The Six Best Steps to Simplify Your Digital Life

I recently cleaned up my digital life and I can’t tell you how freeing it is! The first time you clean things up online may take a lot of time, but it is SO worth it! Most of these things are self explanatory and not that mind blowing, however, when was the last time you did all of these things?! 🙂

Here’s what I did to regain time in my day.

1. Set phone to do not disturb during school hours.

If there is one piece of advice, this is it! I can’t believe how much smoother our day goes having do not disturb on until 2 pm every day.  I set the expectation for my friends and clients by letting them know of my schedule. My custom voice message on my phone says “I am doing school until 2 pm and will call you back after that time”.  My official office hours are 2pm-8pm. As a wedding photographer, my clients like that they can call me at night after work, so the schedule works well. There are still plenty of times that I check my phone and connect with people before 2 pm,  but it’s at MY discretion when I know it won’t interfere with our school rhythm.

2. Remove yourself from Facebook groups. Even groups you are semi-active in.
That’s right. You heard me. Remove yourself from the drama. I have a major confession: I removed myself from the Classical Conversations Facebook group. dun-dun-duuuuuhn! I realized that I spent more time confused by the thousands of different opinions than getting actual help. I would give my two cents, but it was lost in the crowd. I was neither being served or serving others in a way that was constructive conversation. The same five Q&As would go round and round every other week with little admin help; so I left the group. Just because it didn’t serve me, doesn’t mean it won’t be useful to you. Just like certain things in life are hepful for a time and then you move on, so it goes for Facebook Groups. Remove the temptation to get emotionally involved or mindlessly scrolling.

I encourage you to take time to look through every single group you are in and ask yourself these questions:

  1. What is my emotional state after 10 minutes in the group?
  2. How has my participation in this group benefited my life?
  3. Am I a helpful and useful contributor to the group? Do people value my opinion here?

After asking myself these questions, I left a total of 15 groups.  A couple of the groups I knew would be obvious that I left. I let the admin know “hey, I love you guys, but I am slimming down my online presence! All the best!”. It was a little longer than that, but I felt good about leaving some local groups after connecting with the main person. They were all very understanding.
I am still a member of 20 groups!

3. Unsubscribe from email lists. It’s more than just because it’s time consuming.
This takes a lot of time to unsubscribe, but the last thing you need is a notification of another sale at Old Navy. More than it being time consuming and a distraction to your day, more often than not, a cluttered inbox means important emails gets missed. Don’t let junk email from things you subscribed to clutter up your inbox so you miss the important emails. I used to be the President of a co-op. I can’t tell you how often a mom didn’t see an important email about co-op… but every time a mom was upset that she didn’t know something, sure enough, she’d email back saying she found the email amidst the clutter.

4. Mute Stories or Posts from people you still want to follow but don’t want to see every time you get online.

Did you know you can mute stories or posts on Instagram just like you can unfollow but still be friends with people? I have a few accounts that I want to look at now and then, but don’t need to see aalllll their stuff. It’s hard to want want to watch entertaining or beautiful things, but I had to stop the scrolling madness. Some people I follow because of stories and others I follow because of their posts. Decide which one serves you and mute the other!

5. Unfollow Instagram and Facebook accounts to allow social media to get boring in the best way possible!

You are probably saying “Well, duh. Of course unfollow accounts.” and yet I see my friends are following over a thousand accounts!! Think about it: if you visited each account for 30 seconds one day a week, that’s 500 minutes/8.3 HOURS a week, over an hour a day of purely consuming social media.   I know you are never going to watch every single account you follow every week, but it’s just another thing that adds up. It reminds me of the 10 pairs of jeans in my closet that I think I will wear again some day. ha!

Getting rid of all those accounts will make your feed “boring” after a while and make you want to get offline. Why boring? Because you’ve seen all the new stuff you wanted to see. I follow 300 accounts at the moment and that’s about three times the amount I’d like to. However, I don’t have a personal Instagram account. My account is for this Modern Homeschooler Page. Most of those 315 are businesses that I am networking with or an account that specifically helps me in my homeschooling day.  Every  few months I go through who I am following and unfollow. This keeps things fresh and applicable.

6. Set phone to only get emails twice a day or when you manually check it.

I used to have my email auto refresh every 15 minutes. I was worried that I would need to respond right away to something. I think it was the new business owner in me. I’d respond, but sometimes it would send me down a trail as I tried to help a bride find a vendor she was looking for or whatever. I now know that responding same working day- even if it’s five hours later is still professionally acceptable. If you are a working mom, you may need to set your emails to  more frequently than twice a day. Make sure to do what is professionally acceptable in your industry. If you don’t work, it’s still socially acceptable to wait a day to respond to an email. If they wanted a quicker answer, they would have text.

I hope these tips help you simplify your social life! Do you have any to add?

On Being Unique

Can I get real with you tonight? It involves this white Christmas tree.
About 5 years ago we decided to do a fake Christmas tree. I said “If it’s going to be fake, it needs to LOOK fake”. I am not a fake person in any capacity and that includes not making something fake look real- like a Christmas tree. We went all out and found an all white tree. It’s the best kind of ridiculous. I’ve also enjoyed the uniqueness of it.

Until last week.
While perusing the Hobby Lobby aisle, I came across my tree. In porcelain form. “What?!” I thought I was the only one who had thought of an all-white tree with colored lights?! Ok, maybe not the *only* one, but to see it in uber mass marketed form was both fun (clearly, I bought the tchotchke) and annoyed.

I’ve been wrestling with my pride since that day. I am not unique in the way I thought I was. I feel even stupider that I am annoyed to the point of writing a post about it, having to hash out these odd feelings publicly.

It’s hard to not hear world’s mantra in my ears that “we are all special and different”. God has knit us together in our mother’s womb (Psalm 127) which makes us precious in His sight; but it doesn’t say we are all made uniquely. It’s a weird desire to want to not be like everyone else. Isn’t it a good thing to live at peace with all men? Wouldn’t I want to desire to be like people?

I reminds me of homeschooling. Every one of our daily school lives are different and that’s just the way we all like it. But then we roll our eyes, argue in Facebook groups, or complain to our husbands about how Sally down the street has chosen to do homeschooling.

I guess I’ve said all this to say: learning to not be prideful in wanting to be totally different than everyone else while also loving my neighbor who is different than me is a weird emotional battle. Have you had experience with this? What helped you?

Working Homeschool Moms: A Tip for Keeping Things Running Smoothly!

I can’t tell you how many weird or slightly dangerous positions I’ve been in to get the angle I want  I am constantly amazed and grateful for all of the places photography has taken us: Normandy, the Antonov, and even off-roading it up a dusty trail to a mountain peak

I have work stuff coming up this Thursday-Saturday; so we did school this morning. I drove 2.5 hours from Seattle, walked into the house and immediately started quizzing Adelaide on Memory Masters work as Harrison grabbed his Qizzlet app to practice Latin. They knew Saturday school was coming. They knew we had limited time between Mom being home and mom off again for a photo shoot.
Here’s my working mom tip of the week: have a sit down chat at the beginning of each week to prepare them for that week’s schedule. It makes the transition between school and work and back again almost seamless. There’s no “whaaa? School? Now?” You can’t have enough communication about the schedule and your expectations for them. Last Monday I told them Saturday school was happening. I came home, we got er done and all was well in the world! Our schedule is posted on the dinning room wall- so they are told verbally and have a visual reminder. We also have synced calendars on our phones that will alert them.

Have an action plan, be intentional with your time (both with your kids and for work) and be clear with your kids on expectations. This makes for a better work/life balance! .

Change Happens to the Best of Us

Isn’t it weird how much a person can change? How what used to be comfortable is now so…not comfortable?

I went to a fundraising event for my cousin who is a director at a foster/adoption company tonight. When I walked into the upscale hotel in the heart of downtown Seattle I realized I had been here before: 18 years ago for homecoming dinner. We had eaten here before the main event that night. I spent many Friday nights of my high school years going to and around Pike Place with friends. I worked 4 blocks from this hotel my senior year. I remember my 18 year old self feeling so cool and sophisticated as I ate my cheesecake and drank coffee in my fancy dress in this fancy hotel, dreaming of what I was going to be and do later in life-clearly something metropolitan.

My college years were spent in even fancier Montecito, California and then I I moved to Geneva, Switzerland. You don’t get more city socialite than being in the Geneva-Paris crowd!
But then I married a man who was living in Hicksville, USA 😂 It is a town of 7k people and a Walmart (we now live in a town an hour from that small town, and it’s bigger) I knew he would keep me grounded and pull me back down out of the clouds and to keep my eyes on the eternal and not temporal. Next thing I knew, I was loving my 2-stoplight drive for my shopping trips at Walmart. I exchanged my heels for Flip flips and my transformation was complete 🤣 I spent my early 20s in Geneva. Those are formative years for adulthood-so a part of me will always feel European.
My married life is so different from how I grew up. I walked into my old self’s world tonight in my $19 dress from Ross and a pair of heels that are 7 years old- the ones I wear once a year around Christmas time 😂 I enjoyed reminiscing about old times (to myself lol) but it’s just not me anymore.

I like Birkenstocks. Ok. There. I said it! I homeschool and I wear Birkenstocks. Hahaha.

Have you ever had a revelatory moment like that, that slaps you in the face?

Don’t get me wrong, there’s still a lot of city girl in me, but I don’t revel in it like I used to. You know what I mean?

Read Aloud Revivial

Another day of reading aloud. I post about it a lot because it’s what we do a lot. It’s just a part of our routine. We always read the Bible first, then whatever book that suits our fancy. There have been some great missionary biographies we’ve read this past year. “You are complaining about cleaning up your LEGOS? Think of Darlene in the concentration camps!” hahah. Ok, maybe that’s not using her life story in the best way, but it gets the point across. We live a ridiculously blessed life and reading about missionaries helps to remind us all that we have it so stinkin’ easy! I get to photograph people tomorrow who are traveling the country, sharing Christian music to bring a little happiness to people and glory to God. I am so thankful for modern day missionaries and the tiny, tiny role I get to play in helping them!

Let’s Give A Shout Out to All the Dads!

I am the least sentimental person you will ever meet. I have no idea why mushy stuff makes me bristle. Thankfully, Ben makes up for my lack of emotions.

He’s kind, gentle, and is the first to want to talk. True story: in the 80 hours of driving in the car on our latest road trip, he wanted to talk THE WHOLE TIME.
15 years together and he still wants to talk. We ended up listening to books that took up about 20 hours and I slept at least 6 hours in the car. But that still left hours and hours to talk. Shoot me now. hahahah! I kid, I kid. Seriously though, we have a great marriage because of this guy. He’s the pillar of our family and I couldn’t be more thankful for him. It’s impossible to homeschool if both spouses aren’t for it. I’m so thankful he was so passionate about it and got me on board! .

Some Day They Will Grow Up

Ben and I accidentally woke up just late enough this morning to miss Sunday school. I walked out of my room, showered, but not ready beyond that; but the kids were in the kitchen fully ready to leave, already done with their breakfast. “Mom, we have to leave for church in, like, 9 minutes. Why aren’t you dressed?” Obviously, had they had the opportunity to not get up and get ready right away they wouldn’t have. I just had to laugh. The roles this morning were reversed and I couldn’t be more thankful for who my kids are becoming. Little moments like these are a blessing to me. They are becoming responsible, committed, punctual people. (Their behavior is normal now… just not mine of sleeping in!)

Now if only their parents could set an alarm and not hold them back, that would be great 😂

Hang in there, Mom of little ones, soon enough you’ll be sleeping in while your kids act like the parents

Summer Camp For Kids

Have you thought about sending your kids to a week long summer camp, but are fearful of the unknowns? Here’s a tip: go to a retreat during the school year to check it out for yourself! A lot of camps have family camp, mother-daughter, father-son, women’s, and men’s retreats! Attend one and get to know the permanent staff and experience it for yourself.

Adelaide and I attended the annual mother-daughter retreat this weekend.
I can not say enough good things about Camp Gilead  Adelaide and I have attended their mother-daughter retreat for years. We made candles, beaded earrings, sang songs, stayed up late watching a movie, painted, canoed, and made s’mores!

I am a little biased because I’ve been going to this camp since I was in middle school but I can sympathize with those that are unfamiliar with the summer camp thing!

Body Image and Memories

We got our family photos from NYC today! So many fun pics that I want to share. Naturally, I’m ripping apart my appearance 🙄

I’m constantly fighting a loosing battle to not be a critical person. I pick apart every single thing in life, which makes it hard to enjoy things sometimes. It also makes me a great resource for things because I research to high heaven to get to the root of anything

Just now as I looked through the online gallery with the kids for the first time together, I had to make a conscious effort to be complimentary of everything. I don’t want them to pick up on my never-ending critiquing.
Yes, we were a full week into our trip, had woken up at the crack of dawn and taken a 3 hour train ride to get to these photos; so maybe my hair and wrinkled shirt were not in top form. But who cares?! It’s how life was that day. I want to remember life as it was- not the perfect image (as a photographer in an Instagram world) wants it to be. I think this picture we will the big one we put in our entryway

And now that I’ve made the purposeful mindset change, I’m loving the pics more and more.