Friday, May 29, 2015

{around here} Week 21/52: Week of 5.25.15

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:

watching American Sniper on Memorial Day.  A good reminder of the cost of freedom.  I am humbled and thankful for the sacrifices of many who didn't make it home.

working behind the scenes on our new book club!  All the details will go live on Monday.

devastated (only a slight exaggeration) to discover our bird eggs missing from the nest.  After two weeks of watching "our" birds, we woke up one morning to find the nest unattended.  I waited about two hours (which was very strange, since they had always taken turns being in the nest) before checking in on the eggs...and was shocked to find an empty nest.  We were so sad and disappointed!  According to all the research we had done, the babies would have hatched this week and I had it on the calendar like a proud grandmother.  So bummed that the kids and I won't be able to watch the hatching.  Mark just laughs at my crazy. 

eating all the foods of summer: lots of BBQ (Mark made racks of ribs, pork shoulder for pulled pork sandwiches, and brats this week), watermelon, corn on the cob and ice cream cones.  I love this time of year.    

starting a brand new exercise program: Jamie Eason's LiveFit.  Weight lifting is totally foreign to me, but I know it is the fastest way to lose fat and gain muscle, both of which I need to become a better runner.  My husband used to be a personal trainer, so he has helped me learn the exercises and adapt them to our home gym.  I am sore in muscles I never knew I had!  Although it is hard to begin something I know nothing about (and have little muscle strength to boot), I'm excited to push myself and see what I can do.  Like Mark said, "Remember when you thought you'd never be able to run 13.1 miles?  Boom.  You'll be lifting the heavy weights in no time."  

watching the kids' creativity with one of my childhood favorites, Perler beads!  The boys have been good about keeping them in the tray (Sophie's another story, ahem...) and the beads keep them occupied forever!  D even said, "These are better than Legos!" which is high praise in this household.

celebrating the results from M's testing!  Although it mostly confirmed what I already knew, it's nice to see he's going in the right direction.  On to third grade we go! 
thankful that TJ's first top tooth has poked through!  Also thankful for the Ergo...that child is attached to me all day long and having him on my back has been a lifesaver.  I wouldn't get anything accomplished without it! 

introducing the big kids to Mad Libs.  They think they are the funniest thing!  

working on a new "Celebrations" section for Big White Farmhouse.  I put in the purchase orders this week, so we'll hopefully be able to launch the new products in the next few weeks!  

P.S. Big White Farmhouse is having a big sale on our seed bombs this week!  25% off all three varieties with the coupon code "GARDEN25".  Sale lasts until Sunday, May 31.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

{book report} My Latest Reads // May

Where'd You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple
This was such a unique, fun read!  The book is set up unlike anything I've ever read - a series of flashbacks, emails, and other documents all woven together to tell an interesting (and sometimes funny!) story.  It was definitely a page turner; I wanted to figure out where Bernadette disappeared to!  Perfect for summer, I'd recommend as a fast beach read.

See You in a Hundred Years by Logan Ward
This book is about a couple's challenge to spend an entire year living like it was 1900.  If it didn't exist 100 years ago, they went without.  That includes everything from electricity to the internet to indoor plumbing!  Although I read some critical reviews, I still found the premise intriguing.  It reinforced my desire to live in a farmhouse in the country, although I'd like to keep all my modern conveniences, hah!

A Fifty Year Silence by Miranda Richmond Mouillot
I've been struggling to put into words how I feel after reading this book.  Essentially, it's a memoir about a granddaughter discovering her family history and how it coincided with World War II.  It is a story about relationships, the good and the bad, and how life events can alter even the most well-intentioned.  It was an interesting read and I finished it quickly.  As the eternal optimist, I wanted a happy ending, which it couldn't deliver.  But life isn't always sunshine and roses, right?     
(I received this book from Blogging for Books, but all opinions are my own.)

What are you reading this summer?  I always love recommendations!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

{friendship} My Top Five Favorite Ways to Support Bloggers

One of my goals for May was to support my blogging friends in a more active way.  Instead of looking at blogs as solely a way to ingest information, I tried to do my part too.  This goal is still a big work in progress.  Like many, my blog reading time is so limited, but here are five ways I've been trying to be intentional about spreading love to other bloggers:   

1.  Leave a meaningful comment. // With today's social media, it is way too easy to simply "like" or heart a blog post without any real effort.  And while there is nothing wrong with that, I've been trying to take the time and really add to the conversation instead.  Bloggers LOVE comments.  Sometimes blogging can feel like a one-sided conversation and to have someone take the time to leave their thoughts...well, it's special.  I love hearing from my readers, so I'm now trying to do the same.

2. Share. // Have you ever read a post and found yourself nodding in agreement the entire time?  Maybe you tried a blogger's recipe or followed her tutorial and the result was amazing?  Instead of just ingesting that information and moving on, I've been sharing it with my family and friends.  I'd also like to add a monthly roundup into my blog rotation because the internet is SO full of amazing, talented women.    

3. Click on the sidebar ads. // Many of the blogs I read are just small time mama blogs like me.  We put a few ads on our sidebars in the hopes that maybe someday, we'll earn enough to receive a check.  Depending on your pageviews, most ads only generate pennies a day, but something is better than nothing!  I have tried to get into the habit of reading a blog post, then quickly scanning the sidebar for an ad to click.  It just takes a few seconds more, but I hope it helps get that mama a little closer to her goal.   

4. Shop through their links. // Similar to #3 above, small mama blogs like mine also include affiliate links as a way to generate a little income.  When you click through their link and then make a purchase, a teeny percentage will go back to the blogger at no additional cost to you.  The most popular affiliate I've seen is Amazon, so I try to find a blogger to support every time I make a purchase.  I look for an ad (like on my own sidebar) or even scan a few posts for a product link.  

5. Cheer them on! // Not all of us are meant to become big-name bloggers and that is okay.  Even so, our voice is still important.  I tend to be a bit bashful about praising others, but am working to get out of my comfort zone and do it anyway!  To the blogger that inspires you, makes you laugh and challenges you to be better, let her know and cheer her on.  I think those bloggers deserve to know that their presence on the internet is worthwhile.  

Linking up with Rachel!  What ways do you support the blogs that you love to read?  And tell me your favorites - I'm always looking for great reads!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

{creativity} Summer Stitching Stash Blast: My Summer Projects

Like many things in my life, my creativity tends to go through seasons.  Since TJ's birth last fall, I've mostly put crafty things on the back burner.  Reading is a much easier hobby when you constantly have a baby in your arms!  Now as spring turns into summer, my baby gets a little older and I'm ready to return once again.

And oh my, do I have a laundry list of half-finished projects to tackle!  Here are the three big cross-stitch projects I hope to accomplish this summer:

Storybook Princesses
After I made the boys their superhero pillows a few weeks ago, Sophie started asking for one too!  I showed her the options and she chose the Disney princesses (I think Anna and Elsa sealed the deal).  This will be my fourth WeeLittleStitches pattern and they are so great.

Winter Snowflakes
I was on a roll with this easy pattern last summer, but didn't finish before TJ was born.  I just found it again and it shouldn't take long to knock it out.  Still deciding what to do with the finished product.

Mother Teresa
This one was started about two years ago and I can only work on it in bits and pieces.  SO many color changes!  I'm debating changing the pattern to accommodate a round hoop, so I can hang it in a gallery wall in my office.   

I'll be participating in Erica's Summer Stitching Stash Blast linkups and updating my progress in my weekly around here posts.  Hopefully that will create a little accountability!  Have any projects on your to-do list this summer?

Friday, May 22, 2015

{around here} Week 20/52: Week of 5.18.15

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:

feeling pretty good considering the craziness I put my body through on Sunday!  I was sore on Monday and part of Tuesday, but was back to normal by Tuesday night.  I'm easing back into exercise this week, but I can't wait to get back out there and just run for fun. 

still sad about a hurtful incident at the store last weekend.  My (well-behaved!) children and I were walking through the aisles and my husband overheard two young men make a snide comment about me and my family size.  I wish I could say that comments like those roll off my back, but they don't.  Time for some thicker skin, I guess.  

cheering for M as he was nominated to play in his soccer league's all-star game.  He isn't one of the best players on the team, but what he lacks in skill, he makes up with heart.  That kid always gives his absolute best.  And best part?  Out of all of those talented kids, mine scored the only goal.  I'm a proud mama.

listening to D begin to read!  We finished his Pre-Reading curriculum and we've quickly moved onto the next level because, "I want to read, Mama!"  Something is finally clicking and he is sounding out sounds and reading a few words like a champ.  I am so proud of him and get all choked up watching the excitement on his face.  He keeps saying, "Are you crying again, mama!?"

reading the beginning chapter of our book club book for June!  So excited to share more details soon.

watching videos about making super heroes with the rainbow loom with the boys.  M and I started trying and have come close, but keep making an error here and there.  Consider this our summer project...they are challenging!

playing with friends at the park during these gorgeous spring days.

laughing at Sophie and her frequent clothing changes.  Our friend just gave her a big bag full of hand-me-downs and you'd think it was Christmas!  She wanted to try on every single thing, each time saying, "Me yike dis one, mama!" 

researching ideas for next school year.  I'm already writing notes about curriculum choices and searching Pinterest for crafts and activities.  I'd like to have a solid plan soon, so I can slowly purchase the things we need throughout the summer.  Another fun addition to next year: we will be joining a homeschool co-op! 

trying another facial mask while Mark was gone and the kids were asleep.  Most "girly" things are so out of my comfort zone, but I'm quickly becoming a fan of these scrubs.  My face feels awesome afterward!

watching J's tenderness for TJ.  He loves to watch him for me and I will often hear him sharing his guys and telling his little brother all about them.  I can't wait to see how their relationship grows.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

{health} Running My First Half Marathon: the Marine Corps Historic Half

Last Sunday, I finally checked off a big goal on my life list: I completed my first half marathon!  The day was surreal and there are so many things I don't want to forget:

I want to nervous I was the entire week prior to the race.  I was so excited, but the unknown absolutely terrified me.  Was I ready for this?  Had I trained properly?  Would I embarrass myself?

I want to two big goals for the race: Cross that finish line.  Run smart so you don't need to be in a medic's tent with a thermometer up your bum.  I had a preferred finish time as well, but that wasn't nearly as important.     

I want to remember...being wide awake at 4:30 after a restless night's sleep.  I got myself ready and ate my peanut butter toast with banana, then got the kids up with Mark and my dad.  We were out the door by 5:30.  

I want to remember...the weather!  By 7am, temps were already in the 70s, with a real feel of 90 and 98% humidity.  I was not prepared for the heat, but thankful that I chose to wear a Camelbak.  It allowed me to bypass some of the water stations and helped me mentally, knowing I could hydrate at any time.

I want to my music suddenly stopped working right after passing the starting line.  I keep my phone in my Camelbak, which is really inconvenient to take on and off (especially with so many people around!), so I was unable to figure out what went wrong.  I remember praying, "Okay, Lord, you've got my attention.  I guess we'll be talking a lot the next two hours."  

I want to dad's advice (he's the runner I hope to be someday!): "Just focus on one mile at a time."  Because I didn't have my music to distract me, I made Dr. Seuss-like rhymes for myself for every mile: "You've done three, now you can four!  You're doing great, what's one more?"  Ridiculous, but it worked.    

I want to remember...feeling pretty strong throughout most of the race.  My pace was much slower than I hoped, but it was also expected due to the heat.  The course was beautiful, weaving through neighborhoods and downtown Fredericksburg.  Fatigue did set in around miles 10 and 11, which unfortunately coincided with "Hospital Hill", the hardest part of the race.  I walked more than I wanted, but tried not to beat myself up over it.  

I want to remember...mile 12, which was lined with photos of fallen soldiers and Marines.  There were also at least 50 people from Wear Blue: Run to Remember holding American flags with the names of the fallen service members embroidered onto ribbons attached to each flag.  It was moving and humbling.

I want to remember...coming around the last big bend to see my sweet little family waiting to cheer me on.  I was so happy to see them, and then my dad a little further along the course!  I definitely needed that little boost at the end!  

I want to remember...when I hugged Sophia after finishing, she said, "You a good runner, Mama".  And when I thanked J for being so patient and waiting for me to finish the race, he said, "I wouldn't miss your race ever ever."

So thankful for a body that has proven to do so much more than I ever thought possible.  I can't wait to run another soon!

Monday, May 18, 2015

{around here} On Blogging and Authenticity

Like I mentioned last week, I've been doing a lot of thinking about this little blog of mine.  One of my goals for May was to actively support my blogging friends and I guess that in turn has led me to question my own space on the web.  I've been assessing everything from blog design to monetization, but the one factor that I keep coming back to:  Am I being authentic?

I struggle with the answer.  I use this blog as a way to journal the little moments of our everyday life.  While I could (and sometimes do!) record the hard times with fussy babies and bickering brothers, I choose instead to focus on the good: the sweet compliment, the success in school, the delicious dinner, the goal checked off the list.  

Does this not make me authentic?  Does this make me look fake or shallow?

My hope for anyone stumbling upon this space is that they would be inspired to see beauty in the mundane and joy in the monotony.  I would hope they would be inspired to push themselves to try something new.  This blog portrays just a snippet of my life and while it is far from perfect, it is good.  

So with that said, let me re-introduce myself, both for long-time readers and those who may be new around here!  An honest look at the writer behind the Big White Farmhouse:

I'm Ashley, a devoted wife to my best friend and a mother to five great children.  I know without a doubt that this is the vocation I've been made for, but gosh, it is the hardest thing I've ever done.

I've always loved learning new things.  For my third birthday, I even received a backpack full of books and pencils...and I was thrilled!  However, until a few years ago, I was a little bit of a stick in the mud who let fear get in the way of trying new things.  Reading about something was one thing, but actually doing something new and scary?  I've been on a personal mission to be brave and get out of my comfort zone since.  It's difficult, but I rarely regret it.

I don't feel particularly gifted in any one area and will never come to this blog attempting to teach you something.  I do put a lot of passion into my attempts, though, and I hope that's what comes across to you as a reader.

I am an introvert and a homebody.  If I'm home for the day, you'll most likely find me in running clothes.  Gift giving is my love language.  I am passionate about my small business, but terrified of failing.  My baby is almost eight months old and I still have 15 pounds of baby weight to lose.  I love setting goals for myself, but sometimes they totally stress me out.  I could eat cheeseburgers every single day.  

My hope is that if you met me in person, you'd say, "Yep.  She's just as I pictured her from her blog."  And if you know me in real life, you'd say, "Yep.  That's the Ashley I know."  If I can pass that litmus test, I think I'm doing something right.  Here's to living a more authentic life, both on and off of the computer!   

P.S. To my readers: Thank you so much for stopping by.  You have no idea how much I appreciate you.  I'd love to know your thoughts on authenticity.  And if you've never left a comment before, please introduce yourself!  I'd love to get to know you.

Friday, May 15, 2015

{around here} Week 19/52: Week of 5.11.15

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:

recovering from last weekend's festivities and preparing for another big one ahead! My world seems so busy and I'm so ready for it to slow down a bit.  

thinking about priorities, making good use of my free time, blogging and how the three of them relate.  I think it's easy to get caught up in page views and Pinterest-worthy posts, but that's not really why I started this blog.  I'm not an expert or a teacher; I'm just a mom in love with her family and her home.  Ultimately, I want to create a virtual scrapbook of our days and share a little about how I'm growing/changing.  It may not make me lots of money, but it's enough.              

watching a mama bird in one of our hanging baskets!  After some research, we think she (and the daddy) are mourning doves.  It has been so fascinating to watch them work together to make a nest.  We even peeked and saw two eggs!  A few more amazing facts, courtesy of this website
Mourning Doves raise three or more broods in a single breeding season. Both parents build a flimsy platform nest of twigs located from 5 to 25 feet up in a tree or bush. Two white eggs hatch in about 14 - 16 days. One egg is laid in the evening, and the second on the next morning. The male usually incubates the egg during the day, and the female incubates at night. Nestlings, cared for by both parents, fledge in about 12-14 days. The parents continue to care for the fledglings until they are 25 to 27 days old.
This also probably seals the deal that I am indeed an elderly lady trapped in a 30-year-old body. 

purchasing an Ergo after a week of a teething baby who doesn't want to be put down.  I really should have purchased one two babies ago, but am biting the bullet now.  I need him on my back so I can get things done!

loving Sophie's sweet heart.  No matter what I make, she is so complimentary and will say, "Oh mama, 'licious cookies!" or "'Licious pancakes, mama!"

reading very little, only a few pages in Beyond the Birds and the Bees.  I need to get back in my groove.

celebrating the end of our school year!  With our big head start last summer, we are weeks ahead of the local public schools.  We'll still be doing history throughout the summer (at M's request!) and D will still have his reading lessons, but I'm ready for the break.

packaging up a fun donation for the ladies at the Catholic Women's Blogging Network Conference in Ohio next weekend.  I am so happy to have Big White Farmhouse included in their raffle!

feeling nervous and excited for Sunday.  It's so surreal to finally be at this point after training for 14 weeks and I'm anxious to see how I do.  Ready to get 'er done!  

Friday, May 8, 2015

{around here} Week 18/52: Week of 5.4.15

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:

preparing for our big First Communion weekend.  We have lots of family coming, so I am cleaning, putting together a guest room and making a big delicious menu!  I truly am in disbelief that M is old enough for this big occasion.  I am fairly certain that I may cry on Saturday, so let's pray I stay at happy tears and not veer into the ugly cry, hah!  

sticking close to home as we've had workers in and out all week fixing our basement from the flood damage.  They are doing great work, but many of our things have been displaced around the house and with our big weekend coming up, it's left me a little stressed.  Trying to remember that some things are out of my control and that's okay. 

dying at the cute things Sophie says.  When TJ had a blowout, she ran upstairs and got him a new outfit.  I said, "Thank you for helping me!" and she replied, "Problem!" (meaning no problem).

reading Beyond the Birds and the Bees.

loving the ferns I picked up at Lowes last weekend.  It might quite possibly make me an 80 year old grandma, but they really do make me happy.  Now if I can keep them alive...

finishing (finally!) a project that's been on my to-do list for over a year: we turned the cross-stitched superheroes into throw pillows for the boys' beds.  The boys were in charge of the colors and design and they are all so proud.  Sophie was a little jealous, so I am quickly getting to work on a princess version.  

testing M.  It was pretty painless and I think he did well.  We just sent it off to Seton and hope to receive the results soon!

participating in a new site called Shopping with Blessed Zelie.  Their mission is to support small Catholic businesses and shop-owners and I am so lucky to be able to share Big White Farmhouse through them.  Each week, a new business will take over the blog to share about what they sell and do.  Big White Farmhouse's turn will be sometime in July!  

running less as I taper in preparation for the half.  Just one more week until the race!  I am feeling all the emotions (which sort-of feel like preparing for childbirth): excitement, fear of the unknown, pride for what I've ready to knock this goal from my life list!
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