07 February 2016

Discovering My True Fitness Motivation

The last time I stepped on the scale, I weighed exactly ten pounds more than what I consider my ideal weight. This number is quite arbitrary, really. It’s not what I weighed 20 years ago, or pre-Agents, or even during the years when I prioritized exercise more than I do now. It’s just a random guess that sounds good in my own head.

I saw this post floating around my newsfeed a while back, and I agree with the general premise. {The TL;DR version: Maybe your “ideal” body weight is really 5-10 pounds greater than you think it is, and that’s okay, because that “extra” weight is your fun, food-related memories with family and friends.} 

Then I had to consider: What if where I am now {weight-wise} is as good as it gets? What if I never lose those ten pounds? What if I never look any slimmer than I do today? What if my little tummy pouch stays with me for decades? {Infinitely cuter, BTW, when there’s a baby growing in there; not so much when your youngest is 5.5.}

I’ve already written in previous posts about needing a new outlook on fitness, taking it slow with baby steps, and wanting to set an example for the Agents.

However, the truth is, my reasons for wanting to “get in shape” have never really been all that clear. In the three aforementioned posts, I’m sure I managed to contradict myself at least a dozen times. Fitness, weight, body image, motivation . . . it’s a fuzzy territory for me. But last week I had a mini-epiphany, if you will, about why I want and need to continue this haphazard quest for becoming more fit.

It all comes down to Mickey Mouse.

Well, not just Mickey Mouse, but bear with me.

Recently we went to Walt Disney World for a week. This is something we’ve done many times before, because we absolutely love, love, love everything Disney. {The pictures in this post, in the sidebar of this blog, and all over my social media pages might have been a giveaway.}

Do you know what you do at Disney? You walk. A lot. Like ten miles a day, a lot. And you stand in line. And you get into and out of small cramped ride cars {quickly, because people are waiting}. You depend on your body to be able to walk far, stand frequently, and move with relative agility.

And I want to be able to do that for as long as possible. Not only because of Disney {although it’s definitely one of my favorite destinations}, but also because as a family we like to travel, and traveling takes energy, as well as a certain degree of fitness to be able to pull it off with some regularity. 

I want to be able to spend all morning doing a walking tour of a new city. I want to be able to take my kids on roller coasters. I want to be able to travel comfortably by car, bus, train, plane, or cruise ship. I want my body to be in decent enough shape that I can do All The Travel-Related Things with ease.

And that is pretty much my “new” motivation and why I will continue to treat my body kindly and exercise with some consistency.

I’m glad you stopped by today, friend. If you would like to connect, you can find me attempting to be social on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.
Sharing this post at the SHINE blog hop co-hosted by Jennifer at The Deliberate Mom.

05 February 2016

Fun Language Arts Books for Kids

As a homeschool momma and lover of words, I totally geek out when it comes to choosing language arts books for the Agents. Following are some of the selections that I . . . I mean they . . . have enjoyed the most.

These two dozen or so books provide a great introduction to the parts of speech and basic grammar concepts. They are all roughly 30 pages and have lots of illustrations with only a sentence or two on each spread. Simple enough for early elementary (K or 1st) yet my 4th grader still finds them entertaining. He also writes The Punctuation Station, a fun journey of animals trying to find their way to the correct train with the help of savvy punctuation marks.

We love this series from Basher Books by Simon Basher and Mary Budzik. They run approximately 60 pages and are recommended for ages 8 and up. Each concept is introduced by a different character or group of characters {e.g., the Divide and Conquer Crew covers parentheses, dashes, hyphens ellipses, colons, and semicolons}. The chapters are relatively short, but you could also easily just read one page a day {in order, or not}.

Lynne Truss writes these cool punctuation books, which illustrate quite comically just how important punctuation can be, and what happens when you get it wrong. They are all an easy, one-sitting read aimed at grades 1 through 4. {Yes, it’s the same Lynne Truss who wrote the “grown up” version of Eats, Shoots & Leaves a while back.}

Robin Pulver takes a humorous look at the English language in these books, which cover parts of speech, spelling, and punctuation. The first four are about Mr. Wright’s class, in which a group of elementary students come to appreciate just how important good grammar is. These are picture books, but appropriate {and fun} for older elementary students as well.

World of Language by Ruth Heller

Samples titles from the series:

Ruth Heller offers a beautifully illustrated collection of picture books about the parts of speech. Flipping through these texts, you won’t be surprised to learn that she also publishes a series of coloring books.

Samples titles from the series:

Cute characters and short sentences make the Language Rules! series another great option for learning parts of speech, spelling, and sentence structure. The Magic of Language series, while similar, is not as “cutesy” and geared toward older elementary.

I have to admit I kind of struggled over this purchase. First, I wondered, with the proliferation of online dictionary and spell check options, was navigating a paper dictionary even a skill the Agents needed to have? Then once I decided that yes, I did intend to include this as part of our curriculum, I became overwhelmed with the shear number of choices aimed at children from preschool to high school.

I finally decided on this one because I wanted something age-appropriate that would work for them right now without being too childish {like the picture dictionaries} or too overwhelming {like the intermediate selections}. Truth is, they may “outgrow" it by middle school, but for 1st through 5th grade it’s at the perfect level.

Of all the children’s creative writing books we’ve tried, the girls like this one the best. It includes step-by-step guidelines for young wannabe authors to plan, draft, edit, and illustrate their own works.

There have been more that we’ve read along the way {you can check out a complete list of all the language arts books we’ve read this year here} but these have been consistent favorites during our homeschooling journey. Many we have checked out of the library multiple times, and will probably continue to do so each year as a review.

Thanks for reading. I hope you found something new-to-you to check out.

I’m glad you stopped by today, friend. If you would like to connect, you can find me attempting to be social on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. Sharing this post as part of the hip homeschool hop hosted by Hip Homeschool Moms.

20 January 2016

Simplified Packing for Disney

Soon we’ll be embarking on another trip to Walt Disney World, one our favorite places. We are looking forward to checking out the many changes since our last visit.

Agent A chatting up Snow White on a previous visit
I last wrote about packing for Walt Disney World two and a half years ago {when the Agents were 7, 5, and 2.5} so I figured it’s time for an update. {You can read the original one here.} Our overall plan looks different now that the Agents are older {currently 9.5, 7.5, and 5} and we travel by plane instead of by car. But, I still try to keep everything as simple as possible and pack as minimalist as feasible when traveling with kids.

Basically our packing plan can be broken down into three parts: what to take on the plane, what to put in the suitcases, and what to take into the parks.

What Goes With Us On the Plane

A backpack generally tends to be the easiest, hands-free bag option to use as a carry-on. This is primarily filled with entertainment for the Agents, including notebooks, colored pencils, a few books {yes, actual books; the Agents prefer to have a hard copy book to read on the plane}, and both Kindles. 

I also include our magic bands, Magic Express voucher {the bus that takes you from the airport to the resort}, my phone, a super pared down wallet {one ID card, one credit card, and small amount of cash}, and a copy of our hotel reservation. Lollipops tend to help with popping ears on take-off, so I throw in a few of those as well.

What We Pack in the Suitcases

Our party of five travels by air with two suitcases tops. Anything more than that is too much to worry about. We know we will not pack as neatly on the return trip, and we’re likely to be coming back with a few extra items, so neither one is completely full.

Unless it’s an exceptionally short trip, I generally take the number of full days we will be there and divide by two to determine the amount of clothing to pack. {I assume we’ll wear the same “travel outfit” the day we arrive and the day we depart.} For this particular vacation, we will be in the parks six days. So that means three complete outfits {down to underwear and socks} per person. The plan is to wear them on days 1, 2, and 3; do laundry the evening of the third day {a laundry bag is useful}; and wear the same {now clean} clothes on days 4, 5, and 6. 

I’ll pack one pair of pajamas, a swimsuit and flip-flops, and a raincoat for each person. The Agents and I share a toiletry bag, and try to keep it to a minimum: deodorant, toothpaste and toothbrushes, comb and brush . . . just what we use every day. We also bring extra band-aids, children’s Tylenol, bug cream {in summer}, and adult Tylenol or Motrin. Of course, Agent J’s nebulizer comes with us on every overnight trip, just in case. We also travel with one small stuffed animal per Agent. One bear in particular has been to four continents and thirteen countries.

Our penguin nebulizer, Peso
I put all of our chargers into one ziplock bag. We also include a few nightlights, extra laundry detergent packets, books for the return trip {so we can swap them with the ones in the carry-on}, and more lollipops. Since I don’t carry one on the plane, I pack a small purse with a shoulder strap. We don’t always, but for this particular visit we will also be taking princess costumes. Even though it would be super cute to have Agent A pose with Anna and Elsa in his Olaf costume, it’s simply too big to fit in the suitcase.

Christmas Eve 2015

What We Carry With Us at the Parks

As much as I had hoped I could ditch the backpack once we got past the point of needing to transport diapers/pull-ups, wipes, extra clothes, and sippy cups . . . alas, it appears that is not the case. While I could get away with just a small purse some days, there will still be times {e.g., days it’s raining and we need jackets or days the girls want to dress up so I’m hauling costumes} where the larger bag is necessary. 

That said, I don’t take many personal items with us in the parks. The magic bands make it such that we no longer have to have a room key, admission ticket, or even a credit card or cash. I do still carry an ID card and a copy of our meal reservation confirmation numbers. I always have my phone, both for taking photos and because at some point our party will intentionally separate {e.g., someone won’t want to go on a particular ride, or a certain Agent will need a bit of downtime}. Other than that, just a few small extras . . . sunblock, hand sanitizer, chapstick, hairbrush, sunglasses. I always include a small plastic bag to protect the phone and maps in case of rain.

And that is how this family of two adults and three kids travels to Disney {or anywhere, really} without packing the entire house. Hope you found a few good tips here. Thanks for reading.

I’m glad you stopped by today, friend. If you would like to connect, you can find me attempting to be social on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.