Around Here Twenty Nine: 07/14-07/20

Saturday, July 22, 2017

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

photo credit:  David Sobina Photography

photo credit:  David Sobina Photography

photo credit:  David Sobina Photography

photo credit:  David Sobina Photography
photo credit:  David Sobina Photography

Intentional Outdoor Hours: 351+ hours (of 1000)
Up 19 hours this week, which is just okay.  I want to make a goal this week to shoot for 4 hours a day outside.  That should put me at least on average to get to my goal of 1000 hours for the year...we will see.  Besides the stuff I talk about below - I also scored some outdoor time with dog walks, fires on the patio for dinner, our volleyball game (last regular season game!), and dinner & a night swim at Pappy and Gigi's house!

Reading and finishing The Dry by Jane Harper.  Just like everyone else who has read it this year, I really enjoyed it and liked how I kinda knew all along what was going to happen but not enough that it felt like, 'duh.' I've passed it on to Brandon to see if just maybe I could get him to read it (he's NOT a reader), but it has sat unopened on his nightstand for about five days now (LOL). Still working my way through Bird by Bird by Ann Lamott too.

Library Haul:  ugh, we're the worst.  skipped again this week!  I did receive my Amazon Prime order of Nanette's Baguette by Mo Willems this week (saving it for Christmas) and the kids and I swooned over our freshly arrived copy of This is How We Do It by Matt Lamothe which has beautiful illustrations on each page following seven kids from around the world and what they do each day; like what their home looks like, what they eat for lunch, and what their classroom looks like.  I'm in love with this book.  And we pulled out our Shark Week book collection in prep for the upcoming holiday week! 

Celebrating love and family at Kara and Brett's wedding.  My cousin Kara was in my wedding when she was in high school (our youngest bridesmaid besides our flower girls!) and she and her now hubby Brett asked all four of our kids to be the flower girls and ring 'bears' last summer.  It felt like so far away when they first asked and Rusty was only a little new baby, but somehow (as time always shocks me) their special wedding weekend arrived this past week.  We did the rehearsal and dinner on Friday night and then on Saturday we got to spend the whole day with the beautiful couple. I have a whole post to come later because the photos are incredible (David Sobina Photography did an amazing job!) All four of our kids made it down the aisle (albeit RustMan awfully slow), and we danced the night away.  It was a wonderful day and we are so blessed to have such kind and wonderful people in our lives.  We love you Kara & Brett!

Cheering on the minor league Altoona Curve at a Sunday night game with our besties the Fiores.  It was a beautiful night for a baseball game and we enjoyed the ballpark food and beer, the kids got to run the bases at the end of the game, and then we saw the best firework show we've seen this summer yet! #nobummersummer

Dissecting owl pellets with the kids at home.  We borrowed a book about Owls from the library a few weeks ago, and Brandon mentioned that he remembered dissecting owl pellets when he was a kid.  That was all Grey needed to hear to ask daily if we could dissect them.  Amazon has a ton of options (I purchased this one) and it arrived this week.  Our kit had three sterilized owl pellets in it, tweezers, a magnifying glass, bamboo probes, and a bone sorting page!  The kids were totally engaged and it was almost a completely independent activity. I just sat back to take pictures, 'oohed and awed' at their findings, and enjoyed their delight.

Biking at Ohiopyle with Gigi and Pappy and all the kids for 10 miles!  Our family all rented bikes (ugh, it is a sin against our kids' childhoods that they don't all have proper bikes, I know. I berate myself internally daily) but it worked out as Grey rented his own bike, Gemmi and I got a tandem bike (she can ride without training wheels, but only just this summer and 10 miles would have been a little long for her), and B pulled the two littlest in a bike cart.  Well, he attempted to as Rusty was not having it and screamed for about three miles straight before B got him out and carried him on his lap (!!!superDad!)  Ohiopyle is such a great park and we stopped a few times along the way to rest and watch the kayakers and white water rafters go by.  After our trip, the kids got ice cream and we splashed for awhile in the Yough river down by the bridge.  It was such a great day and all the rest of the week, Violet has been asking, "you member when we went on a bike ride?" #corememory

Hitting the reset button when we all needed it on Thursday.  I follow some pretty inspiring mommas on Instagram, including Kortni from and one of her posts saved our day from momma fatigue and kids meltdown.  I loaded up a backpack with watercolor supplies and a blanket and we headed out to the cornfield behind our house.  I set the kids up under a big crab apple tree and let them watercolor paint, climb the tree, skip through the rows of corn, and throw crab apples across the field.  The wide open space and natural surroundings gave all of us almost instant peace.  I even painted a little (even though I'm no painter at all) and it was so lovely and calming.  This will be a repeat activity for sure.  (thanks Kortni!)

Doing a happy dance over Violet deciding she was done with diapers this week.  After a long few months of back and forth about potty training, Violet up and decided that she was just going to wear underwear now.  And it's been nearly 100% success every day.  I still diaper her for bed, (because #aintnobodygottime to wash sheets) but she's been doing amazing!

Watching Real Steel on repeat.  The movie has made a comeback in our life (Grey was obsessed with it when he was about 3years old).  It was on tv the other day and so we DVR'ed and Grey has watched it every single day this week.  It is a pretty great movie (although, it's about robots there's quite a bit of violence, LOL).  He's even got Gem on his side and can convince her pretty easily to watch Real Steel over The Parent Trap during their afternoon get-out-of-the-sun time.

Making spaghetti topped with grilled chicken, grilled kielbasa with grilled veggies, and oatmeal blueberry applesauce muffins for breakfast.  I made a double batch (one to freeze) because our kids eat up mini muffins like they're snack food.  Brandon and I have been laughing every single day as we pull together makeshift meals with what is left in our fridge and pantry.  I haven't been proper grocery shopping in over a month (!) It's incredible what you can still put together with the stuff you find pushed to the back of the shelves.  I did finish my end of July through August meal plans though (it was exciting, weird, and sad to plan the week of back to school meals!) and I'm going grocery shopping on Sunday, period. the end.

Shark Week!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

We love celebrating in small ways for every holiday possible.  We hang paper lanterns on Lunar New Year, eat King's Cake for breakfast on Mardis Gras, tell ghost stories around candle light for Earth Hour, hug trees on Arbor Day, light sparklers in honor of Juneteenth, and sing Happy Birthday to our pets on our own designated Pet Birthday Day.

Shark Week gets tossed into the mini-celebration bundle for holidays in our house and so when I reminded Grey that Shark Week begins on Sunday (7/23/17), he broke into a huge smile.  I try to keep it festive but also simple because #keepingitreal. Here are some of the ways we celebrate Shark Week in our house:

Read Shark books
We have a collection of Shark books that we keep tucked away until Shark Week and then dig into the deep all week.

Sharks and other dangers of the deep by Priddy Books, Sharkopedia by Discovery Channel, Sharks from National Geographic Reader, and Hungry, Hungry Sharks a Step into Reading book. (Amazon associates linked, thank you for supporting Team Studer)

And from Usborne (Need to reach a consultant? Meghan is mine!): 1000 Things Under the Sea, Lift the Flap SharksUnder the Sea (baby board book)

Make Shark Week themed food.
There are a ton of creative ideas on Pinterest for Shark week.  I encourage you to check them out.  I'll share my favorites...and by favorites, I mean the ones that I would actually do with four kids and limited time and money.

This Easy Shark week pancake breakfast from Everything I do is All for the Boys (also will help us get through our massive collection of blueberries!)

Shark Week Waffles from Random Thoughts of a Supermom

Banana Sharks! 

Shark Ice Cubes from Thinking Outside the Sandbox 


Popcorn shrimp

Box cupcakes with store bought icing topped with Swedish fish or Blue Shark gummies

Sand dollar Cinnamon Sugar cookies from Mama Miss

Make Shark crafts
Same rules apply for the food ideas - tons of inspiration on Pinterest, but I'll share my favorite (low cost, low time effort) ideas below -

Paper Plate Shark mouths from Dollar Store Crafts 

Shark Hats

Lego sharks from Little Bins for Little Hands

Free Printable coloring Shark pages from Super Coloring

Shark facepainting 

watch Shark Shows
Discovery Channel has it's show line up listed online, but you can basically turn on the station at any point during Shark Week and catch interesting shows.  (Our two big kids cannot wait to see Phelps vs Shark this Sunday night!) Be warned though, some are a little more graphic than others, so I wouldn't necessarily place our kids in front of the tv and walk away.

...and then follow our questions and interests to learn more.
Lots of times we watch a Shark Week show and it spikes an interest in learning more about something specific.  Like shark attack survivor and coolest surfer chick ever Bethany Hamilton, or to see more Great Whites jumping out of the water videos on youtube, or other weird stuff that have been found in sharks' bellies.

Play & Sing 

Sing the Baby Shark Song
here's a youtube video of the song and hand gestures (Rusty's favorite song!)...although our version ends much more sinister with 'shark attack!' as we tickle the kids....hahaha, oops!

Sharks & Minnows
Do you know this fun game that works in the yard or in a pool?  Our kids love it!
One 'shark' stands in the middle of the playing space (yard with boundaries, pool between two ends, or gym).
All other players are the 'minnows'
Minnows try to get from one side to the other without being 'caught' (tagged)
Once a minnow gets caught they turn into a shark and try to catch minnows

The Shark bit my cup
A water transfer game from Toddler Approved

Do you have any other suggestions for us?
Happy Shark Week!!

Around Here Twenty Eight: 07/07-07/13

Saturday, July 15, 2017

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

photo cred: Greyson Studer

Intentional Outdoor Hours: 332+ hours (of 1000)
Up only 20 hours this week, bleh.  Got some time in though through dog walks, mowing, and yard sprinkler fun.

Reading Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, still, floating my way through it and being really inspired to write.  Picked up a new book club membership with my sweet friend Lonnie and so much looking forward to our in-person book discussion later this month about The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (which I just re-read a few weeks ago, yay!), and thanks to Prime Day ordering (!) I received The Dry by Jane Harper just yesterday.  I opened the box, opened the cover and dove right in immediately.  Grey is slowly (a chapter a day) making his way through The Magic Treehouse Pirates Past Noon to keep up with summer reading.  He is right there at the cusp (of it no longer being difficult to read) and needs encouraged (heavily) every day to keep working at it.

Library Haul:  guess who skipped the library again this week (!!) but we have full intentions of getting back to library lunch this week!

Celebrating all the pets birthdays on Friday.  We catch everyone all in one big Pet Birthday Day 07/06 and give everyone a special treat after singing happy birthday to them.  It was all posted on my Insta Stories, so if you're in the market for weird little snipets of Team Studer - IG stories is the place to go.  LOL.

Date Night'ing two days in a row as we celebrated two beautiful and sweet weddings.  My cousin Michael and his wife Johnna were married at Bedford Springs on Friday night.  We had a great time, incredible dinner, and were so glad to spend some time with our cousins Adam and Lea who have been living in Abu Dhabi for the past three years.  (Lea has a blog you can follow all their adventures and travels there!)  Then on Saturday, we celebrated the marriage of our dear friends Lynsdy and Ryan at PNG Park.  Besides being friends and parents of besties (Grey & Kam!), Ryan is also Brandon's basketball assistant coach - so Lyns and I are #baseketballwives in the long winter months. So happy to celebrate both couples and get a few hours of grown up, alone time with my handsome fella.

Closing out baseball season officially with the last all-star tournament and end-of-season baseball picnic.  Grey was sad to see the season come to an end (baseball is his favorite sport), but it is bittersweet as we could all use some summer without any practices or games.  We all enjoyed the baseball picnic which was well organized and fun.  The players all got trophies, Grey and Gemma played Rundown for about three hours with their friends, Violet found her future babysitter (only three more years and Dani will be 12!), and Rust ate his weight in cookies and spilled an entire juice bag down his shirt (so he was shirtless for most of the picnic).

Saying goodbye to our sweet Lulu kitty.  I wrote about her and the situation earlier this week.  The kids painted some stones to add to her burial spot and we continue to talk about her and mention that we miss her daily.  Thank you so much for all of the support and love to us and especially our kids.  I read them your comments and it made them smile.  Sadness shared really is sadness halved, thank you.

Heading out to Idlewild for half a day to meet up with Abba, Chum, and Kitty who took the three big kids out early in the morning.  We spent most of the day at the water park and my parents had reserved a cabana which turned out to be an amazing choice.  If you're going to the water park for a large part of the day, definitely consider booking a cabana, especially if you're going with another family (rentals are only $56 on weekdays and $80 on weekends).  The kids had a blast in the wave pool and doing the water slides thirteen times in a row each.  I've said it a million times already this summer and I'll keep saying it - Idlewild season pass tickets are the gift that keep on giving from Christmas!

Dealing with Rusty's banged up head.  That kid and his melon!  I'm honestly coming to terms with the fact that his forehead is just going to be perpetually bruised for this season of his life.  I texted the picture of him and Brandon to Gigi this week and she responded with, 'what's on Rusty's head?' and I had to reply, "More bruises!"  To earn those black & blue marks, he's fallen down, scraped his forehead, pulled down a trophy from a high shelf while I was holding him, and tripped into walls.  His little low row of wild curls in the back of his hair is enough to break my heart though, so he gets a pass for his booboo head.

Soaking up as much Aunt Kitty time as possible in her last week in the States before her Bermuda move.  We swam and played with her at Idlewild, she babysat on Thursday morning, and then SCF (my sisters and I) met up for Happy Hour at El Jalisco followed by drinks at The Windber Hotel.  So much chatting, giggling, and Adams girl fun.  If you want to follow along with Aunt Kitty's Bermuda life, follow her blog!

Making Hawaiian meatballs in the crockpot over rice, Church picnic chicken and haluski.  Baking blueberry cupcakes for the end of season baseball picnic, and blueberry breakfast cookies for our house (still only barely making a dent in our blueberry haul from our trip to Stutzman farms a few weeks ago!)

a viral post and some writer soul searching

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Almost six years ago now, my first child; our son, Greyson, was a year and a half and I felt like I was losing my mind.  As a brother-less mother, I felt blindsided with every new age and stage as our son started to grow out of his babyhood and turn into a toddler.  In a panic, I bought a ton of raising son type books, talked to and asked questions of as many Boy moms as I could, and scoured Pinterest for tips of raising boys.

Finally, after being inspired by a list I saw for Dads raising daughters by Michael Mitchell, I put together a list that I would be able to come back to if and when I started to doubt myself as a Mom again (and I have doubted myself about three million times since then!).  Something I could use as a foundation for the kind of Mum I wanted to be for our son(s) based on what I aspire towards and all the good that was raised up in my husband (thank you Gigi!)

This was how 25 Rules for Moms with Sons was written in November 2011.

About three months later, in early 2012, that post got swept up in an internet tornado and has been on a journey all its own - even into present day. In fact, just this week, my original post was re-shared by MOPS International on facebook (thank you), and I'm always so humbled and grateful when my friends/readers tag me in the comments to let me know they saw my words out in the world.

My original post has been run by plenty of websites through the years.  The Good Men Project was the best about it, adding me to their list of contributors and running other pieces of writing I've done.  Many other sites have shared the article and linked back to my site, and unfortunately, some bloggers have done much worse and simply copied & pasted my writing and linked me only as "a blog I read" with no mention of my name as the author.

This post has been discussed in podcasts, run through online newspapers, and re-pinned so many times I've lost count.  I have heard from readers the most heartfelt messages of how it touched them and I am constantly blown away by the kind and loving responses various Moms have to reading it. I even wrote a One Year Later Reflection post about the whirlwind of the piece's internet journey. Just a few months ago, I heard from a Mum that said she still has a copy of it hanging on her fridge.  And my dearest friend just told me that she re-reads it once a year as she's now a mother of two sons (I wrote the piece before she became a momma).  It's also seen it's fair share of critics and haters too (but that comes with the territory).

That singular post -within my whole almost nine years of blogging- has been the biggest thing to ever come out of this blog.  I'm grateful to that post for bringing into my life so many of my now loyal readers and sweetest internet friends.  And I'm appreciative of and so very very humbled by the positive ways it has touched Moms over the years.

So, (finally getting to it now, hah), two Fridays ago, my 25 Rules for Moms with Sons post experienced another bizarre moment, enough so that it's taken me almost two weeks to let my emotions simmer enough to be in a place to share here now with a clear head and grateful heart.

I woke up on Friday morning before the kids, got my coffee, and quickly hopped onto Instagram to see a notification that someone had tagged me in a photo that included the words from my #25 of my Moms of Sons post as the caption without credit to me as the writer.  My knee jerk reaction is kindness and benefit-of-the-doubt, so I responded in kind to both Adrian (who alerted me) and Rachael (who had posted my words without tagging me).  And went about my morning.

Then I logged into facebook and realized what all the fuss was about. The Instagram photo was also shared to her blog page five days earlier and over the course of the week had been shared by:  Scary Mommy, Good Housekeeping, Babble, Yahoo, and PopSugar.  By the time I had even seen it, the original post was shared over 30K times and the reshares were over a combined 20K. And it wasn't until it had already 'gone viral,' before I was mentioned at all as the writer.

I spent most of the rest of the day trying to do some investigative work, figuring out who exactly had shared it and with how much credit to me...

College Candy was better than most quoting my response to Rachael on Instagram (which was my first reaction when I received Adrian's note on Friday morning).

Celebrity Rave did worst than most mentioning me, as almost a nuisance to their story; a bullet point they begrudgingly had to add,  "shared a touching message written by a fellow blogger."  (By the way, in the spirit of internet justice - Daily Mail UK, you should take a look at Celebrity Rave's post  because it looks like they simply copy&pasted from you, never linked up to your post, and also left out any of the decent bits).

I also spent the day, messaging back and forth with Adrian from Tales of an Educated Debutante who was so passionate about making it right for me as a writer that she directed her own readers to join my facebook page (thank you!).  Emailing back and forth with Scary Mommy who apologized for how the whole thing went down.  Responding to a beautiful and kind message from Kara from Mothering the Divide about how she empathizes with how frustrating it can be as a writer, especially knowing that in today's world the likes & shares matter to get your voice heard.

It was certainly disheartening to see firsthand the sort of state of internet 'reporting' that we are in right now.  Lots of people were picking up the photo and caption - some even reaching out to Rachael to interview her about how it felt to go viral.  Do you want to guess how many websites reached out to the writer of the words of the photo?  None of them.  Not one single website that ran the story (even when they linked to my original post) emailed or messaged me to ask for a response from me!  I had a real internal struggle with trying to digest that big time sites were interviewing another small time blogger (who doesn't know me nor even regularly reads my blog) about how something I wrote made her feel....? I just find that it so very disappointing.  It doesn't appear to be about the actual story, but rather it's about being viral  -and that feels disingenuous and shallow.

There were certainly lessons that came out of the experience.  First and most astounding, I may only have a small group of readers, but they are loyal to the core.  I was honestly blown away by their ferocity of loyalty and cry for justice for my words.  I have made some new actual friends across social media, and received quite a few new followers thanks to (although late arriving) credit to my words as the author of the 'homebase' language.

I also had the incredible and important opportunity to practice loving kindness and made, surprisingly, a new friend in Rachael.  We had a chance to talk throughout the day via messenger and as I told her, there are no hard feelings.  I really do understand the nature of the internet and how things can get away from all of us, and also how mistakes can be made.  It does me no good to hold a grudge in my heart, and so I don't, truly.  I deeply believe that what you send out into the world is what comes back, so I choose to send out kindness, understanding, and patience, every darn time.  And at the end of the day - the mommas who needed the message found it in Rachael's post. That is surely the greater good in all of it.

The most difficult part was trying to find a healthy balance within myself.  After six years of my 25 Rules for Moms with Sons post being used and re-shared so many times, it really does feel like something that no longer belongs to me.  Almost like it's just property of the world; of all mothers now.  I think it if had been any other pieces of my writing that had been used without my consent, it would have broken my heart.  But that particular post has been such a beast of it's own in the past six years that it barely stings anymore.  And yet also, trying to justify that it is My writing, My words, My feelings that I poured out onto that page.  It continues to be My words that I have been writing about My family for the past six years. That I should be just as proud and ferocious about my writing as those loyal readers were who wanted to seek out justice for me when they saw this unfold.  That I should see my writer's voice as valuable in the wider world.  To see myself as a 'real writer' who deserves the recognition that comes with people being touched by something that was born out of my heart and experiences.

At the root of this still on-going (?!), six year long journey of this piece - it was My son who inspired this list.  I appreciate so much that it applies to so many mothers and sons (and even plenty of mothers and daughters ), but it wasn't written about Every was written about My boy.  My boy inspired a list that has been read and shared literally millions of times.  My boy who STILL inspires me to have to continually go back to and cling to that list while he's driving me crazy with his seven year old wild, yet wonderful self.   In my One Year Reflection post, I wrote this and it's still true:
"At the end of the line, for me, the greatest of all prides in this journey of my blogpost (that went from our silly little family blog - to making its way around the internet and has been read millions of times):  it is that it grew from inspiration from a boy.  my boy.   I have printed all of the comments from my post to add to his baby book with this note:  Because of your life and the inspiration you have given my heart that spoke to my brain and moved my fingers - you have inspired moms and their sons around the world, my sweet darling. You are a history maker.  I love you forever and ever - thank you for the inspiration everyday."

my oldest baby.
(I can't think too much about it without crying, but)
I will love you forever.
even when you make me mad, sad, and crazy.
even when you're bigger than me.
even as your wildness breaks all our things.
and your smart mouth breaks my heart.
even then.
my darling,
i love you.