Thursday, April 30, 2015

{a year of challenges} April is for Quiet Time: A Summary

The clock says 7:30.

It's been a busy morning of coffee brewing, diaper changing, and breakfast making.  I haven't stopped moving since I rolled out of bed over an hour ago.  As I chug down that first big cup, the kids chat a mile a minute: everything from the Hobbit, to how to block someone from scoring a soccer goal, to Sophie's favorite Care Bear.  After their bellies are happily full of Mickey Mouse pancakes, they run to play before school begins.

I have a million things I could be doing.  There are still dishes in the sink, Big White Farmhouse promos to create, laundry to start....but I sit down at the dining room table, books and breakfast and baby in hand. It's time for quiet.

For me, quiet time is when I get myself ready to conquer the day.  Sometimes I read my bible, sometimes the daily readings with Blessed is She.  Sometimes I just sit there with my head in my hands and pray.  Then I take my planner, choose the three big tasks I want to accomplish that day and think about dinner.  It's not fancy, not time intensive...but wow, has it changed me and how my day goes.

Let's be honest here.  Just because "quiet" is in the name, that doesn't mean that's what it looks like in reality.  TJ squeals and babbles (and on a bad day, is whiny and clingy).  The kids come in and out.  They usually respect that I'm reading, but sometimes there are pressing questions to be asked or brotherly squabbles to break up.  I'm so glad quiet time doesn't require silence to be fruitful.

I've learned a lot this month. Prioritizing time in prayer has been so helpful with the overwhelming feelings of motherhood and household keeping.  Instead of constantly worrying about the job I'm doing, I have peace knowing that He is holding my hand every step of the way.  I'm still not a great housekeeper and my to-do list is still miles long, but that peace that I was so desperately looking for?  I've found it.

Monday, April 27, 2015

{life list} A New Look at Living a Full Life

For the past few weeks, while stuck inside with sick babies, I've been spending a lot of time on Pinterest.  While it can sometimes be overwhelming, I really do enjoy the visual inspiration.  At the same time, I tend to be a "pin it and forget it" pinner...on to the next pretty picture while forgetting the rest.

Last week, I found myself browsing through my boards and thinking, "Wow! I would love to make that!" or "That looks easy enough...I should try that."  I started jotting down a few of the ideas and then..lightning bolt!  If you've been reading for awhile, you'll remember my list of 100 little things I did in 2014.  I loved working on that list, so I decided to revamp my life list to include a little of both: big and little and everything in between.  

Living a full, intentional life doesn't have to just be about traveling to new countries or attending Olympic games.  Sometimes it's just trying a new recipe or camping in the backyard with your kids.  You know the quote, "Enjoy the little things in life because one day you'll look back and realize they were the big things"?  I really want to live that way.  I hope you will too.    

I've included a bit of my new life list below.  I'll be periodically adding to it and checking them off as I go.  I have a direct link on my sidebar if you'd like to follow along!

P.S. I'm also using these journals to hold my notes and ideas from my pins on Pinterest.  The paper quality is fantastic!

Make homemade icecream completed 7/2013 
Make pasta from scratch
Make a layered birthday cake
Make my own vanilla extract
Perfect a delicious iced coffee recipe
Bake homemade pretzels
Make strawberry jam with Mom
Bake pita bread

Make 100 beautiful things with my hands
Make a pennant using vintage sheets for Sophie's room
Learn how to use my camera in manual mode
Make a piece of clothing using a pattern
Learn how to knit
Learn floral arranging
Finish the cross-stitch superhero pillows for the boys
Learn how to make candles
Learn calligraphy
Write a children's book
Create a journal with prompts and publish
Make my handwriting a font
Make silhouettes of the kids

Home Decor and Improvement
Purchase an old home and completely renovate it
Complete a total gut renovation project (bathroom or kitchen?)
Build a tree house in the backyard
Buy a new welcome mat
Hang Sophie's gallery wall
Purchase a bench for the dining room table
Paint a piece of furniture with milk paint
Find a white pitcher for the mantel
Splurge and buy fresh flowers

Health & Fitness
Run 100 races: 5K, 10K, half marathon and anything with my dad

My First Race! May 2013: Semper Fred 5K, 33:08 // #2. September 2013: Crossroads 4 Miler, 39:53

Go horseback riding

Run a relay race
Complete a weight lifting program
Learn to paddleboard

Books to Read
Read every book on my "College Bound Booklist"
Read The Temperament God Gave Your Kids 

Start a book club

Wardrobe & Self Care
Donate my hair to Locks for Love completed 01/2013 

Buy a dress over $100 and not feel guilty about it

Learn how to French braid
Find a flattering denim button-down shirt
Buy a new curling iron and learn to curl my hair
Be brave and wear red lipstick out in public

See all 50 states 
Go on an Alaskan cruise
Ride on the Amtrak
Visit every NFL stadium and see a game
See a show on Broadway
Take a family vacation in Seaside, FL

Making Memories
Go paintballing
Camp out in our backyard
See Cirque du Soleil
Have our family pictures done by a professional photographer completed 10/2013 by the wonderful Lucy O Photography
Take the kids boating and tubing
Make tie-dye t-shirts
Take a cooking class with my husband
Learn how to flyfish with Dad
Take the family to a game at Fenway Park
Organize a getaway trip with my cousins Chicago in 04/2014
Put Christmas wreaths on the graves in Arlington National Cemetery
Go apple picking

Make every recipe from a single cookbook, like Julie and Julia
Support 100 Mammas in their small businesses

Read the entire Bible in one year
Give in 100 different ways (at least!)
Purchase a handmade item from every state in the USA

Watch 100 documentaries

Learn how to make my own cleaning supplies
Write down all of the kids' birth stories
Buy stock
Learn to shoot a gun
Donate blood
Run a successful home decor business Big White Farmhouse launched 01/2014
Open a brick-and-mortar retail location for Big White Farmhouse
Start a scholarship

Friday, April 24, 2015

{around here} Week 16/52: Week of 4.20.15

A collection of our ordinary days, recorded every week.  At the end of the year, I'll publish them into a keepsake to treasure.

Around here, I have been:

tired.  One by one, everyone from Mark down to TJ has been hit with a sickness that just won't go away. Barking coughs, sweats and chills, small fevers...they've all been miserable and I've been doing my best to keep everybody comfortable.  We've been watching lots of movies and adding in "fun stuff" to keep things interesting (ie. bubble blowing, going out for milkshakes and ordering pizza).  I hope we can all get back to normal soon.

not running.  Not once; I couldn't get away!  After 10 full weeks of training, it feels weird, but I think my body appreciates the unintended break.  Hoping to get back in the swing of things this weekend.    

realizing that "quiet time" doesn't have to equal total silence to be fruitful.

grateful.  Mark was in a car accident last week (he's fine) and we were worried that his car would be totaled.  Thankfully, it's fixable and covered by insurance...we can avoid a car payment a bit longer!   

reading A Fifty-Year Silence: Love, War, and a Ruined House in France

grossed out when J literally picked a fly from his eye.  He ran in the house from playing outside saying his eye hurt and then with some rubbing, came to me with dead fly in hand.  Ick.  

donating money to a friend running for a great cause.  I'd love to race and raise money for charity someday...maybe for half marathon number two!

selling our unneeded homeschool books on ebay.  It feels good to get this goal checked off my list. Now hopefully they will sell!

Monday, April 20, 2015

{shop small} Vol.04: Spring Florals

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 of the cool products I find, I thought I'd pop in every so often to share some of my discoveries with you! Volume 04 is inspired by all of the new buds popping up outside.  I love finding the latest wildflowers on my runs!  Enjoy.

Personalized Bunny by The Refined Roost 

Friday, April 17, 2015

{around here} Week 15/52: Week of 4.13.15

A collection of our ordinary days, recorded every week.  At the end of the year, I'll publish them into a keepsake to treasure.

Around here, I have been:

prioritizing my daily to-dos differently.  I am typically a brain dump/get it all on paper kind of planner.  But lately, as I've felt constantly behind and generally unaccomplished, I've realized my technique may actually be causing more stress.  So instead, I have started writing three big items that I want to accomplish that day.  Just three.  I write down other things too, but the goal is cross off my top three.  So far, it's working and I've been going to bed feeling peaceful.  

delighting in my children.  Motherhood is HARD but it doesn't have to be miserable.  After a draining winter, I'm adopting a new mindset and wow, my soul needed it.  Trying to find the good in my everyday, intentionally being joyful and mirroring that to my children, and remembering how truly blessed I am.  Everything I have is a gift.

reading A Fifty-Year Silence: Love, War, and a Ruined House in France

cooking lots of new things.  I've made pancakes twice for breakfast and am perfecting my hearts and stick men.  I also made Smoked Sausage Alfredo Bake and One Pot Cheesy Chicken, Broccoli and Rice.  Both were delicious. 

laughing at J as he repeatedly calls shorts "short sleeve pants".  

ordering M's standardized testing.  It is a homeschooling requirement in our state and I'm curious to see how he'll do.  He's a little nervous, so I'm already making plans to make the day special.  Maybe some Smarties candy between tests?    

dying at the way Sophie says silly - she pronounces it "see-yee" with a little twinkle in her eye and it's the cutest thing ever.

running without music during my short runs.  Another attempt at less noise, less auditory clutter and more quiet.

caring for D, who has been feeling sick most of the week.  I'm not sure if he's come down with a spring cold or maybe it's allergies.  Thursday morning, he asked if he could just lay on the couch and rest.  So unlike him!  He also skipped out on soccer voluntarily, so I know he's feeling crummy.  Hopefully he'll be back to himself soon.
watching episodes of Fixer Upper and wishing I could renovate an old home!  My dream of owning a farmhouse is back with a passion.

making Big White Farmhouse a priority again.  The ideas are rolling again and I'm feeling really excited for what's to come.  We are currently having a big spring sale until next Wednesday: 20% off with the coupon code "HELLOSPRING"!

homeschool notes:
+ We had a really great week in history.  We read the story of Cyclops and made origami eyes.  We also learned all about the first Olympics, made olive wreath crowns and are gearing up for a family Olympics this weekend.  Sunday dinner will also be a Greek feast!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

{house to home} William Morris Project (Vol.6): Sophie's Big Girl Room

Back in 2013, I started the William Morris Project on my blog in an attempt to intentionally make my new house feel like home.  I started strong, but quickly fizzled as I compared myself to others and felt like what I had to share didn't match up.  My project died just five posts in.

Fast forward to today and my attitude has completely changed.  My home will never be perfect or Pinterest-worthy and that's okay.  What matters most are the people who live here and the memories we create.  My style is all my own, a hodgepodge of "modern farmhouse" meets "industrial" meets "I have five kids"...I love it.

So today begins another attempt at my William Morris Project, a visual reminder that I am so incredibly blessed.  First stop: Sophie's room.

Sophie's big girl room was the first big project on our list for 2015.  I've worked steadily for months: researching, saving my pennies, organizing and arranging.  What remains is a room we all love, especially my girl.

There are still a few things I'd like to do:
+ Install her gallery wall (I have most of the frames, I just need to measure and hang!)
+ Purchase better storage for toys
+ Find coordinating shams and add a few throw pillows to the bed
+ Add shelving for books
+ Buy a kid-sized table and chairs 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

{learning} Our Five Favorite Beginner Chapter Books for Boys

There really is nothing like watching your child begin to read.  My oldest is in second grade and he has gone from a slow, hesitant reader to a confident one who can't get enough!  To help him grow in confidence and fluency, we searched Amazon together to find books from all types of genres.  I like to read a wide range of books and I was hoping to instill that in him as well.  Today I thought I would share a few of his favorites.  Linking up with Jenna today!

The Knights of the Kitchen Table (Time Warp Trio series) // This series is a mix of fantasy and history and a little humor too.

The Case of the Stinky Socks (Milo and Jazz Mysteries) // I'm a big fan of mysteries and M is too.  We like this series because the stories are intriguing without being scary.  Each book also includes spy activities in the back, which is a fun addition.

Flat Stanley's Worldwide Adventures // Remember Flat Stanley?  This adventure series is a spin-off from the original book.  The first four books have Stanley traveling to Mount Rushmore, digging for artifacts in Egypt, seeing a ninja in Japan and skiing in Canada.  All fun introductions to the world around us.

The Adventures of Sir Lancelot the Great (The Knights’ Tales Series) // This is my latest find and M devoured it.  The series is a great age-appropriate look at the knights of the round table.  It mixes legend with some silly humor too. 

The Search for the Missing Bones (Magic School Bus Chapter Books) // I loved Magic School Bus as a kid, so I was so excited to find these chapter books!  These are fact-filled but interesting and we always learn something new.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

{cookie project} No.006: Soft Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

 The Cookie Project is a year-long experiment to combine my love for baking and trying new things.

Fun fact about me (I guess I'm full of them this week!): I really like raisins.  As a kid, I used to add them to my Cheerios at breakfast.  Now at 30, I always keep them on hand when I need a craving for something sweet.

With my self-imposed ban on sugar lifted, I wanted to get back into the baking groove and these cookies sounded like the perfect choice.  They aren't "healthy" by any means (1 cup of sugar AND 1 cup of brown sugar), but they are soft and chewy, super delicious and are the perfect treat if you like raisins like I do.

The recipe I used is from Robyn at Add a Pinch.  You can find the recipe here.

Monday, April 13, 2015

{around here} 20 Fun Facts About Me

There's a fun game going around Instagram where you share 20 facts about yourself and then tag a few friends to do the same.  I kept getting interrupted trying to write my list on my phone, so I just decided to share on the blog!  Here are 20 things you probably didn't know about me:

1. I tend to squint when I smile big, making for really great pictures as you can see above.
2. I have a big sweet tooth and my favorite treat in the whole world is a doughnut.  I prefer chocolate frosted or sprinkle, but I've never been known to turn a doughnut away, especially a fresh one.
3. After watching from the sidelines for years, I started running in the spring of 2012 and it's changed my life for the better.  Also helpful to combat #2.  
4. I'm running my first half marathon next month and I think it would be fun to run one in every state.  My husband thinks I'm crazy.
5. Math was my favorite subject in school.
6. When I was pregnant with TJ, I craved and ate tomatoes every day.  It truly was my first healthy craving during pregnancy; my usual choices are cheeseburgers and ice cream.
7. I don't like mashed potatoes, but will eat them scalloped or as hashbrowns.  It's a texture thing.
8. When I graduated middle school, I was named "Most Likely to be a Librarian" and was mortified.  I mean, how uncool is a librarian?  Now, at 30, I think it'd make a pretty awesome job.
9. I'm not a big drinker, a fact that doesn't bother me, but surprises other people.
10. I always thought I'd be a mother to a lot of boys, but I'm so grateful God had other plans and gave me Sophie too.  I'm a better person because of her.
11. My dream is to move to a farmhouse on an acre (or five or ten) of land.  There aren't tons of options where we live (hello suburbia!), but I'm hoping we can find a diamond in the rough someday.
12. I never really liked coffee until my third baby was born.  Now I drink two cups a day and only with a splash of milk.  Funny the lengths you'll go to combat exhaustion.
13. The only time I've left the country was for World Youth Day in Toronto in 2002.  
14. My husband is my best friend and he can make me laugh more than any other person.
15. I hate being late and try to be at every commitment at least ten minutes early.  "Hurry up and wait" is my motto, which I get from my grandmother and my father.
16. I've had epidurals for all of my babies and don't regret it.  
17. We had a really small wedding with only our family and best friends present, about 35 people in all.  It was perfect and a weekend that we still talk about.
18. We're celebrating our 10 year anniversary this fall.  I can't believe how fast the time has gone.
19. If I were to go back to school, I think I would study graphic or interior design.
20. I'm so thankful for all of the women I've met through the blog and social media.  It's so encouraging to have relationships with like-minded mothers and I know they've made me feel less alone in this stage in my life.  I wish I could have everyone over for dinner!

Friday, April 10, 2015

{around here} Week 14/52: Week of 4.6.15

A collection of our ordinary days, recorded every week.  At the end of the year, I'll publish them into a keepsake to treasure.

Around here, I have been:

enjoying a few days of spring weather (one day was in the mid-70s!) before it turned cold and rainy.  I know warm temperatures are on their way, but gosh is it hard to wait when we get previews like Monday! 

making homemade bread in the bread machine and the kids love it.  I made three loaves in two days!   

receiving new product for Big White Farmhouse.  We restocked the You are My Sunshine and Best Buds garden markers, as well as the napkin rings. 

smiling at sweet Sophie's latest: As we were about to leave the house, she went through the names of all her brothers, asking if they were coming with us.  After I answered, she paused, pointed to her feet and asked, "Me boots come too?"   

dealing with a home owner disaster: our water heater flooded! Mark fortuitously discovered the water while looking for something in our basement.  It was about nine at night and we spent the next couple hours using every towel we own (and blankets and sheets), sopping it all up.  A new water heater and a smaller savings account later, we're almost back to normal.

running my first tempo run for my training and feeling great!  9 mile long is coming this weekend.

reading A Fifty-Year Silence: Love, War, and a Ruined House in France 

preparing to try container gardening for the first time.  I'm determined that this is the year I find my green thumb!  We're still deciding how much we want to tackle, but tomatoes, peppers and herbs are on the list.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

{a year of challenges} April is for Quiet Time

A few days ago, I posted this on Instagram:

I'm a perfectionist, driven by a desire to do my roles well.  I want to be the best mother I can be, the best homeschool teacher I can be, the best business owner I can be...and on and on.  

The standard I hold myself to...well, it's unrealistic.  My heart knows this, but I still continue to push and push.  I think we all know how this story ends.  It's April and I'm frazzled.  Instead of feeling accomplished at the end of the day, I'm overwhelmed, frustrated at my lack of "getting anything done" and critical of my abilities to juggle it all. 

It's time to start over.

I am declaring April the month that I slow down, re-prioritize and get my head and heart in the right place.  It's the month of quiet time.  Every morning, I want to sit down, read my Bible and make a plan for attack.  Instead of running around like a chicken with its head chopped off, I want to work with more purpose and peace.  I want to create a general daily routine for this season in our life, a flow to our days.  My hope is that I can get the chores accomplished, while still leaving plenty of room for wasting time with the kids and my husband.      

Here's to making new habits and creating more peace!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

{thrive goals} March Review, April Goals & a Free Printable!

A fourth of the year has already come and gone, can you believe it?  I'm finding it ironic that I chose the word "thrive" for far, I feel like I have been anything but thriving!  Perhaps the lesson for myself is redefining what that means in my wonderful, full and messy life?  I'm thankful for new months and new chances to try again.   

March Goals
1. Read three books.
I ended up finishing two: The Secret Keeper and Where'd You Go, Bernadette.  Both were really good!

2. Workout goal: Complete what you set out to do.  
Done.  I completed the full mileage for every run and didn't listen to the mind games telling me to quit early.    

3. Try making a bib for TJ.  
I had high hopes for the one, but after realizing that I needed a new needle for my sewing machine, I quickly forgot.  Oops!  

4. Start working on Sophie's big girl room.  
Done.  I've made lots of progress and only have a few odds and ends to finish.  Sophie loves her room and is so proud to show it off.  Now to get her sleeping in there all night! 

5. Complete the lesson plans for the last nine weeks of school.  
Done.  I finished the plans for history and science (complete with activities!) and have a rough outline for math and spelling.  Five more weeks to go!     

April Goals
1. Order M's standardized testing.
2. Sell unneeded school books and clothes on ebay.
3. Drop off boxes to our local donation center.
4. Switch out the kids' cold weather clothing and put in the warm.
5. Work on a new daily routine for spring and summer.

What goals do you have planned for April?
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