Family photography: Bringing out the best in your kids

Kiwi, our 2-year-old, is currently in a phase where she covers her eyes and cries “No!” every time anyone tries to take her photo. So I was less than confident how our family photos would turn out when we met Becca from Becca Jean Photography on a recent fall afternoon. Becca and I met on an online group for mom-owned small businesses, and she offered to take our photos for free—an amazing and generous offer, especially considering her beautiful work. A bit later, I warned her about Kiwi’s camera shy phase.

Becca wasn’t too concerned. “I’ll joke around and you guys will play and the girls will naturally be smiling,” she assured me.

It turns out Becca was right, and I could not be more blown away by the family photos she took. If there is an award for getting kids who favor the stink eye to smile, Becca wins. Hands down.

I mean, look!

Holiday card family photo ideas for Christmas and fall photography - Ten Thousand Hour Mama Read more

Toddler homeschool preschool: Daily schedule for fun + learning

Kiwi comes with me to drop off Big Sister Peeper at her pre-K every day. She puts together puzzles, reads books, waves to the teachers and constantly tries to sneak the same teddy bear home with us. (“Blue! My favorite!” she insists, clutching the bear to her chest, when I have to yet again persuade her to put it back.) So when I told her she would be going to her own school—a toddler homeschool preschool—she shone the biggest smile at me.

“Me school!” she shouted, literally bouncing up and down. “So excited!”

I saw it with Peeper when she was a 2 years old: Her homeschool preschool strengthened her curiosity, listening skills, friendships and love of learning. I knew it would be no different for Kiwi, so several friends and I recently began a new toddler homeschool preschool.

They’re loving it already.

This toddler homeschool preschool daily schedule sample is an easy way to start teaching your kids at home. Ten Thousand Hour Mama

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5 steps to get the best holiday family photo: Wisdom from the pros

5 tips from professional photographers: How to get the best holiday family photo for this year's Christmas cards. Ten Thousand Hour Mama

Last year, when I scheduled a holiday family photo shoot, I did close to zero prep—I was busy enough wrangling a photo-adverse husband and two headstrong kids to consider how to make the photos actually look good. The best family photographers do the bulk of that for you, but a little preparation doesn’t hurt to get the best holiday family photo to put on your Christmas or New Year card this year.

(Looking back at 2016’s images, I laugh so hard at all the drama Kiwi caused! Poor bug was really ready for her nap.)

If you have holiday family photos on the horizon and want to capture your family at its best, look no further. I asked five of the best Portland family photographers to offer their wisdom with these 5 tips to get the holiday family portrait you’ve dreamed of.

5 tips from professional photographers: How to get the best holiday family photo for this year's Christmas cards. Ten Thousand Hour Mama Read more

Saying goodbye to summer feet

We are just coming down from a beautiful, sunny summer here in Portland. But along with the return of school and pumpkin spiced everything, the rains are back. Luckily, fall is my favorite time of the year, so I welcome the change of season—but I’m sad to say goodbye to summer feet.

You know, summer feet: When your soles harden from climbing trees and playing chase and walking around barefoot. Or maybe it’s been so long since you cultivated your childhood summer feet that you’ve forgotten.

My girls are definitely familiar. But just as their soles have toughened up after a summer of outdoor play, this fall, we bid goodbye to summer feet.

Kids going barefoot embody the carefree spirit of childhood. Saying goodbye to summer feet—and to summer—is bittersweet. Ten Thousand Hour Mama
Photo by Diana Feil

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From afraid to empowered: The power of breast self-exams

A few weeks ago, I found myself in a thin hospital gown, staring at the speckled ceiling tiles as I waited for my ultrasound technician. The last time I’d done something like this was finding out the sex of my baby, who turned into Kiwi. This time, I was making sure a lump in my right breast, which I found during one of my sort-of regular breast self-exams, wasn’t going to kill me.

I hadn’t been that worried. In fact, I mentioned the lump to a breast health specialist in an offhand way when we were talking about my genetic risk factors for the Big C, since my mom had a very aggressive form of breast cancer at 39. The specialist referred me to an ultrasound tech, “just to be on the safe side.“

So I wasn’t sweating my appointment—until I was half naked, waiting, with nothing to distract me from my spiraling thoughts but the pocked patterns in the ceiling.

Spoiler alert: I’m totally fine. Turns out my boob is “cyst-y,” as the radiologist came in to tell me. (Pretty sure that’s a medical term she learned in very expensive medical school.) So in addition to having post-breastfeeding sad sag, my breast is also lumpy.

Killing it.

But! The cysts are totally benign. And lumpy is much better than deadly.

Doing breast self-exams is one thing every woman can do to protect her health and catch cancer early. Here's how I overcame fear and regained power over my health. Ten Thousand Hour Mama Read more

Best kids’ books about fall leaves: What we’re reading

Autumn is my favorite season. As much as I love summer, by the end of August I eagerly await fall’s crisp evenings, the trips to the pumpkin patch, the excuse to cuddle under a quilt and drink tea, and the changing leaves. Oh, how I love fall leaves! Good thing for me, Peeper and Kiwi share my love of autumn, so it’s no surprise we’ve collected a list of our favorite books about fall leaves and autumn.

We love autumn—and children's books about fall leaves. Ten Thousand Hour Mama

After all, autumn is the perfect time to crack open a book after running around outside.

Jump in puddles, get muddy at the farm, collect fallen leaves, collect a pocketful of acorns—then head inside to read a stack of children’s books about fall leaves. Need some ideas? Check out this list then request a few—or them all!—from your local library. These make for a great unit for homeschool, if that’s your thing, or just a lovely read-aloud to learn about autumn.

The best children's books about fall and autumn - perfect for homeschool lessons. Ten Thousand Hour Mama

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Spark a fire for gun reform: 4 things you can do to stop gun violence

Days like yesterday, I just want to burn shit down.

I, like so many, woke up to news about dozens dead and hundreds injured after an angry man opened fire on a sea of strangers in Las Vegas. And then I went through what many of us have experienced so often before: Shock. Anger. Sadness. Frustration.

The terror, then grief, thrust upon hundreds is absolutely needless—and preventable. That’s why I am so furious: Because events like those in Las Vegas (and Orlando, and Sandy Hook, and San Bernadino, and Aurora, and many more) are predictable. They will keep happening—unless we as a country do something about it.

Inspirational quote: You can't start a fire without a spark. Actions to take to end gun violence. Ten Thousand Hour Mama Read more