Friday, August 29, 2014

{brave} A Review of August's Goals

1. Being brave creatively: choose a partially finished craft project and complete it.  Did not complete, oops.  I chose a really simple cross-stitch project to finish, but it definitely fell to the back burner.  When given the option of free-time activities, I tended to reach for a book more.  Hopefully I'll finish up in September.    

2. Being brave in the kitchen: have Mark teach me how to grill something on our charcoal grill.  Technically, did not complete.  Does it count if I sat and just watched him grill our dinner, hah?!  He went through and showed me every step, but I was definitely a spectator and not a participant.  I'll have to try to do the steps on my own once I have more energy.      

3. Being brave in my giving: send at least one surprise package, just because.  Complete!  I "met" a sweet mamma of four last year on Instagram and I've loved seeing her life through her pictures.  She's been quite honest in her challenges recently so I wanted to bring a little sunshine to her mailbox.  It was so much fun to choose a few items to send...I highly recommend you do it too!

4. Month-long challenge: finish the "Walk at least a mile a day everyday for 30 days" challenge I started in July. Complete!  This challenge could not have happened at a better time.  I needed the extra oomph to push through the "pregnancy laziness" that summer always brings and to take the first steps toward a regular exercise routine.  Even though the 30 days are officially over, I am still trying to walk everyday, even if it's only laps around the house.    

5. Read one book. I actually finished two!  I've been trying to read all of the books on the "to-read" shelf, so this month I knocked out Rome Sweet Home: Our Journey to Catholicism and Another Man's War: The True Story of One Man's Battle to Save Children in the Sudan. I'm currently in the middle of Peace Like a River.

6. Pay a big chunk on student loan debt. Complete!  We've still got more work to do, but I feel like the end is near.  Can't wait to have that debt gone!

7. Start checking off the new baby to-do list: buy a new car seat, pack the hospital bag, wash newborn clothing, etc. Complete!  Nesting has definitely kicked in.  The car seat and stroller have been purchased and all of his itty-bitty clothing has been washed and put away.  We brought up the bassinet from the basement and started packing the hospital bag.  There are a few odds and ends still left to accomplish, but nothing crucial.  We are ready for you, baby boy!  

8. Research and make a plan for the second half of 2014 for Big White Farmhouse.  
I'm going to consider this one semi-complete.  I did a lot of product research for the upcoming holidays, but still feel unprepared.  Oh well!  So much of retail really can't be planned week at a time.  

9. Purchase a few frames to start a gallery wall in Sophia's bedroom.  This one just didn't get done this month and I'm not sure if I'll be able to fit in a trip to Ikea before the baby arrives.  Thank goodness Sophie doesn't know the difference.  :)  

10. Make a prayer request book and be faithful in praying daily for others.  Complete!  I took a little hand-held notebook I've had hanging around and wrote down everyone I could remember.  Then, throughout the month, if I was asked to pray, I immediately jotted it down before I forgot.  It has been a game changer for me.  I'm no longer relying on my poor memory!  

Overall, I think it was a very successful month.  I'm looking forward to September!  
How did you do with your monthly goals?

P.S. We're having a Labor Day sale over at Big White Farmhouse this weekend and I hope you'll check us out!  The entire site is 20% with the coupon code "LABORDAY20".  It's the perfect time to start your Christmas shopping!  

Monday, August 25, 2014

{learning} What Homeschooling Looks Like Here: the First 6 Weeks

I think I should preface this post by saying that I am still a total beginner in the world of homeschooling!  A little education recap: we did PreK and Kindergarten at home with my oldest and then he went to public school last year for 1st grade.  My #2 is a totally different learner and because of that, PreK at home last year was much less intensive.  He just wasn't ready!  After a lot of conversation and prayer this summer, my husband and I decided that our #2 would thrive the best by doing Kindergarten at home.  We offered the option to our oldest and while we were perfectly fine with allowing him to continue in public school, he chose to come home as well.  

So here we are.  I have a Second grader, a Kindergartener, two tag-along siblings and a (soon to be) brand new baby!  (They all have birthdays in the fall, so for age reference, they will be 8, 6, 4, 2 and brand new.)  It seems a bit crazy, but I've used the summer to "practice" a routine and I think we've finally found something that works for us.  Here's a little peek into our day, as well as a few survival tips I've learned so far:

Our Day-to-Day Schedule
Day-to-day life with four (and soon to be five) never looks the same, so my first mission was to set aside the notion that we always had to be perfectly scheduled.  My Type-A sometimes twitches at the thought, but really, it's been freeing and I think has made me a better mother.  Most days, we start school around 9am.  But if the boys are playing sweetly together with Legos or they're cuddled up with Sophie watching her morning cartoon, I let it be.  Because really, what's the difference between 9:00 and 9:30 in the grand scheme of things?

We generally switch every other day who gets to "do school" first.  I originally tried to have them complete their work simultaneously, but the multi-tasking was stressful for me.  Now we focus one at a time, unless I read aloud or we do a family-wide craft.  The boys thrive with the undivided attention I can give them and it's been nice to hear their little thoughts on life as we work through the day's assignments.  (Note about the little two: J is generally content to play on his own during school time or he'll come participate with D.  At just three years old, I'm flexible with what he wants to do each day.  Sophia typically floats between the school table and the brothers in the playroom.  She knows that as long as she colors quietly, she can stay at the table with us.)

We take a few breaks throughout the morning, but are still normally finished by lunchtime.  If we have an intensive craft or activity, I sometimes will wait until Sophie's naptime to have one less "helper", hah! Then the afternoons are free for fun!
A Few of our Sonlight Curriculum Favorites from Weeks 1-6

  • For a book with very little pictures, I wasn't sure what the little boys would think of Uncle Wiggily's Story Book, but it is actually the one they ask for again and again.  The little stories focus on helping others and we've had some great conversations afterward.
  • D is flying through Developing the Early Learner: Level 1 and I'm sure will be ready for the next book soon.  I've decided to let him go ahead of schedule if he asks, which is often the case!  I love his new excitement for learning.
  • M's first read aloud was Charlotte's Web and boy, did he enjoy it!  We took our time reading and incorporated lots of extra crafts and activities.  We recently finished and are now on to Ginger Pye.   
  • For science, M is working through the Usborne World of Animals and we're both learning so much.  Each "lesson" is only two pages, but we still have a lot of interesting discussions.  I love when he asks his daddy at the dinner table, "Did you know...?"

Three Survival Tips from the First Six Weeks
1. Every Friday at naptime, I lay out a general plan of what I hope to accomplish in the week ahead.  (I've been using this free printable from Money Saving Mom.)  That way, I can put "school teacher me" away over the weekend and just be Mamma.  Sometimes I'll research a craft on Pinterest on Saturday night, but for the most part, school is done until Monday.

2. Crafts are a BIG deal with the little kids, so I plan one or two that correspond with the Letter of the Week.  I try to do some prep work before the official "lesson" to control the crazy, but that doesn't always happen.  In those cases, I've enlisted M as a teacher's assistant (because what second grader/oldest child doesn't love a little power? hah) and he helps me with Sophie and sometimes J.  He's a lifesaver and the craft goes much smoother.   

3. Being in charge of my children's education is no small feat and I know there is a level of certainty that eventually, I'll start to feel a bit burnt out.  I'm also very aware of the impending postpartum months with the roller-coaster of hormones, "baby blues" and general exhaustion.  So to prepare for all of the above, I've started intentionally setting aside time everyday for me.  In reality, this really doesn't look like much.  I read my Bible for 10-15 minutes every morning after breakfast.  I try to walk at least a mile at naptime.  I read a chapter of my book or work on a craft project while the kids are playing in the afternoons.  I work a bit on Big White Farmhouse after everyone is in bed.  It's not much, but it does wonders for my mental health.               

Whew, what a post!  I hope to come back every six weeks with posts about what's working/what's not and our latest favorites.  And for the readers who stuck it out to the end, please let me know if you have any tips, recommendations or questions!  

Friday, August 22, 2014

{around here} Week of 8.18.2014

Another week in the books.  Between the busy days and the insomnia at night, I am tired!  Like fall asleep last night at 8pm tired!  Definitely the sign of a good week, though, right?  Here's a little bit of what we did:      

After months of having the nonchalant attitude of "Oh, it'll all get done", I am definitely in nesting mode now at 35 weeks!  The baby to-do list is getting checked off with sudden urgency, hah!  The newborn clothes have been washed and bassinet has come up from the basement.  I've still yet to prepare any freezer meals, but we did manage to make a bunch of breakfast burritos (inspired by this post).  Next up is the hospital bag.  

I've also been on ebay, scouring deals for some of the kids' fall clothing.  It can be tricky sometimes, but I've gotten amazing deals for brand new/like new clothing, while often spending $5 or less.  So helpful when you're dressing a big family!

Favorite homeschool activities this week: 
  • D and J loved playing with the Linking Cubes in math, making patterns and counting "huge towers".  We also made alligators and apples for A week.
  • For M, I changed up our spelling routine halfway through the week and it's already made a huge difference!  Before, it felt like pulling teeth and I wasn't convinced that he was actually learning how to spell anything long-term.  From here on out, we'll be incorporating more games and hands-on activities.  We started with this fun game, which was a HUGE hit!
On that note, I've been working on a blog post about what homeschooling looks like at our house that I hope to publish early next week.  I'm always curious about what the day-to-day looks like in other families, so maybe it will be helpful to someone else.  

This post, I'm a Pinterest Mom and Proud of It, had me smiling and nodding in solidarity.   My favorite part: "We’re having fun. We’re not contriving magic. We’re not more concerned about our children than you are. We’re not better moms. We’re just crafty moms. We were crafty before we had kids, and we will be crafty when our kids are grown up. And we are just pleased as punch that we have teeny little willing crafting/cooking/baking partners."  And this last line: "It’s not a competition because we were never competing. We were just having fun in the way that we have fun."  Here's to mammas being the best you can be, no matter what your talents are!

Have a great weekend, friends!

Friday, August 15, 2014

{around here} Week of 8.11.14

Can you believe we're halfway through August already?  This summer has been wonderful in so many ways, but I'm anxious for what fall has to offer too.  I keep reminding myself to take it one day at a time and enjoy every day to the fullest (sometimes easier said than done!).  Here's a snapshot of what we've been up to this week:

We've been easing into homeschooling for a few weeks now and it's been going better than I could have imagined.  The boys love it!  We're starting to fall into a routine, while at the same time, being really flexible...I'm sure that doesn't make any sense, but it's been the perfect practice for when the new baby arrives.  Our favorite activities this week: making rainbows and robots with the little boys (and Sophie too!) and starting our study of ancient history with M by making a loom just like early settlers.     

Mark and I have both had long, exhausting days, so we had a little at-home date one night after the kids went to bed.  It's so good to talk together, catch up about our day and laugh.  Oh, laughter.  The best balm for this tired mamma's soul.  

A few updates at the halfway point for my August goals:

  • I found a cross-stitch project from my stash and have been faithfully working on a few stitches everyday.  It's a simple project with only two colors, so I'm not sure why I ever put it down!  Pictures to come next week.
  • Surprise package "just because" to a friend who needed some sunshine: check!
  • We're one step closer to preparing Big White Farmhouse for Christmas with the addition of Gift Certificates!  I love that it's a physical product vs. an e-mail (just personal preference) and that it will be filled out by hand.  Another little detail where we hope to keep our store personal. (And little side note if you're interested: gift certificates will always ship for free, either to you or directly to your recipient.  We're working out a few kinks on the website, so for now, if you enter "GCFREESHIP" at checkout, it will cancel out the default shipping charges.  Sorry for the inconvenience!)  
  • Almost done with my walking challenge!  Just a few more days to go, but I think this has become a habit I'll continue daily.
  • Make a designated prayer request book: check!
  • I'm in the middle of reading Another Man's War: The True Story of One Man's Battle to Save Children in the Sudan.  It's hard to read about horrible things that happen in our fallen world, but I also don't want to keep my head in the sand.  
  • Some progress on the baby checklist: the car seat has been purchased and a freezer meal plan has begun.  I hope to get a few meals assembled this weekend!
How was your week, friends?  I hope you have a fun and relaxing weekend, soaking up the last bits of summer.  See you next week!

Friday, August 8, 2014

{around here} Week of 8.4.2014

TGIF!  We've had a rough week with a lot of sibling bickering, but some weeks are just like that, right?  We all survived and hopefully with a little extra sleep this weekend, they'll be back to their happy selves.  I can hope!  A few other highlights from the week:
I've mentioned them before on Instagram, but I need to sing praises for Art for Kids on the blog too.  This is an amazing (free!) resource for art-loving kids like mine.  The videos are educational, easy to follow and my boys look forward to every video that is posted.  I highly recommend.      
Another fun resource if you have Lego-loving kids at home: Create Your Own Lego Minifigures.  I've been printing these out by the dozens and the boys have been creating lots of different superheroes.    

As for me, with just seven weeks to go, I've started my "new baby checklist" and freezer meals are high on the list.  I overlooked this step when Sophia was born and because of it, we ate way too much takeout.  Not good for the wallet or my (hopefully!) shrinking midsection.  My plan this time around is to knock out a few meals every paycheck until his due date.  So far, I've found a few pasta-type dishes, like this one for Cheesy Mexican Stuffed Shells, but I'm hoping to round it out with something less carb-filled.  Any ideas?  Let me know your favorites!  

Exciting news over at the BWF shop: we just launched the beginnings of a new section of the store, The Children's Room!  Right now, we are starting with five different varieties of adorable plush animal dolls (so hard to choose, but I think my favorite is Lucy Owl), but we hope to expand the line soon.  I'm imagining wooden teethers and toys, felt dress-up items and more.  We are committed to finding the types of items that are so well made, they are sure to last for generations to come.  It's definitely counter-cultural to the "Buy as much as you can for as cheap as possible!" mentality, but it's one that I feel is important.  Look for a better blog post on the subject soon!  

One more thing: I came across this article on Facebook and I've been thinking about it all week: What I Learned After Taking a Homeless Mother Grocery Shopping.  It's such a complicated issue, but the whole thing just makes me so sad.  I'm praying for inspiration for ways to help mammas in my own community.  In this situation, Mother Teresa's quote comes to mind: 
"Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you."

Have a great weekend, friends!

Friday, August 1, 2014

{brave} August's Goals

1. Being brave creatively: choose a partially finished craft project and complete it.  I am notorious for semi-completing a craft or sewing project and then moving on to the next.  I want to get something finished and displayed.  
2. Being brave in the kitchen: have Mark teach me how to grill something on our charcoal grill.
3. Being brave in my giving: send at least one surprise package, just because.
4. Month-long challenge: finish the "Walk at least a mile a day everyday for 30 days" challenge I started in July. 16 days to go!
5. Read one book.
6. Pay a big chunk on student loan debt. We've been chipping away at this all year, but I hope to make some major movement in August.  One step closer to being debt free!
7. Start checking off the new baby to-do list: buy a new car seat, pack the hospital bag, wash newborn clothing, etc. 
8. Research and make a plan for the second half of 2014 for Big White Farmhouse.  Once the baby arrives in September, BWF will take the back burner for a little while.  I want to prepare and get ahead as much as possible beforehand.
9. Purchase a few frames to start a gallery wall in Sophia's bedroom.
10. Make a prayer request book and be faithful in praying daily for others. I often promise prayers for someone, only to quickly forget.  It's a habit I don't like and want to change.  I think a designated prayer request book will help.  That said, is there any way I can pray for you?    

Find all of my 2014 brave goals here.
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