Monday, December 15, 2014

{brave} I Want to be Brave Like My Son: Looking Back at 2014

My oldest son inspires me on a regular basis.  For about a year, he has asked to run in a "real race" like his Mamma and Daddy.  There aren't many children-friendly races near us, so he waited patiently until November to run the Turkey Trot Fun Run, a big one mile loop.  

On the day of the race, due to an oversight on our part, we had him running all by himself among a sea of children and families.  Being his mamma, I could tell he was a little nervous.  I was nervous too.  We made a plan to meet at the finish line and then he was off.  Sending my baby out with all these people, I got a lump in my throat.  Would he be okay? Was he scared being all by himself?

He smiled big, walked up close to the front of the group and ran his little heart out.  I choked back tears as I watched my boy push through to the finish line and conquer a goal he's been wanting to do for months.  

He was brave.  


When I chose "brave" as my one little word for 2014, I really had no idea how it would affect my life.  At the beginning, I created my own parameters:  getting out of my comfort zone creatively, in the kitchen, and in my giving.  And while I have made strides in these areas, I ended up having to be brave in even bigger ways.

When we found out I was pregnant with baby number five, I was so excited, but also greatly doubted myself.  Can I do this?  Am I a mother capable of doing this vocation well?  Four was already a "big" family, but five?  Five is considered crazy in today's society.  Would I be able to handle all of the stares and thoughtless comments?  

When I felt God's prompting to homeschool my two oldest, I doubted my abilities again.  Can I do this?  Can I be a good teacher to the one who really struggles with learning?  Will I be able to give them the education they deserve?  

Both of these instances required a jump into the unknown, a leap of faith.  "I am not afraid...I was born to do this", a quote from Joan of Arc, became the words I whisper to myself when the doubts creep in.  I wouldn't say that 2014 has been the year I've become fearless - not even close! - but I'm making baby steps in the right direction.

Going forward into 2015, I want to be more like my son.  I want to look the scary things in the face and acknowledge my nerves, but make a plan and go for it with all I've got.  I want to be brave.

I'm signing off to spend the rest of Advent with my little family.  I have some exciting things in store for the blog, though, so be sure to meet me back here after New Years!  Wishing you and yours a blessed Christmas!

Friday, December 12, 2014

{around here} Week of 12.8.14

This week was rough.  One sick kid after another and I think I'm next.  Needless to say, the productivity in our family was pretty slim.  We spent a lot of time watching "educational" shows on Netflix and hanging out on the couch.  Every so often, they'd get a burst of energy and play something, only to come back to the couch and ask for a movie.  It breaks my heart when they don't feel well.  I'm praying everyone starts feeling better this weekend.  

I did manage to finally put up Sophie's curtains in her room...just in time to totally change her room around.  I've been coming up with plans to switch rooms around to make our home work better for us in the new year.  But more on that in January.

"Mamma, you are awesome.  Our whole family is awesome. is the whole universe!" -J, newly four

I've been thinking a lot about this post and have been inspired to put a few of Nell's tips to action.  On Monday, I made a checklist (comment on 5 blogs, enter a giveaway, share a post on social media, etc.) and I've been working on it a bit everyday.  It actually brings focus to my blog reading.

One more thing to note: This week, I expanded my internet horizons a little and joined Twitter.  I have no idea what I'm doing!  I've also been on Google+ a bit, but I'm not sure what to do there either.  Are you on either?  Give me tips!

Have a wonderful (and healthy!) weekend, friends.

Monday, December 8, 2014

{shop small} Vol.01: Stocking Stuffers for Her

As the Creative Director for Big White Farmhouse, I am constantly searching for new products.  Our company is passionate about supporting the "little guys", the ones who are working tirelessly to create a life doing what they love.  I love that entrepreneurial spirit and I hope you do too!

Since I can't carry all the cool products I find in my store, I thought I'd pop in every so often to share some of my discoveries with you!  So welcome to a new series: Shop Small!  Volume 01 is a collection of ideas that would make perfect stocking stuffers for the ladies in your life.  (I'm adding that goal clipboard to my wish list!)  Hope you enjoy.

She Is...Pink Pencils Set of 6 by Amanda Catherine Designs 
Monogram Journal and Pencil Set by Happy Dappy Bits
Complete Spa Gift Set by Little Flower Soap Co. 
Hedgehog Embroidery Kit by dioramatist
Goal Clipboard by Decoylab 

Friday, December 5, 2014

{around here} Week of 12.1.14

Gosh, I'm loving December so far.  For the first time in months, our schedule is wide open.  I've slowed down a bit, paused my to-do lists and just enjoyed my kids.  It was a good week.

I let the kids take charge and they decorated the tree with the most colorful ornaments.  Their boring mother would have chosen something simpler, but they are so proud of that darn tree, I can't help but love it too. Even if the majority of the ornaments are on the bottom half of the tree. 

Favorite homeschooling activities:
  • We started a new unit in science about the human body and we are all so excited!  We made a life-size tracing of M's body and will be adding body parts and bones as we go.  This week, we started off with the brain and eyes.    
  • A new favorite activity for spelling words: hangman.  M can't get enough!
  • We are also including the daily activities from Advent Adventures.  The kids love the videos.

TJ has been a bit clingy this week, so I have yet to dive into a new book.  Thank goodness for podcasts!  I have been addicted to Serial and have listened to all 10 episodes in just a few days.  If you're into detective novels, Serial would be right up your alley.  I also got a chance to listen to the new Fountains of Carrots podcast, which is so good too!  I especially loved episode two with Jenny. 

On the Blog:

I've been busy packaging orders for Big White Farmhouse, my favorite part!  For the month of December, I'm adding a little doily (I think it sort-of looks like a snowflake), a mini Christmas-related flash card (from this shop) and a mini candy cane with every order.  I think it's festive, while also being cost-effective.  Also!  If you haven't heard, Big White Farmhouse has been included in Call Her Happy's Shopping Guide and Giveaway.  We are giving away one of our pewter ornaments!  The giveaway ends Monday, so be sure to enter soon!

Have a great weekend, friends.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

{brave} December's Goals

It's the end of the year and I'm ready to slow down.  2014 has been filled to the brim with so many good things and I've been working hard.  Every day has a game plan: schooling, home projects, kids' sports, exercise, business to-dos, the regular household chores, etc etc.  After our perfect Thanksgiving weekend, I realized that while I love accomplishing all of these things, I also need time to step back a bit.  It seems December is the perfect time to cut out all the extras and focus on my little family for awhile.   

For the month of December, these are my only goals:

1. No sugar until Christmas. I've been working hard to get back in shape and I think giving up sugar will help me overcome the plateau I've had the past month.  It may just kill me to pass on the cookies and other goodies, but I'm going to try!  (I'm in a wedding at the end of the month, so big motivation there too.)
2. Start thinking about the New Year. You know me and my love of goals and resolutions!  I'll be asking all the questions: What do I want to do personally in 2015?  How do I want Big White Farmhouse to grow?  What home projects do I want to accomplish?  What memories do I want to experience with my family?  What do I want to share with others on the blog?  How can I grow in my faith?  Starting the lists and being inspired for what's to come.
3. Slow down and enjoy this magical season with my family.  

What are your goals for December?

P.S. Big White Farmhouse is so excited to be a part of Call Her Happy's Holiday Gift Guide!  We're giving away one of our pewter ornaments, so be sure to check it out!

Monday, December 1, 2014

{christmas} A Literary Advent Calendar

It's Advent! How are you counting down the days to Christmas at your house?  With a little baby in the house this year, I wanted something super simple with very little prep work.  So for 2014, a literary advent calendar was the perfect solution!  

In case you're unfamiliar with the idea, I took every Christmas book we own and wrapped them.  After years of collecting, we finally have enough for all 25 days!  If you don't have 25 books, you can always borrow from the library, which is very cost-effective if you remember to return them on time.  

The goal is to unwrap one book a day.  I labeled each one with a number (using this awesome printable) and recorded the book titles in my planner, but it will be a complete surprise for the kids.  Some days we'll only read the book; on other days, I want to include a craft or activity.  Our list of "must-do" traditions include gingerbread houses, hot cocoa in their special snowman mugs, making Santa cookies with Poppa, and an after-bedtime drive around the neighborhood to see the lights.  

For record's sake (and in case anyone is interested in the books we're reading), this is the list:

1. Merry Christmas, Curious George 
2. Tomie's Little Christmas Pageant
3. Gingerbread Baby
4. Through the Animals' Eyes: A Story of the First Christmas
5. The Jolly Christmas Postman
6. Saint Nicholas: A Veggie Christmas Story

7. Pete the Cat Saves Christmas  
8. The Clown of God 
9. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer 
10. I Spy Christmas: A Book of Picture Riddles 
11. Christmas Cookies: Bite-Size Holiday Lessons 
12. Franklin's Christmas Gift  

13. Story of Christmas
14. Frosty the Snowman
15. The Night Before Christmas
16. Santa's Favorite Story: Santa Tells the Story of the First Christmas
17. Santa's Reindeer 
18. Twelve Days of Christmas
19. Christmas in the Manger
20. The Christmas Angel
21. Madeline's Christmas
22. Room for a Little One: A Christmas Tale
23. Spot's First Christmas
24. The Night Before Christmas
25. The Christmas Story

What are your favorite Christmas books?  When I was little, I loved The Jolly Christmas Postman!  

**contains affiliate links - thank you for supporting the BWF!**

Follow Ashley {Big White Farmhouse}'s board Advent Books & Crafts on Pinterest.

Friday, November 28, 2014

{brave} A Review of November's Goals

1. Read two books.
I only finished one.  I enjoyed Let's All Be Brave, but it wasn't one of those books for me that I quickly devour.  Maybe I wasn't the target audience?     

2. Complete a "ten on ten" photo challenge. 
Done!  I loved this challenge.  It was fun to document our very ordinary day and I'm anxious to try it again.  Maybe I should make it a monthly goal in 2015.

3. Take 10,000+ steps a day and exercise at least four times a week.
I'm calling this one a half success.  Some weeks, I took at least 10,000 steps, but didn't get four workouts in.  Other weeks, I did five workouts, but not 10,000 steps!  Either way, I was active throughout the month and I'm proud of that.  17 pounds down, about 20 to go!    

4. Continue with Couch25K.  
I stopped following this plan about halfway through the month.  I'm still running, but not on a specific schedule for now.

5. Invite a family over for a playdate.
Done.  We had another homeschooling family over and it was so nice to chat with the mama while our kids played together.  

6. Bake an apple pie.
I still didn't get this one completed!  One of these days...

7. Declutter a small area of the house everyday.  
Done.  So good for my mental health as well as preparation for all the new things to come into the house at Christmas.  I plan to continue through December.

8. Announce the new Holiday Collection on the Big White Farmhouse shop.
Done.  The Holiday Collection is live on the site!  We have gorgeous pewter ornaments, fun dish towels and even hand-printed star pillows.  All make wonderful gifts.  We also just got in eco-friendly art supplies for kids...perfect "non-junk" stocking stuffers!

9. Get started on Christmas shopping!
Done!  I've gotten a good start on presents for the kids and I've started a shopping list for the rest.  Hopefully, I'll be able to finish up during the first week in December, so I can fully enjoy the rest of Advent.  I firmly believe that gift giving shouldn't be stressful!

Looking forward to finishing the year strong in December.  How did you do with your monthly goals?

P.S. We're having a big Black Friday sale at Big White Farmhouse today!  

Monday, November 24, 2014

{BWF} 2014 Holiday Gift Guide from Big White Farmhouse

This is our first Christmas season at Big White Farmhouse and we are SO excited to share our products with you!  Today I wanted to show you a few gift suggestions as well as ideas to package them for gift giving.  It's helpful to know that when choosing products for the shop, I am really picky.  I steer clear of the junk and try to only pick products that are beautiful and well made.  We hope you love our products as much as we do!       

Our Vanilla Candle is 100% soy wax and has been hand poured into a 13oz. glass tumbler.  Each candle is shipped to you in a burlap bag, making gift giving SO easy!  Attach a tag to the ties and you're done!  With such a classic scent, this makes a great choice for many people on your list, including teachers, neighbors and co-workers.   

We only have a few left in stock, but our linen aprons make a thoughtful gift for the home cook.  We carry two varieties: the half apron in Oatmeal and the full apron in Brown.  A fun and unexpected idea is to package in a vintage Ball Jar!

Owen Fox is just one in our collection of adorable stuffed animals (We also have Nicholas BearGracie Cat, and Lucy Owl in stock).  Every plush is sent to you in a reusable muslin bag, so you can just attach a gift tag and you're done!

These pewter coffee scoops are new in the shop and they are fantastic!  Perfect for any coffee lover (or maybe a new mama?), you could attach it with ribbon to your favorite brew.  Each scoop also comes to you in a beautiful kraft-colored gift box, so you have another easy way to package and give.  

Our letterpress recipe box is a great idea when you have a few people who'd like to go in on a gift together.  Made of gorgeous American Maple, the box has a leather loop at the top and fits about 250 recipe cards.  I can imagine it purchased for a new bride, filled with favorite recipes from her family.  In the picture above, I included our Mason Jar recipe cards to help her get started! 

Our seed bombs are a fun choice (and at a great price point!) if you need to buy for many: teachers, co-workers, girlfriends, etc.  We carry three varieties: Salad Greens, Herbs, and Edible Flowers.  While you obviously can wait until spring to plant outside, these also do well when planted indoors during the winter.  A small plastic take out box was the perfect size to package three of them for giving.   

If you just can't decide on the perfect present, our Gift Certificates are the perfect solution.  We have them in $15, $25, $50 and $100 amounts. 

There are many more great gift ideas in the shop, so be sure to come on over and check us out.  (We just got all-natural eco-dough and crayons and they make great stocking stuffers!)  We would love to have your business this holiday season!

printable gift tags found here

Friday, November 21, 2014

{around here} Week of 11.17.14

Woo boy, is it cold outside!  The flannel sheets are on the beds and cozy blankets are ready next to the couch.  I also made a few new comfort food recipes for dinner and they were hits: Biscuit Pot Pie and Tomato Basil Parmesan Soup with grilled cheese sandwiches.    

TJ turned two months old this week.  I can't believe it!  Where does the time go?  He is a smiling, cooing, happy boy and such a joy to our family.  We call him our "little turtle" because he has a habit of scrunching his neck and sticking out his tongue.  He loves to be cuddled, has outgrown all of his newborn clothing, and sleeps 4 hour stretches at night.  He is so loved.  

Favorite homeschooling activities:
  • We bought M a volcano kit for his birthday and he has used it often.  I love to watch him become a scientist as he adjusts the ratios between the vinegar and baking soda.  He often asks, "What will happen if..." and I am happy to tell him, "Let's find out and see!"
  • I swapped out the "required" reading about the water cycle for a Magic School Bus episode I found on Netflix.  The boys couldn't believe their luck: watching TV for school?!  
  • It was J week in Kindergarten.  I was brave and took out the paints so all four could make jellyfish.  BIG hit.

We wrapped up our Pajama Drive and they are headed to Northern Virginia Family Services.  To everyone who donated, thank you SO much!  Because of you, many children in my community will be warm this winter.  We are so grateful for your help and support. 

Plans for the weekend: M and Mark are running in a Turkey Trot and we are all coming to cheer them on!
Hope you have a great weekend too.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

{family favorites} Three Thanksgiving Books & an Easy Craft

Thanksgiving has snuck up on me this year - I can't believe we're more than halfway through November already!  I made a few last minute lesson plans to add to our homeschooling and thought I'd share a few of our Thanksgiving favorites with you!

These three books are ones I take out every year:

  • Franklin's Thanksgiving: Franklin's grandparents can't make it to Thanksgiving dinner and he is bummed.  So without telling each other, Franklin, his mom and his dad each invite someone to Thanksgiving dinner, thinking it will make a wonderful surprise for the others.  Imagine the shock when everyone arrives on Thanksgiving morning!  It's a sweet little story about hospitality.    
  • A Turkey for Thanksgiving: Mr. and Mrs. Moose are hosting Thanksgiving dinner, but wish they had a real turkey instead of the paper one they have on their table.  Mr. Moose goes to find her one and meets his friends along the way.  When they find a turkey and call to him, he is terrified and runs away but Mr. Moose insists.  The ending is so cute...and unexpected!  My kids love it.  
  • P Is for Pilgrim: A Thanksgiving Alphabet: I love the illustrations in this book.  I also like how the story (written in rhyme) is simple, but there are also more detailed information on the edges of the's perfect for reading to a variety of ages.    

Need a super easy craft to do before the holiday?  These thankful turkeys are perfect.  I quickly cut the body and feathers beforehand, but a little guy who likes cutting could easily do the same.  My oldest wanted to fill in all of his feathers at one time (he was so excited to be allowed to use the Sharpie!).  Another idea would be to fill in one everyday until Thanksgiving.  

Friday, November 14, 2014

{around here} Week of 11.10.14

This week was packed full of fun things: celebrating the Marine Corps birthday, having friends over for a play date and an end-of-season soccer pizza party.  Mark was away on a business trip for part of the week too, so I tried to keep us busy with art projects and movie nights.     

Favorite homeschooling activities:
  • It was D week in Kindergarten.  We didn't do any themed crafts, but I think a trip to the grocery store for doughnuts may be just as effective. :)
  • We're halfway through Owls in the Family and the boys think the stories are hilarious.  We also learned about nocturnal animals and M created a really neat owl using newspaper (he used this one as inspiration). 
  • For spelling, we played Spelling Battleship.  It was such a hit, I think we'll need to buy the real game soon! 

Even though the scale hasn't moved in about 10 days, I'm still pushing through my workouts.  I started boxing this week, an exercise that has always interested me but has been equally intimidating.  I put on my brave face and tried it anyway, and it was so fun!  I also did a kettlebell workout I found online that was so effective, I could barely walk the next morning!  Add in my Couch25K and I am definitely working hard, whether the scale says so or not.  It'll come eventually.
As for nutrition, I'm weaning myself off sugar again (darn you, Halloween!) and trying to focus on filling myself with good foods.      

On the blog:

This weekend, we have even more fun in store: celebrating a big 8th birthday!  
Hope your weekend is full of good things too.
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