Friday, September 30, 2016

{around here} Week 39/52: Week of 9.26.16

A collection of our ordinary days, recorded every week.

Around here, I have been:

celebrating Sophia.  How is she four already?  She started her special day with a date with her dad to get breakfast bagels and donuts (a tradition!), and opened her gifts to the oohs and ahhs of her brothers.  Her big gift was a pink scooter and she is a pro already, flying around the house!  She requested rotisserie chicken and homemade mac & cheese for dinner and a carrot cake for dessert.  She is so smart, funny, kind, beautiful and just a little bit sassy - we love her so.  

wearing long sleeves for the first time this season!  The weather has settled into the 70s and it's awesome.  Being able to turn off the AC and feel the cool breeze through the open windows...there really isn't anything better.  

dealing with TJ and a random case of Hand, Foot and Mouth - we can't catch a break!  He looked horrible, but was still his happy self most of the time.  Unfortunately, he also passed it on to two of his brothers, which resulted in a couple days home from school.  Hoping October is better health-wise for these kids!

taking Tums all.the.time.  My heartburn is unreal!  What's the old wives tale?  Heartburn means a baby with lots of hair?  At this point, I'm thinking this boy has enough for a ponytail, hah.  

reading The Gap of Time, but not sure how I feel about it.  It was another chance to read outside of my comfort zone, but way more graphic than I'm comfortable with.  I'll be happy to finish and move on.

researching for Big White Farmhouse.  The holidays are right around the corner, so I've been reading everything I can to prepare.  It's exciting and nerve-wracking, especially with having a baby in the midst of it all, but I'm ready for the challenge.  Other things to note:
+ Our big news this week: we've added beautiful wooden toys to the Children's Room section!  The craftmanship is unbelievable and they are definitely a toy that could be in a family for generations.  I purchased an airplane for a Christmas present for TJ and was so impressed that I quickly ordered a bunch for the shop!  We are carrying five vehicles: an airplane, a firetruck, a police car, a blue jeep and a pink coupe.  I also love that each vehicle comes in a fun drawstring bag - so easy for gift-giving.
+ I reordered the popular Love Grows Best signs in both black and gold.  Available for presale and should be ready to ship around October 10.
+ I also added eGift Cards, which can be sent directly to the recipient via email.   

making White Chicken Chili aaaand that's about it.  We ate a lot of random leftovers and cereal for dinner.  Not my best culinary week, but life is sometimes like that.  Better culinary endeavors next week!  

preparing for an exciting weekend: my brother's wedding!  


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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

{100 little things} September Review: New Pajamas, Little Margaret & College Care Packages

September has been a tricky month.  With the beginning of the school year, most of my focus has been on creating a new fall routine.  And then there was all the sickness and the germs...yuck.  I think that's the best part of 100 Little Things, though - sometimes life is full and this list takes the back burner, sometimes it's just what I need to fill in a gap.  Ebb and flow.  Current totals: 7 completed and 7 partial finishes.

#9. Financially support a family raising money for an adoption. 
This was one of those goals where I prayed for the Holy Spirit's lead.  I wasn't sure what month I'd be able to complete it, but trusted that God would lead me to just the right couple when the time was right.  So when Hannah mentioned her friends' fundraiser in a blogpost, I couldn't hit that Paypal button fast enough!  Jonathan and Amanda Teixeira are currently fundraising for the adoption of their second child - please consider helping them too!

#14. Send a care package to a college student.
I sent my sister, a college freshman, a little package of fun things: a book, hair ties, fun paper straws, drawings from the kids and candy.  Of course, I was rushing to beat the mailman, so totally forgot to take a photo, but picture a preppy pink & blue themed package.  I hope she likes it and more importantly, knows she is loved.    

#20.  Learn about a new saint.
I came across the name Blessed Margaret of Castello while reading the Incorruptible article in the latest Soul Gardening Journal.  It only took a quick Google search to quickly become endeared to this sweet lady, the patron of the unwanted.  A few great links, if you'd like to learn about her too:
+ Her Biography
+ The History of Little Margaret of Castello
+ A Novena for the Intercession of Little Margaret

#84. Buy new pajamas.
As someone who typically just wears old t-shirts and yoga pants to bed, I've really wanted a set of nice, "grown up" pajamas for the postpartum time after the baby is born.  Imagine my surprise when I found a package in my mailbox with an early birthday present from my aunt with the exact pajamas I've been considering!  I was so touched and can't wait to wear them in December.    

#19. Pray 5 novenas. (2/5 completed)
Saint Therese is one of my favorite saints (and my confirmation saint too!), so I prayed her novena as her feast day comes up on October 1.  This novena is extra special because I joined countless others as we prayed for Rosie and her unborn baby.

#52: Watch 15 documentaries.  (4/15 completed)

The Perfect Human Diet: Mark and I like to watch health docs as a way to jumpstart better eating when we've been slacking, but I'd pass on this one...we were falling asleep, hah!
Fearless (Netflix documentary series): I really like watching documentaries about things I know nothing about and bullriding is right up there on that list!  The sport is so dangerous and crazy, but I can understand the fact that intense love can drive you to do something anyway (namely, running a marathon just for fun!).

#68: Grow Big White Farmhouse's Instagram followers to 400+. 
I lost a bit of social media steam this month.  My numbers went from 254 to 356 (as of 9/29), which is a step in the right direction, but still slow going.  I'm realizing that creating brand awareness on Instagram requires a lot of time: discovering interesting accounts, interacting with those accounts as well as the people who comment on our photos, liking liking liking...sometimes it's all too much for this introvert.  Trying to find the balance.

Friday, September 23, 2016

{around here} Week 38/52: Week of 9.19.16

A collection of our ordinary days, recorded every week.

Around here, I have been:

celebrating our "baby" turning two!  His birthday was such a crazy day and nothing seemed to be going to plan: a stomach bug went through two of the big boys, he refused to eat his special dinner and the cupcakes were store-bought from Wegmans with the only candles left in the house (pink!).  It was a good lesson for me in what matters most.  We were all together and his siblings were so excited to give him his Batmobile.  They played with him all afternoon!  It wasn't Pinterest worthy or exciting, but it was good.

cleaning the entire house in an attempt to rid it of all these nasty germs.  After the big boys got sick, it quickly passed to Mark, TJ and me.  And we seem to take triple the time to get better!  I've been washing all of our sheets and wiping down every surface.  

loving our new couch, even though it was the cause of so much indecision! What to get, where to get, fabric choice to get and on and on...  We finally decided to just expand our exisiting Ikea sofa and purchase new slipcovers.  In the end, it was way cheaper and with TJ constantly making messes (and another brother coming right behind him!), we thought it's probably best to wait until the kids are a little older to invest in a "nice" couch.   

welcoming the third trimester and feeling like this baby is going to literally break me, hah.  It must be the fact that this is baby #6, or maybe I'm just old, but this pregnancy seems to be the hardest yet.  My pregnancy pros and cons list:
Con: painful sciatica and lower back pain, making me waddle something fierce // Pro: blood pressure back to normal!  
Con: baby is moving and pushing all over the place (also considered a pro) but the midwife at my appointment said it could be until close to 38 weeks before he engages head down "because there is just SO much room in there" (insert grimace emoji here) // Pro: I've only gained 15 pounds so far (way less than typical) and she also mentioned that the baby "didn't feel very big at all", so that's encouraging!    
I also took my glucose test this week.  I've been dreading it, but on Monday morning, I felt drawn to offer my fears and anxiety for sweet baby Regina.  So far, no phone call, so hopefully no news is good news?

looking into Trim Healthy Mama.  As much as the name makes me roll my eyes, I think it's worth exploring.  As I get older, I can feel the effects of sugar in a whole new way: I love the initial "high" but then typically feel awful after!  I know the carefree sugarholic days of my youth are gone and it's probably time to start taking better care of myself.  THM is a little overwhelming, but I'm taking notes (I bought both the book and the cookbook) and hoping to start small before ramping it up after the baby is born.     

watching Madam Secretary.

reflecting on a passage from my devotional: "Beg God to grant you true love of others and you will be rewarded with more than you know how to desire."

watching the boys thrive at school.  The transition has been so natural and I know God's hand is definitely on every piece.  There really is no "perfect" schooling option, but for right now, this is working and I'm so thankful.  
+ J is having an ABC Bootcamp in Kindergarten and every child was assigned a day and letter.  He lucked out with the letter "J" and brought in a Jack-o-Lantern, jam and a jump rope. 
+ D is doing wonderfully and his teacher says that he is right on target with the rest of the class.  (No extra help needed for dyslexia/dysgraphia!)  It's been so nice to watch him want to read books, something I'd have to force on him when he was at home.  He is also suddenly very interested in writing and illustrating his own stories - so exciting!     
+ M's first big school project was to create a salt dough version of the state of Virginia, along with major rivers and landmarks.  I'm thankful that he is being able to expand his knowledge in that way - he's such a creative learner.    

(not) working on Big White Farmhouse much.  The yuck spreading through our house took most of my attention.  Just a couple notes for this week:
+ I'm watching the ebb and flow of business and trying not to freak out during the slower moments.  It's so hard to be in the valley and not panic, wondering why the heck I'm doing this in the first place.  But then there's a wonderfully strong week and I remember again why I love this job. Small business is not for the weak!
+ We're celebrating the offical start of fall with a Free Ship Weekend!  Coupon code is FALLFREESHIP and good until Sunday night.

having a hard time coming up with ideas to write in this space.  I've been blogging for over five years now, so the idea of "ending" sounds so final, but maybe?  Struggling to find my voice here.

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Friday, September 16, 2016

{around here} Week 37/52: Week of 9.12.16

A collection of our ordinary days, recorded every week.

Around here, I have been:

dealing with the first colds of the school year.  It's not enough to keep them home from school, but definitely a sign that we need to beef up our immune systems!  I dug through Kelly's archives to find her post about keeping her girls healthy during winter and quickly bought the elderberry gummies and Immune C.  Hoping to stay on the offensive before cold weather and new baby comes!

feeling a little like the book, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.  TJ broke our television over the weekend and that simple (unfortunate!) action caused a whole upheaval of my house!  We decided to mount a new TV above our fireplace, which led us to rearrange the living room furniture.  Rearranging the furniture sealed the deal that we should probably order that bigger sectional we've been saving for...but we'd have to move out the existing cabinets...which led us to totally redo the sitting room and turn it into a family library/homework area!  Ahh!  After living here for four years now, it's fun to switch things around, but my brain is working overtime with all of these newly half-finished rooms.

starting a new devotional, Let Nothing Disturb You: 30 Days with St. Teresa of Avila.  The little blurb on the back, essentially a list of everything I'd like to work on, is what sold me: "Let nothing disturb you.  Let nothing make you afraid.  All things are passing.  God alone never changes.  Patience gains all things.  If you have God you will want for nothing.  God alone suffices."  Praying for a fruitful 30 days.  I've also been slowly making my way through the latest Soul Gardening Journal.

searching for an appropriate top to wear to my brother's rehearsal dinner in a few weeks.  I also need to start looking for cooler weather clothing as my current wardrobe is seriously lacking.  With 12 weeks still to go, I'm already feeling pretty whale-like and clothes are a bit depressing.  All for a good cause...

starting to feel "normal" with the kids in school, if that makes any sense.  The after-school crankiness has mostly died off and friendships are starting to form.  They all really like their teachers and we have been pleased with the communication we've had with them.  So far, so good.  The big two also started CCD this week.  This is a big year for D, his First Communion year!  They both have have nice teachers and even know a couple kids in their classes (and even some from school, what a blessing!).  I've had so much anxiety about everything changing this year, but really feel so much peace.  God is faithful. 

working a bit on Big White Farmhouse:
- I'm having so much fun creating content for the blog each week.  For this week's Monday Morning Coffee Chat, we looked at incorporating copper pieces into farmhouse decor.
- Our latest order arrived!  We got these amazing cursive canvas banners (would be such a statement piece for a homeschool room!) and a meal planner/recipe notebook duo that I'm seriously considering snatching for myself!
- I also reordered more soaps.  Chai Spice, Fir Needle & Orange and Rosemary Mint are back in stock, along with three brand new scents.

dying over the three littles in their matching skeleton pajamas!  I originally got a pair for J during a big Carter's sale and then lucked out finding Sophie (in purple!) and TJ's on Kidizen.  

baking Apple Pie Bread and more blueberry muffins.

wrapping presents for TJ's second birthday!  I can hardly believe it - we are so lucky to have this cuddly, smiley, fearless little boy in our family.  He sure keeps us on our toes!

this week's menu:
t: breakfast for dinner - crepes (Mark worked late)
th: leftovers
f: pizza night

Friday Family Movie Night Pick: Ninja Turtles

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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

{#100daysproject} Finding Joy in my Extraordinary Ordinary: Days 1-18

This summer, I've been wound really tight.  I can't pinpoint exactly why, but with so many moving parts, being uncomfortably pregnant, to-do list after to-do list, messy loud kids...I feel like I've been a huge stress pot ready to explode.  My blood pressure at the doctor's office proved to me what I already know...I need to calm the F down.

As I prayed one night for help in this department, a small voice reminded me, "Why don't you just delight in your children, Ashley?  You need to find the joy in this vocation again."

So it is with this intention that I have begun (inspired by Elise and all the other amazing creatives) a 100 Day photography project.  Each day from August 27 to December 4, I hope to seek out and record the extraordinary ordinary, because truly, my life is so, so good.  I chose this 100 day stretch for many reasons: it's the beginning of a new schooling season for us with lots of change.  It's a time of birthday celebrations, our anniversary and a wedding.  It's that sweet spot where we anxiously prepare for a baby's birth while enjoying our last days as a 7-person team.  

Below are the first 18 photos, from August 27 to September 13:

For the first time all summer, he says he's excited to go to school! | Starting the "last day of summer celebration" with Mass and donuts | My brave boys on the first day of school  |  It feels like we're turning an important corner in our business and it's so exciting | I love hearing his belly laughs when he watches a show before school | After struggling to find my new place this week, hearing him ask me for study help made my heart burst.  I miss him | Sneaky helping himself to an extra cookie during family movie night | Gorgeous whispy's going to be a good day | Second only to baking, painting is her favorite thing to do     

Found D reading TJ a book about his favorite super heroes.  What a special moment | I'm really enjoying this new routine of having muffins ready when the boys return from school every afternoon | So big and yet so small, it's hard to believe he's almost two | I miss reading together, all snuggled on the couch.  Note to self: Make the time | This girl and her "flip-a-roos"...she is quite the gymnast! |  After a long day, Mark and J propped their feet up in the exact same way |  We gave TJ one of his birthday gifts early (a Batman costume) and he was obsessed!  I died from the cuteness | Starting a new daily devotional and already feeling convicted | A picture sent to me from his teacher - I love how technology is giving me a peek into his school day  

Friday, September 9, 2016

{around here} Week 36/52: Week of 9.5.16

A collection of our ordinary days, recorded every week.

Around here, I have been:

enjoying a lazy Labor Day weekend.  We purposefully kept our schedule clear and spent the time hanging out as a family.  It was wonderful.  I have a new appreciation for a loud, messy house.  

watching the boys start to find their groove.  At dropoff, they confidently leave the car with a "Bye, Mama.  Love you!"  They look out for each other, cheer each other on and can't wait to share stories at the end of the day (like the silly girl who loves to hug all the boys and chases them around the playground!).  One of my fears with sending them to school was that they would lose their special bond and I'm so encouraged to see that it hasn't happened.  Family comes first.      

(slowly) finding a new routine with the little ones.  I've been so used to a self-imposed strict daily schedule: wake up, coffee on, dishwasher unloaded, check BWF email, laundry started, breakfast...and on and on and on.  Every moment of my day was scheduled to "fit it all in" but now with the boys in school, I'm realizing that I don't need to be nearly so rigid.  And it's so weird!  Learning to just "be" with my little ones again - playing on the floor, reading story after story ...those are sadly things that got tossed to big brothers or on the back burner.  I'm feeling so lucky to be able to give the little ones some of the same focus I was able to give the big ones at this age.  I'm really enjoying "just" being a mom.

thinking about hosting another Pajama Drive for Northern Virginia Family Services in October.  I totally forgot about it last year (I blame it on the Write 31 Days challenge!), but it's something I'm really passionate about and would love to have others join in too.       

crossing off a few projects from my to-do list and it's so good for my nesting heart.  Still can't find that elusive solid-wood dresser though!
+ I've been slowly adding some of Sophie's outgrown clothing to sell on Kidizen (on my to-do list for months!).  Happy to clear some room in her closet, while making some money to buy more clothing that we need for fall.  
My shower is my cleaning nemesis and I can never keep it as nice as I'd like.  So I stopped being cheap, bit the $9 bullet and bought a shower squeegee (affiliate link!) on Jet.  I love it!  Why does every seemingly common sense purchase take me so long?  Mark also swapped out our old, half-functioning shower head and what a difference!  It's the little things.

feeling nervous about my upcoming glucose test.  I had gestational diabetes when pregnant with J and while it's certainly not the end of the world, it's a time consuming (and expensive) process I'd rather not repeat.  Not to mention the 3-hour fasting glucose test is brutal for me (I had it done as a preventative measure with Sophia too and...bluh.)

reaching a big milestone with Big White Farmhouse, which has me dreaming and scheming for the future.  A few other notes:
+ New fall candles are arriving today!  I chose four scents perfect for the cooler months ahead and love their names: Cozy Cabin, Mulled Cider, Pumpkin Caramel Latte and Sweater Weather. 
+ We had a successful Labor Day sale and sold out of a lot of products.  I've spent the rest of the week working on reorders, including the To Market totes and Gather Around the Table towels.  Hoping to keep the shop fully stocked through the Christmas season!  
+ I'm trying to help me visualize and schedule my Instagram posts better.  A beautiful, curated collection is such an underappreciated art and I'm continually learning and tweaking...hopefully I'll get it down by 2017, hah.

baking blueberry muffins (J's favorite from last week), Strawberry Crumble Cake (SO good for breakfast the next day too) and cupcakes to celebrate Mary's birthday.

reflecting on how quickly this time of my life is going.  I've never been one to wish time away and have always tried to just dig deep into the trenches, but even I can't believe how fast it's all happening.  My oldest turns 10 this fall and for whatever reason, that feels like a huge milestone for the both of us.  This sweet boy, who for so long adored the tackiest, most superheroed clothing available, recently told me that he'd really like just plain colored shirts for school this year, if that's okay.  I grinned and added it to the list, but choked that lump back in my throat.  It feels like the end of one era and the beginning of a whole new one.  Bittersweet.  

this week's meal plan:
t: pasta with meat sauce and salad
w: meatball subs
th: leftovers
f: homemade pizza 

Friday Family Movie Night pick: Man vs. Wild

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

{learn goals} Some Goals for September

Things to Look Forward To
- baking regularly with Sophia
- apple picking at our favorite orchard
- birthday celebrations for S and TJ

Things to Work On
- a new fall routine

- regular meal planning and less eating out due to exhaustion/laziness/lack of planning
- intentionally taking time to slow down
- purchasing a few new maternity items for cooler weather

Things to Think About
- a Bible study to begin

- a new apple recipe to bake
- another low-cost marketing technique for BWF
- a documentary to watch


Friday, September 2, 2016

{around here} Week 35/52: Week of 8.29.16

A collection of our ordinary days, recorded every week.

Around here, I have been:

starting a new adventure with the three biggest boys going to our neighborhood public school.  It's a big change, but one that feels right and we're excited to see what's to come.  A few thoughts from this week:

- Surprisingly, I don't really miss the teaching part of homeschooling.  I wasn't aware of the incredible mind space it required of me: books and lesson plans and extra-curriculars and the pressure to give my children a worthwhile education.  It feels nice to take a breather.  That said, I definitely miss their presence throughout the day.  We are used to being together, all day every day, and it's quite the transition away from that.  I think for the best - but still strange and surreal.  
- It's quieter at the house, but definitely not quiet.  Sophia is enjoying having my undivided attention.  So.much.talking.  TJ is full-on terrible two's already, so his tantrums and mess-making definitely keep the house lively too. 
- My sweet J was the most nervous of the bunch and I am so proud of his bravery.  On the first day, he confidently got out of the car, held the nice helper's hand and didn't even look back.  It still gets me all choked up to think about it.  Much to my surprise, he seems to be adapting to school even better than I could have imagined.    
- We couldn't have asked for a better teacher for D.  After sharing with her his assessment, we found out that she has extensive experience with dyslexia and dysgraphia!  She will be helping us navigate the best route to take to get the extra help he needs.  He is enjoying school, but much like his mama, has been observing the new kids and slowly finding his place.  Praying he finds a buddy soon.
- M actually knew a few of his classmates from his previous school and soccer, so has had little problems socially and is excited to return everyday.  His perfectionist tendencies (also courtesy of his mama) make him nervous about what's to come academically, but I've been encouraging him just to take it one day at a time.  
- There have been a few out-of-the-blue emotions from the boys, but I knew they were coming.  They all are internalizers like me, so I knew at some point, they'd need to release all of that pent up stress and nervousness.  One day at a time and lots of listening, hugs, and going to bed at a reasonable time. 

figuring out my new role in our new adventure.  For months, I have been mentally preparing for this week: for the boys' worries or fears, for the new routine we'd begin, for the logistics of dropping off and picking up.  I never really thought much about myself and how all of this change would affect me.  While homeschooling a big family is physically and emotionally exhausting, the blessing is being able to be with your kids through all of the good and bad, happy and sad moments.  And I think that's the part I'm struggling with the most.  I miss that more than I expected.  Having my big kids home for only a few hours everyday is both a relief and a terribly lonely feeling - I know it will get better, but whew.  So many emotions.

holding Sophie as she cried after hearing that J met a few new friends.  "But he's my best friend, mama!"  After having your siblings as your best friends for all of her (almost) four years, it's hard to hear about the competition.    

enjoying the boys and their new interest in survival tactics.  We've been watching Bear Grylls' Man vs. Wild together and while parts of it totally gross me out, they are all entranced.  M is also newly interested in military history, so he borrowed a World War II book from the school library and I bought him the first book of a new series to try out too.

baking after-school snacks every afternoon with Sophia.  She is so happy to be in the kitchen and the boys love having something delicious to come home to.  This week, we were on a muffin kick, so we picked up a mega-pack of cupcake liners and made lemon blueberry muffins (minus the lemon and added a splash more milk), cinnamon apple muffins (and almost burnt them - next time, only 25-26 minutes to bake), and banana muffins with a homemade strusel topping.

reaching 26 weeks, but had to look it up on my phone to figure it out.  Time marches on and I sometimes forget there's a baby in there!  Poor sixth baby.  I've been taking my blood pressure twice a day and having really good readings, so I'm anxious to discuss at my next appointment...maybe I just have general anxiety at the doctor's office?  

working a lot on Big White Farmhouse.  The little two are so used to playing on their own that I'm finding I have tons of time now to work on the business.  This week, I've been sitting in the living room with my laptop while they're playing and it's been working well.  A few notes:
+ I ordered new products to add to our Children's Room - this time, for the toddler/preschool crowd.  I am SO excited about these and can't wait to share.
+ I've also been researching ideas for marketing this fall and it's all a little overwhelming.  Do I collaborate with Instagram ladies?  Find a few farmhouse decor blogs to buy ad space?  Go the Facebook Ads route?  Hoping for some better direction in the upcoming weeks.
this week's meal plan:
t: tacos
w: chicken, macaroni & cheese, and salad
th: chicken fried rice and egg rolls
f: pizza night!

Friday Family Movie Night pick: The Jungle Book (2016 edition)
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