Oh, this winter…

“Do you have a creative outlet?” she asked me.

Another mom at our homeschool co-op happens to have a boy-girl-boy set with the same spacing as my kids. We were sitting the nursery, sharing the overwhelm of our day-to-day, and came to the consensus that this stage of life is a lot.

For a few months, I didn’t have a creative outlet. I barely had a basic hygiene outlet. There was no space for anything else. There was no making the gym a priority, there was no carving out time to write, there were failed attempts at pleasure reading when I’d read a line or two, and wake in the middle of the night with my Kindle on my face.

I think the only thing I’ve read since December was the dosage chart on infant ibuprofen.

Two months of passing around colds.

The startup that was supposed to grow slowly and give me time to learn and adapt, but had secret plans to take off explosively.

A side project that I had no business taking.

Sub-zero temperatures.

Homeschooling well beyond show me the triangle.

It’s been quite a winter. We’re usually emerging from piles and piles of snow this time of year, but the snow part was fairly mild. Instead, it was difficult in other ways. Zombiefyingly (new word?) difficult. I’m definitely coming out on the other side of survival mode.

I’m feeling like I’ve regained consciousness, but that’s not enough. I needed to shake myself awake.

First order of business, I started reading things, because I wanted to, and that’s all I really needed to feel myself again. Then I get back into the gym, because I feel like exercise will cut down on the number of things I forget in a day.

Then of course, the dusty old blog says, hey, remember me? And I’m now writing in it, and it feels good. I feel normal again. I like having this thing – writing, sharing, playing with the layouts when I get bored. All of it.

Then the next high tide will hit, and maybe I’ll step away, maybe I won’t. But I like that it’s there for me to tip type away somethings and nothings as I please.




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A Warm Winter Hygge

No, not “higgie.”

It’s pronounced HYU-gah.

Now read the title again.

See what I did right there? That’s what you call wordsmithin’.

I first leaned about the Danish concept of Hygge in the book Thrive: Finding Happiness the Blue Zones Way.

hygge happiness
unsplash/davide ragusa

Though its difficult to translate, Hygge sounds like something we need here in this little snippet of Pennsylvanian snow belt. In an NPR article, Clair O’Neill gives it a try:

From what I gather, it means something like “fireplace warmth with candles and family and friends and food, tucked under blankets on a snowy day, cup-of- coffee conversation, scarf-snuggle, squiggly, warm baby love.” Or something like that.

Now, we live in a place that gets dumped with snow. Come late January to February, we start throwing around the phrase “winter doldrums,” but it’s actually much more dismal than that. It’s cold. It’s gray.

And leaving the house requires first throwing snow around with a shovel and brushing off the car and wrestling three kids into their boots and bulky coats and then taking them off because now coats are a no-no in car seats and then MOM I’M COLD, of course you are because you’re no longer wearing your coat…

So we have to have a pretty compelling reason to even leave the house in the first place.

So, I’ve started Project Hygge. I don’t know what Hygge looks like in our home just yet, but I have in mind a few things I want to put into place.


We have a fireplace we’ve never lit, and I think it’s time to try it out. I’ve positioned a stack of blankets next to the sofa. And everything you read about the Danes doing (making?) Hygge involves candles. Mister found something that said they have a minimum of 3 candles burning in common areas in the evening. And a hot cup of tea around 7pm is a necessity.


When all I can see is gray and white for months and months and months, I think my eyes crave color. I’m trying to find a decent source for indoor plants (in December, I know). And while I gravitate toward neutrals for wall colors and curtains, a bright blanket or pillow can add some cheer.

Oh, and I crafted! Like, I made things with other things that go on the wall and they’re not hideous. What has become of me?


I’ve intentionally arranged the seating in our living room in such a way that very few can see the TV. I once heard a joke that when future archaeologists dig up our society, they’ll reveal all of these rooms that are oriented to the rectangle-box shrine. I don’t want the talking box to be the focal point. Let’s look at each other.

Additionally, I’ve committed to myself that we’ll have a family over for dinner every week. Starting….omg I need to clean.


It gets dark at 5pm, so let there be light! We’re off to a good start with the candles and fireplace. I think I may want to add a floor lamp in the living room since we have just table lamps – no overhead lights.


The Danes are said to be among the happiest people in the world, according to Dan Buettner, even thought their winters are longer and they get less daylight than we do. When it comes to the winter blahs, I’ll try anything. Bring on the Hygge.


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Holidays and Divorce: The Grandkids

I imagine the divorce process to follow some sort of series that includes pain, healing, finding a new normal and ushering kids through the messy stages as best you can.

So, everyone survives it. The kids grow up, and holidays become hectic because you have to split time between Mom and Dad. Ah, well. Nothing new.

Perhaps the kids meet a special someone, and if that special someone is also the child of a Baby Boomer, there’s a 50% chance he or she is also a child of divorced parents. So now the next generation has four stops to make on holidays.

Okay, fine, four stops…that makes for a pretty sweet selection of pies from which to choose. Twenty-somethings can party hop with the best of them.

Then come children.

And children transform party-hoppers into examples who must be aware of what they are showing them.

When we had one child, an infant, we kept to the routine. Stop here, stop there, baby in tow. But, infants have a tendency to grow into small people. People who notice things and perceive things and who are absorbing vital information on how life works based on what the big people around him do.

When Hoss turned two, the rushed holidays started to matter. Run run run was the only holiday mode he knew. Just as he would have some food and get settled in, we had to load up into the car and make the next stop.

I don’t want my kids to get the wrong idea about what you’re supposed to do on holidays.

We don’t have to do things the way we were brought up to, just because it’s the way it’s been done forever. We’re the parents. We decide what holidays look like for our children. And I believe this rush here rush there business to be detrimental.

We had to sit down and lay out what we want for our children’s holidays.

We came to the conclusion that it is against our values to pop in and make an appearance so that you can check some people off of your list. We decided that we find a place and stay put, even if it means seeing other people on a day that doesn’t get a special label on the calendar.

Most importantly, we decided that a hurried holiday defeats the purpose.

Holidays are a time for togetherness, a time to fill your cup. If we drag the kids all over creation, the spirit will be lost.

The last few holidays, we’ve refused to play the house hop game, and…get this…the get-togethers have seemed to consolidate a bit.


Now we’re getting it.

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Rookie Small Business and Investors

Since Agent Ribbit was featured in TechCrunch, I’ve had a nice steady stream of emails from investors.

What they say: Hey, nice little startup you have there. Looking for investors? Let’s talk.

What I hear: Aw, you poor thing, working without a boss. I can come fill that void for you. I’ll tell you what to do and when, and I’ll ensure you never sleep again. I’ll even take the whole pie off of your hands when it’s all over. And your little dog, too. 

What I say: Thank you for your interest. I’m still laying some groundwork and I’m not ready to open up investment discussions at this time. Feel free to check back with me later. 

What I mean: Paws off, hotshot!


{{Sorry, investor guy. I’ve got a mean virtual right-hook.}}

My rational mind says that it’s not really like that.

But, I’m new at this.

Why all the distrust?

Probably because I’m inexperienced and learning plenty, albeit the hard way. I mean, I put up a website that was a placeholder at best. I made a Twitter account and tweeted once. I didn’t plan to launch until I polished everything up. Then came the mention on Product Hunt, then TechCrunch. I had done NOTHING at that point and these people were all telling me how cool my stuff was. I was unable to sleep for three nights when I got my first orders, because all these people sent me money expecting something cool.

(And yes, Agent Ribbit boxes are is insanely cool, if I do say so myself. I know this now, after a few months under my belt!)

So imagine my confusion when investors come calling, wanting a piece of something that pretty much didn’t even exist.

I’ve been swatting them away since June. I’ve been churning out science boxes since July. Sure, I want to grow, but do I need investors to do that?

Perhaps I should just let a few talk to me to see what this is all about. I mean, I haven’t even let them tell me what they want. Or, maybe they want to tell me what I want…

There I go again.

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Admitting Defeat

This may look like an ordinary waterfall, but it’s actually my baby’s left nostril. (Image credit: unsplash/Jeff Sheldon)


When the thermometer says 102 point something and the entire world boils down to a hot head and a cool washcloth, there is nothing else.

When all the bubs wants to do is melt into my lap and stare up at me with his red-rimmed eyes, I let him.

When the doctor says she can see us if we can come right now, we go.

When the littlest finally settles enough to sleep for a bit and the big kids want some Mama time too, I give it to them.

When dinner takes three times as long because it’s being prepared with one hand instead of two, it still gets made.

When we’re spending more time cuddling on the couch than playing on the floor, the big kids grab a stack of books and roll with it.

When I’m silently chanting to myself, “you’re doing fine, this is part of the program” when I feel like I’m accomplishing nothing except soothing the little one, I make myself believe it.


When I sign up for a writing challenge, life happens.

I’m bowing out of NaBloPoMo. Still writing of course, but we need a few days to get back on the up and up.

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Teaching Your Kids to Code

We’ve had my 3 and 5-year-old on code.org’s free coding program, and they love love love it.

What? Your 3-year-old is learning computer programming? 

Sort of. The very first puzzles are simply drag-and-drop, and matching shapes. After that, it’s telling the Angry Birds where to go to get to the pigs, or helping the bee find its way to the flower by laying out sequences using arrows. It doesn’t look like coding yet, but it all lays the foundation for a working knowledge of how computers think.


Start ‘em young. Yes, 3yos can do code.org puzzles with daddy! #learntocode #homeschooling

A photo posted by Courtney (@projectcourtney) on

After a week or so, Hoss and Lady A started playing a game with each other on the kitchen tile. They would give each other instructions, much like those on their coding puzzles.

“Move forward. Move left. If you can open the fridge, get the grapes. If you can’t get the grapes, go left go forward go forward get the crackers.”

The program usually had to do with the “computer” getting the “programmer” whatever the heck he or she wants. And they would follow each other’s directions, complete with repeatedly bumping into the wall while cracking up laughing.

“Debug! Debug!”

Lately, I don’t know when I’m dealing with children, or when I’m dealing with computers. Sometimes, I mistakenly say, brush your teeth, but that doesn’t work because the kids have decided they are computers, so I should be laying it all out. Move forward, move forward, open drawer, get out toothbrush and toothpaste, wet toothbrush, apply toothpaste to toothbrush…

This whole mode of thinking birthed a new catch phrase. When the kids want their Halloween candy pails before breakfast, I get to say to them, in my best robot voice…

“There’s a bug in your program.”


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When You’ve Hit a Homeschooling Slump, Scat!

About a month ago we went to Canaan Valley, WV for a week. If it’s an accessible trip for you, I highly recommend it – for the trails, for the handmade art, for the best cup of coffee you’ve ever sipped from Tip Top Coffee.


Tip Top latte…

A photo posted by Courtney (@projectcourtney) on

That there is the most perfect hazlenut latte that you ever did see.

One rainy Saturday, we saw a sign for a kids’ program at the wildlife refuge, so we went. For such a small building, there was a lot to see and play with. I didn’t snap any photos because our hands were occupied the entire time.

I wish I had got a shot of the scat. Bear scat, to be exact.

I’ve heard that called a lot of things, but never scat. Apparently, this is the scientific term. For poop.

Wait – it gets better. You slap an -ology on the end, and you’ve got a scientific discipline. Yes, scatology is a thing, and there are people who devote their lives to it.

This is all new to me.

Of course, I saw a big opportunity here. And I’m not the only one who thought kids might be interested in scatology.

Naturally, I picked up a book called Who Pooped in the Park? Shenandoah National Park: Scat and Tracks for Kids.

What kid wouldn’t want to read this?

This is the Shenandoah State Park edition, but there’s an entire series featuring the scat you might find at national parks all over the country.

I kept this topic in my back pocket, to be brought out when we hit that homeschooling slump that happens every few months. And I fully intend to bring it back out this spring, when we can hit the trails and look for the scat of the local fauna.

I don’t care how mature your kid is. You’ll get a pair of eager ears and some giggles with a scatology unit study.

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A New Record!

Seriously, who flakes on NaBloPoMo on Day 3?

Meh, keep calm and carry on, right? I’ll just start from here.

Just like the last few NaBlo attempts, I have an excuse! Hoss had an evening soccer game and I felt fine. After, my throat was irritated – I thought I had a piece of rice stuck from dinner or something. Within the hour, I was pretty sure a litter of furry kittens were trying to claw their way out of my esophagus. I couldn’t sleep that night, so in between thinking about my painful throat, I was strategizing how I’d do the mom thing in the morning.

I’m happy to report that we survived.

For school, I declared a “let the mind wander” craft project, which means I open up the art cart and try not to care about glue and paint and pom pom fuzz everywhere. Lady A made 234983239487 sheets of construction paper with exactly one sticker in the center. She presented each one to me beaming with pride and expecting a high-five. Hoss made a few scenes of himself and his friends fighting crime.

And that’s all I did for school. We homeschool, and we keep going all through the summer. Which means, every three years, my kids will have done an extra year of school. So we can take a chill day whenever we feel like it.

Did you pick up on the I laid on the couch and I can’t just own it guilt? Look at all that justification!

Mom guilt. Meanest drill sergeant ever.


The kids were super sweet today. Lady A wanted to keep making me a “burrito,” rolling me into a blanket until I couldn’t move my arms. Hoss just wanted to hang out in my lap and hug me to make me feel better. Frodo was his usually smiley self.

In other news, Frod-man has made it his life’s mission to throw away all of our belongings. I pulled one of my go-to shoes out of the trash. Luckily, it was just hanging out in coffee grounds, and coffee grounds are less gross than feet, so the shoe can stay. His sippy cups and toys usually go in there when he’s done with them. Note: start teaching him to be a little more frugal. He takes it upon himself to toss his own dirty diapers into the shoe bin…I must have crossed our wires somewhere.

Okay, I’m rambling now, but if I’ve committed to blogging every day (or every day that I’m not in bed by 7:15pm). You’ve got to expect a few dull posts to come out.


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Just when I realize that the kids’ room and the playroom has stayed clean for two entire weeks.

Just when I look in the fridge and notice that I made ahead enough that an activity every evening isn’t going to make me pull all of my hair out.

Just when it’s time to change the clocks, and I wake up with plenty of time to do the start-the-day dance.

Just when I nailed down a morning routine poster that the kids will actually use – and get excited about it.

Just when I pick stickers off of the end table and realize that there are no dust outlines.

Just when I found an easy way for the kids to stash their shoes when they walk in the door.

Just when I finish swapping out the last of the kids’ warm weather clothes for the cold.

Just when I finally have a seasonally appropriate decoration on the mantle.

Just when I get my business stuff semi-organized in one space (work in progress, I’m okay with that!).

Just when I move the couch to sweep underneath, and find no toys, crumbs or dust.

Just when I go to start the next load of laundry, and there’s not enough dirty to run it.

Just when the three sickies start to come out of their colds.

Just when the baby starts sleeping well in his crib.

Just when I feel like I’m getting the hang of this, that I have some teensy finger-grip of control on this little life of mine…




…I remember that we didn’t carve pumpkins. And I feel like the absolute worst.

Guess I shouldn’t have been so cocky.



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