I Made Plans and Then I Laughed and Laughed…

Posted by Carly Morgan

Those of you who follow me on my private Instagram account are wondering if this is the blog post where I talk about Felix having surgery. It’s not. I mean, I’m going to talk about that briefly but the bulk of that is being saved for another day. I’m just not there yet.

This, instead, is one of those rambling lost-in-the-woods post that pretty much sums up motherhood for me, the gist of which is that I planned on spending the next 5-10 years homeschooling our three kids in our new house in the suburbs and blogging about that to help other homeschool families. Yeah, I don’t think that’s going to happen.

Eva and Calvin are both going into new programs next year because they need things I can’t give them. Nope. Didn’t see that coming.

After struggling to find the right academic pace for Eva, we had her tested to see where she is compared to her peer group. That resulted in a placement in a program for “gifted” kids – quotation marks there because that is the most loaded of labels and I still feel awkward using it. There’s a chance that Eva scored so high because we do so much educational work at home and I’ve pushed her too fast (a BIG chance) but the test included other things that were supposed to test her general cognitive abilities and the results indicated that she’s going to need extra support one way or another.

I’m disappointed and uncertain and proud and excited for her all at the same time. The disappointment comes in because I don’t feel like I can homeschool her adequately if she needs to be challenged in different ways and I was really looking forward to homeschooling. The uncertainty comes in because I’m not sure that an accelerated program in an outside school will support her as much as I could if I try to create a different curriculum here at home. The pride comes because she has the opportunity now to join a program that not everyone can get into. I’m excited because this program has rave reviews from parents who have children who are currently there.

As for Calvin, I’ve backed off from any kind of schooling with him because his natural competitive nature has him trying to keep up with Eva. He’s not there, of course, but he’s reading at higher than a Kindergarten level and he has addition/subtraction down with no problems. So now I’m worried that he’s getting too far from his peer group and we’ve enrolled him in an intentionally non-academic preschool to focus on social skills (since he’s 100% three years old when it comes to sharing and hitting other kids on the playground) and being more creative (he wants to do things the “right” way and doesn’t seem to think outside the box much). Calvin also has problems with authority and, frankly, it would be nice if he spent some time working that out with an adult that isn’t me.

I’m a little lost here. I’ve spent the last two years getting ready to hunker down and go all prairie schoolhouse in the dining room with these kids and now they’ve outrun me in two different and totally unexpected directions. Add to this the fact that I now have Felix, who is the world’s greatest baby and who has to have a pretty major operation on his head next week for reasons I can’t write about yet. His recovery is going to be long and full of extra doctor appointments and specialists and therapies and hopefully only sporadic bouts of me weeping while shoving donut holes into my mouth. So I suppose outsourcing the kids education isn’t the worst thing.

What does this mean for the blog? I don’t know, y’all. I have 80% of an e-book done about how to homeschool for free and a backlog of great science experiments to share with you so that’s coming some day when fewer of my children are having their heads operated on. I also still believe strongly in spending time learning as a family so I bet we’ll shift gently in that direction. And maybe I’ll tell you all about the four houses we’ve put offers on and the three rejections and the one offer that they accepted because they were hoping we wouldn’t notice upon inspection that the whole structure was held together by glossy paint and prayer. But not today…



Early Photography Lessons and My Choice for Your Kid’s First Camera

Posted by Carly Morgan

I mentioned yesterday that Eva has been taking photos with her new Fujifilm Instax Mini 8 instant camera. If you’re not familiar, these cameras are candy cute and they look a lot like toys so you might think that we just picked it out for her because we knew it would be a darling accessory (which it is) and that she’d be adorable carrying it around (which she is). However, I actually did a lot of research about which camera to start with to get Eva into photography and I gave myself a pretty high budget ($500) only to come back to this moderately priced film camera. So why not a digital camera, a traditional point-and-shoot, a camera marketed to kids, or a low tier SLR (single-lens reflex) camera so she could play with all the bells and whistles?

I feel like it makes sense to start with an Instax for these reasons:

1 /// You can’t zoom in/out or adjust the crop after the fact, which forces you to compose your photo in the viewfinder before you take the picture.

2 /// You are responsible for adjusting the camera settings to fit the light, but there’s only one adjustment you can make so it isn’t overwhelming. There’s a set of pictures and a light pops up to suggest which picture you should choose to set the camera to that amount of light – easy for kids to understand but still technically a more advanced step than just tapping the screen of an iPhone to adjust the light/focus before you hit the button.

3 /// The camera is light but large and it’s easy to feel the different parts of the camera without looking – important when you’re working on how to hold a camera and not obstructing the lens with your finger.

4 /// You can see the photo you took in minutes and reshoot on the spot to try to correct photos that don’t turn out.

5 /// Using film is a natural restriction that forces you to work for a good photo instead of taking a hundred quick shots and choosing the best one.

Now, you can definitely disagree with me here because Instax cameras have an ongoing film cost which may add up quickly if your shutterbug likes to document all the things and even the best photographers can’t overcome the natural lack of definition and “true color” that comes with instant photos. That being said, I think learning the process is important and jumping straight to digital images, filters, and photo correction apps will do for photography skills what the autocorrect function has done for spelling, punctation, and grammar. Start with the basics: light, composition, and process.


No matter what kind of camera your child starts with (but especially if he/she will be using film), light is the first thing you want to talk about. Explain that a photo is really just a picture of how much light hit the film or sensor at that time, so when you take a photo that has too much or too little light, you might not get much of a picture. We used this part of the photography lesson to talk about eyeballs and I showed Eva how our pupils get smaller or larger depending on how bright it is so that we can see and explained that a camera works the same way.

When she took a photo that was overexposed, I explained that it was like walking out into a sunny day after being in a dark room and that was why the photo didn’t match what she was seeing with her eyes.

She used that idea later when she was trying to shoot the sunset and waited until the sun was down so that it didn’t hurt “the eye” in her camera. A very basic understanding of how a camera works but I’m glad she’s thinking about it!

Eventually she got used to adjusting her camera settings even for the brightest of days and she was able to start capturing images that came out the way she wanted.


You might notice that her last image above is also much straighter than the original image. Composition is a tricky thing to learn because you need to make sure that what you’re seeing in the viewfinder is actually what you want to create, whereas our brains kind of fix the image for us and we don’t always see when things are crooked, cut off, or awkwardly placed. Eva’s first images all had a pretty big slant because of how she wanted to naturally hold the camera but she’s learned to recognize it and she’s working on it image by image.

We’re also working on the idea that you want to only capture what you really want to show people BUT that pictures can be a little more interesting if things are off center or if you have “good” negative space. For example, in the first image she wanted to take a picture of the image but she ended up with a fat uninteresting chunk of the stairwell that she was disappointed with, so she probably needed to walk down and get closer to cut that part of the picture out. In the second picture, she deliberately went with the rule of thirds to make the flower off center and she stood so that nothing was in the background beyond the bush. Sadly, the lack of detail and focusing problems that the Instax naturally has made the photo less than stellar but I was proud of her composition.


The process of taking a picture might seem so natural that you don’t even go over it the first time you’re letting your kid use a camera but just a run through of the basics is pretty important. Talk about taking your time to find the picture in the viewfinder, checking the settings, standing with your feet firmly placed so you don’t wiggle, and holding your breath for a second when you actually take the picture. You should also talk about basic camera care like not banging the camera against anything, keeping the strap tight enough that the camera doesn’t swing around, and not using grubby fingers to clean the lens. Those might seem like obvious things but if you’ve never held a camera before that’s all pretty important info!



March Through Eva’s Eyes

Posted by Carly Morgan



I wasn’t the only one who was trying to document our March while we were spending time offline. Eva turned six early in the month and we gave her a Fujifilm Instax Mini 8 instant camera. She likes to take photos with iPhones but I wanted her to try her hand at film. I got my first film camera when I was six years old and there was nothing like the thrill of getting that stack of blurry prints from the photo counter at the grocery store. Getting a camera that gave me photos instantly would have been the world! Eva was thrilled, not surprisingly, and has been taking shots non-stop to put them in her little plastic album. They’re not all winners but she’s learning quickly about light, composition, blur, etc. and I think we’ll be buying film in bulk for a while!


What We Did While I was Offline (Plus 6 Reasons Why Social Media Breaks are Stupid)

Posted by Carly Morgan

I’m back!

Honestly, it’s so anti-climactic. I thought for sure that taking a month-long break from social media would lead to some sort of refreshed world perspective or at least a few stories of how I found myself being really “in the moment” with my kids because I had freed myself from the shackles of my cell phone. Nope. No revelations. I just went offline and missed my friends and then got lazy and stopped taking pictures of my kids because, as it turns out, if I can’t Instagram it I’m probably not going to bother with getting my phone out to capture it. So what did we do in March? Oh, about a thousand little things that I would have liked to have saved but have now forgotten. Plus, a few big moments where I actually remembered to pull out my camera:

Yep, we went to Hawaii and Eva turned six and we had a few random outings. Not pictured: Eva lost her first tooth, Calvin started reading his first chapter book, Felix got his four month shots, and we started aggressively house hunting. We even put in an offer on two homes with no luck (what is up with this housing market??) but I don’t have photos to show you because no Instagram = no motivation.

Don’t get me wrong – I completely agree that I don’t need to sit around with my face in my phone all day. However, I think taking a month long break was an attempt at solving a problem that wasn’t there. I’ve got my phone out to record things most of the time, not to watch, surf, or play. In fact, when I was looking at what people did during their social media breaks a lot of people suggested getting rid of all games and media apps but I didn’t have any except for Candy Crush and I hadn’t opened that one since before Felix was born. The only apps I use daily that aren’t photo storage or photo editing apps are Facebook and Instagram because that’s where my friends are. So at the end of the day, my break from social media was actually a break from my social circle. Like, my real social circle.

I’d love to tell you that I used my free time to call my friends instead of stalking them online but my time wasn’t any more free just because I wasn’t taking/sharing photos and also calling people is a crap ton of work when you aren’t a teenager. Nope, didn’t call more people than usual. Didn’t write letters. Didn’t walk around my neighborhood to introduce myself to the neighbors. I went all hermit crab and didn’t see anyone. Totally healthy like that.

Now, being fair, I did cheat a little because I had two events that required Instagram posts and I did blog about going to see Disney on Ice. So maybe I didn’t have the cleansing “all in” social media break that would have made all the difference. But I can easily name 6 reasons why social media breaks are stupid when you do them like I did them:

1 – A month is a completely arbitrary amount of time to decide to not communicate with people unless you have some specific project that requires all of your attention during your timeline. I didn’t and ultimately only stuck to my original plan out of sheer stubbornness even though I knew a week into it that it probably wasn’t going to be worth it.

2 – Unless you are likely to step up and communicate in some other form beyond social media, be aware that you are actually walking in to a break from your friends, family, support network, and general news source.

3 – Although you will see fewer ads away from social media, you will not be in an ad vacuum and you’ll probably still find ways to spend your money. I fell into an HGTV spiral while we were traveling because we don’t have TV at home and all the shows were new and shiny and now I’m going to need a million glass tiles and a lot of reclaimed wood flooring.

4 – If you think you’ll remember stuff if you don’t Instagram it, you won’t. Especially if you have multiple children. You know that whole “Instagram or it didn’t happen” joke? It’s funny because it’s true.

5 – If you’re spending too much time on social media doing mindless things like scrolling, taking quizzes, watching Buzzfeed videos, etc., you won’t necessarily fill that time up with meaningful conversations and ivy league college lectures. When my brain needs a break, it takes a break. That means I read more trashy novels this month, I wandered a little more slowly through the aisles at Target, and I rediscovered Lady Gaga. Oh, and did I mention HGTV?

6 – I’m not more “authentic” offline. I didn’t change what I did with my kids or what I wore everyday or what we ate for dinner, etc. For some reason, I thought not sharing anything online would be relaxing but it turns out that I’m not as fake as I thought I was. The only thing that changed was the fact that I took one-tenth of the photos this month I normally would have – not because I was hiding something but because it didn’t occur to me to capture it.

I will say that I didn’t miss the political scuffles that have taken over Facebook and I might have gone to sleep earlier because I wasn’t doing my nightly Instagram scroll. So the exercise wasn’t completely devoid of benefit BUT it’s just not for me since things didn’t get artificial and anti-social until I took social media OUT. I guess I’ll have to find some other way to get enlightened!

We Saw Disney on Ice Worlds of Enchantment in Salt Lake City

Posted by Carly Morgan

Disclaimer: We received free tickets to Disney on Ice in exchange for an honest review. The thoughts below are my own.

The family at Disney on Ice

We just saw Disney on Ice here in Salt Lake City! I know I’m supposed to be on a social media break but I have to share photos before this show leaves town.

Kyle and I have been to Disney on Ice twice before (together) but we’ve never taken our kids so it was the first time for all three. Felix wasn’t a big fan because there were too many loud noises so bring earmuffs of some sort if you’re bringing a baby. As for our older two, they were very very happy with the show. Of course, it helps that they were born to two parents who have a serious Disney merchandising issue.

Merchandise at Disney on Ice

Also, you Disney fans will note that we showed up at “rope drop” and, yes, we stayed until the goodnight kiss. Well, until the usher practically swept us out, anyway. So, little prep note: I thought it was going to be cold cold cold in the show but we were plenty warm even though we were near the ice. I brought layers for everyone but we all ended up in short sleeves for most of the show – even the baby!

Olaf hat at Disney on Ice

As far as snacks go, there were the typical concessions that they have at the event center plus cotton candy, snow cones, ice cream, and lemonade sold specifically for the show. The cotton candy came with either an Olaf hat or a Mickey crown so we got both bags. There was more variety for the snow cone holders but all three of the kids got snow cones from one of the vendors walking around and he only had the Anna/Elsa cups so that’s what they got. No complaints!

Snow cones and Mickey crown at Disney on Ice

Snow cone at Disney on Ice

Be prepared for a slightly hard sell on the merchandise, only because there are so many stands in the outer edge of the arena and so many vendors walking around once you come sit down. If you have little kids, it’s really hard for them to see all that fun stuff paraded around if you aren’t planning on getting anything (which is, of course, a brilliant marketing strategy) so we had planned out ahead of time to let the kids each get one treat and one toy or souvenir. We ended up overdoing it, but only because we (the parents) are huge dorks and we wanted the stuff for ourselves. From what I saw, most of the groups that came in made one or two purchases for the show and that was that. It helped that people are allowed to bring in outside food like snacks, drinks, and treats from home. We just figure it’s one of those special occasions where the Morgan family is all in!

Eating snow cone at Disney on Ice

Fun Disney hats at Worlds of Enchantment

The Lightning McQueen hat came with the souvenir Disney on Ice program we got when we bought the Disney on Ice pennant and the Queen Elsa snow flurry wand. The wand is awesomesauce – it lights up and the little snowballs all go around in a circle – but it was a tough choice because there were a few different wands and light up swords. Prices were what you’d usually expect at a Disney event like this. I think the cheapest thing we got was the $6 pennant and the most expensive was probably the wand ($25?). Although you might not believe it from the pictures, there were things that we didn’t buy. To be specific, Calvin wanted an Elsa hair headband thing with the blond ponytail attached and Eva wanted a princess necklace. I also saw a cute Tinkerbell doll and Kyle checked out a pair of themed binoculars that made shapes (snowflakes?) out of the lights when you looked through them. So really, we didn’t go as overboard as we could have.

Disney on Ice pennant

The show started with a little warm up by the ice dancers to get the crowd excited and up on their feet, dancing. After that, four of the classic characters (Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Goofy) came out to get things going and they introduced each of the different stories. If you’ve never been to a Disney on Ice show, it’s not always just one story. This one, Worlds of Enchantment, is made up from stories from four different Disney and Disney/Pixar movies: Toy Story 3, The Little Mermaid, Cars, and Frozen. The first one was Toy Story 3 and everyone in the crowd was so excited to see the familiar characters. Personally, I loved the Slinky dog – such a fun two-person costume!!

Toy Story at Disney on Ice

The Little Mermaid was next and the crowd absolutely went wild when she came out. Major princess fans in the audience! The puppets for this one were really cool. There was a giant sea horse that I had a hard time getting a shot of but it really looked like it was floating at the bottom of the sea. I only wish this part of the show was a little longer, because it was my personal favorite. I was Eva’s age when that movie came out and it’s always going to be in my top five for Disney movies.

The Little Mermaid at Disney on Ice

I should note that we had good seats, but the whole event feels intimate and I don’t think there were any seats that I would have considered too far away, especially considering how big the movements were and how much was going on down on the ice. Plus, they had tight shots up on the monitor so people could see details a little more clearly no matter where they were sitting.

Tow Mater at Disney on Ice

There was an intermission but the show felt like it was pretty fast. It turned out that we were in there for a few hours but I really didn’t feel it. Considering my older kids are three and six I would have thought that they would have been more squirmy but they were captivated the whole time even after being seriously overloaded on sugar. The only one that was really over it about a half hour before it ended was Felix. It is not a baby-nap-friendly type of event and I nursed him a couple of times to settle him, although I wonder if I should have walked him out during the really noisy parts. There were lots of loud explosions and sparks in the second half of the show, starting with the Cars. Calvin got a little nervous because he wasn’t expecting the fireworks the first time around but he wasn’t too scared to enjoy that part of the show.

Watching Disney on Ice Worlds of Enchantment

Cars at Disney on Ice

It seemed like the most popular part of the show was when the Frozen story began and the moments where Elsa and Anna were out on the ice. You could tell that was who everyone was waiting for and their solos were so pretty. I’m sure those costumes were so much fun to make and they were beautiful under the lights. They added bubbles, snow, and a few sparks to this part of the show but the highlight was the skating itself. The kids loved seeing all of the spins and jumps, although I think Eva was a little nervous that the skaters were going to fall when they were doing all of their fancy tricks. I have to start introducing that one to more figure skating!

Queen Elsa at Disney on Ice

Frozen at Disney on Ice Worlds of Enchantment

Watching Anna and Elsa at Disney on Ice

Anna and Elsa at Disney on Ice

The show runs here in Salt Lake City through March 12th and tickets are still available so I hope you get to go! It was so fun to take the kids to a magical world for a few hours and it definitely soothed my need for a Disney fix. After all, I haven’t been in a Disney park since 2015 – you’ve got to get that pixie dust when you can!

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