Fighting Infobesity: 17 Ideas for Slimming Down, Part 2

Read part 1 in this series back here.

Note: Not all of these next ideas had an immediately obvious dietary corollary and I opted not to push the analogy to the breaking point.

5. Ditch the games.

I enjoy playing computer games, but there are so many other things I enjoy at least as much that bring more value to my life and relationships. Knowing that I have had a tendency to get hooked on games in the past, when I first got a smart phone I decided not to put any games on my device.  I applied the same principle to my iPad and it’s served me well.   One decision made years ago has freed up countless hours of my time to use in ways that make me happier.

(If games truly make you happier, than you’re probably making the right call by having them on your device. These ideas match my priorities and interests but may not match yours.)

Dietary Corollary: If, considering objectively, you’d rather not eat a box of cookies then skip the cookie aisle at the store entirely. 

6. Turn off alerts.

There are very few things outside of my little sphere that I need to know immediately.  I’m not a fire fighter or an emergency room doctor.

In fact, to be excellent at what I do it is critical that I focus as much as possible on the task at hand without interruption.  I’m a homeschooling mother. Looking into my child’s eyes as we talk, snuggling a kid while I read them a book, and cranking out dinner to feed the masses while under pressure all benefit from complete attention.  So I protect that attention as much as possible.  My devices don’t beep or ping or buzz unless I have text or phone call, and my phone generally lives on the kitchen counter by the charger, not in my pocket. The world won’t implode if I don’t notice a text for several hours.  I’m just not that important except to my immediate family.

(If there is a crisis with my family or friends, they know they can reach me by calling my house phone twice. )

Dietary corollary: Recognize that advertisements for food are designed to entice you into eating something you otherwise wouldn’t… and broccoli doesn’t have an ad campaign. 

7. Unsubscribe regularly.

Periodically I realize I’m subscribed to a bunch of email newsletters that I immediately delete anyway.  I try to keep my inbox at zero and I’ll find myself just mechanically swiping at messages that don’t apply to me.  When I take a few minutes and deliberately unsubscribe from things I’m no longer interested in, it reduces the daily digital clutter and associated decision fatigue dramatically.

Dietary corollary: When you find yourself slipping into poor dietary habits, do a course correction. Address the problem, throw out the ill-advised bag of Rolos and get on with life.

8. Deal with deals.

Gmail has the excellent ability to snatch messages before they even hit your inbox.  I use this in a couple great ways.

Although I am not a big shopper, when I do buy I like to get a good deal so I was subscribed to quite a few stores’ promotional emails. After a time, I realized I was using great coupons but spending more money overall when those things landed in my inbox.  I was giving advertisers prime real estate in my brain.  So, I reversed my process.

Now, after I decide I want to buy something, I seek out a coupon.

I use Gmail’s filters to snatch all the “deal” emails I receive with coupons or sales and dump them in a Deals folder I created for that purpose.  Truthfully, a year later, I’ve yet to look in that folder. It turns out a quick Google search usually brings up the best discount codes anyway.

9. Give the good stuff good attention.

I filter out all the blogs and informational newsletters I subscribe to, except the single blog that is time-sensitive.  I have all this great stuff land in a “Read/Review” folder and I check it when I have a small chunk of time and would like to read something interesting.

Before I started filtering them, those emails would land in my inbox right along with emails requiring action on my part and correspondence from friends and family.  So I’d either read them immediately and delete them, or allow them to hang out in my inbox and muddy the water.  Content like blogs, newsletters, etc. in my inbox lured me into reading random stuff that felt “productive,” which is an insidious distraction from the reason I dipped into my inbox.  Yes, I am interested in “10 Tips To Organize Your Schoolroom!” but not at the very moment I was looking for an response from my sister-in-law about our travel plans.

I was consuming information when I wasn’t in a place to really absorb it.  I found myself skimming blogs when I should have been moving projects forward.   Then later when I wanted something great to read online I would end up mindlessly scrolling Facebook, having nothing waiting in the wings.  Now I’ve got a beautiful “Read/Review” folder loaded with content ready to be enjoyed and absorbed when I take time to focus on it.

10. Hold office hours for your email.

“When you’re checking your email, you’re checking someone else’s agenda.”  I heard that recently at a great conference and it rang true with me.  Email has a powerful ability to derail whatever else I’m focused on.

Scott had a professor in medical school who included in her email signature a polite note about the hours she responds to her emails during the day. “I read and respond to e-mails twice daily, between 9am and 10am and between 4pm and 5pm.”  I thought that was fairly particular at the time, but I see the wisdom in it now.  Again, I’m just not so important that an email can’t go unanswered for 4 hours (see #6).  And the constant pull to check my email during the day does me no favors.

A wise homeschooling mother once wrote on her blog, “email before breakfast is for early risers.” If I get sucked down that rabbit hole before I’m dressed for the day, have food for all the little ones depending on me, and have applied Idea #11, our whole morning is side-tracked. I personally do a quick 2 minute check-in after I call the kids to breakfast and I only handle the urgent and quick issues at that point. I’ll block out some time mid-morning if there are other urgent and important things on my plate, otherwise I’ll typically wait until Quiet Time in the afternoon or my project time in the evenings. Ideally I like to batch-handle things so all my finance stuff gets tackled one day a week, all my long-term calendaring & non-urgent phone calls happen once a week, etc. That is generally far more efficient than bouncing around trying to address everything as soon as it comes in.

Dietary Corollary: Be like the French and eat only when appropriate. I noticed last time we were there that everyone wandering around snacking in Paris is a foreigner. If a Parisian is going to eat, he or she sits down and has a proper meal. It’s more enjoyable and satiating and allows for hours in between meals to focus on soaking up the art museums.😉

paris eclaire

See how tasty that eclaire looked? That’s like a lovely full email box and a nice free block of time to handle it with a good appetite. Checking your email constantly means you run the risk of having “No new messages” despite a bunch of stale ones still sitting there waiting to be handled. Bleh.

Stay tuned for Part 3…

Posted in Life as we know it, Parenting & Household Hacks | 3 Comments

Fighting Infobesity – 17 Ideas for Slimming Down, Part 1

When I graduated from college nine years ago, I didn’t even have a cell phone.   iPads were just a twinkle in Steve Jobs’ eye, having a hotmail email address was acceptable, and we still used the term “answering machine.”

The glut of devices, social media sites, and other bright and shiny distractions today comes with some challenges.  It’s not the technology. Any two year old can navigate an iPad. It’s the implication of having constant access to a fire hose of information at a moment’s notice. The love of learning that served me so well in my youth has become a bit of a liability.  I can look up anything I want to know in an instant.  That’s not to say that wisdom or even worthwhile knowledge can be gained in an instant. They can’t. But the information is so tantalizingly quick to access that I fall prey to the temptation to google-solve my problems just the same.

The information is often pre-chewed as well. Much like a fast food burger is engineered to slide down my throat without the inconvenience of utensils or undue mastication, someone else’s answer to any question under the sun is available as a tasty, 140 words-or-less morsel.

I have four young children growing up with an all-you-care-to-consume buffet of people’s opinions presented as fact.

They will never know the freedom of buying a toaster without the nagging suspicion that if they had only spent an hour wading through reviews of various models they’d have ended up with a superior product.

T.S. Eliot wrote the following 80 years ago and it’s sobering to read today:

“The endless cycle of idea and action,

Endless invention, endless experiment,

Brings knowledge of motion, but not of stillness;

Knowledge of speech, but not of silence….

Where is the Life we have lost in living?

Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?

Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?”

More so than at any other time in history, children today will need to know how to evaluate information for accuracy.  They will need to consider what knowledge is worth acquiring. They will need to apply wisdom to the use of technology.  They will need to decide if a life well lived involves having Candy Crush in their pocket.

Who am I kidding? I need to learn those same things and make those same decisions for myself!

I concur with wise Aunt Abigail who declared in the book Understood Betsy, published 100 years ago:

“I declare! Sometimes it seems to me that every time a new piece of machinery comes into the door some of our wits fly out at the window!”

Yet, I adore using the internet to show my children sights I’ve never seen myself, to glean practical tips from those in the trenches of homemaking and homeschooling, and to accomplish many things (banking, etc.) more efficiently. How can I sample the best parts without overdoing it?

The Internet Can Make Us Fat… Kind Of

Obesity is a clear and alarming epidemic in our culture. Restaurants, television, flyers, and radio all push the idea that more is always better. Bigger servings. More indulgences. We’re told that we will find satiety not in quality, but in the sheer quantity of what we consume.  With our culture of dietary indulgence, our waistlines are large and our palates have lost refinement, numbed by years of fast food.  Unfortunately, our minds are deteriorating in a similar way.  The constant influx of information is dulling our ability to think clearly and independently and grapple with significant information. We live in a culture of infobesity.

A person who wants to stay lean may avoid a buffet entirely, or he may employ practices to help him eat in the moment what he will wish he’d have eaten later on. In other words, he’ll make short-term decisions with the long-term outcome in mind. donut-iphone

Here are 17 ideas I have used to stay lean in a culture of infobesity:

1. Only be where you want to go.

I have a Facebook account, but I’m not on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, or any of the others. Facebook isn’t inherently more valuable, and I fully acknowledge that those other places online have appeal and could give me great ideas and connections with people.  But I’m not lacking great ideas nor connections with people.  In fact, if I’m being honest, I don’t give as much care and priority to the ideas and relationships I already have (#15) as I’d like to.  I’m sure if I had accounts at more social media sites, I’d feel a pull to check them, which would then pull me away from something I value more.

Some is enough.

Dietary corollary: Don’t feel like you have to try everything on the table at the potluck. Choose your favorite few and accept that someone else’s plate might look equally appetizing. 

2. Make a smart phone dumb(er).

I don’t have a data plan on my phone, and haven’t had for several years.  This has had many consequences, some unintended.  I still have access to wifi at home, at the library, at church, at the doctor’s office, etc.  but the temptation to check my email while at the park with my kids has evaporated.

When a question I don’t immediately know the answer to comes up, I just wonder about it instead of instantly gratifying my mild curiosity. (And maybe add it to The Wonder List, #4.)

I prepare better before I leave the house (and Google Maps) behind, which has resulted in my getting lost less often.  Knowing I don’t have the safety internet has made me more resourceful. I reach out to strangers to ask for help or directions more frequently, and I’m more open to serendipity because I’m fully present in my surroundings.

Plus, I pay just $4 a month for my cell phone.  That’s pretty nice.

Dietary corollary: Eat at mealtimes. Quit the mindless snacking. 

3. Use a {dumb} watch.

I’ve found that pulling out a multi-function device to check the time is tempting fate and often leads to checking email or social media or, if you haven’t applied idea #5, playing a game.
I also have a CD player and a plain kitchen timer for similar reasons. My kids can listen to an audiobook without being tempted to tap over to something else and I can keep dinner from burning while I’m out sitting on the deck… without the phone.

Dietary corollary: Don’t store your vegetables and chips in the same place. Otherwise, you may intend to snack on carrots and end up with Dorito fingers.

4. Make a Look-Up Later List (AKA a Wonder List).

Instead of whipping out my device anytime I have a question or my kids have a question, often I simply jot it down or just sit with the question a bit. Is it a good question? Does the answer matter? Is it something worth the time and distraction it takes to look up?

After a week or so, I often have a list of several things. Most are no longer interesting or relevant and since I’ve put this into practice, it no longer surprises me that I survived without an instant answer.  A few things are still worth looking into and I’ve found that usually in the interim my mind has been turning over the question, germinating better questions and some possible answers. The information I find online then falls on fertile ground.  Seeking knowledge through instant gratification is like throwing seeds to the wind and hoping for a good harvest.

Dietary corollary: Hunger is the best sauce. 

Part 2 coming soon…

Posted in Life as we know it, Parenting & Household Hacks | 3 Comments

A Family Update

It’s been too long since I’ve blogged, which is a sure sign that life has been really great lately, or really hard lately, or both at the same time.

It’s been a bit of both, honestly, but I’m typing this with a smile on my face.

I’m giving a little update on each member of our family here and the plan is to catch up a bit on the last six months in the next few posts.


The adjustment to four kids has been a roller coaster, mainly because our newest family member is head-over-heels adorable and captivating in her cuteness… and she spits up a lot, screams a lot, and sleeps less soundly than I’d like.  She feels emotions very strongly and can go from giggling to devastated in the time you can blink.  Her gorgeous eyelashes are often seen batting at you with tears still clinging to them from the latest cloudburst of despair.


Josie has the best open mouthed expression of excitement/wonder/joy and she enjoys a good snuggle as much as her parents do.  In fact, pressing her cheek up against Scott’s cheek is her favorite thing to do. No contest.

Coincidentally, that is also how I feel when Scott gets home from work.

Because I want to remember life on this blog and not just the sweet parts of it, here’s a photo to balance things out.  (To my queasy readers, avert your eyes…)

This is what our kitchen looked like while I cooked dinner often:

I was hoping things would improve when Josie started solid food, but alas only a little bit.  In happier news, she is a well-behaved nurser, lights up when she sees her siblings, and does pretty well in the car. And happiest of all, she’s ours.🙂

Side note: I heard a great lecture at homeschooling conference on homeschooling with a baby in tow, and the woman speaking reminded us, “The baby is the lesson.” She said that rather than constantly trying to quiet the baby so learning can happen, we should recognize our older kids are watching the way we love our baby. They see us show continued love to a fussy baby instead of impatience and exasperation and it gives them confidence and security to make mistakes and be themselves, knowing our love doesn’t wear out just because a child is messy or noisy.  Children are always a gift, not a nuisance. I haven’t modeled that perfectly for my older kids, but I’ve seen my efforts pay off in their attitude towards Josie and it’s sweet to watch.


Daniel (3 1/2) is every bit as loving as always, quick to give hugs and kisses.  He’s a sensitive soul who has learned how to “shoot” and “bang!” everything in sight, despite being in a house full of tutus.

It’s amazing what time and environment can do.  It seems like not that long ago I wondered if he’d ever enjoy being read to because he would just wiggle away a few pages into a story.  Now he begs for long picture book sessions and can sit for an hour immersed in great stories.

He’s also started learning how to read and is so teachable that it’s a pleasure to snuggle up with him each day to work through Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons.

I was waiting on reading lessons until I was sure he was ready, but he started trying to read on his own and was so frustrated that he “didn’t know the words,” so I trotted out our book and away we went! He’s on lesson 23 now.

This is Daniel’s recent handiwork:

He and Caitlyn both experience things by reaching out and feeling them.  That means plenty of accidents.  Cashew ricotta was actually on the ceiling  because he “just touched the bowl to see.”

I have a bunch of cute pictures of Daniel helping cook in the kitchen, playing the piano (out of his favorite Thai cookbook – his favorite song is Spicy Beef with Chili Sauce), and other things… but he’s not wearing pants in any of those pictures so they aren’t going on the blog.

I made a “pants all the time” rule when he turned 3 but the photographic evidence seems to indicate I’ve let that slide.  I regularly find every pair of pants he owns piled up in the bathroom.  Every time he uses the potty is a new chance to race out in his underwear leaving his shackles (er, button-fly) behind. He then dutifully goes to his dresser and gets a new pair out of his drawer when I refuse to feed him the next meal or let him play outside until he puts pants on. But the next full bladder is a get-out-of-the-bathroom-with-no-pants-on card, so the cycle repeats.

He actually asked my friend to draw a picture of him on a bicycle “with pants on” the other day.  She lifted her eyebrows at the specificity of the request and he clarified, waving  a hand in the air, “but no shirt!” That’s a battle I’m saving until he’s 4.😉

I did get a picture of this amazing flower Daniel pulled up from our yard and presented me. “It’s to you!” he declared happily.

How did I ever live without this little boy?

I’ll end Daniel’s update with his signature move, the Tackle Snug:

It is so endearing and heartfelt that it makes up for a great many smashed towers and scribbled on art projects.


Caitlyn (5 1/2) continues to collect friends everywhere she goes, from the mailbox to the grocery store.  She’s never met a stranger.  She had been hovering on the brink of reading chapter books herself having done Pinocchio, Charlotte’s Web, and a few others cover-to-cover but mainly just reading bits and pieces of chapter books – an approach which would drive me batty. Then she discovered the Boxcar Children.  She’s plowed through one a day for the last week.   I really love this post about helping struggling readers with series books, and it applies to all emerging readers I think.

This picture shows life for her right now:

I remember Mackenzie going through a similar phase at this age.  She wants to stretch herself and grow in independence but gets frustrated when we don’t see eye to eye on that process, or when she tries her wings (or bike, in this case) and falls.  She feels emotions so strongly that we try to just be a calm presence as she rides out the storm.  We also spend a lot of time talking about the word “sassy” and how a better response is to be “sweet.”


Mackenzie (8 1/2) is loving our gymnastics class we’re trying out over the summer, which is great to see from my normally reserved girl.  It’s a stretch for her to try new things in front of new people but she has really stepped up to the challenge.

I feel like she has grown up quickly since Josie was born.  She’s doing lots more independently and each new thing is bittersweet. I do a fist pump for an independent kid while at the same time harboring a totally impractical desire to freeze time.  She’s doing dishes, clipping her own finger nails, no longer in a booster seat, pronouncing fewer and fewer words improperly.  This has been one of the sweet parts of having an early reader. She has her own relationship with words on the page and it takes a while to hear a word spoken aloud before she makes the jump. (I’m holding out hope she never learns how to say “variety” and “archived” the right way. Currently they are vigh-air-ity and ar-cheeved. Please don’t tell her differently😉

I can’t put into words how grateful I am to have an oldest child like Mackenzie.  She is a wonderful help with her siblings and they have a close, special bond. She’s old enough to understand plenty of inside jokes and we have so much shared experience together through books and through her excellent memory that we laugh together a lot.

Every child (at least every one of ours) has had some very challenging periods of time but having Mackenzie in an easy phase right now and having a strong relationship with her has really been a life-saver this past year.



I’m writing this on Father’s Day so I’m feeling extra sentimental, but I love parenting with this man. He is a good provider and a good example to our kids.  He offers excellent insight when I’ve hit a road block in a relationship or teaching issue and is the best encourager I can imagine.

He’s still singing with Willamette Master Chorus and is taking a trip with them up to Canada for a competition next month.  He’s also deep-ending on home design because after keeping our eye on the market here for 3 years while renting, we’re looking at a new build.

This isn’t a high-quality picture but it’s clear enough to tell that’s a high-quality man in it, filling our home with beautiful music and putting the fussy Josie to sleep in the process.



I am living out my dream.  Sometimes I have to remind myself of that fact, but it’s always true.  Having four great kids and spending each day learning together is magical – and messy because none of us are perfect.

I have hit that post-baby phase when I have (or somehow find) the energy to re-order the things in my life that have been put in survival mode for the past year.  I’m finding again that habits and consistency are powerful and needful because life tends towards entropy.  It takes constant effort to order my thoughts, my environment, my attitude, my belongings, etc. and I’m on the lookout for efficiencies so I can dig in and do some of the “like to dos” rather than just treading water with the “must dos”.

I’m (slowly) working my way through about a dozen books, still focused on my four goals for this year (running 500 miles, drawing 50 times, and getting to bed before 11 am 5 nights/week… and meal planning consistently). I’m really enjoying planning our homeschool next year. We’ll start in the middle of July and I have lots to square away before then.  I’m also pretty immersed in home design with Scott.

It looks like I managed exactly one pretty awful picture of myself in the last six months. Ha! Here it is:

I’d better end this post with a picture of some things I made instead:


I don’t know at what age I stopped doing things I enjoyed simply because I wasn’t particularly good at them, but homeschooling has cured me of that.  My 8 year old’s art occasionally now looks better than mine own but that doesn’t diminish my joy in creating it.  :)

Posted in I am a mother, Life as we know it | 6 Comments

10 Homeschooling Mistakes I’ve Made

This is our fourth year homeschooling and I can really look back and say that I blew it in several areas as I was starting out.  Our homeschool is so much better now .

What is a better homeschool? In this case it’s one where everyone is happier. We’re progressing towards goals we value and that brings greater satisfaction to kids and more peace of mind to Mom.

So where did I go wrong? Oh so many places… in fact, a big part of me wants to go back and delete all my early blog posts on homeschooling lest some poor unsuspecting prospective homeschooler follow my former self into the same pitfalls. Maybe I’ll add a big red disclaimer to the top of them: CAUTION! A HOMESCHOOLING NEWB WROTE THIS!

All dramatics aside, I do think that many bumps in the homeschooling road (curriculum changes and frustration, scheduling tweaks, calendar overhauling, unscheduled teacher inservice days, etc.) are all part of the journey to becoming a comfortable, competent homeschooling parent and I’m sure there are many yet ahead of me.  As I tell my kids when they goof up on their drawing or a new math concept: “Of course you aren’t excellent at it yet! Messing up is part of learning something new. ”

I Didn’t Make the Worst Mistake

Is there a wrong way to homeschool? There are certainly lots of different ways to do it right.  I suppose the only really truly wrong way to homeschool is to have a bad attitude about learning (or, worse, a bad attitude about your kids).  That’s a mistake I’ve never made, and I think that’s reflected in the fact that we’d enjoyed every year together so far and we’ve learned lots.

That being said, I had clear missteps along the way.

Ten of My Early Homeschooling Mistakes

1 . I am an information hound and I naively thought that by doing plenty of research at the beginning, I could choose a path and keep with it pretty well, adding kids along the way. I didn’t want to invest money in any books we wouldn’t continue to use for years to come and I wanted to reap the benefits of planning out each year by using those same plans for future students. One of my mantras in life is “begin the way you mean to go on” and another is “consistency wins.” But now here I am, admitting that while my thinking and reading early on definitely helped, being flexible and open to different approaches along the way has significantly improved the way I run our homeschool. And hey, it’s helped to improve our day-to-day consistency as well, even if the year-to-year changes have been big.🙂

I’ve had to eat humble pie along the way, particularly after blogging so much of our early homeschool efforts. That is why I’m now committed to only blogging at the end of a homeschool year rather than blogging about our plans…🙂

Now I’m better about embracing the idea of something working well “for now” or “for this child” or “for this year” and I learning to enjoy the challenge of adjusting along the way.  I’ve sold some of the books that turned out to be duds and I’ve found better ways to acquire promising books inexpensively. It’s actually refreshing to mix things up for a season or for a year.  Aside from subjects that do need to be learned sequentially,  I envision myself spreading a feast for my kids.  It’s so liberating! 

2. I way overdid things our first year and my daughter and I both burned out. I had heard and read a dozen times not to hurry my oldest child into academics but since she was avid reader and math came easily to her, I launched right into a full morning of structured learning (with a toddler and a baby in tow).  It was, for us, unnecessary and sort of exhausting.

Our younger kids learn to read early but beyond that I just keep an eye on their interest level and needs as I start incorporating them into our school day.  They often do way more than I expect in some areas and less in others, but I no longer feel any rush about it.  That is SO hard to do with your oldest when you’re excited to homeschool!

3. I managed to under plan our third year and although my kids still progressed in meaningful ways, I was left feeling a bit dissatisfied with my own effort.

This series by Pam Barnhill on homeschool year planning was immensely helpful and has really anchored our homeschool year. I now identify very specific areas that I’d like to work on with each child so I don’t have those vague unsettling feelings that I’m not doing “enough” or not doing the right things.  The truth is there isn’t usually a universal “right” thing. You have to choose it for your own child.

4. I read a book on homeschooling that resonated with me and I pretty much followed it to a “T”.  It took several years to fully realize that although the underlying philosophy was one I agreed with, the application of that philosophy didn’t work well for our family. Also, the author was very focused on writing and history, and much less focused on science and math. So it should have come as no surprise that when I took her recommendations for science and math, I regretted nearly all of them.

I am now slower to change the way I do things, evaluating the source and my own reasons for seeking a change. The solution is not simply adopting someone else’s approach 100%, because I’m not that person and I don’t have her kids and life.  It felt safer to copy someone else, but I’m confident enough now to take bits and pieces that fit for my family and set the rest aside. 

5. I paid more attention to homeschool methods, philosophies and curriculum than I did to my own kids.  This post by Sarah Mackenzie explains this pitfall much better than I can. It’s an excellent read.

6. I didn’t trust in myself as the best teacher for my kids. In the future I’m sure we’ll outsource some teaching to other people passionate about a topic, fluent in a language, or proficient in a skill that my kids are interested in.  But I have felt way too much angst along the way just comparing myself to other homeschool moms.  Our school room is the kitchen table. Nothing is color coordinated and there is no timeline on the wall.  That’s A-OK as long as it doesn’t make me second guess all the great stuff we’re doing that suits my own strengths better.

My rule now is if it’s not broken, I don’t go looking at what everyone else is doing.  I steer clear of Pinterest, blogs, etc. for topics unless I am actively looking for a solution to a current problem.  Otherwise I limit nearly all my homeschool planning and idea-finding for the chunk of time in which I plan the coming school year.  At some point I stop planning and just focus on executing the plan. (See #1, about me being an information junkie. This requires self-control but the payoff is peace.)

7. I underestimated how much my relationship with my kids impacted their ability to learn from me.  Tweaking the schedule or switching to a different curriculum won’t fix a heart problem.

Now I do a full stop and address any relationship issues first, before challenging my kids academically.  Often that means scheduling one-on-one time with that child doing things they choose. Sometimes that means I need to be more aware of my speech towards that child and focus on being positive with them and not nitpicking.  Sometimes that means we need to take a few days off school and find ways to laugh and play together to strengthen connection.  It’s that connection that eliminates friction around assignments I give them. It is that connection that helps my kids feel safe enough to take academic risks.

8. I only scheduled my student(s) and not my younger child(ren) when I planned my day. When I read this book on scheduling, the biggest takeaway was that homeschooling is a family endeavor.  If I don’t consider what my 2 year old is doing while I’m teaching my 8 year old long division, there is a good chance the 2 year old will throw a human hand grenade into the middle of that math lesson in the form of a tantrum or a mess.

I wrote much more about the specifics of creating a great schedule previously.  After some time applying those principles, I don’t have to do it quite as explicitly now unless I reach what feels like an impasse. 

9. I didn’t schedule in breaks.  I loved the idea of learning as a way of life, so I pretty much just planned on homeschooling five days a week unless something came up.  Even though my kids and I enjoy school, I have to admit this approach was not a good fit for us.

Now we do 6 weeks on, 1 week off year-round, taking a week off at Thanksgiving, one at Easter, and an extra week off at Christmas time and between school years. Mystie Winckler has a great post on year-round homeschooling that helped me wrap my mind around it.  I love being able to plan my year in 6 week intervals, including my personal and home goals in addition to homeschooling. 

10. I far overestimated the number of glue sticks we’d use and far underestimated the number of pencils we’d lose.  I’m not crafty (remember?) and my couches eat pencils like they’re popcorn.



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Since Josie Was Born – Month 2

True stories of Josie’s 2nd month of life, not in order of significance…

Halloween pictures get better with age

We had a wild Halloween in a torrential downpour. Trick-or-treating still happened and was memorable and fun.  Baby Jo and I mainly hid in the van. Boo-ritos at Chipotle still happened.  Pumpkin painting happened but ended in tears of frustration from the kids because the paint I bought to use was awful on pumpkins and we had too many potential painters and too few helpers. One of those would-be helpers made a half dozen bread spiders for friends. And then my kids cried because I didn’t help them paint. Perhaps a bad call.

I did paint poor Caitlyn’s pumpkin with a big beautiful rainbow and “love hearts” after she went to bed that night and the squeals of sheer joy the next morning were off the charts. If I had just thought to bottle those sounds up and sell them, we’d be set for early retirement.

Zero pictures were taken of my kids in costume… until December when I whipped out those costumes again and took the photos. Yes, I did.

Don’t look too closely.  He’s wearing a Christmas present shirt from Grandma in that “Halloween” photo.  Ha!

Side note: I recently checked a book out from the library about personality typing your children so you can understand them and nurture them better. It turns out I have an extrovert and an introvert (can you tell from the picture?) I’m learning lots of less-obvious and very helpful stuff about them as well. Scott does lots of “Continuing Medical Education” as a doctor and we try to do the same as parents. We’re sort of writing our own handbook on each of our kids as we learn.

I say “sort of” but I actually have a physical book where I write down for each child our insights and bits of understanding as we get them. I often need reminding of the things I already know, so when I come up against a challenge with a particular child I can flip through their book and say “ohhhh, right!”

Zoos are best when wet

We headed out for the Portland Zoo. which is no small feat these days.  Getting everyone fed, pottied and loaded up for an hour long drive plus a packed lunch and a full day out of the house always takes longer than I think it will! We finally, finally pulled up to the zoo just a few hours before closing time after spending our sunny morning getting everyone ready to go… and this is what we saw:

We had a little “We’re Oregonians” pep talk with our kids and trooped out to enjoy the cold, grey and wet afternoon.  My philosophy with zoos is actually to go in a variety of circumstances because different animals are active in different times and temperatures. On this day, we saw cheetahs up close and personal who were also getting out of the rain and the hippos were in fine form.  We froze solid right as the zoo was closing, so the timing worked out fine!

Thanksgiving without turkey or glitter

Thanksgiving began with a freezing Turkey Trot. Caitlyn and Daniel did the fun run and only one of them cried.
Mackenzie ran the 5k with Scott while the rest of us wimped out and watched from the car.  That trooper of a kid ran a personal best and came back all grins.

Caitlyn sported an impressive hot chocolate unibrow from her celebratory drink after the fun run.

Our friends of 9 years drove out from Bend, Oregon where they live now and they spent the night.  They have three kids who line up well in ages with ours. As if all that weren’t enough, they homeschool and inspire me so it was a treat to spend time together.

No turkeys were harmed to make our feast but plenty of innocent mushrooms returned to the earth which gave them birth. Yum.

Our traditional Baked Alaska with Sweet Potato Ice Cream was a kid magnet.

Extra merengue is just one of Scott’s tickets to our kids’ hearts, but it’s a powerful one.

I’m not a crafty mom so once a year I rouse myself and make a point of doing some sort of craft for Thanksgiving.  The trouble is, it looks less “crafty” and more like “Anne-y” every year.  This year? The Mayflower was built. I think I’m going to change the verbiage of the tradition for “craft” to “create something”. That way I don’t have glitter-related guilt.

Mackenzie built the ship herself, following a picture she found of a similar ship.

Yes those sails out of copies of the Mayflower Compact. We homeschool and sometimes I can’t help myself.

And? No younger siblings knocked it down! Yes, we are in a brief but magical phase right now in our house… though three puzzle pieces were eaten (truly consumed) in the month of December.

A Spiral Fracture of the Fourth Metacarpal

The short story: That’s Scott’s hand…

The long story: We have a heinous driveway. It’s long and steep and can be quite slippery with rain, snow or ice. Scott went down to get the mail and garbage can and did not fall on the treacherous driveway. He did, however, fall on a patch of ice on the sidewalk he hadn’t noticed. Ouch.

It’s the second broken bone of his life and both were spiral fractures. Beans don’t do half jobs!

(As I write this, he has it out of a splint after 7 weeks and is now headed to physical therapy for it.)

The Christmas Tree of Humility

Christmas trees bring a beautiful smell into a home, and a reminder of the wonderful season of Christmas. This one also brought a heaping dose of humility.

We ventured out as a family to cut down a tree, as per tradition, and I was all geared up to be saw-wielder. Scott was one handed and I’m a capable woman!

It was much harder than I thought and despite my best efforts, Scott’s one hand came in… handy. But we got ‘er done and on the top of the car.

What we didn’t do was get a small tree and we sure should have. Our vaulted family room ceiling tempted us again and we succumbed.

We bought a big, gnarly stand this year but it was immediately apparent when we arrived home that we would need a third helper to get this tree set up. It was between 10 and 11 feet tall and we wanted it to be rock solid in the stand (after two years of leaning trees…)

Thank goodness for selfless, capable friends who have chain saws and great ideas. Scott and I could not have done it alone!

Snow Play Without Snow

I said “yes” to getting out all the snow clothes and bundling the kids up for a romp in the last of the fall leaves.

The stars aligned this year and I have awesome warm coats, bibs, hats, and boots for my three bigger kids. But this was close to snow as we got until January.

That look! I’m so glad I wasn’t blessed with boring kids.

And Josie?

Josie spent her second month of life on earth keeping her brother in line. Ha!

She also had to get ready for her baby blessing in church. Here she is in a quick snapshot I took of the “whole outfit” complete with bonnet and cardigan:

We went with just the dress on the big day, and she was calm and content during the blessing. Yay!

She is a sweet, smiley baby who is such a fan of snuggling and prefers to be where the action is. Luckily there’s usually plenty going on at our house!

The photo above wasn’t posed. It’s just life for a fourth child!

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Josie’s Birth Videos

I almost can’t believe I’m sharing these…

My dad did an incredible job, as always, of capturing the emotion and the “story” of our life.

This first video is a fairly embarrassing docudrama of our trail of false alarms leading up to legit labor, interspersed with a goofy video interview of me and Scott.🙂

If you only watch one video, though, make it this next one.

This is the actual arrival of our Josie Claire. In the past, the videos my dad has done of the births of our children have glossed over the actual labor and delivery part for an obvious reason: I kicked him out of the room. And a slightly less obvious reason: Anything remotely medical makes him squeamish. But this time he stayed in the room, behind a curtain the corner and captured more than I realized.

He told me when he shared the first draft that he “thought it was important for the kids to know that it’s hard, their mothers sacrifice a lot to have them, and you can do hard things. Plus it makes the joy of hearing Josie’s first cries so amazing.” I agree completely.

The video is not at all graphic, but it definitely conveys some of the intense emotions associated with birth.

Real labor starts about 1:50 into the video.  2 minutes later I was dilated to an 8 and just another minute and half later… Josie arrives!  Video time is the best.🙂

(And a bit of backstory: Scott has predicted the birth time of our other children hours in advance, and the farthest he’s been off is 13 minutes. Pretty impressive! Josie arrived at 6:51 am.  Did Scott keep his streak up? Watch and see… )


Posted in Birth Stories, I am a mother, Life as we know it | 6 Comments

Since Josie Was Born (Month 1)

The following is a list of things we did (some rather foolish), moments we treasured and things we survived in the first month of Josie’s life:

Day 1

– We introduced Mackenzie, Caitlyn and Daniel to Josie at the hospital. They discovered they had a baby sister and I basked in the life-changing moment it was for them. Siblings are friends and support for life!

I always look forward to this moment and often, I’ll admit, I’m underwhelmed because my kids are usually excited to see ME more than the baby. But, this time was magical.

Even Daniel had eyes only for Josie when he first walked in, though fairly soon his attention was diverted to the bulb syringe and the window seat.

So much so that he is absent for our family photos.

Right about here is where I was thinking again at how lucky I am:

– Scott brought me a care package: freshly picked concord grapes and my favorite chocolate, which always brings back memories of our Epic Europe Trip 10 years ago.

– Even though I knew my dad is an excellent photographer and was in town in large part to take excellent photos, I still couldn’t resist snapping some on my cell phone while snuggling Josie. She’s just beautiful to me.

– Weird hospital thing: They don’t want you to dress your baby in clothes from home (for security reasons? They’re less identifiable as a hospital baby that way?)… but they don’t provide any clothes for them to wear… just a blanket. And the nurses were wonderful women, but all were awful swaddlers. They were constantly coming in to unwrap the sleeping baby to take vitals, and leaving her cold and fussy. One more reason I was glad to head home!

– Somehow I blew it and forgot that nursing babies need to be burped even before your milk comes in. Poor Josie was unhappy that first night in the hospital and I was so tired I couldn’t figure out why, until about 3 am when she started spitting colostrum everywhere. Doh! Rookie Mom move for sure. (See also the cold baby issue above. Had I been thinking straight I would have done things differently.)

Day 2

– We checked out about 24 hours after she was born, 25 hours after being admitted. I went home and had a nap, woke up and made bread and soup for dinner. That’s how much easier my recovery was this time around compared to my first birth!🙂

I snapped a selfie as I was leaving the hospital, as photographic proof of why women should bring maternity clothes to wear home. I warned my kids in advance that I’d still have a big belly. It wasn’t a belly full of jelly like it was after my first baby, though. Instead this was very firm and way out front, just like I was still pregnant but not as far along.

Day 3

– The very next day all four of my kids had semi-emergencies/messes/tears at the same time for different reasons and I had my first try at meeting everyone’s needs. Whew. We’re all going to grow in patience for sure. My dad took the big kids to the children’s museum while Scott and I had a date at his office getting Josie checked and showing her off. It was soooo nice to have Scott by my side! I fell in love with him all over again watching him tenderly care for our little lady. The last two babies were born during busy periods of residency and I was flying solo more often than not.

Day 4

– The day after that, I cranked up the thermostat until we were all sweating, my dad spent lots of time shoving furniture around, I bathed everyone and fed everyone and we attempted a photoshoot of newborn Josie. It was an awful day. Honestly, just awful. All the kids were clamoring for attention, all are tricky to photograph, and one child who shall remain nameless kept pooping on the props.

So I was over the moon when I saw the photos had turned out beautifully.

Side note: Bearing children has given me a profound respect and appreciation for my body and what it’s capable of. The photo above isn’t so flattering when compared to my typical physique but it’s absolutely staggering to me that I’m holding a baby in my arms who was safely growing inside that belly a few days previously.

– Grandma Bean came that night and we discovered she has a talent for snuggling Josie into a super deep sleep.

It came in handy! Sweet Josie is still a total snuggler and I’ll always maintain that she learned that from her grandma.

We’re definitely not complaining.

Side Note: She earned her nickname, “Ducky” because she was so dang snuggly in those ducky jams. The day she grew out of them was a sad one.

My dad captured some moments with Grandma Bean during the 24 hours or so their trips overlapped:

Day 5

– When Josie was five days old, we took a trip up to Portland and hit up the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (yes, really). I just kept Josie in my Moby wrap and watched the other kids burn off energy while Scott dropped my dad off at the airport.

Day 6

– When Josie was six days old, we went to church. Scott had an early morning meeting so I got everyone ready myself. I’m still shaking my head at this as I type, but those are the facts. Then I came home and napped until Scott’s sisters and some of their kids rang the doorbell. They had driven down from Washington just to see us Josie for a few hours! Those Beans are baby people for sure. They showed up with pizzas to bake, they listened attentively to the whole labor story, swept my kitchen floor, doted on all my kids, snuggled Josie, and then they were off.

Day 7

– We started homeschooling again. Not because I’m super woman, but because my kids to better with routine and I knew I’d have an easier time getting back into a good groove if I had Grandma Bean’s help to do it. So we did. Slowly.

Days That All Blurred Together

– We went apple picking with Grandma. 4 varieties. 80 lbs. We had been there a few weeks previously with Grandpa, when I was largely pregnant. The woman at this family-run orchard was surprised to see me back so soon, baby in tow. Caitlyn proudly announced, “My mom had the baby! It’s a girl one!”

Lunch was just about the lowest key picnic on the planet: a loaf of bread (and apples of course!) My kids are used to me so they just happily trotted around the orchard munching bread. It was warm, whole wheat cinnamon walnut bread but it only took 5 minutes to throw in the bread machine, which is waaay faster than making sandwiches and wiping jam hands.

– I was actually so distracted with kids and chatting to the cashier about the new baby that I left the store without paying for groceries. Yup, I really did. The cashier didn’t notice either for a few minutes and then she chased me down in the parking lot. It’s a good thing it takes a long time to buckle four kids into carseats!

– Grandma left after a blissful week in which she did all the dishes (among other things) and I cried as the car backed down the driveway. I’m not usually a crier but hoo-boy there have been some waterworks around here in the last few months.

– I burnt chili and brought it to our ward cook-off anyway. Someone complimented it by saying it had a “smokey” flavor. It definitely did have that.🙂

– I had several pretty rough days. I’m going to call it “baby blues,” which I’d never had before. It felt sort of like being kicked while I was down. It’s rough functioning on little sleep and setting a loving, patient tone in a home with young children. It’s rougher to do it while still recovering from delivering a baby and with super charged emotions. In stretchy pants. Actually those are glorious and I always miss them when I’m back in regular jeans that have to be buttoned.

– I failed at trying to take away Daniel’s naptime and nighttime diapers. It turns out that you can’t motivate a kid with a sticker chart when he’s physically incapable of doing what you’re asking him to do. The poor kid sleeps super deeply and was clueless each and every time he woke up soaked. I figured I was up all night with a baby anyway, I might as well make potty runs with the three year old… but it was not to be.

– Scott and I (and Josie) went on a date to a Halloween party, sporting paper masks we made:

We picked those designs because we liked ’em, but Scott thought of a clever tie-in right before we went: James Pond and his foxy lady. Nice, right? Nobody got it. They all thought we were from a t.v. show or video game they’d never heard of. The fact that it was hard to hear and be heard when inside a paper mask probably didn’t help our attempts to explain, but hey, the masks were rad.

And, it’s the first time I’ve been called “foxy” two weeks after having a baby.

The Silver Lining of Less Supervision

The older kids had some good times as well while I was caring for Josie and resting.

I had less time to spend on school so they had more time to build stuff like this:

I had less time to spend cleaning up after meals, so they ate more meals outside:

Notice Caitlyn’s eye patch, Mackenzie’s bike helmet and stuffed bear? They were in the middle of a very involved play scenario when I called them for food.

I had less time to spend making meals, so they ate cobbled together meals composed of things that Mackenzie can make and serve. The lunch above? Roasted butternut squash cubes, random leftover waffle, and apple slices. Heaven for my kids.

I had less time to give them baths so I said “yes” to them playing in the rain and put all three of them in a quick shower when they came in freezing, muddy and grinning. Hygiene? Check.

And of course the ultimate silver lining:

(Getting to pick out Josie’s outfits.)


We celebrated Josie’s birth and then within the next few weeks mourned the loss of both my aunt and my grandmother.

Aunt Robin, my father’s sister, has always been so sweet to my kids. They love wearing the “Robin Hats” she and her knitting group had so faithfully supplied over the years, and adorable cards would arrive in the mail periodically to the delight of all.

This photo was taken when I was pregnant with Mackenzie:

I remember she would always carry on conversations with babies like they could understand every word.🙂

(with Mackenzie)

Here are my kids showing off their Robin Hats a few winters back:

Grandma Johnson was a pillar of love and support in my life. She always thought I was the bee’s knees and nothing I ever did seemed to convince her otherwise. Her death was rather sudden and I didn’t get the chance to say goodbye. I ache to hear her voice on the other end of the phone line. I want my kids to know her and remember her as I did. But they’ll hear the stories from me and I’ve got great ones to tell.🙂

She died a week after her 11th great-granddaughter was born. And tomorrow Scott will bless that baby in the same white dress my grandmother made for me 31 years ago.

A Beautiful Blur

The “fourth trimester” is a special time. I’m so tired, so happy, so emotional, so exhausted, so blessed and so challenged all at once. I cry more often. I sleep more often, but for far fewer cumulative minutes. It’s true that I worry less with every child but I have more children to worry about!

The days run together and I take hardly any photos, but I do write my thoughts down and pray a lot. For patience, for greater capacity to care for the needs of each of my kids. For some of the sweetness of these days with a new baby to sink into my soul to be savored again later when I have had more sleep.

Posted in I am a mother | 6 Comments