Around Here Week 1: 01/01-01/09

Sunday, January 17, 2021

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


Intentional Outdoor Hours:  1+ hours (of 1000)
I took a 2 mile solo walk on Saturday morning and it was so lovely. It was chilly and by the end I was honestly contemplating calling Brandon to come pick me up so I didn't have to walk up our driveway hill (hah!) but I made it and it felt so good to be in the open air, moving my body, just me and baby sis kicking away in my belly. 

Reading Sing Unburied Sing by Jesmyn Ward at home and Bear Town by Fredrik Backman at school. I also listened to A Piece of the World by Christine Baker Kline on audible during my Saturday morning walk. (Kline is also the author of Orphan Train which I adored and the same person - Polly Stone - narrates it and I like her voice. The narrator is honestly a make/break deal for me on audio books!)

Watching the entire season of Bridgerton on Netflix with Brandon on New Years Day (hah!) Violet and Rust had a day and sleepover with my parents (Abba and Chum) and Grey spent the day and sleepover with cousin Caleb (thank you Heather!) so it was just us, Gem, and Red at home. Red was pooped so he slept off and on all day while Gemma was more than happy to sleep, take the longest shower known to man, and watch a million chick flicks on the laptop in my bed. Laziest day of all time - but whew, how much we appreciated it. 

Marveling over the giant clusters of snowflakes on afternoon. The kids literally all got up from the lunch table to run outside because it was so incredibly beautiful. Magic in nature!

Hitting the halfway mark for our babyiest sister! We have a short list of color girl names, but it changes regularly and we keep finding new ones that we like and changing our mind on others. Guess we will just have to see her sweet face before we know for sure. Still accepting suggestions of course! 

Skipping our Orthodox Christmas tradition of sleeping under the tree this year. The two biggest asked about it and seemed bummed (me too a little bit) but with this weird start to the year of virtual learners, me back in person with students, a 9 month old with a bedtime, and parents being so tired every night - it just kind of slipped away from us. Next year!! 

Looking toward the new year with open hands and heart for accepting signs from the universe on how to move forward in life. Thinking a lot about being a family of eight, frustrations with systems out of my control, childcare, activities and our over involvement, passions and writing, and living intentionally. I don't have a clear idea of how to make it all work together, but I also know that it's not doing this; this supersonic speed blur and overstuffed/too much stuff way we've been living. Do I have a weird obsession with families who live in converted vans and travel? yes. Do I love tiny homes? yes. Do I want a huge garden and more farm animals? yes. Do I love teaching? yes. Do I feel so much frustration and brokenheartedness over the way public school works in our country? yes. Do I want to wear an apron and bake bread and hold babies all day long? yes. Do I have novel/memoir writing thoughts banging around my skull all day long? yes. How do you find a way to live it all with passion and gratitude? I don' know. Speak to me 2021.  

Winter sporting with a CT basketball practice and 2 basketball games for Greyson with his Storm team. He is practicing and playing in a mask and so happy to be back on the court with his friends. 

Teaching back in-person again! Our school aged kids spent the week with Brandon at his office while I was with my students this week. Because of our on again/off again schedule the past few weeks, I had movies that my students were due on watching and so it was basically an ease-back into it after break with a movie week! Spanish 1 learned about Christmas traditions (el día de los inocentes y los reyes magos) while Spanish 2 completed the film unit for The 33 (one of my favorite things to teach every year because of our local connection - 9 for 9 Quecreek mining rescue and the drill that reached the Chilean miners is from Berlin, PA!) Spanish 3 finally got to watch La Llorona after finishing the novel and their short stories before break. Spanish 4 got to watch La Luna Misma since they finished an immigration unit before break.  

Making a deer roast in the crockpot, breaded porkchops with haluski, creamy Italian crockpot chicken, veggie and cheese soup, and getting take out of Coney Island sundowners.  I have been loving Greek yogurt parfaits (with blueberries, pecans, and honey) for breakfast; highlight of my mornings! We had a cousin pizza party with the Rummels and Garretsons and the kids loved running all over the place, even outside for a long while. 

Around Here Week 52 Part 3: 12/26 - 12/31

Sunday, January 10, 2021

A glimpse into the last little bit of this dizzying, painful, strange, snuggled in tight, longest, shortest whirlwind of a year ever.

Intentional Outdoor Hours FINAL TOTAL:  533 hours and 33 minutes (of 1000)
I got a final two hours added to my year total this week while spending time doing outdoor chores, watching Rust & Violet on their new dirtbikes (thank you Pap & Gigi!), and taking the dogs for a walk with Grey. It certainly wasn't my year of most outdoor hours racked up, but it was still a good year and important to remember to stay focused on the goal. I am definitely the person in the house that gets the least outdoor time, so tracking mine is beneficial because I know everyone else is doing better than me. I cannot stress enough how invaluable this dedication to outdoor time is for my kids (and my own sanity). Childhood should be filled with wide open spaces and mud and fresh air and flowers and bugs and discovery and wild freedom. That is what being outside gives to our kids; a real wildhood childhood. 

Reading and finishing The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson (simply lovely). I also started and finished Stamped Remix by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X Kendi which is also our Project Lit book choice for this month! Such a beautifully written and important read. Highly recommend! 

FINAL BOOK COUNT: 19! My goal was to read 24, so I came up short - but still many great reads this year and looking forward to more reading in the new year, especially with our Project Lit group! 


Being cozy and lazy and whatevery all day everyday. This little bubble phase between Christmas and New Years is such a sacred time of settling from the year and sitting in reflections and daydreaming about what the new year will bring for me. We got lots of random things done, but mostly it was cozy clothes, and blankies, and snuggles, and hot drinks. 

Flipping the kids' rooms around. We scored another set of bunk beds earlier this year from my coworker (thank you Allison!) and we needed to do a little re-sorting for the kids' rooms. Did you know we are a three bedroom house (of almost 8 people! We are firm believers in the "the smaller the house, the more close the family" theorists...haha, we have the same feelings toward the "the less screens in the house, the more close the family" theory too). We moved the original bunk beds into the boys' room and had to a do a lot of tetris style attempts to get all the furniture to fit. The boys' room has Grey's twin bed, the bunk beds, the crib, and two dressers until August (when the new baby gets the crib and Red moves to the bottom bunk). The new-to-us bunks got moved up to the girls' room and B built a topper for the long dresser so the guinea pig cage could fit comfortably on top. We also purchased a dog/baby gate for the girls' room door because Bullet is too curious about the piggies and I don't trust that lunatic for a second. 

Eagerly making my 100 small things list for 2021 because I still believe in plans and big dreams and intentional living even after the chaos of 2020. Call me a romantic or an optimist or a dummy if you must. But the new year always brings with it a surge of ambition, inspiration, and hope for a better me (a better all of us). 

Getting a look at our sweet baby on Wednesday. Brandon had to stay home with the kids, so I headed to my ultrasound and appointment sola. Our Studerbabe #6 is growing along just beautifully and moving and wiggling around like a little silly goose. I had the technician write down the gender on a piece of paper and then seal it so that we could all open it as a family when we got home.

Discovering that we are getting a baby SISTER! there were lots of cheers and screams of joy when Daddy opened up the envelope. We can hardly wait to see her beautiful face. 

Sending out a request for Christmas trees for our goats! We had lots of responses and already having some dropped off. The goaties are thrilled - they love evergreen trees and it is a nice treat since winter means lots of hay (also good for them since it keeps them warm) but they are usually free-ranging foraging goats - so the recycled Christmas trees are such a welcome source of snacks! Thank you to everyone who has already dropped off a tree or plans to as you undecorate for the season! (Christmas trees need to be real, free of any decorations and/or tinsel, and not have any preservation chemicals). 

Staying up late (barely) to see the ball drop. We stayed in and wore jammies for most of the day until we all fought to stay awake to see the ball drop. Red lasted until about 10p (after a very long nap at 5p) and then slowly one by one humans started to fall asleep all over the living room. Including me who fell asleep for about 45 minutes on the couch. I woke up at about 11:50p and it was just B and I awake to see the actual ball drop. We gave kisses to all the kids while whispering 'Happy New Year' to them and then shuffling them off to their beds before blissfully falling asleep in our own - grateful to say goodbye to 2020.  

Making use of leftovers in all the ways. I used the leftover cake (from my failed attempt to bake a birthday cake for baby Jesus) to make cake crumb blueberry muffins (yum!) and Gemma and I used the leftover cherry pie filling to bake cherry crumb breakfast cake. We had ham pot pie delivered by my Dad (thank you Chum!!) which is always a huge hit around here. The kids enjoyed pancakes, mac&cheese, about 80 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and about 300 bowls a cereal. It's whatever.

Also, B and I went on a low carb/modified Keto diet this last week because ughhhh. So much Christmas carbing and feeling like total lethargic, bloated bags of busted biscuits. hah! Cutting (or being super intentional about carbs in my pregnant case) helps so much on heartburn and indigestion. Plus, I've been feeling so uncomfortable and huge since I literally went from having a baby to three months later getting pregnant again and my body was like - oh, let's just skip right to 9month pregnant size for efficiency's sake. So this week, we had salads, and Greek yogurt parfaits (with strawberries, pecans, and chia seeds are our favorites!), ground beef with broccoli and alfredo sauce, turkey and avocado sandwiches on carb healthy toast, leftover Christmas ham and brussels sprouts bake, fathead pizza

a white mother's conversation with her white children

Saturday, January 9, 2021

By now, it is well known that Black, brown, and Indigenous mothers and fathers regularly have a very specific parenting conversation with their children that is generally unnecessary from the parenting conversations of white parents to their white children. 

As a white mother with white children, I have been compelled over the last ten years though to have a very different conversation with my children. Mine is not about how my white children can attempt to stay safe in public, my conversation is about white accountability. 

On January 6th when the Capitol building was attacked, my white husband and I sat and watched the news with our white children. And what was unsettling to me about them watching the event unfold was that my white children were mostly un-phased. They gasped when they saw the white man carrying the Confederate flag. They asked if those people were allowed to do that (why is no one getting arrested?). They asked if anyone was getting hurt. But for the most part they seemed desensitized. 

Because, honestly, as long as they have been old enough to have memories, they have seen and heard about white people behaving badly and not getting in trouble for it. 

White people marching with torches and confederate flags. White people taking guns to school and killing their classmates and being escorted out of the building. White people putting their hands on another person without their permission and then experiencing absurdly soft punishment. White people saying things on camera that they recognize as inappropriate and unkind. White people not following the rules.  White people who try to endanger others to make excuses for not following the rules themselves. White people demanding that others do what they say under no authority and then acting like they are the victim. 

So many examples of people who look just like us that are behaving badly and/ or dangerously who are then met with patience and an understanding of innocence before proven guilty. And to top it all off - a million ways to flip it upside down so that other white people can reason why THAT white person is not like them and their family. 

That is not an opportunity that Black, brown, and Indigenous people are able to fall back on. If you are Black, brown, or Indigenous and you behave badly, you have now become a representative of all people who look like you. (Oddly enough, the opposite is also true. If you succeed it is because you are somehow exceptional; you are NOT like everyone who looks like you). 

White people, we have a different experience - right? If a white person behaves badly we have a whole dictionary of excuses as to why that ONE white person did that bad thing: they have mental illness, they had poor parenting, they were bullied, they were misunderstood, they were told lies, they didn't get a fair hand, they are unstable, it's the videogames and music industry, they are the most basic level, white people reason - "bad" white people are DIFFERENT from me and my children. (and then on the other side, we also get to say as white people, if we succeed it is because we, individually, are exceptional. But also all white people deserve to be labeled as exceptional  with all the trophies, gold metals, stickers, and compliments. Each individual white person is special and unique....hopefully you are reading my eye roll here.)

In 2012, I wrote an article for The Good Men Project after the Aurora Shooting about how as a mother, I look at my sleeping children and try to force myself to remember every day that as I whisper to them that they "can be anything when they grow up" that doesn't just include the good things that I hope for them. Just as I'm sure, the shooter's mother looked at her own son when he was just a little boy. Mothers don't see monsters hidden on the faces of their children. 

And I read that article now, 8 years later, after having conversation after conversation with my children about the white people behaving badly on the news with seemingly no consequences and the article feels wholly lacking from that one glaringly obvious fundamental lens; race. 

These "bad people" LOOK LIKE ME. My children are watching these scary things in the world happening and all the "bad people" look like them. And this is not "bad people" in movies and tv and video games (fake bad people). These are real "bad people" who live in the world we live in and in the world that our friends and family live in, some of whom are Black and brown.  

These white kids, OUR WHITE KIDS, grow up believing that their own personal wants give them permission to do whatever and say whatever they please, and usually get away with it. Is it because they have a million examples of people who look just like them behaving badly and getting away with it? And if the "bad" white person doesn't get away with it, do our white kids hear the white adults in their life make every possible excuse to explain why that one white person is not like them; how that one person is different from them in some invisible way?

As Black, brown, and Indigenous mothers sit their children down regularly to have conversations on how to stay safe in our society, I worry that the white parents' conversation about white accountability is such a constant fight that white parents don't have the stamina to do the work. Because it is hard, unrelenting work at looking reflectively and critically at our own bias and awareness of the world. It is questioning and thinking critically at ways we ourselves as grown ups pass the blame for our problems onto every excuse in the book. How our expectations filter down into our childrens' ideas of what to expect and why and when and how. It is not making excuses for our own kids. It is not ignoring the very obvious connection we have to people who do bad things that look just like us. 

It is watching the news with our kids and seeing people who look just like us behaving badly without consequence and as the parent, not staying silent about it.
Saying nothing sets the tone that this is accepted and expected. 

Parenting is not passive.
more specifically,
White parents trying to raise antiracist kids can not be passive.

So, on January 6th while we watched the Capitol building insurrection, we had the conversation again with our white children. 

"I know these people look just like us. But this is not acceptable or appropriate behavior. They are being dangerous and breaking the rules and making terrible choices that will follow them for the rest of their life. Just because it seems like they aren't getting in trouble for this, does not give you permission to ever behave like this. EVER. You know what is right and what is wrong. And if you don't, you have people who love you that can help you figure it out. We are white; we look just like these people who are doing bad things - but we can choose every day to be a better example of people who look like us."

Please, white parents of white children.
we must, MUST, do better.

Around Here Week 52 Part 2 (Christmas!): 12/24-12/25

Sunday, January 3, 2021

 A peek into the MAGIC that fills our home these holidays with FIVE true believers.

Saying goodbye to Marco our elf. He brings our hidden baby Jesus(es) to the managers on Christmas eve morning as is his tradition. Our bigger manager was stacked full of straw (notes of kind things the kids did all month) to make it Soft Enough For a King. Marco left us a cinnamon bundt cake (ahem, half of one that was left over from Dad's work holiday party) so that we could sing Happy Birthday to baby Jesus. At night, Violet and Rusty were in sobbing tears over Marco leaving and going back to the North Pole! It took a few hugs and a reminder that we still needed to put out the magical Reindeer dust to lasso them both back into happy Santa thoughts. 

Attending car church for Christmas eve mass. Along with dozens of other families, we parked in a local cemetery and watched/listened to mass through the windshield wipers in the rain through our truck front window. It was actually quite lovely and to have five squirmy kids in a place where they weren't disturbing other parishioners was kind of are relief. We still got all dressed up (even though we didn't get out of the car) and sang along with the hymns and received communion through the window! 

Dropping off some holiday cheer in the neighborhood. We delivered cookies and cards to our closest neighbors. We also dropped off notes to the houses in our neighborhood who have beautiful light displays and decorations. It takes a lot of work to get all those lights strung up and we like letting our neighbors know how grateful we are that we get to drive by them during the holidays!

Relishing in all the Christmas eve excitement with FIVE true believers. We had stockings to set up and magic reindeer dust to sprinkle in the yard. Abba read the Night Before Christmas to the kids over zoom and we asked Alexa a million times which country Santa was in at any given moment. Grey is teetering so close to the edge of Santa belief (it actually feels like sometimes he's faking it just for us - LOL), but I was grateful to have all believers even if it's the last time. We still have a L.O.N.G. way to go with little believers (haha! one isn't out in the world yet!) and for that I am thankful too - I'm not ready to move on from this childhood magic. 

Staying up late to wrap (every.single.thing) while Brandon went on a top secret mission to pick up the guinea pigs at my sister's house (thank you for piggy babysitting Aunt Kitty!) B and I also, got all the food prepped and the table set for Christmas breakfast at our house with grandparents . 

Sidestepping a disaster when at midnight Brandon returned from picking up the pigs and the dogs started barking like crazy because of the car pulling in. I was wrapping gifts downstairs, so I went to peek on the kids upstairs and lo and behold - Gemma, Violet, and Greyson were trying to wake Rusty up because they thought it was morning!! HAHAHAHAHAHA. I was like, um, NO. I had to convince them that they'd only been asleep for like an hour and I was just finishing the ham in the crockpot (which was the explanation as to why I was still downstairs).  Good grief. It was ridiculous. 

Thankful for Pinterest (yet again) to help design my "fancy" Christmas breakfast table which was one of my 100 small things from 2020. With just three mini white candles, red paper napkins, gold mini throwaway plates, and some garland I repurposed from our window to the table centerpiece - I had a fancy-ish looking set up that made the kids ooh and ahh.

Wearing matching jammies! I ordered our pine cone family pajamas from The Elephant Organics (right around cyber Monday so I got a great deal!) and they are so comfy and all the kids were pleased with the design I picked. I liked that they aren't specifically Christmas, so we can wear them all winter long. 

Keeping it small with holiday visits. Christmas day is normally a big event with 3-4 houses/meals to share with extended family and friends and usually stretches from Christmas eve to 12/26 (at least) with holiday parties and visits. But we had a very lowkey Christmas eve with just us and then Christmas was breakfast at our house, then for lunch at Pappy and Gigi's, and finally dinner at Abba and Chum's. And truly, it was quite lovely. We missed our extended family of course (and I'm thinking of planning a Christmas in July picnic to make up for it!) but it was also kind of refreshing to stay close and cozy and relaxed with just immediate family. 

Making ham in the crockpot, overnight breakfast burritos, cheesy potatoes, and Christmas tree shaped cherry cream cheese Danishes for Christmas breakfast.