Friday, December 29, 2017

No.62: My One Little Word for 2018: Roots

We're just days from 2018.  Don't think I'm too crazy, but this is one of my favorite times of the year!  I love a blank page, a fresh start, and the process of imagining the possibilities for the year ahead.

It's also time to choose a new word.  This will be my sixth year, which is mind-boggling to me - how time flies!  My one little word for 2017, Slow, turned out to be the grounding point I needed when my life was clearly the opposite.  The process of buying and selling a house consumed my life for three long, stressful months.  And with the return to homeschooling, the pace really hasn't lessened much.  Yet the biggest lesson I learned is that slow is a mindset.  I no longer believe that busy equals productivity.  I've (sometimes painfully) pruned back many areas of my life and have kept only the most important parts.  I'm more cognizant of quality versus quantity.

Slow.  It's just one little word, but I'm a better person for it.

On to 2018.  I'd been throwing around some ideas, when a few things really stood out:
  • Mark and I finally feel like we can settle down in our new home.  Unless God has other plans, we're here for the long-haul.
  • My grandmother's death earlier this month (and then really feeling the weight of being grandparent-less) has me reflecting on family in a whole new way.
  • Closing my little home decor shop took a part of my identity with it.  I've been doing a bit of soul searching - who am I and what do I want to do?
So with those things in mind, my one little word for 2018 is....roots.

root (n): "the fundamental or essential part"
root (v): "to establish deeply and firmly"

In 2018, I'd like to prioritize and strengthen my roots
... in my role as a daughter
... in my role as a sister
... in my roles as wife and mother
... in my role as a friend
... in my new home
... in my garden
... in my new community
... in my faith

I think it's going to be a good year.  Do you choose a word?  What's yours?

(2013 // Intention, 2014 // Brave, 2015 // Thrive, 2016 // Learn, 2017 // Slow

Sunday, December 17, 2017

No.61: Lessons from Two of the Most Amazing Women I Have Ever Known

2017 seems to have been a year filled with declarations of "Girl Power!" and the rising up and acknowledgement of amazing women.  I feel so fortunate that I don't need to look far for extraordinary examples - I only have to look up my family tree.

I lost both of my grandmothers this year: my Nana in March and my Memere yesterday morning.  They were both strong women, funny, fiercely loyal, and passionate about family.  Below are three lessons they have passed on to me, although I truly could write a book. 

Thanksgiving 2017

You can do hard things

Both of my grandmothers had countless curve balls thrown at them throughout their lives.  One was a widow in her 30's with three young children to suddenly provide for.  One came from a large French-Canadian family, loved children and yet struggled with infertility.  In their later years, my Nana would suffer from dementia and my Memere would spend years in debilitating pain.  And yet, after (I'm sure) many tears and prayers, they both faced their days head-on and made the most of a less-than-ideal situation.  If they could survive such heartache, overwhelm and pain, then surely I can too.  I can do hard things too.

A joyful life affects countless others

The beautiful part of this story is that despite all adversity, they were two of the most joyful people I have ever met.  Happy and full of laughter and so passionate about people.  On the surface, you would never know the pain they carried in their hearts.  But their joy?  Their joy was contagious.  And everyone, from family to friends to acquaintances, could feel it. 

Family matters most

I visited my Nana, unknowingly for the last time, about eight months before she died.  We visited in a sunny sitting room in her nursing home.  Although confused by the dementia and unaware of who I was, my Nana gave me such a gift as she thoughtfully said, "So this is my family."  Even though her brain couldn't remember or comprehend, her heart knew.

My Memere's wish for a long time has been to have her entire family together with her.  We all live states away and with schedules and work and babies, it's been difficult to coordinate such an event.  But in a way I can only think was divinely inspired, we were all able to travel and see her this Thanksgiving.  We crowded into her tiny apartment (all 17 of us!) and shared a meal together.  We laughed and played with babies.  We joked with her and held her hand.  In just a few hours, we made one more memory.  And three short weeks later, God took her home.  What a gift that visit was, maybe even more for us than for her.

When I reflect on my relationship with both of my grandmothers and the countless memories throughout my 33 years, two words always jump out at me: love and home.  Growing up in a military family, they were our grounding point, our constant when life was always changing.  They opened their arms, homes and refrigerators.  They showed me that we choose to be significant pieces in the family puzzle, regardless of distance.  And that choice is an important one. 

So despite missing them both deeply, I rejoice that they are celebrating this Christmas with their Creator and I hold tight to the way their small, ordinary lives impacted mine.  May I live my life in a way that even remotely mimics theirs. 

Well done, my good and faithful servant.  Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities.  Come, share your master's joy. - Matthew 25:21

Wishing you a wonderful Christmas season, friends.  See you in the New Year. xoxo

Friday, December 15, 2017

No.60: Our Farmhouse Schoolhouse in Photos (Week 16)

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Only ten more days until Christmas!  Our social calendar has gotten us out of the house, but not feeling crazy.  I've finished my shopping and have wrapped all of the gifts.  The tree is slowly being filled with homemade ornaments and it's just the sweetest thing ever.  With the help of my new morning habit, it's been my most fruitful Advent in a long, long time.  I've even managed to keep up with the St. Andrew novena! 

In past Decembers, I've felt a whole range of emotions, everything from disappointment to overwhelm to excitement to dread.  Last year, I had a newborn baby and felt like I was just going through the motions in an overtired fog.  But this year, I feel peace.  All is calm, all is bright.  That's definitely not how you'd describe my house (so many little people talking at once! hah), but represents my heart. You never know what can happen in the future, so I'm trying to savor it.  What a gift after a whirlwind year.

Day 11 // The Night of Las Posadas
Feliz Navidad!  We kicked off our week of Mexican Christmas traditions by trying Mexican hot chocolate for the first time.  There were varying responses from the kids: one loved, two thought it was just so-so, and two took a sip and declared it gross.

Day 12 // Our Lady of Guadalupe
We listened to the audio story on Formed as we made chocolate pretzel bites and then talked all about the amazing stories that go along with Juan Diego's tilma.  This Marian apparition is one of my favorites and I love learning a bit more about it each year.

Day 13 // The Legend of the Poinsettia
Another new story from Tomie dePaola for us this year and we loved it.  Did you know that in Mexico, they call the flower "flor de la Nochebuena" (flower of the Holy Night), but we call it a poinsettia because of the man who brought it to the US?  We made our own poinsettias using coffee filters and watercolor paint.  They turned out so cute.

Day 14 // Merry Christmas, Amelia Bedelia
How we love that that crazy Amelia Bedelia!
We wrapped up Mexico by baking Mexican snowball cookies.  The recipe I picked from Pinterest was just okay, but after help from friends on Instagram (thanks so much, Stephanie and Jackie!!), I'll be trying these next:
Stephanie's version (scroll to the last photo - she said her family has been using this for years)
Smitten Kitchen version

Day 15 // Christmas Cookies
I'm sure you can guess what we're up to tonight after Dad gets home from work?  This sugarholic and her little minions are going to need a detox come January. :)

Other things to note:
+ Last Sunday, I made homemade gingerbread for the first time using this recipe.  It was SO delicious and easy to make.  I'll never go back to the hard-as-rock store-bought version again.
+ Our read aloud this week was Truce, a narrative about how troops in World War I would defy the commanding officers by stopping and celebrating Christmas with their "enemies."  Some of the pictures were a little graphic for little ones (dead horses or soldiers laying on the ground), so I just skipped showing those pages as I read.  Lots of good conversation about propaganda, how man's greed and hunger for power affected millions of others and how war isn't as "cool" as it sounds.  M will be studying WWI after Christmas break and this was a great introduction.
+ I wasn't on the ball and didn't find tickets for the live version, so we watched The Nutcracker on Amazon.  The boys were skeptical, but watched anyway.  Sophie really enjoyed it and ran to get her leotard and tiara before it even ended.  I think it's a Christmas time staple!

Current 1000 Books Project Total: 86/1000


+ Health: Aside from a few stretches, nothing.  I have this weird ache in my hip so am playing it cautious.
+ Reading: I finished What Remains True and read a few pages of Anne.
+ Spiritual: Still keeping up with Rooted in Hope!
+ Fun: I gave the blog a much overdue makeover!  I'm still working on some of the kinks (like why random paragraphs on random posts are in bold?!) and have to tweak a few things on the sidebar, but I love it so far.  Fresh and clean and ready for the 2018. 

Monday, December 11, 2017

No.59: 20 Things I Love - A Gratitude Journal vol.5

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the first snowfall of the season
the way our property felt like a winter wonderland all day
having kids old enough to put on their own snow gear (game changer!)
the perfect snow consistency, just begging to be rolled and thrown
watching Mark build a snowman with them in the front yard
steaming cups of hot cocoa and mini marshmallows
 lighting the fireplace first thing every morning
starting the day with prayer and Scripture
big cozy sweaters and warm wool socks
watching the little ones play with our Playmobil nativity figures
holding Mark's hand
the glow of the twinkle lights above the sink
working on our December puzzle, bit by bit (it's a hard one!)
P toddling around like he owns the place
popcorn and cranberry garlands around the tree
the smell of fresh-out-of-the-oven loaves of bread
decorating gingerbread men, made from a new recipe (so yummy!)
Christmas songs on repeat
wrapping gifts with wrapping paper from TJMaxx
slipping into warm flannel sheets at night

Friday, December 8, 2017

No.58: Our Farmhouse Schoolhouse in Photos (Week 15)

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Week One of Advent School was a success.  I desperately needed this change of pace, maybe even more than the kids.  Every day is a reminder to slow down...I have been asking myself constantly, "What's the rush?  Why the hurry?"  Calming the urgency of every.little.task has been challenging, but what's most important will get done.  I hope.

Also important to mention: I started a new habit this week and I really hope I can keep it up.  I've been feeling my introverted-ness in a big way lately and the constant interaction with people has been taking its toll.  (They are everywhere and there's nowhere to run, hah!)  So this week, I started waking up at 5:15.  I turn on the Christmas tree, light the fireplace, pour a cup of hot coffee and sit down to my devotional.  In the silence, I have time to read, pray and drink my coffee while it's still hot.  It has been amazing!  I feel calmer, centered and ready to tackle the day.   

Notes and highlights:

Day 4 // Richard Scarry's Best Christmas Book Ever
We played the board game in the book, worked on our puzzle and had an entire morning dedicated to Art for Kids Christmas tutorials.

Day 5 // The Jolly Christmas Postman
We're really enjoying the children's companion to my Rooted in Hope advent study.  We talked about Moses and then the bigger kids watched the episode about him from The Bible DVD.  (There are some scary parts, so I was close by to block off the screen when necessary.)

Day 6 // Saint Nicholas: The Real Story of the Christmas Legend
The kids found chocolate coins and the Brain Games game in their shoes this morning!
We made Italian soft anise cookies, but used vanilla extract instead.  So delicious and relatively easy to do with a bunch of helpers.  I had some on rolling duty, some on glaze-dipping duty and one on sprinkles.

Day 7 // Country Angel Christmas
We made ornaments with Sculpey clay.  The plan was to make star ornaments (to go along with the story), but the kids went rogue!  We ended up with two candy canes, a cross, a mug of cocoa and a blueberry pie.

Day 8 // Merry Christmas, Curious George (P.S. the hardcover version is less than $4 right now!)
The three littlest woke up not feeling well.  We spent the morning laying low and watching the fire.  For family movie night tonight, we'll be having popcorn and hot cocoa and watching the Polar Express.

Other things to note:
+ TJ has been playing with the Playmobil Nativity  We have it set up in the kitchen and I love to peek in on him.
+ We're still on a Tomie dePaola kick around here and have started his biography, 26 Fairmount Avenue.  We're all loving it so far!  His story about seeing Snow White at the movie theater was adorable and hilarious.

Current 1000 Books Project Total: 78/1000


+ Health: Blogged about my workouts this week!
+ Reading: What Remains True - an e-book I got for free on Amazon.  Really sad and depressing so far.  Hoping it will pick up soon.
+ Spiritual: I'm keeping up with Rooted in Hope and already feeling the fruits of the discipline.
+ Fun: I joined 22 other lovely ladies in a HUGE Christmas book giveaway on Instagram!  We each chose one of our favorite books and one lucky winner will receive them all.  There were so many great choices - I was jotting down titles to add to our own collection, hah!  The giveaway is open until 12PM EST today! 

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

No.57: Workout Wednesday - Off-Season Exercise

two weeks of workout plans to do before racing season

My main fitness goal right now is to be a faster runner.  I ran a horribly disappointing performance at the 10K last month (don't even get me started...) but after a bit of pouting, I'm ready to lace my sneakers again and get to work.  The tentative plan for 2018 is to run a half marathon in May and quite possibly go for the full marathon in November.  Maybe a 10K or two sprinkled in there too.  I won't start officially training until the end of February, so I have a bunch of wiggle room to try new things this winter.  My focus is on good form, speed and getting as strong as I can...I'm looking at you, weak core! 

Below are my workouts from last week and what I plan to achieve in the next few days.  I always aim for five days a week, but life happens and I'll settle for four good ones too.


Monday // OFF DAY - I was still catching up from a week away

Tuesday // 3 miles, easy pace - I didn't run at all while we were gone, so it felt good to get going again.  

Wednesday // "Swing Dance" kettlebell workout - The workout calls for three rounds, but I could only complete two.  I added a 400m walk in between sets, just to catch my breath.  My legs felt like jelly!

3 rounds as fast as good form allows
20 kettlebell swings
20 air squats
20 kettlebell swings
15 air squats
20 kettlebell swings
10 air squats

Thursday // OFF DAY - I was so sore from the day before.  Sign of a good workout!

Friday // 20 minute hill intervals on the treadmill - Stupidly, I thought this one would be a breeze.  Only 20 minutes with changes after every minute?  Easy peasy.  Uh, no.  I was dying and almost felt like I was going to throw up.  8% incline is no joke!

0-1:00     5.0 at 0% incline
1-2:00     5.5 at 0% incline
2-3:00     5.0 at 2% incline
3-4:00     5.5 at 2% incline
4-5:00     5.0 at 4% incline
5-6:00     5.5 at 4% incline
6-7:00     5.0 at 6% incline
7-8:00     5.5 at 6% incline
8-9:00     4.5 at 8% incline
9-10:00    5.0 at 8% incline
10-11:00   4.0 at 0% incline
11-12:00   5.0 at 6% incline
12-13:00   5.7 at 6% incline
13-14:00   5.0 at 4% incline
14-15:00   6.0 at 4% incline
15-16:00   5.0 at 2% incline
16-17:00   6.5 at 2% incline
17-18:00   5.0 at 0% incline
18-19:00   7.0 at 0% incline
19-20:00   4.0 at 0% incline

Saturday // Kelli's Abs and Upper Body Strength Training Workout (Fitness Blender) - 6 rounds of supersets, one arm movement paired with ab work.  I loved the arm portion and struggled through the abs.  After six pregnancies, my core is so weak!  Definitely need work in that department.    

Sunday // 4 miles "long" run - I like to get home from church, change into my sweatpants and stay that way ALL day, but I forced myself into my sneakers instead.  I watched an episode of Amazing Race on the treadmill.

Monday // OFF DAY  

Tuesday // 3.1 miles - This was supposed to be 3 miles at easy pace, which turned into a 3 mile progression run which turned into a "Hmm, I wonder if I can beat my 5K time?"    

Wednesday // Beginner Kettlebell workout - Mark has been using kettlebells and getting great results, so I'm jumping on the bandwagon too.

10 goblet squats
8 (each side) one-arm row
5 (each side) one-arm press
15 kettlebell swings
8 (each direction) shoulder halos
8 (each direction) hip halos
5 (each direction) around the leg pass
15 kettlebell swings
8 (each side) squat to press
15 kettlebell swings

Thursday // 3 miles, easy pace

Friday // 45 minutes of kickboxing (Chris Freytag) - I used to do this years ago and can't wait to try it again.

Saturday // 5 mile long run - Hoping to get in the habit of doing my long run on Saturdays, so I can stay in my sweatpants on Sunday.

Sunday // OFF DAY

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

No.56: New Habits, Little by Little - Cooking at Home (November 2017)

"All great change in America begins at the dinner table." - Ronald Reagan 

Month #5!  November was a month rich in birthday celebrations, anniversaries and meals with family in my favorite place, the real big white farmhouse in Maine.

Week 18 (cont.):
Wednesday, November 1: out for Chick-Fil-A after All Saints Day mass
Thursday, November 2: leftovers
Friday, November 3: five layer dip for the kids, Home Chef for date night (steak with horseradish-herb cream and potatoes presse)

Week 19:
Saturday, November 4: roasted chicken thighs with spinach-artichoke twice baked potatoes (we used milk and a little cheese, so not really #paleo)
Sunday, November 5: easy baked ziti and salad
Monday, November 6: leftovers
Tuesday, November 7: supreme nachos
Wednesday, November 8: one pot creamy tortellini and smoked sausage
Thursday, November 9: slow cooker honey garlic chicken and rice
Friday, November 10: USMC birthday! leftovers for the kids, Home Chef for date night (swiss fondue burger with onion jam and parsley fries), birthday cake

Week 20:
Saturday, November 11: brisket tacos
Sunday, November 12: cheesy brisket sandwiches
Monday, November 13: white chicken lasagna soup
Tuesday, November 14: frozen pizza because Mark worked late and Mama was tired
Wednesday, November 15: creamy parmesan chicken tortellini
Thursday, November 16: M's birthday! he went out for burgers with Mark, the rest of us had leftovers
Friday, November 17: Italian meatball skillet with pasta

Week 21:
Saturday, November 18: Taco Bell drive-through after mass
Sunday, November 19: Maine vacation! American chop suey
Monday, November 20: frozen pizzas
Tuesday, November 21: tacos
Wednesday, November 22: pizza from a new local pizza place - delicious!
Thursday, November 23: Thanksgiving! turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry, rolls...and the pies...and the fudge...
Friday, November 24: Date night! steak for Mark and brisket tacos for me

Week 22:
Saturday, November 25: Panera on the drive home
Sunday, November 26: Our 12th Anniversary! we ended up scrounging around and all eating random things
Monday, November 27: tacos for the kids and steak, homemade french fries and Asian salad (a belated anniversary dinner) for us
Tuesday, November 28: pasta and homemade meat sauce
Wednesday, November 29: roasted chicken thighs and Asian salad
Thursday, November 30: J's birthday! burgers and fries from our favorite local spot

Monday, December 4, 2017

No.55: Intentions for December

It's beginning to look a little like Christmas around here!  We're trying something new this year for Advent: today (on the first Sunday) we brought out the tree, but left it bare.  Then, the next two weeks, we'll slowly start adding ornaments and garland, a little bit day by day.  On the fourth Sunday (and Christmas eve!), we'll put the presents underneath.  Advent is all about preparation and anticipation and I think this will be a fun way to practice both.


  • Habit of the Month: Thanksgiving
  • stick with the Rooted in Hope journal (make a new morning habit!)
  • try to take a decent picture of the kids for Christmas cards
  • buy P's needlepoint stocking
  • stick with December Daily
  • bake one new type of cookie
  • make a calm down glitter jar (100LT #59)
  • watch the Nutcracker (100LT #68)
  • make a popcorn garland for the Christmas tree (100LT #67)
  • wrap and read one book everyday during Advent (100LT #66)
  • reflect back on 2017 and jot down intentions for the new year
  • choose my One Little Word for 2018
  • slow down, unplug and enjoy this last month of the year


If you're reading on your phone or in a reader, click through to see what I crossed off the list!

  • wrap picture books for Advent
  • start the Rooted in Hope journal
  • print out the kids sheets for Rooted in Hope (I decided to save paper and ink and just discuss the questions verbally with the kids)
  • try to take a decent picture of the kids for Christmas cards (no luck yet! I need to get on it)
  • decide on a gift for P's first birthday (Much to the excitement of his brothers, we got him this.  He'll be zipping around the house with TJ in no time)
  • buy P's needlepoint stocking
  • get organized for December Daily (sort-of??  I have a feeling I'll just be winging it)
  • slow down, unplug and enjoy Thanksgiving with family (our week in Maine was wonderful)

What about you?  What's on your to-do list for the next few weeks?

Friday, December 1, 2017

No.54: Our Farmhouse Schoolhouse in Photos (Week 14)

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Another first at the house this week: in the middle of the night, Mark and I woke up to this crazy screaming sound.  Half asleep and disoriented, we couldn't see anything through our window and were really creeped out.  A little research later and we think it was a fox!  (It sounds like this if you're curious)  Always learning something new with this country life!

Notes and highlights:


+ We fit in a small review lesson on the solar system this week in M's science.  He made a replica using a pre-painted solar system kit and practiced the planet's order using a mnemonic: My Very Excellent Mother Just Served Us Nachos.  We also played a little planet trivia!


+ We are so excited for December and the change of pace.  We're putting almost everything on hold (except for math, sorry kids) and diving deep into Advent.
+ Day 1: The kids each received a shiny new sketchbook.  The plan is that everyday, they will draw one of the illustrations in that day's picture book as well as copy a part of the story (sentence or paragraph, depending on age).  Today's book was Merry Christmas, Strega Nona and the little ones were especially into Strega Nona and Big Anthony.  We made puppets using this coloring page to reenact the story.  We also learned a little about Tomie dePaola and watched a few Youtube videos about him.  We especially loved this one and this one.

Current 1000 Books Project Total: 73/1000
Poetry Teatime Treat: cookie cake for J's birthday


+ Health: Running and weight training with kettlebells.  I'm using this "off-season" before half-marathon training to work on my speed and strengthen...well, everything.  Now to start eating cleaner too.
+ Reading: nothing...I need a good book to dive into!
+ Spiritual: Excited to start Rooted in Hope!  My spiritual life needs a little kickstart. 
+ Fun: After chatting with my cousins about home improvement during Thanksgiving, I'm dying to work on projects around our home!  We're also really committed to our debt reduction goals, so I have to be creative.  I've been spending a little extra time on Swagbucks, using the search bar and even completing a few surveys.  The points add up quickly and I'll be able to cash out for a Home Depot, Target, or Pottery Barn gift card soon.
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