12 Months of Kindness: February & March 2015

Monday, March 30, 2015

We are well underway towards tackling our 12 Months of Kindness Project as we get ready to head into month four.  We had a few hiccups with our January kindness (giving someone the 'day off') but my hopes are not dashed yet!  I'm still thinking of how I can make that kindness work despite the weathers best efforts to keep from making it happen!!  (thanks for your patience, Tare!)  Updates to come as soon as possible on that one!

In February, our kindness was to pay it forward to a RAOK that my girls and I received while out to lunch one day in December.  So, our family got bundled up for the cold and headed out to dinner together to Hoss's.  We chose Hoss's for two reasons; first that was where we were originally RAOK'ed and also we knew that was within our financial means to be able to pay for both our meal and another family's meal.  That's the thing about kindness - it doesn't have to be overly expensive or outside of your financial means.

Once we were seated, Brandon and I scanned the room for potential recipients of our anonymous kindness.  After going back and forth a couple times - it's so nerve-racking and kind of scary!- Brandon was convinced that we RAOK an elderly couple seated behind me who were both sitting on the same side of the table enjoying their dinner in relative quiet; in that romantic way that older couples in love do so easily and sweetly.  Lets be honest, we sort of picked them because we hoped to be like them some day.

We told our server of our secret plan and we sat excitedly while we watched her tell their server.  Eek!  The anticipation is maddening!  Hah!  After their server informed our couple that their meal had been paid for, I could hear them behind me whispering that they hadn't see anyone that they knew in the restaurant and how it was 'awfully nice.'  It was done and went off smoothly and we were satisfied with the whole experience.

But then - bonus! - when our RAOK'ed couple were getting up to leave, they stopped by our table, to compliment us on our family and to say how they thought the kids behaved nicely and were so cute.  Totally unbeknownst to them that we had been the ones to pay for their meal!  The wife went on to tell us that they had raised five kids and although it is wild and loud when they're young, it is the best times - so "hang in there!' she said with a wistful smile.  I could have cried!  B and I were smiling ear to ear to know that not only had we completed our kindness for the month, but it went to a couple that was so nice themselves.  Like giving back to people who give kindness freely themselves.


In March, Brandon and I spent a Saturday evening at the Windber Area Community Kitchen, clearing tables, helping folks to their seats, and washing dishes.  We actually heard about W.A.C.K. initially last year from one of our high school scholarship essays.  Ever since reading about how the student had volunteered there, I have been itching to add it to our 12 Months of Kindness goals.

So we dropped the kids at Abba and Chum's house (thank you!) and headed out for a #kindnessdatenight (can we make that a real thing?)  We went, not knowing another single volunteer there (!), and were introduced around the place and directed on what we should do.  Before anyone came in, it felt sort of awkward (like new things out of our normal comfort zone always do) but as the people began pouring in - we fell right into a steady groove.

We made some new friends with volunteers, laughed and chatted with some of the diners, and learned more about the organization.  Brandon got comfortable back in the kitchen and sort of fell in love with the industrial high power dishwasher (hahah, he wants one at home).  We even got to enjoy some dinner afterwards and I was happy to help finish up the last two pieces of cookie cake...obviously.

We were there from about 3:30p until 6p for the actual meal and then spent another half hour or so helping to clean up, vacuum, and tear down the hall.  The volunteers are like a well-oiled machine in there and there was clear direction and a lot of great people that are there for every dinner (they serve two Saturdays every month).

During our meal, there were two young-ish kids there volunteering (ages between 7-10) and I think Grey could definitely handle being there to help bus tables or get folks seated - so hopefully he and I can go back again this year to get him on the volunteering fun.

It was both a meaningful and fun date night...and since we got the green light from my parents - we even stopped for a drink afterwards at one of our favorite watering holes to top off the evening before picking up the kiddos and heading home.   #marriedmybff for real.


Friday, March 27, 2015


Celebrating last weekend with my handsome husband and a bunch of our friends on the Poker Pub Crawl I helped organized for our high school alumni association.  We had a lot of fun, raised some money, and got a night out on the town like real life grown ups!  Thank you to Abba for watching the gremlins!

Hopeful that spring is coming.  oh, please please.  On the one warm day we had this week, charged with inspiration from 1000 Hours Outside, I braved it alone with three kids and two dogs (!) and we managed to walk over a mile together.  I had Bullet on a leash and Violet in the carrier.  Grey had Trixie on the leash and Gem was in charge of the backpack of snacks.  That's the real secret to success - snacks.

Chatting non stop for almost three hours with my baby sis out to dinner on Monday night.  Brandon was off (only to have to work this weekend, boo) but that might I got to sneak away and get yummy food that I didn't make and giggle behind giant classes of margaritas with my littlest sis for the night!

Happy to finally (!!) get to meet baby Claire this past weekend when we visited with Siri and Dobber while they were in town.  Violet calls dibs on future 'besties!'

Decorating from Easter finally got done this week!  I always get so mixed up when there is a holiday right after you flip over the next month in the calendar.  Oops, dying Easter eggs is on the to do list for this upcoming week.  After we finished hanging eggs from our Easter tree in the front yard, Gemma said that our tree "looks like she's wearing earrings!"

Running all over the place this week!  Gemma and I had a dentist appointment (her first!) in which both of us got good marks.  Brandon, Greyson, and I stopped by the eye doctor (his first!), Violet had her sixth month well check, and then I had a 'lady doc' yearly appt.  At least we're getting them all out of the way, I guess!

Enjoying little routines that the kids and I have gotten into recently naturally.  Like when I fold and iron our clothes, Gemma floats between folding dishtowels for me and playing with Violet, while Grey sorts and rolls the socks and then shoots them like basketballs across the room into the hamper.  And the two bigger kids have also twice now migrated up to Violet's room while I'm putting her to sleep.  They drag in blankets and pillows and lay on the floor while I sing lullabies to Violet.  It's so nice and special and I don't know how it got started but it makes me feel really aware of how fleeting this period in our life is with three little ones.

Reading (still!) The Ten Thousand Things and switched up from Mercy Watson to Super Teddy this week for bedtime reading.

Exasperated with Gemmi Ro.  She's amazing and hilarious, but trying to raise a three year old is like trying to put a onesie on a rabid wolf baby.  honestly.  Grey as a three year old and this same feeling of just staring at him with utter disbelief and frustration is making a comeback as our Gem now is a full blown three.  yeesh.  so much drama, whining, and flat out not listening - not because she doesn't understand but because at three years, they just want to make sure everyone understands that they are going to make their own darn choices and ain't nobody going to tell them nothing.  a paint can spilled in the basement,  long diatribes about how no one loves her because we stopped petting her when she fell asleep, numerous cups and plates spilled at dinner because of dance party attacks that come out of nowhere, and her weight in stolen junk food later - this week i'm just feeling like ugh, help me.

Missing my grandma who had a birthday this week.  The kids and I went to Sweet Frog to enjoy some ice cream in her honor and I told them about her and how she used to run her fingers down our closed eyes and whisper 'eyes' to help us fall asleep.  Grey said that he thought that Jesus probably had a cake for her up in heaven for her birthday.

This week in interesting internet:

The coolest momma ever sporting a bikini on the beach inspiring the masses to wear your momma badges of honor proud.  If you didn't check out this story yet - please do so immediately.   I especially love that she says "I wear a bikini because the only man who's opinion matters knows what I went through to look this way. That same man says he's never seen anything sexier than my body, marks and all. "   because my handsome hubs is exactly like that. xoxoxx love you, b.

This eye opening perspective on what it is like to lose a child. I hope to never be a member of this club, as all parents hope - but it was important for me to read this and feel better able to respond and support parents who have tragically been forced to live on past their children.

Normally very funny blog Stuff MomsSays hit me in the feels with this Thank You post. cryfest.

This video about how words can have such an impact in life. It hit me in the gut for a lot of reasons, one of them being about how much I love writing and putting words together myself. gah, just watch.

FTWM to SAHM vlog series: Budgets & Meal Planning

Thursday, March 26, 2015

goodness.  Does it ever feel like a day totally gets away from you?  That was my yesterday, seriously, like it was just slipping through my fingertips.  So the vlog is coming at ya a day late because I don't know what happened to yesterday.

I'm talking today about money today.  As a Sahm, I sort of view the saving aspect of money has one of the main responsibilities of my "job" now.  My husband brings money IN as his job and part of my job as a Sahm is that I try to keep it from going OUT in unnecessary places.

We accomplish that first by being aware of our budget and the movement of our (much smaller amount of) money now as a one paycheck family.  And also by saving money when we can - one of the bigger ways of doing that by meal-planning.  Watch on to learn more and check out the resources & links listed below for more info!

Links & Resources:


Dave Ramsey's Seven Baby Steps

Staying at Home with your kids when you can barely afford it from The Humble Homemaker (her post really aligns with how we do things here at Team Studer on a day to day basis.  Almost all hand-me-downs, no shopping to browse, free entertainment, etc)

How to become a stay at home mom on one income from Your Modern Family

About the Spending Fast from And Then We Saved
and then check out her Total Savings from the Year long Spending Fast


My entire Recipe Pinboard for meal-planning
From my blog:  A year of meal planning & tips

Our top favorite meals:
Korean Beef
YUM Chicken - also known as 'crack chicken':  Slow Cooker meal
Soft shell Tacos  (anything Mexican actually.  burritos, quesadillas, Tater Tot Enchilada Bake, Taco Pasta, Baked TacosTaco Potatoes (a side!)
Crispy Shrimp & Pasta
Three Packet Roast:  Slow Cooker Meal
Chicken Zucchini Casserole
Asian Pork Chops
Cream Cheese Chicken Taquitos:  Slow Cooker Meal
Shredded Deer Meat Sandwiches:  Slow Cooker Meal
Spicy Kielbasa Alfredo Bake (although we turn down the spice a little.  The original recipes make it really hot!)

Even though I don't plan for them, I do try to spice up our meals for breakfast and lunch.  For breakfast I try to challenge myself to two 'real' breakfasts a week (ie. NOT cereal/waffles).  For lunch, we do a mix of regular kid friendly lunches (hot dogs/mac&cheese/chicken nuggest), leftovers from dinner, and Bento Box style lunches.

What are your tips and tricks for budgeting and saving money in your family?

Trampoline Park & Carnegie Science Center

Monday, March 23, 2015

Snow here again today!  So I'm remembering back to a more fun/active weekend that we recently had with our family in Pittsburgh at the Flight Trampoline Park and Carnegie Science Center instead of looking grumpily out the window at the lack of spring visible.

We waited until late Friday night (like right before bed) to tell the kids about the upcoming day's plans - because otherwise we'd have had to answer "Is it happening today!?" every three minutes if not.  They were so excited and we reminded them that they needed to get good sleep before the big day that we would need lots of energy!

We got on the road bright and early on Saturday morning and made the almost two hour drive west towards Pittsburgh.  (We purchased our Flight tickets and signed e-waivers early that week which made check in really easy and quick!) As we waited for our turn to jump - our family arrived (Abba, Chum, Aunt Uch, Kevin, Aunt Kitty, and Uncle Ryan).  The kids were itching to get on the almost wall to wall trampolines and finally it was our turn!

The basketball hoop was a BIG hit with the boys, especially Greyson and Daddy.  They organized their own dunk contest and Grey tried multiple times to take charge of not only our family's dunking rotation but other kids that were there too.  (Bossy like his Momma!)  Brandon and Grey both asked if maybe we should build one at our house.  HAHAH. #boysandtheirdreams

We all took turns holding the Lettie Bug who got in a little on the action while sitting supported on the edge of a trampoline while her sister bounced her.  Violet was pretty content just staring in fascination at all the bouncing bodies everywhere though.

After the super fun park, we headed back to the Love house for some delicious potato soup that Aunt Kitty made for us and some lounging.  We introduced Greyson to some new riddles (he's obsessed) and played with the Love pets Miles (cat) and Lemon (pup).  Then after our little break, we headed back out into the city to visit the Carnegie Science Center.  

The Carnegie Science Center is such a cool place.  Full of discovery and new things that the kids don't normally have access too which makes it full on learning and interesting for them.  We got to see exhibits about astronauts, robotics, the weather, natural disasters, and the local ecology.  We all sort of just followed the two big kids around and let them lead us in exploration through the different parts of the science center.  

What is really awesome about the science center is that it's so fun and interesting for my little kids because of all the discovery and access to new things - but it's also great for all other ages too.  The grown ups all had a great time reading and learning about new things too.

Brandon loved the basketball shooting robot and was ready to challenge it shot for shot.  (hahah). Our weather loving Abba was thrilled to give her hand at a weather report in front of a green screen.  Aunt Uch played with the giant building blocks in the preschool section longer then my kids did (she claims she was 'helping them', hah)  And Uncle Ryan was impressively good (and proud) at completing the surgeon simulation games. It definitely was not just a place for the kids to have fun - we all seemed to find something we loved!

hanging out in the 'Earthquake Cafe' 
The science center has this amazing train set set up that takes up the interior of a huge side room.  I was fascinated and in love with all the details and intricacy of it.  Grey loved following/chasing the trains around the tracks.  It is all set up like an old time version of Pittsburgh and it was all so tiny and delicate that it felt really magical.  It was my favorite part of the whole place!

We are always so grateful to be able to visit amazing places with extended family in tow.  We are so blessed to not only get the time to spend with our family - but also for our kids to make memories and learn new things from the people that love them.

Afterwards, Brandon, Violet and I had to head back east home to take care of the pups and be home for Sunday school teaching the next morning.  Our lucky two big kids got to have a sleepover at Aunt Kitty & Uncle Ryan's house with Abba & Chum and Uch and Kevin for the night.

We had such a fun filled day for both our bodies AND minds!  And it's pretty hard to beat that!


Friday, March 20, 2015

Heading out on a Bigfoot hunting expedition in our yard

Loving that I got a chance to take Bullet out for a jog/walk this week.  We both really needed it.  We have been researching Bullet's breed for the past few weeks after his dog training session when the trainer asked if he was a Belgian Malanois (aka police/military dog) and we were like, whaaat, we were told from the beginning that he was a pitbull mix!!  And so now after researching it, we believe we have narrowed it down to a mix between Belgian malanois, Dutch Shepherd, and Lab Mix.  Definitely changes our perspective on Bullet and why he's always been like he has been.  So, we are looking into ways to keep him content and satisfied after now understanding what would even makes him tick!  Eye opening!

Watching the Voice as a family (the kids love 'playing' the voice during the day) and then B & I staying up later than we should watching sitcoms like we normally never ever do afterwards (The Night Shift, Undateable, and One Big Happy.  It has been so nice to share the same couch and weirdly laugh at not-that funny stuff together in silence while our babies sleep upstairs.  #itsthesmallthings

Reading The Ten Thousand Things and lots of readings of Mercy Watson to the Rescue as Gemma is no interested in short chapter books.

Celebrating that despite the fact that we were way late for sign-ups, we were able to get Greyson in for his first ever tball league.  He is so excited to be on a 'real team' with a real uniform and everything.

Struggling with trying to juggle a little too much this week, between getting Grey's bday invites created (5 years old!??!!), sending in our final payment for our upcoming vacation, and getting ready for an event I planned this weekend with our alumni association - I got mixed up on which day Greyson's Kindergarten testing was happening (we went a day early) and then I didn't make it to a doctor's appointment and had to reschedule.  sheesh, Grey suggested that I needed to just relax and watch a movie with them, so that's what we did yesterday; we watched Holes all snugged on the couch together.

Cooking two new dinners this week that were a hit!  Chicken Zucchini Casserole from Six Sister's Stuff which was delicious (we have a zucchini obsession over here), and Tater Tot Enchilada Bake from Brunch Time Baker which the kids gobbled down.  Grey had three helpings!

Obsessing about Violet as she has had a patch of eczema on her cheek for over a month now (mostly from slobberville) and we finally have some progress towards it looking better.  She is also cutting her first two teeth, and has finally rolled over this week.  It's been a big one for this chick!

Laughing at Gemmi as her hilarious stories are never ending.  She had some funny ones this week with her leprechaun trap idea (have a chicken eat him and poop out the gold!), she went into a full on pout after Greyson informed her that she couldn't marry her Daddy because he's already married to Mumma, and then she put glob after glob of beeswax lotion in her hair.  Oh, Miss Ro.

This week in interesting internet:
Reading about how many steps young boys and girls are supposed to be getting in everyday!  So wild and interesting from 1000 hours outside

Watching this video about giving children a 'wildhood.'  We aren't big RV people, but I love the sentiment behind the video.

This article from the NYTimes about how calling SAHMhood a luxury can paint an inaccurate picture about what is possible as a one paycheck family.

I cracked up reading this hilarious account from StuffMomsSay  Hahhaha, definitely have contemplated paranormal interference in the late night mayhem that our kids' have had.

This article about real women who were photoshopped like celebs.  So interesting to read their reactions to their before and afters and also their thoughts on the other girls' changes.  I also felt so close to the comment about how one of the girls mentioned that although she knows that's not what her friends look like in real life, it was what they look like in mind's eye anyway - and I totally get that.  That the people you love already look perfect in your mind & heart. Also, these girls are funny and I wish they were my friends.

special thanks to Ashley from BWF for the inspiration in today's update post.  Maybe I'll just keep copying her Friday postings?  xxoxox

FTWM to SAHM vlog series: How we get through the days

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

hi!  took a week off from vlogging but back this week talking about how we pass time in our day and sort of the feel for how and why we do the things we do in our house.  I initially planned to talk about our kid routines, but after starting, it sort of morphed into something else entirely on its own.

Our routine here at Team Studer follow this general outline daily:
Mum wakes up
Kids wake up
Playing/making breakfast
Breakfast together
Unstructured Free Play
Home Preschool (ie. Letter of the Week crafts)
Lunch together
Unstructured Free Play
Daddy comes home
Dinner together

Unstructured Free play includes any of the following (sometimes all at once, HAH):  costumes/dress-ups, parades, pretending to play The Voice, babydolls, laps (running around the 'circle' of the downstairs), matchbox cars, cooking toys, reading books, playing with Violet, sports toys, going outside, using art supplies, etc.  Whatever the kids feel like playing or imagining - that's what they do.

And now for the resources if you're interested in getting an idea specifically of what we use and learn from over here.  Some affiliate links included (thanks for you support)

My favorite educational support tools:
how we do:
My favorite homeschooling mommas:

Encouraging Kindness & Empathy Resources:
My list of 12 Ways to Practice Empathy with Kids
8 ways to teach kindness to toddlers (my article from What to Expect)
Speaking with kindness, gratitude, and patience (from 12 Months of Kindness)
11 ways to raise a grateful kid (from Musing Momma at Bon Bon Break)

Screen Free Inspiration:
1000 hours Outside blog - read her latest post with the stats on how many steps kids are supposed to be getting each day!
My Screen Free week & beyond pin board 
Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood - Screen Free Week info
My reflections from our 2014 Screen Free Week experience

Next week back to vlog about budgeting & meal planning!

kid chatter

Monday, March 16, 2015

Some funny chatter heard over at the Studer zoo crew to brighten up your Monday morning...

Greyson:  When will I get a girlfriend?
Me: um, maybe when you're fifteen
Greyson:  How long will it take to get fifteen?
Me: a very long time
Greyson: no, like how many sleeps?

Gemma: I'm going to kick your ass
Me:  Gemma Rose,  ass is a curse!
Gemma:  ass is a curse?
Me:  yes so stop saying it
Gemma: but my ass is getting out of here
Me:  Gemma! No more
Gemma: but what about his ass?
Me:  stop saying ass Gemma Rose
Gemma:  you said it.

Greyson:  I love you, Mum
Me:  I love you honey
Greyson:  I love you so much I have a smile in my heart! 

While painting our nails with glitter nail polish- 
Gemma:  look!  Sparkle-la-lees!
Me:  so fancy! 
Gemma:  I'm painting them for my daddy so you can look beau-full.

Me:  What do you want to be when you're a grown up?
Greyson:  Can I be a doctor?
Me:  Sure!  There are lots of kind of doctors:  there are kid doctors, grown up doctors, doctors that get babies out, doctors that do surgeries and cut people open and stitch them back up, doctors for animals
Gemma:  Can I be a Dr. Seuss?

Greyson:  Gemma, what's your football touchdown dance?
-Gemma stands up-
Me:  Here, honey - catch the ball for the touchdown
Gemma:  no
Me:  you have to catch the ball first
Gemma:  no
Greyson:  Gem!  You have to get the touchdown first
Gemma:  That's not my point!  I'm doing the dance part only

Gemma:  Knock, Knock
Daddy:  Who's there?
Gemma:  a fly
Daddy:  a fly who?
Gemma:  Momma hates it.

Gemma:   I want yogurt ON my waffle
Greyson:   Well that's unusual

Greyson:  Mum, do you get dead if you go in tomatoes?
Mum:  what?
Greyson:  If you go in a tomato, do you get dead?
Mum:  I don't understand what you're asking me.  Go in what tomatoes?
Greyson:  Like the girl on the Wizard movie
Mum:  that's called a tornado!  

Gemma:  Knock, Knock
Daddy:  Who's there?
Gemma:  Bullet  (our dog's name)
Daddy:  Bullet who?
Gemma:  Eat a bone.