Friday, October 31, 2014

{brave} A Review of October's Goals

With a newborn in the house, I needed a handful of goals to keep me on track, while being "easy" enough not to feel overwhelming.  These did the job.

1. Finish one book. 
Done. I finished Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys and recommend it.  Now I'm on to Let's All Be Brave: Living Life with Everything You Have 

2. Go apple picking and/or the pumpkin patch.

We made it to the pumpkin patch and it was hilarious to watch the kids find their favorite pumpkin.  The big boys each wanted the heaviest one they could find, while J was perfectly content with his "little one".  We tried to convince him to pick something a little bigger, but nope.  Sophie and TJ got little pumpkins too.

3. Get a haircut.
Didn't happen this month, but I will definitely get there in November.  My split ends are out of control.

4. Walk at least one mile four times a week.  Try for 10,000+ steps everyday.
Done. Out of all the goals this month, I'm the most proud of this one.  I'm only five weeks postpartum, but it felt good to get moving everyday and feel like I was doing something to get this baby weight off.  Now I'm ready to implement the plan!

5. Catch up on all thank you notes.
I'm still way behind on these.  I managed to send out a couple, but haven't put a dent in my list.  Making this a priority to knock it out!

6. Get purchase orders in for Big White Farmhouse Christmas product.
Done!  We made our first order for the Holiday Collection and have already launched the Gather Dish Towel, which is perfect for Thanksgiving.  Hopefully we can order a few more things soon.

All in all, a successful month and a great way to ease into everyday life after TJ's birth.  I'm looking forward to more good things in November!  What did you accomplish this month?  I'd love to hear your stories, big or small.

P.S. There are just about two weeks left to participate in the BWF Pajama Drive!  Right now, we are only at a quarter of our goal.  Would you consider helping us clothe some kids in need in my community?  Find all of the details in the original post and then send me an e-mail for the address.  I'd appreciate your help!

Monday, October 27, 2014

{health} Body After Baby #5: The Plan

I recently came across a photo of myself from my wedding almost 10 years ago.  I was 21 years old, not a wrinkle or gray hair...and um wow, I was SO thin!  As I sit here now, a month postpartum with my fifth baby, it would be too easy to beat myself up with criticism and comparisons: "I'll never lose this weight.  I'm too fat for my 'fat' pants."  "Look how skinny that new mom is..why didn't I work out more while I was pregnant?"  "Will I ever look like that again?"  In the past, I've been more belittling to myself than I would like to admit.  This time around, I'm giving myself a lot of grace.  

The truth is, I don't want to be skinny like I was at 21.  I want to be a 30-year-old mother of five who is challenging herself to be the best she can be.  In the upcoming months, I hope to lose the baby weight, gain lots of muscle, run races and try lots of new exercises.  I want to be an athlete.  

So with those goals in mind, this is my plan:

+ Track my food.
I found a few calculators online to help me determine how many calories I should be consuming while nursing.  Using that number, I plan to track my food for about a week.  (I don't like to track for very long because I think it can easily become an obsessive behavior.)  That will give me an idea about how much food I should be eating and help me to make a few go-to menu plans.   
+ Reduce my sugar intake.
I'll be taking tips from the No Sugar January challenge from earlier this year.
+ Drink lots of water.
I'm notoriously bad at this.  I have this plastic mason jar and I'm going to be more conscious of keeping it filled up and available throughout the day.
+ Plan and prep my meals.
I need a plan.  Without it, I scrounge around, looking for anything easily ingested with one hand.  So along with my weekly meal planning (using my favorite notepad!) for the entire family, I will also be making a list of healthy choices for me.  Sunday nights will be prep time: breakfast burritos for the freezer, veggies and cheese chopped for snacking, etc.

+ 10,000+ steps daily.
I use a Fitbit One to track my steps and it's so helpful. I want to get in 10,000 steps minimum, but hopefully work up to more like 15,000.
+ Do a combination of walking and running.
From two weeks postpartum, I made an effort to walk almost everyday.  Now I am starting the Couch25K program, which will hopefully help ease me back into running.  
+ Add in the weights.
I love weight training, but for some reason, struggle with consistency.  I'm going to research some programs and see what sticks.  
+ Try new exercises.  
I am going through this postpartum workout DVD, but can't wait to try a few new things.  A few exercises I've been considering: Jillian's 30 Day Shred, pilates, Kickboxing Bootcamp, or maybe another round of Insanity.  
+ Include the kids sometimes.
Exercise is good for all of us!

+ Take 30 minutes everyday to do something just for me.

What are your favorite ways to stay healthy?  Do you have a great workout website or DVD you can recommend to me?  I'm up for trying anything!

Friday, October 24, 2014

{around here} Week of 10.20.14

What a difference this week was compared to the last!  Our life is still full to the brim, but it's good and I've been able to take it all in stride.  TJ is largely to thank, as he has still been sleeping well at night and that has really helped my productivity during the day.  Here's a peek at our week:

HOMESCHOOLING.  Week 13 was pretty low-key.  We didn't really do any "exciting" activities, but I appreciated the week off and the boys didn't seem to really notice.  Part of the reason may be because of the two Usborne books shown above.  We gave D this one for his birthday and M was so interested, I gave him this book early!  They both have a combination of activities (like, "Find all the snowmen with scarves and color them blue") and coloring pages with lots of different themes.  I highly recommend them! 

EXERCISE. This was the first week that I scheduled out my workouts.  I mixed walking (2-3 miles each time) with the first stage of this postpartum workout DVD.  I wouldn't exactly call Progression 1 a "workout"; it was definitely heavy on stretching, but it felt good to get back into the routine.  

  • What Homeschooling Looks Like Here: A recap on our homeschool weeks 7-12
  • The Second Annual BWF Pajama Drive: There are just a few weeks left to donate jammies to help needy children in my community!  This year, we'd like to collect 30 pairs and are currently about a fourth of the way to our goal.  I'd love your help!  E-mail me for more information.

BIG WHITE FARMHOUSE SHOP.  Exciting things are happening in the shop!  I photographed and started the behind the scenes work for our Holiday Collection!  We just released a "Gather" dish towel, which would be perfect for Thanksgiving and makes a great hostess gift.  I really love the metallic gold lettering - so fun!   

ON MY NIGHTSTAND. I just started Let's All Be Brave: Living Life with Everything You Have and it's good so far.  One quote I've underlined: "To believe in yourself means to believe that God made you and there is no one like you, that you have a unique call to courage, and that you can do the thing that is staring you in the face."

P.S. Have you taken this personality test?  I seem to recall taking something similar in college, but I can't remember the results.  I'm ISFJ and the summary was so true for me!  What are you?

Have a great weekend, friends!

Monday, October 20, 2014

{learning} What Homeschooling Looks Like Here: Weeks 7-12

We just finished up Week 12 of our homeschool year, so it's time for another update!  (You can find the post about our first six weeks here.)  This time around, I became really brave about making the curriculum work for us.  During weeks 1-6, I stuck close to the program, letting the prepared lesson plans lead me.  I was thankful for the guidance and it definitely gave me confidence as a teacher.  But for weeks 7-12, I started to assess what was working and what was not.  We ventured away from the plan a bit and I think the boys are really enjoying the changes.

A Few of the School Subjects We Replaced
  • M was unhappy with the curriculum's writing activities, so we worked together to create a "Writing Journal".  He uses it in a variety of ways: some days, I give him a question or list idea.  Other days, he makes up his own theme.  What matters most to me is that he is writing and using his imagination.
  • M also disliked the spelling program and I felt like he wasn't recalling anything.  We now use his weekly words in lots of fun ways.  I try to vary the games and activities every week, so he's using the words in different ways.  He has his final spelling test on Fridays and there has been a HUGE difference in his performance.  
  • The curriculum we use has provided a lot of wonderful read alouds, but we veered off the timeline a bit with a few choices of our own.  So far, we've added in Ginger Pye and Thomas and the Dragon Queen.  I hope to get back to a few of the "official" choices, but I like the ability to be spontaneous if we come across a good book.

Lessons Learned During Weeks 7-12
1. Pinterest is your friend!  
I get so many of our crafts, worksheets and recipes from searches on Pinterest.  I am SO thankful for the hard work and creativity of other bloggers!

2. The Need for Breaks
It is my personality to really dig in and get 'er done.  Unfortunately, that is not the personality of my boys!  Our new routine is to finish a few subjects and then take a break. The boys take that time to play, run around and have a snack.  It's the perfect time for them to get their wiggles out while I get a few chores accomplished.  Then we meet back up to finish out the day.

3. Be flexible.
With a new baby in the house, this has been an essential lesson to learn.  Sometimes school will start a little later in the day.  Sometimes we only complete half of our subjects before calling it quits.  It's all okay and part of the season we are in.         

The Boys' Homeschool Favorites from the First Third of the School Year

Favorite Subject
M: history  //  D: "my favorite book!" (translation: Developing the Early Learner: Level 2)
Favorite Project or Activity
M: mummifying the action figure and making papyrus  //  D: tiger mask
Favorite Read Aloud
M: Ginger Pye  //  D: Ginger Pye
What is one thing you'd like to do more of in the next few weeks?
M: use clay to "make wonderful creations"  //  D: more crafts!

Friday, October 17, 2014

{around here} Week of 10.13.14

In my gut, I knew it would come.  For three weeks, I've felt great, empowered even.  I may have gone so far as to declare to my husband that being a mamma to five was a piece of cake!  But deep down, I knew the high couldn't last forever.  And it didn't.  This week was hard.  

It was a rollercoaster of emotions.  Some days, when the laundry was washed and folded, dinner was homemade and the schooling completed, I felt on top of the world.  I loved this homemaking gig!  But the other days...the days where the boys seemed to always be fighting, the house was a disaster, Sophie spilled smoothie all over the couch and the baby wouldn't let me put him down for more than two minutes...those days had me incredibly overwhelmed and I just wanted to climb into bed and hide under the covers.  

But time goes on.  Life is all about changing seasons and this is one of those times.  The addition of a new life is a change for everyone, a good change.  In the overwhelming moments, I panic and desperately seek what little pieces I can control, but what's the lesson here?  The reality is, I'm so not in control.  So I'm trying again, clinging white knuckled to Him and praying for the grace needed to do this vocation well.  Here's to a better week.

A few good things to mention:
+ We celebrated D's 6th birthday!  He went out to breakfast first thing with his Daddy and chose a McGriddle from McDonald's.  (Side note: on their special day, we let the kids pick anywhere they want to eat.  Their choices crack us up.)  His favorite gifts were this Ultra Agent Lego set and the Uncle Wiggily Game.  For dessert, he chose a cheesecake sampler.  He declared it was "the best day ever" and that made me so happy.  He's growing into a pretty great kid.
+ I've been walking everyday and it's been so good for my mental health.  I've also been hitting my weekly goal of 8,000+ daily steps.  I'm hoping to add some light exercises soon.
+ Pajamas have started arriving for the BWF Pajama Drive!

Hope you have a wonderful, relaxing weekend.

Friday, October 10, 2014

{around here} Week of 10.6.14

Wow.  Another week has flown by!  Here's a peek at what we did:

HOMESCHOOLING.  It's been a light week in homeschooling as we finished up the last bits of Week 11.  I enjoyed splitting up the work into two's been a gentle way to get back into the routine with a new baby now in the mix.  A couple of notes:
  • I've decided to make Fridays all about history.  M will have his weekly spelling test and a math page, but the rest of the day will be diving into ancient civilizations.  It will allow us much more time to incorporate activities, crafts and cooking - all things that M really enjoys.  He was so excited about the idea that we ended up having History Day on Monday!  We learned all about mummies, mummified an old action figure using this example, and even had mummy pigs in a blanket for lunch (inspired by this idea).    
  • M's science book, Usborne World of Animals, has been a hit for all of the kids.  We have learned so much!  We just started our study of Asian animals and the boys really enjoyed this video about Japanese snow monkeys.  
EXERCISE.  Week two of my walking routine was successful; I got in at least a mile everyday this week!  I'm still working toward a daily goal of 10,000 steps, but getting closer.  (I use a Fitbit One to track my steps and I love it!)  Currently 13 pounds down with about 22 to go.

BAKING.  I made chocolate chip cookies and two loaves of banana bread, but neither stuck around for long in this household of mine!  Next up is a pumpkin crumb cake.

I also spent some time going through four years of archives and updating the broken Pinterest links and photos.  So time consuming, but it was fun to look back and read some of my earliest posts.       

ON THE NIGHTSTAND.  I finished Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys and it's given me so much to think about.  My copy is full of underlining and asterisks!  Just one of the many passages that spoke to me: "The more we can let a boy struggle and learn how to struggle well, the better off he will be later in life.  It is only through suffering that we grow spiritually and emotionally.  Boys need far more help in developing their emotional skills than they do their motor skills.  The more we focus on developing their character, the more they will become men of character."

Plans for the weekend: soccer games, celebrating my big 30th birthday, and a trip to the apple orchard.  I can't wait!  Have a wonderful weekend, friends.

Monday, October 6, 2014

{giving} The 2nd Annual BWF Pajama Drive & I Need Your Help!

Last October, I held the first ever Big White Farmhouse Pajama Drive for children in need.  October is considered to be the beginning of "Danger Season", when temperatures begin to drop around the country and many children don't have pajamas to keep them warm on chilly nights.  My kids get so excited about new, cozy pajamas and it breaks my heart to think that some little ones just don't have that luxury.

So in my small way, I set out to help.  

Friends, family and even a few blog readers all came together to send pajama donations from across the country.  In just two weeks' time, we were able to collect 14 pairs of pajamas!  The donations were given to a wonderful local organization called Northern Virginia Family Services and it makes my heart swell to think that we helped 14 little ones keep warm during last year's crazy winter.

So here we are again.  October is here and the weather is getting a bit colder everyday.  

It's time for the second annual Big White Farmhouse Pajama Drive and I'd love your help!  

My big 30th birthday is coming up this weekend and I would love to collect 30 pajama donations for NVFS, doubling the amount from last year!  Will you help me?  

Here are the details:
+ The pajama drive will be open for the next month, until Friday, November 7, 2014.
+ All pajamas need to be new and should be the complete set (top and bottoms) or a nightgown.
+ The age range we're collecting for is newborn up to 5T.
+ Please send your donations to me. Shoot me an e-mail (mrsb04jc at gmail dot com) with "Pajama Drive" in the subject line and I can send you the address.  
+ Don't have time to shop?  Purchase a few PJs online and have them shipped directly to me!
+ Involve your entire family.  This is an easy opportunity to include your children in service!  

I hope you'll help me spread some happiness to children in need in my community!  If you feel inclined, I'd love it if you would spread the word.  Together, we can work to do great things!  I look forward to hearing from you!

"Little things are indeed little, 
but to be faithful in little things is a great thing."
- Mother Teresa

Friday, October 3, 2014

{around here} Week of 9.29.14

With Mark back at work, I was a mamma flying solo with five kids this week.  It was a bumpy ride, but we survived!  We ended up easing back into homeschooling because we needed the structure.  I like to consider ourselves pretty flexible, but the boys really struggled with all the free time and oh man, the bickering.  Getting school accomplished was a way better alternative!    

A few homeschool notes from week 11:
  • It was S week.  We made snakes.
  • I'm not convinced that the phonics curriculum we're using is working for D. I need to do a little more research, but I'm considering switching to either Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons or Phonics Pathways.  Anyone have a preference or recommendation?
  • M's favorite spelling game of the week: Scrabble Addition.  Math and spelling practice in one!
  • We are almost halfway through Thomas and the Dragon Queen and I am so impressed with the life lessons sprinkled throughout.  I have really enjoyed the conversations it has created about courage, adversity and trying our best.  
On the small business front: I put in an order for a few new items to have in our holiday section of Big White Farmhouse and I can't wait to receive them in a few weeks!  I'm sure I'll do a post or two with some shameless promotion as the holidays get closer.
One of my October goals is to get back into an exercise routine by walking again.  Not only will it help me lose the 35 pounds I gained this pregnancy, I also believe exercise is really great for my mental health and helps with the "baby blues" too.  I started off strong this week, walking Monday, Wednesday and Thursday.  I hope to get at least a mile in today, so I'll have a weekly grand total of 4.75 miles.  Feels good.     

Last but not least, a little update on my favorite two-week-old: TJ has been sleeping 3-4 hour stretches at night, which is amazing.  Who knows if it will last, but I'll take it while I can!  He also had his first bath and actually liked it.  Sophie hated baths for almost an entire year and screamed every time, so this is a very welcome change!  He is just a doll baby and every one of us is so smitten with him.  We are so blessed.

Have a great weekend, friends!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

{brave} A Review of September's Goals & a Few New Ones for October

September was such a blur, full of anticipation, excitement and celebrations.  I made my monthly goals with the intention of distracting myself from the final weeks of pregnancy and for the most part, it worked!  While I didn't complete everything on the list (which is okay since I never do!), I'd still consider this month a big success.

1. Take out all of the kids' fall clothes and make a to-buy list to fill in the gaps. 
Complete! This became a project that lasted an entire afternoon with the attendance of four very eager helpers!  It was craziness, but another memory for the books.  The seasonal wardrobe change is one of my least favorite chores, so I'm so glad it's done!  
2. Complete the cross-stitch project I started in August. 
At this point, this is getting laughable.  Two months in and I still didn't finish!  In hindsight, I seem to be picking up books before cross-stitch projects lately and that's okay.  Obviously, this one isn't really a priority for me right now.    

3. Bake a pie.  
I had hoped to get to the apple orchard and then make an apple pie before the baby, but time just got away from us.  It's on the plan for October.    

4. Make read aloud plans for "school" during our baby break.  
I did complete this goal, but changed things up at the last minute.  Originally, I made plans to read Owls in the Family and complete an owl lapbook while we took a break with the new baby.  But at the last minute, we decided to read Thomas and the Dragon Queen instead!  Even though I did all that work "for nothing", I'll be thankful for all of the prior planning in the weeks ahead. 

5. Write down all of the kids' birth stories.
Oops, didn't complete, although we did talk a lot about each child and their birthdays.  I really should have written them down years ago...I have forgotten a lot of the little details!

6. Read two books.
Complete!  I finished Peace Like a River and we also read Ginger Pye as a family read aloud.   

7. Buy tickets for a surprise trip to Lego Kidsfest for the boys. 
Complete!  The three big boys and their Daddy will be going on a special road trip to Kidsfest in October and I know they are going to have the time of their life!

8. Have a baby!
My proudest accomplishment this month!  He is perfection.

1. Finish one book.  
2. Go apple picking and/or the pumpkin patch.
3. Get a haircut.
4. Walk at least one mile four times a week.  Try for 10,000+ steps everyday.
5. Catch up on all thank you notes.
6. Get purchase orders in for Big White Farmhouse Christmas product.

What do you have on your goal list for October?
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