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!

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

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

Josie’s Birth Story – Every Labor is Different

Read Before Labor Began back here.

Tuesday, October 6th – Josie’s Birthday

In the wee hours of Tuesday morning I was lying in bed with major contractions ~15 minutes apart while everyone else slumbered peacefully. I had a 7 am induction scheduled and a friend coming over to watch my children at 6:30 am.

I really wasn’t sure what to think. I had been tricked so many times in the past weeks by classic signs of labor, but here I was thinking for the first time that I was really in labor and the contractions weren’t getting any closer together!

At 4:30 am, I had a contraction.. then another at 4:44 am. This one was so strong that I couldn’t stay quiet, and I thought it might not be a bad thing if my noises woke Scott up. I also found myself thinking, “I’m not sure how long I can do this for.”

Woah, where did that thought come from? I was very familiar with that feeling, but surely it couldn’t be that time already. This is one of my emotional signposts of transition, which meant that a baby was coming in short order. I didn’t feel like I was quite There but I knew I was headed there… and probably sooner than my scheduled induction.

Scott stirred in bed next to me. I woke him up and told him I thought I couldn’t wait for the induction time to go to the hospital.

I was between contractions at the time so I looked perfectly fine. He asked if he could get me anything, and then in his half-awake stupor he actually asked if it would be okay if he caught a little more sleep first.


He said he’d hop in the shower and I actually wasn’t sure that was a great idea but I reasoned that I still hadn’t had another contraction.

Awake now and clean, Scott saw me have a contraction and suggested we wake my dad. Again I felt so at ease between contractions that I hesitated. Scott reasoned that we were just giving him a heads-up, a little lead time to gather his things. Another contraction started and I quickly consented. We ended up leaving for the hospital at 5:30 am, an hour before our planned departure. I wasn’t timing my contractions but I had 3 on the 15 minute car ride and another at the threshold of the hospital so they must have been (finally) getting closer together.

I’m stubborn when I’m in labor

There is so little I can control during labor that I tend to get quite adamant about the few things that I can. I insisted Scott not speed on the drive over. After all, we weren’t in that big of a hurry.

I also utterly refused to let Scott drop me off at the door to the hospital. Why? Because I always walk from the parking lot and this time shouldn’t be any different.

Crazy but true. So I power walked from the parking garage to the hospital doors while I was between contractions. And then? After breathing through another strong contraction, I talked Scott into sweeping me off my feet and carrying me over the threshold even though I was pretty darn uncomfortable. Why? Because that’s what we do when we go to the hospital to have babies! I’m shaking my head as I type this. But those are the facts of the case.

Scott nearly refused to carry me but I think he concluded the fastest way to get me to a delivery room was to agree with my stipulations.

Scott told the ER nurse that my contractions were 10 minutes apart (though I realize in hindsight they were getting closer together rather quickly) but I was in too much discomfort to feel remotely sheepish about heading to the hospital so early on in labor. I even consented to a wheelchair ride through the crazy maze from the ER to L&D. Scott insisted on it because he said I couldn’t walk through contractions. I thought that I would be fine but he was right. I wouldn’t have made it!

It’s Definitely Baby Time

I got wheeled up to L&D, signed two papers, and was parked by the scale. At this point things were picking up speed and I marveled that they were taking time to weigh me. A nurse came right over and interceded, though, saying my doctor was waiting and I should go straight to a room.

I was dilated to an 8!

At this point my dad had stepped behind a curtain near the door of the room, but things were happening so fast that we didn’t think much of it. He ended up staying put in that corner, hearing the whole labor (and recording the audio!).  He texted my mom updates periodically.  In turn, and unbeknownst to me, she was giving live updates to her whole dog walking group since she was at the park at the time. That’s one way to make new friends.

Contractions were manageable and still far enough apart that I could rest a minute or so between them. Scott was a rockstar coach and remembered to do so many of the things I requested: whispering in my ear, reminding me I was in transition and these contractions were bringing the baby, etc. He even told me he was going to pull out my signs at one point, but I was in another place mentally and had my eyes closed, so the signs stayed in the bag.

The nurses tried to warm me up with hot water bottles and blankets so they could get an IV in, but they were unsuccessful. I looooved all the extra warmth and I didn’t miss the IV one bit.

I stayed on top of the contractions really well up until they checked me again and I was declared “a 9 with a cervical lip.” For some reason this news translated in my head to “these contractions aren’t doing their job and they hurt for no reason.” I was declared a 10 shortly thereafter, but I started to worry because there wasn’t a break in contractions like I had experienced with my previous labors and I didn’t feel a very clear urge to push either.

Then I felt It. Pressure.

I pushed during the next contraction and my water broke.

With the small part of my brain that was still functioning on some level, I thought, “Thank goodness! The home stretch!” With Daniel’s birth, after my water broke I had a break between contractions followed by a strong urge to push, which replaced the painful contractions, and he was born shortly thereafter.

But every labor is different.

The Hard Part

This time around I just had painful contractions coming fast and furious and the small part of my brain that was still functioning decided that since I was already fully dilated, pushing was the solution.

I pushed for 20 minutes, getting more and more desperate with every contraction. Somehow I couldn’t seem to push effectively. I couldn’t get the pain to stop. I remember just wanting to stop and focus on getting through each contraction. When I focused on the contraction I could stay on top of it, but pushing at the same time was just awful. I actually screamed. I’m told this is common, but I’d certainly never done it before. My doctor told me to stop screaming. That made me mad. (A sure sign I wasn’t all there mentally at this point.)

Finally, I hollered that I couldn’t do it! There was just no way I was capable of continuing on to get this baby out. I believed it, too. But mercifully the very next contraction brought an overwhelming urge to push, and with it the deep moan I greeted like an old friend, and the blessed automatic bearing down that had come with my previous unmedicated childbirths. One of those pushes and it was done.

Josie greeted this world showcasing a fine set of lungs, and I started sobbing with relief.

The intense emotions of childbirth are unparalleled. In the space of two minutes I had come to the outermost edge of myself and back again. I was choked by despair and desperate to find strength I was sure I didn’t have, only to have that very strength surge through me and pull my daughter into the world. In the instant her cries reached my ears my body felt empty and yet spilling over with utter joy.

Josie is my fourth baby, but, in case it needs to be said, every single birth is a miracle and a marvel. She came to us already full of a beautiful spirit and my mother heart grew a new chamber just for her. My life will never be the same.

Newborns arrive puffy, squinty, disoriented, and utterly helpless. The beauty of a family is that each new member is adored and accepted just as they come, and ever onward come what may. They are full of potential yet completely mysterious. Toes and fingers are counted immediately, while everything truly important will take a lifetime to discover.

As parents we are left to watch, hope, dream, wonder, and stand in awe of the gift God has given us.

Posted in Birth Stories, I am a mother, Life as we know it | 8 Comments

Josie’s Birth Story – Before Labor Began

The days leading up to Josie’s birth were a bit of an emotional roller coaster. I gave some brief updates previously about various false starts for this labor, but this post fills in the details.

Saturday, October 3rd
Despite having experienced labor three times before, this time around things didn’t seem very clear cut.

I knew none of the “false alarms” were It. Really, I did! But, I was walking around dilated to a 4 on my due date and I was quite uncomfortable. So when I had several hours of contractions 3-4 minutes apart lasting 2 minutes each we headed to the hospital hoping they might just break my water and get the show on the road. After walking the halls for an hour I hadn’t dilated further. They wanted me to keep at it for an hour “just in case” because I have fast labors… but it was past 3 am and we decided to go home and sleep.

My patient dad captured a photo of the action (or rather, the lack thereof):

I’m glad he got that shot because there didn’t turn out to be any walking of the halls when I was actually in labor!

Sunday, October 4th
After we caught a few hours of sleep, my doctor called about mid-morning and offered to bring me in at 4 pm to break my water. She said Monday was looking jammed at the hospital but today was light and she knew I was close. I agreed and got all psyched up. By 3:30 pm the house was clean, the kids were packed up with sleepover stars in their eyes and we were walking out the door to drop them off at my friend’s house. Then I got a call from the hospital. It was a no-go on the induction that afternoon. We would plan on Tuesday at 7 am instead.

Monday, October 5th
I had an appointment with my doctor in the afternoon and Scott had taken the afternoon off to come with me (he’d never met my doctor before). Despite the fact that it had been a very quiet day contraction-wise my doctor told me that I was now dilated to a 5.  Also, she had just spoken with the hospital and they said that they weren’t as busy as they had expected and so I could get induced today if I wanted to. But it would have to RIGHT NOW. We could go straight there from her office. It took me a few minutes to mentally prepare for having a baby THAT DAY and work out the logistics of childcare for our older three kids, but with Scott’s encouragement we decided to go for it.

My doctor left the room to call the charge nurse. Just to confirm. You know where this is going right? Somehow I didn’t. So when the doctor came back in the room and said all bets were off because they had been inundated again I was dismayed. Back to 7 am the next morning.

(When I texted the update to my mom, she asked me if I was sure I liked my doctor and hospital. Ha! A little late in the game to change, Mom! 🙂 )

I’m not going to say I wasn’t feeling a bit put out by this time, especially because my doctor said the induction scheduled for the next morning was “tentative” based on the hospital’s availability. I didn’t love the uncertainty. My kids had stopped getting as excited when I would say, “Today might be Baby Day!” and I had a friend planning on coming to my house at 6:30 am the next morning. She had already been called to my house past midnight on another night, and prepped for a sleepover with all my kids on a different night. She’d been an amazingly good sport about all the other false alarms but I didn’t want to impose on her again.

Later That Day…

With Scott at home afterward I was able to take a blissful hour and a half of relaxation time on my glider reading Anne of Green Gables… for the first time in my life. How is it possible that I’m Anne with an “e” and I’d never read that book?

That evening was stunning and I headed out with my dad and kids to go walk by the river. The light was gorgeous, the leaves were beginning to change and I felt comfortable walking, which was a nice change. It did occur to me when we were nearly a mile from the parking lot that the walk back might get tricky if I went into labor. But all was quiet on that front.

After I put the kids to bed, I decided to relax on the couch until Scott returned from his Willamette Master Chorus rehearsal.

Ow. What was THAT contraction?! Out of nowhere, I had a whopper of a contraction that grabbed me and forced me to pay attention. It was about 9 pm at that point but another one didn’t happen for about 15 minutes. Yeow! These meant business, but they were far apart and stayed far apart after Scott came home. So, I just puttered around a bit getting ready for our early exit the next morning.

Everyone else headed to bed after 11 pm, but every 15-20 minutes or so I was hit with another Yeow making sleep impossible. I laid and dozed and went to the bathroom every other contraction.

To be continued…

Posted in Birth Stories, Life as we know it, Pregnancy | 2 Comments

Home Ghoul

I owe this blog a birth story(!), an updated cookbook and about 9 months of catchup posts… but instead I wrote up something simple and fun we did yesterday.

I surprised my kids with these papers slipped in the fronts of their binders when they came to the table for memory work:
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I drew their attention to the Home Ghoul Agenda posted on the fridge and I thought Caitlyn’s head would fly right off her shoulders. She was that surprised and delighted. (This may have something to do with the rarity of this kind of event at our house. 🙂 )

Here’s what we did:

Breakfast was Pumpkin Oatmeal, with a generous handful of chopped dates thrown in. Yum.

– Memory Memory Work – Instead of reciting places of pi or the planets in the solar system, we took a trip down memory lane by looking at Halloween and pumpkin patch photos from past years and I told them some fun family stories. Awww.


Shakes-fear – I cajoled Scott, who is excellent at voices, into being a guest reader for the Shakespeare passages they’re memorizing. I played spooky music from YouTube on my computer to add to the ambiance. The girls were mesmerized.

Mysterious Math – I printed out some themed math worksheets from this website. They weren’t anything fancy but when I worked them with the kids I pretended to be afraid of the spiders and bats on the page. They ate it up. I’m constantly amazed by how infectious my enthusiasm is in our homeschool. (Also, keeping a commitment I made to Mackenzie years ago… these worksheets were strictly optional since they definitely fell under the category of Busy Work!)

Squash Size Smackdown – I took the idea from this post, which actually inspired the whole themed day. We made an official results table and brainstormed ways to measure pumpkins.

Measuring by displacement was definitely the biggest hit:

Scary Stories – Over lunch, I read a Halloween book we own that I keep hidden until this time of year. Then we watched this great book read-aloud on YouTube, which was so fun.

Oh, and on the spur of the moment, this was lunch:

Hasty hummus jack-o-lanterns and an apple spider are far from pinterest worthy but they sure dazzled my kids.

Scott got into the spirit as well and made Halloween Teeth from apples, peanut butter, and mini marshmallows.

Spooky Sounds – Instead of our regular piano practice times, Mackenzie and I teamed up and played some Halloween songs. Caitlyn sang along. 🙂

Halloween Hullabaloo – I had a simple word game to play at dinner but the kids were stir crazy so first I threw in a freeze dance game to spooky Halloween music… after that, the word game was a big hit. I had printed out the word Halloween and every person tried to make as many words from the letters as they could. I was so impressed by my kids! They came up with things like “whale” “halo” “wane” etc. Scott, of course, filled a whole page with words. Games like that are right up his alley. It was fun to see the girls got a few words he hadn’t. Instead of totaling individual scores we made a combined family list.

This wasn’t on the agenda but was the perfect end to the day: We lit candles and Scott read “The Raven” by Edgar Allen Poe to us as we finished dinner. I memorized it in jr. high and still remember a good bit of it so it was especially fun to hear. This one will be a tradition for sure…

I’m no great fan of Halloween and I’m dreading the mandatory pumpkin carving and painting tomorrow but we really had fun mixing things up for school together.

Posted in Life as we know it | 3 Comments