Speedy Photo Catchup (Part 3)

Right on the heels of our Disney Boat adventure, some of my family members came to visit us in Oregon and then we headed to the SmugMug annual retreat in Sunriver, Oregon.

Again it was a great chance for kids to play with cousins and we spent lots of time romping around the beautiful surroundings.

Proof we don’t always eat healthily. In fact, I think we relish treats more than most people because of their rarity. :)

My dad takes the title of “fun Grandpa” up to a new level. He’s such a picture of health and youthful enthusiasm that he attracts all nearby kids, not just his own grandkids. I think I count 10 kids in this picture.

And here’s one where he’s holding all my kids at once… plus a bonus child who begged to be up as well :)

I hiked up Mt. Bachelor with my dad and sister-in-law one day, along with a bunch of other fun SmugMuggers. I think foot-skiing down the snowy parts on the way down was one of the most fun things I did last year.

This pose is sort of a tradition for me and my dad, but he caught me by surprise this time:

My sister-in-law embraced the bum sled instead of the foot ski and won some style points.

Mackenzie dancing with her aunt and cousin. Priceless.

Later in the summer we went to the Portland Art Festival and hiked Multnomah Falls.

The gigantor “kid-size” burritos at Whole Foods were a highlight (loaded with beans and veggies and cheaper than art fair food1).

Being friendly to the burrito-maker and being adorable helps maximize the amount of filling, I think.

Parking was tight at the falls and Scott had to pull up close and personal to a tree to be sure our Subaru wasn’t jutting out into the busy road. Nicely done.

All our kids have loved riding in our Sherpani backpack:

We celebrated our tenth anniversary by staying at our friends’ beach house in Lincoln City, with all our kids in tow. :)

Spotting the ocean from the back porch:

I married a gem.

We drove out to Utah for Scott’s niece’s wedding, but wrangling kidlets at the wedding kept my camera phone in my pocket so here’s a shot of a picnic on the drive back. Scott flew back early and the kids and I stayed on some extra days. Here’s our loot from a grocery store and a shady spot in the parking lot where we ate it:

(Broccoli, carrots, hummus, grapes, and whole grain bread. Fast food what?)

One cute memory from the wedding: Caitlyn (3) begged to be able to stand next to “the princess” (AKA the bride) during picture taking outside the temple. :)

Fall of 2014 to come…

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Speedy Photo Catchup (Part 2)

(The first Speedy Photo Catchup post and an explanation is back here.)

This picture is from spring 2014, but if you trade underwear for the diaper it could have been taken yesterday.

Scott is in there, under the pile of kids. :)

Oh I’m so grateful to have a husband to share the craziness and happiness of everyday life with little kids.

We take a fair number of road trips and this is a very typical scene:

We’re picnicking at a random stop by the side of the road, Scott is reading Narnia out loud, and we’re just enjoying the moment. In this case, we’re driving back from Washington where two of Scott’s sisters live. We’ve taken that drive a half dozen times in the last year.

Cousins are always worth the drive and we were especially glad we could come see one get baptized!

I’m not sure he was quite as thrilled to have us there after this picture. ;)

We’re old-fashioned on our trips… no ipads or devices, no food in the car, just a shared audiobook or the alphabet game out the window and then a grassy spot to stop and run around with a picnic.

One time I was driving back from Washington without Scott, and one of our kiddos threw up five times. That time we had some extra stops to run around (and hose off). That time was not my favorite, but it didn’t scare me off of road trips for life, so that’s a win.

My Mother’s Day haul last year:

This girl has given us a run for our money lately, and it’s good to look a year behind remember all that sweetness is still in there, wrapped up with some feistiness and her admirable zest for life:

2014 was the year of the half marathon for me. I hadn’t been able to run without pain in ~8 years but armed with a foam roller I was able to thoroughly enjoy it again and I completed three half marathons. Running my first half mile convinced me I was so far out of running shape that it was a long shot to prepare for a half marathon, but I followed the program from Run Less, Run Faster and got ‘er done. I wrote a little about my first race, the Newport Half back here. The method calls for intervals at the track and I must say this is not a bad view first thing in the morning:

We had a family campout in the backyard for the first time, complete with a fairy tale read by flashlight and hot chocolate in the morning:

Caitlyn taught Daniel how to fly that morning. :)

My family reunion last year was one of those can’t-believe-this-is-actually-happening occasions. We took our combined 11 kids, ages 8 and under, on a Disney cruise to Alaska. Even the littlest (Daniel) was absolutely entranced with the magic of it all. We hopped on a train in Salem, met some California cousins for the ride up, spent some extra days in Vancouver and enjoyed every minute of our time on the ship. Ok, not the minute when we realized we lost Daniel and hadn’t noticed. That was a bad one, but the Disney people acted like it happened all the time when they paged us…

(I thought Scott had him, he thought I had him. I should have had him.)

5 great memories from the trip:

1) Running all around Vancouver at midnight. With a grandma at the hotel room to watch sleeping kids, Scott and I ran miles and miles around the city, checking out the night life, the wildlife in the huge park, and the lights reflected on the water. It was a heavenly date.

2) Caitlyn nearly took out Ariel. She was so enthusiastic to meet the princesses that she got a running start for this hug. It was awesome.

3) Caitlyn’s connection with Cinderella. They compared shoes, talked animatedly for a long time, and Cinderella ended up getting our room number and sending Caitlyn a personal note. I’ll admit to being a little swept away in seeing a princess through a little girl’s eyes.

4) Glaciers and seals and whales and misty fjords. Ok, that’s more than one moment but I love Alaska and the rugged scenery. It was absolutely incredible to watch a pod of whales “bubble net feeding” and be close enough to smell their awful breath.

This float plane trip was entrancing in its beauty but we made a bad call and took motion sickness-prone Caitlyn along. She was miserable, poor thing, and had to stay buckled in her seat instead of snuggled up with me or Scott. You can see it in her face here:

5) Time with family. Ok this is not just a single moment either, but I am so incredibly grateful for aunts and uncles and grandparents and cousins who genuinely love my kids.

This is Caitlyn dancing with her Uncle Don. :)

More catch up to come…

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The Speedy Photo Catch-up (Part 1…)

I just recently completed the process of totally clearing my camera card, phone, and hard drive of random photos that have been building up over the last year (or two).

Everything is organized and backed up on SmugMug and on an external hard drive and if I wasn’t 30 weeks pregnant I’d feel light as a feather right now. :)

There are few things more energizing than a clean slate! I realized I’ve been reluctant to take any pictures lately because I dreaded adding to the backlog already solidly in place. My kids are growing fast, though, and my pregnant brain can’t seem to catch and hold onto everyday moments as much as I’d like, so I’m glad to feel inspired to grab my camera again here and there and capture life.

The blog has definitely taken a backseat in the last few months, but I love it as a tool for reflection and reminiscing so I’m going to do some speedy catch-up posts from the last year to make things more current here.

Before I start blogging chronologically, I’ll call out a few things I noticed as I sifted through more than a year’s worth of photos at once.

One thing about Mackenzie

My oldest daughter likes order. I present the evidence:

She got out all our preschool puzzles and put them together her way one day.

Pattern blocks are a great match for her and she comes up with beautiful (and always symmetrical) designs.

Every once in a while I try to speak her love language at lunchtime. It’s an easy way to delight her:

We have yet to actually play this game, but placed the tiles on the board to make patterns:

Perhaps my favorite example from this last year is the gift she labored over for Scott’s 34th birthday. It’s a beads and button cake:

(Keeping that cake intact with 2 and 4 year old siblings was at least as tricky as placing all those beads so meticulously!)

One thing about Caitlyn

Caitlyn went from being a reader to also trying her hand at writing this past year. She’s showing signs of being a leftie and doesn’t do so well yet with a pen and paper, but she made me this:

Can you see the Mama Llama in there? She’d never written a thing before and it was utterly adorable when she proudly brought me in my “birthday cake” last year (not on my birthday, and magnetic letters are not as delicious as chocolate, but I appreciated the offering nonetheless.)

Several months ago, she was using my iPad to do Khan Academy and I noticed as I walked past that she had clicked the “Send Feedback” link and was carefully typing out a note.

I’ll bet the good people behind Khan Academy appreciated that along with its sister note sent several minutes later:

“Thank you for the world and the Wild West.”

(She asked me how to spell “world” for that one. :) )

One thing about Daniel

He is still a food-focused kid, which is why this image had me cracking up:

Can you read his little picture he colored in nursery (and then promptly started eating?)

It says, “I can eat good foods.”

I’m not sure paper qualifies, Buddy…

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What Memory Work Looks like in Our Homeschool

I mentioned previously some memory work we do for geography. I’ve also blogged about the scripture/poem/quote memory box we use every morning at breakfast.

In total, we spend ~15 minutes on the memory box each school day and ~30 minutes on our “Memory Work” that spans many different subjects. In addition to mapping, which we do one day a week, we memorize grammar, science (biology this year), history (ancient, this year) and math.

As I mentioned in the geography post, we pulled a lot of our memory work from the Foundations program for Classical Conversations. But I rearranged the order to match our studies for the year, and I wrote my own history sentences to highlight people and events we found most interesting.

After the initial effort of making all the cards, it took us a while to come up with a good system to track progress and make sure we were reviewing things regularly. I’m sharing here in case it helps someone else!

Here’s a look at one of our rings of cards:

I bought several packs of these pre-drilled colorful index cards, and mapped out all the memory work I wanted to do. I split it into 4 years (unlike the Classical Conversations timeline of 3 years) and assigned a color for each topic. Pink is grammar, yellow is math, blue is science, green is for maps.

For this year’s cards, I have a ring we’re actively memorizing, one for cards we’ve mastered, one for maps, and one for cards we haven’t started yet.

Using a sophisticated system that includes a post-it note and plenty of scotch tape, I put this up on our wall:

On Monday, I set a timer for 30 minutes (our upper limit in case we get sucked down the rabbit hole) and look at the charts on the wall. I ask Mackenzie to recite every item that has a pencil – mark next to it. If she has it mastered, I’ll change that mark to a +. We are generally working on a half dozen or so cards at a time.

When I’ve quizzed her on each one, she colors in the ones she mastered and we add new cards, moving them around to the appropriate rings. Then we get goofy playing memory games. I’ll often stop an explain context on the new cards as well. For example this week we pulled out an anatomy book so she could see the urinary tract and we talked about why the lungs and skin are part of the excretory system. She also took the time to compute all the cubes we were going to memorize herself using a whiteboard.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, we do memory games (if we have time) to practice our current cards. The current cards all on one ring so we can do this outside, in the car, or wherever we like.

On Wednesdays, I’ll often have Mackenzie roll a dice and I’ll just flip through our ring of cards we’ve mastered, stopping on the number she rolls.

On Fridays, we get out our mapping binder and our ring of green cards as I wrote about in my geography post.

Disclaimer: Lest you think I am a superstar homeschooler who does this daily, rain or shine, our consistency on memory work this school year has probably hovered around 50%. That’s due in large part to being sick for several months with this pregnancy, but also just a reflection of my laid back style. 4 days out of 5 in an average week is fine by me! The progress has still been encouraging and it’s rewarding to see our knowledge base grow together. It’s proof that memory work done imperfectly still rocks. :)

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Making Memory Work Fun (with printables)

In my experience, kids love memorizing things. It’s fallen out of fashion in most schools, but learning rhymes, songs, lists, odd facts, etc. naturally appeals to all of my kids (so far). In addition, they have a far easier time committing things to memory than I do.

I often used songs, rhythms, or hand motions to help in memorization in the past, but I stumbled upon a blog with a brilliant idea. Here is where I’m wishing I could dig up a link to give credit… but alas, I can’t find it. Basically, this woman printed out cards with different fun memory techniques and let her kids pick those to keep things fresh. Because I’m fussy and I do things the hard way sometimes, I made my own set with different pictures and changes to the games.

We use them almost daily and the kids LOVE to pick cards. We memorize the parts of the excretory system with a southern twang, balance on one foot while we recite all the helping verbs we know at top speed, play “hot and cold” while reciting a poem… you get the idea.

I did add one thing that proved to be very helpful: After I printed out the cards on cardstock and cut them, I stuck a sticker on the back of each card that was “scripture appropriate” before I laminated all the cards. About half of the cards are perfectly fine to use in any context, but some are downright irreverent or too rowdy for the breakfast table. :) Now when I fan out the cards, I can tell the kids to pick a sticker card if we’re reciting scripture. Easy.

Though I wish I could cite the original source here, I’m still going to include printables for the cards we use:





(I’ll kill the suspense here and say there is no “Memory Printable 1″. Oops. :) )

Here is one more resource with 85 memory work ideas… that should help keep your memory work fresh!

Tomorrow I’ll write about what we memorize and how we keep track and review.

Posted in Homeschooling, Life as we know it | 1 Comment

Homeschool Curriculum Update – What we have loved and what we haven’t

I’ve blogged in the past lots of our plans for homeschooling, and I thought it might be helpful to give an update on how things have shaken out with various resources we use now that we’re 2 1/2 years into this journey.

My general approach is to overresearch and overanalyze before jumping in, so I didn’t anticipate making lots of curriculum changes… but there have been some along the way!

I’ll keep things relatively brief here. I tend towards overexplaining so I’ll try to keep that in check. I’ll gladly answer any specific questions you have in the comments. Please keep in mind that these are just my thoughts about what works for our family. Your mileage should vary for your own kids. :)

Reading / Spelling / Grammar

Free reading – 1 hour every afternoon. I fiercely protect this time and check out a big stack of chapter books from the library regularly to feed my kids’ appetite for books. I’ve found dozens of excellent resources for finding good literature, but one of my favorites is Exodus Books. It’s a print and mortar store that sells used books online and has amazing reviews and lists built into their catalog. Check out the left-hand sidebar on this page. It’s mind-blowingly helpful to have those lists all compiled!  We also read aloud as a family and use the facebook group for the Read-Aloud Revival Podcast as an invaluable resource for finding good books for different ages and stages.

Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons – I‘ve successfully taught two 3 year olds to read this way with spectacular results. However, I was a much better teacher for the second one because I knew the 72 basic phonograms taught by the Logic of English. They’re available free online along with the spelling rules, several of which really help with reading as well. Instead of calling lots of words “funny words” like the 100 Easy Lessons book instructs, I gave my daughter the real story. Beautiful.

Logic of English – This is our third year using Essentials and we still adore it. I have bought most of the supplementary stuff as well by this point (game tiles, game book, spelling journal) and we use it every day. My 4 year old happily joins in for most of it. This year we’ve added the grammar from the book and started using the free advanced spelling lists available online. Initially I thought we didn’t need the workbook but we’ve started using it and it’s awesome (though strictly optional). I’ve been going through the teacher training videos online and they are incredibly helpful! I’m a much better teacher now than I was just opening the book and going… though that worked out ok, too.


Singapore Mathematics – AKA Primary Mathematics – We still use this and love this. Mackenzie (7) is nearing the end of 3A.

Here’s how we’ve used it: We started 1A when she was 4 1/2 and followed her lead, trying to do some each day. We completed 1B, 2A,and 2B the same way. I then had her do Challenging Word Problems Level 1, and I had her re-work all the level 2A and 2B textbook problems before starting 3A. I wanted her to be really solid on the basics.

*We also continue doing 1-3 kumon packets each week. Any math facts would work fine, but these packets sure are handy.

**In the last few months, we’ve scaled down the kumon and had our girls work through Xtra Math. We love that it’s a no-frills way to drill math facts and hone in on the ones that are problematic. I was surprised to see that my 7 year old, who whizzes through three digit addition problems was weak on a few facts. She was proud to get the addition certificate and is close to getting subtraction.

***We are mixing things up right now by using a day of Saxon 4/5 math textbook on Fridays. I think 4 days of Singapore, 1 day of something else (e.g. Khan Academy, Saxon, math games), and 1 kumon packet on Saturdays is a balance for us that works really well. I bought a used Saxon textbook for $4 and have definitely found the “spiral” approach for teaching is NOT a good fit for our family, but I enjoy mixing it up a bit so my kids get used to answering problems phrased differently than they find in Singapore books.

****We’ve fallen in love with the Singapore Intensive Practice books for Mackenzie as well. They are the “music” of math, with cool and interesting problems to work through. They’ve challenged her and encouraged her to dive deeper into whatever topic she’s doing in the regular Singapore books. We simply start the section in Intensive Practice when she finishes the section in the regular books. We’re having her do them on binder paper though, so the books can be used again for siblings. :)  I think this will make it so I don’t feel the need to repeat the textbook problems at the end of the year.  She’ll be ready to move on!


We are finishing our Biology year of Real-Science-4-Kids and I’m honestly a bit underwhelmed with it. I wrote back here how thrilled I was with the idea of this curriculum, but so far it’s fallen short of my hopes. I do love that it teaches real science at a child’s level, but I would love to see MORE for the price of the books. We could read the whole textbook cover to cover in a short afternoon, which Mackenzie does as soon as I get the new one out for the year. The experiments aren’t anything superior to what you’d find online with a quick search. We’ll use physics and astronomy since I’ve already bought them, but I’ve lowered my expectations a bit.

I’m glad I got these on a steal. I wouldn’t recommend them at full price, but if you can find the textbooks used, go for it.

I’m going to snag Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding for next year and I’m optimistic it will be a better fit for us.


We are still really happy with our choice of using a history spine as the basis for our studies. We read the great story of history together, and then read extra books from the library, make a timeline, etc. as we go. It’s low-key and enjoyable. I use both books I mentioned in my previous post, and we also checked out The Story of the World audiobook from the library and enjoyed that as well. Even if you don’t homeschool, that or “A Little History of the World” as an audiobook would be a great listen for the family.


Mind Benders from the Critical Thinking Company – Mackenzie does these occasionally and is now finished with Book 2. I’m definitely underwhelmed with the series thus far. I already bought Book 3 before discovering I didn’t like them, and I keep them available in a binder for fun, but I don’t incorporate them into our school time.


The first book or two of Alfred was helpful for teaching sight reading, but now Mackenzie just uses the Alfred series for free play. I teach her the Suzuki repertoire during lesson and practice time.
(I’m not Suzuki-trained or anything, but I wanted her to work on mastering music that was worth learning so we switched to Suzuki books+CDs about 8 months ago and we both love it. I’m mid-way through Book 2 and she’s mid-way through Book 1.)


Rosetta Stone was not a good choice for us for language learning. This deserves a post of its own, but I’m convinced that it can help with fluency ONLY for those who understand the basic grammar of the language. Mackenzie was able to guess the correct pictures but had no real understanding of anything that was going on after months of using this. I realized she was only learning what I taught her myself (pronunciation of each sound in Spanish, some fundamental grammar rules, etc.)


We are still using and loving Artistic Pursuits. One book has lasted us this whole time because we just do art once a week and often find something related online we’d like to try or repeat previous lessons we’ve enjoyed. The book has really helped us learn and create together using mediums I never would have explored on my own. It was pricey but has been great for us. We’ll move on to Book 2 in the fall.

The Rest

– We also do scripture, quote, poem, and hymn mastery work every morning.

– We do memory work one other time during the day, using the information from Classical Conversations as our foundation. We memorize the 5 kingdoms of living things, the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World, the major groups of invertebrates, the squares up to 15×15, the 8 parts of speech, etc. Little kids love to memorize and their brains are like sponges! I can’t believe how much faster and longer they retain things than I do.

– We don’t do “scripture picture journalling” (mentioned back here) anymore, but I think it’s a great option and we may come back to it in the future.

– We do some great Geography and Character lessons around here as well.

– Mackenzie has been learning to type using Typing.com  and it’s a great no-frills way to teach proper typing.  She loves it.  There are typing games available on the site, but that’s usually an afterthought/optional thing for after the real work is done.

Posted in Curriculum, Homeschooling, Life as we know it | 3 Comments

From Sick to Overseas… it was a big week

At 14 weeks pregnant, I was still feeling very sick. April 8th was looming on my calendar and I felt totally unprepared for it. That was the day we’d marked nearly 6 months before as the day we’d be embarking on an international adventure, meeting up with 7 friends and family members (but no kids!) to take the Paris marathon by storm.

Somewhere along the way, I had the brilliant idea to save money on airfare by flying IcelandAir, so naturally we planned a stopover in Iceland for a few days as well.

From the beginning, I was hoping to be pregnant at the time of the trip (though my plans had me safely out of the sick zone by then) so I opted out for the marathon. Scott was in for the run, the second largest marathon in the world. He wanted to follow up his first marathon 3 1/2 years earlier with a sub 3:30 time. He tightened up his diet and followed a schedule from Run Less, Run Faster (great book). As conscientiously as he prepped for the race, though, he put as much effort into prepping for Paris.

He learned French using Duolingo and resources from the library, practicing every single day for months and months. And if you know Scott, you won’t be surprised that he also spent many hours on the computer poring over food blogs and recommendations for the finest pastries in Europe. He stocked his gadgets with great apps to help navigate the metro and seek out open boulangeries. He bought us each a scarf and splurged on some new trim clothes to help him blend in. This guy was ready for the trip!

I, on the other hand, hadn’t packed a thing for myself as of the night before. The kids were all packed for the stay at their cousins’ but my suitcase remained completely empty. At one point Scott even suggested that since I was so sick, maybe I’d prefer to stay at home. I considered that for a fraction of a second before deciding that being sick at home with all the kids by myself didn’t sound quite as restorative as being sick alone in a quiet apartment in Paris with a constant influx of excellent pain au chocolat.

Shortly after this conversation, in what must have been a direct answer to prayer, I started feeling better! I actually smiled as I packed my awkward early-maternity wardrobe into the suitcase.

After work on April 8th, we made the long drive up to Scott’s sister’s house in Washington and were welcomed with open arms despite the very late hour.

Their cousins know my kids well: Their very own princess cardboard boxes awaited them to sleep in that night. Mackenzie thought she was in heaven, and Caitlyn was so tired she didn’t question it, she just curled right up in the box and fell asleep. :)

*Gratuitous Scott story: I was exhausted when we arrived and ready to climb into bed, but Scott got right to work unloading kids and luggage. I went to grab a bag myself and turned around to see Scott carrying a suitcase in each hand and wearing no shirt at all. Apparently he saw his teenage nephew wandering around without a shirt on and decided to follow suit to give him a hard time. Just the kind of random thing I love about my husband.

I’ll save the trip journaling for, well, my journal… but I’ll share some highlights here:

Top 13 Moments in Paris, not in order

1. My birthday concert.

On the spur of the moment while waiting in line to see Sainte Chapelle, Scott checked if there were tickets still available to the concert advertised for that evening. He scored primo seats and we were blown away. My dad, Scott, and I sat in the front row (alone) in this intimate setting with a wonderful string quartet and we all cried during the concert. It was so incredible to feel like that venue and that glorious, timeless music was just for us.

The picture makes the chapel look large, but it’s very small compared to any other European cathedral I’ve been in, so the acoustics were nice for the concert. The sun was just setting as the concert began and those gorgeous windows were the perfect backdrop.

Flashback 6 years to the first time we were in Sainte Chapelle, with 1 year old Mackenzie in tow:

2. Our walkabouts at night.

I have a thing for walking around at night with people I enjoy talking to… we can walk and talk for hours and see so much of a city in a unique way. Conveniently, my dad has a thing for searching out light at night and capturing it in photographs.

(We were both holding our breath for that picture. Paris is a little bit of a stinky city, particularly down by the Seine.)

The source of all Scott’s super powers. He gets recharged at the Louvre periodically.

3. Spectating the marathon

I’ve spectated many races in my life, and I’m pretty darn good at it. I realize running the race is probably somewhat more demanding, but quality spectating demands its own kind of discipline. Despite a totally overrun (ha!) city, I found Scott at miles 5 and 19 to hand out peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, oranges, and high fives. I even caught all 4 runners in our group amongst the tens of thousands of people finishing.

Scott had a much earlier start time and a faster race time so he ran alone (well, alone in a teaming mass of athletes speaking dozens of different languages and crowds of Parisians lining the course.)

My sister-in-law and her sister ran with my dad and their experience was beautifully captured in this video: Paris Marathon 2015. Scott gets a hilarious mention at the end as well as we’re swapping war stories from the race.

I was very proud of Scott’s effort during the race. We learned he prefers smaller races(!) and that we shouldn’t count on electrolytes being provided on the course. He had massive cramps starting at mile 15, which he’d never experienced during training. As a result, he had to alternate massaging, walking, and shuffling the rest of the race. His first half was done at his goal pace, and the second half was slow enough that his final time was just under 4 hours. He pushed through pain and discouragement and was there at the finish line to cheer the others.

I took this picture just after the finish and you can see the pain and the profound relief at being DONE!

4. The times Scott was mistaken as a Parisian

He was stopped on the metro and asked, in French, for directions. Woop!

(I think it was the scarf. Or the shoes.)

(There’s a great story behind that picture but it’ll have to keep.)

Another time, Scott ordered our meal in French and chatted with the waiter a bit and another couple nearby asked us if we live in Paris. Granted, they were from Hong Kong, but I still thought it was cool, considering Scott didn’t speak a drop of French when we started planning this trip.

I am way too unfashionable to be mistaken as Parisian on my own, but I do think the scarf was a step in the right direction. ;)

After all my worrying, that baby belly went with me on all our adventures and very rarely caused any trouble. I had all the energy and appetite I needed to enjoy the trip thoroughly.

5. Seeing Scott confidently converse in French.

He’s definitely not fluent yet, but everywhere we went he jumped in and was able to make himself understood. A surprising number of Parisians don’t speak much English at all, and all seem to prefer speaking in French with Scott. He learned a lot and I was just so tickled to see his discipline in learning a new language pay off.

6. Walkabouts in the mornings

Every one of our five days in Paris, Scott had a food agenda. We’d often head out early and walk around from boulangerie to patisserie, watching the city wake up.

All the best shops are known for certain things they make exceptionally well, and Scott introduced me to some spectacular foods.

In an unexpected turn of events, my very favorite food in Paris was a chocolate merveilleux from Aux Merveilleux. Heavenly.

7. Poo on the shoe

Life wouldn’t be as sweet without the silly, ridiculous, and embarrassing moments, right? So when we managed to score the last two seats at a super-small and renowned crepe cafe near closing time… a place with only 5 or 6 seats in it… and I sat down and smelled dog poop, I knew this was going to be a memorable experience. It was. The end.

(Scott swears he never smelled it and I very discreetly went outside to try and clean it off but… my pregnant sense of smell was on high alert and I was feeling super awkward the entire time while we carried on polite conversations with the other guests at the cafe.)

8. Reading “The Count of Monte Cristo” every chance we got

Scott and I were both engrossed in this book when we left on the trip after listening to the first quarter of it on audio CDs (narrated by the excellent John Lee). We hated to be separated from it so we snagged it for the kindle readers on our phones. In addition to being gripping and fascinating, the novel was originally written in French and set in large part in Paris.


We’d each whip out our phones on the metro or while waiting in line and instantly be transported to Paris several centuries earlier. We stayed out late nearly every night but the story of Edmond Dantes was too compelling to be put off until the morning, so we’d read together until the wee hours of the morning.

9. Versailles

Though I’d been to Paris before, Versailles was a first for me and I found it mind-blowingly extravagant. I was actually dazzled by a building right when we got off the metro at Versailles only to feel foolish when I discovered it was a humble hotel.

The palace was 1000x more grand.

Given the above picture, I’ll include here also that the group we travelled with was lots of fun. Scott and I split off and did our own thing a big chunk of the time in Paris but we really couldn’t have picked more easy-going, enjoyable people to travel with.

It’s amazing, really, given the hodgepodge way the group was formed… but we thoroughly enjoyed spending time with every one along. (From the left, it’s Scott, me, my mom, my dad, my brother’s wife’s sister, my brother’s wife’s sister’s husband, my brother’s wife, my cousin, and my cousin’s husband. Crazy. Fun.)

10. The Eiffel Tower

I can’t explain it. I just love it. We could see it from the great apartment we rented and we went and marveled at it at nighttime. Every single time I’d look out the window of the metro and see it, or catch a glimpse of it as we walked around the city, I’d have to pause and gape.

My sister-in-law even brought a specific dress just for my cousin to wear for a photo shoot in front of the tower:

Last time we were in Paris, it was blue (and so were my lips because it was at Christmastime!):

11. Honorable mention goes to the Musee d’Orsay

It’s my favorite museum in Paris and Scott and I had a great time critiquing the artwork this time around. We love guessing each other’s favorites and least favorites in a given room, assigning (sometimes ridiculous) captions to various pieces, and soaking up the ones that speak to us.

We were both amazed by how poorly people seemed to paint and sculpt children during the time periods showcased in the museum. One exception was this sculpture, which I loved:

It allowed for this beautiful contrast in age, rather than portraying babies as miniature adults.

12. Missing my kids – but only a little!

Scott’s fabulous sisters jumped at the chance to take care of our kids for us (angels, no?) and I had zero concerns about their well-being. That’s saying a lot for someone who rarely gets a babysitter and who is with her kids nearly 24/7!

This vacation was in no way an escape from the life I love surrounded by little people, but it was an adventure that simply couldn’t have been had with kids along. It would have been a very different kind of adventure! Still good, but I relished the time alone with Scott and the extra freedom we had to keep the hours we wanted and be more spontaneous.

One day we walked across a “lovers’ bridge” where couples had fastened locks on every available inch.

I knew my kids would get a kick out of that and right away a lock with “Caity and Dan” on it jumped out at me, so I snagged a pic to show Caitlyn and Daniel. I loved that I could be thinking about my kids and eager to share our adventure with them, but still be completely in the moment while they were on the other side of the world. I’m really grateful for that.

13. Cheese security.

When we flew to Iceland on the return trip, several of us inadvertently brought liquids through security without raising any red flags. But Scott was brusquely ushered off to one side. He had packed a bag full of fabulous french cheeses and breads for our lunch at the airport and apparently after passing the bag through the x-ray machine, it required further investigation. He waited patiently while several people in front of him had bags searched as well.

Finally, the security worker undid the tie and looked at Scott questioningly, “Baguette?”

Scott responded in French that it was bread and cheese for lunch for him and his family.

The man nodded approvingly. “C’est bon!” :)

And it was. Yum.

Posted in Life as we know it, Pregnancy, Trips | 4 Comments