Around Here Weeks 12-13: 03/18-03/31

Saturday, April 7, 2018

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

Intentional Outdoor Hours:  18 hours (of 1000)  You guys, I can't even describe to you the degree in which my soul needs warm temperatures, blue skies, and warm sunbeams on my skin.  We had (another) big snowstorm - enough to get an early dismissal from school followed by a snow day! We all went outside to play in the snow and obviously Gemma could not help herself from doing cartwheels in full snowsuit and 11 inches of snow. #thatupsidedownlife Despite the spastic weather we have been experiencing, I have been making efforts to take the dogs out for long walks at least three times a week no matter the amount of mud or snow we have to trek through.

Reading and finishing The Happiness of Pursuit by Chris Guillebeau. I found it inspiring to read all the way that people are out there in the world living their lives.  Gosh, it has been overwhelming with negative news these last few months (...years?) and it is so refreshing to read about stories of people making big dreams and going after them. One of my favorites was the family that bikes together and when their two sons were teens, their family biked all the way from Alaska to Argentina. For about ten seconds I was all like, "Yes! We're doing that!" or the kid who walked across the entire USA and I was all like, "Oh! Good idea for me and B when all the kids are out of the house!" hahahha - because that's my soul, man. But even when I came back to real life from those split seconds of inspiration - I could see how encouraging and validating it is to read about other people's big goals and know that somewhere out there people are doing incredible things.  I am a big believer in acquiring happiness through pursuit of accomplishing goals and to do lists.  (re: 100 small things) So the topic of this book was right up my list-loving alley, however, being honest - I wasn't crazy about the layout or the flow of the book; it felt a little disjointed to me and too segmented.  I would recommend it though if you are in need a jump start to creativity, motivation, and inspiration to changing things up in your life. I received this book through Blogging for Books but my opinion is my own. 

Preparing for Easter decorating our Easter egg tree outside, reading our Easter books (some of our favorites: Duck! Rabbit!, The Golden Egg Book, When Spring Comes, and Pat the Bunny), coloring our Lenten countdown charts, and volunteering to bus-tables at our church's fish fry (one of the big kids' favorite 12 months of kindness tasks!) We didn't even dye eggs this year (?!) but the kids didn't even seem to mind (mostly because of our new chicks - see below!)

Celebrating our little 3 and a half year old for her half birthday. Our Vially girl is still everyone's favorite and can be so silly and hilarious sometimes.  She is going through that rough three year old phase (tantrums, whining, being bad on purpose) but I have to say - it's way better than the first two's attempts (or maybe I'm more laid back because #tootired). She still loves horses and talks about Dawn (our aunt&uncle's horse that came to her birthday party) at least once a week.  She wears her cat sleeping eye mask (from Gem's bday party) almost everynight and has a pair of Spiderman slippers IN bed at night. She has some best friends at school: Grady, Hunter, Carter, Tanner (all boys) and she is learning so much.  She has a true artist's heart and loves to paint and color and tell stories through her barbie dolls actions and dialogues.

Expanding our family 10 beaks and 10 fishtails! Brandon and the girls headed out to the pet store after cleaning our tank on Saturday and came back with ten new fish! And then on Sunday (because we have an endless supply of crazy) we adopted 10 baby chicks. It is something we've talked about for the past four years and so finally we were both on the same page and made the leap.  The chicks are so stinking cute and the kids are all over the moon about it. Gem randomly says, "I just can't believe we have chicks!" Profuse apologies to anyone who follows me on Pinterest for the insane amount of backyard chicken pins I've posted in the past three weeks. Our chickies are camped out in our dining room in a tub inside of the dog crate with their heat lamp for now. Trixie could literally care less about them and Bullet is doing surprisingly well (for him). It's taking a lot of patience and working with him, but it seems promising. For the record, we now have 26 pets - 2 dogs (bullet & trixie), 1 hamster (spike), 10 chickens (we can't tell them apart save three - so we have Buck, Roo, and Momo), and 13 fish. #legitStuderZooCrew

Playdating with the Fiores at our house and loving seeing our kids together. Kate and the kiddos came up for brunch (Grey made his egg & sausage casserole!) and while the kids played with the chicks and nerf gun battled, and giggled endlessly - Kate and I ate our bodyweight in berries, played catch up in our lives and dreams and this parallel journey through motherhood.  (love you kate!)

Taking an afternoon out with my baby sis Uch to the movie to see Love, Simon (so so good. loved it. never wanted the movie to end.) and then grabbing a margarita afterwards to chat and laugh and cry and fill my soul with battery charge because that's what happens when you're with your sister. (love you.)

Feeling motivated to keep eating healthy and getting my steps in (I'm in a challenge at school and also doing Weight watchers freestyle). I have been daily hitting  the 10,000 step goal (does that mean I should up my goal?) and doing pretty good with the eating. It has been so eye-opening to track foods and see my trends and tendencies.  I am most ravenous everyday between 4p-6p. I want to snack on all the foods- especially salty and sweet treats. But the rest of the day I'm totally fine with eating healthy and normal portions. Looking back at days I've 'gone over points' it is always because of my Snack category and that time window right after school.  I'm glad that I have the issue pinpointed, first step, right?

Teaching and finishing up our Spanish novels with my Level2's. We celebrated with food days and the kids are always impressing me with what they make to bring in (we had 'taco cookies' this time! Thank you Ana!) My Spanish club kids visited the elementary school again to teach their mini lesson (colors!) and they continue to make me proud with how they represent the high school and our club. The day before Easter break, we had a Nitro Ball tournament and Nikki and I played together again. It was so fun - my first time playing - we were able to hang in the winner's bracket for two rounds before being bumped to the loser's bracket for two more games. We have made it to the final marking period - which feels like both a relief and panic. Only 9 more weeks to go until summer (relief) and Only 9 more weeks to get through all my lesson plans (panic!) Hah. I have learned so much over the course of this school year - so many blog posts to share with you someday soon, I hope - but I know in my bone marrow that I am where I'm supposed to be even though our life feels so wild with two full time working parents and four kids and all the activities for everyone. 

Visiting with the Vorndrans while we were in Pittsburgh for our Gemma Cheerleading girl! They came over to her competition with their two little ones in tow and hung out for the whole day (gosh, love you guys!) and we ran around and played and passed the long wait until trophies (they got 2nd place!) together chatting and being interrupted thirty thousand times as parents do. We headed back to their house for dinner and hanging out and it was the perfect little Saturday with some of our dearest friends.

--wife brag-- Nothing in particular except that Brandon has been killing the husband/dad game. Like 100 percent partnership in life going on and he's so handsome and brings me lunch to my classroom somedays and I swoon when I seem him walk through the classroom like a teenager and it makes my students smile. Also, he's real handsome, so that too.

Making chicken & veggie casserole, spaghetti, roasted pork loin and brussel sprouts, and chicken & biscuit roll-ups. For Easter, I made my grandma's sugar cookies with her boiled icing (so yum).

Around Here 10 and 11: 03/04-03/17

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

A glimpse into what it is like to live in our home in just this wacky, exhausting, messy, wild moment.

a fun Saturday morning experiment with my little scientist about density. Idea came from here.

Intentional Outdoor Hours: 12+ hours (of 1000)
I got a few walks in with the pups these past two weeks as the weather topped out in the high 40's. We are all so, so ready for spring to break - it's been flurries off and on and temperatures in the 30's and 40's regularly. We were lucky to see the horses out behind our house twice now! The big horse is so friendly that she gallops right up to the fence at a pretty high pace that she made me nervous enough the first time that I quick googled "can horses be aggressive to humans?" (answer: not so much unless by aggressive you mean not following directions) The dogs were not fans (Trixie was honestly ready to die for me if need be) but the girls were over the moon and ask to check daily to see if they are out in the field. I know spring is coming - our Robins have the most swollen bellies ever, Violet said, "I don't like those birds with those big bellies!" - but it just feels like it is taking to get here.

Reading and finishing The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah - omigosh you guys. Loved it so so much. Gosh, I don't even have words. I looked at Brandon at one point and said, 'I just wish you were reading it too so we could be in this space together and both understand.' #nerdlife  I dove back into The Happiness of Pursuit by Chris Guillebeau and my 100 small things list feels validated and re-inspired. We had our local book club meeting to discuss the Immortalist by Chloe Benjamin and I whipped out all my dogeared pages to share my favorite quotes (because I like to go Full Nerd at book club - HAH). Gemma joined us for book club and it made me feel so proud and grateful that she was witness to see intelligent, kind, thoughtful women sharing food and laughs and talking about books. My Spanish 2 classes have been reading their novels these last few weeks too. It has been a lot of fun using different novel reading/reviewing techniques (thank goodness for amazing Spanish teachers who share their ideas like Martina Bex and Mis Clases Locas) We even made forts to read a chapter (in which Brandon Brown built a fortaleza) in class the other day with the desks, coats, and hoodies - all my FortNite loving students were obsessed.

Giving Grey more freedom in the kitchen and loving getting delicious breakfast. I walked him through the process to make our favorite breakfast casserole and wrote down all the steps. The following weekend, he tackled it totally on his own (using the microwave to heat up the sausage first), unrolling the crescent roll pastry, slicing up the sausage and measuring out the milk!) It was delicious and he was so proud. Little by little I hope to keep adding more meals (and mealtimes) into his repertoire!

Volunteering to be Gemma's AYSO soccer coach with my Dad. I figured I'll be at the field anyway and they needed someone (#heliumhand).  We had our little Coach/player meet and greet evening on Monday and all my little players (U6 so 5 and 6 year olds) were very sweet and I think it will be fun. I'm considering looking into a kid carrying backpack thing because the thought of Rusty management at games makes me want to cry (hah). Any good suggestions for the backpack carrying a 25lb child variety?

Competing in a fitbit Step challenge at work and really feeling motivated from it.  I have been consistently reaching my own 10,000 step goal almost every single day and it's fun to get the notifications all day that I'm only 300 steps behind Jen - or that Renee is right on my heels. I have been taking the 'long way' to and from the office for copies and stopping in the gym for a few laps during my prep or lunch. I can hammer out an easy 2000 steps reading and walking around our dining room table at night too (the competition is legit!)  Between the extra walking and my weight watchers freestyle (semi-obsession), I'm down almost 10lbs already!

Missing Daddy while he spent a few days in Hershey for a work conference. I held down the fort with the four gremlins - and thank goodness for grandpas who were able to come bright and early in the morning so that I could make it to daycare and work on time while they saw the big kids on the bus and finished up forgotten homework or guided reading. I intentionally took it easy on myself and swore off laundry and other

Taking a whole week to recover from Daylight Savings Time. LOL. it sounds like the lamest excuse, but it was no joke that even until Thursday I was dragging.

Living in the UpsideDown (not the Stranger Things version) - the Gemma-does-approximately-500-cartwheels-a-day version. Good grief, IF that girl sees an open space of 2ft wide, she tries to squeeze a cartwheel in. She practices one handed cartwheels, cartwheels off the porch step, front walk overs onto the couch, handstands up against any free wall space. I literally have had to give her timeouts for too many cartwheels (hahahahahahahahhaha, not kidding). I had to force her to stop the other night before bed because she had attempted about 50 front walkovers falling on her butt every single time by saying, "Gemma! Your brain is upside down now - TAKE A BREAK!"

Getting pie'd for Pi Day! The Student Council/News team had a special Pi Day (March 14) assembly and a few teachers signed up to be pie'd in the face from the student drawing. It was fun/funny and then followed by a student pie-eating contest.

Laughing at Grey's #misheardlyrics for Baby Got Back by Sir Mixalot:
I like big butts and I cannot lie
and I can't deny
when a girl walks in with a goat on a leash
I kick her out the door.
I mean, how, even?

Crafting up our leprechaun trap for this year which included a triple (paper) rainbow and hidden hole with Lucky Charm bait.  Alas, that little mischievous guy got away once again! We also celebrated Dr. Seuss's birthday by dressing up the big kids for school - Gem wore Cindy Lou hair and Grey wore a big pink scarf of mine as a Thneed (HAH).

Feeling frustrated STILL with not having it together yet. I'm beating myself up about feeling like I'm flailing every single day between work, kids, chores, volunteer commitments, and personal goals. I know this year will be an adjustment because of working full time after four years sahm, but good grief! I've been at it since end of August - it should be getting a little better, right?! I'm hopeful that with the whole summer knowing that we will be back at the grind in the fall, I will have time to plan and prepare and get things in order. I know many of my struggles have been trying to do what I had been doing as I had be doing it as a sahm - and that's just not physically, emotionally, or literally not possible now as a full time working momma.  Gosh, mommas - i love you all and I'm so right there with you if you end every.single day with an exhausted sigh and an unfinished to do list.

Making chicken tacos, baked meatball sandwiches, porterhouse steaks (B made them) with stirfry veggies (YUM). We bought this delicious Korean BBQ sauce from Aldi and I've been pointing it on chicken, beef, and veggies because it's so delicious.

Around Here Weeks 8 and 9: 02/19-03/03

Sunday, March 4, 2018

A glimpse into what it is like to live in our home right now.

Intentional Outdoor Hours: 7+ hours (of 1000)
I racked up another three plus hours these past two weeks with some warmish, sunny days sprinkled in there. I took the kids to the high school parking lot on Gemma's birthday for some bike-riding and rollerblading (one of their fav after school activities!) and we stayed until the moon was pretty high in the sky! B met me for a few laps around the track during lunch, Rust and I took the dogs for a long walk, and I carted the kids to the playground for an hour on a sunny (but actually pretty cold) afternoon. The weather has continued to be totally wacky. We had rain, snow, and then extreme wind that warranted a canceled school day for the big kids and a 2hr delay for me. It has been really frustrating as I'm never quite sure to what extreme the weather is going to be, but I'm trying to take the nice days with as much gratitude as possible and believe I will do better come nicer, consistent weather days to come.  (as a side note - at this time last year, I had over 23 hours of outdoor time clocked already!! ugh.)

Reading The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah - the writing is so beautiful I have to pause occasionally just to reread the sentence and savor the words for a minute more. I read through and got plans organized for my Spanish2 Honors novel, Brandon Brown Quiere un Perro which they start this week coming up and my Spanish 2 has already started El Capibara con botas and they're delight and surprise about how they have been able to understand it has been a real treat. We did a write, draw, pass exercise last week for Chapters 1 and 2 and everyone was laughing and engaged which is always a nerdy teachers treat :)

Celebrating our six year old Gemmi Rose. This girl has always been so grown from the very beginning of her life and it does not appear to be a trait that is fading anytime soon. Gigi, Pappy, Uch, and Kevin all had school birthday lunch with her and even Grey sneaked away from his class to be there for his sister at lunch too. We sang at home for breakfast and dinner and measured her in our kitchen doorway (she's as tall as Grey when he was six and a half!) Then on Friday, she chose to have sleepover with four best friends (all of whom are 2-3 years older than her). Gemma's showing love language is Gift giving, so we put together little gift bags for her friends including a stuffed animal kitten and a sleep mask which she was so proud to hand out. No one was more thrilled to come to the sleepover birthday party then her little sis Violet! The girls played 'spin the nail polish bottle' and painted all their fingers and toes, danced the night away on Just Dance, and did lots of giggling. It was a fantastic party and we are so grateful that Gem has these incredible girlfriends in her life already who are so sweet, caring, patient, and thoughtful.

Cheering on our cheerleader at her first competition. My mum drove out to Slippery Rock with me, Gem, and the babies for the day (thank you!) while B and Grey stayed home for baseball practice. Pappy and Gigi drove up to watch too and we all hung out and kept the babies occupied through the long wait until Gems' routine (where my #cheermoms at?) Gemma did awesome and fought through her nervous butterflies all by herself. She said, "I was about to cry before we went out but I held it in and did it!" I was so proud of her and she was proud of herself for a big win after long months of working so hard in school to see her excel in something her body seems built for.

Tolerating Rusty's attempts to potty train himself these past two weeks. He's only 20 months so it's one part amazing that he's been actually successful at going on the potty but one part incredibly exhausting as he's constantly removing his own pants and diaper and just peeing wherever he is if he can't get to us fast enough. I have done so many crib sheets these past two weeks as he is daily removing his diaper while in bed. He has by far won the title of "latest talker" in our family and still probably only has a solid 10-15 comprehensible words down. Who needs to talk when you have three older siblings who are more than capable of reading your sound effects and doing (ahem, big siblings- not helping). But little by little he's adding more communicative stuff (gestures, sign language, sounds, words) to his repertoire. He can certainly get his little point across when he wants to. Also doesn't hurt that his little smile and curls melt everyone into a puddle of mush - so that child is going to be the one that finally undoes me.

Visiting with our cousins Adam and Lea who are back in the states after three years in Abu Dhabi! It was such a nice evening catching up and laughing with them. The kids were so thrilled to have them over and kept telling Brandon and I to stop talking so much that it was their turn to play with them (ha!)

Failing to take care of myself again so I got sick and had to call off of work. I'm very bad at this managing one's own needs thing. I could feel it coming on - the overwhelming feeling that I had late last year and so although I still got sick this time - I did take notice at the first moment and rested right away. I've definitely been easier on myself in the chores department - but I still try to give too much in all ways but to myself. I have it written on the top of my March month page in my planner, "You can't pour from an empty cup" in an attempt to give myself a daily reminder that I need self-love if I want to be the best for everyone else. I need to work on the guilt that I feel so strongly when it comes to self-love (guilt that I could be doing so many other things that would be more valuable - chores, spending time with the kids or B, school work, writing on the blog, anything for the various organizations I work with, etc), but I need to find a balance. I started weight watchers freestyle two weeks ago (loving it!) and ordered a new fitbit (such a list/goals/progress monitoring NERD!) B has also offered a day a week where he and the kids go away from the evening so I can just brainstorm, think, and do whatever I want uninterrupted (imagine?!). So baby steps, but still steps.

Enjoying a date evening with B at the NS boy's basketball game (my students won! on to state playoffs!) followed by dinner and drinks at a newish restaurant in town; TAP 814. It was so delicious and such a nice evening just the two of us. Thank you Ms Hannah for watching the kids on the shortest notice ever! (I messaged her at 3:30p and she was at our house with a smile for our babes by 4:30p - our very own Mary Poppins for real! We love you!)

Making all the cake box mix desserts because I've been so tired and lazy to properly make baked goods from scratch - but I've discovered that Brandon loves the cake mix base, so win! We had cake box mix chocolate chip cookies for Gemma's birthday party instead of a cake (she doesn't like icing), we had cake box mix sprinkle cookies when Adam and Lea visited (to accompany our order-in pizza for dinner) and then I whipped up some banana-cake box mix muffins (so good!) with four overripe bananas! For actual dinners, we've enjoyed Hawaiian meatballs over rice, Ranch breaded pork chops, slow-cooker Ritz cracker chicken, kielbasa and pierogies, Korean bbq ground turkey over rice, Ranch chicken tacos, slow cooker chili, and salt & pepper shrimp.

Reflecting, worrying, and praying. It is an emotional time to be a teacher (teaching always carries emotion with it as we worry, love, encourage, and support these kids who aren't actually ours, but somehow also are), but it has been particularly difficult these past few weeks with all that is happening and being discussed. Gemma and Grey had the I'm not Scared, I'm Prepared book read to them at school the other week. Their teachers messaged all parents to touch base with the kids again in case they had more questions. Gemma explained the book to me on the way home from school,
"So our teacher is the shepherd and we are the sheep. And if a wolf comes to school, she will tell us what to do. We have to stop, look, and listen. And maybe we will hide and we have to stay really quiet. Or we might have to go out of the school, but we have to make sure to hold Mikey's* hand so he stays with us." 
This is my six year old talking about active shooter training procedure. (*student's name changed)  I am so grateful that she understands the plan so well but so heartbroken that she and all students need to know of such a plan at all. Grey was more blunt with his description, "The wolf is someone who comes to school to shoot us with a gun."

Babies, I'm so sorry. So sorry that we as the generations before you have not done a better job at leaving this world for you. 

There's so much that needs to be fixed - there is no band-aid that will heal this open, gaping wound that teachers and schools are dealing with every single day (kids who are hungry, who are tired, who are worried, who are taking care of their addict parents, who need to see the doctor or dentist after years of neglect, who are raising younger siblings, who don't know how to process their feelings because of lack of connection and too much access to distraction, who struggle with depression or anxiety, who just need someone to look them in the face and remind them they exist). I have felt sort of un-tethered these past two weeks. In an effort to make a tiny step in a positive direction, I put up a bulletin board last week ("Throw Kindness around like confetti") and it's been slowly feeling up with compliments and sweet notes from students and teachers. Maybe all I have to give is love, kindness, encouragement, and enthusiasm - then by goodness, I'm going to show up every day with a smile on my face, a listening ear, and an enthusiasm for learning.  Basic humanity needs to be restored in so many of us - we need to be the kind of people we want other people to be. We can't sit back and wait for someone else to do the right and decent thing. We have to do better; each of us in every small way - it all adds up.