Family Photo Fun

Let’s talk about family photos. Some people are totally on top of the photos thing and have a professional photographer lined up to take photos of every single life event – engagement, marriage, pregnancy, birth, and a billion other ‘growing up’ photos of their kiddos. Other people go years without having their entire family in one photo – instead there are photos of one parent and the kiddo, and then the other parent and the kiddo… maybe a super close-up selfie with everyone in it.

Can you guess which one I am?

Sigh. Yeah. Our last professional family photo session was when Jack was around 2-ish. Other than that, we have some pictures over the years from my sibling’s weddings, or maybe from a random cruise photographer. So, when my friend Lindsey said she had recently gotten a new camera lens and wanted to try it out, I jumped at the chance to be her guinea pig!

We had plans to meet up at Black Ankle Vineyards, a winery that is less than 30 minutes from our house. I kept it super easy and didn’t go crazy with ‘styling’ everyone – instead we all just wore our normal clothes, just a teensy bit nicer. So instead of a comfy sweater, I threw on my moto jacket. And instead of Jack wearing a hoodie, he wore a bright plaid button-up shirt over his t-shirt.

We also kept the ‘photo shoot’ low key. I brought a blanket and we shot a few different poses.

And that’s it.

Afterwards, we walked over to the winery (I had reserved an area on the terrace) and enjoyed wine flights and food while outside and socially distanced. It was super low-key and fun and I crossed my fingers that maybe I’d get a photo or two of the three of us out of it.

Lindsey sent the photos over a few days later and I’m so happy that we took the time to do it. Sure, my first instinct is to pick apart my appearance. My hair looks weird here. I look fluffy there. Ugh, why am I making that face? All the typical BS we tell ourselves.

But when it comes down to it, I know that in a few years I will love looking back at this moment in time. I’m grateful to have these photos of a fun family day out at a local vineyard with my best friend shooting the pictures. I’m happy to have a picture with ALL THREE of us in it that’s not a selfie. And frankly, I’m not sure how many more years I have before Jack catches up to me in height!

Here are some of my favorite photos from the day:

So, if you’ve been putting off taking pictures because a professional photographer is too expensive, or you’re not at your goal weight, or your kid still has his silly quarantine haircut… JUST DO IT. Have a friend grab their camera (or their extra fancy smartphone), put on an outfit that makes you feel good and get in the picture.

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My Genius Idea for Making Virtual School Easier… On Me

Okay, “genius” might be a teensy bit of a stretch… but I had an idea. Actually, it was more like AN IDEA. And it was such a good idea that if I were in a cartoon, a light bulb would have lit up over top my head.

One of my main peeves with online schooling was that I was trying to make sure Jack logged in at various times, while I’m also working from home with my own meetings and phone calls throughout the day. My fear was that I’d get caught up in my work and then he’d totally miss an entire class.

Some people have mentioned that they use an Alexa or similar system to set a series of reminders throughout the day. We don’t have an Alexa though, and I have no interest in getting one.

That’s when the genius idea struck: I need an old cellphone!

I didn’t have any working old cellphones around the house, so I checked out eBay and bought an iPhone 4 for just $20. FYI, that is MUCH cheaper than buying an Alexa or even purchasing a multi alarm clock.

It arrived a few days later and I spent about 10 minutes getting it fully set-up for Jack:

  • I hid every single app in a ‘miscellaneous’ folder, except for the ones he will be using.
  • I pinned the Clock app, Camera app, Photos app, and Safari search app to the main toolbar on the home screen.
  • I downloaded a Mario background for his home screen and a Pokemon background for his lock screen.
  • I set up an alarm for every time he needed to log into virtual school throughout the day, including when to log in to do attendance and an alarm to go off 5 minutes before each class starts.

AND… it’s working out perfectly! As soon as each alarm goes off, Jack runs directly to his laptop to log in ON HIS OWN. That alone is worth the $20! As a bonus, Jack loves that he can take photos with his very own phone and has even started searching the internet for video game related stuff (and yes, I told him that mommy can see all his searches in case he gets a bit sneaky).

There is no monthly fee, because I don’t plan on hooking it up for any phone or texting service. However, I have connected the phone to our home wifi (which is free to do) so that Jack can use the internet at home.

I can not tell you how much easier this has made the whole virtual learning struggle. Especially because Jack will be spending some days home with daddy and some days at his grandmother’s house. This way, I can make sure that he has the tools he needs to be more independent with logging in!

Did you find this tip helpful? How do you keep your kiddo on schedule with virtual schooling?

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Life Update: Online School

Source: Markus Winkler on Unsplash.com

I haven’t given a Life Update since mid-July… but now that it’s September, it feels like the perfect time to do it again. The biggest change over here is… online school.

We had a form of online schooling in the Spring to finish out the year, but between March and June Jack had no in-person class time. All his schooling was asynchronous, meaning the teachers just uploaded a bunch of assignments that he had to complete and have me scan and upload. Much of the teaching of concepts fell on my shoulders, and I am NOT a teacher. It was super stressful and more than one day erupted into yelling or tears, or both.

This Fall, the school year is totally different with a mix of synchronous learning and asynchronous work. Here’s what Jack’s typical day looks like for 3rd grade:

9:30 – 11:30 amSTEM class, live instruction
11:30 amComplete STEM classwork
11:40ish – 1:00 pmLunch/Recess Break
1:00 – 1:25 pmSpecials, live instruction (PE, Media, Music, Art or Health)
1:30 – 3:30 pmELA class, live instruction
3:30 pmComplete ELA classwork

We’ve been following this schedule for almost 2 weeks now and it is actually working so much better for us. Jack knows when he has to be in front of the computer for class and I know when I have long periods of time where I can schedule my own phone or Zoom calls. Often the live instruction ends a bit early so that the teacher can split the class into small groups, which gives Jack time to complete his classwork before his next class (yay for no additional homework!).

Jack’s *mostly* independent when it comes to online learning, however he still needs my help with a few things at the start and end of each synchronous session. I’m hoping with more practice he can do more on his own. I also watch him submit his classwork once it is completed, to make sure that it is properly turned in (and that he will receive credit for it).

Both Jack and I tend to be ‘schedule’ people, so now that we’ve gotten into the routine of what a school day looks like, it’s SO MUCH easier on both of us. Typically, we wake up around 7:00 am, get dressed, eat breakfast, go for a 30-minute walk outside together and then he gets around an hour to hang out while I take a shower and start my own workday. Getting outside each day and taking a walk makes me feel a billion times better. At the end of each day, once he submits his last assignment and shuts the laptop… we have a “WE DID IT” dance party.

Oh, and I’m totally bribing my kid too. We knew that the first two weeks of online schooling would be the worst while we get used to a new schedule, so Travis and I decided that if Jack did the best he could and tried to be as independent as possible… we’d reward him with a new video game (Mario Odyssey to be specific). No shame in my mommy game and it’s totally worth it, mostly so he doesn’t complain the entire time we do our morning walk.

This new schedule is totally dependent on me working from home though. While I’ve been thankful that my office has had me teleworking since March, they have been talking about bringing us back into the office. Possibly in early October. Jack’s school has also been talking about switching to a hybrid format… in mid-October. So, while we are doing well with our current routine right now, it might all be blown back apart in a few weeks…

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