Wednesday, September 30, 2015

{thrive goals} September Review // October Goals

September.  A month of new beginnings and busier schedules.  A month of happiness and hardship.  A month filled with lots of laughs and a few tears too.  A month of celebration for our two littlest.  Transition months are always a bit tricky and September was no exception.  But at the end of the day, it was good.    

A few of my favorite blog posts in September:

+ Better than Before: A Review
+ The Inspired Readers Book Club: Book Three
+ 20 Things I Love: A Gratitude Journal vol.4

My September goals, reviewed:

1. Make more concrete plans for PreK.  Done.  I ordered a Letter of the Week Preschool Curriculum and so far, I've been really impressed.  We supplement the worksheets with lots of picture books and a craft or two and it seems like enough.  
2. Make an emergency preparedness kit.   This turned out to be a huge undertaking!  A simple search on Pinterest revealed a whole new world of 48-Hour Kits and Bug Out Bags.  Needless to say, I was a bit overwhelmed!  I decided to start small and make Mark a Winter Prep Kit for his car.  Other small steps we took: buying more non-perishables in bulk, making sure we have flashlights on every floor, and starting a first aid kit.      
3. Go to the dentist. Done!  So glad that is over with!
4. Get back to making reading a priority.  How do I answer this one?  Sort-of?  I'm definitely choosing to read again, but not getting very far.  There just aren't enough hours in a day!    
5. Go apple picking.  Not yet, but we hope to get there in the next couple of weeks.

And my one goal for October:
1. Start and complete 31 days of writing on the blog.  // This is a totally crazy time of year for me to attempt something like this, but I'm jumping in anyway!  Hoping for the best...we'll see how it goes!

Friday, September 25, 2015

{around here} Week 38/52: Week of 9.21.15

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:

struggling with the ugliness that comes along with blogging.  While I personally have never had hateful things spoken of me (that I'm aware of...and I'm not sure I want to know if people have), I'm sickened that it happens to others.  People can be so cruel and my sensitive heart struggles with that.  Some days I consider shutting down the whole operation here...

reading The Winter of our Disconnect.  So thought-provoking.

going to the dentist!  After too long away, I was so sweaty, "how do I get out of this?" nervous.  Fortunately, everyone was very nice and I made it out okay.  Unfortunately, the repercussions of the diet soda habit of my 20's has come back to haunt me - my poor enamel!   

watching coverage of the Pope's visit.  The excitement and joy is palpable!

celebrating my girl.  She's all about Madeline right now, so we got her a movie, a puzzle and a peg doll for her cupcake (which she's played with nonstop ever since).  We also got her dress up skirts and while I worried that the gifts weren't exciting or "big" enough, she was thrilled and has played with everything.  A good reminder that simple really is enough.

baking bread from scratch (no bread machine, my first time!) and vanilla cupcakes. 

considering checking off "Write everyday for a month" off of my 100 Little Things List in October.  Is that crazy?    

loving the cooler temperatures, even if we were back in the 80's by the end of the week.  I'm dying to break out my sweaters and boots.  

Friday, September 18, 2015

{around here} Week 37/52: Week of 9.14.15

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 like an old lady.  I was the only one to get sick after watching the boys' soccer games in a downpour last weekend!  I've been keeping afloat and trying to keep up, but whew.  I'm ready to feel better and get back to exercising. 

reading the first chapters of The Winter of our Disconnect and there's so much to think about already.  We start discussion in our Facebook group on Monday.

cheering on Mark as he launches his new company, Catholic Combat.  He is so passionate about our faith and desires to create apparel that displays Catholicism in a new way.  I am so proud of him and his big dreams.    

learning about bats during our first week of unit studies.  We've read books, researched different species and watched many videos.  Did you know that the largest species of bat is called the flying fox and has a wing span of over six feet?  I've learned so much this week.

selling my first few items on Kidizen!  So exciting to get that notification on my phone!

loving my sweet, sweet Sophia.  She never, ever stops talking and so one evening while making dinner, I said in frustration, "Sophie!  Can you please stop talking for five minutes?!"  She replied without missing a beat: "Why, mama?  You my best friend!"

in denial that my baby boy is turning a year old!  The past twelve months have been an absolute whirlwind, but so so good.  We are so blessed to have him in our family.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

{currently} 20 Things I Love: A Gratitude Journal vol.4

sunshine peeking through the clouds after a torrential downpour during soccer
watching TJ mummy-walk around the house
bedtime prayers with the boys
confidence in my own skin
less social media distractions, more time for things that matter
the kids' enthusiasm for their co-op classes
reading funny stories just so I can hear J's belly laughs
the first batch of homemade chili
feeling enough of a chill in the morning air to grab a sweater, if only for a few minutes
Sophie's sweet love for TJ as she says, "Oh mama!  Look at him!"
a pile of books to read on my nightstand
my new fall jacket
the beginning of new friendships
listening to D read to me
a laundry basket full of clean, folded clothes
when Mark offers to cook dinner
learning something new along with the kids
the memories made with M as we do T25 together (who else in this house understands my Shaun T-isms?)
packaging Big White Farmhouse orders
this quote: "Because always, even in the darkest moments, in moments of sin, in moments of weakness, in moments of failure, I have seen Jesus, and I trusted Him...He has not left me alone." -Pope Francis

Monday, September 14, 2015

{book club} The Inspired Readers Book Club: Book Three

I am so excited for our third book with The Inspired Readers Book Club!  Starting September 21, we will be reading and discussing The Winter of our Disconnect: How Three Totally Wired Teenagers (and a Mother Who Slept with Her iPhone) Pulled the Plug on Their Technology and Lived to Tell the Tale by Susan Maushart.  And guys, this one is going to be good.

Here's just a snippet from the Introduction:
The Winter of our Disconnect - aka the Experiment (as we all eventually came to call it - was in some ways an accident waiting to happen.  Over a period of years, I watched and worried as our media began to function as a force field separating my children from what my son, only half ironically, called RL (Real Life).  But to be honest, the teenagers weren't the only ones with dependency issues.  Although a relatively recent arrival to the global village, I'd been known to abuse information too.  (Sneaking the iPhone into the toilet?  Did I have no self-respect?)  As a journalist, it was easy to hide my habit, but deep down I knew I was hooked.  
The Winter of Our Disconnect started out as a kind of purge.  It ended up as so much more.  Long story short: Our digital detox messed with our heads, our hearts, and our homework.  It changed the way we ate and the way we slept, the way we "friended," fought, planned, and played.  It altered the very taste and texture of our family life...In the end, our family's self-imposed exile from the Information Age changed our lives indelibly - and infinitely for the better.  This book is our travel log, our apologia, our Pilgrim's Progress slash Walden Pond slash Lonely Planet Guide to Google-free Living. 
 At the simplest level, The Winter of our Disconnect is the story of how one highly idiosyncratic family survived six months of wandering through the desert, digitally speaking, and the lessons we learned about ourselves and our technology along the way.  At the same time, our story is a channel, if you'll excuse the expression, to a wider view - into the impact of new media on the lives of families, into the very heart of the meaning of home.

Our reading schedule will be as follows:
Week 1 (September 21):  Introduction, Chapters 1 & 2
Week 2 (September 28): Chapters 3 & 4
Week 3 (October 5): Chapters 5 & 6
Week 4 (October 12): Chapter 7 & 8

Like before, we'll have discussion questions posted every Monday, so feel free to jump into the conversation whenever you have time.  We are always open to new members and would love to see you in the Facebook group!

Friday, September 11, 2015

{around here} Week 36/52: Week of 9.7.15

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:

celebrating Our Lady's birthday with friends.  The kids created little triptychs, decorated cupcakes and sang Happy Birthday.  It was simple and sweet and a good reminder to incorporate more of the liturgical year in our everyday.

laughing (as usual) at Sophia.  Every week, she says something new and hilarious!  Her latest is a hand-on-the-hip, big sigh as she tells me, "He bossin' me 'round."  It's never particularly true and she blames everyone from TJ up to M.  She also tries so hard to keep up as her brothers talk about Lord of the Rings or the Hobbit.  I hear her excitedly offer, "Bilbo Baggins!" every.single.time.  

reading Loves Does and I just started the latest choice for the Inspired Reader's Book Club (more info on Book #3 coming next week!).

receiving a box from Stitch Fix and for the first time, I kept all five pieces!  I did sell one top on a Stitch Fix B/S/T Facebook group, and I'm iffy about the necklace, but the other three pieces (along with the 25% off discount) made the deal too good to pass up.

starting the Beta phase for T25.  Definitely harder than the first phase, but I like it.  Speed 2.0 is my favorite.

selling (or at least trying to!) unneeded things around the house.  I started adding some baby clothing on Kidizen (find me there at Big White Farmhouse) and I've put a few items on our local yard sale Facebook group too.  

working in bits and pieces on Big White Farmhouse.  We launched a handful of new items for fall (gather towels in four colorways and lip balms) and I'm getting ready to order for the Christmas season.  I still haven't figured out how to add in regular "office hours" to my week yet, but every little bit helps me get closer to my goals.

planning a new part of our learning: open-ended unit studies.  With a science or literature-based "spine", we'll be exploring everything from sharks to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.  I want to incorporate all kinds of learning: art projects, cooking, a combination of fiction and non, videos, experiments and field trips.  I'll introduce the topic and then the kids will take the lead.  I'm excited to see what we all can learn.  Next week, we start on bats!       

Monday, September 7, 2015

{link list} Best of the Web Vol.03

Kitchen Sink Missionaries //  With all the horrible things in the news these days, I often feel helpless.  This is just one small example that we can do something, right where we are. 

Crash Course Kids  //  A gem of a Youtube channel, featuring science topics for kids.  I'll definitely be adding these to our lessons.

Postpartum Depression is like the Ocean // This one was incredibly powerful and brought back a lot of painful memories of my own postpartum depression.  A good reminder that is okay and even admirable to get the help you need.

A Teenager's View on Social Media // In short...I'm old.

The Crayon Initiative // Recycling unwanted crayons into unlimited possibilities.  I love this.

Reading Out Loud // I love the idea that the kids can flip through and reminisce about their favorites.  Definitely starting a book of our own soon. 

Friday, September 4, 2015

{around here} Week 35/52: Week of 8.31.15

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:

having a hard week.  Between adjusting to a busier schedule, having cranky kids, struggling to fit in all of my commitments, horrific news stories, crazy hormones and car trouble, I am beat.  TJ is into everything and I can't seem to get ahead of the household chores either.  I'm so thankful for a long weekend to sleep and catch up.   

starting our new soccer season routine.  Practices are twice a week, back to back, which means quite some time on the soccer field!  The little ones have been troopers.  I'm brainstorming some surprises to get for them to pass the time.    

watching Reading Rainbow on Netflix.  I thought the kids might think they were hokey, but they love the show!  In the first four episodes, we learned how bowling balls are made, about the benefits of composting, how to make a comic book and that we're never too old to learn something new.

buying new fall pajamas for the little kids.  The big boys have decided that they'd just like to wear sweatpants and a shirt to bed now and that makes me a little teary.  Where did these big kids come from?!  I'm compensating by buying these and these and these for Sophia and TJ.    

finishing up the first phase of T25.  I absolutely love this program.  I love that I am seeing results in a time frame that works for a homeschooling, small business owning, mother of five!  If I can do it, anyone can.

reading Love Does for me and Pippi Longstocking as our school read aloud.

loving how Sophia says her "f"s as "s"s.  Her family is her "sam-ly", she loves "shench shies", and she hurt her "singer".  Like the boys, I know I will blink and she'll be saying all of these words correctly, so I'm eating it up for now.      

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

{book report} Better than Before: A Review

Even if you haven't read this blog for very long, you probably can tell that I love goals.  They excite and energize me and the practice of setting them monthly has really changed my life for the better.  So you can imagine my excitement when I was given the opportunity to read and review Gretchen Rubin's latest book, Better than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives!

The premise of the book is that we can create and then use habits to ignite positive change in our everyday lives.  Rubin believes that we have the ability to modify less desirable behaviors (like eating junk food, not exercising, clutter, etc) and then turn them into actions that become as rote and routine as brushing your teeth. 

In order to know which strategies will best work to accomplish that goal, Rubin starts with the descriptions of what she considers four main tendencies: Upholder, Questioner, Obliger and Rebel.  (You can find out where you fit by taking the quiz here.)  Just as many people learn differently, we also use different strategies when it comes to habit building.  (So what may work for me as an Upholder might not for you as a Rebel.)  Rubin believes that this self-knowledge can be the key to being more successful in the habits we wish to create.

The book is packed full of strategies and anecdotes, but here are just a few things I found thought-provoking:

+ I really enjoyed the section on distinctions, which helped me discover things about myself that I've never really taken the time to address.  For example, it turns out that I am a Lark. I don't mind waking up around 6:00 and I tend to do my best, most focused work in that early morning time frame.  My other distinctions: I'm an underbuyer (I call myself cheap, but underbuyer sounds better), a simplicity lover (I'm always decluttering), a finisher (I will keep a tube of toothpaste until I get every.last.drop) and am promotion-focused (hello gold stars!).  

+ When it comes to dieting or eating healthier, are you an Abstainer or a Moderator?  I was surprised to realize that I'm an Abstainer.  As Rubin writes, "...if I try to be moderate, I exhaust myself debating: How much can I have?  Does this time 'count'? If I had it yesterday, can I have it today?"  This played itself out in real time during my Whole30 this summer.  While the idea sounds extreme and miserable, I actually found freedom in knowing exactly what I could and couldn't eat.  I didn't have to mentally debate whether I should have one or two pieces of bread - I just couldn't have bread.    
+ I was really inspired by the section about starting.  The takeaway: just start.  Not tomorrow and not when the time is right.  Today is just as good a time as ever to begin.  I tend to like neat beginnings, like goals that start on January 1st or beginning something new only on Mondays, so this was tricky for me.  I put it in practice by starting T25 on a Tuesday and launching my 100 Little Things project in the middle of summer.  

I enjoyed Better Than Before and I think I have gained a greater understanding of myself, both in strengths and weaknesses. 

Have you read this one?  What did you think?

  I received this book from Blogging for Books, but all opinions are mine.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

{thrive goals} August Review // September Goals

August...holy moly, where did it go?  With school back in session, the weeks have been flying.  As is usual for me as we adjust to new seasons, I'm still struggling to find that sweet spot of getting it all done.  Trying to learn as I go, but I'd be lying if it didn't stress me out a bit.  

A few of my favorite blog posts in August:

100 Little Things: Round Two
+ Our Homeschool Curriculum Choices for 2015-2016
+ Five Reasons We Love

My August goals, reviewed:

1. Go on a date. Done.  While my parents watched the kids, Mark and I had a lunch date complete with stops at the antique store for me and Gander Mountain for him.  We lead such a wild and crazy life, hah!  It was awesome (and really strange) to be kid-free for a few hours.
2. Complete a Week in the Life project with Ali Edwards. Done.  This project was intense, but I really love the result.  I feel like it's a visual time capsule of our life right now and I'll treasure the pictures in the years to come.  I'm sure I'll do it again someday.
3. Buy a birdfeeder. Done!  We purchased this one.  
4. Revamp my blog's sidebar tabs.  Didn't complete.  I significantly reduced my screen time this month and this fell to the wayside.  Someday.  
5. Continue work on my office.  I didn't touch my office this month!  Need to get on this before the busy holiday season comes around.

And a few new goals for September:
1. Make more concrete plans for PreK.  //  We are starting our fourth week of school and I have been incredibly unprepared for the enthusiasm of my two littles.  I thought I would do a very laid back, reading-rich PreK, but they are demanding more!  Instead of scrambling with Pinterest searches each morning (my current crazy plan of attack), I need a better system.
2. Make an emergency preparedness kit.  // With seven people in the house, "just winging it" probably isn't the best idea.  
3. Go to the dentist.  //  I have anxiety attacks just thinking about the dentist, so this is huge.  Deep breaths...
4. Get back to making reading a priority.  //  With other projects to take my free time, I lost my momentum this summer.  I've got a nightstand with a tall stack I can't wait to dive into.
5. Go apple picking.

What goals do you have planned for September?
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