Around Here Eight: 2/17-2/23

Friday, February 24, 2017

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

Intentional Hours Outdoors:  21 hours (of 1000)
(that's eight more hours than this time last year! whoot whoot!) we racked up some time this week with the weather unusually beautiful for February.  I'm talking 55-70 degrees almost everyday this week.  Several days we got out for two hours or so even which made for very sleepy kids which is always the added bonus of outdoor time.  We even headed out to the high school track one night this week as a whole family so I could get in a three mile run while the boys tossed the football back and forth and the girls played pretend on the bleachers and argued over who got to push Rust in the stroller.  We've had the windows open and a blanket out on the grass with snacks, it's gotten us all mixed up about the seasons.  I had to remind the kids that it is actually still winter and that the cold will blow back in next week, so we're hoarding up on the vitamin D before it disappears again until actual spring.

Reading The Gift of an Ordinary Day by Katrina Kenison and can I just again say how much I am loving the timing of reading this.  It has really been sitting on my shelf for two years and it just feels so timely for my current state of mind.  Did you ever see this quote: 

An example of just that happened to me while reading this week, Kenison, while writing about a new home that she and her husband were building while her two sons were adolescents, one of whom was getting near the end of his high school career.  She wrote, "Henry (her eldest son), if all goes well, will have a year in which to sink his roots in with ours before heading off to college."  That phrase, "sink his roots in with ours" struck a deep chord in my heart and upon reading it, I took a deep breath and set the book down for a few minutes.  Isn't that all we're trying to do over here, Bud and I, to give our kids good soil to sink their roots in.  Adding water and sunshine along the way and lots of whispers of love to get these kids to grow, grow, grow as big and bright and beautiful as all that is in them to become.  To keep their roots well taken care of and if we're lucky enough, intertwined enough with ours that they will always have a place to come back to when the weather turns or someone comes and plucks their most beautiful blossoms.  That thought very well may help shape my mothering from now on and it comes from a mere phrase of a sentence...this is why I love reading. 

Congratulating Grey on hard work well done!  He came home last Friday with a certificate announcing his success at moving up his Reading score - which was especially important to him as he needed to do it to attend the first baseball practice of the season on Sunday.  He was proud and we were proud and a little relieved too.  In the days leading up to the re-test, Brandon and I were speaking in hushed whispers about what our plan was if in fact he didn't reach the goal.  He worked hard every  night in our 'Reading Boot Camp' tasks and was really pushing himself personally.  I felt pretty confident that he'd be okay, but we were both a little nervous.  Joyfully though, he got a chance to see firsthand how hard work reaps benefits.  We're still working on our Reading  Boot Camp each night because he has one more retest again in two weeks to make sure he is up on target.

Celebrating our best friends Jonny & Ninna at their baby shower on Saturday for their sweet baby girl due in April.  Nin had a beautiful shower and I loved so much to see her glowing and smiling like the amazing momma-to-be that she is  (she's practically my sisterwife, so don't mind my over-the-top adoration, hah).  Both of my sisters, Gigi, and Taryn were there too which made the celebration even sweeter! We got to spend the rest of the day at Jon & Ninna's house while the kids chased chickens around and tired themselves out.  Seriously cannot wait for that sweet little babe to arrive!!

So grateful to our family that is always there to scoop up all our misplaced pieces and hold us together to keep this party (as in our family) going.  The grandparents that are always willing to step in for last minute (oops I forgot until just this second) babysitting and last minute 'can you add an extra six people for dinner' requests.  My sisters who wake up before the sun to drive all the way out here to pick up our big kids and haul them to soccer games.  Uncle Juice who without any hesitation offers up his Navigator (big enough to fit our whole family) as Sheila is on the fritz (yet again!  Shelia?!!?!!).  We could not do this life without all of you - honestly thank you so so much.

Singing happiest birthdays to our Gemmi Roe for her fifth birthday and Pappy too - who's birthday is the day right after Gemma's.  We had a little mini party at Gigi & Pappy's house on Sunday and on Gem's actual birthday we sang over cinnamon rolls for breakfast, took Daddy out to lunch at Hoss's (where they sang!), and then Gemma chose tacos for dinner that night.  Second year in a row where the weather on February 20th was beautiful and we spent a big part of the day outside (?!)  Her actual party is this weekend (mermaids!)

Bidding bittersweet goodbyes to basketball season as we finished 'er out with a playoff game this week at Portage.  We usually give ourselves about a week or so of patience and grace to come up out of the crazy that basketball season has left us in with chores way backed up (I'll be trying to get out of this laundry backlog for two weeks at least!) and major Daddy/Family time to make up.  It feels really exciting to be on the brink of getting the first real taste of Brandon's new work/life balance in his new job now that basketball is over.  He started his new gig at the start of the season, so we haven't felt any real difference yet, but having him home this week by 4p and then he's just done with work...for the whole night (!!) has been amazing.  I can't wait to get the hang of this new schedule!

Taking it s.l.o.w.  In part due to my reading selection, but also because I'm just there mentally and spiritually.  I want to slow down and enjoy this life; I'm so exhausted about being fed up and angry about clutter and chores that never end and messes and the busyness of it all.  I started a pin board about my Slow Living Goals and I took extra care this week in not being in a hurry...I'm just not doing it.  I yelled less (although still yelled), and smiled more, and didn't get so down on myself.  Ya know what's not going to wreck my day, that pile of toys over there in a huddled heaping mass.  It's just not.  I have tea to sip and a load of laundry to move from the washer to the dryer and a baby to make laugh.

Making these chicken and cheese enchiladas which are a huge family hit (I don't include the Green chilies), Chicken, ranch, and cheese stuffed french bread to use up the left over that we took home from Sunday dinner from Gigi and Pappy's house, and Baked Italian breaded pork chops with Green bean almondine that was divine.  For breakfast we had these super easy chocolate croissants because we are flat out of cereal, bread, and waffles (!!) because somebody (ahem, me) needs to get to the grocery store for real.  The girls and I whipped up some oatmeal chocolate chip cookies too and they're already gone, naturally.

Gemma Rose at five years old

Thursday, February 23, 2017

my dearest Roey,

it seems impossible both because it's happened too fast and because surely you've been older than five for forever now.  If we get asked one more time if you're our oldest child by a random stranger again I think Grey's going to pull his hair out!  (he dislikes being asked if you two are twins only slightly worse).

You, Gemmi, have always been trying to be older than you are - even since you were only one week old flashing those bonafide smiles at everyone.  You walked at ten months and have been chatting off all of our ears as soon as you realized you had a voice that could communicate.  You have always acted older than you are and yet, every year at your birthday I am shocked that we are celebrating another year of the brilliant, shining star that you are.

Our Gemmi, who feels each emotion with every single cell in her body.  The joy that floats off of you, I swear, comes with it's own sweet melody that can be heard in reverberations from your belly laughs.  And the tears, my sweet girl, you hold the curse (and blessing) that comes with an empathetic heart that feels all the worlds' sorrows (and beauty).  Sometimes you look at me and whisper, "I don't want to be crying, momma, but my eyes are just doing it." We've had plenty of talks about how sometimes we cry when we're sad, or mad, or so happy even.  We have plenty more of these talks to come.

Gem, you are also our little emotional barometer, you can walk into a room and immediately know who needs their hand held or a smile without anyone speaking a word.  You try to distract during arguments in your effort to diffuse and you lean down to give hugs and kisses for anyone who feels the tiniest bit of sadness.  

But make no mistake, you will also stand in brave defiance should anyone think for one moment they could wrong one of your siblings....'not without going through me first' say your set eyebrows and stoic mouth. 

You still love babies and I find purses and diaper bags all over the house filled with babydoll supplies and real diapers and old cellphones that lost their chargers long ago.  I gifted you my old planner this year when I got my new one and you'd have thought I gave you a million dollars.  You love acting like a grown up (especially a mom, hence babydolls) and you like scribbling over all my old to do lists and pretending you have places to go and grown up things to do.

You are so caring and nurturing - it is in your deepest heart of hearts to take care of people.  I feel so very blessed that my kids, your siblings, get to have you as their sister, Gemma Rose.  And a tiny part of me feels peace to know too that someday when I'm not here, my other babies will still have you. I pray everyday that you will find someone who takes care of you like you take care of everyone else, my sweet darling.

You still are, probably always will be, our resident snuggler.  Always, you have some part of your body touching some part of someone else's body; even if it's just making sure your foot is resting on ours while we share the couch (but usually it's your entire body leaning on us precariously so that the slightest movement will send you toppling).  Your unspoken philosophy is that hands are made for holding and arms are made for hugging and snuggling.  If you need a little pick-me-up during the day, a twirl and a dip can change your whole attitude. 

With the exception of the leaning-on-people, you are otherwise incredibly balanced and strong.  You can do cartwheels and round-offs and we're working on a backhandspring (so slowly but promising already).  You can do a perfect push up, have six pack abs, and the freestyle dance moves you throw out, girlfriend, they are legit.  

And, Roey, our performer girl who brings theatrics and dramatics to any situation.  Who makes three to four wardrobe changes a day, who knows the importance of faking a smile to get the picture taking over with, who practices her British accent while reading books to her baby brother, and who can win any family lip sync contest hands that Roey Girl...I'm telling you - when William Shakespeare said, "All the world's a stage," he was speaking to someone like you.

You be you, Gemmi Rose Studer.
We are all just lucky enough to bask in the light that shines out of your eyes.

happiest fifth birthday, my beautiful old-enough-for-kindergarten girl (!!)
i'll love you forever and ever
even when you get so big

Tips for making family yearbooks

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

look what we got in the mail today!

Our newest Team Studer family yearbook to add to our collection, which makes our coverage through six years now:  every year of our family since having kids!

I first started making our family yearbooks in 2012 and as you can see above, as it was my first year and I had little self control, I went overboard with photo selection and ended up making two books just to cover the one year! As time has gone on, I have become more selective as to what makes it into our yearbooks and how they are organized.

I try to make our yearbooks cover most of the things that make up our days in any given year.  A glimpse into what it is like to be in our family for that time (kind of like my Around Here posts but only stretched out over the course of an entire year).  It is one of my very favorite activities to sit and look back through the years over a cup of tea in the afternoon with kids asking questions about every page and begging, "when can we do that again!?"

some photos of older yearbooks' spreads
Now, six years experience under my belt of making yearbooks, I know what I like and how to make it possible to continue this activity - even with a plate full of kid raising and activities that we always have going on.  This is something that's important to me personally, and also a responsibility that I feel like I have as the in-house memory keeper (and photo taker).  It is definitely hard work, but every time we get a new yearbook (or look through past ones) I'm reminded again at how important I think they are.

Here are my top five tips for creating family yearbooks without losing your mind:

1.Organize your photos:  Keep your photos somewhere all together and in an organized way that you know what you are looking at.  I keep my 'real' camera photos (from my DSLR) on my laptop organized by month of the year.  I upload those photos to my Shutterfly albums (also organized by month) occasionally through the year.  I do the same for the photos I take on my phone and upload them (organized by month) through the Shutterfly app to keep both 'real' camera photos and phone photos all together for each month.  So when I'm making my yearbooks, I can easily find photos from someone's birthday to add to the yearbook.  And it helps remind me the events or moments that need added to the yearbook after I give the month albums a glance over and realizing I completely forgot about that trip to the water park!

2.Don't be in a rush:  It honestly takes me about six months (at least!) to complete our family yearbook.  I set time aside on Fridays in my planner that say "yearbook work" and as much time that the kids are willing to give me uninterrupted on each Friday - sometimes that's 20 minutes, sometimes that's an hour (thank you Netflix!) - and I do a page or two, or edit pages that are already done.  There are certainly options where the books can be made for you with a click of a button and the magic of the internet, but I like being in the driver's seat when it comes to photo selection/size/color theme/etc so it takes me a while to get it all polished and complete.

3.Think about layout:  one of the best decisions I made for my own sanity was to organize my yearbooks by category instead of going month by month.  Now I have a intro section which walks through our current family status, including a page for Dad & Mum where we answer questions about the year (what was our favorite tradition/event? our favorite husband&wife moment, #parentingfail of the year, our best lessons learned, our favorite family meals, and our struggles&challenges that year)

And in every one of the yearbooks, the kids each get their own page always with the same photo format (twelve photos around the border) and I write a little bit about the kind of kid they are right at this particular age (personality, likes/dislikes, favorites, hobbies, etc)

From there, the yearbook is divided into seven categories:
What was it like to live in our home this year?
With whom did we spend our days?
What milestones did we accomplish?
What gave us cause to celebrate?
What seasonal traditions did we enjoy?
Where did we go to visit?
What do the holidays feel like?

And then activities and moments are organized throughout those categories.  So things like my volunteer work with the alumni association goes under the Milestone category, and the first day of fishing season falls under seasonal traditions, etc.

4.Hop around the book while working on it - it doesn't have to be perfect the first time through.  I start by laying out the categories and then depending on how I'm feeling on any particular day determines what page I work on.  In the dead of winter, sometimes working on our summer days to the lake are just what the doctor ordered.  I also pull more photos than I need for any page and use them for my People pages (sections: with whom did we spend our days and what was it like to live in our home).  A picture of the grandparents at the hospital for Rustin's birth actually ended up on our family page instead of Rusty's birthday page.  Our family and friends' pages - along with the kids' individual pages get photos slipped in all along the way of creating the rest of the book.  (And usually the very last page done is the Dad & Mum questions because it helps us remember the last year as I do my final lookover of the whole book when it's done, hah!) 

5. Remind yourself that the real gift isn't the photos in the yearbook, it's the memories that the photos help you remember. The thought of this has helped me be much better about selecting the photos that make it into our yearbooks (I'd guess less than half the pictures I take all year make it into the actual yearbook!) I try to make sure the photos that go into the pages evoke the feeling of what it is like to live this life right now in this age and stage of our family.  The photos and pages themselves turn out to be jumping off points for reminiscing and laughing about particular things that happened.  We spend more time talking about the pictures and the past while looking at the books together than we do reading the captions.

Do you do a family yearbook of sorts?  Or how do you keep and cherish all the photos you take along the year?  Any helpful tips to share? 

I have used Shutterfly for every year of my yearbook creation because I have been loyal to them since they have without any issues have held all of my photos since 2004 when I was studying abroad in Costa Rica.  Those were back in the days when I had to upload & dump my camera card after every weekend trip while abroad and then pray to the internet gods that my only proof of my experience was being saved on the Shutterfly website.  It was.  AND STILL IS.  in perfect condition, so I will always be loyal to them. (thank you Shutterfly!)  I find their book creation easy and beautiful and they are also my go to for holiday cards, birthday invites, and photo gifts.  This post has not been sponsored.  I just have always had a great experience with them and I'm sharing the love for a company that has taken good care of my some of my most precious memories. xxox

Around Here Week Seven: 2/10-16

Friday, February 17, 2017

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

Intentional Outdoor Hours: 12 hours (of 1000)
We snuck outside one afternoon and braved the cold temperatures just to get in some fun while the sun was shining.  The girls drove around in the Powerwheels Jeep and Grey was deliriously happy to get his roller blades on and hit the hockey puck around the garage.  Also, a tractor ride (see below).

Reading The Gift of an Ordinary Day by Katrina Kenison which has been on my To Read list for about two years.  I have been feeling pretty melancholy these past few weeks with Gemma's fifth birthday on the horizon and Rusty growing and changing so quickly.  I knew it was a good time to dig into a reflective type of memoir.  And I'm sharing a quote that hit my heart already at only seven pages in...yeah, it's going to be a dog-eared mess by the end of it, I'm guessing.
"I learned a lot about myself, and many lessons in mindfulness during those long days.  Intense and demanding as they are, the years we spend with our young children can also be deeply, viscerally gratifying.  We know exactly where we are needed and what we need to be doing.  Immersed in the physical and emotional realm of parenthood, we develop reserves of patience, imagination, and fortitude we never dreamed possible....a world in which hands are for holding, bodies for snuggling, laps for sitting." p. 7
FINISHING our 2015-16 family yearbook.  thank goodness.  Can't wait for it to arrive! and yay!  One of my 100 small things goals for Motherhood! 

Celebrating love for Valentines Day with lots of hugs and kisses and squeezing the kids telling them they will be my valentines "forever.  FOR ALL OF MY LIFE" as they tried to wriggle away from my kisses and tickles (only to return to me moments later saying - 'do that again, momma') Brandon and I had homemade fancy dinner together on Monday night (strip steak, asparagus & risotto!) and then watched a taped This Is Us two days later (hah). Brandon also buys all his girls a bouquet of flowers and Gemma and Violet lose their minds over it.  I skillfully (hah) cut a frozen pizza into the shape of a heart for the kids' dinner and then we spent the evening wishing a happy love day to each kids' Godmothers and calling/facetiming the grandparents.

Still battling runny noses around here.  Rust was suffering through some serious snot nose, so I spent most of one morning this week wearing him around so he could sleep upright after we both barely slept for two nights in a row.  Thanks to the Pinterest goddesses, I worked up a diy humidifier using our crockpot on Low with some water and Vicks and it brought some much needed respite to that boogie nose.  (thanks Mum and Dad for the since borrowed legit humidifier!)

Bumming about Sheila (our minivan) as she got a flat tire this week which required me to ride the tractor the half mile down to the bus stop to pick up Grey in freezing temps.  I was laughing so hard o the ride down imagining all the neighbors looking out their window and wondering what in all that is good and holy I was doing.  Still laughing about it.  Grey got to drive back home, so he wasn't too upset about how cold it was.  Oh, Sheila!

Getting our Learn on at home while I work with Gemma for Kindergarten prep practicing letters, patterns, and counting (registration is only two weeks away!) and we do extra reading work with Greyson in his Reading Boot Camp exercises to bring his Reading level up.  He's being retested (today!) and I have confidence that he will be up enough to attend baseball practice this weekend!  (fingers crossed!!)

Cleaning out the dining room FINALLY and walking through there at night and feeling instantly happy at the sight of a clear table.  I have been feeling so overwhelmed and just down about the state of all the stuff and how much of it is not in the place that it belongs.  I set the timer for 15 minutes and Gem and I went to town picking up everything and wiping stuff down.  After that first 15 minutes, we had made such a dent that we set it again and kept on working.  She even vacuumed for me.  What a relief it feels like to have one room done (granted it is only ONE room and the next door kitchen looks up.side.down level mess, but still).  One step at a time, right?

Making these chocolate dipped Strawberry wafer cookies to celebrate Valentine's Day and some dutch apple pie tarts to use up a can of fried apples and some ready-made pie crust that's been hanging out in the fridge for far too long.  I made these easy biscuit donuts for breakfast which the boys all loved (Bullet stole four of them off the counter and polished them off when we weren't looking!) We had a family favorite - chicken & veggie casserole and I also whipped up a perogie lasagna with mixed reviews from the kids.

the romantic date

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

He had a work thing on valentines day, so She texted the day before and asked, 'valentines dinner tonight?' to which He texted back a gif of Phil Dunphy giving a thumbs up. 

She enlisted the help of the two biggest kids to make their own dinner and as She was preparing and He was helping one child fall asleep, She peeked into the living room and said, "um, we don't have any butter - do you think it'd be weird if I asked the neighbors to borrow some and I'll just send the kids over through the path with a flashlight?" and He said, "I don't like that idea because of that coyote that was just caught behind the house.  I'll just run to dollar general quick."  And so She quickly jotted down a list that included not only the butter but also seven more items.  

So the pots were bubbling and the oven timer was dinging and when the steak finally got tossed in the pan with the newly purchased butter, steam billowed out with a fierceness reserved for power plants.  The kids looked on in shock and asked questions like, "is our house burning down?" and "is that what you wanted to happen?"  She remained steadfast in her chef's tasks and cracked a window.

The kids ate their dinner which they helped create - chicken fries that looked like heart shapes if you really squinted and used your imagination about it, boxed mac&cheese, and boxed Red Lobster biscuits which was Valentines day treat enough.  

As He and She cleared the table from the kids' mess, they poured cheap wine into glasses and plated their food and whispered 'happy valentines day' across the table.  

And the kids ran between the rooms shrieking and sliding on the floors and pretending they were being chased.  And then She said, "hey! be more quiet we're having a romantic date over here!" to which the little boy laughed in the way that little boys who think girls have cooties laugh while saying, "OMIGOSH!" and the little girl said, "oooooooooooooooh, why aren't you kissing then?!"  And then the littlest girl woke up and gave everyone high fives for going pee in the potty and she hopped up on the bench to join the romantic date with plate full of chicken fries and ketchup.  And only once did they have to check on the littlest of all the babies sleeping upstairs with his stuffy nose. 

And in that house, on that night, and really everyday
there are loud noises
and toys in all the places they don't belong
and there is milk in the fridge and cereal and snacks in the pantry
and spoiled milk in hidden, lost bubbas and cereal and snacks deep in the couch cushions
and a child's name written in permanent marker on a bedroom door
and marks notched along the inside kitchen door frame as a homemade height chart
and there are booboos that need kissed and hair that needs brushed, and socks that need adjusted because they feel funny on toes
and there are books, lots of books; some that have the pages taped back together, and some that say, 'I see a red bird looking at me,' and some that can be read from memory
and there are pictures of two people who vaguely look like He and She but much younger, and much much more rested
and there are toilets that need flushed and mirrors that have tiny fingerprints on them and a faucet that has been leaking for the past two weeks
and socks that have no matches, and favorite blankies that must be found immediately lest a tantrum erupts, and chocolate candy that is hidden
and a big cozy bed that's meant for two but usually has at least one pet and a few children in it too.

and in every space between all that stuff
and all that mess
and all those giggles
and all those shared memories.

in that house.
in that family
there is love.

happy valentines day to you and your valentines.

and to mine,
forever and ever.
even when we get so old.

Around here week Five & Six: 01/27-02/09

Friday, February 10, 2017

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

Intentional Outdoor Hours:  11 hours (of 1000)
We had a beautiful day or two sprinkled in the last two weeks that we were able to add another two hours to my goal, but between the sicknesses and the cold - we've been hanging inside and trying to recoup.  I was able to get a 3mile run in this week doing yard laps after two full weeks off (!) and that half marathon date just keeps inching closer and closer (hah).  Hoping to get in at least two runs this weekend no matter the weather!  And don't think I'm not looking back every week to see if my hours this year is beating my hours at this time last year...cause I am.  Hah, I'm still about two hours ahead of myself last year and that gives me hope!

Reading Leaving Time by Jodi Piccoult and finishing it!  I have always loved her books and I was glad to dive into one to get back into the swing of reading.  I've just been off lately and it was nice to get wrapped up in a story again.

Cheering the two bigs on in indoor soccer which started two weeks ago.  Gem is playing with the 4-5 year olds and is doing much better than we expected.  She doesn't have competitiveness flowing through her veins like us and so she can get pretty sensitive about sports - but she's been doing awesome (three career goals already!) and I think some of it has to do with her coaches who are Chum (my dad) and Aunt Uch (my little sis).  Grey plays with the 6-7 year olds and also on the 8-10 year olds team which he absolutely loves.  I swear that kid could power our entire house with electricity if we could find some way to hook his movements up to an energy converter.

Nursing my sick family back to health on the regs.  We've just been swapping germs for the past two months and it seems like as soon as someone recovers, someone else starts up a new strain of disease.  But we've been lucky that's it's only been runny noses, sore throats, coughs, and 24hour stomach bugs - nothing we can't handle in-house with a lots of rest, soup, and plenty of hankies.

Looking at our house with fresh eyes as we have a full blown crawling explorer in the house now.  Well, more like half crawling-half bear walking explorer.  He crawls with one foot flat and one knee bent/crawling and he can get around pretty quickly.  And now that he can get around, his only desire is to get to somewhere he can pull himself up to stand.  We've moved the crib down and have to watch the stairs like maniacs because this little man is on the move! He's also waving and clapping, but still no words!  I'm not too stressed about it though because #fourthbaby and also, who the heck can get a word in edgewise over here between the older three?!

Planning Gemma's fifth birthday Mermaid party!  it's impossible that our girl will be five, I'm seriously in denial still.

Watching the Superbowl as a family just here at home the six of us.  We made Root Beer Pork in the slow cooker and all sat around together in the living room.  The kids went up for bedtime and then it was just Bud and I cozied up on the couch (with Bullet all up in our space, naturally) and it was so nice after weeks of sickness and basketball season to just sit and be.

Potty-training Vially girl with more successful days than not.  Some days she's amazing and has no accidents and then other days it's four accidents in two hours and I throw a diaper on declaring it a hard potty day! #thirdkidnopressure She's pretty proud of herself though and I think we are nearly through the breakthrough point!!

Pushing Grey into some intensive reading intervention at home in what we've dubbed "Greyson's Reading Boot Camp"  He came home this week with an updated reading level and it's lower than it's supposed to be at this time in the year for first grade.  I know that some of it has to do with Brandon and my loosey-goosey attitude the past few months between new jobs and bball.  But he's also been pretty whiny and complainy about homework and reading too.  So, we're working really hard everyday on top of his homework to do some focused reading practices so that when he's re-tested next Friday, he'll hopefully be up at least two levels...and if not, he doesn't get to attend the first indoor baseball practice of the season (!) so we've got some pretty heavy weight on this one to keep him motivated!

Loving brandon's beard.  still.  like major.

Making these cinnamon sugar cream-cheese roll-ups for snow day breakfast and these blueberry, banana muffins (with some over-ripe bananas that I had hoarded in the freezer!).  For dinners, we've had brocolli & wild rice soup, Ranch baked porkchops (one of the kids' all-time favorites), Korean beef over rice, chicken & gravy over mashed potatoes (another huge kid favorite!), crispy shrimp over noodles, Mongolian beef in the crockpot (just meh), and a doctored up frozen pizza with jalapenos & pineapple for Brandon and I to celebrate the last regular season basketball game!  And for dessert, hot cocoa cookies!