Living With Kids: Amber Johnson

Today I am going to introduce you to Amber, a nurse midwife who lives with her family in Boulder County, Colorado where her husband works in software. Because COVID forced them to move their kids to online school like so many others, Amber and Josh decided that this might be the perfect time to move over seas, and Amber recently accepted a nursing teaching position in Uganda starting in the fall of this year. Amber graciously opened her home to us before they finalize preparations to leave. Welcome, Amber!

A Few Things

Hello, Friends. How are you? How was your week? I’m still feeling that Pandemic Wall. I find I’m resistant to making even small plans, and hesitant . Probably some good rest will help, so I’m keeping the weekend as clear as possible.

The only for-sure activity is watching Wanda-Vision with the kids after dinner tonight. Have you been watching? We are very into it. And maybe we’ll play a round of Blair Monopoly — Oscar made it for us for Christmas and it’s so a full-on treasure.

Ready for your weekend links? Here are a few things I’ve been wanting to share:

Tall House Updates

Here are some of the latest Tall House Updates. First up: We had the Lacanche Range tuned. The term for a range (oven+stove) in French is piano, so getting it tuned makes sense. : ) We also had the chrome details replaced with brass details.

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Galette Des Roi

In France throughout the month of January (and into February too), pretty much every bakery carries Galette des Roi, which translates to King Cake. I’m told January 6th is the official King Cake day, but it was also made clear to me that you can enjoy a King Cake celebration any day, all month long.

Though the tradition stems from the Catholic Day of Epiphany and is tied to the Nativity Story and the Three Kings, we’ve attended several King Cake gatherings over the years and we’ve never heard anyone mention Epiphany or the Three Kings, so it seems like one of those traditions that has become pretty secular.

A Few Things

Hello, Friends. How are you? Last Friday we were in Paris (and I shot the photo above), and it already feels like a million years ago. My whole concept of time is just bizarre these days. You two?

We have a very open, very unplanned weekend ahead of us and that sounds exactly right. If we have the energy, I’d like to work on the floors in Oscar’s room over at the Tall House. (We’ve never uncovered them all the way before and I hope there aren’t any negative surprises.) But I would also be fine if we just stay in and have a movie marathon. How about you? Anything happening for you this weekend?

I hope you’re in the mood for a link list, because I’ve got a great one for you. Here are a few things I’ve been wanting to share:

Introducing: Newlane University

Several years ago Ben Blair launched a startup company: an affordable online university called Newlane. He started the university with his education-tech-philosophy-collaborator (and my brother), Josh Stanley. I talked about the startup back in 2016 when they launched with a kickstarter — when it was still an idea and not a full-fledged university — and I’ve been mostly quiet about it ever since, while they worked on accreditation. But the big news (the very good news!) is that International Accreditation with ASIC has been achieved!!!

The accreditation process is intense. So much more intense than I would have ever guessed. The process is ongoing over multiple years and requires a huge investment of dedication, time, and money. So we are celebrating big time over here! Founding and building a university from scratch, and earning ASIC accreditation, is incredible. I know the sacrifices they’ve made to reach that goal, and I’m super proud of them for what they’ve accomplished.

To celebrate the good news, I thought it would be fun to interview Ben about Newlane. I get asked all the time about what he does for work, and when I answer, people are genuinely curious to know more, and they have lots of great questions. I thought this would be a cool way to cover the most frequently asked questions, and give a good overview about the university.

Q. For those who don’t know you, give us a little bit about your background and how it led to starting a university.

A. My background is in philosophy and education. I did a Philosophy BA at BYU for undergrad, then, when we moved to New York, I did two Masters degrees and a PhD in Philosophy & Education at Columbia University.

I am very conscious about the rising costs of college — especially so as a father of six. When Josh (who has 5 kids) approached me with the idea of creating a university that offered a 4-year accredited degree at the lowest cost possible, I was on board immediately.

The school is still very small, so everyone on our team wears multiple hats and takes on multiple roles, but my main role is Director of Education for the university.

Tall House Updates

One of the projects that’s been happening at the Tall House this month is in the attic. Gijsbert has been building an upper wall to add privacy to the guest bedroom, and he added a floor to the loft area (above the staircase) that finishes it off, and hides the wires and construction mess.

If you’d like to see the progress, here’s a 3-part report I shared on Instagram Stories over the last couple of weeks (they are saved in the Attic Highlights):

Living With Kids: Leslie Degenhardt

The home of Leslie and her lovely family was featured here a couple of years ago, and we are delighted to have them join us once again. They’ve spruced up their place a bit, and decided to start a business during all the craziness of shut down and homeschooling and work-from-home. Leslie is passionate about vintage and found clothing and furniture pieces, both because of the personality that they bring as well as the sustainability of not always buying something new — so starting a shop that sells vintage goods is a perfect fit. Welcome, Leslie!

Renewing Passports in Paris

On Friday, we woke the kids up at 5:30 AM so we could drive to Paris. We had an appointment at the US Embassy to renew the four youngest kids’ passports — Olive, Oscar, Betty, and Flora June. I spent many hours prepping for our appointment, and happily it went very smoothly. (Big sigh of relief!) The woman who was assisting us thanked me for being so organized and prepared and I’m only slightly exaggerating when I say I’ve never felt more proud. : ) She said it would take about ten days to process and then the Embassy will mail the new passports to our house, which means we won’t need to go back to Paris to pick them up.

In the past, when we’ve needed to renew passports, we’ve always been living the U.S., so this was our first time reapplying from a foreign country. We’ve heard that the passport processing time in the States is currently 8 weeks or longer, so I’m guessing they must have a speedier process for people who are living abroad. Which makes sense I guess — it’s nerve-wracking to know that our kids currently don’t have a passport (and won’t for another two weeks) and we are in another country.

Inauguration Day Thoughts & Reactions

Oh my. I’m still processing my thoughts about yesterday (1/20) and today (1/21). You too? Here is some of what’s on my mind:

-I woke up yesterday feeling hopeful, but also very worried. I wondered if there would be last-minute drama from Trump, or more violence from Republicans.

-In the morning, I heard the Star-Spangled Banner playing on a French radio station and started weeping. It felt like the whole world was celebrating.

Living With Kids: Ruth Beckerman

When Ruth reached out about sharing her family’s story, I was intrigued. It is always interesting to talk about different kinds of families and the way that they evolve over time. Ruth, and her husband Andy, are both retired and were empty nesters. Then the pandemic hit, and their grown-up kids (like so many parents) were have such difficulties juggling work and school and toddlers. So Ruth and Andy opened their home back up to support and help their kids and grandkids get through this difficult time. It’s a good illustration of how so many of us have had to be creative to get through this impossible year, and I’m so happy to share Ruth’s story here. Welcome, Ruth!

What to Wear to School 2020-2021

For about about 15 school years (since 2006), I’ve shared What to Wear to School posts. The posts started in response to reader questions about my kids clothes, and then they became a tradition for our family — a really great journal-of-sorts, recording the kids growth, haircuts, and their favorite items of clothing over the years.

Usually I share the What to Wear to School posts in the Fall, but during at least a couple of those years, the Fall was too busy, so I ended up posting in January. And last school year (2019-2020), I skipped the What to Wear to School posts altogether. I didn’t mean to, it was just challenging adjusting to our new life in France (we moved here just a couple of days before school started) and we never got around to taking pictures.

So this past September 2020, I was careful to take photos of the kids just as school was starting — I didn’t want to skip another year. But I kept forgetting to post them! I ended up taking a few more shots during the holidays, and today I finally got them edited and uploaded here.

All that to say: Here’s a combined post featuring Flora June, Betty, and Oscar in What to Wear to Fifth Grade, 9th grade and 10th grade.

A Few Things

[ UPDATE: Good news! After 5 very sick days in bed, my mom seems to be getting her energy back. I know Covid can be tricky, so I know she’s not totally out of the woods, but I feel very optimistic. Thank you so much for your thoughtful comments and notes. I sincerely appreciate it. ]

Hello, Friends. How are you? How was your week? I’m feeling worried right now. My Mom, who lives in a very small town in Utah, tested positive for Covid-19 earlier this week and has been sick in bed. Will she pull through quickly? Will things go south? Like everyone else who has gone through this, all we can do is wait and see how her body reacts.

I’m seeing tweets from friends in Utah about their over-70 parents receiving the vaccine, and it feels like she was so close to staying safe, you know? How are you doing? What has the vaccine rollout been like so far where you live?

If you’re in the mood for a link list, here are a few things I’ve wanted to share:

Tall House Updates

Sometimes there are mini-projects going on in the midst of the larger renovation. One of those has been stripping down and re-storing the door knobs and locks. Here’s what he process has looked like so far:

Living With Kids: Jennifer Bangoura

Jennifer and her family live in Maryland, just outside of DC. Like many of us, she and her husband have been juggling home care, child care, jobs, etc.; working from home with two small kids, including a kindergartener who started online school this fall. Jennifer’s solution to this challenging time has been to get help when she can safely do so, give herself a lot of grace, and not to stress too much about screen time. You’ll love peeking around her warm and charming home.

A Few Things

Hello, Friends. How are you? I find it’s so hard to concentrate and get work done when the news cycle is particularly intense. You too? I have some house updates that I plan to share to Instagram, and I can’t seem to get in the right zone (if that makes sense).

This weekend, we’ll keep it low key. We’ll celebrate Oscar’s birthday, and maybe take a break from the internet. : ) How about you?

Ready for your weekend links? Here are a few things I’ve wanted to share:

Starting the Day With Wins in Georgia, Ending the Day with an Attempted Coup

Well. Wednesday. I woke to happy news about the election in Georgia. I felt such hope! Here are the tweets I shared on Instagram in celebration:

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By the end of the day, hope had been replaced with anger as I watched the attempted coup at the Capitol. Here are the tweets I shared on Instagram in anger and frustration:

Tall House Updates

Have you ever heard of using soap as a finish for wood floors and wood furniture? We heard about it from our friend Gijsbert and then I went down an internet wormhole searching “traditional soap finish” and “Danish soap finish” and “Scandinavian soaped floors” and a dozen other related terms. I loved the images and descriptions of soaped floors so much, we decided to try a soap finish on our attic floors.

You know those pictures of Scandinavian wood floors that look whitewashed? They were mostly likely sanded, then treated with lye (which bleaches the wood and prevents yellowing) and then finished with soap (just soap!).

Project Plans for 2021

Last night we had a family meeting (with the 3 oldest kids joining via videochat). Each of us reported on our year, and we reviewed a list of family goals we had made at the beginning of 2020 — laughing hard at how few we accomplished. For example, at the beginning of 2020, we were confident we would be moving into the Tall House, probably in the fall, and certainly by Christmas. (Hahaha!)

I like making goals, though I don’t beat myself up if I don’t always accomplish them. A big part of what I like about goal-making is creating a picture in my head of a possible future. Goals help me focus, and they give me something to look forward to. I make goals throughout the year, but January is my favorite time to think about what’s next — even though I know the calendar is arbitrary.

For 2021, here’s what’s on my mind goal-wise:

A Few Things — and Happy New Year!

Hello, Friends. How are you? How was your end-of-December? Has it felt like a strange holiday break to you? What felt different this year and what felt the same? Is there anything new you tried this holiday that you’ll repeat next December? I’d love to hear how you’re doing.

We’re starting the new year with a reading marathon today. Our reading marathons are always casual and stress-free — everyone together, lots of good books, pajamas, throw blankets, a loose schedule, and snacks on hand (a mix of healthy and not so healthy).

Something that I noticed today — and I can’t decide if it’s worrisome or just a phase: I seem to have lost my appetite for reading fiction for pleasure. Reading to learn or reading for research is no problem. But diving into a novel and taking a mental escape till the story is done? I can’t seem to do it. Not sure what’s up with that. Will I feel differently in a week or a month or a year? Has this ever happened to you?

I hope you’re in the mood for a link list. Because here are a few things I’ve wanted to share:

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