimming pool, a creek to fish or wade, water balloons or water guns. Even my response to kids first mention of not feeling well is, "have you been drinking enough water?" 

2. the secret to holding onto childhood magic is being vocal about the things you dislike
Here's an example: I hate playdoh and slime - for real I do, they make a mess and my kids never remember to clean them up properly so they are junk after one use. My kids know I hate playdoh and slime, I never buy or make playdoh and slime. We are not a playdoh and slime family because mom hates them. But guess who brings them? Santa and the Easter bunny. And guess who definitely would never buy playdoh and slime? So guess who is definitely real?  The same goes for getting enough sleep (tooth fairy), not wanting to clean up messes (leprechaun), disliking video games/gaming devices (Santa & Easter bunny), and disliking nail polish/painting nails (Santa & Easter bunny). I rest my case.

3. an outing will not be tolerable if you do not have snacks
there is no secret here. if you plan to go anywhere, you need snacks. if you don't pack them in advance, you will need to buy them. or you can suffer the consequences of cranky, whining kids. period. 

4. do not start the day with screens
if my kids wake up and start using their imagination and move their bodies they can make it for hours without too many problems. Sure, they will get hungry and thirsty and they will have their little arguments and make huge messes - but they play. The moment a screen is introduced into the day they remember how much easier it is to zombie out and consume someone else's creativity than to generate their own. And then the real problems begin: the whining, the complaining, the laziness, the lethargy, the impatience. Screens do not in fact make parenting easier, like at all. 

5. there is more room than just the 'little spoon'
We are a snuggling, hugging family. The very best spot in the house is in mom or dad's 'little spoon' on the couch. But we have a big family and everyone wants to lay with us all at the same time. So we've invented other spots. Besides the little spoon there's also the nest (in the space created by the parent's bent legs), the ditch (between the parent's back and the couch), and the garage (next to the parent's feet, before the couch ends). If you still need more room there's the sandwich (just directly laying on top of the parent's shoulder) or you can 'double up in the snuggle up' which is a little spoon and an even littler spoon. 

6. the benefits of having a 'hygiene' day
there are too many kids and a lot of things going on in the days and sometimes, it's hard to remember if and when the last time the kids got a proper bath/shower or who needs their nails clipped or ears cleaned. Sometimes one kid needed a bath but another kid was at an activity. In the summer, swims count as baths on sweaty/dirty days. So we have a designated 'hygiene' day (ours is Thursday) that no matter what, everyone is getting a proper bath/shower with soap and shampoo, getting their nails checked, and having their ears cleaned. 

7. the best response to a hard question is, "what do you think?"
kids are pretty skilled at throwing hardball questions out of the complete blue that can catch us off guard. Things about death and growing up and religion and politics and outer space and magic and where babies come from. We try to be honest with them because if they aren't hearing it from us - they're going to hear it from someone else - and who the hell is that person and what the hell are they are going to say? So, before we dive head first into any topic, the best starting place is to ask the kid back what they think or know. First, it gives us reference on why this is being asked in the first place (they're worried? they overheard someone else talking? they are afraid?) and always gives us a good reference to how much they are ready to hear. Example: 
child: how did that baby get in your belly? 
parent: what do you think?
 child: you ate a baby seed? like a watermelon seed? 
parent: ooh! that would have been cool, but no. First Daddy and I decided we wanted to have a baby, then we prayed for one. 
-or - 
older child: Could I get pregnant?! 
parent: what do you think? 
child: I think you have to be a grown up, right? because a child can't take care of a kid..? 
parent: that's kind of a right, a girl can get pregnant if she's gone through puberty which happens to all kids when they start to grow up to be a teenager. So, no, you couldn't get pregnant right now. If you want, we can talk more about that, just tell me when you have questions.

8. expectations should be shared before you get where your going
we front load all behavioral expectations before we get anywhere we are going. Our house is pretty loose on rules, but we hold high expectations for behavior outside of our home, so it's important that we remind our kids of those expectations before we arrive somewhere. I've written about this before (here). 

9. whispers are louder than shouts
they don't hear me if I'm shouting, it's like white noise. But a whisper; you'd think I had a megaphone in their ear the way they respond. whispers can be conspiratorial and fun or whispers can be scary and mean business. a candle lit at the kitchen table for a normal weeknight dinner can be a whisper that slows down a chaotic day. calmness and patience has a better success rate at connecting than panic and urgency 100 percent of the time. 

10. time does not work like I think it should
Preparing for bedtime is the length of 82 days but a shower is 42 seconds. Naptime is simultaneously too quick and too long. The month of March is six months long but the actual 3 months of summer are approximately two weeks combined. Getting out the door takes three and a half hours, but even longer if you are already late. Children are a newborn for about ten hours and then 3 years old for roughly five years. From birth to 10 years old is the length of blinking your eyes. A night is long enough for a child to grow a visible amount. A tween asleep can time travel into the past so that their eyelashes and cheeks make them appear to be four years old again. School years seem to be able to hop time by sports so the four seasons last only as long as the game schedule. All of time that ever existed can collapse in on itself when little hands grab each side of your face for a kiss. 

11. I don't get to choose the core memories
It's just like that 'kids play with the box more than the toy' adage. No matter how grand your plans, no matter how big your vacations, no matter how elaborate the birthday parties; the kids will hold on to the smallest, most seemingly simple details as their childhood memories. I am regularly baffled by what sticks. Gemma saw a picture of her holding her teeball trophy the other day and said, "oh, that's the day Lulu (our cat) died." That was three years ago and she has trouble even remembering that we ever had a cat, let alone the day she died!? Another time, after a day that Grey and I had about 300 arguments and I was feeling pretty crap about myself as a mom, he shared at dinner that his high of the day was when I ruffled up his hair and kissed him on the head while he was drawing a picture. No clue how this memory thing works, I have no advice except to keep showing up and loving them everyday. We will just have to see how it shakes out, I guess. 

12. play the long game
the goal of parenting should not be make it to bedtime. the goal of parenting is make it to a productive and decent citizen of the community. I know how to make today easier - lots of screens and junk food and whatever will help the whining stop. but those things do not make for an easier parenthood, nor do they support the growth of a productive and decent citizen of the community someday. I have to do the hard, annoying things today; everyday. Because my end game is not tonight - my end game is 18+ years from now.

13. I am the grown up
these kids of ours are master negotiators. if one of them doesn't go on to be a lawyer I will keel over. their persistence and insistence and whining to get what they want is exhausting. They will literally ask and try to negotiate until they hope I will just crack from the annoyance of it. But I have the ace in my back pocket: I am the grown up. But being the grown up doesn't just mean I get to make the rules, but I also have to set the expectations and enforce the consequences and be consistent and fair and just and patient and kind and loving and honest and learn from my mistakes and be an example and live what I preach and try to do better each day. Now who is making dinner tonight? Aw shit, the grown up, huh? 

14. I am THEIR grown up
Advice for parents on how to raise their kids the right way is in no shortage. the thing is none of it works all of the time. my kids are different than everyone else's kids. my kids are each different from each other even. I taught Grey to read with no problem and with Gemma I'm pulling white rabbits out of hats to try to get her there. Violet learned to swim when she was two but still can't tie her shoes at five and half. My method is to accept all the advice - mostly people are trying to be helpful even if it feels unsolicited. I comb through the advice and find the things that I think might work for my kiddos and I try it out if I have the time and energy. Because no one knows my kids like I know my kids. No one has kissed their booboos and rubbed their backs after a nightmare day in and out like me. No one's feet has worn down the floor between my bed and theirs at sound of their voices calling out to me in the middle of the night. My mothering is a mixture of my mother and brandon's mother and my grandmothers and brandon's grandmother and my aunts and my friends and all of the mothers who have ever inspired me. But mostly it's me knowing my kids and loving them where they are. 

15. I am enough. 
sometimes it feels too big a job. too scary and frightening and overwhelming a job. too beautiful and blessed and undeserving a job. how will I ever be able to give them everything they deserve but not so much that they turn out to be jerks? how will I ever get them to do all the things we practiced? how will I ever trust that we did the best we could and they'll be okay? how will I ever get them to put their dirty laundry in the freaking hamper and close their dresser drawers? 
but here's the thing. 
All the practice and teaching and lessons and lectures.
all the raising up. 
what matters is that I love them. 
that I am theirs. 
and they are mine. 
forever and ever. 
it's their story. 
all of this, everyday
they are unfolding their own story
the moment they were born, they became the main character of their own story.
my greatest privilege is to get a front row seat to the show
it only ever matters that I show up, everyday. 
predictable as the sun. 
there she is again; Mom. 
loving them even when they take for granted that I am there. 
even when my voice is white noise. 
even when they are bigger than me.
there she is; Mom. 
They only need to look up in the stands and see that I'm looking at them. 
Watch this, Mom.
A witness to their life. 
Loving them no matter how simple or grand their life is
Mom; predictable as the sunrise.
The comfort and safety of being a child is that I love them
even when they are not paying attention
even when they mess up. 
even when they forget to call. 
even when they go far away. 
even if no one else seems to love them. 
even if they get to the door and turn back around
There she is; Mom. 

Around Here Week 28: 07/05-12

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

A glimpse into what it is like to live in our home just this minute (week 5 of green phase with masks required in indoor public spaces for the covid-19 pandemic)

Intentional Outdoor Hours: 270+ hours  (of 1000)
Up 49 hours this week with a big chunk of that from camping (an 11 hour and 12 hour day outside!) The weather has been brutally hot and humid so we take a mid-day break in the AC or during the summer thunderstorm downpours. B and Red got caught in the goat pasture during one of the thunderstorms (I had the other kids at my parents' house) and they had to hunker down in the goat house until the downpour ended!

Reading almost nothing this week and I can feel how the internet/social media is negatively impacting my mind, heart, and soul. Luckily we had camping at the end of the week that kept me off of screens almost completely which was a big gulp of fresh water to my whole self. 

Hosting our cousin Reid at our house all week. It was great to have a little muscle in the house (Reid is 12 but taller than me already!) and he was happy and kind enough to do the chickens/goats with Grey each morning - also nice to have a little motivation for Grey to get those chores done. It was fun on my part to get a little glimpse into what the next two years might look like and he was a total sweetie to all the little siblings - lifting them up to touch the ceiling and talking with Red. How lucky we all were to have Reid be our honorary big brother for a week. 

Missing our Gemma who had swapped places with Reid. She had such a great time with Audra visiting in Etown. They swam, hiked, had ice cream, made up their own diner complete with menus, played with neighbor girls the same age (!). I could tell that she was starting to get a little homesick towards the end of the 6 days as she was video calling me multiple times a day (hah) but she made it the whole time and jumped into my arms when I saw her on Thursday and begged to take care of Red for the rest of the day because she had missed him so much. 

Visiting the Staple Bend tunnel on bikes with Reid and Grey. I borrowed my Dad's bike (me and B don't have our own!) and so it was like 1 inch too tall for me, so stopping and starting was pretty hilarious. But it was great to be with just the big kids and do something together, but also each on our own too. The ride was enjoyable and the shade me it tolerable in the heat.

Swimming!  We hit up both my Aunt Lisa's pool and Pappy & Gigi's pool (thank you!) as it was so hot and humid this week. Rusty is so close to not needing floaties at all and he is so proud (me too!) Violet is still a total fish and would swim for the whole day non-stop, I think maybe she was a mermaid in another life. 

BMXing at the Johnstown track. It was our first visit to the track and on a super hot day (in the upper 80's) we had the whole place to ourselves. Rusty loved it and sped up and down all those hills on his little strider (balance) bike like he was a pro. Grey asked if we could go back again later that day because he had such a good time! 

Watching the graduation video of my Richland kids. Four years ago, I got back into the classroom for the first time in nine years (!) to be their long term Spanish sub for a semester. And they were the kids that reminded me that I was born to be a teacher and that I missed the classroom so much. The following fall I was at my current school full time! All my kids looked so grown and are headed off to big and great things. So proud to see them receive their diplomas. #neverhaveievernotcriedatgraduation (even the digital kind)

Camping at the Que with our cousins. We stayed in new spots this year which actually turned out to be pretty perfect. We got a beautiful evening and night on Thursday, then Friday was so hot it was insane - like skin melting off 90's with full sun and then at about 7p the sky opened up and poured for four hours straight. Saturday was a little soggy but okay and the kids couldn't care less because they were outside and with cousins with an endless supply of snacks - best days ever. Our good friends were camping near by too which just amped up the boys on bikes and kayaks quotient which always makes for more fun too. Basically it was all of anyone's summertime childhood memories shrunk down into three perfection. 

Summer sporting with two baseball games for Grey. We had just one volleyball match and it was on the same night as one of Grey's games - so we left the baseball field (where they were in a lightening timeout) to rush down to the volleyball courts and got to play in the light rain (no lightening down there). Grey's other game was on our first night at camp, so I stayed back with the rest of the kids and B and Booboo went to baseball and then rushed right back afterwards!

Making grilled chicken and asparagus, lots of leftover bbq chicken from the grad party last weekend. The boys made muffins one morning for breakfast (all by the themselves). For camp, I made taco meat (walking tacos!) and a big batch of haluski. 

Around Here Week 27: 06/29-07/04

Monday, July 13, 2020

A glimpse into what it is like to live in our home just this moment (week 4 of green phase of the Covid-19 pandemic with masks re-mandated in all public indoor spaces.)

Intentional Outdoor Hours:  221+ hours (of 1000)
I got to take the puppers for a walk one day and it was so nice to be alone with my own thoughts and the sounds of the woods. And thanks to the inspiration of this instagram post, the kids and I had a chat about getting tan skin in the summer. I explained that our skin gets tanner in the summer because of the melanin that is inside of all our skin, but we don't have a lot of melanin so ours only shows on our skin when we spend time in the sun. Melanin is to help our bodies protect itself from the sun so we can be grateful that our skin has melanin enough to keep our bodies safe in the summer when we are outside so much. Melanin is the same thing that our Black and Brown friends and family have in their skin too, but they just have more than us - so their melanin is visible all the time, not just in the summer. Some people have a lot of melanin and some people have a little. People have all different kinds of hair color too like red, brown, blonde, or a mix of all of them like Gemma - some people even have white hair like Violet!  And some people have blue eyes like Daddy, Rusty, and Violet and some people have green eyes like Momma, Booboo, and Gemmi and and don't forget brown eyes like Abba and Gigi or brownish-greenish eyes that look like the sun shining through the forest like our friend Andrew, or Red's grayish, purplish, blue eyes deep as the sea! How lucky we are to live in a world where there is so much variety and beauty! 

Scheduling Gemma's first communion and Rusty's baptism! Now that church has opened up a little more, we were finally able to set the date and I was lucky enough to get permission to do them both on the same day! We already have Gem's dress and veil (I ordered it back in January) but we still need some shoes for that girl. Everyone will be required to wear masks during mass, so I found a beautiful white mask embroidered with a cross for Gemma to wear that day. It will be an odd, but meaningful memento for her in her memory box. I'm pretty sure (?) I have the baptism outfit that Grey & Rusty wore somewhere up in the attic - but I'm going to have to go on a treasure hunt because I have no idea which box it might be in! 

Enjoying all of the wonderful outdoor opportunities our area has to offer. As it continues to be (seem?) more clear that Covid doesn't spread as easily outdoors - we are soaking up all the outside fun in the wide open spaces. Grey got to go kayaking & swimming with his cousins at Yellow Creek (thank you Heather and Albert!), we got to swim at our cousin's bbq graduation party, and we are logging time in the sandbox at the baseball fields. The kids were happy to do sparklers and set off some lowgrade fireworks for the 4th too. 

Doing a little happy dance for our 3 MONTH OLD (!!) He is truly the sweetest baby; sleeping so well and always interested in coo'ing and goo'ing to us. He has so much to say. He is doing great on the switch to formula and his fussiness and gassy-ness has all but disappeared now (I believe thanks to the sensitive formula and full belly). 

Hosting a summer visit with our cousin Lainey. She is a little less than a year older than Violet so the two of them had so much fun playing and giggling all over the house together for half of the week. They were so sweet sharing clothes and a bed at night. 

Ordering everyday style masks for the whole family. We have been rotating 4 masks or fashioning handkerchiefs into masks over the last few months because we haven't really gone anywhere as a whole family unless it was outside and mask-free. But with the kids' upcoming religious ceremonies (masks required) and school at the end of August, I went and purchased a bunch on Etsy for the kids and us so that we are always stocked and ready. Especially since we've moved back into masks required in public indoor spaces in PA. 

Starting Keto on July 1st.

Mapping out some plans for the next few weeks and fall. I ordered my new teacher planner (from Happy Planner, my fav!) with my fingers crossed that there will be a meaningful, safe, creative, and impactful plan for teachers and students this fall. I have A LOT of thoughts. I also wrote out in my planner some running training goals as Kitty and I registered for a virtual run and set our date for Sept 20th to do the full 10k!

Singing Happy Birthday to America and sending a big wish to her that she will do better. We must do better for all of us. None of us are free until all of us are free.

Bringing home a new grill! We got a griddle topped grill with two air fryer drawers and we are all over the moon about it, but no one more than B. 

Giving Gemmi a hug and a kiss until next week. She is off to spend a few days with her cousins three hours away. She will have so much fun and I am so excited for her (plus her and Grey desperately need some time apart before they bite each others' heads off). This will be her longest time away from us! We are swapping Gem for their family's oldest brother - a cousin swap! Reid will be staying with us for the week! 

Summer sporting with three volleyball matches in one night (that's 9 games!) Luckily we had the endurance to do it with our new team shirts! (Thanks for watching the kids Abba & Chum!) Grey had two baseball games. 

Making Ranch chicken tacos, blackened tilapia, ground beef & cheese over zucchini and  hibachi style (on our new grill) chicken, shrimp and steak with grilled veggies. To support our Keto efforts, I also made a batch of peanut butter fat bombs, chocolate cream cream cheese fat bombs, and Keto bagels. I am loving for breakfast avocado mash on a toasted keto bagel with everything seasoning.