Back to School Already??!


Two weeks ago I felt like summer was just getting started!  Maybe due to the cold winter hanging on longer than normal, only having 3 hot days so far {that would be, hot to me – boiling temps with humidity to the nth %!}, and so much busyness {two weddings, two reunions, and so many weekends away} that I feel like I *blinked* and hadn’t had my summer yet.  And then, while peacefully grocery shopping, I saw THIS

back to school

And just like that my happy summer was coming to an end… Almost.  For now I’m grateful that I have a one-year-old and I don’t have to think about getting ready for school.  A part of me though, is excited to start the back to school shopping, planning field trips and scheduling our school days.  In just a few years… I came across two great articles today that I wanted to share.  The first is by a pediatric occupational therapist about why kids fidget and the benefits of playtime and body movement.  It’s interesting and insightful in light of so many kids being labeled ADHD and more these days. The second is by a home school mom teaching six kids.  She gives great ideas for activities for younger kids, as well as a “slow immersion” start for the older ones. Hope they’re helpful and encouraging as you get ready to start the new school year!

Two Birthday Surprises






Olaf had a special birthday lunch at Pizza Ranch…

DSC_0342with a special birthday buddy…


Olaf and Leia – born on the SAME DAY!!!



and lots of special privileges! ;-) DSC_0357  He got two birthday surprises.  One is in a big package, one is in a little package.



The big package was Tonka trucks! DSC_0383   {Tonka trucks that we bought before he was born!  They were a symbol of faith and hope during a scary pregnancy… Here’s our miracle baby enjoying them!}

DSC_0393  DSC_0396


For his second surprise…



















…he’s going to have to wait until around his half birthday!


3 months along (14 weeks)

He’s pretty stoked to be a BIG BROTHER!
DSC_0437  DSC_0448




Home Schooling a 9-month Old


I am interested in the home educating methods of (particularly for the birth-Preschool and possibly up to 3rd grade):  Unschooling, Natural Learning, Montessori, Charlotte Mason, Better Late Than Early, and other interest-led types of learning.  Before you freak out and skip this whole post because you saw the word “unschooling,” let me explain…

I believe the one factor that has most to do with the success (or failure) of home educating is intentionality.

Being Intentional about Your Child’s Learning

Successful home schooling is more than a method.  It’s a lifestyle.  It is utilizing the teachable moments in the day, prioritizing your children’s learning, caring about what they are interested in, choosing a vacation that will double as a field trip, and figuring out how everything (ok, at least most things!) in life can be turned into an educational experience!  {Parents of public schooled kids can also be intentional about teaching their children!}

Nine months is pretty young, but I want to start being intentional about his learning NOW!  It can take a little thinking at first, but really is easier than it sounds to incorporate learning into your daily activities.  Let’s look at our day:

  • We get up and get ready for the day and Olaf plays by himself while I make breakfast.  This is usually the time of day he’s most cheerful, so it’s a great time for him to be on the floor, crawl and stand while he plays independently.  He is learning to not touch the old style stove.
  • I do my best to set aside the time right after breakfast to give my undivided attention to Ole and work with him on developmental stuff he’s learning.  I want to get used to this routine so that when he’s older it will already be a habit.  We read 1-3 books depending on his attention span, and I get down on the floor on his level and we do activities like this one below from the book Slow and Steady, Get Me Ready.  (This book is great for ideas and also a great comfort – reassurance that you are covering the necessary developmental things!  Everything is budget friendly which is a plus!)  He thinks we’re playing!   Sometimes it’s 10 minutes, sometimes an hour.


  • Switching loads of laundry I say, “In” “Out” as we move the “Wet” clothes over.
  • 9:30 or 10:00 Morning nap time – he usually sleeps around an hour.  I try to get stuff done that I can’t do so well when he’s awake, and it always seems he sleeps too short!  Haha! :P
  • While I’m at the computer, he plays with the paper recycle bin under the desk.  He also likes pens, markers and cords.  I like to give him “real toys” as often as possible!
  • He has johnny-jump-up time (gross motor skills, PhyEd) while I make sandwiches for our lunch and make baby food.  I show him how to push the button to make the grinder go on.  He’s scared of the noise!  Good healthy food is important and this way he sees another step in the process from garden (or store) to plate.
  • Ever since he’s been eating solid food consistently 2-3 times per day, he sits up to the table with us for all his meals.  I want him to be a “clean eater” so at this point he has learned to keep his hands down and I feed him.  Good manners (no screaming, no spitting out food) are also being taught.  I’m trying to teach him sign language as well for “more” and “all done,” but this seems to be a bit lost on him as the other day he SAID “more.”  Maybe he is an auditory learner?
  • He plays in the kitchen while I do dishes and general clean-up.  Sometimes I will give him “special tools” like rubber spatula, whisk, and measuring cups for something new to play with.  Measuring cups are great for math!  At this age, it’s just “big” “bigger” “biggest” (comparisons, size and weight) as he feels different things, but later on they can be used for teaching fractions!
  • He “helps” me fold clothes (actually he usually UNfolds a stack or two!) and he has some floor playtime in our bedroom while I fold.  This gives him a change of scenery and he can also look out the low window.
  • He takes a short nap in the afternoon.  After all, being well rested for all this learning is important!
  • Now that the weather is nicer we try to get outside some each day!  Just look at all the textures that can be found in nature!  Rough, smooth, poky, soft, hard, etc.  (Sensory play – this is a HUGE focus of public preschool.)  Every chance we get I take him swimming!  If we are at a park, he goes on the swings, slides and trampoline.   He LOVES being outside in the wind and the sunshine!



  • Before supper is his fussy time, so often I wear him on my back while I cook!  He can see over my shoulder or to the side and I explain what I’m doing (stir, stir, look it’s boiling, now we have to rinse it, HOT oven, etc.)

Oh dear, *tsk* *tsk* what about his social life???!  Good thing…

  • We are having company over for dinner.  Our good friends, with two little girls, one his age, and one a little older.  Ole adores playing with little people his own age and size!!!  If he so much as sees another baby he smiles, points and laughs with glee! (Yes, even at restaurants and grocery stores!)  We go to MOPS twice a month, church every week, and he gets a good amount of time with his little aunts and uncles too!  No lack of social events around here!
  • We don’t have a lot for a bedtime routine, though he gets nursed and is learning to sleep in his own bed (which is right next to our bed.  He still wakes to eat several times in the night so he must be growing a lot!  He loves his bath and we’re trying to teach him the sign for that as well.  We need to adjust the time we read a Bible story because he is too cranky for it usually.
  • I talk in complete sentences, use real words, and explain why I’m doing what I’m doing, or why it’s not safe to touch that, etc.  I treat him like the smart little person he is.  We sing and I call his attention to different sounds throughout the day.  We pet animals and watch the wild ones.  We take pictures and selfies.  He gets ZERO screen time except when over at someone else’s house and it’s out of my control or Skype video with his grandparents occasionally.  He will learn personal hygiene, polite manners, courteous social behavior, nutrition, healthy habits, personal discipline and self-control, good speech skills, being a good friend and neighbor, kindness and thoughtfulness, and a hard work ethic as a part of LIFE.  And it will happen at home.

So that is what our day looks like!  Of course some days we go out, grocery shopping or to graduations and gatherings.  Sometimes he gets babysat while I do a photo shoot too.  But usually he’s with me and we explore and discover together!

Being intentional about his learning will cover all the necessary preschool subjects… at home.

I don’t read a lot on “what he should be doing by this age” because I figure if he’s not there yet, I’ll be worried.  I would rather be aware that he’s developing and progressing and understand that each child may be a little different pace.  Is there anything I’m missing?


The Worst Reason to NOT Home School


The worst reason to NOT home school?

Jamie over at Simple Homeschool has written about The Worst Reason to Homeschool.  The flip side?  The worst reason to NOT home school.  I hear it quite often actually.  It’s the same reason mothers who would never dream of home schooling throw excuses out to defend themselves… and moms who have been home schooling for years silently question themselves yet again.


It’s so easy to hear this voice.  It says

I don’t have a degree in education.

I don’t even have a degree.

I’m not organized enough.

How will I do high school?  I flunked algebra myself!

I’m not a good enough mom.

{and et cetera}

But just as often, it comes at us from another angle and says

What will my parents (the grandparents) think?

What will my friends think?

What will the teachers think when I’m not putting him back in public school?

What will the state testing person think if my child is slightly “behind”?

What will random strangers think when they see my kids out during “school hours”?

How will they see me, the crazy-hippie-home-school-mini-van-driving-lady-with-25-children-mom???

What will other people think of me?

{and et cetera}

Fear is the wrong kind of motivator, but it’s pretty good at what it does.  It wants to exaggerate your insecurities and point out all the ways you’re not qualified (a lie).  By keeping the focus on YOU and OTHERS (what they think), it keeps you from asking What’s best for my children?  It keeps you from making an informed decision for the type of education you want for your child. Instead, it scares you into making a decision out of fear.

Fear is not a valid reason to not home school!

Let’s get some TRUTH!

Go ahead and write out the reasons you want to home school.  In a couple sentences explain how this type of schooling better fits the vision/mission/goals of your family.  In addition to reminding yourself of these (often!), let’s go through some common excuses listed above.

I don’t have a degree in education.  I don’t even have a degree.  Proverbs 22:6  “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”  Deut. 6:7  “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”  If God sees you as fit to teach your children Biblical truths and His commands (which is most important), you can rely on Him for the wisdom and courage to educate your children academically as well.

 I’m not organized enough.  There are books, seminars, ideas online, etc.  and other moms who would be able to keep you accountable.  Though some people have more natural tendencies to be organized, this is a learn-able skill!

How will I do high school?  I flunked algebra myself!  There are easily three ways of looking at this: 1) You will grow and learn with your child!  2) By the time s/he reaches high school you can reassess and decide which type of education best fits your child.  3) Most home school high school curriculums are written in a self-taught style with easy to administer and correct tests.  Often they have a “teacher” via video.  As the mom, you do not have to be an expert for your child to learn and do well.  4) You could join a co-op where another mom who is more proficient in the subjects you struggle in, is teaching algebra, science, etc.

I’m not a good enough mom.  Lie.  Lie.  LIE!  We’ll talk about this later.

What will my parents (the grandparents) think? What will my friends think? What will the teachers think when I’m not putting him back in public school? What will the state testing person think if my child is slightly “behind”? What will random strangers think when they see my kids out during “school hours”? How will they see me, the crazy-hippie-home-school-mini-van-driving-lady-with-25-children-mom??? What will other people think of me?  Are you living to please God or impress people?

You are more than a good enough mom.  You are a GREAT mom!  God chose YOU to be the mother of your children!

Happy Mother’s Day!

P.S. Get excited for upcoming posts including Homeschooling a 9-Month Old (from my experience!) and  interviews from veteran home school moms who have lots more wisdom and years of teaching experience than I do!

9 Months Old




This is our handsome 9 month old!  This was his impromptu Easter photo shoot after church.


Yes, two brown-haired, hazel-eyed parents had a blond hair, blue-eyed boy! :-P  It’s funny the number of times people comment on that.  And yes, he’s ours, biologically even.


Just imagine it’s a white Easter bunny, OK?


He was enthralled with it’s tail and made a grab for it a few times… Mr. Cat was a good sport, but enough is enough!


Nine months is pretty big to this little guy!

He says “Mama” and can wave.

He stands up all the time and takes steps while holding on.

I’ve been doing baby signs (sign language) with him since birth to no avail (yet).  He hollers.

He crawls lightning fast, and makes a beeline for any open door or top of the staircase.  We need gates.

He eats solid food about 2 meals a day.

He dislikes peas.  VERY MUCH.

When he is done eating or doesn’t want something, he squeezes his eyes shut as if that will make it disappear!

He does not take very long naps… Sometimes I leave him in bed for longer, for my own sanity!

He loves being around lots of people as much as ever!

HAPPY SPRING from us!  We’re looking forward to some more nice weather so we can be outside again!  How about you?

Substitute Teaching 2

Pardon me, this post is going to be a lot of pictures and few words!  Grandma and Grandpa Sahlstrom came down for a couple days while the parents were on vacation… and THIS was the kind of learning that took place!





The dress, crocheted by Grandma Berge for Erina’s dedication (that’s her wearing it in the picture) will now be adorning her special doll – 100% handmade with Grandma Sahlstrom!






The art of doll making, passed down to the next generation!

As for the boys…



Only 3, he is quite the cook!



Olaf sure looks up to his uncles!



At this age, they play “together” independently.


There was also sewing class, and history, aka “back when…” stories by Grandpa!  It was a lovely two days, focused on relationships and creativity!

Substitute Teaching

With the in-laws (parents only!) gone to Mexico for a week, I got to step in as a substitute home school teacher.  :-)  In addition to the normal subjects (well, we got most of them done!), we took advantage of several educational opportunities offered in our community.  Even our tiny little town has some pretty fun stuff going on!  Here are some of the things we learned about:

History – The Vietnam War

What better way to learn about a war than from a veteran?  More than just an “eyewitness;” Bruce Knieff was an active participant – in this case, the left door gunner inside a hefty CH-47 Chinook helicopter.  Their carefree days as teens and young adults cut short, he was one of many young men drafted to go face death overseas.  He told of the war as it really was for the soldiers on the ground, what they ate, what they hauled in his Chinook, and how it felt to be part of a war that was misunderstood by the American public.  He was shot down three times.

Drawing a helicopter as Bruce tells his stories

Drawing a helicopter as Bruce tells his stories

With emotion he shared this poem, written by his grandfather who sent it to him in a letter when he was on his tour of duty in ‘Nam.

A Soldier’s Story

Harry Edward Knieff
Why should I be on this distant shore?
In this rice field of blood and gore.
I wonder what I am fighting for,
In this strange land.
When back on the streets of home,
Boys of my age are allowed to roam.
With their long hair they never comb,
And make demands.
And officials on every hand,
Give in to each new demand,
And haven’t the guts to take a stand,
But resign instead.
Just because they have a face,
Doesn’t give a right the flag to disgrace,
Send them over to take my place,
In this worn torn land.
Because see I am no fool,
I would be glad to go to school,
And gladly obey the strictest rule,
And obey all laws.
Why should I hear the wounded cry,
Why should I suffer here and die,
And try to hold the flag up high,
While others tear it down.
Why fight communism over there 
When in our schools communists appear,
And teach their brand of doubt and fear,
To boys and girls.
And this fact I now will state,
America, turn back before too late,
Or we will receive the same fate,
Of folks in other lands.



Thank you to all our Vietnam vets, including our own Grandpa Ken Berge, for fighting for freedom in this war, and thank you, Mr. Knieff, for passing your stories on to the next generation.

Geography/Culture – International Day

They’ve hosted exchange students from Germany, Mexico, Switzerland, Australia, Thailand, Denmark (and more, I’m forgetting some).  At this year’s “International Day” at the public high school, we got to see Bas, their current exchange student from Switzerland, and lots of other countries represented.

Hmong traditional costume. Walnut Grove, home of Laura Ingalls Wilder, now has many 2nd-generation Hmong-Americans whose ancestors came from Laos.

Learning… right alongside the high schoolers




And now for a few miscellaneous pictures since I had the camera with me this week, closely documenting everything we did… :-)


Ducking the tire swing game – no wonder boys always have bumps and bruises!


Tire swings, tousled hair and boys at play.


Here’s a parting shot of the preschool boy in the best classroom for his age – the great outdoors!  Stay tuned for part 2 of our home school week!


Finally! Warm enough weather to be outside!


Why I said No to so many “business opportunities”

mlm business workI personally know people in almost every single MLM company under the sun who are doing well with it.  Go you!  {I even know people who earned a cruise – TWICE!}  I am genuinely happy for you and this post is in no way written to discourage your business success.  In fact, through all of you, I have learned more about myself; my gifts, personality, likes and dislikes, and because of that I can write this post.

In the last two years I have been approached over 10 times to join one of these companies and in the last few months that number skyrocketed.  You see, as a stay-at-home-mom I just became their target market!  In today’s day, it seems like THE work-from-home business to be in.  Which particular one?  I’m not referring to any one in particular.  I have had some measure of “opportunity” to be a part of all these and more:

Team National


Mary Kay



Pampered Chef



Body wraps/Get skinny

Young Living



Honestly, they all start to sound kind of alike.  There are certain key words that pretty much give it away.  Catchwords and phrases like: “product” “work from home” “be in charge of your own income” “share with you” “business opportunity” etc. and even “when would be the best time to call you?” and “do you have a few minutes that I could talk to you?” which really are polite etiquette, now just start the alarm bells going off in my head.  Rarely will they say the company name initially, and sometimes not even at all.

Three things I want to make clear:

  1.  They are legitimate businesses.  (At least most of them – all the ones I’ve come across.)
  2. It takes WORK.  It is not quite as easy as most people make it sound.  It will require time and energy unless you are the lucky rare percentage that gets an amazing salesperson under you who does all the legwork and you just roll in the dough because you recruited him.
  3. Yes, I would love to earn some income from home, just as you do!  We have goals that we would like to earn extra money for too!  But we have learned (the hard way) that this type of job doesn’t work out for us.

The reasons I say no?

  1. Products = you are in SALES.  Though I’ve been told I’m really good at sales and even offered several jobs, I don’t really like direct sales.  I prefer offering a service.  The exception would be if I found something I was super passionate about or invented something that I believed in enough to market it.
  2. I haven’t found a product (or company) that I believe in enough.  I am more the balanced type.  I use Tupperware AND Rubbermaid.  I buy a variety of brands of make-up, usually whatever I can find sold at Walmart {cringe for actually admitting this!}.  I hate vitamins and am too lazy for most skin-care products.  Even the promise of a cruise can’t make me love them!
  3. I want to know the percentage of people who become members and make it big vs. the ones who lose money.  I also have a hunch that it’s pretty high turnover.  How long do people stay active with your company?  Usually none of these numbers are advertised or available.
  4. If you won’t say the company’s name because you want to pitch it to me just right… that’s like warning me to put my guard up because someone’s trying to suck me into something I probably don’t want to do!  I would like to do research and know what I am getting into before I commit.  If the company is afraid people won’t join if they know which company it is… well, that’s being ashamed and I don’t want to be ashamed of my business!  I also know that I cannot sell to others like this, so I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be good as a recruiter.
  5. If you earn off of what other people sell, you are a recruiter.  So really the job you’re offering me is one of recruiting all my family and friends and fellow church brothers and sisters to sign up too!
  6. I don’t want to have to pay for or buy something to join and have income potential.  I need a business that has very little to no start-up costs.  I also don’t want to have to buy something every month or make a certain number of sales or recruit a certain number of people.
  7. I don’t like what it does to relationships.  I want to make sure I have friends for the right reasons and am not just making connections in hopes of income potential.  I have seen people do this tactfully among friends and family and others “use” and abuse their friendships by being too pushy.  I especially don’t like church to be the place where you talk to a bunch of people and make connections for selling your business.  That’s turning the house of God into a marketplace.
  8. I know you really love it and it’s a part of your life, but it’s not ALL of your life and I’m sick of seeing only see things about your new business on your Facebook, blog, pictures and social media.  I know you’re excited, and there is a place for a small bit of advertising, but seriously!  It’s like more ads in my news feed!  It’s all about balance, people.

When you can introduce me to a company where I don’t have to share with my friends, don’t have to use my social media for advertisement, don’t have to recruit people, don’t have to be sold on the fact that this product is the one and only way to go, don’t have people above or “under” me in some chain or pyramid, my earnings are commission based on my performance only, I can research the company, and I don’t have to pay in to be hired, I’M INTERESTED!!!  Until then, I’ll listen, but my answer will be a polite no to this kind of “business opportunity!”

What has been your experience with multi-level marketing companies and similar?  Do you have any other catchwords to add?

hot cocoa and snowflakes

So I am sitting here drinking hot cocoa as the snow comes down outside, and enjoying what are likely the last few minutes before little guy wakes up. The active almost-8-month-old who made two new accomplishments yesterday – pulling himself up to a perfect sitting up position and getting on his knees with his arms up on the first step of the stairs! As I sip from our honeymoon mug from Gatlinburg, TN {we collect mugs from our travels}, I think about our 3 years and three days married, two kids {one baby in heaven}, the house project 2/3 done, my relocated dislocated shoulder that I will get checked out tomorrow, and how I should write more. But can’t. I have lots of posts written out in my head but somehow there’s a blockage between what I want to say and actually getting it typed out on a bright, white screen. And I really shouldn’t use the word ‘can’t’…  And it bothers me that I don’t have the perfect image for this post, because, you know, that’s what the perfect post on the perfect blog must have.  Maybe it’s my perfectionist self taking creativity hostage with the lies that I can’t write funny enough, don’t have just one main niche and am so technologically impaired that it is impossible for me to have a good looking blog.  Maybe just admitting it to others will help.  I have to remember that 80% done and shared is better than 100% perfect in my head!

Here’s to imperfection, fresh starts, and SPRING!  …Right after this snowstorm.

baby steps

Today I’ll celebrate the little victories – like getting a blog post published!

It Takes a Village to Raise a Child

Welcome to the village of Caicun!  The village that welcomed and adopted my family seven years ago.  The first white people to live here.  Now I am back, on a sort of pilgrimage – bringing Ben and our little son.

On the bus

On the bus

On the village paths

One of the many alleys through Caicun

DSC_2499I just like the artistic-ness of this one (above)!

Breakfast like the locals

Breakfast like the locals

When we moved here in 2006, us kids liked to explore the alleyways through the village.  With the mountain ridge to the west, we could always find the “main road” and go south until it came out at the bus lot.  From there we could find our house.  One story I remember from about our second day here is walking through the village, not at all lost, when a local lady came through the alley and started dramatic gestures in the opposite direction we were going.  She did not speak a word of English and our Mandarin was not very good yet.  But we could tell from her actions that she thought we were lost and she was pointing out the way for us to get home.  We humored her and started down that path, and sure enough, came out on the back side of our house – a shortcut home!  How did she know where we lived?  Apparently news traveled fast about those foreigners with 8 kids who came to be their neighbors!

Family Timeice-cream girls sisters

creative mirror photography

Fun family picture… can you find Ole? ;)

chinese food

Not quite as good a quality since it’s from my phone, but it was too cute to not put up!  Oldest and youngest of the Nelson family – Naomi & Hope (4yrs old).

Facing due west, Er Hai lake in the background

Facing due west, Er Hai lake in the background

Grandma time (she doesn't look old enough to be a Grandma!)

Grandma time (she doesn’t look old enough to be a Grandma!)

More Grandma time!

More Grandma time!

Chinese food restaurant lazy susan

Lots of local food!  No need to pass dishes – see the cool lazy susan (spinny thingy)?  And if you still can’t reach, just utilize those nice long chopsticks and reeeeeach!  It’s not impolite!

It Takes a Village to Raise a Child


More family time with “Uncle” Ed!  All the kids I knew overseas while growing up knew Uncle Ed.  Blood relative to none of us, and uncle to ALL of us.  He was legendary.  Uncle Ed was the most generous man we knew.  One time he gave three families tickets to Hong Kong Disneyland.  Nearly every time he came to visit he would take us out to dinner or dessert.  Most often, dinner AND dessert.  He read us stories doing all the voices, and always had time for kids.  He was like Santa Claus, only better because he was real!  In our world away from most biological relatives, he tied the expat families together and made us a great big family with the same uncle.  So of course, Ole had to meet Uncle Ed!

village ladies

Lots of thumbs up and advice from the villagers.  They all love seeing the baby!  Especially a white baby with BLUE eyes and NO hair!

In Chinese culture, often three generations live together and the grandparents practically raise the grandchild while the parents work.  A son is especially important because he will carry on the family name.  200-300 neighbors and friends are invited to the naming celebration.  After all, they have been bringing the mother special gifts of high-protein foods like eggs and live chickens (both expensive) and taking care of her and the baby for the first 30 days postpartum.  As the child gets older they play on the streets and roam freely with ‘everyone’ just sort of keeping tabs on them.  This family/community centered lifestyle really exemplifies the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.”


Ole with our Chinese grandmother… now a “great-grandma” I suppose!  She’s very proud.