1 easy way to get both happier and more kind

Thursday, May 29, 2014

This is what we like to call Karma Control over here at Team Studer.  It's when moments in the day pop up that we have a choice to make:  the honest one or the dishonest one.  Or the calm, pleasant one versus the hot tempered, angry one.  In these little instances, we try to keep control over our own karma by choosing the one that will make good things happen (or at least avoid bad things from happening).

As an example, we were out to dinner a few weeks ago with friends and were sat at the bar until we had a table open up.  When we were finally seated, it was obvious that the waitress assumed B had paid for his drink at the bar - when in fact he hadn't; he had just ordered it there.  When she came by to get our dinner order, Brandon told her to add his current drink to our bill too since he hadn't paid for it.  She was surprised by his honesty and thanked him.

The way we feel about it; sneaking a free drink just isn't worth the karma.  Why use up good karma on a free drink when there are much bigger and more important moments that a little good karma could go a much longer way.

So, regularly in life, we try to make the most kind or patient choice when presented with an opportunity for a reaction.  Like, when we're in the slowest possible checkout line at the grocery store we wait patiently and smile while we tell the apologizing cashier 'no problem.' We fight the temptation of road rage.  We leave good tips even if the waitress gets confused or the food takes forever to come out.  We say please, thank you, and hold doors for the people behind us.

We are constantly grateful for the kind people that we have surrounding us in our lives.  Our parents, families, and friends alike.  We have had (and continue to have) role models surrounding us that also make the choice of kindness in everyday situations.  And as mentioned in this article (an interview by Gretchen Rubin (author of The Happiness Project) with Prof. Sonja Lyubomirsky); when we choose kindness or witness our family & friends choose kindness - we don't only feel better about being kind, but actually feel happier.  It's like a double dose of good:  being kind and feeling happier!
"We have found that almost any types of acts of kindness boost happiness...The recipients of kindness “paid the kind acts forward” and even acquaintances of the givers became happier and were inspired to act more generously themselves."
That's not to say we don't lose our temper (usually to those that are closest to us because isn't that the human way?  To be meanest to the ones you love most because you know they'll still be there after it all settles?  ps. i'm sorry & i love you to those of you that stand on the front lines- B, kids, parents, sisters).  And that's not to say we don't experience things that are bad, difficult, or challenging.  But we do try our best to approach all choices with the possibility of making  good things happen; even if it is not the easiest choice in the matter.

The truth is if you want good things to happen in your life; you have to make good things happen.  You have to choose to make the first ripple that will flow out with kindness far outside of your viewpoint.  Eventually, the kindness and goodness finds it's way back to you and you can choose to make more good things happen.

Good things happen
to those that work to make
Good things happen
to those that work to make
Good things happen
to those that work to make
Good things happen
to those that work to make
Good things happen
....again and again.

The Mom Next Door Series: Introduction

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

On Mother's Day at church this year, I stood up with all the other mums at mass that morning when the priest asked all mothers to stand for a blessing; as I have for the past four years.  And, also as I have for the past four years, my eyes welled up in the moment as I looked around me at the mixed assortment of mums we all were.  

There was me and my mother-in-law, separated in our pew by my father-in-law and my two kids; her two grandkids.  While her "kid" sat next to me as my husband.  There was a new mom swaying side to side holding her newborn.  An experienced mom flanked on either side by her teenage children.  Someone's mum who was no younger than 75 that was alone in her pew, but standing for the blessing all the same.  Young moms, older moms, friends of mine who are moms, mums I've admired growing up, moms I never knew; but all of us moms.  

The priest's prayer, I regretfully admit, was drowned out in my mind by the sudden urge to shout, "Wait.  Just stop a second,"  as I was deeply moved to just call all us moms in the center aisle for a giant group hug.  

I didn't announce that, but rather I stood there with my poor heart in a vice and tears in my eyes as I thought- we are all the same.  Haven't we all spent a sleepless night worrying about a sick child?  Haven't we all picked up a cup of coffee mid-morning only to realize it was already cold?  Haven't we all smiled at a child's first discovery of some tiny life experience we up until that moment forgot to appreciate?  Haven't we all berated ourselves that we could be better, that we need to try not to screw this thing up as much as possible?

It is not only on Mother's Day, but quite frequently in flashes of emotion that I also think too of the mothers of my life that have passed away.  My two grandmothers who passed before I officially became a mother, although my maternal grandmother was present for most of my first pregnancy.  It is now, as a mum, that I feel even more connected to my grandmothers, even though neither of them ever had the chance to meet my children or see what kind of mother I turned out to be.

And obviously, the very profound and startling realization that all new moms must feel after the birth of their first child towards their own mother.  My own written here.

I also recently read Cheryl Strayed's birth story and agree with Jill and Sara that this passage from the post sums up the basics of having a baby:

"Every time I had a contraction I thought, you have got to be f*cking kidding me! 
It seemed preposterous that this was the way birth got done. 
I felt solidly and profoundly connected to all the female mammals of the world. 
Not just the women who’d birthed, but the cats and the bears and the lemurs too."

And even with that deep realization that I experience every mother's day and the profound connectedness that I feel with all mother mammals in the world or in history (truly!), I still am plagued with moments of other-mom-judgement on a regular basis.  Even despite the fact that I daily scold my former pre-mom self for proclamations I so arrogantly vowed I would never do as a mother myself. 

And even though I have a deep respect for anyone that contributes love, learning, and support to any child in any capacity; I still carry my own versions of, "ugh, that's not how you should be doing that," issues towards other moms and their choices - usually without any insight to their own personal struggles or journeys.   

This is not something I admit proudly, I hope that much is obvious.  But it is something that I continually want to try to be better at.  And out of all of these reflections, I have decided to host an interview series on the blog this summer with Moms that are very different,  yet somehow (as all moms are) also inexplicably exactly like me - and maybe you'll find exactly different and yet somehow like you.  

Maybe getting a peek into their everyday lives, struggles, and total commonplace normalcy that we each experience - it will help me (and all of us) see that every mom we see from our own moms, to our sisters, to our friends, to the mom from the blogs we read, to the mom we pass in the grocery store is simply just a Mom Next Door.  Just like us, no matter how she chooses (or her current situation dictates) that her life and motherhood may be different from our own.  

Each Tuesday this summer, I hope to post a new interview from another Mom Next Door.  With questions ranging from 'What are the small joys you treasure each day as a Mum' to 'What keeps you up at night,' to 'What do you feel like you wish you did better as a Mum.'  

I have some Mums in mind that I'd love to interview because they inspire me - but I'd love to hear from all moms - old, young, experienced, or brand new mums.  Please reach out to me if you - or someone you know would like to be interviewed at studerteam.tabitha@gmail.com 

I can't wait to get this series started and hopefully get a weekly reminder that every mom is struggling and loving this very unique and somehow all very same journey.  Join me on Tuesdays this summer for the Mom Next Door Interview Series!

a love letter to worms

Friday, May 23, 2014

Dear worms,

You  may recognize these two kids' faces.

These two children belong to me.  I am writing to say thank you for your patience as you bring much joy to the daily lives of my kids.  

You see, Worms, the reason you recognize these children's faces is because they are always searching for you and they are usually successful.  You frequently hear the sounds of their shovels, diggers, and delighted shrieks as they ramble on and on about how they will "find us some worms today, baby!"

It is with love of the purest kind that they seek you out, to hold you in their hands so that you can wiggle and tickle their palms.  Thank you for being so accepting of our relocation program (not that you have a real choice), but I believe you will find your new home in our kid-selected "Worm Box" comfortable and full of all of your favorite things; mainly dirt.

You can rest easy in our Worm Box, as these children who so lovingly hunt for, transport, and place you in your new home, also stand guard to scare away birds from the Worm Box.  They are your protectors; I found them shouting in unison, "Get away from our worms, Birds!" with a fervor that is usually reserved only for religious extremists and people suffering from severe road rage.

If my children gleefully discover you in any location that is not our home; and let's be honest here, they're always looking so this is a very common occurrence, they proceed to display you to anyone nearby with honest pride for all that is you.  It matters not if these fellow humans are complete strangers, family, or friends they just made 2 minutes prior and have a clear fear or distaste for creatures of your nature.  

My children are so infatuated with you that they incorrectly believe every single human on the planet should also want to hold and admire you too.  If the human politely declines, my children will force them to hold you anyway, gently placing you on the person's most stable body part (knees, feet, hand outstretched in the "ew" position).  There may be a moment of jostling at this time, but that is brief before you are carefully placed "back with your family" in the dirt.

The two reasons I would like to say that I love you Worms,  are these:   First, you provide extended periods of attention and happy independent play for my children.  You are like a rare phenomenon that occurs in my days where I can quickly accomplish multiple tasks that having children hanging on or 'helping' is very difficult.  Things like mopping the floor, using the restroom, or sneaking chocolate from my secret stash without sharing.  I am so grateful to you for that.  

Secondly, you bring out the most beautiful and sincere compliments that my children offer up to each other.  Gemma toddles over with worm in hand to announce in awe, "Wook, Booboo found dis." Just yesterday, Greyson announced aloud at the playground, "Gemmi, you are the greatest worm digger in the whole world!"  and then proudly told his Dad at dinner the same thing and adding, "She found two worms at the playground! Can you believe that?" He had never been more proud of his little sister in her 2 years of life.

There is truly no greater compliment in our home right now than "Great Worm Digger."

You are such a small creature, Worms, but know that to us - you are a very big deal.

Love always,
The Studers

thank YOU thursday: Someone who is a beacon of love

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Dear Grammar,

I met you when I was fifteen; I was the girlfriend of your only grandson.  Your house is the backdrop for so many of my memories dating Brandon in high school.  B and I painted my homecoming signs in your basement and we got into a paintbrush battle (how puppy love high school of us) and you laughed and just told us to make sure we clean up the mess when we're done.

You are one of only three people on this planet (and one in Heaven) that calls me "Tabi."  I have birthday, anniversary, and congratulations cards saved in a box that are all signed (regardless of exactly when in the fifteen years I received them), "Love, Grammar."  I've celebrated holidays at your house, shared dinner with the whole family or just with you at your table, and I've fallen asleep on your couches.  Never once have I felt like your house was somewhere that I didn't belong.

And now, half of my life later, you're the Mimi of my own kids.  You whisper "I love you," in their ears and the knowledge that they will think of that with fondness as adults fills my heart to the brim.  You bring them treats in your purse for B's basketball games, and you sweetly scold me when I tell the kids to clean up.  "They're just kids,"  you say, "it's just a mess."

Because, I suppose after three kids, four grandkids, five great-grandkids and now two more on the way!  You know the only thing that is not possible to clean up or fix is time.  It keeps marching on, and babies keep growing, and the best thing in life that can happen is to continue to accumulate more loved ones.  Which is why you also count all the spouses of your kids and grandkids as your own too.  And actually, most of our closest friends consider you family; each of them call you Grammar or Mimi too.

You are a beacon of love, Mimi, to so many people.

I've lost both of my grandmothers; a heartache I have carried everyday since they each passed.  And yet when we were talking to the kids the other day about how lucky they are to have three grandmothers to celebrate for Mother's Day, when Grey asked me how many I had, without pause I answered, "Two in Heaven and Mimi; she's is my grandma too."

Because, truly, what is the definition of a grandma but someone who loves you without conditions.  And I have always felt that you have done that for me.

Thank you Meems,
love you forever,

Embracing my own creativity

Monday, May 19, 2014

There are so many things I'd like to be able to do creatively.  There are people I follow that have these amazing, creative skills at organizing things in beautiful ways.  People that use their creative energy to make paintings and jewelry.  I have friends that are photographers, chefs, sewing experts, craft makers, holiday decorating artists (like my Mom!) and even sisters that weave timeless and meaningful stories through movies.  

Hard as I try (and I do!) I just don't hold these kinds of creativity.  I would love to be a painter, a baker, and a candlestick maker (hah) - but I just don't got it.

That's not to say, I won't keep trying my amateur hand at all of these things for the sake of learning and expanding my capabilities - 

- but I'm finally coming to embrace and celebrate my own version of creativity.  Which I have plenty of it, but it manifests itself in ways that are personal to me.  Maybe it's making it over the 30 hump that is helping me recognize my own bursts of talent in certain fields, or maybe it's been some of the reading I've done in the past year and half:  Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being CreativeThe Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, and The Happiness Project.  

In any case, I have been thinking on the ways that creativity flows out of me and I'm going to try to focus more intently on spreading my creativity in these ways to continue to grow.  The idea being that trying to use my creativity in a million different outlets only weakens my creative juice in the places that I actually love and enjoy.  So by limiting my scope of creative projects - this will (hopefully) lend to bigger, brighter, and new ideas for projects that I really love doing.  

Like, our family yearbook.  Definitely not a paintbrush sweeping across a canvas sort of creativity, but it's my own weird way of organizing our family memories and taking stock of what a beautiful year we have despite how quickly and sometimes difficult it seems. 

I'm currently finishing up our 2013 yearbook and with the extra time I've dedicated to it - I am really loving the outline (by categories vs. monthly this year).  It is a labor of love, my friends.  I painstakingly choose and sort through photos, customize layouts, create captions, and add stickers.  It is time intensive and from the outside appears slightly psychotic.  Brandon said to me, "It looks awesome, but isn't it so much tedious work?"  And the answer is yes it is - but it is work I honestly love for some weirdo reason.  I love finding the themes that weave our year together and going back through the photos to see how much joy, love, and laughter fill our days even though the year is gone in what feels like blinks.

The yearbook is a reminder that even though there are big events through the year that we can easily remember; like big trips (Splash Lagoon & NYC) or milestones (my 30th birthday and B's First coaching season) - but our year is sprinkled with so many small joys.  Like our seasonal traditions that highlight just a day or weekend of months but make us laugh or give us special moments.  Even the photos of our every day normal life seem to shine light on the fact that we are having fun all the time.  And a somber reminder that someday our life with our ever-growing kids will look very different than it does today.  

I also love planning.  Like love planning with a strange obsession.  It makes me so happy and feel so energized to create a plan for the future.  Like a little hug for my future self that will bring her and our family something memorable.  Maybe planning does not seem entirely creative - but it feels creative to me!  I have been working on organizing a Superhero 5K Family Fun Run (with obstacles) for the CV Alumni Association and planning out our Summer Roadtrip Vacation.

I make lists of projects that I'd like to get done around the house, lists of yearly goals for our family, meal plans, brainstorming plans for "What do we want our idea life to look like", and our calendars are noted and colored with ideas and upcoming plans.  It feels creative to me and gets me thinking about trying things we've never done before - where can we go?  what will be both fun for us and for the kids?  What's possible vs. what seems awesome but probably over-ambitious?

And lastly, probably the one that brings me most of all the things that come from creativity:  joy, pride, frustration, challenges, and peace is writing.  Writing here on the blog, in some cases (much too far and few between) posts for other blogs, and very minimally in some books that I'm working on a novel and also a mom/memoir book.

I know that there are two ways that I am going to continue getting better at writing and keep the creative door open so that I don't hit a roadblock (or a self-induced "I'm not good enough" block).

The first is to Read.  Read books that I like and don't like from a writer's perspective.  Books in my genre and out of my genre.  Blogs by people who's writing inspires me..

And the second is to actually write.  Just keep writing; all the time.  Jotting down flashes of inspiration for stories or scenes for my novel.  Jotting down memories for my mom/memoir book.  Sitting down and writing for 20-30 minutes a day somewhere - in a journal, on the blog, anywhere.  I just need to keep writing.  My own personal issue with writing non-blog posts is that I feel like everything needs to be perfect (or near that) because blog writing has unofficially trained me to make things look like I want it before pressing save.  This is not at all how one writes a memoir or novel.  It takes lots of just writing the darn thing and then going back through and revising 64 thousand times.  Which I am continually frustrated to leave a particular scene or segment if I don't feel great about it.  But more practice and writing will (hopefully) help me learn to just get it down.

For any actually interested - here's a bit from my novel that gives no indication of what the book is actually about (hah!  sorry, still a secret) but does give you a look into the main characters and their personalities.  The narrator is a middle aged man named Ben:

Mark, Emily, and Alex showed up fifteen minutes late and Maggie was practically tearing their coats off and pushing them into the dining room so the food wouldn’t get cold.  Emily cut the steamed vegetables into tiny pieces and tried to feed the baby some lamb.  Alex’s little face puckered up and I could tell from Maggie’s facial expression that she took it as a personal offense.  Only my wife would be offended by a two year old with snot running out of his nose.  I reached under the table and patted her knee.  She looked up at me with big green eyes and lifted her eyebrows in kind of a defeated way.  I scrunched my nose twice; she smiled and then made her way to get some paper towels.  Maggie had made up the nose-scrunching signal when we had class together junior year at college.  She used to say that it was our silent gesture saying we understood and it would all be alright.  We use to look at each other laughing and scrunching our noses when we had a test that we should’ve studied for instead of making love the night before.  The last time I could remember her squishing her nose at me had been at my Mother’s funeral when I was hugging Mom’s best friend, Lois.  I made a mental note to stop by and see Lois to say hello.  I hadn’t visited in awhile and I know she would appreciate it.  
After dinner, Mark carried the playpen upstairs and Emily put Alex down to sleep.  Maggie and Emily finished their wine in the kitchen over dishes while Mark and I sat with whiskey in the den.  Today was the first anniversary of our Mother’s death and Mark and I clinked glasses in honor of her.  We drank the whole glass down and I refilled both our drinks.  “Well, this sucks.”  Mark said while leaning back in the winged chair.  “I know…Did you know Dad is out with Cynthia tonight?”  I asked mostly because I wanted to change the subject.  I was afraid a heart to heart would start since we each had two glasses of wine at dinner and now the whiskey.  “Figures, the old bastard.  Maybe she’s better off; to be rid of his bullshit.”  Mark said as he raised his glass again.  I didn’t feel appropriate in any way to be toasting to my Mother’s death, but maybe he was right.  It was better she wasn’t here to have to put up with him anymore.  We tapped glasses again and I drank the whole thing down.  I was thinking that even if it was better for my Mother to be gone and be rid of my Dad, I would have still wanted her to be here; for me.   I noticed my face was burning but I couldn’t tell if it was because of the two doubles of whiskey or because I was ashamed.
After a brief argument between Mark and Emily over who was capable of driving home (Mark won), we were left alone.  Maggie immediately started talking as the door closed while simultaneously making her way to the kitchen, “that went well, I think.  Poor Emily is still so heartbroken over your Mother’s passing.  She was saying in the kitchen that she dreamt of her last night and it flipped her out.  She was telling me about it and was starting to get choked up.  I didn’t know if it was the wine or what, but sometimes I feel so sorry for her.  Anyway, I guess your Mom was touching Em’s stomach in the dream and now she thinks she’s going to get pregnant again.”  She rolled her eyes, “I love Em, you know I do…but sometimes she can be a little too new-agey.”  I was tired and didn’t feel like taking sides.  I grabbed her waist and pulled her in for a hug by her hips.  “Great dinner, hun” I whispered through her hair.  “I love you.”  She pulled back and gave me a quick peck on the lips, “Love you too.”  While I headed upstairs for bed, I could hear Maggie in the kitchen scrubbing the sink.
So, I am going to start embracing my own personal creativity outlets that I love and enjoy with a more focused eye.  As Austin Kleon said in Steal Like An Artist;

"The way to get over creative block is to simply place some constraints on yourself.  It seems contradictory, but when it comes to creative work, limitations mean freedom...What makes us interesting isn't just what we've experienced, but also what we haven't experienced.  The same is true when you do your work:  You must embrace your limitations and keep moving."
So here is to embracing yourself and your own versions of creativity - whatever those might be!

What kinds of creativity do you excel at and which do you not, but maybe wish you did?

Screen Free Week 2014 Reflections

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

We finished up our second year of participating in Screen Free Week.  And here is in a glance, what our week looked like:

If you are a regular reader, this does not look drastically different than our normal life (as per what I allow to be viewed on social media, ahem).  Well, minus all the napping - we don't normally nap this much or this easily, but that's what Screen Free Week does:  it makes for very tired (both physically and mentally) children.

The thing that is maybe less obvious in the drive-by view of our week is that all of these activities that are not so out-of-the-norm had two components that were quite out-of-the-norm.  First:  they were all done with kids that were eager to contribute to the play with their own ideas and creativity.

That's not to say that doesn't happen on a regular basis, but my kids are the go-go-go type and it feels activities last approximately 3 minutes before they are on to the next destruction.  They are not happy play-doh, crayon, paint, or lego artists - let me tell ya.  But Screen Free Week seemed to give their attention to these less-physical play an added boost.  They sat longer for craft projects, made up their own games that took place in only one location, and had more hilarious inventive ways to play independently.  Like the 36 concert and poem jam sessions I watched last week which included multiple renditions of "Let it Go" by Gemma and this precious poem:

My Mum's Love 
by Greyson (age 4)

I love my Mom
She cooks me food
I love it when 
she cooks me food
She turns on the tv
but not if it's today
but other days,
not today,
she turns on the tv

We were blessed with great weather for most of the week, so being outside after a very long, cold winter filled with lots of added screen time - it was a much needed boost of vitamin D and body moving.  We visited the playground and park, pretended the rock box was a nest (...my kids are weird), washed the little playground car-wash style, laid under the trampoline and read, got royally filthy sloshing through mud, and did a lot of digging for worms and looking for other bugs.

We also talked about various parts of the Earth that I penciled in during the week for when the kids (read:  I) got bored.  We have these awesome kid-friendly encyclopedia-type books ( Explore and Learn, 6 Volume Set ) that fascinate the kids that we really don't read & look at enough.  We read the pages that coordinated with the days that we were 'studying' and learned more about the ocean, rain forests, and trees.  By far, our favorite day was Insect day, but we also got our faces painted like sea creatures (a blue whale & giant squid...again; my kids are weird), made ocean bottles, a tornado jar, and caterpillars from egg cartons.

The second component, and probably more important, that makes Screen Free Week more magical than other weeks is that the day is spent with a Mum that is significantly more calm and more patient than normal.  I took a screen hiatus myself (only using email for 'work' which translates to The Hunting Daddies stuff and my work with the CV Alumni Association).  I didn't look at facebook, pinterest, instagram, or tv for the entire week.  I did use my phone to take pictures and call/text but other than that - I was a screen free Mumma too.

One day last week, I fi.na.lly. cleared off my kitchen window sill above the sink and made a cairn out of the rocks Greyson has been collecting for me.  For no particular reason, that little rock cairn has given me unreasonable joy every time I've looked at it since.  It was like the creative window that being away from screens gave me helped me make time to clear off the windowsill and create this little zen statue of gratitude, happiness, and a bit of magic.  (is it really a surprise my kids are so weird?)

The funny realization that comes with Screen Free Week from a Mum point of view is that I really think that sitting the kids down in front of the tv for a show or two gives me all this time to get stuff done.  When in reality - it only makes me less efficient.  It's like I know that I have a good 25 minutes to do stuff without interruption, so I drag my feet and check social media and fart around and suddenly the 25 minutes is up and I didn't even get done what I had set out to do originally.

This past week, there was no 25 minute breaks while the kids 'zombie'd' out in front of the tv or iPad.  I needed to do what I needed to do (cook, clean, general caring for human life both born and unborn) and I knew I needed to get it done while the kids were with me or playing together or independently.  And imagine my surprise when:  it all got done!  I was an efficient machine!  I even tacked on projects that I hadn't planned like sorting baby clothes, deep cleaning the truck (prompted by Grey throwing up from the stomach bug), outdoor summer clean-up tasks, and cleaning out the fridge.  Seriously, it was crazy.
20 weeks pregnant cleaning out the truck in 85+ degree weather - Yea!  I can do that!
Keeping away from screens myself, also shone light on one-on-one time that I don't normally take time to spend with the kids because I feel so 'drained.'  Grey and I made blueberry muffins when Gemma slept in.  When Grey fell asleep before 7:30pm one night (!!!!!!a miracle, people!!!!), Gemmi and I had our favorite dinner together (pb&j toast) and while Gemma napped one day, I played Candyland and Memory with Grey.

So, the point of this incredibly long post (is anyone still out there?) is that just as last year, we made some incredible discoveries during Screen Free Week this year.  First, as revealed early this week, our new baby is a girl (!), but also - more existentially - we had a big reminder that screens do not in fact make our home life easier - rather, it makes us all feel more stressed and pulled in different directions.  Taking this week as a concerted effort in sharing less, mindlessly googling less, and even being less aware of all the stuff happening outside of our little home or family life - made our life feel so much more peaceful and efficient.

Moving forward, we are trying to take these lessons and find a way to implement them into regular life.  For example, the kids like 'waking up slow,' so they have been getting some tv in the morning and then that's kind of it for the day.  We have been eating lunch together with no screens and it was the kids that suggested last night that we all play Memory together while dinner was finishing up instead of asking for screen time.

I have been working on leaving my phone in the kitchen during the day and only blogging, social media'ing in the early morning while the kids are still sleeping or still slowly waking up (aka tv time).  I'm trying to be more conscious of the times I'm passively choosing another's creativity (tv, internet in general) over exercising my own creativity (writing, journaling, planning).

Overall, it was a great week.  I hope more people continue to join in despite how daunting the task seems at first.  Check out the hashtag on instagram:  #screenfreeweek to see some inspiring photos of how others 'looked up' last week.  And just for the sake of humanity and happiness, also please look at this hashtag:  #littlefreelibrary (makes me wish we lived in a cul de sac just so we could build one!   Alas, country folk we are).

If you're interested in reading some other recaps of Screen Free Week via awesome blogs - check these awesome mommas out:

Shelly:  was so happy to read Shelly's account of how much more productive and energized she felt as I had the same experience!  Again, proof we are kindred spirits!

Melodye:  Amazing to see the creative that came out of Melodye's week!  She is awesome anyway, but it was clear proof of the difference in passively consuming creativity (via tv/internet) compared to actively being creative.  Seriously, I'm in awe.

Angie from Risky Kids:  I was inspired to see "older kids" (well at least older than mine) accept and excel in the Screen Free Week challenge.  And the pic of the whole neighborhood crew of kids playing outside together got me feeling happy and refreshed.  (check out Risky Kids chronicles of the 50 dangerous things - I'm thinking maybe we're friends in a different life, Angie!)

Did you participate in Screen Free week?  I want to hear about it!!

Studerbaby#3 gender reveal

Monday, May 12, 2014

Of all the discoveries during Screen Free Week, the best, biggest, and most wonderful was our third Studerbaby's gender reveal.  We had our appointment on Tuesday morning and Brandon and I were all jittery nerves in the waiting room.  We got into the ultrasound room and watched with unreasonably proud hearts as our baby kicked and the technician declared, the baby weighs 11oz; that's perfect.  Finally she asked, "If I can tell, do you want to know the gender?" and we both hesitated for a moment until B said, "Yes."

For all 19 weeks of the pregnancy, I have felt it was a resounding boy.  I have been combing through boy's names and imagining the three kids all together playing and it was always with Grey, Gem and a baby brother.  Brandon was not so sure and wobbled between the two.  And then, we found out...

and I was overjoyed.  A wave of excitement and gratitude washed over me and all I could think was, "a baby sis for Gemmi."  Having sisters was possibly the most grateful childhood memory I have and I am so happy that Gem will get to have a sister to confide, laugh, and learn with as the two of them grow up together.  Now when I imagine my three kids together; it is with my two daughters (ah!  my two daughters!!) holding hands and serenely following around our wild, running boy.

After B got home from work, we got the kids together and told them we had something exciting to tell them.  When Brandon paused after saying, "Our new baby is a....." Grey got a big smile on his face and chanted, "Please say a boy!  Please say a boy!"  B and I gave each other a quick, worried glance before he said, "A Girl!"  Grey's face look defeated enough that my heart broke a little for him and then he said, "Well, Okay."  He laid down on B's shoulder and I told him it was alright if he wanted to cry a little.  He declared, "No, I don't have to." and has now since been telling everyone "Now we'll have two crazy little girls!"  He has also seemed to realize it will still just be him and Daddy doing 'boy' things together with no other intruders and that seems to give him a nice consolation.*

Since he's been practicing writing his letters, we had him write down the word "Girl" on cut-out paper hearts to tell our immediate family and then we went to their houses and Dad's work to hand deliver Grey's note to them that night.  Despite the fact that the grandparents all know we are having another baby and would be thrilled if we were having either gender - they're reactions were all amazing and hilarious.  Of the six family members we told; 4 of them thought it was a boy (Chum, Gigi, Pappy, and Uch).  Only my mum and Mimi thought it was a girl (but not even they were sure).

Kayla found out just a day ago, as she has now returned from Italy from her honeymoon (a post on her amazing wedding forthcoming).  We got to chat via facetime yesterday and per usual Aunt Kitty style, she had happy tears about it.  hahhha.

It was so nice to find out during Screen Free week when we were intentionally avoiding over-sharing.  I am no stranger to sharing everything in our life (hello, blog readers!!) and so this was a moment that we got a chance to enjoy and keep this secret for a whole week before telling everyone.  It was somehow a little more magical by not letting the whole world now right at that moment (even though it was tempting) - it was just ours to enjoy for a little while.

So now we are busy manically searching girls names and sorting through Gemmi & Sophia's hand-me-down clothes to prepare for this new baby girl.  Gah, a baby girl.  We all just cannot wait to meet this baby.

*a few weeks ago, Greyson and I watched that video of the little boy finding out he would be having another sister together.  Afterwards, we talked about how it wasn't very nice the way the boy was acting and talking about his own sisters and girls.

Grey decided that he definitely would NOT do that if we found out we were having a sister and that he would just say, "That's alright that we having a sis."  We talked about too the good things about having a sister instead of a brother (like being the only boy with Daddy and that he already has a sister and how much fun it is to play with her).

I think talking about the possibility of it being a girl (and not exactly what he may have hoped for) was really good for his age.  Grey was visibly disappointed at first, but we had already talked about it feeling a little sad if we were wrong or having a girl instead of a boy, so he already had practiced the words he would say which would also start the process of feeling better about it.

We also regularly do a lot of talking about speaking nicely to and about our family and friends and how lucky we are to have people that love us.  So although he was disappointed after the immediate announcement, his rebound time was amazing and I am so proud of him.  He is such an amazing big brother; our girls are so very lucky to have him.

first day of trout 2014

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The first day of trout is an annual holiday at our house and the girls and boys split up to follow through our traditions for the weekend.  Greyson and Brandon slept over at camp on Friday night and I woke up to this text pic when the boys were ready to hit the creek in the morning.  (Greyson's chest waders are from Oakiwear).

As the boys spent the morning on the creek, the girls; Gigi, Gemmi, and I, headed to lunch and then off to the nail salon to get pedicures.  This was Gemma's third trip to the nail salon; although her first time there she just slept the whole time (hah).  She was very excited to pick out some pinkish-purple toe nailpolish and then gleefully dipped her toes into the pedicure tub.

Gem sat nicely for her toe polish and the pedicurists were so patient and sweet with her.  Gigi and I both got our pedicures wrapped up and it was another successful Girls version of the first day of trout.  With no sisters or daughters, Gigi gets a chance to spend a full-on girly time after years and years of spending this weekend every year in a fishing camp with a bunch of dudes.  Even if someday Gemmi decides to pick the boys over us - Gigi and I love our girly version of this holiday weekend. 

After our girls afternoon, we headed over to camp ourselves to check in our boys; Brandon, Greyson, & Pappy and to spend some time in the sun too.  Grey was still sleeping when we first arrived, but woke up and was so excited to be the big boy at fishing camp, telling us about all the fun he was having and making it clear that he knew he was the expert in the field of fishing over his Mumma and Sister.  His excitement and grown-up-ness about it both a joyful surprise and sad realization that our little man is growing up!

We all made our way to a fishing hole a ways down the creek all together and the boys got their lines wet and the girls cheered them on. 

Pappy Butch and Greyson

It wasn't long until Brandon hooked a big palomino trout and while trying to call Grey over to help, it got off the hook.  We all got to see it when it jumped out of the water and I said to B, "Make him do it again so I can get a pic!" To which he looked at me with a look of exasperated confusion as making a fish do anything is impossible - hah!  By the grace of outdoor karma, a few minutes later, Bud snagged the same big palomino and this time Grey was ready to reel in the fish while B netted the trout in the river.  


My husband was over the moon about this outdoor moment to share with Grey.  Greyson was overjoyed and so proud of the big fish he caught with his Daddy.  Look for a blog post from Brandon's proud perspective on The Hunting Daddies blog in a week!

18.5 inch palomino trout!
After the awesome catch, Grey was even more happy when his cousin Reid arrived for the weekend.  These two had a blast the rest of the weekend running, playing, and fishing.

fishing cousin mania!
After a little while, Gemmi and I headed back home while the boys spent another night at fishing camp.  It was the best fishing season yet, as far as Greyson's ability and excitement goes - and a clear sign that it will only continue to be a huge holiday on our family calendar.