Around Here Week 52 Part 1: 12/20-23

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

 A peek into this holly jolly, magical week of living in our home. 

Intentional Outdoor Hours: 531+ hours (of 1000)
zilch for me, but the kids and Brandon got out. Brandon has been so incredible taking on the farm animals' needs solely since I'm pregnant (and ahem, I also hate the cold). The water needs changed twice daily because it freezes and the goats need hay/straw daily and the eggs need gathered daily (or we have exploding frozen eggs in the nesting boxes) so it's actually a huge job for one person to do. Gemma is the best helper with the farmette (bless that girl's generous, giving heart Dear Lord, Amen). Grey will help reluctantly but the water buckets are still awkward and heavy for them to carry - so the duty falls on B. He is such a amazing chicken and goat Daddy (thank you B. I am so grateful for your strong shoulders and cold weather tolerance, among much more, but specifically in this case - those traits).   

Reading The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson which I borrowed from my student Cheyenne (thank you!) Jandy Nelson is the author of my #2 favorite book of all time- I'll Give you the Sun

Smiling at Marco who was trapped in our toy crocodile's mouth, wrote a message on the bathroom mirror with a dry erase marker, rode our train on Polar Express day, and took a Barbie for a drive in the Barbie convertible. 

Asking Alexa to play on repeat "Holiday favorites" to play nonstop in the background of normal everyday activities. 

Laughing at Grey's horrified expression when he listened to Grandma Got Runover by a Reindeer. It was just playing in the kitchen and no one was really paying attention and suddenly in the second verse Grey looked up at me shocked and said, "Wait! Grandma dies in this song?!" and then I was like..."um, I guess it does sound like that, huh?" I don't even bat an eye when I hear that song because I feel like it was popular when I was kid (I have a weird distinct memory of it playing while I was at a party with my grandfather at a kids' Christmas party hosted by the legion where we got popcorn balls- so random what sticks in your head). And anyway, Grey had never heard it because the song isn't part of the normal Amazon holiday playlist we have on, but we switched it up (maybe "Alexa, play Country Christmas music"..?) and Grey was so confused. HAHAHhah. With new ears on it, it is actually a pretty terrible storyline for a Christmas song. 

Hosting our annual Polar Express party with our friends Charlie and Sophia (and my college roommate and bestie Kate). The kids played outside in the snow for a long time while Kate and I got to catch up. Then we had pizza and salad and mugs of hot cocoa while we watched Polar Express. The only way to close out a night with our besties was to do a few Just Dance videos. 

Not wrapping a thing yet (gulp)

Waiting on final deliveries yet (gulp) although tracking says that everything should arrive by Christmas eve. Fingers crossed!

Finishing zoom school until the new year with the kids. Grey spent the last two and a half days at the high school with Loni and Ivan (thank you!!) while the girls were here finishing up zoom school before break. They did a lot of fun holiday projects and Rusty worked through some holiday themed free preschool printables I found online. Red mostly worked on eating far too many cookies and crawling all over the house in search of other things to put into his mouth. 

Teaching from home for two and half days before the holiday. Our high school went virtual again due to positive cases, so I was able to teach from home. All levels took a cultural approach to Spanish learning this week for the holiday. Spanish 1 learned about Nochebuena and Las Posadas including a Read Aloud of 'Twas Nochebuena. Spanish 2 learned about Spain's La Lotería and Spanish 3 worked hard on finishing up their La Llorona short stories including feedback and edits from me. Spanish 4 listened to a SuperHolly video about Christmas in USA and México. Everybody participated in a Música Mania tournament with Spanish Christmas songs/videos too. And we learned about Las 12 Uvas de Noche Vieja in Spain. 

Making chuck roast with potatoes and carrots in the instapot, KFC copycat bowls. We eat pizza, hot cocoa and too much Bedford Candies popcorn on Polar Express night. The kids and I baked Christmas sugar cookies from my grandma's recipe (with boiled icing!) and everyone had faces full of flour and bellies full of raw dough (hah). I whipped up a cinnamon swirl bundt cake for Brandon's work holiday meal day. 

Around Here Week 51: 12/13-19

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

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

Intentional Outdoor Hours:  531+ hours (of 1000)
I got nothing. BRRRRRRRrrrrrr. 

Reading and finishing Outlander by Diana Galbaldon (finally!) I will not be continuing with the next book in the series but I am going to watch the television series. It was worth the read, but I think I've had my fill of the brutality of the Highlands for the time being. 

Smiling / rolling my eyes at Marco our elf. This week he was in the tree, drew faces on our eggs, shot ketchup at a target, sat on our giant Santa's arm, wore wrapping paper stilts, and made a toilet paper snowman on the kids' snow day. 

Finishing Christmas cards with the help of the girls. Pre-apologies for upside-down and misplaced return addresses, wonky stickers and stamps. Yeesh, what a big task, but it's always a relief and feels like actual Christmas magic to send a little snail mail love to people we care about all over the world. Furthest card this year went to our cousin Becca who is stationed with the Navy in the Persian Gulf (we miss and love you Becca!) 

Going on a secret mission with Brandon to pick up Violet's Christmas gift. We headed out to WheekCare Guinea Pig Rescue to adopt two piggies! (exactly what we need - more mouths to feed, hahah!) Violet has been wishing for two LIVE guinea pigs from Santa (she knows better than to not specify that they be alive lest Santa brings stuffed animals!) They are so sweet I can barely stand it. There names are Toffee and Queen Barb (or Queenie). For now they are staying with my sister Kitty until Christmas Eve (THANK YOU!! Best piggie babysitter ever!) Miss Hannah stayed with the kids and helped them with zoom school, bought the kids Christmas gifts, and even made us dinner! (you are the sweetest, we love you and thank you!) 

Proud of Grey and Violet for pulling their own teeth out this week! Both of them have had loosey-goosey teeth for over a week and we have been bugging them to just pull them out already! Finally they made a tooth-pulling pact one night this week and did what needed to be done! Hahah, those two wild skips have such a weird, strong bond.

Laughing hysterically when Violet whispered to me before going to bed, "I hid my tooth from the tooth fairy so that I can leave it under my pillow on Christmas Eve because I think I will get more money because a tooth on a holiday has to be more money, right?" Omigosh, that chick. I told her maybe that the tooth fairy would think that was sneaky but she insisted on hiding it at least until she could show her teacher and classmates on zoom school.  So she hid the tooth for two nights (snow day) and then finally left it under the pillow for the fairy.

Cookie baking! Getting a start on my Christmas cookie stash this week. The kids and I made chocolate covered almond clusters, peanut butter blossoms, and almond spritz cookies. I attempted for the first time ever to make potato candy (posted to my insta-stories) and despite turning out horrific-looking, they tasted great. I got some great tips on fixing my dough (more sugar! let the potatoes cool first!) and so many people commented that they had never heard of potato candy! It was also made by my great aunts at holidays and family reunions so it literally jolts me into childhood every time I see/taste it. 

Playing catch up on the kids' specials in zoom school. We have been doing the lessons all along but not realizing we had buttons to press and mini questions to answer on the classwork stream. Oops. I think we are all caught up now but it was a little hectic at the beginning of the week. 

Relishing in a  good 'ole fashion Snow Day! The kids' school decided that after weeks of hard work in zoom school the big snow we had this week called for a day off for students and teachers. They were so happy. The kids spent a big part of the day outside and drinking copious amounts of hot chocolate. 

Visiting with people we love. Mimi and Kuma stopped over to say hello and give us all squeezes. Mimi brought us a 5ft singing Santa (!!) that the kids all kind of our obsessed with. It took a few days to get comfortable with coming around the corner and not be startled by a humanoid standing in the living room - hahha! The boys' preschool teacher Miss Nell also stopped over to surprise us with Santa (her dad dressed up!) They stayed for dinner and dropped off tons of cookies and even some buckeye brownies! It was so nice to get a visit with her before her last day at the preschool next week! 

Relaxing on a semi-quiet Saturday night as Gemma had a sleepover with my parents (and a visit to Aunt Uch's house for winter solstice) and Grey had a sleepover with cousin Caleb for Caleb's birthday (thank you Heather!) They both had a great time and so much fun to get special one-on-one time and the little kids were excited to be home with just us. Brandon and I built a fort in the girls' room and put the mattress on the floor and they were tickled to watch Christmas Chronicles 2 on my laptop. 

Teaching almost nothing! I left all my lessons at school with the sub and made sure my Schoology was up to date on Sunday night and I was done until Thursday when our students got a Flexible Instruction Day due to the snow storm. So I hopped into Schoology to provide instruction for that day and then had a nice chat with the sub that morning about thoughts for holiday lessons and games to keep the kids engaged next week for the few days before winter break. By Friday, we received notification that with more positive cases in the high school we will be virtual again next I'm back again to teaching for the last three days before the new year!

Making chicken quesadillas, meatloaf (a family favorite!), spaghetti and garlic bread, eating leftovers, and ordering in wings from tollgate one night. We got to enjoy cheesy chicken in the crockpot from Miss Hannah (thank you!!) and Brandon and I ordered dinner from Balance to share with Aunt Kitty for watching the piggies (so so yum!!) 

Around Here Week 50: 12/06-12

Friday, December 18, 2020

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

Intentional Outdoor Hours: 531+ hours (of 1000)
I was able to get out for awhile on Saturday when the temperatures soared to high 50's in mid December in PA! It was crazy and beautiful and my soul really needed that vitamin D soaking into my skin. Red and I had fun poking around with the goats and chickens and cleaning up the yard in preparation for the snow that we are supposed to arrive next week! Weather whiplash!

Reading Outlander by Diana Galbaldon. I'm so close to being done! These last few chapters have been kind of a brutal in content and also I'm just so tired. But I'm determined to finish this thing!

Thrilled that our 2019-20 finished family yearbook from Shutterfly arrived! Always my biggest and favorite accomplishment of the year!

Receiving the report back from Gemma's eye appointment with Dr. Moon and feeling overwhelmed because it's still the same song and dance. She kind of has some struggles with her eye muscles, but not really and so many inconsistencies and well, still no hard answers. The report did suggest though setting up a 504 which makes me hopeful as that will make sure she always gets what she needs (her third grade teachers are so amazing, but I know that I can't always expect so much investment from all of her teachers for always - she's not the only kid in the class for goodness sakes!) There was also a suggestion that if issues persist to get her re-evaluated for dyslexia (which is truly what I think is the root of the root after all my research and reading...but I ain't no doctor, just the momma - ya know). So, the hunt continues. She is working so hard and making progress - but it is still just such a slow, arduous, exhausting, and frustrating process for her. 

Stressed about giving Red a bath. THIS KID. Never in all of my children has any of them tried to drown themselves so often. Every bathtime he ends up putting himself face first in the water and no matter how fast I try to get to him before he dunks, he beats me! even if for 1 second he comes up coughing and crying and I go into a panic attack about secondary drowning. Ughhhh, this kid has a me nervous wreck about bathtime - seriously considering dry shampoo and wipes at this point. 

Smiling about Marco's antics. This week he helped St. Nicholas fill our shoes on Sunday, he changed our milk green, on Taco Tuesday Marco was wrapped in tortillas, and then he was in the barbie house sleeping in the bed. He also used wrapping paper to cover our tv and was webbed by Spiderman and was hung up in our kitchen basketball net. 

Loving Violet's fresh new cut. She has been asking for this haircut for a few weeks (shaved on one side and long bob on the other) and she finally got it done by Lamont at Ambitious Cuts where all the boys get their hair cut. All the boys plus Vi (minus Red) made a visit to Mont and came back all looking fresh and handsome/beautiful. Vi loves her hair, especially how soft the shaved side is. And she got a lightening bolt cut into the shaved side just like Rusty does - so their twinnies! 

Thankful for the sweet office ladies at Brandon's work who have been spoiling our virtual learners. They got extra sweets, crafts, and so much attention and support while they worked at zoom school at daddy's office since I was in person teaching this week. 

Watching with anxiety as our neighboring county (the one I grew up in, the one my parents and sisters live in, the one that is so next door that half of our school district lives in it) rises to #6 in the nation for covid-19 surge. By Friday Cambria County was the #2 county in the nation with the greatest surge and by Sunday we were #1.

Happy for Grey that he got a double sleepover (!!) with his bestie Ivan over the weekend. He also got to spend two days at zoom school with Ivan and his mom (who is a teacher at their school district's high school) to work together. With no sports and no nothing happening, he has been driving us all insane with his teasing and movement. He really needed some alone time from his siblings and there was no better place than with his bestie. Thank you so much Loni for giving him that special time! We all needed it - hah! 

Blessed by my sis Uch who snuck into the house early Saturday morning with a latte in hand and arms to hold my babies and smiles to refuel my weary soul. (love you!)

Winter sporting with one basketball practice for Grey with his CT team until the governor cancelled all extracurricular activities due to the coronavirus. 

Teaching in person (!?) Spanish 1 worked through the novel Capibara con botas chapters 9-12, Spanish 2 read Tumba chapters 1-6 while Spanish 2 Honors read the whole novel in one week (I love 1-week novels!). Spanish 3 finished La Llorona including unscrambling quotations from the various characters, while Spanish 4 worked through Somos 17 la Inmigración. I had 17 kids out quarantined through my various classes so I was balancing teaching in person and replicating that for the kids on Schoology who were out due to covid.  I did have some quarantine kids hop onto our vocab review game of Gimkit and I was running around the room shouting, "LOOK HOW WE ARE ALL TOGETHER!" while the sophomores laughed and rolled their eyes at me (hah)! The sweetest two freshman girls approached me at the beginning of class today to purchase some of Violet's artwork and I about melted into a puddle. They were too precious and Violet was over the moon to have buyers! Hah! 

Knowing deep down that what is safest is for me to be home right now. After our school board met this week and decided to continue with in-person learning, I was sick in the stomach about it (haha, sick in the baby-filled uterus, perhaps?) I messaged my cousin/midwife and she agreed that if there was a way for me to be virtual/home that I should take it. After a lot of discussion and number crunching, B and I decided to take a 2/3 paycut and the Family Coronavirus Relief Leave. So starting next Monday, I will have a sub in the room and be off through at least the new year holiday. I feel terrible to abandon my students (and to have to take a pay cut!) but I cannot in good conscious be around 100+ students a day with this 16 week pregnant belly and an 8month old at home. The big kids are already virtual (until now at least 01/11) and the little boys will stay home from daycare too. We are wrapping in tight as the numbers swell around us and the holiday season and time continue to march forward. Stay safe everyone. 

Making crockpot meat sauce spaghetti, baked potatoes (to top with leftover chili), creamy chicken taquitos, sheet pan steak with potatoes and veggies (as always, how many Brussel sprouts are too many brussel sprouts?), and Korean ground turkey with green beans over rice.

the last thing

Thursday, December 17, 2020

I participated once in a writer's workshop online...well, I started to participate but then sort of fizzled out at the end because I let motherhood and adulting and chores tell me that I didn't have enough time to spend a little each day on something that feeds my soul. I've been feeling like that lately too and inexplicably (amidst a pandemic, five kids, pregnancy, the holidays, and more then a few pets) I feel this deep pull from somewhere in the universe that I'm supposed to be doing something feels like maybe the thing is writing but I keep getting in my own way with all the excuses. 

Anyway, I found the collection of writer's workshop daily journal prompts and I am resolving to finish what I started a few years ago. I spent some time reading through journal prompts that I have already finished and this one still rings deeply true.


Writing prompt - 
if you had one last thing to say before you left this Earth, what would you leave behind. 

My babies, 
I love you. forever. 
for all the day that you'll go on without me, I will be loving you still. 
It has been my greatest honor to have been given the gift to be your mother. 
To have had the chance to get to know you in any capacity would be a joy - 
but to be your mother - wow.
that has truly been more of a blessing than I do or will ever deserve. 

I had a wonderful life - the kind that is so blessed it seems as though I maybe have always been secretly anticipating the other shoe to drop. How it is that life shakes out so unfairly; that some are blessed and others get dealt worse hands is beyond what I have ever been able to understand. I am fully aware and to my bone marrow grateful that my hand has always been stacked. 

And so has your cards been blessed. 

Blessed with strong bodies and minds - but more importantly - 
open hearts and people in your lives who will love you for 
(and despite) 
all the ways you are you and all the choices you may make in life. 

Keep your heart open, 
see good in people when others don't, 
Be the good that people have trouble believing in anymore. 

Some people worry and wonder their whole lives about what the great thing they are meant to do. 
what their purpose on Earth is. 
I was like that once too, but not since you. 

I was meant to be your mother. 
I will spend eternity being grateful for that. 
I love you forever 
and ever

Around Here Week 49: 11/29-12/05

Monday, December 14, 2020

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

Intentional Outdoor Hours:  530+ hours (of 1000)
Up one whole hour this week when my sister Kitty and I took the kids to the playground and for a walk through her new neighborhood a balmy 55 degree late November day. I'll take it! The kids were able to enjoy a first good snow this week too with a few inches that they loved getting out and sledding and making snow angels everywhere in the backyard. Rust is going to be our surfer dude someday because that kid dislikes the snow and cold and rarely wants to go out, he'd rather stay in cozy and warm and play fighting invisible monsters. 

Reading Outlander by Diana Galbaldon - I'm down to the final 50 pages but I'm so tired by bedtime that I can get through about 3 pages before passing out with the actual book over my face! 

Bringing Holly Jolly into Aunt Kitty's home. All the kids (minus Grey) and I spent Sunday afternoon at my sister's new house helping to decorate her tree and enjoy a new home tour and lunch. We even got to spend some time outside walking around her neighborhood and enjoying the playground since it was such a beautiful, warm-ish winter day! 

Going Cyber Monday maniacal. Heck yes! I feel so accomplished and also a little fearful to actually look at our credit card bill - but still what a productive day. I made full use of the deals on Cyber Monday while doubling up with the wins using Rakuten at every opportunity. We are using our purchase eraser (CapitalOne Venture) to use all the points we've accumulated all year to "pay" off our Christmas purchases so fingers crossed that it makes a dent in our annual holiday splurge/debt. 

Hugging our hunting cousins farewell as they headed back home on Monday. It was so nice to have the Gilmore cousins with us and I know my boys loved spending time with them in the woods. 

Welcoming Marco our elf to our house from the North Pole. The kids were happy to see he had a negative Covid test result with him, so he was good and free from quarantining! This week he hid in the dining room wreath, had a sack race with some toys, brought a balloon for Rusty, did Yoga with Adriene on youtube, and set out the kids' shoes to remind them about St. Nicholas Day (Sunday 12/06)

Listening to the beautiful (fast! fingers crossed for a baby girl) heartbeat of our little nugget. I am 15 weeks along and everything seems to be moving right along normally and healthy (thank the Lord). We scheduled the ultrasound for Dec. 30 - right in time to celebrate before the New Year!

Dropping off Sheila (our van) at the shop. That girl - she is about on her last leg, honestly. While Sheila is at the shop, we are borrowing my in-laws Jeep for our second vehicle (thank you Gigi & Pappy!)

Hosting our three big kids in my classroom this week as we both work virtually for school. I bought them all blue light glasses for their computer time and they are all still doing great through their remote learning (we love you CT teachers!) We picked up CT breakfast/lunch meal pick up this week and what a win! We will be signing up every week for the meal pick up! (you should too!) 

Addressing our Christmas cards, but only getting through about 1/3 of them so far. We send out over 100+ Christmas Cards (!!) so it always feels like a huge task until we start getting other families' in the mail and it's motivating to get them out. I ordered them early (thank you past Tab) but now they all need stuffed, addressed, and stamped! whew!

Singing happy HALF birthday to our Rustman who turned four and half this week! 

Organizing Grey's school work because #middleschoolboys . We gave Grey a mental health day on Wednesday and he got to sleepover at my parents' house and spend the day in the woods hunting with my dad. Much much needed for him to be in the fresh air with his grandpa - but to miss that day of school sent him spiraling trying to play catch up the next day. I made a big graphic organizer that included all of his past and current work and we had to step-by-step walk through what needed done, who needed emailed, what recorded lessons he needed to find, etc. Gem totally is doing that already on her own (making agendas/check lists) and Violet has everything paperclipped and in folders that I gave her (Red - stop/To do and Green - all done/return). But with Grey it was literal hand holding to dig out of a disorganized panic. Sometimes I forget that what seems like the most obvious thing in the world to me (writing a to do list) is actually not at all obvious to others. It was a good reminder for me and also very helpful to him. 

Giggling about Violet's artwork store she set up in my classroom. She spent her off virtual school off time coloring pictures all week and then displayed them in my room with post its for 50 cents a piece. She told me, "it's for your students to buy. And you better give me my money!" HAH!

Grateful for a quiet Friday night as three kids had a sleepover with Abba and Chum (my parents). It was just Brandon, me, and our oldest and youngest at home which made for a pretty calm night. I was able to get to sleep really early and then get lots of stuff accomplished on Saturday. (thank you mum&dad!!)

winter sporting with one basketball practice this week for Grey with his CT team. He is cast/brace free and dribbling with his right hand/wrist with no problems. Hooray!

Teaching virtually this week. Spanish 1 read chapters 6-8 in Capibara con Botas and worked on some assignments on the Kami app (love it because it's easy to convert my worksheets and make them accessible online instead of recreating them in Google doc/slides.) All Spanish 2 classes did the pre-work to read the novel Tumba including learning about Mexico, receiving vocabulary words and working on a leveled reading. Spanish 3 honors read chapters 9 and 10 of La Llorona de Mazatlan while Spanish 4 honors finished up their El Hombre Feliz animated short unit. All is fine teaching virtually, it's not ideal, but it's safe and it works especially since my own remote learning kids can be with me in the classroom. But....we are scheduled to flip back in person starting Monday again! 

Making chili, the kids' favorite (hot dogs, mac & cheese, and baked beans), Nachos grande, pizza dippers to celebrate Rusty's half birthday, salads, and leftovers twice this week. We also ordered wings from Tulunes Living the Dream on Saturday for a special treat (the Kitchen Sink wings were amazing)!