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2018 plans are still underway…

step two schedulingStep Two | Schedule and Plan. Create a calendar of manageable events and activities. A list to pull from for family trips, chores, projects.

Scheduling is a big time saver. Something we did a long time ago when we were living in Alaska was to create a spreadsheet of all the things we wanted to do and make it available so we could pull from it. We divided it up by seasons or months and had a list of indoor/outdoor, seasonal, low cost, or intensive things we could do. We never completed it, but we sure did have fun with it! Because of that list, we went gold panning, gray whale watching, and planned a huge trip to Cordova for the bird festival! And other things too! It’s just great so you don’t lose a Saturday deciding what to do. We’re in a new area so there should be thousands of options within a 90-minute drive.

Okay, it’s not SO super simple and easy when you’re in a new area because you have to FIND the damn things. I love keeping an eye out for local people who do a lot and share on IG and I annoy them by asking where everything is. I’m totally that person. But, I’m not a local photographer trying to steal photo locations. I just want to explore and have a great time with my family.

Step One | FIND THE FUN. Create a list and organize it. I may be revealing my inner nerd, but I like to add columns for distance (or time), cost, intensity, and season. It makes scheduling family fun SO much easier! If we are in a pinch we can grab something simple like finding a gelato shop or if we are looking to get out of dodge we can hit the road and drive a few hours.

Step Two | The dreaded chore schedule. It has to be done. The family needs something in writing and something that keeps us on task for the deep cleaning. We have an older home so it doesn’t take much for things to creep up on us. I wish I could say I have something amazing for this. But I totally just hit up pinterest. I found a 30 day cleaning list that the kids and I can knock out in 2 days to jump start the new year. Now we just have to work on scheduling the deep cleaning chores. The kids already have daily chores, we assign dishes, counters/floors, and living room pick up. Because these items have to be  done 8939393903 times a day in our house.

Step Three | the remodel. Oh, Lord the dreaded remodel. We bought a TOTAL fixer upper. We have to touch every inch of this home. And we’re about 75% done with the first phase. Once we finish this stage the home should really bring us a lot more joy and peace. The biggest item remaining is to tile our kitchen floor. We have everything picked out, but we have to finish leveling the floor, instal the hardie board, and then get the hell to work. And did I mention I’m like 35 weeks pregnant? hahahaha. Oh Lord. Kill me now.

I try and keep my blog really positive, but I would like to give a GIANT MIDDLE FINGER to the California housing market. I  know we will have an amazing little house when this is all done, but several times a month we dream about checking out and heading off to the middle of BFE America and buying a cheap ass little trailer and just letting it ride. I could see myself with a garden gnome collection in Oklahoma and being happy as a clam.

Step Four | Scheduling Meal Plans. Oh wait, this one is done automatically with Real Meal Plans, but, I still like mentioning it because failing at meal planning is a big ding for my goals. It means I will eat less healthy and it means I will go over budget. But I still have to make it to the grocery store, use the app, and cook the food. I love having some easy go to opt-out options, but in all honesty, food is my husband’s love language. If I’m cooking up stuff 5 days a week in our kitchen he is a very very happy man. And I love to see my man happy. And with me tipping the scales already I don’t mind fattening him up. hahah. Did I just say that outloud?

Alrighty… keep moving foward! Tick tock to baby!

2018 step oneThe 2018 plans revisited and in greater detail.

Step One: Prep. Clean, clear, minimize, purge. Create functional spaces and get rid of excess and get rid of junk. Create an environment that will have more ease of maintenance. Lots of good will runs and filling the dumpster will happen in this step.

We’ve been at this the whole time we have been in California. We tried really hard to thin down our belongings in Texas, but ultimately we moved from a 3600 sq ft house into an 1800 sq ft house. We are still stuffed in to the gills.

The big tasks items are:

  • Clothing
  • Bedding
  • Kitchen
  • Toys

The game plan is to determine what is needed, what is wanted, what is wasted, and what wastes time.

Clothes. We spend a lot of time doing laundry each week. We have three children five and under, that alone is tough. They dirty everything, they change their clothes ten times a day, they throw their clean and dirty clothes together, they are just a bunch of assholes when it comes to having a clean house. We are about to be a family of 9. I’m almost to Duggar family status needing a whole laundromat in my laundry room.

I’d like to say it’s as simple as 4 pairs of pants, 7 shirts, etc. But the first step is to remove all the holey or stained items, and things that no longer fit. Then as we put it in the drawer I will be able to see how much is left. If their clothes can’t fit in one drawer, I’m thinning down. The older kids I give more leniency too– not only are their clothes bigger, but the older two are near their adult sizes.

Also on the agenda are under the bed boxes for out of season items. Less stuff in their drawers and closets means less stuff going in my laundry. I can’t even begin to tell you how much pain this causes me. We have children that will dirty the most random things. Like, hey, we haven’t been in snow for five years, why are there snow pants, hats, and gloves in the wash? “uh… I got cold.”. WTF?

Bedding. How many freaking sets of sheets do we need? I don’t even know where they all came from! I think I have found 4 crib sheets and we don’t even have a crib up yet! I have kept some extra blankets around for sleepovers, family, cuddling on the couch, I’ll need to figure that out because this house lacks storage.

Kitchen. This is SO tough. I’m a cook. And I pretty much run a restaurant with the number of mouths I feed. But I succumb to impulse buys. I have a random apple core remover so that I can make donut shaped apple slices. I think I’ve used it twice. I have a smaller kitchen. I don’t need multiple sets of everything. Because it turns into the same problem as the laundry. It’s in the sink and instead of washing it more quickly I buy another and now I have two in the sink. And on that note… I love my sink. I originally wanted a 60/40 sink and I am SO glad I went with one basin. Thanks for all the input on that one. But, back to work. Sort. Purge. Organize. LABEL. For F’s sake, I need to label. True story, I was nearly killed two weeks ago. I was removing a plate of the top shelf of the cupboard and a heavy glass 4-cup measuring bowl nearly got me right on the head. Ok, maybe killed is an exaggeration. But swear words were yelled at said teenager that I knew did it. Label the damn spaces where shit maybe even draw a map with photos for the kids.

After the sort and purge, I’d like to organize the spaces, get stuff off the counter. We’ve been drinking less coffee. By less I mean, maybe once a week and usually through a fast food window. It’s time to put our huge espresso machine up. More tea for me in 2018.

Toys. The mother effing toys. We sorted in Texas TWICE. We’ve sorted here once. Where the hell do they come from? We were SO careful over Christmas. Is it going to last, is it junk, is it something we are going to step on? But their toys must breed in their bins or something. I want to get rid of a lot of the plastic junk. I read that the fewer toys they have the more they will use their imagination. I want quality toys that will last. Wood. Natural. Things to build. Things to explore. Less commercial bullshit. And for F’s sake, the legos need a new solution. Like, maybe a box in the garage we pull out once a year when we have forgotten how annoying they are. I want to take the toys down by half. And we’ve started a new rule, either they put it away, or I put it in the good will box. It’s been highly effective.

Not on this list is the garage. Because I legit have post-traumatic stress from going in there that I haven’t been out there in months. I’d say I’m exaggerating, but I spent about three hours while bending over my pregnant belly cleaning, clearing, vacuuming, organizing, putting tools away. And about a week later I went out and had a mental breakdown. Then we had a medium rodent infestation. I say medium because we’re not really sure WHAT animals were coming in at one point. But it’s just become a scary place in my life. So I’m not willing to admit we have a garage until it’s safe out there.

But IF I were to have a garage. I would say I want

  • an organized section for holiday items.
  • a clean laundry space with organized shelves for cleaning products and a clean laundry table.
  • a clean workout area with vacuumed and mopped mats
  • all tools in their rightful place
  • all trash/broken furniture/empty moving boxes removed.

And if you’ve actually read this, God Bless you. lol! I blog for me. For accountability. And for some resemblance to a social life.

2018 plans and accountability


The 2018 Plans and Accountability Post! New projects, new baby, new word, new places, new health, new me.

I felt called to choose a word for the year. I’ve kind of done this before trying to embrace simplicity. I’ve chosen NO. I’ve chosen LESS. And overall I’ve meandered in the general direction I have wanted to go, but I’m still far from the actual destination. I want a quality living. I want more memories and moments. I want more eye contact. I want more space to breath. I want more peace.  I want less fluff. Less distractions. Less junk. Less stress. Less BUSY, less RUSH. And this is how it’s going to happen for us this year.

My word for 2018 is: Cultivate

Cultivate: To Plant, To Encourage, To educate. To further develop, foster, advance, promote.

I desire quality. Quality living, quality, education, quality planning, quality nutrition, and quality time.

I strive for more thoughtfulness, selflessness, and self-control. Control hits a bit nerve because the last few years have been so fast and furious we feel like we’ve lost control and this year we want to be put back in charge.

Ok, so it sounds good, but is it just blowing air? Here is an overview of my general steps:

Prep. Clean, clear, minimize, purge. Create functional spaces and get rid of excess and get rid of junk. Create an environment that will have more ease of maintenance. Lots of good will runs and filling the dumpster will happen in this step.

Schedule and Plan. Create a calendar of manageable events and activities. A list to pull from for family trips, chores, projects.

Make. Make time. Make things. Make memories. We made homemade ornaments for Christmas. We make art. We turned our kitchen into a chem lab and the girls and I made soap. I’m not sure exactly what the year will look like, but I know that TV and all technology will be a lesser part of 2018.

Read. We brought back family reading time. It’s not always calm and enjoyable, some days the little children want no part of it and we resort to threats of the Boogie Man. But we are all together, enjoying amazing literature, learning, talking, and in the same room. All 8 of us. Mostly. Sometimes we don’t mind when Brody sneaks away because man, that kid is SO noisy, holy hell!

Educate. We’ve always been a family of roundtable discussions. We’ve had a huge dry erase board that has been providing a lecture space since 2009 or so. We homeschool so that we can provide our children with a better education and we just got in Aubrey’s PSAT scores and we know we are on the right track. We’re making our plans for the new year and bringing in more of what works.

Budget. Spend LESS. We’ve always been somewhat good in this regard. But we have goals. And with a mortgage that costs an arm and a leg, it’s going to be great to get every ounce of our paycheck we can. I’m printing some sheets to help record what we spend. And I’m going to keep reminders of my goals hung around my desk space where I spend the most money.

Health. I have a big incentive for kick-starting my health. And it began when we were trying to get pregnant. I need more energy. I need to be healthier, take less stress off my joints. I also need to grow a smaller baby. Workouts and better eating. Eat better and move more.

Nutrition. This one is easy. Just use Real Plans. If you haven’t fallen in love with Real Plans yet, GO CHECK IT OUT. I found an even bigger reason to love them. In addition to being able to control the menu based on diet and preferences, I can also check the tag for BUDGET. One of my goals was to reduce our waste and spending on food. A trip to fast food can easily cost our family 50$. A trip to a restaurant, even for takeout is usually 75$ or more. That means one meal plan blunder and I’ve paid for a whole year of real plans. Ok. Love fest over. I’m back on my real plans. I talk more about it here.

The fun stuff. I have abandoned most projects and groups that I previously participated in. Because frankly, it sucked the life out of me and my photography. I have stayed away from facebook more and more. I have purged my friends list– sorry, it doesn’t mean I hate anyone, it just means I need quieter space. Which has allowed me to take on the things I truly enjoy. And it was ah-mazing in 2017. I’m looking forward to more of it this year.

Documenting. I have fallen in love with recording our family. I rave about Project Life a lot. But this system seriously helped me find my way. I talk about it more here and here. These projects have restored my love of all things photography.

Stocksy. I am still a stock contributor to this amazing place and I didn’t put in as much effort in 2017. And I have all the same excuses you are probably familiar with. I was busy, tired, I moved into a dark house, and I just wasn’t shooting quality work I was thrilled with. But, we do what we make time for. And I have cleared the path to put this on the 2018 schedule.

I’m not going to add it to the action items, but if I am able and the timing works out, I’d love to blog the updates and share the more detailed lists of what needs to be done. Hell, I’d love to show you the finished before and after of my remodeled kitchen, you know, once we actually finish it! hahah. We still have the floor and backsplash to do. And I made an eleventh-hour decision to add another built in to the kitchen. So… the sooner the better! We have seven weeks until baby and I’m nesting something fierce!






I haven’t dropped off the face of the planet per say, but I’m not here, at least not as here as I was in the past. For a long while, I was everywhere. I moderated groups, I taught classes, I mentored, I wrote ebooks, I did challenges, I moderated challenge pages, and I was always available. And then I had another baby, and remodelled a house, and moved, and remodelled another house, and got pregnant with another baby, and even more than all of that… the internet got shitty. So I quit! I quit moderating, I left groups, I unfriended hundreds of people, and I pretty much stopped posting and blogging.

Truth be told, I was never very good at this. I love taking photos, I learned a lot, I wanted to be able to share that, but I’m not a seller. I’m not great at marketing. I was never that IT GIRL. And that’s totally fine. I’m thankful that I was never one bothered by likes, followers, fans, comments. None of that. Sure it was nice. But I knew from the beginning that I could post my best photo and one of my best friends could post a photo of dog poop and she’d get 1000 likes. lol. It’s the nature of the beast. And I’m SO okay with that. And here’s why:

I’m living a life over here. I have an amazing family. And I shoot for me. I tell stories for me (and you know, for my family). And I am truly happy. And more than I am happy, I’m busy.

And as if I’m not busy enough, I picked up a new hobby. Well, new again? A revived hobby? I don’t know. But I’m scrapbooking, which I don’t feel is the right way to describe it. I’m documenting. In an even bigger better way than before. Now, I would call myself a storyteller.

Let me backtrack just slightly. A few years ago a story crossed my feed, a mother of five died and very suddenly. And it could have been me. If I died that day what would happen? I’m not even sure my husband knows our bank account number. What do I have to leave my young children? An epic amount of photos sure, but what record have I left? What would they remember? About me, about them. So many stories would be lost. And it really changed me.

I started by printing my photos. I was really behind. Years and years and thousands of photos behind. I needed a system because my old method of 1-3 photos per page wasn’t going to cut it. I would die of old age before making it to 2012.

Insert Project Life.

Which is kind of funny. This went in instalments. First, I purchased a kit. Then I let it sit for two years. Then I bought another kit. And still, it sat. Well, okay, in my defense I was working full time and had a house full of children, but whatever. I was intimidated. First, I needed to change my notion of what scrapbooking was. This was less about the creativity and “art” than before. I needed something more practical. And then I finally dug in.

And you can see the progression.

I started just printing the photos. I often used two sizes, a full 4×6 photo and then a 4×6 photo that contained 4-2×3 photos which could be used whole or cut into two of the 3×4 pockets. This was the “getterdone” phase. I was able to catch up on YEARS quickly. And the best part is if I want to go back and add some extra stories, I can insert a new page protector and add some details. It doesn’t bother me that these pages are so bare. OK, it kind of does, but one day at a time.DSC_8956z

Then, when I felt the need or had the time, I would add some decorative cards. They were premade and easy to work with. They helped break up the photos and make it feel like less of a photo album. DSC_8953z

Then, I started getting some details in there. It started with just doing a “month in review”. It’s an easy way to get some of the larger specifics out of the way!DSC_8955z

And somewhere around then is when I really got into this. I’m going to tell the stories. For Pippen’s birth page I took the birth story I wrote in the hospital and printed the whole thing. The answer to the question, “what if I died today” could be answered with these books. I have the stories here in print. I have a record of the life I lived. The things we did. What we like, don’t like. I’m still pretty sure my husband doesn’t know where our money is, but at least I will have something to pass on about this life to the children who won’t remember. They will have my words and voice telling them how much I really loved them. And that is so priceless to me.

DSC_8951-EditzDSC_8952zAnd that brings me to now. Now I’m just really having fun with it. I’m thinking of extra ways to capture our week and what I want to include. I keep a sticky note on my computer of the cute things the kids have said. Or I use the Day One app and write down things that happened that day.

And this is where you can find me. It has changed how I shoot. How I spend my time on social media. It changed everything for me. I don’t CARE about the perfect photo. Because my kids won’t. I care about the moments. The stories. I care about being authentic. I wish I lived in a nice bright clean house. I wish I didn’t have laundry in every room at the moment. I wish my remodel would magically be finished. But THIS IS REAL LIFE. And it’s perfect. So it discarded any notions I had about making sure the light was great, or the composition, or hell, even the focus. I just want to capture every stage and phase before it evaporates. I want to write down the details that I will be sure to forget whether it’s in a day, a week, a year, or ten years–

 About Project Life

I’ve been asked a TON of questions about this. I have some basic information on a previous Project Life Post.

First, I use a system called Project Life. It was created by Becky Higgins. The concept is to take the “work” out of scrapbooking. You buy special pocket page protectors that have several variations, but for the most part come with two size pockets: 4×6 and 3×4. And then there are decorative cards to go with it.

For people who have the photos printed already, it’s easy to just slide them in, or trim them to fit the smaller size. But the system is also designed with premade cards to slide in for those sizes that either has designs or room to write the stories down. So it could be as simple as sliding in your photos, grabbing a few cards, sliding them in, and then writing down the memory and being done.

And this is where I recommend most people start because you’ll get a good idea real quick of what you like and don’t like. On the Becky Higgins website, you can buy what they call a core kit and bundle and save extra money. You buy an album, the protectors, and a kit. This is ALL you need to get started.

I use these Project Life items the most:

Black and White Album

Type A Protectors (but I would recommend a variety pack so you can see different ones and depending on how you shoot you may need different orientations)

Everyday Core Kit

But, let me enable you further because I like having options.

I subscribe to The Lily Pad’s monthly kit. It gives me cards and details that go with that month or season and since they are digital I can just print what I need without cluttering up my super small house.

I have really poor handwriting so I tend to print my journaling out, but I do like the subscription to Elles Studio, again it’s affordable and has monthly goodies each month including some accent and doodads to go with it.

And lastly, there is Ali Edwards. She has a mix of both digital and physical items. And I signed up for her story kit because I really took on this storytelling challenge head-on. And it’s nice to have some extra physical product to play with. Her kits usually have chipboard, or stickers, just some extras that add dimension to the stories and pages. Her blog is extremely helpful, she shares tons of videos. She also has digital kits.

And lastly, there is printing

I use Lightroom to organize and edit all my photos. When I’m going through the week or month looking for photos I use the star system to determine what will get printed and how large I want it to be.

I use the Lightroom Print module to size my photos ready to print. I have several templates that I’ve created based on what works best for me. Here’s an idea of some of them:

4×6 full photo

4×6 with thick white border (for extra white space)

4×6 with 2- 3×4 photos

4×6 with 4 2×3 photos which can be used for 2- 3×4 slots

and a million others, 6×8, 6×12, etc. I have several grids of 2×2 inch photos that I use when printing my Instagram photos.

You get the idea… I can add text later before printing so I just look and select what I want. No matter what, I use the templates to load those photos in.

I use Photoshop to send my photos to the printer. I do this for a few reasons. One, I can make an action that has the printer selected with the border or borderless option and press the button once and print a set of 10 or so photos. Two, I can add text before the print process. And I’m sure there are more reasons, but this is just how I’ve been doing it. I open all the saved photos from Lightroom and send them off to my printer.

I print at home. It’s convenient and it allows me to make changes or try different things. And my printer has done a really great job. I have used a few printers over the years, but the one I’m using and loving is the Canon Pixma 7720. It has two trays so I can keep 4×6 photo paper in one tray and then regular paper or photo paper in the large tray.

I use Costco’s Kirkland photo paper. It’s cheaper and it works like a charm. I have it in several sizes: 4×6, 8.5×11, and 11×14. I trim the 11×14 down to 8.5×12 and I’m able to print 6×12 photos when I want which add a cool look to my book and allow me to showcase a photo or write a longer story.

Hope that helps! Happy documenting! XOXO

  • December 28, 2017 - 3:19 pm

    Sarah Beth Chamberlain - I need to be better at this, and this really helps. My Lightroom library is SO unorganized and I’m probably 5000 photos behind on printing. These albums look great and will help a lot. Question: with the print module, to you export and then reopen in Photoshop? I didn’t think to print from Photoshop.ReplyCancel

    • December 28, 2017 - 3:42 pm

      admin - I hit the print, which prints to file, and then I open all of them in photoshop and print from there. There might be a way to send it straight to photoshop, I’m not sure. I like printing from there so I can add text, or make other changes. It also works so I can use actions to batch print and not have to select print on every photo.ReplyCancel

DSC_8173z Before we take a look back, can we take a moment to come to terms with the fact that it is December already! Holy moly! I’ll admit there were times I thought this year would never end. There were times when it was 100% survival mode. But now my jaw is on the floor realizing that 2017 has come and gone. I can’t even wrap my head around saying 2018. Mind blown.

2017 was tough. And to put this in perspective, we’ve done tough. We’ve done me working 60-80 hour weeks with Michael as a full-time (20 credits) college student. We’ve done the army. We’ve worked through pain before. There is pain, and then there is selling a 3600 sq ft house with six children ALL BY YOURSELF. I would welcome any army training times two before I do that again.

The year started with us wrapping up the sale of our Texas home, contracting some horrific survivable version of the ebola virus, and packing our whole home in two days. I do regret not taking a photo at the time, but Michael has a small tolerance for my invasions of his privacy to begin with. To sum up how our year started let’s throwback to the closing on our home. Michael had to bring a puke bucket to closing. Thankfully he made it through, but when he got down to the downtown streets of Austin all bets were off and he was on all fours heaving on the sidewalk. It was one tiny part hilarious, but only because I had survived my turn while waking every hour to take care of the musical chairs of vomiting children all by myself. But, I knew better than to photograph this event.

Now, on one hand, this is a horrible way to start a year. But on the other, starting a year like this means it can only get better. Or at least if you overlook the God-awful horrid experience we had with our movers who charged us 7,000$ over our quote AND managed to destroy 1/3 of our shipment.

But we made it. By the skin of our teeth, exhausted, and still nauseated, but we made it. And even though we left the house at dusk, we were determined to get the hell away from Austin. But then something magical happened. We began healing. We began recovering. The worst was over and we were on our way to something new.


And we embraced the adventure. We explored new places. And we soaked up seven days of family time inside a small SUV with six children and a dog. And when we got to our final destination still homeless, we upped the ante and took the adventure to Alaska. This allowed us to breathe comfortably while we tried to find a new home. And honest to God there is something so magical about being there.



BrodyJRust.jpg, PippenJRust.jpg

And even though it felt like it would last a lifetime, we made it. We bought a house and we were on our way back to really officially kick off our new adventure this time, in our new state of California–The land of the overpriced housing and asshole drivers.


And we moved into our tiny fixer-upper. And we spent the next four months in a chapter titled, “and we remodelled”. We tore down an expansive hideous lava rock wall. We tore down a dividing wall from our kitchen/dining room, we ripped out cabinets and ancient built-ins, installed new cabinets, ran new electrical, painted, ripped out old carpet, installed new built-ins, and sadly we are nowhere close to complete with any of it, but it’s a work in progress and we’re slowly chipping away at the list and making it our little den for our growing family.

And while it’s nowhere near complete and it feels like we are so far from the finish line, it’s so helpful to take a look back. We are soaking it up. We are making memories and trying to remember our goals and intentions we set for ourselves. We wanted to slow down. So, we took a break from the projects and just started living. We signed up for new experiences. The girls started riding horses once a week. We tried to discover someplace new every month. We watched as many football games as we could. We played. We saw elephant seals for the first time. I started documenting our lives better, I started printing our photos. I started taking better care of myself and started a workout routine. And we baked, oh gosh we baked– cookies, bread, cake, you name it, we baked. But most of all we tried our best to find balance.







CampbellMRust.jpg, BrodyJRust.jpg, PippenJRust.jpg


CampbellMRust.jpg, BrodyJRust.jpg, PippenJRust.jpg



And we also tried to celebrate imperfections. We let go of excuses and tried to indulge. We made new traditions. And I hope that’s a tradition we can keep up with! This has been a WILD 2017…. but it’s been a good one. From my tribe to yours, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Bring it on 2018!


Motherhood Is… trying to be the best person you can be for your children and so you can effectively raise your children.

DSC_7411zI finally had to take a break from facebook. Even after deleting hundreds of people I couldn’t control the negativity. The way I see it is this. If you are looking for reasons to be unhappy you will find them, in spades. And if you’re looking for reasons to be happy you will find them, in spades. It’s your choice. I choose the latter. And I choose people who choose the latter.

And I tell you what. You walk away, you take the good people with you, and all of a sudden you feel lighter, more productive, like you can see clearly again.

I have a to-do list that actually haunts me. Seriously, I have nightmares about it. We have a lot of clocks ticking. My husband is working on a major project at work and when combined with the clock ticking in my stomach and all the remodel projects left, we have a lot to do. And I don’t have any emotional or physical energy left to spare. So, I don’t. I just “let it go”.

I still have some ebbs and flows, but I have been able to exercise consistently for about two and a half months. I’ve added more fresh foods into our diet. I still battle with carbs and I’m sure I’ll end up with a gigantic 20-pound baby again (ok, fine 10 lbs). Homeschooling is going great. Some weeks we are ahead, some weeks we’ve had to play catch up a bit. I’m starting to take more photos, but I have removed myself from a lot of photo projects. I’ve prioritized printing and documenting our lives, adding words to the photos. I’m always 5 loads behind on laundry…

But meh, I’m okay with trying, and I’m ok with that balance. I’m more than okay with everything I need to be the best person I can be, day in and day out. No one else in that internet world is worth sacrificing that.

Motherhood Is… is a blog project celebrating motherhood through rambling and photographs. Please click on the link and check out lots of posts about motherhood here.


Oh homeschool plans! Does anyone love these as much as I do?

Last year was our first year homeschooling. I’m still new, but I have a better feeling for what does and does not work. I’ve learned that my high schooler does not do well with a loose setup, she needs structure and actual assignments and a calendar. I’ve also learned I do not want a super intensive pre-school/pre-k program for my littles. It burns me out. So we alternate a little of a more intense one with a lighter worksheet one and lots and lots of books. I also feel like I’ve sampled enough products to know what I plan on using. Last year the biggest struggle was history, I tried Story of the World and I just couldn’t do it. I think it’s great, I loved reading all the chapters, but the rest… just didn’t get done and the kids weren’t remembering much of the details.

I’ve also embraced a year round homeschool year. We do six-week sessions with a week off between and then extended breaks for Thanksgiving and Christmas and Spring. And this year I’m doing a “half day Friday” so that I can squeeze in me time and get my tasks accomplished each week and clear them off before our weekend.

So alas, the great big homeschool plan.

11th Grade Homeschool Plan

Our big goal for our high schoolers is to prepare them for college. And for that we want them to work independently and think critically.

  • Geometry: Teaching Textbooks
  • Physics: Thinkwell
  • US Government: Thinkwell
  • English: Essays. She’ll cover 8 essay styles. She’ll write two essays per style, getting one free write and one corresponding to a chapter of her history.
  • English Lit: 5 classic novels (she chooses)
  • Medieval History: Well Trained Mind
  • Electives
    • Driver’s Ed (God Help us ALLLLLL)
    • Latin 1: Rosetta Stone
    • Keyboarding:
    • Poetry: Varied books and online sources
    • Art (watercolor classes, pottery classes, artist studies, etc)
    • Music: Viola Lessons
    • Horse Riding Lessons

6th Grade Homeschool Plan

  • Math 6: Teaching Textbooks
  • Language Arts:
    • Spelling: All about Spelling
    • Grammar: Writing Rhetoric. This is my first time trying this series, but I wanted something a little more formal and structured. I feel this is one of the weakest areas of public education so I would like to put emphasis on it. I’ve purchased the first unit as well as the fifth one so we can work in more fundamentals if needed, or she can see if she can keep pace with a more grade level unit.
    • The Good and the Beautiful: We’re trying this out for something more comprehensive, but I have some reservations as we already have a program for geography and art.
    • Reading. She’ll get a lot through her programs above, but she will also be finishing the Harry Potter and then starting one some older classics.
  • History, Science, Art, and Geography: Layers of Learning We switched to this over the summer and it really worked for me. Each lesson has a bunch of library books I can check out. It’s a wonderful mix of independent learning and reading as well hands on things we read and do together. She can notebook on several of the topics, do map work, it’s a win for us.
  • Electives:
    • Keyboarding:
    • Latin 1: Rosetta Stone
    • Poetry: Varied books and online sources
    • Music: Ukulele Lessons
    • Art: (watercolor classes, pottery classes, artist studies, etc)
    • Horse riding

Preschool/Pre-K Homeschool Plan:

I struggle following allow with longer series. And Campbell is a free spirit that does really well for short bursts, but frankly, she has not been interested in structured learning yet. She is still four years old so we are going to work on making it fun, lots of reading, and hopefully identifying the letters and sounds throughout the year. I struggle with this as our standard for her age is to GET HER READING. But when I read about education systems that are more successful the focus is on a deep imaginative play. The beauty of homeschool is that we get to do this on our terms. Her three-year-old brother is just along for the ride. My goal for him is just to be able to sit and focus on short read aloud stories.

We will be pulling from all sorts of resources in a really loose unstructured format as their attention holds.


How about a Friday Introduction?telling the story

Whenever anyone asked for an introduction I always laugh and say, “I’m Courtney, I’m a Taurus. I love holding hands and long walks in the rain”. Then I go to to say I’m a wife and mother. But what does that really tell anyone. I’m a wife to Michael. Ok. I’m married. Is it supposed to mean I have enough social skills or hygiene to attract a mate? And really, what does saying I have six children tell you other than my laundry pile is gigantic?

I’m married. I’m married to the love of not just this life, but all eternity. This man completes me. He is truly my better half. He is grounded. Incredibly smart, genius even. And he makes me so twitterpated… I know I know, hence the six kids right?

The first time we met it was a real Romeo and Juliet moment. No, seriously, I had to go out on the balcony and holler down to him because he couldn’t figure out how to get into my building. He may have been under the influence, lol. The second I let my guard down I was madly and fiercely in love with this man.

I’m a mama. I’m a mama bear to enough children to yield an infield for a baseball game, or so the checkout clerk at Costco recently told me. It means that I haven’t slept through the night in years. I am always behind on laundry. My volume of dishes is enough to make most grown adults cry. Oh, and I haven’t had a clean house since like 2005. I’ll try and clean it up before people come over for the first time, you know, to try and pretend this isn’t my real life, but after that first visit, if you pass the “no judgment” test, you’re welcome back and get to see life as it really happens. When I say, “Oh gosh, it doesn’t normally look like this, I’m so sorry” it really means, “holy shit, we cleaned it up good!” hahaha.

I became a mama at 20. I had no clue what I was doing. I wasn’t good with kids. Hell, I wasn’t good with people. I raised her and she raised me. 16 months later her brother came along and we became a team. Throw a few miscarriages in there and number three came along. She was a demon child. Didn’t sleep, fussy, mean as hell to her siblings, but oh she had a flair for all things sparkly, colorful, and gaudy. Another few miscarriages, an engineering degree, and a few months in the army later I found out I was pregnant with number four. When people say they have “no clue how it happened” and you laugh because you know exactly HOW it happened… yeah, that was number four. Only seriously, no clue how that happened. I was set to go back to army training in a few weeks and had to tell my command I was pregnant. Whoopsies. But it ends up the second best thing that ever happened to me. I stayed in for another year and a half, but I never finished my officer training and had to get out or become enlisted, I opted out. We threw caution to the wind and decided to transfer to Texas so Michael could add a physics degree to his engineering path. My work allowed me to be remote and fly back often, only we had another “how the heck did that happen” moment. The fun part of that was that it was so unexpected I had the job of breaking it to my husband. I made sure I took him out to a great restaurant, ordered him a bottle of wine, yes, bottle, and started with a speech about all the great things that had happened to us that we hadn’t exactly planned… and ended with number five. Number six, okay, we own that one, that was planned. Number seven… haha. Maybe! We’re not ruling out a 2018 baby.

What does that really mean? It means my heart, hands, and house are full of love, messes, clothes, and lots and lots of noise. It means that I have to multitask. It means that I can’t be at your beck and call. It means you may have to be patient with me. It means if I don’t write it down you can bet your ass it won’t happen. It means I am intolerant to drama and bullshit.

But if you can deal with the bits and pieces, and my half functioning brain, I’m incredibly loyal and giving. I make myself as available as I can be. And I always mean well. I always try and leave the world a little better than I found it.

So that’s my introduction… you can follow along on The Rusty Lens FB Page or over on IG.

Introduce yourself why dontcha?

Telling the Story | a blog series about the characters and stories captured in the wild by The Rusty Lens

  • September 17, 2017 - 4:48 am

    Gretchen Willis - I am lucky to know you. you’re awesome!ReplyCancel

If I were to tell you I had any serenity in the last month, it would be a blantant lie. We’ve been neck deep in remodeling, now currently without a functional kitchen sink. My teenagers are fighting like cats and dogs, and enough with the nipple twisting, my God! We finally had it. We had to play hooky from life. We ventured to the coast. It wasn’t exactly a serene trip, it never is when we shove 8 people in a car. But, since you can’t hear the noise, the bickering, and the constant threat of vomit. I bring you some serene photos.



The Serenity Circle is a collaborative blog project sharing our serene photographs with you each month. Please continue on the journey and visit the next blog to complete the circle.

Click HERE and check out the fabulous Nadeen Flynn and see what she found this month.

  • July 19, 2017 - 10:01 am

    Serenity Project - July 2017 - Iris Nelson Photography - […] the circle to see what my wonderful and talented photography friend, Courtney Rust at “The Rusty Lens” is sharing this […]ReplyCancel

  • July 19, 2017 - 1:53 pm

    Wendy - Beautiful light in each of these images. Love them all, and the story behind the post this month too!ReplyCancel

  • August 7, 2017 - 1:50 pm

    maibritt - LOL! on the lack of serenity on roadtrips… I have 4 kids, so I can relate… I think, when you have more than 2 kids, you get your own version of serenity though… ;o)
    The images are so beautiful! Way to find peace and quiet in the midst of chaos.
    I LOVE the second to last image!!! WOW!ReplyCancel

  • August 8, 2017 - 5:33 pm

    Mabel - I love this place and you captured it so well. Going on trips with kids is never serene!ReplyCancel

  • August 9, 2017 - 1:58 pm

    Katie - I love all these pictures, but I really need to be in that next to last photo. Such a wonderful tree tunnel. : )ReplyCancel

point reyesWe have been remodeling for weeks. This weekend we had to take a pause for my husband to finish an assignment for his master’s class, but we were just so burnt out. We are constantly jumping from the frying pan to the fryer. And we just couldn’t shake the funk. I have had a backlog of places I want to visit so I picked one and off we went.

We had literally no idea what we were going to other than Point Reyes has a lighthouse and it’s on the coast. It also never occurred to us that it could be 35+ degrees cooler just one hour away. We knew something was wrong when we pulled into the parking lot and everyone was decked out in Patagonia jackets. And of course, this was the one time we cleaned our car before heading out so it was slim pickings which made for some good laughs. Thankfully, I never made it into any of the photographs, but there were people staring.

We popped into the visitor center to check in and see what we were in for. Something that I have gotten into a habit of as an adult is asking people what is there favorite thing. I do it with the wait staff at restaurants, I do it when we are visiting hotels, and I asked the Point Reyes Park Ranger what his favorite part of the park was. I asked what would be the best things to attempt with several small children who wouldn’t last too long on their feet. And of course, one mention of “elephant seals” and I was in! He said they were thinning out and wouldn’t be there much longer and then they wouldn’t return until next season.

So off we went armed with sheer will power, a healthy dose of suck it up, a pinch of “we’re from Alaska”, and a shark towel.

And we will be back again. We will so be back again. We will have lunch in the cutest little town. We will stop at a dairy farm. We will climb the hills and find the elk herd. We will picnic on the beach.  We will hike in the forests. Clearly, we loved Point Reyes National Park. And lucky for us it’s only an hour away. Before Bay Area traffic. Hah!

Point ReyesDSC_6239zDSC_6243zDSC_6244zDSC_6246zDSC_6260z

After the Elephant Seal overlook we ventured over to the Point Reyes lifeboat station. Their motto, ye have to go out, ye don’t have to come in. This bay is beautiful, but with that intense fog it is not hard to see how many lives could be lost here.

We were hoping for sea lions, but nada. There was one otter playing in the surf, but that was it. DSC_6291z

I told him under absolutely no condition could he smile.

I kick myself for not taking a video of this, or taking the time to slow the shutter down. But we left all the kids in the car and ran the .4 miles to the lighthouse (which was closed) and I knew the clock was ticking before the littles would get upset in their carseats and the teens would let them loose. But the fog was coming through so fast it was both beautiful and haunting.

So bummed I didn’t get to walk the 30 stories down (and up) to the lighthouse. lol.

Point Reyes

This beach totally had me until the shark bit. DSC_6396z-2

Then we stepped into the city for a quick Chinese food supper. Everytime we see that Golden Gate it’s a little magical. DSC_6417z

DSC_6438zAnd then fog started rolling in for the evening.