Showing posts with label Tips And How-To's. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tips And How-To's. Show all posts

What I Learned In Our First (Real) Year Of Homeschooling




This past week we finished up our homeschool year.  I have to say, I was a homeschooled student, but coming from the mom side is a whole different thing.  There are a lot of advantages I have as a homeschool mom from being a homeschool student myself, but there are also a lot of things that you can't learn until you are on the teaching side of it.  I thought I'd take a little time today to reflect on what I've learned over this first year of homeschooling (first real year anyway - in my book, kindergarten doesn't count).


Homeschooling Is Great For Developing Patience

I would in no way consider myself a patient person.  Patience is something that I've struggled with over the years - I get impatient when things don't go smoothly, when I have to repeat myself, when things don't go my way.  Getting married cured me of some of that.  Having kids has grown me even more.  But having my kids with me 24/7 and teaching them myself at home is a whole other ball game when it comes to patience.

When I mention that I am homeschooling my kids, I've had lots of moms say to me "Oh, I wouldn't have the patience for that."  This year I learned that I don't have the patience for homeschooling either.  The secret is, a lot of moms who choose to homeschool don't have the patience for it.  But homeschooling is an excellent facilitator for sanctification.

I know you've heard it said that if you ask God for more patience, He'll give you opportunities to practice it, and that's exactly what homeschooling has done for me.  It hasn't always been pretty, and my deep-seated impatience has never been more obvious to me, but I can honestly say that at the end of this year that I am more patient then I was at the beginning of the year.  And that's purely through God enabling me and giving me practice at developing patience through this thing called homeschooling.  It's hard, but I know this is exactly why I should be doing it.

It's Okay To Change Curricula In The Middle Of The Year

I mentioned in a recent post that we ended up changing curricula in the middle of the year.  A lot of homeschool posts will advise you against switching your curriculum, will tell you to give it a really good chance before you drop it.  And there's some wisdom in that.  You obviously can't be switching curricula constantly - it would waste a lot of money and stunt your child's learning.  But this year I learned that when something just isn't working, you should find something else that will.  I'm so glad we didn't muddle through the whole year with the curriculum I had originally bought for reading - finding a curriculum that fit was so life-giving to our homeschool days!  Switching curricula mid-year does not mean you are a failure for starting with the wrong one.  When you are in the early homeschooling years with any kid, it's going to take a little trial and error to figure out what will work best with your unique blend of personalities.  I imagine we might have to switch curricula mid-year again at some point since I have five different kids with unique learning needs, and that's okay!

You Will Be Miserable If You Don't Learn To Stop Comparing

I remember seven years ago, as a brand-new mom, I struggled constantly with comparing my baby to all my friends' babies.  I doubted myself whenever another child started rolling over, walking, talking before my own baby.  Every new mom has to learn not to compare her baby to others, because every child learns and develops at their own pace.  I eventually became secure as a mom as I learned those things.  What I didn't expect was for all those insecurities to come roaring back as soon as my oldest hit school age.  This year I had to re-learn all over again that kids' learn and grow at their own pace, and that this will necessarily affect the way we homeschool.  While kids' need to be challenged to grow, there are also times when they are just not ready for a certain academic skill and you have to sit back and wait until they are.  Learning when to challenge your child with a new skill and when to wait a bit - and learning to stop comparing your child to other children - is part of becoming a good homeschool teacher.  



You Actually Can Have A Baby In The Middle Of A Homeschool Year

I have to admit, I was nervous about how having a new baby in the house would affect our homeschool year.  This is the first year we have had a legal requirement on the amount of days we needed to do school, and I was really worried that having a baby would make it hard to hit our target. But I learned that having a baby in the middle of a school year is not really a big deal.  The great part of homeschooling is that it is so flexible!

I tried to get ahead a bit by schooling a few days here and there over last summer, but we only accumulated 20 extra days.  When Georgie was born at the end of October, I took the entire months of November and December off, and we didn't do a single thing (aside from some field trips).  But we still finished up our school year before June!  Our school days after Georgie arrived were laid-back and simple - we did practically no school work in the mornings.  When the little ones were down for a nap in the afternoon, then we would work on our reading, language arts, and math.  When the younger ones got up, we'd read our history and science books together.

I was surprised and encouraged to see that homeschooling fit easily into our new life stage - and the key was letting our days be flexible.  I'm actually glad I didn't have to deal with getting my kids out the door in the morning and picking them up by a certain time every day, not to mention all the extra preparation for lunches and school events - it might actually be easier to have a baby without sending my kids' to a school building!

Learn To Love What Must Be Done

I am admittedly an academia-loving person.  I get excited by school supplies.  I love studying and learning new things myself.  I actually love the idea of teaching my kids history and science!  But there are some areas of being a homeschool teacher that I was not as excited about.  I've had multiple friends make comments to me too about not looking forward to homeschooling, not feeling excited or passionate about it.  However, through this first year of homeschooling I've learned that it is possible to learn to love what must be done.

I can't remember where I first heard this phrase, but it has become a constant refrain for me this year, as we pushed through our lessons on days when I was just not feeling it.  It's impossible to be passionate and excited about something all the time, and I think to be successful at homeschooling you have to realize that. You can push through and learn to love what you are doing anyway.

It's the difference between the newly-married, heart-pounding love, and the steady deeper love that you have when you've been married for years.  As the fresh excitement of the school year faded, and the seeming drudgery of daily work took over, I learned that there is a deeper satisfaction and passion that develops when you push through, as you find the meaningful in the midst of the everyday, as you learn to shake things up and give yourself a fresh perspective throughout the journey.

That's how you learn to love what must be done, by sticking with a commitment even when you don't feel a superficial excitement about it - there's a deeper accomplishment, and yes, even a love, that comes with the commitment.

Next year is my first year homeschooling two kids in two different grades, so the learning has just begun!  Stay tuned.

Homeschool friends, what was the biggest thing you learned in your first year of homeschooling?


How To Start A Casual Blog



A few people have asked me in recent months how to start a blog. 

As a result of the professional blogging spike in the past five years, you can find a ton of posts about how should start a blog if you want to be a professional about it. However, I don't know that everyone who has considered starting a blog necessarily wants to make blogging their profession. 

Some people just want to have a place to write about whatever they feel like writing. Some people want to document a specific journey or adventure on which they are embarking. Some people just want to give it a go and see if it sticks. 

Unfortunately, there's not that many posts out there anymore telling you how to start blogging casually. So I thought I would just write my own so that the next time someone asks me about starting a blog, I have a post ready to go with the bare minimum of what they need to know and do to get started.

1. Set up your blog page. 

Before you can start to write you need to have a place to write, so you need to choose a blogging platform. There are two approaches to this:

A.  Start as if your blog will earn you money one day. 

Many bloggers who have monetized their blogs will advise you to start right off the bat with WordPress.org and hire someone to build an amazing website for you. If you you want to start a blog with the intent of earning money with it, and you are fully committed to that and have a plan, listen to those people. I have many blog friends who recommend the resources on Just A Girl And Her Blog for a professional approach to starting a blog.

However, I am not going to tell you to do that.

B. Just start. 

Personally, I don't think there's any sense in investing a ton of money until you really figure out if blogging is for you. You may absolutely love blogging, or you may write for a couple months and decide it's not your thing. Especially if you are more interested in personal reasons for blogging (documenting your life, connecting with other people, having your own platform to just write), I would recommend that you start on Blogger.com.  I've been on Blogger since the beginning, and I am still happy with it. The interface is very intuitive (you can just start!), they have a great designing dashboard that is easy to use (you can make it look how you want it to look), and it's FREE! You can sign up with Blogger and set up a basic blog in about ten minutes, so go do that. I'll wait.

 A Note About Designing

If you want to fiddle around with the design template on Blogger you probably will figure out how to make it look the way you want it to look you all by yourself. You may also consider creating or commissioning a graphic designer for a header image, because that is the first impression of your blog page (nice, but not strictly necessary). You can also search on Etsy for blog templates; some sellers will even install it for you. This is the template designer I used when I wanted to update my template to be mobile-responsive (i.e. so my blog would adjust to screen on your phone), and I'd recommend her - she was very helpful!

2. Start writing.

The next thing you need to do to get going with your blog is just to write. 

The professional blogging community will also tell you to create several posts before you launch your site so that you have content already waiting for your potential readers. I don't think this is a bad idea at all.  When you have posts already published and ready to promote, it makes it look like you've been writing for more than a day.  This is nice, but I'd like to emphasize that it is in no way necessary.  It's more important to just start, so if pre-creating content is going to slow you down, I say just skip it.

Just go ahead and write whatever you want to for your first post and publish it. In the long run, what makes most bloggers successful is just writing, and being consistent about it. 

The more you write, the more you think of to write, and the more creative you force yourself to be, the more creativity comes to you. So just get started. Try to make a goal of writing x-amount of times per week.  If you stick to it for a while, you're going to come up with some good content, and it's going to get easier and easier to come up with good content.


3. Start reading blogs.

You may want to do this before you actually start creating your blog, but after you start writing I think it's especially helpful to read other blogs. There are two reasons for this.

A. To spark your own ideas. 

First, reading other blogs will often spark ideas for posts for your own blog. Seeing how other bloggers write will also give you a better idea of how to format posts on your blog, and the kind of feeling you want your blog and writing to have.

B. To become a reciprocal blogger.  

The second reason I recommend reading other blogs is not only to get ideas, but also to start creating your network. Blogging is way way more fun if you have people actually reading your blog and interacting with it, and a good way to encourage that is to become a reciprocal blogger - meaning you leave comments on other blogs, and return comments when you receive them on your blog. 

This used to be the norm in the blogging world, but unfortunately blogging has gotten a lot more self-focused over the last five years, with an emphasis on pageviews rather than relationships.  If you want to have a casual blog and make it fun, focus on building relationships. The good news is that I sense a shift back to building a sense of community among bloggers, and I hope this continues. 

If you are just starting out with a casual blog, I recommend commenting frequently and widely on blogs that look similar to yours, and I almost guarantee a few of those bloggers will end up coming back and reading your blog too.

4. Get your posts out there. 

By this I mean to go ahead and share your posts on social media.  In the blogging world today, commenting, while important for casual bloggers, is not as effective as it used to be in getting people to visit your blog.  You need a way to let people know that you have some new content.  There are several ways to do this:

A. Instagram.  

I highly recommend joining Instagram, even for a casual blog these days.  Not only will this help you get your blog out there to people who might be interested in reading what you have to say, the (sort of sad) truth is you will most likely get more responses to your content on Instagram than on your actual blog.  I've found it's almost easier to find blog friends this way, because it's so quick and easy to comment back!

B. Facebook. 

There are a few ways to use Facebook - you can create a page for your blog so you can share new content, or you can just share new content right on your personal Facebook if you don't mind everyone in your friend list potentially reading your blog. You may also consider joining a Facebook group for bloggers.  I don't use my blogging Facebook groups that much because they are typically geared more toward the business side of blogging, but sometimes they can be fun.  The Peony Project is a one for women bloggers. 

C. Linkups.  

A lot of people have great luck finding blog readers through participating in linkups.  A linkup is a collection of blog links surrounding a specific theme, and it is hosted on someone else's blog.  You would typically write a post that would fit with the theme of the linkup, and then go to the host blog and add your link.  If you are going to participate in a linkup to find blog friends/readers, do not just drop your link and run.  You have to comment on other people's posts too.  I don't do that many linkups, personally, but if you are interested I'd check A Joy Filled Life and/or Girl On The Move for their link party lists.


Frequently Asked Questions

What should I write about? 

There are typically two kinds of blogs out there: niche blogs, and lifestyle blogs.  Niche blogs are focused on one particular topic, such as cooking blogs, fashion blogs, homeschooling blogs, etc.  If you want to create a niche blog, I think it's important to really be focused and only write things that relate in some way to your topic.  My blog is not a niche blog.  I would classify it as a lifestyle or personal blog.  I just write about whatever in the world I feel like writing. You can make a blog work either way, you don't necessarily have to have a niche.  It's also totally okay to change your focus, especially when you are just blogging casually (which is what this post is all about) - you can try niche writing for a while, and if it doesn't work, change it up.

How do I get people to send me items to review? 

A lot of blogs, as they grow, can become a weird hybrid of a casual personal blog, and a money-making blog.  My blog might be a good example of this - I mostly write what I please, but I also accept products to review and sponsored posts occasionally - either for fun or to help my family.  Because of these occasional sponsored posts, I frequently have friends asking me how they can get free products or compensation through blogging.  

In order to get items to review or be offered compensation for writing a post, you have to build something of a readership first.  Companies want to make sure their investment of money or a product is going to yield some sort of return, so you just aren't going to get these kinds of offers until you start getting a certain amount of monthly pageviews.  Gaining pageviews does take a lot of work, and if this is going to be your focus from the start I would say you are probably not wanting to be a casual blogger - you are hoping to make money with your blog, so I'd check out more of the resources for professional blogging at the link near the top of this post.

How did you start getting sponsored content or products to review?

If you don't necessarily want to start with the goal of making money, but are just kind of curious on how that works, here's my story.  

I wrote on my blog consistently for several years, made blog friends, and generally just had fun with it.  I gained some like-minded followers.  Pinterest came out, and I had a moderate amount of success with some of my party-related posts, which afforded me even more regular pageviews.  Once my pageviews reached a certain level, I had companies occasionally contact me to see if I'd like to receive a product to review - of course I said yes (when it was something I would be interested in)!  Then I went through a brief phase when I decided to try to gain more sponsored post opportunities through sponsored content networks, and I had some success with that because I had a certain amount of pageviews and an audience that those companies were looking for.  

Product reviews and sponsored posts can be a lot of fun, but they only come once in a while, and I don't think they should be your only reason for blogging.  Most people aren't that interested in a blog that only puts out sponsored content and product reviews.  After trying to earn more money with my blog for a year or two there, I decided I was becoming exhausted with the whole thing and had more fun with blogging when I focused more on friendships with other bloggers, so I shifted back to a more casual/personal approach.  I still do occasional sponsored content, but I'm more particular and don't accept those posts as often anymore.

But what about your book reviews?

Okay, if you are wanting to know how to get books to review, that's a whole other ball game!  I love reviewing books on my blog, and I think it fits in nicely with a more casual approach to blogging.  Let me know if you are interested in more on that, and maybe I'll put together another post on how I receive free books in exchange for reviews!

Blog buddies, what do you think?  Would you add anything to this post for people who may be interested in starting to blog casually?


How I Use Bullet Journaling



Every year in January, I head to Target and buy a new, crisp planner.

And every year I use said planner for approximately 2.3 weeks before my motivation to get organized peters out and I forget about it.

I am one of those people who likes the idea of a planner, especially the ones with monthly goal sheets and weekly layouts - but when it comes to actually using the planner, I usually find that all my organizational hopes are disappointed.  I stare at the blank lines and want so much to fill them in, but I usually end up writing stuff in those spaces just so the blank space won't be staring at me, or not using it at all and feeling like I failed somehow.  I've never been able to find a planner that is structured enough to help me stay organized and motivated without being too restrictive for my actual life.  

So despite dropping a twenty on a pretty planner, I usually still end up with random pieces of paper in a pile on my counter with scribbled to-do lists, book lists, quotes, and reminders.

However, I'm happy to report that all that changed last fall when I finally figured out what people meant by "bullet journaling".  

A few days before Georgiana was born, I was walking through our newly remodeled library and saw a new wall with displays of DIY books.  I stopped to skim, and found a book called Dot Journaling: A Practical Guide by Rachel Wilkerson Miller.  The subtitle said How To Start and Keep The Planner, To-Do List, and Diary That'll Actually Help You Get Your Life Together.  Honestly it just kind of looked pretty, so I picked it up for fun and started flipping through it in the car.  



I realized almost immediately that this was the planning and organization system I have been looking for!

Basically a bullet journal is a self-made planner and diary that can be anything you want it to be because you are the one who organizes it.  There are really no rules to it except the ones you make for your own journal.

I told Derek that I needed to give this a try, and we spent an afternoon driving around in search of a dot-grid journal.  On Sunday I finally got one, and I sat down to start getting my journal set up just as my labor contractions started.  I ended up bringing my bullet journal to the hospital with me, and one of my first pages is a timeline of my labor and delivery with Georgie!

To get a solid grasp on the system, you can check out the official bullet journaling website for free, but I highly recommend checking out Dot Journaling, because to me, it made the whole things seem more doable.  But that said, here is a little tour of my bullet journal to give you an idea of what it is.

Key

A page with a code for any of the symbols you choose to use in your journal (see "Daily Entries").

Index

Most bullet journals have an index, where you record what is on each page of your journal.  This makes it easier to find something later.  I guess some people write down the page numbers each time they mention different topics, but I think that sounds like too much work, so my index is pretty straight-forward.



Yearly Calendar

This is a calendar of the year, just for reference.  I have mine set up so I can write in dates of holidays, birthdays, etc. under each month.



Collections

In my journal, these are ongoing lists that I know I'll be adding to frequently.  I have:

1. Books To Read page
2. Books To Buy page, 
3. Products To Try page
4. New Words page (an idea I got from the Dot Journaling book that has proved really useful).

Trackers

I have a few pages dedicated to trackers for habits I want to nurture every day of the year.  In my journal these are:

1. Bible/Prayer Time Tracker
2. Exercise Tracker
3. Read-Aloud Tracker

The tracking pages are something I would like to be more consistent in using.  I have found that I haven't been updating my trackers that well, which kind of defeats the purpose.  I'll see how it goes over the next few months and evaluate if I think I'm using these enough to include them in my next journal.



Monthly Pages

In my journal, these pages are a calendar for the month where I write in events, doctor's appointments, etc (this was really useful to have in December).  It's nice to have my calendar all laid out and organized in a book I can carry in my purse, instead of just on the wall at home.  And I know they make pocket calendars, but I never use those.  For some reason I do use the calendars in my bullet journal.



For my monthly view I also have been including a habit/mood/health tracker, with categories like:

1. Drank 2 glasses of water.
2. Drank coffee.
3. Took a nap.
4. Had a migraine.
5. Feeling sad, irritable, anxious, happy, etc.

Once again, I feel like I haven't been as consistent as I would like with tracking my habits.  I would like to get better at this because if I could keep track, I think it would help me figure out some triggers for different health and mood related things (like migraines, being irritable, etc).  But the great thing about bullet journaling is that if I don't feel like I get the hang of it over the next couple months, if it's not working for me, I'll just drop it.


Daily Entries

In my journal I don't have any weekly planning pages since I don't find them particularly useful - I just skip right to my daily entries, which I organize with a to-do list at the top and notes about my day underneath that.

The night before I write the date and to-do list for the next day (with little dots next to each task).  I always have an idea of what I want to accomplish the next day, but in the past this list has just resided in my head or on random scraps of paper around my house.  I frequently forgot things.  It's been great to have all my to-do's in a central location - they don't get lost this way!

In the evening I cross out the things on my list that I finished (with an "x"), migrate things forward (with the > symbol) to the next day if I didn't get them done, or cancel them (with a slash mark).  

After that I write little dashes underneath with my notes about the day.  This is the "diary" part of my bullet journal.  I just write down whatever I did that day, and I can (briefly) include my feelings about it or not.  It's just a record of my day.  There have been a couple times so far when something was bothering me and I spent more time writing about it in this section too, but usually this note-taking only takes me a few minutes at night.  

Not everyone necessarily uses their journals this way, but I really like the idea of being able to look back on my daily entries years down the road.  I've often said the same thing about my blog - it's nice to look back on old blog posts, and this to me is like a mini version of that, filled with the things that no one will find interesting but me, or things that I might not find time to blog about (not everything can make it onto the blog).  

Now, I don't do a daily entry every single day.  Some days I'm just too tired, some days I forget, but once again, the beauty of a bullet journal is that whenever you miss a day, there is no blank paper staring at you, making you feel guilty (or is that just me?).  One entry just goes right after another, even if a week has passed.

Quote Pages

I wanted a place to write quotes that I like, but the problem is that I don't know how many quotes I will find before my journal fills up.  I didn't know how many pages to assign quotes, so I decided to put these pages in the back of my journal.  I've been reading books with a stack of index cards handy, I write down the quotes that I like.  I either transfer the quotes to these back pages or tape the index cards directly onto the pages, starting with the very last page and working backward.  When my daily entries and the quote pages meet, I'll be ready for a new journal.

Other Pages

Scattered in the midst of my daily entries are random pages that I just make whenever the thought strikes me.  Examples are:

1. Sermon Notes pages.  I take my journal to church each Sunday and make a page for my sermon notes.  This way they aren't on a paper that I'll just end up throwing away!
2. Random lists.  For example, I made a page with a list of all the gifts we got for Georgie in the hospital.
3. Grocery lists.  Yep, just sandwiched right in between my daily pages.
4. Budget pages.  I just started including budget pages, so I'm hoping to refine these a bit more, but so far I have stuck a monthly budget page in whenever the monthly bills have get paid off (sometime during the first week of each month).




This is where I can see how a bullet journal wouldn't be useful for some people.  Those with more of a type A, it-has-to-be-perfectly-organized personalities would probably go crazy sticking a random page in their journal like this.  But those type of people also probably do just fine with traditional planners.  For people like me, this is the beauty of bullet journaling!  I can write down whatever I want, anywhere in the journal, enter it in the index so I can find it later, and there are no blank pages!  I also cannot overstate the benefit of the amount of paper clutter this has eliminated from my kitchen counter.

Doesn't It Have To Be Pretty?

No.  Also, stop looking at bullet journals on Pinterest.

My journal is not very pretty.  My handwriting isn't very attractive, and I still have not developed any lettering skills. I have a bunch of mistakes crossed out.  I don't have any doodles.  I try to jazz up some pages with washi tape, but that's about it.  My bullet journal is very functional, and I like it that way, and I don't feel the need to make my pages Pinterest-worthy.  If you want to make your journal all pretty with your artistic skills, definitely do!  But don't let a lack of artistic skills stop you from giving it a try.

What Do You Need To Get Started?

First I'd recommend trying to get Dot Journaling from the library, because she has so many ideas for ways to use your journal.  My ideas here are just a small sampling, and it's quite possible you'd find a bunch of useful things that will work better for you than what I listed here.  You get to make your journal whatever you want it to be!

After you read that book, if bullet journaling is for you, you'll probably be itching to get started (and if not, that's okay).  Technically after that you only need a notebook and a pen to get started, but this is what I actually use:

1. A dot-grid journal.  I like having a dot-grid because it allows me to more easily make calendar pages, and it helps keep my handwriting straight.  I also think the pages look cleaner without lines cluttering it up (at least when you have my handwriting, which looks a little slapdash as it is).
2. My favorite pens.  I like .5 mm pens.
3. A ruler (for making calendar pages).
4. A couple colored markers or highlighters (optional: just to make it prettier).
5. Washi tape (also totally optional, makes the pages prettier since I don't have a level of artistic ability that would be acceptable to me).

Why I Like It

As I said before, I don't think every personality type is conducive to bullet journaling.  People like me, who want to be more organized but don't care if everything is perfectly organized, probably would do better with this system.  This is why I personally like bullet journaling (if you didn't already gather my reasons from the rest of this post):

1. No blank pages.  One of the reasons planners never worked for me is that I get discouraged by the blank pages when I miss a day, or just don't have anything to put in certain sections.  There is none of that with bullet journaling because I only make the pages I think I will use, and I can drop them if I don't.

2. Less paper clutter.  I used to write all my random lists on random pieces of paper that would eventually end up in the trash or stuffed in my junk drawer.  Now I can either add those random notes to an already-existing list, or make a new one, and my to-do lists are organized in my daily entries.

3.  Everything is in one place.  My calendars, to-do lists, grocery lists, budget notes, quotes - they are all in one handy little volume that I can fit into my purse.  Things don't get lost.  I'm less likely to forget things.

4. I feel more organized and productive.  The daily to-do list setup has worked really well to keep me on task and help me not forget things that need to be done.

5. I have a record of daily life.  I know I'm going to find it interesting to look back on my day-to-day life when a few years have passed.  My daily entries have daily events, but they also have little things the kids did (or other things I want to remember) that never would have been recorded if I didn't have a bullet journal.

Will you like it for the same reasons as me?  Maybe, but it's quite possible that you will like bullet journaling for entirely different reasons, because I doubt you will end up using yours in exactly the same way I do!  Bullet journaling, in the end, is whatever you want to make it, and that's what I find fun about it. 

Do you have a bullet journal?  How do you use yours?






Three Everyday Photo Ideas For Memory-Keeping


My sister has this crazy ability to remember events exactly as they happened.  Sometimes we'll be talking and she will casually mention something we did when we were kids, and I realize that I literally haven't even thought about that event for years.  It makes me sad sometimes that I have all these memories locked away in my brain that I won't remember until someone else brings it up.

As an adult I have realized pretty quickly that if I am going to remember something, I'm going to have to have some record of it.  Maybe that's part of the reason blogging has stuck, but to be realistic, I can't sit down every evening and write out every detail of the day.

This is where photos come in.

The say a picture is worth a thousand words, and that saying has lasted so long because it's true!  When I have a picture of something we did together, it's so much easier for me to remember all the details of that time in our lives.  Photos are a quicker, easier record to take than writing out my thoughts, and I've relied on them even more as a mom.  How else am I supposed to remember the face my babies make when I tell them to say "cheese"?  How else am I supposed to remember the way their hair curled before the first haircut, or how their faces have changed year to year?

So photos have become a really important part of my memory-keeping, but I do have a tendency to only take photos when we are doing something unique - like when we are on trip, or celebrating someone's birthday.  I'm grateful for those occasions because without them I might go too long between taking photos with my "good" camera.  But I make it my aim to take pictures between those special occasions too.  These are a few examples.

Unique Details

Each kid has some thing that they do, some physical feature, or some interest that makes them unique.  Does my child have a special blanket or toy?  Are they really into Hot Wheels cars or legos?  Do they scrunch their nose when they smile? Does their hair curl just right, or am I always getting comments on their impossibly long eyelashes?  I try to take pictures of those things!

Doing Ordinary Things

It's easy to pull out the camera when we are doing something Facebook-worthy, but I love the images of us doing everyday things even more, because they help me see the beauty of these ordinary days.  I've ben told too many times how it goes by so fast and how I'll miss this stage someday.  So I want photos that help me remember what our day-to-day was like.  I might take pictures of the kids eating cereal (or watermelon, which was a hit last summer), Wyatt working on his schoolwork, or the kids digging a hole in the yard, for example.  

Places We Visit All The Time

It's fun to sometimes think a little outside the box and take pictures in places we often frequent.  Examples would be the place you stop for coffee, the grocery store, or the library.  Is it a little awkward to pull out your camera in a public place?  Yes, but those photos are some of my favorites to look at!  (I really like Alex's documentation of a visit to Aldi, for example).

On my list of things to improve...capturing more of these kinds of photos, not just of my kids, but of my husband too!

Do you take pictures to keep memories?  Or are you more like my sister who can remember everything without photos?





How To Transition To Fall Fashion (Without Melting)

Note: I received the dress below from PinkBlush in exchange for a blog post. All opinions are my own.)


Do you know that pumpkin spice flavors hit Starbucks this weekend?!

I can hardly believe it, but autumn is upon us.  I am not sorry to say goodbye to summer and welcome fall, because it means we are that much closer to meeting our baby girl!  (Plus, I love fall.)

What I am not so excited about going into September is playing the "what should I wear?" game.  I always want to break out the long sleeves and boots this time of year, but the truth is, the technical season of summer doesn't end until September 22nd - and the weather knows it.  It's hard to infuse a fall vibe into your wardrobe without also melting in the heat (especially when you are largely pregnant).



I have developed a few guidelines over the years though to help me walk that tricky summer-weather, early-fall line.

Switch to fall colors.  

For early fall, I look for lighter-weight pieces in fall colors or patterns - then I feel fall-ish without resorting to my sweaters and sacrificing a comfortable body temperature.

Add in a brown leather or suede bag.  

I have summer bags in various colors, but I save the brown leather bags for fall.  It's amazing how just switching the color or fabric of your bag can make an outfit seem more pre-fall appropriate.

Go with the booties.  

Avoid the tall boots until it actually gets cool enough to not melt your feet, and invest in some warmer-weather booties.  I like the ones with cutouts so my feet can still breath when the temperature is summer-like.

Wear summer on top, fall on the bottom (or vice versa).  

I think during these early fall days it's totally appropriate to go with different seasons for each half of your look.  Wear some shorts with a light top and cardigan, or wear something short-sleeved with long pants and boots.  Just make sure the colors are all fall-appropriate to tie it together.

Don't put away the dresses!  

I rely on dresses a lot in the summer heat, and I see no need to change that in the early fall when the weather is still warm.  I just apply tips #1 and #4 to my dresses and go from there.  I'm really liking this new dress from PinkBlush going into this fall!  It's short enough to keep me cool, but the long sleeves with the crochet really give it a fall feeling to me.









Does anyone else have as hard of a time knowing when and how to transition to fall fashion as I do?  What works best for you?






My Summer Makeup Favorites





It's summertime, and for some reason in the summer I always feel the need to change up my makeup.

I'm a makeup kind of girl, and I love to try new products and colors - it's one way I express my creativity I guess, through my makeup (and my clothes), and summer always seems the perfect time to switch things up.  Maybe it's because the heavier foundations start to feel a little too heavy (and melt off in the heat).  Maybe it's because I have this weird idea that each season deserves it's own colors (in clothes and makeup).  Whatever the reason, I started off this summer with buying a few new makeup products to try...and I lucked out because all of them are working out just as I hoped they would!  

(Some affiliate links below!)

I thought it would be fun to share with you my summer makeup favorites, so here are the products I'm loving (and why).


Whether it's the summer or the winter, I've learned the hard way that your skin can still be damaged under makeup that supposedly has SPF.  This sunscreen is a staple of makeup routine, whatever the season.  I like this one in particular because it's not as oily as normal sunscreens, so it doesn't feel like I'm greasing up my face and then slathering makeup on top of it.  It really is "dry-touch".


Is it just me, or does that name make it seem like I bought this mascara at Victoria Secret?   Ignore the name, because this really is a nice mascara.  I put on my mascara before anything else.  I usually go with my Loreal Cat Eyes mascara, but I decided to try this one and I'm glad I did!  It has a super-skinny mascara brush, and a formula that doesn't go on too thick all at once, so I feel like it stretches out my lashes while still looking natural.  If I have to try a new mascara, I always look for one with a skinny brush, and I've been happy with this one!


I am not one of those people that can go without some sort of foundation or concealer - I have a bit of melasma from two pregnancies ago (that's how I learned the hard way to wear a sunscreen under my makeup, even in the winter).  However, I hate putting on a thick foundation in the summer - it just feels like summer is a good time to go more natural and let my skin breathe.  Enter this BB cream, which is amazing.  It covers surprisingly well for being so lightweight!  And the bonus is that the "fair" shade actually works for me - I have very pale skin and usually have a hard time find makeup in my shade, but this one blends with my skin tone.


I always wear a powder over my concealer or foundation or BB cream, because without it I get black mascara smudges under my eyes.  The oil in those products makes even my waterproof mascara smudge unless I dry it out with some powder.  I just tried this stuff for the first time this year, and I love it.  It not only smooths and sets my BB cream, but it does seem to act like a "corrector" too, and fades my melasma spots even more.  With the BB cream and this powder, I really feel like you can't see my skin's sun damage at all.


I also always use some sort of highlighter/shimmer powder.  It brightens up my makeup and draws attention to my eyes somehow - you wouldn't think a thing like a highlighter would make such a difference since it adds no color and is not very noticeable, but I'm telling you, it makes all the difference.  I've tried many, but this is my current favorite.



6.  Ulta Eye Shadows (Colors pictured here: Luxury, Whatevs, Roaring 20's, Frozen, Peekaboo).  

In the winter I like to play with my eyeshadow colors, but in the summer I like something more subtle and natural looking.  I'm not sure why I included Luxury (the purple shade) in the picture, because I've mostly been using the other shades in the summer.  I usually do Whatevs or Peekaboo on my lid (the yellowish neutral shade and the pinkish shade), Roaring 20's or Peekaboo in my crease (taupe shade and pink shade), and Frozen right under my brow (the white shade).

7. Tarte Blush in Warmhearted (not pictured).  

If I'm going out in the evening or just want to look a little more put-together, I'll swipe on some of this blush, which came included with a Tarte eyeshadow palette that I use in the winter.  My advice with blush is to not be afraid to go with the shades that look ridiculously bright in the packaging, because they are usually very flattering when you put them on with a light hand.  I like my bright colored blushes better than my more neutral shades, personally. 

Are you a makeup kind of girl like me?  What are your summer makeup favorites?



Homeschooling With Toddlers Underfoot - What We Actually Do





Last fall, after years of mentally planning, we started homeschooling Wyatt for Kindergarten.  I've had a lot of interest, not only in blogland but from my real-life friends, on all the workings of our homeschool, and a frequently question is: "What you do with the baby and toddler happy while you're working with Wyatt on his school?"

My first thought on that question is that if you have a younger child that's not that much younger, you probably don't have to do anything.  The only thing I'd suggest buying extra workbooks for them if they decide to participate.  That is what we are doing with Gwen, who was three years old when we started the school year. She often wants to follow along and do her own schoolwork, so I help her with the activities she's interested in - and if she's not interested, she can go and play or do whatever else she wants.  I believe in letting kids be kids before the school years, free from unnecessary obligations, so I really don't put any pressure on her.

The youngest two are another story.  Clyde was two years old, and Clarice was one last fall, and they do require more attention.  Since I was asked so often about how I was going to handle schoolwork with the little two running around, I thought I should probably have some sort of plan.  After I attended the homeschool conference and got all my curriculum choices together, I went on a mission to find activities for the younger kids while I was working with the older two.



I came up with a few activities via Pinterest, and I was really excited about giving them a try (activities listed below).  I also pulled aside a few of their educational toys and put them in a special box.  I figured I could pull all these things out whenever we started on schoolwork, and keep them occupied with their special "school toys".

These are the activities I found:

1. Nuts And Bolts Matching Activity.  Buy nuts and bolts of different sizes from the hardware store, and paint the outside of the coordinating hardware the same color.  

2. Clothespins and Paint Swatches.  I picked up some paint cards from Home Depot - two of each color.  The idea is to cut up one of the paint cards and glue a piece onto the back of a clothespin.  Then the kids can pin the clothespin onto the matching color on the cards.  

3. Felt Activity Books.  A lot of people make their own, but I just buy the $3 ready-made version at Target.

4. Lacing Cards.   Lacing shoelaces through colorful character cardboard cutouts (how's that for alliteration?).  I'm sure you've seen these.

I have a few more ideas in this blog I made for this post a while back too:





All these activit├ęs are great for color matching and fine motor skills, and I patted myself on the back for being so prepared.

But here's my little secret.

We haven't used a single one of these activities.




Do you know what Clyde (and even Clarice) like best?  A notebook and a pencil.

When I am working on writing or number practice with the big kids, Clyde likes to feel like he is doing the same sort of thing.  He wants to do "school" too.  He doesn't want to be left out, or relegated to a separate activity - he wants to be part of the action.

So I sit him down with his "school" notebook and a fat pencil, and he scribbles in it until we are done.

I think in the midst of all those inquiries about how to keep the little kids happy while we did our schoolwork, I forgot three things.  

1. My kids like to do things together as much as possible.  Clyde and Clarice both want to feel like "big kids".  They are always so proud of themselves when they accomplish something that they've only seen their brother and sister do up to that point.  It was silly of me to think I needed to entertain them separately from what everyone else is doing.

2. All my kids have always been independent players.  Most of the time while we are working on reading or anything else, the little kids just go off and play by themselves.  I've never been one of those mothers who structures her preschoolers' schedule.  We don't do a lot of organized projects or educational projects.  I just let them play, because that is my preschool philosophy - and my kids are great at independent play.  This is a big advantage in homeschooling, and I should appreciate it.  Some moms might need to plan a lot of activities to keep their younger children entertained - but I don't!  My kids have always entertained themselves.  I should just enjoy that!

3. Each round of work in kindergarten takes 15-20 minutes, and we take breaks in between.  Fifteen minutes is not a big enough amount of time to have to fill it up with baby and toddler activities.  Homeschool kindergarten is not a whole-day endeavor, like public or private school counterparts, because a lot of kindergarten actives are regular life activities.  Kids have free play time.  They color and paint.  They eat snacks.  They take a nap or "quiet time".  None of which actually feels like school.  The part that does feel more school-like is the bookwork, and that's the part that literally takes 15 minutes.  It's really not intimidating at all, and I was making it way too complicated.

So this summer, when I'm planning for next year, I'm going to try to remember what happened this last year and restrain myself from buying a lot of fancy extras for our homeschool - because it is likely that they will go unused.  I'd much rather take the kids outside and let them get dirty (or wet and cold) in the winter than spend all my time and money planning activities for them.  I'd much rather do "school" all together as much as possible and continue to encourage those sibling relationships.  I'd much rather just keep the whole thing simple and easy on myself, instead of overcomplicating things and adding more work to my plate.  I'd rather be not-Pinterest-worthy and happy, than Pinterest-worthy and stressed.

But I will probably keep my box of extras handy...just in case the littles are being extra needy one day and I need a backup plan!  I went to all that work, after all.

If you are a homeschool mom, especially if you have young children in the house, I'd love to hear your thoughts!  How do you make homeschooling work with babies and toddlers underfoot?









Tips For Visiting Antelope Canyon With Babies And Toddlers


As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, we went to Arizona for vacation this year, and one of the places we knew we wanted to visit was Antelope Canyon!  This is a slot canyon through the sandstone that was formed by flash floods.  It is absolutely gorgeous and was certainly a highlight of our trip!













Flash floods can still run through the canyon, so you are not allowed to go into Antelope Canyon without a guide.  Complicating matters, we also had four young kids (still in carseats) to take with us!  Overall though, it ended up being very doable and really interesting for the kids as well as us!

We decided to do a morning tour, around 8:00 AM, which we were told was a quieter time in the canyon.  Many people like to go around "prime time", which is the middle of the day when light beams start shining through the rocks to the canyon floor.  However, even though we went at a slower time of day, it was still very busy!  There were people all around us through the whole tour, but the tour companies know to space their groups a tiny bit so you are still able to get some photos without other people in them.

Some recommendations for visiting Antelope Canyon with young children:


Do the Upper Canyon.  

If you want to do Antelope Canyon with kids, be aware that Lower Antelope Canyon requires navigating some pretty steep stairs.  Our kids are a little young for that still, so we ended up doing a tour of Upper Antelope Canyon, which you just walk straight into.  It was an easy, short walk, and was totally manageable even for our three year old.


Book a tour ahead of time.  

We arrived in Page thinking we could book a tour on the same day we wanted to go (I had read that online), but many of the tour companies were booked two or three days out! I would recommend picking a company ahead of time to visit the canyon.


Make sure your tour company accepts young kids.  

I had done some research before we left and picked a company, only to find out when we arrived that they would not accept children under six years old on the tour because of an insurance issue.  Thankfully not every company was restricted this way, and we were able to find another one!  Call ahead of time to ensure that they can accommodate car seats if that information is not clear online.

Realize that you will have to bring your own carseats.  

You are not allowed to drive your own vehicle out to the canyon, you must ride in your tour guide's vehicle.  Make sure your tour company knows that you have children in car seats ahead of time, and arrive early to make sure there is time to get them installed in the vehicle.


Don't be late!  

It's easy to run behind schedule when you have multiple young kids, but there are hundreds of people touring the canyon every day, and many tour companies coordinating their tour groups.  If you are late for the tour, you will be out of luck, because they don't leave a second later than they are supposed to!

If you have a baby carrier, make sure any buckles are tucked under a coat or blanket.  

They didn't let me bring my carrier in for Clarice because the buckles may scratch the wall and I didn't have anything to cover them with.  Thankfully the walk was only about a quarter mile for Upper Antelope Canyon, and it's an easy walk, so this wasn't a problem for us.

Bring cash.  

Just to give you an idea of the cost, we paid for three people, 2 adults and one child (the other three kids were free with our specific tour company), and it ended up costing us about $180, plus a tip.  You also must bring cash, because many of the tour companies do not take credit cards.


Realize it's a quick tour.  

I was expecting the walk to be a bit slower, with more space and time to take some pictures of my family in the canyon.  It was not like that.  There were people everywhere, the tour guide was pointing out all the shapes in the rocks, and the walk in and out of the canyon itself was pretty quick!  We still got some great pictures, but just realize it's busy and distracting in there.  If you want more time to set up photos and such, I'd say the photography tours might be a better bet.


I did some research online about taking kids into Upper Antelope Canyon before we left, and I have to say, it had me a little freaked out about attempting it with kids!  But it ended up not being a big deal at all.  We took four kids under seven years old, and it ended up being an easy and fun outing! Definitely check it out if you are in the Lake Powell area!

Any other questions for me about our experience?  
I'll answer to the best of my ability!



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