Monday, February 29, 2016

{learn goals} What I Learned in February


I got a wild hair to memorize the Pater Noster (the Our Father in Latin) and wow. So hard.  I listen/watch the chant on Youtube (with the words - crucial) almost daily and am making small victories.  You know you're a little bit crazy when the house sounds like a monastery and nobody bats an eye!  I told Mark that when I get it down, I'm going to stand in front of the living room and present it like I'm in the fifth grade, hah!

TJ will be 18 months in March and I'm ready for a break!  Unfortunately, this is the first time that I've had a baby who shows no interest in weaning and I'm trying to figure out what to do.  We've reduced nursing to nap and bedtime, but he's not above having a full-out fit when he doesn't get his way.  It's totally a battle of wills and I'm exhausted already.      

You don't have to read here long to know about me and my never-ending quest for contentment.  We had yet another teaser of an opportunity fall through and while this one stung, I'm slowly learning to accept that God knows best.  I've also been repeating the phrase, "And if not, He is still good", which is sort-of based on Daniel 3:18.  I'm still not sure if God's answer to our prayers is no or not yet, but God is faithful and I have peace.

I am ashamed to say that I had never even heard of her before working on February's Living Seasonally post, but after hearing her story, I feel connected to her in a special way.  Not because our stories are similar in any way (the suffering she endured throughout her life was absolutely horrendous), but because I feel she has so much to teach me.     

I'm taking a new class on The Great Courses Plus called Our Night Sky.  When I chose it, I thought, "Huh.  I don't know much about the constellations and it would be fun to learn along with the kids."  Um wow.  Astronomy is no joke!  The professor is knowledgeable, but talks fast, and I'm trying my best to keep up!  I'm easily lost when he starts in on how this planet is this many light years away (all of the numbers, ahh), but I'm excited to save up for a telescope and actually learn through hands-on experience.  Until then, I downloaded the Google Sky Maps app on my phone and that's been really fun to explore with the kids. (Another good resource: printing off the month's Evening Sky Map

I've been in a big exercise rut the last few months.  And then came the "DUH" moment: as much as I love a plan set out for me, sometimes you just need to shake it all up and try something new.  I've been trying a variety of exercises and trainers and I'm actually waking up excited to work out!  

Through the rabbit hole of Pinterest, I came across this blog post and knew I had to try it myself.  I found a wonderful seller on etsy (more about that shop soon!) and tried them out right away.  And all of the claims in that post are true! 

I'll blame it on my very stressful toddler (sorry TJ), but I just have zero enthusiasm for the kitchen right now.  Every meal seems like a chore and I get embarrassingly stressed about what to feed the family and myself.  I stare blankly at my meal planning notepad.  I just can't get it together and it's something I want to change.  And that's got to be the first step to improvement, right?  

Last month, I was pretty overwhelmed with all there is to learn about essential oils.  When there is a steep learning curve, I tend to paralyze myself with uncertainty: where do I even begin?!  In February, I decided to just jump in somewhere.  I finally tried the Stress Away from the Starter Kit, which has a roller attachment for applying to your wrists and neck.  (Mark likes it too.)  I took a class about the digestive system and am experimenting with ways to heal some symptoms I've been having.  I purchased the V-6 Vegetable Oil, so I can start trying the oils topically.  I have also been adding a few drops to my dryer balls and love the subtle scent on our clothes.   
(My member number is #3507725 if you ever want to order something!)

Too often, I ignore that feeling in my gut for so many reasons: I doubt my ability, I don't want to impose, I'm afraid I'll look silly, etc etc.  Trying to remember that trust and going outside of my comfort zone can create good things in this world, if only I have the courage.

What I Learned Archives // January

Friday, February 26, 2016

{around here} Week 8/52: Week of 2.22.16

A collection of our ordinary days, recorded every week.

Around here, I have been:

parenting solo while Mark worked a very big conference this week.  He had long days and was only home to sleep before getting up early to repeat it all again.  The kids are understanding and tend to take it all in stride, but Sophie had one sad moment and cried, "This is not a good idea!"  Needless to say, she is quite excited to have her Daddy back this weekend!

playing at the park on Monday with friends.  When the weather is 50 degrees and sunny, especially when the rest of the week is rainy and cold, you take full advantage!  It was so good to smell the fresh air and see my kids running and laughing.  I can't wait for spring.

reading A Man Called Ove, 84, Charing Cross Road and Bakhita: From Slave to Saint.  I finished the first two and just began the third.  All so good.

starting Easter shopping.  I have everyone's Easter outfits (thank you, ThredUp!) and have just started on the baskets.  The goal this year (like every year) is simple, practical and fun.  

staring at the coat rack Mark and I made last weekend every time I pass the laundry room.  There's something so satisfying about seeing a project from idea to finished product, even if there were MONTHS in between the two!

watching TJ and trying to enjoy this adorable, yet challenging stage.  I want to remember how he always gets his white blanket when it's time to watch a show, how much he loves Daniel Tiger and how he initiates "Ugga Mugga" nose kisses.

homeschool notes:
+ We started a big knights and castles unit and we are excited!  This week, we made catapults, learned about castles (this book is a good one) and are reading Castle Diary as our readaloud.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

{book report} My Latest Reads // February

As my part of my Learn goals for 2016, I'm reading a variety of styles and genres of books in the attempt to discover new ideas and expand my horizons.  My goal is to read at least 25 this year, of which I'm keeping track on Goodreads.  Are you over there?  Let's connect! 

Eleanor by Jason Gurley
I'm the annoying girl, who when watching a suspenseful movie, will constantly whisper, "What's going on?  What's happening?  I don't get it."  And for the first half of this book, I was audibly saying those same words.  A mix of science fiction, fantasy and drama, Eleanor is definitely a book outside of my normal.  It's the story of a family with generations of tragedy.  Eleanor, the main character, carries much of this grief and through a series of unexplainable events, travels into the unknown in an attempt to again bring peace to her family.  Hard to explain, but a good (albeit sad) read. 
(I received this book from Blogging for Books, but all opinions are my own.)

You: A Novel by Caroline Kepnes
Let me preface this by saying that I don't recommend this book.  As you know, I'm trying to expand my literary horizons this year and after reading a brief synopsis of this psychological thriller on a blog, I thought I'd give it a shot.  Um...totally not prepared for this one!  While the premise was creepy but interesting (a psychopathic stalker who "falls in love" with a woman he meets in a bookshop), the book itself was way too dark and graphic for my taste.  I pushed through and skimmed the raunchiest parts in hopes for a worthwhile plot twist at the end, but was left disappointed.  I'd definitely pass on this book for something less crude and more entertaining.   

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
I'm leading book club this month and can I just say how much I love this book?  An easy read about a grumpy old man who's really not as angry as he seems.  I love how the Ove's backstory is given piece by piece, chapter by chapter.  And the way he loves his wife?  Ahh, so good.  

My Reading in Numbers

Books Read this Month: 3
Total Books Read this Year: 6
Books Read for the Modern Mrs. Darcy 2016 Challenge: 3
A book published this year
A book you've been meaning to read
A book chosen for me by my spouse

What books did you read this month?

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

{five favorites} Vol.14: February's #5Faves Prize Pack

Welcome to the Five Favorites linkup!
A reminder about a new twist I'm adding to the linkup this year: At the end of each month, I'll be giving away a prize pack to one #5Faves participant!  Here's how it works: every time you link up a blog post, it counts as one entry.  So if you link up a post every week, you'd get four entries.  I'll keep track throughout the month and then randomly pick a winner on March 1.  

Since today is the last Five Favorites linkup of the month, I'm sharing the five items in February's Prize Pack!  A few notes for any newcomers:  I wanted to start the Prize Pack incentive as a way to thank you for visiting here and linking up your posts.  It's my small way of showing you that your words are being heard!  I read every single entry and try to comment on or share a few (I wish I could do this for every one - not enough hours in the day!)  

The giveaway items I've chosen are a mix of some of my favorite things: etsy finds, vintage pieces and little bits picked up from various stores.  All have been purchased by me and nothing has been sponsored.  Here's what I have for one lucky winner in February: 

1 // "Love Lives Here" Mini Sign from Rustic Little Roost

2 // Gray T-Shirt from Pray Hustle Repeat (now closed!)

3 // "Best Day Ever" Mug

4 // Graze Sharing Bag of Salted Fudge & Peanut Cookie

5 // Hair Ties from The Giving Girl


I'd love to hear above five of your favorite things too!  Need some ideas?  Here are a few to get you started:
+ Spring is just around the corner.  What are five things you can't wait for?
+ Have you started your Easter basket shopping?  Share five ideas.
+ Tell us about your favorite clothing store and five tips for shopping there.

Friday, February 19, 2016

{around here} Weeks 6/52 & 7/52: Weeks of 2.8.16 & 2.15.16

A collection of our ordinary days, recorded every week.

Around here, I have been:

recovering from almost an entire week of a crippling stomach bug, hence the double recap this week.  It came suddenly and went through five of us.  Passing any illness in a big family is hard, but this one was particularly rough.  But what a way to enter into Lent!  I spent the next few days furiously disinfecting everything and doing loads and loads of laundry, so we're good as new - fingers crossed! 

receiving new product for Big White Farmhouse.  We just got in three new signs made from reclaimed wood and they are super cute.  I've managed to add two of the three to the site (our nest and kitchen) and hope to carve out more time this weekend.  

exercising every day this week and each day doing something new.  It's pulling me out of my rut and I'm starting to look forward to it each day.  Now if I can keep this up!

thinking about running another half marathon in the fall.  The race location is 10 minutes away from my house, which seems too good to pass up.  A little nervous to train through the summer, but I like a challenge.  

reading A Man Called Ove for book club and falling for the cranky, yet endearing main character with every chapter.

sneaking in special time with the kids one-on-one.  After spending way too much time overwhelmed and moping about how hard it is with my toddler, I decided to think in terms of what I could "sneak" into our days vs. what I was missing out on.  So I started "Coffee, Cocoa, and Cards" with J and we played a few hands of Crazy Eights after breakfast.  After getting all of the supplies, I grabbed M and we sneakily made marbled paper together.  D and I found a hiding spot and did his reading where no one could find us.  Life is what you make it and I'm too incredibly blessed to be grumpy about this season of our lives.    

noticing my oldest and my youngest and how quickly they are changing.  The others are too, of course, but wow.  Time is flying, despite my holding on tight with both hands.

homeschool notes:
+ Starting to bring some more fun back into our school days.  We did the Naked Eggs and Walking Water experiments and they were both big hits.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

{five favorites} Vol.13: Snow Pants, Multiplication Practice & Customer Service

Welcome to the Five Favorites linkup!
A reminder about a new twist I'm adding to the linkup this year: At the end of each month, I'll be giving away a prize pack to one #5Faves participant!  Here's how it works: every time you link up a blog post, it counts as one entry.  So if you link up a post every week, you'd get four entries.  I'll keep track throughout the month and then randomly pick a winner on March 1.  

On to this week's favorites:


After being totally unprepared for the blizzard a few weeks ago (my poor kids!), we decided to finally invest in some real snow gear.  We purchased these pants (along with these boots, which we love too!) and the boys took them out for a test drive after Monday's snowfall.  Two thumbs up and while pricey, they are well-made and will be able to be passed down from kid to kid to kid.

"For 40 days, I paid attention to the people in the service industry, letting Mother Teresa’s words, 'We belong to each other', mean more to me than a pretty phrase to hang on my kitchen wall. For the 40 days of Lent, I treated every person in customer service as if they belonged to me, and soon, they did."

Third grade is all about those multiplication tables and M is currently right in the thick of it.  He's struggling a bit, so I put his math on hold and decided to add fresh ways to practice those facts.  We just started this activity book from Usborne and it is awesome!  Colorful pages and fun activities that use the facts in different ways.  There are even "Quick Quizzes", which hopefully will help with speed and recall.  
(Jessica is my go-to Usborne Consultant - I'm sure she'd love the support if you're purchasing for Easter baskets!)

"Maybe you and your daughter both have thick thighs or wide ribcages. It's easy to hate these non-size zero body parts. Don't. Tell your daughter that with her legs she can run a marathon if she wants to, and her ribcage is nothing but a carrying case for strong lungs. She can scream and she can sing and she can lift up the world, if she wants."
I would add that it's okay to tell her she's beautiful too. :)


Sophia has curly hair that easily gets knotted and tangled.  Lately, she's had a low tolerance for hair brushing (so much whining and dramatic tears!) and I was desperate for a solution!  After a little late night Googling, I came across a random forum and someone recommended this leave-in conditioner.  We use it, along with a regular detangler spray, after her shower and the difference is amazing.  We are both happy girls, hah!  


I'd love to hear above five of your favorite things too!  Need some ideas?  Here are a few to get you started:
+ Tell us about five of your favorite go-to breakfasts.
+ Share five of your favorite small business or etsy shops.
+ What are your five favorite workouts?

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

{five favorites} Vol.12: Five Recent Blog Posts that are Inspiring Me

Welcome to the Five Favorites linkup!
A reminder about a new twist I'm adding to the linkup this year: At the end of each month, I'll be giving away a prize pack to one #5Faves participant!  Here's how it works: every time you link up a blog post, it counts as one entry.  So if you link up a post every week, you'd get four entries.  I'll keep track throughout the month and then randomly pick a winner on March 1.  

Today I'm sharing five recent blog posts that have been inspiring me this week!

1 // Tabitha's 1000 Hours Outside Goal (as part of her 100 Small Things list)
I especially love what she wrote last week: "This week was a turning point for me in looking at my outdoor hours. For the past month it felt like a chore and something that needed checked off the list. But this week, it was ha,tingly obvious that making outdoor time a daily occurrence is such a relief to my soul. When things start to unravel with my patience and the kids are especially wacky, a trip outside to stomp about in mud puddles or a walk to the mailbox does incredible wonders for all of us."

2 // Nicole's Makers Gonna Make: My Master List for 2016
"I should also mention that I don't have a goal to create 25 new things this year or anything like that.  This is all for fun and learning and peaking my curiosity.  Nothing more."

3 // The comments from Janssen's Tell Me What to Read - Winter 2016 Edition
Lots of great new books to check out!  I was furiously writing down titles, hah!

4 // Stephanie's My Month in Photos
"I didn't want the calendar pages from this book going unused, so I decided to mix things up a little and use it as a photo journal/thankful book!"  Love this idea.

5 // A Long Winter's Nap: How Hibernation Helps You
"Now we act as if it’s always summer, demanding consistently high productivity at work and at home. But our bodies require cycles of activity and rest—daily, annually. When days are long, our metabolisms and energy levels amp up.  In winter, we produce hormones that make us sleepy, giving us time to restore body, mind and soul.  And there’s nothing wrong with that cycle—except that we work against it, forcing ourselves to operate at summer levels even in winter. No wonder so many people feel depressed at this time of year!"

I'd love to hear above five of your favorite things too! 

Friday, February 5, 2016

{around here} Week 5/52: Week of 2.1.16

A collection of our ordinary days, recorded every week.

Around here, I have been:

hearing rain outside.  We also had some warmer temperatures this week, so between the two, almost all of the snow is gone.  Crazy to think we were snowed in just a week ago!  

feeling overwhelmed with homeschooling with my toddler.  TJ is so hard at this age: climbing onto everything, having fits when he doesn't get his way, destroying everything in his path... I really need to figure out how to create a school day that benefits everyone.

cheering for D as he finally lost a stubborn tooth that has been bothering him!  

seeing little pink blooms on my Christmas cactus.  But then...TJ ran down the planter with his car and it shattered into a million pieces.  I've temporarily replanted it in another pot and am hoping it doesn't die.

reading A Man Called Ove.

watching M make scones all on his own.  He learned the recipe in his co-op cooking class.  I love how he is growing more confident in the kitchen and making delicious things to boot!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

{five favorites} Vol.11: Nightlights, Marathons & Enjoying Long Winters

Welcome to the Five Favorites linkup!
A reminder about a new twist I'm adding to the linkup this year: At the end of each month, I'll be giving away a prize pack to one #5Faves participant!  Here's how it works: every time you link up a blog post, it counts as one entry.  So if you link up a post every week, you'd get four entries.  I'll keep track throughout the month and then randomly pick a winner on March 1.  

First, let's congratulate Lisa for winning January's #5Faves Prize Pack!  
The winning post: Christmas Gift Favorites

On to this week's favorites:

Protect Your Child's 'PDF': Playtime, Downtime, and Family Time
"There are things to be learned from playtime, downtime and family time that can't be learned in the classroom, onstage, on the field or at the rink.  Our children are learning to bump up against one another and find a way to get along and to find the things that interest them enough to pull them in when time isn't an issue.  They're letting their thoughts sort themselves out, or finding support and comfort in family rituals.  Maybe they'll even learn that eventually, every one feels like they've watched enough television for one day.  Mostly, they're learning to be whoever they are when no one is watching."

I originally bought this for that newborn time when you're up nursing at night.  The light is bright enough to see what you're doing, but soft enough not to keep you (or anyone else) awake.  The kids now use it as a nightlight.  

"The pain that I experienced in the marathon - that's temporary pain," he said.  "Losing a baby is going to be pain endured forever but we have to find ways to cope and this is my way."

The Usborne Book of Drawing, Doodling and Coloring
 We love this book!  The pages are well drawn and interesting.  I like to take these types of books to soccer practice or any place where the little ones need to be entertained.

The Norwegian Secret to Enjoying a Long Winter
"It turns out that in northern Norway, 'people view winter as something to be enjoyed, not something to be endured,' says Leibowitz, and that makes all the difference."


I'd love to hear above five of your favorite things too!  Need some ideas?  Here are a few to get you started:
+ Share five of your favorite blog posts from this week.
+ What are your five favorite movies and why?
+ Show us your planner and five things you do to make your week run smoothly.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

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

Want a fun way to read a variety of interesting books in 2016?  You should join us in The Inspired Readers Book Club!  Tabitha, Shelly and I started last June and it's been a great way to add some adult conversation to my weeks.  We've read a range of genres, which has helped me try books I'd never think to pull off the shelf.  I also appreciate the accountability aspect of the book club; less mindless TV and more reading!

I'm leading the next book for February into March!  I chose A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman.  From the back of the book: "A word-of-mouth bestseller that has causes a sensation across Europe, Fredrik Backman's irresistible novel about the angry old man next door is an uplifting exploration of the unreliability of first impressions, and a gentle reminder that life is sweeter when it is shared with other people."  I can't wait to dive in! 

Our reading schedule will be as follows:
Week 1 (February 15): Chapters 1-9
Week 2 (February 22): Chapters 10-18
Week 3 (February 29): Chapters 19-28
Week 4 (March 7): Chapters 29-Epilogue

As always, we'll have discussion questions posted on Monday, so feel free to jump into the conversation whenever you have time.  We'd love to see you in the Facebook group!

Monday, February 1, 2016

{learn goals} Living Seasonally in February & a Free Printable!

This is a packed post.  Each month in 2016, I hope to share a bunch of ideas for living the fullness of that month.   The possibilities are endless, but I plan to include church feast days, small celebrations, books, crafts ideas and delicious foods to eat.  In no way do I think I will be able to pull off ALL of this, nor should you!  My hope is to provide a handy resource to check in on and get ideas.  I've also included a handy printable at the end. Here we go!   

February - the month of love!  .  

Below are a bunch of ideas for celebrating the fullness of this month.  Again, let me say that in no way do I think anyone (me included!) should think they can pull off ALL of this.  My hope is that you could pick and choose what you'd like to do with your own family.  I've done the leg work for you.  You just need to add the most important ideas to your calendar and get ready for memory making!




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