January 4, 2017

Twelve Weeks Behind

Um,  hello?  Remember me?  I used to post weekly, but I've taken the last, ahem, twelve weeks off.  Rest assured all five PJ's are alive and well!  We've just been so busy that I took an unplanned break.  Thanks to all of you who emailed or texted or messaged to check on me.  HAPPY NEW YEAR!  I AM BACK!  

But not entirely.  Because there is this one thing.  I started blogging in 2007.  It is now 2017.  That's 10 years and 1,093 posts in which I faithfully recorded pretty much everything on this weblog.  When Nick and I can't remember the timing of some random event or milestone, I search ye olde bloggity and bam.  There it is.  This blog has been a big part of my life as a stay-at-home mom.  

But somewhere along the line blogging has become a task for me.  Just one more thing on my very long to-do- list.  Somewhere along the way writing a blog post quit being a fun, relaxing, creative activity and became a dull, joyless, mechanical obligation.  And I think everyone can sense it in my dull, joyless, mechanical writing.  My own mom doesn't read my blog anymore.  It's just plain boring. 

The primary reason I carried on through October is because I felt guilty about short-changing Annie  I kept such close records when Ella and Kate were little, but my third child gets at most a couple of photos on the weekly post.  When I carefully evaluated the way I utilize my time, I realized that writing blog posts actually keeps me away from Annie.  Perhaps it was only away for 15-20 minutes, but those minutes could have been used to read her a book, do a quick craft activity, watch her jump on the trampoline, or just sit quietly on the couch and cuddle her sweet little body while she watches Elena of Avalor.  (I went with watch her jump on the trampoline because this mother of three cannot jump on a trampoline for more than a couple of bounces without wearing Depends.)

The fact is, in spite of intentionally resisting the pressure to become a frantic, harried, overscheduled American family of five, in 18 short months of living in America we became just that.  Ella and Kate have piano, voice, Brownies, and swim team every single week.  Annie goes to MOPS and tags along to all her sisters' activities.  Nick works Monday through Friday and is in the middle of taking on a new professional opportunity.  I started facilitating the Tulsa Girls Math Circle, chaired two time-consuming PTA service events, took on additional responsibilities at church, and handle all things domestic while enrolled in graduate school full time.  We are maxed out.  Completely maxed out.  If we thrived on action and stress, we would be in our elements.  But that is not who we are.

We are people who like spending down time as a family.  We like peace.  Our home is a kind, warm, slow-moving sort of place.  None of us likes drama.  We detest being hurried and rushed.  Our ideal day off is full of what Kate refers to as "lazing about."  This morning the girls and I snuggled, read, and watched TV in my bed until 9:30am.  We're going to a movie this afternoon.  That's precisely our speed.

My break from blogging has been a welcome relief.  Giving myself the grace to give it up (even temporarily) left me feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.  And the best part is that I found myself composing funny paragraphs, furious rants, or thoughtful blog posts in my head for the first time in years.  Those posts never made it onto the screen — mostly because I felt guilty writing silly diddies when I hadn't put together my weekly eating a brownie without first eating my vegetables  but I had fun thinking about them.  

I want to rediscover that joy.  But first I'm going to eat my vegetables.  

I'm going to take a few mornings to catch up on the twelve weeks of 2016 that I failed to record.  One post for each week.  Lots of facts and photos.  All opinion and emotion and humor and mess and real life will be scrubbed.  These posts will be sterile and dull and mechanical.  Just like everything else I've written for the last 18 months.

Then I'm going to make this blog private.  And I'm going to go back to the way I started blogging:  in short, sweet, completely random posts.  (With a few ranting tirades and soul-searching rambles thrown in for balance.)  I will write whatever I feel like writing.  Or I might not write at all for months.  But when I do write, I will write for me.  

I should be caught up with my public posts by mid-January at which point you can subscribe privately.  Don't even think about asking for permission to view the private blog if you can't handle unfiltered Aubrey.  She's more than a little bit crazy.  :)

Thanks to everyone who has kept up with us on this old bloggity for the last 10 years!  Hope to hear from you in the future!

December 19, 2016

A Peek at Our Week: December 12 - 18

I did a horrible job of taking pictures this week.  Yikes.

I think I was just DONE with school (mine and the kids').  But even though the photo evidence is minimal, we had Nick's work family gathering, school parties, and Christmas at my mom and dad's house.  

DONE with school!

This year's photo ornament.

Annie learned how to write her name!

Nick's work gathering at Incredible Pizza.
The kids LOVE this.

Ella's class party!
I was the homeroom parent for Kate's class last year,
so this year it's Miss Ella's turn.

We played Minute to Win It games.
So fun!

My big girl and her sweet friends Briana, Annabelle, and Kienna.
(Not sure why Annabelle is throwing gang signs here. I SWEAR she is sweet.)

When I volunteered in the library on Friday I found this gem.
Love this girl so much!

New jammies from Nana and Grandpa!

Tearing into the gifts!

My dad LOVED these ridiculous shirts.
He waited 24 years to get sons, and he has loved every minute of being a father-in-law.

My mom always prepares a HUGE Christmas brunch.
No brunch is complete without mimosas!

My only pic with my sister from the entire weekend.
We were definitely off our game.
Normally we're selfie champions.

Back at home on Sunday evening.
Elsa and Anna truly did change our lives.

It was a great week, and I saw more of it through my own eyes (rather than my phone's photo display) than usual.  Which is never a bad thing.

December 12, 2016

A Peek at Our Week: December 5 - 11

This year I've really tried to become more active in our community, particularly in projects that serve marginalized groups of our population.  

Our school's November PTA event, Turkey Bingo, was my baby.  I made the concept come to life -- out of my brain and into reality.  It was a fun night of bingo for our little school's students, parents, staff, and community members; but it was primarily an outreach event.  Event attendees donated almost 1,000 cans and 95 turkeys to our local outreach center that puts together baskets for economically disadvantaged families in our community.  Not too shabby for our first year.  The feedback from our community members was outstanding.  And as we wrapped up and evaluated the event after the fact, our school principal's primary concern is that next year attendance will increase to the point that we will not be able to accommodate everyone in our gymnasium.  What an exciting problem to have!  I can't wait to do it again next year!

But the thing I've done this year that I'm MOST proud of is this:

My lovely friend Marisabel and I made this thing happen.

Our school has more disadvantaged students than any other in our district.  We have kids who don't have coats, underwear, socks, and pajamas.  Our cafeteria packs food into over 100 students' backpacks so those kids will have enough to eat over the weekend.  

And on the other end of the spectrum, our school also has some of the most privileged students in our district.  Kids wear outfits that cost more than anything I own.  Girls wear Rustic Cuff (it's a Tulsa thing) bracelets from wrist to elbow -- since they cost at least $20 a pop, kindergartners regularly sport $200-300 worth of jewelry at school.  (Insert gigantic, judgmental eye roll here.)

The income disparity in our school is disturbing.  

So Marisabel and I decided to take what we did in our kiddos' classes last year and make the PTA take it schoolwide.

Our counselor identified students with needs in our school, and we assigned at student to each homeroom class.  It was all completely anonymous -- the only information we shared we age, gender, and clothing sizes.  We asked that each class purchase a coat, a pair of shoes, gloves, a hat, a scarf, two pairs of pajamas, two packs of underwear, two packs of socks, and a small toy for their assigned child.  

The response from our community completely blew me away.  We got everything we asked for and sooooooo much more.   All 36 classes were incredibly generous, and some classes went completely over the top to the tune of 10 pairs of pajamas, two pairs of shoes, an insane amount of outerwear, and 20+ toys!  We filled the baseline requests for each child and were able to give extra toys, hats, and gloves to every kid.  We kept everything as even as possible, and then we were able to donate TONS of extra toys and clothing items to our local outreach center (the same one we donated the Turkey Bingo proceeds to).  The following Monday the BOC has its annual "shopping" day where economically disadvantaged parents can come shop for Christmas presents for their kiddos.

Parents and teachers emailed, messaged, and texted me to say that this is the best thing our school has ever done.  So many shared that their households had taken this opportunity to talk with their children in an age-appropriate way about serious issues poverty and service.  All these parents needed was an opportunity to lend a hand.  

Thirty-six local kiddos are going to have the best Christmas ever.  

We really do take care of our own.

Spartans Serving Spartans!
Marisabel and I spent the day sorting through the donations.

We were so busy that we took very few pictures.
This is only about one tenth of the stuff we received.

It was truly overwhelming.

Each child got a bag full to bursting with goodies.
Our school counselor distributed them to the parents after school on Friday.
We included gift bags so parents could wrap the gifts in any way they wished.

Spartans Serving Spartans was amazing.  Of all the things I've done this year, it's the thing I'm most proud of.

And the rest of the week was pretty darn amazing too!

This girl can eat an entire salmon avocado roll and ask for MORE.

Christmas presents are delivered every single day.

Haircut day!

...and AFTER!

Kate rocks a bob.
Girlfriend has style.

Early morning snuggles with my three sweet loves!

Ladies in my neighborhood had a very cute My Favorite Things gift exchange.

My big girls organized Christmas cards for their classmates.

The Hills came to B-town!
Speedy Friday with our faves!

Love these people.

Making a quick craft with Sienna, Piper, and Emma.

Annie loved it!

Movie time with our friends.

White Christmas!
Nick and Ashley are as crazy about Christmas as we are!

Piper and Emma had fun playing with Grace's crate.

Annie commandeered this Christmas card.
It has HER FRIEND on it.

Supper club with these guys!
They are definitely the sinners of the group.

We're the saints.

Scratch that.
These are the real saints and sinners!
Love this crew of kiddos!

Sarah made Baby Jesus cookies!
She's hilarious!

It was a great week.  I'm so happy to have these friends who love to serve and celebrate with us.  Our little corner of south Tulsa is merry and bright this Christmas season.

December 5, 2016

A Peek at Our Week: November 28 - December 4

This week...

Mondays are rough.
But it helps when the girls have Holiday Art Class before school
because Nick takes drops them off on his way to work.

Sweet girl.

This project kicked my booty.
It took HOURS.
And several glasses of wine.

Nick sends me snaps like this on evenings when I am teaching Math Circle.

And I counter with snaps like this the next day.

So remember last year how I said our Advent Acts of Kindness didn't work because my kids are wretched, selfish creatures because our lives have gotten to busy and because my kids are wretched, selfish creatures?  Well, we adopted a new format this year.  The girls and I brainstormed kind acts -- some grand and sweeping, some teeny tiny -- and put them in a basket at the end of November.  From December 1st to 24th, it is up to my two big girls to select an activity that is appropriate for our family schedule and carry out their chosen activity independently.  That means no prompting and no reminding from yours truly.

I figure even if they totally blow it and decide to be wretched and selfish drop it midway through the season, at least I won't have driven myself crazy trying to get them to do it.  Obviously there is bribery involved for motivational purposes.  We normally give each daughter $10 to spend on each sister, but this year they will only receive their Christmas gift-buying funds if they complete 24 Acts of Kindness.  We're four days in, and so far it's working.

Because, as all parents know, BRIBERY WORKS.

Ella and Nick winterize our garden.

Annie and Kate get their hands dirty.

Nick build fire.
Fire very good.

Rewarding themselves for their hard work.

Grown up Christmas movies after bedtime!

St Nicholas Sunday at church.
The kids decorated cookies, created ornaments, made Advent wreaths, and assembled Christingles.

So proud of her sugar cookie.

Taking a picture with St Nicholas.
This as close as we're ever going to get to the creepy Santa's lap pictures.

On Sunday afternoon the girls had their voice recital.

The performances were amazing!

Cutest little vocalists ever.

This was a lovely week.  The beginning of Advent, the completion of my third semester of graduate school, and loads of family time in store over the month of December.