Saturday, December 3, 2016

Around here Forty-Eight: 11/25-12/01

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

Intentional Outdoor Hours:  509 hours (of 1000)
ugh, I got nothing.  It's not like I did not step outside all week (hah), but I only count time that I'm intentionally making an effort to be outside, I really did not this week.  Must try harder. 

Reading My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman in tiny short bursts that last the length of bathtime.  But we are getting in lots of picture book reading from our Christmas collection, including some of favorites including: Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree, Snowmen At Night, and Llama Llama Holiday Drama

Celebrating my Dad's birthday.  We met up for dinner at a local pizza place on his actual birthday in an attempt to hide the fact that we had a surprise party planned for him on Saturday night!  My sisters and I put together a whiskey-tasting Roast party for Dad's birthday and it went over awesome.  Most of his favorite friends and family came over and took their turns up at our Roast podium to tease Dad a little bit but the overall feeling was happiness, and silliness, and love.  It was really perfect and so fun to hear all the memories that people offered up.  Chum is awesome and definitely deserved all the love (thank you to all that helped make the night so special!) 

Taking part in Giving Tuesday with my Spanish I classes and then so grateful to be on the receiving end of Giving Tuesday from my sweet friend (and cousin) Heather when she swept in to take the two big kids out for an evening playdate and ice cream.  I was able to tackle three loads of laundry, vaccuuming, and dinner making with ease.  What a momma can get done with two out of four kids out of the house! hah.  So grateful to have you in my life, Heather.  xxox 

(just so we are all clear), YES, Brandon and I are obsessed with This Is Us like the rest of humanity.  Goodness, the tears this week.  Also #steelernation 

Adjusting to the routine of Brandon's new job AND basketball season.  Thank goodness for Ms. Christy, our awesome babysitter, who held everyone together this week (even through a missed school bus and a spilled cup of curdled milk all down the curtains! - seriously, God bless her).  It's been late dinners and 5pm cups of coffee to get me through the bewitching hours solo - but we're making it.  We got to see the bball boys play in a scrimmage last weekend and we're all anxious for regular games to kick in. 

Getting Holly Jolly.  The kids and I put our tree up (Grey actually requested to put up our fake tree because he likes putting all the branches on! ha) and we got the rest of the decorations out to get our house all ready - including our Santa Key on the door since we don't have a fireplace.  (what did we do without pinterest?!)  Marco arrived on November 30th and started his antics on the first on the month.  Then we spent an afternoon working diligently on our lists to Santa and we have quite a range of requests from live animals, to pooping babydolls, to snacks for the stockings!  

Answering a lot of Santa questions.  When we pulled up Santa's reindeer cam, Gemma asked me if it was the real Santa, "Like the really real Santa."  I told her it was and she said, "but why do I see human hands then?"  and Grey and I started giggling because what in the world?!  We told her Santa is a human and she said, "No, I think he peeled back his Santa skin, maybe." and then we had to explain that Santa wears gloves! That bright white silky smooth is not his skin!?  Oh gosh, the thought of Santa skin is kind of scary.  Gem also asked Ms. Christy why Marco our elf had tags if he's real.  And the ever amazing Ms. Christy cooly replied that they are just his tags saying he's from the North Pole.  Gem is also telling us all not to worry about Christmas because she's getting us all kinds of things and when I ask her how she's buying all this with no money, she answers me with annoyance, "Mum, I told Santa all the things I want you to get.  And stuff for Violet and Booboo and Rusty and Daddy, so I took care of all that."  oh, okay Roe.

Drowning in laundry.  It's official, I am never ever going to be caught up in laundry.  I mean, it's almost funny if it wasn't so depressing.  It just seems to be an impossibility to think that one woman could ever get ahead with six people's clothes to wash, dry, fold, and put away.  There was one day this week where I looked around in disbelief because I thought I was all caught up, until I realized Rusty's dirty hamper was completely full and I had a load of bedsheets that needed done but they were hidden in the girl's closet.  Sweet Lord of all that is holy, the wrinkles in our clothes from spending multiple days in the clean-waiting-to-be-folded baskets are so extreme they're cartoonish. (Mommas of more than four - Bless your supermom hearts. I can.not.imagine the mountain of clothes you deal with!)

Continuing our progress on the de-clutter/Konmari effort of our house.  This week we tackled the laundry room (which only helps minimally in the Great Laundry Challenge of life, but I'll take it).  Bud put up two rows of coat hooks which make a big difference for the kids' coats and backpacks and took down a shelf that was in there making the space feel even smaller than it is.  We cleaned out all the cupboards and found a place to put our cardboard/burnables (#countrylife) and it looks a million times better in there.  Onward to the home office/desk area and the dining room! 

Making our Thanksgiving turkey (not until Sunday night!).  We had a kid-favorite of chicken, veggie, and stuffing casserole, and leftover thanksgiving casserole, and also chili over noodles. We are really scraping by on the bottom of the pantry shelves and have a big grocery trip in the plans this weekend.  Last month my meal planning was terrible and I combed through the budget and proved my theory that meal planning saves us money!  With no official plan and stopping by weekly to pick up groceries little by little all month, we spent about $150 more than normal!  So it's back to the meal plan for this month with only one big grocery trip!  

Thursday, December 1, 2016

12 Months of Kindness 2016 Update

It's almost to the end of the year and we have had a very succesful time with 12 Months of Kindness this year.  With only one more act to go, I'm here with a recap of our year in kindness.

January: We created and delivered blessing bags to our local soup kitchen.  We put together six bags all together - three each that contained gender specific items.  The kids liked packing the bags and then they were proud to carry them in and deliver them (during the prep-time) in which we requested the bags be given out as needed based on the regular volunteers thoughts.  

February: We gave some love to a classroom through Donors Choose and were lucky to be able to support a former high school classmate in her elementary school classroom.

March: Our family volunteered time at the Johnstown Backpack Project to create weekend meal bags for local students in need.  The kids LOVE volunteering at JBP and working in the assembly line style packing line.  It is a wonderful organization that seems to be growing each time we visit.

April: We collected up our own gently used items and purchased a few new items to deliver Baby & Mom supplies to our local YWCA.  We gave items ranging from maternity clothes to diapers.

May: For the eighth year in a row, we selected and awarded our Studer Scholarship to two CV seniors (our high school alma mater).  Brandon and I had ourselves a little date night at the Senior banquet and are inspired every single year by the amount of people from our community that give back to our high school seniors. 

June: To celebrate our new baby brother, we created Birthday Boxes and delivered them to an incredible local non-profit Alleghenies Unlimited Care Providers who work towards giving independence to people of all abilities.   

July October: We postponed our annual Studer's Invitational Beer Olympics (the 8th!) until October to give our family some time to get back on track during our Rusty's rotten first 8 weeks.  But we were ready to host our event come October and had a great turnout.  As always, our friends and family astound us in their generosity and enthusiasm towards having fun for a good cause.  We were able to raise over $360 for a local family who inspires so many people in their kindness towards other and perserverance in the face a challenges.  

August: We purchased and donated supplies to our local Humane Society and then made a little visit with the cats & pups who haven't found their forever family yet. 

September: We donated a backpack filled with extra school supplies to Greyson's school discreetly at the beginning of the school year.  We dropped it off with the guidance office as a just-in-case another student would need it at anytime during the school year. 


October: Our kids, along with my fourth and fifth grade CCD students participated in the Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF program and collected over $53 dollars collectively! 

November: I participated in Giving Tuesday by getting my Spanish I classes involved!  We spent a little time each Tuesday of the month talking about an orphanage,el Hogar de ninos Emanuel, in San Pedro Sula, Honduras.  Some of the students brought in donations for the children and on Giving Tuesday, we spent our class periods writing holiday cards & letters in Spanish to the kids.  It gave my students a chance to showcase all the Spanish they've learned so far all year while also doing something kind for kids they may never meet in their life.  I'll be giving the letters and donated items to a former classmate (thanks Amber!) and they'll make their way to Honduras before the holiday with the next group of volunteers. 

December: Start the 'white envelope' gift tradition in our home.  Brandon is in charge of this one all on his own and I can't wait to see what he comes up with.  Since starting his new job, we are really sticking to our budget and so we've started with a dollar amount of zero in the White Envelope giving box on our Christmas budget.  So, I've been searching for coupons and codes to get our holiday shopping done, and each time I'm able to save a few dollars somewhere, I've been moving the savings down into the giving area - and so far we're up to $30 dollars!  

We also did some kindness that isn't officially on our 12mokp list: 

I worked closely with the CV Alumni Association (Brandon and my high school alma mater). We helped put together an amazing night to honor a longtime #1 fan of the school, I also helped organize alumni-led talks with high school seniors, and an alumni intramural group which included a summertime kickball league and a one-night cornhole tournament, both to raise funds towards supporting the high school.  (and our annual Alumni Human Library event is coming up later this month - our 3rd annual!) 

We ran in races that supported some great causes - like the Bunny Race that supported a local school district with our friends The Stahl family.  Brandon and Greyson ran in the Little Indian Color Run to support Greyson's school's PTA, and Grey and I ran in the Great Santa Race just recently to support the Wings of Hope organization. 


Speaking of races, we also spent the afternoon supporting runners in the Path of the Flood Race in May by creating inspirational signs, sidewalk cheering, and offer high fives.  We stationed ourselves in a spot that was a little less than 3 miles from the finish line, so the look of relief and instant-recharge in the runner's eyes at our signs and clapping was awesome.  

 The kids and I attend our local Empty Bowls event that was put on by a high school key club to help battle hunger in our community.  We treated it like a little date a few weeks before our newest baby arrived and the kids to this day still love using their own special pottery bowls that we picked out at the event.  Each time we use them we're reminded that so many people are not as blessed to have bowls as full as ours.

We try to give kindness out in little sporadic doses, things like leaving treat bags and notes for our mail lady, and offering homemade muffins and cookies to Greyson's bus driver (who is always so patient with our habitual lateness!) 

We also try to participate in small events that come up as best as we can when we hear about them.  We donated to The Big White Farmhouse Ashley's annual Pajama drive to support kids in need during these cold winter months.  I also offer my time towards the Needy Children's Shopping Tour to act as a chaperone while the kids get a chance to 'buy' much needed clothes and winter accessories for the holidays.  And as soon as I was able to again (postpartum) I started donating blood again. Did you know you can safely give blood every eight weeks?  And it's free! I usually take at least one kids along with me (and once this year I brought all four kids with me!) and they call it "when Mumma gets her blood out." I'll be able to give again one more time before the end of the year!  (ps. We're also registered organ donors and on the bone marrow registry list). 

And we have our monthly financial commitments to both Oxfam America, which works together with partners and locally in more than 90 countries to empower people living in poverty.  And to World Vision in our sponsorship of our sweet child, Raph who lives in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  We just recently received our yearly check in update of Raph and he is doing great in school and is getting so big (he's six just like Greyson)! 

The point of all of this - of this dedication to leaving goodness in our trail as we walk through each year is in hopes to inspire kindness, empathy, and goodness in these children of ours.  Our hope is to raise children who have kindness and empathy as their knee-jerk reaction.  To believe that kindness is not only the best choice but also a responsiblity.  That every smile, every kind gesture is the way in which they can make an impact in the world in a positive way. 

And that world can be scary and terrifying - and it has felt especially so this year, and I don't have any expectations to change the world.  This was our whole year squished down into this one post and it sure feels good to see it all together, feels like we've really done some things this year - but know I also know that I am only one momma on this one mountain in this one state of this one country in the whole world.  Only one writer in this one tiny space on the whole wide internet.  

But we really do believe in kindness and the power of empathy, and so we keep going forward in our 12 Months of Kindness Project to keep our hearts and minds focused on the blessings in our life.

be kind, friends. 
sending love to you always. 

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Around Here Forty-Seven: 11/18-11/24

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

Intentional Hours Outdoors: 509  (of 1000)
We racked up three and a half hours on Friday night, jogging in the Great Santa Run to support Wings of Hope for the second year in a row with Greyson. (that completes 100 small things list number 13: Run in three races!) Rusty came along too, so I pushed the stroller while Grey ran right next to us for the whole 2 miles.  It was a pretty nice night, so we weren't too cold and Grey kept me motivated to keep running the whole time.  After the race, we got our medals and some hot chocolate - then snuck into a place on the side of the street to watch the Holiday Light up the Night Parade.  Gemma walked with Abba & Chum and threw candy with Conemaugh Health Systems.  Violet rode the stroller with Uch and threw out candy with Alleghenies Unlimited Care Providers.  The parade was beautiful (Rusty loved the high school marching bands!) and then we all congregated in Central Park to see the giant Christmas tree get lit up for the season.  It was really a magical small town evening. 

Reading My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman little by little.  I am able to clock quite a few minutes reading during bath/showertimes and I've been sneaking in some minutes during the kids' bedtime - but I've been struggling with carving out time to get some longer bursts of reading in.  I just keep telling myself, come January when my substitute teaching comes to an end (bittersweet) I'll be able to play some major catch up! 

Donating my time and math talents to support the Needy Children's Shopping Tour at JCPenney's.  I'm no math wiz at all, but I used all I could muster to keep track of the sales and prices to get as much as possible for my assigned sweet girl during our shopping trip.  We did awesome together searching for her sizes and preferences in the store.  We were able to get a ton of stuff including some warm boots and lots of new clothes.  It was my second year volunteering/chaperoning and it is a wonderful event that is so thoughtfully and efficiently organized.  

Eating dinner after 8p each night as basketball season officially has begun!  Their first game/tournament isn't for another two weeks, but it's practice every night now, so we're enjoying some late afternoon snacks to hold us over until Daddy gets home so we can eat dinner as a family.  The upside is that as soon as dinner is done it's bedtime! hah. 

Dealing with some in-home sickness (runny noses, sore throats) and a bout of pink eye from Greyson!  He missed two days of school this week for it and when I took him to the Peds to make sure that's all it was - the doc took one look at me and the other three kids and said, "Oh gosh, I see a lot of eyes in here....and right before Thanksgiving!"  She gave me an extra refill on the eye drop meds just in case we all woke up on Thanksgiving with pink eyes!  haha, fortunately - we did some serious handwashing & quarantining to keep it contained to just one of us! 

Giving our Trick-or-Treat for Unicef box collections to the Coinstar this week to (finally) finish our October 12 months of Kindness project.  Our kids collected as did my 4th&5th grade CCD students which came to a total of over $53 dollars!  ***Don't Forget:  Giving Tuesday is this coming Tuesday, November 29!!***

Upgrading to a new phone after six years!  Brandon needed to get a new phone now that he has a new job, so we went together and the Verizon guy took one look at my beloved iPhone and said, "um, the last time we sold those was five or six years ago."  HAH.  I was really hesitant to change though because it has so many photos and videos on it from the kids.  Many of which I was saving and trying to transfer to Youtube because I was getting "storage almost full" messages daily.  We did a little tour and when it came time for a decision, we made the leap from iPhone to the Google Pixel phone.  I was worried because of navigation concerns - but after four days, I'm one hundred percent sold on our change.  The camera and video is awesome, there are NO storage limits (like ever), all of my photos get pushed right to google+ (easy for blogging too!), and the photo assistant is basically my BFF now.  

Celebrating Thanksgiving!  One of my favorite holidays of the year with two wonderful family dinners.  We started the day with cousins at our house while their Mum, Dad, and big sis ran in a turkey trot.  The kids love playing with Benny and Brookie so it gave the day a happy start to begin first thing with family that we are thankful for!  The kids played with the Macy's Parade running in the background while I baked three pumpkin rolls and mini apple pies.  Then we got all ready and headed out to Indiana, PA to celebrate with our Adams family (my side) and after delicious food (Rusty had his first thanksgiving 'meal' of mashed potatoes & gravy!) and a happy birthday sung to my Dad (Chum), we headed back towards home to enjoy dinner with our Studer family.  So much to be thankful for, especially given our newest baby this year, and Brandon's new job, and good health, and a warm home, and places to go at every turn where people love and support us.  I am just so very grateful for this beautiful, messy life of ours. 

Making breaded porkchops, doctor'ed-up frozen pizza (I added onions and banana peppers to our parents' pizza), dinner for breakfast (egg sandwiches!) and more than once this week - microwave popcorn with chocolate chips on top (mine and the kids' favorite snack!)