Friday, September 30, 2011

7 Quick Takes Friday (9)

Once again it's time for 7 Quick Takes Friday hosted by Jennifer at Conversion Diary. Check out her blog and be sure to scroll down to see some other great posts linked there.

Just call this one the Kind of Boring Random Edition . . . I am writing this on Friday morning at 6:00 and I am not feeling very together.

1. I stopped reading one of my favorite writers/bloggers because of some things that were . . . offensive? (not really the right word) . . . inaccurate? (well, yes, kind of) . . . disappointing? (I think that is closer) . . . judgmental? (now we're getting somewhere) . . . alienating? (maybe that's it). I have seen her writing in a new light recently and I'm not liking what has come into focus. 

2. Hubby and I are being social with some of his work peeps tonight. Agents will be in attendance as well. I hear lots of food will be involved, so that's good.

3. Went all neurotic planner this week and came up with a weekly cleaning list and a meal rotation. Go me.

4. Along with the planning theme, I also worked a bit on revising my blog calendar. Going to try a few new things for October and see how it goes. Then I will be traveling for much of November and December and all my good intentions will go right out the window and I'll start over with a new plan in January anyway.

5. My daughter played her first computer games this week. (She's five. I'm not sure when other parents introduce such things?) How much of a geek does it make me if I only let her use my computer (which is a Mac) and not my husband's (which is, um, not)? 

6. Homeschooling Month One is almost finished. So far, so good.

7. Anyone have success with wearing an older baby in a Moby? I bought one when I was pregnant with A (who will be 11 months tomorrow) and I have yet to figure it out. The material seems too thick, I am too uncoordinated to wrap it correctly, and/or he is just too moose-y (23 pounds, about 10.5 kg) . . . although it claims to go up to much heavier. Anyway, I've been trying the "sling hold" and I'm beginning to think it's User Error. Perhaps I will pass it along to Someone Who Knows What She Is Doing.

This is kinda how I'm feeling this week . . . a mess

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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Attached at the Heart

Recently I re-read Attached at the Heart: 8 Proven Parenting Principles for Raising Connected and Compassionate Children by Barbara Nicholson and Lysa Parker. It was published in 2009, so not yet out when I had E and J, but I read it during my pregnancy with A. (In fact, it was one of two books I took to the hospital with me. The other, if you're curious, was The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding.)

Nicholson and Parker founded Attachment Parenting International. The book includes a Foreword by  Dr. William and Martha Sears, who coined the term attachment parenting, and famously outlined the 7 Baby B's.

Rather than attempt to outline each of the eight attachment parenting principles, I will simply offer a snapshot of what the five areas of AP philosophy most relevant to us right now look like in our family. 
1. Feed With Love and Respect

For us this meant breastfeeding our babies on cue rather than a schedule. As they grew, I continued to nurse them until they outgrew the need. (I previously considered "extended" breastfeeding—I giggle at that term now—one of the many things I was never going to do.) I've also shared our adventures with Agent A and baby-led weaning, although this is not something we did with the girls. For all of our children, however, we respect that they know best when they are hungry and when they are full. That's not to say I never say no to a request; the Senior Agents have been known to ask for snacks literally as I am spooning dinner on their plates. However, we avoid arbitrary rules about trying foods, finishing foods, and eating only what they are served. Some dinners one or both of the girls will only eat carrots, and who cares? I never force them to eat something they don't want to eat. The last thing I want to do is set up a negative association with food and eating habits.

"The distance from a baby's eyes to his mother's eyes while feeding is about eleven inches, the perfect focal length for newborn vision. Nature provides this perfect visual field for baby to study his parents' faces, allowing baby to fall in love with his parents through sight, taste, touch, smell, and sound." (p. 78)


2. Respond With Sensitivity

 With our infants this meant answering them without fear of spoiling, and respecting their need for closeness, especially with Momma. Agent E in particular seemed to really protest separation, and we respected that. (I definitely see an entire post, or several, on the issue of "separating" coming up soon.) As they get older, I try to respond how I would want someone to respond to me. This isn't always easy in the heat of the insanity that is our lives these days, but it's always the goal. I believe that this initial sensitivity we showed them helped them to develop compassion and empathy for their siblings and others as well. Just watching how the Senior Agents treat Agent A is enough to make me melt into a puddle. 

"It is impossible to spoil a baby when satisfying his need to be held. When you listen to your baby, you will find he is most content and happy when being held close to you—this is because he is experiencing life as a part of you, not a separate being. Who doesn't want a happy, contented baby? Soon enough, your baby will be squirming in your arms to be put down." (p. 99)

3. Ensure Safe Sleep (Physically and Emotionally)

My husband and our three children all sleep in the same room. While their night time habits have changed as they have grown, we are still there for them when they need us. Parenting does not end at a certain time each day. We have never felt the need to push them into "independent sleep" (don't even get me started on that one). Agent A nurses once or twice a night. Agent E has just started remembering her dreams very vividly and developed a new uneasiness with the dark. Agent J is probably our best sleeper right now. We are available when they need us, even it it's 3:00 a.m. Things don't always go smoothly but This Too Shall Pass. We have no fears about needing to tuck them in after freshman orientation.

"Babies have needs at night just as they do during the day—to be fed, to be comforted, and to be protected." (p. 152)

4. Practice Positive Discipline

I've written a lot about discipline on this blog, including my ideals and my failures. The primary goal I keep in mind is improving the relationship with my child. No issue is worth damaging the connection you have with your children. In general, we prefer to set examples rather than rules. Recently I came up with own short list of reminders. Still, it's something that I need to consciously think about. Every day.

"The goal of positive discipline is to help your child develop his own conscience and self-discipline. In doing so, we hope to raise cooperative, happy, joyful, and compassionate children who not only care about others but who also do what is right because it is the right think to do, rather than because they are afraid of punishment." (p. 210)



5. Strive for Balance

This is probably (okay, definitely) the principle I struggle with the most. Two things have helped me. First, remembering this is just one season of our parenting career, and things will not always be so hands-on intense when it comes to basic care. (And I will probably miss that someday.) Second, reframing my ideas about recharging so that instead of thinking of it as a reward I think of it as a precursor. I don't wait until everything is "done" so that I feel I "deserve" some quiet, reflective time for me. I take that time every morning to take care of my own needs so that I am better focused on taking care of everyone else.

"Make time to prioritize the family's needs, and don't be afraid to simplify and let unnecessary things go. A spotless house doesn't do any good if the people who live in it are unhappy, out of touch, and out of balance." (pp. 267-268)

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Saturday, September 24, 2011

Week Three: Still Figuring This Out

For this week's update I thought I would share a bit about the day-to-day stuff we actually work on for homeschooling. Now that I'm thinking about writing it all down, it sounds like we have no idea what we are doing and we are very unorganized. Yes; that's probably right.

We have eight basic areas that we "focus" on each week. Sometimes we may spend two hours (total . . . not all at once) on a subject, other times 10 minutes, or we may not even get to it. Mostly I offer a general idea of what our week looks like and let E decide what we do and when. But . . . I need to have some sort of notes to follow, some plan (however imprecise) of what we are going to do, because that's just the way I am. Here's a little about our general goals, what we intended to do this week, what we really did this week, and a few random musings thrown in.

1. Reading/Writing: Our goal is basically to read a lot. Is that vague enough for you? We take new books out of the library every Friday in anticipation of the following week's "lessons" and a few just for fun as well. Sometimes E will read them to me, other times she wants me to read to her even if it's a book she is capable of reading on her own. I would like to get into the habit of regularly reading books aloud to her (ones above her reading level) but we haven't managed to work that in yet. Writing just kind of fits in wherever for now. E has a journal that she draws in most days and writes out the date and a one- or two-sentence explanation.

2. Math: The past few weeks we have been working on single-digit addition and subtraction. She's kind of a worksheet gal, so she loves when I print pages with math problems inside of flowers or bubbles or whatever that she can color and decorate afterward.

3. Italian: This week was sort of an epic fail on the foreign language front. I had this idea to start reading more of our Italian storybooks, translating them as needed as we go along, but this didn't happen. We took a CD out of the library today, though, so maybe singing songs will be more our speed.

4. Science: We have been studying the human body. We started week one with the five senses, then talked a bit last week about bones and muscles, and now we are doing more of an overview of the organs and systems and how they work together. Today walking home she says, "My heart muscle is working all on its own. I don't have to tell it to pump, it just does." (I love these totally random thought processes.)

With the Agents in Barcelona this summer
5. Social Studies: Our theme for this semester is People and Places. For the "people" part we are first discussing our family tree . . . who is in our family, how everyone is connected . . . we have big families on both sides and don't see them much. Our "places" are all countries in Europe, starting with the ones we've been to. So far we've done Italy, Germany, and Spain. We color maps and flags and pictures of animals common in each country; talk a bit about the language; and reminisce a bit about our visit there. (Question: If Spain is our country of the week, does watching Mickey Mouse Choo Choo Express in Spanish count as schoolwork?)

6. Health: Our topic of the week was supposed to be safety, but the book we had from the library turned out to be so awful I hid it so the girls wouldn't ask to read it. (And by awful I mean it scared the bejesus out of me, so I can only imagine it would have given the Agents nightmares.)

7. Bible: Each week we do a simple Bible study based in part on ideas from this website (one of my favorites). Usually it involves coloring pages and a word scramble. (For some reason, she's addicted to those.) She also reads from her children's Bible on her own or with me at least a few times a week.

8. Creative/Other: Here I include everything from art to computer skills to telling time. For the last three weeks my intention has been to introduce basic computer navigation through games (like the ones found on PBS Kids Go!). This hasn't happened. I think we're going to stick with coloring and finger painting for a while.

That's all I can think of for now. I composed most of this Friday evening, when I don't normally write, while watching Beauty and the Beast with the girls and dreaming of bedtime. And typing with one hand while I nursed the baby. Probably not my best work.

I'll be linking this post at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

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Friday, September 23, 2011

7 Quick Takes Friday (8)

Welcome again to 7 Quick Takes Friday hosted by Jennifer at Conversion Diary. Please be sure to check out her blog as well as some other great posts linked there.

1. Just returned from a trip to the playground, library, and lunch with the Agents. We have made this part of our regular Friday routine. It gets us out and about, and we stock up on books for the next week of homeschooling.

2. Agent A is working overtime on this mobility thing. So much fun watching my last Agent discover the world.

Waking up Baby Brother
3. Is it really almost October? That means I have a birthday coming up . . . entering the last year of my thirties. Surely this means a blog post in the near future about all the wonderful goals I have prior to reaching the big four zero? (Y'all know how much I love a good list.)

4. Anyone else annoyed by all the requests to "hover over my name and unsubscribe from comments and likes" when you opened up Facebook this morning? It's not true. I really hate when these ridiculous posts run rampant.

5. Speaking of insane things on Facebook, have you seen this note? These "games" have always annoyed me. I don't know why they won't go away.

6. Only six more "fans" needed to reach 100 "likes" on my Facebook page. So, if you're feeling generous . . . just saying.

7. Happy first day of fall! Looking forward to cooler weather, which will hopefully translate into more outside play time. We are homebodies, but even we get nutty when we stay in too much.

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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Done

Earlier this year I sold and/or gave away most of my maternity clothes and a lot of baby clothes. Of course, because I'm somewhat (okay, very) neurotic I could not part with some of them, and they will forever be stored in a box (okay, several boxes) in our attic. Those little pajamas all three wore as newborns, the dress both girls wore for their baptisms, the sweater I wore when I delivered Julia (because she came so fast I didn't have time to get out of it) . . . I can't let go of these kinds of things. Even though I now have proof I will never need them again.

Just a note that this post may wander into Too Much Information territory, so proceed with caution.

Back in March I had a tubal. I originally considered a tubal ligation (which is actually cutting or clipping, but what folks think of when you say "getting your tubes tied") following Agent A's birth, but decided surgery wasn't the way to go. So instead, when A was four months old I had a tubal occlusion (blocking). A link to the specific procedure can be found here (although they make it sound a lot more simple than it actually was). 

I will miss the cute, squishy baby days
Anyway, yesterday I finally had the "dye test" to show that yes, the procedure worked.  My tubes are 100%  blocked. There Will Be No More Agents.

I am relieved and sad at the same time. I mean, I have THREE kids and I'm almost 40 years old. Why on earth would I even want to think about getting pregnant?

In some ways I cannot believe I am never going to hold my own newborn again. Only following A's birth did I get the experience of really enjoying those first awesome moments with a brand new, cord-attached human.

I guess I'll just have to wait until I can hold my newborn grandchildren, Crystal Star and Pants.

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Friday, September 16, 2011

Week Two: I Can Do This . . . I Think

Just wrapped up our second week of homeschooling. (You can read about our first week here.) I am starting to feel like this is normal. It's not what most people do, but it's what we do. And it's working so far. 

Agent E loves it. Agent J is a bit distracting at times but really wants to participate in her loud, glorious, three-year-old way. Agent A is totally digging having his sisters home all day.

With Agent E in Germany last summer
(Neuschwanstein Castle in the background)
This week we talked a bit about bones and muscles, germs, taking care of our teeth, Germany (our country of the week), and the Bible. We also did a little math and watched some Italian cartoons (that was the only Italian "lesson" we managed to get in).

Today was library day (a regular Friday gig now). We take back our books from the week and gather new ones in anticipation of our next lessons. The children's room is essentially empty during the school day, and so the girls have the run of the place and even Agent A can scurry around the floor and take it all in. I pick out some books based on what I have in my notes for the following week, and then E puts a few on the pile as well. Today we came home with two Christmas books. Not sure why.

Some things we want to work on next week . . . incorporating some computer time (I'm thinking a PBS game or two?), getting outside to play more (this week we only made it out on Friday; hopefully it won't be quite so hot much longer), and completing an actual Italian lesson (something other than watching La Casa di Topolino).

Hope you all have had a fabulous week. Looking forward to autumn next Friday!

Linking this post at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

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7 Quick Takes Friday (7)

Welcome again to 7 Quick Takes Friday, hosted by Jennifer at Conversion Diary. Please be sure to check out her blog as well as some other great posts linked there. 

1. So I've been working on some goals for me, as opposed to a homeschooling plan for my kids or an agenda of what I'd like to tackle to make my days more organized, but I don't think they are really well thought out yet. Why is it so difficult to prioritize, or really even come up with a list, of what I'd like to do for myself? Hmm.

2. Now that I think about it, I would love to add Get Back Into Exercising to that list, but it's not going to happen any time soon. I used to be One of Those People Who Goes to the Gym but the gym here does not offer child care (and there's no friendly YMCA down the street :-) and hubby is gone 12 hours a day. I suppose in theory I could exercise at home in the mornings (given that I'm usually up waaaaay early) but we have no equipment, I couldn't turn a DVD on because the kids would wake up no matter how low I had the volume, and I am not an Exercise at Home Person anyway. I'll see if I can come up with any other excuses; stay tuned.

Two weeks before our third Agent arrived
3. Of course, I'm pretty happy with my overall health and weight (and I did lose the pregnancy weight—around 40 pounds each babe—fairly easily all three times).  I just feel sluggish for not having any real fitness ambitions this last year and a half. I see friends who are doing everything from local 5Ks to Ironman competitions and I think, well, um . . . I took the stairs yesterday. Okay, definitely need to prioritize exercise once we get back to the states.

4. I remember when getting up "early" meant before 8:00 a.m. Then at some point it became 7:00 a.m.  . . . and then earlier and earlier just seemed normal. Now I am frequently out of bed between 4:00 and 5:00 (at least a few mornings a week). I refuse to stay in bed and be wide awake just hoping I will magically fall back to sleep when I know it's never going to happen. Plus, that hour of the day is typically the only "alone" time I get in any 24-hour period. I love my morning quiet time even though some might consider it slightly insane. I don't set an alarm ever, but I find myself a little disappointed when I wake up and it's "already" 6:00 or later.

5. I love that since we are homeschooling we (the Agents) don't have to be awake at a particular time. I think it's actually one of the best parts of staying home with them now . . . not having that wake up, rush around, snapping at everyone, we have to BE somewhere, crazy feeling every morning. It's so much more relaxed and pleasant now.

6. I also see an unexpected benefit of homeschooling . . . my kids really enjoy their time together. There's no more afternoon crabbiness adjustment period after we do school pickup. No more they held it together all day at school and now they come home and lose it for Momma. A commenter on my first post about homeschooling mentioned this sibling bonding as a benefit, and I definitely see it in our home. The Senior Agents love playing together and Agent A is thrilled to have his favorite peeps with him all day.

7. Today is our go to the playground/run errands/visit the library/get lunch out day. Tonight we will camp out as always. I love Fridays.

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Monday, September 12, 2011

The One I Didn't Post

I had a whole wonderfully witty post written, and I just deleted it.

On purpose.

Agent A's new trick
Turns out it wasn't so sparkling-clever after all. Just snarky.

(Not that I don't appreciate the occasional snark. I most definitely do.)

But sometimes I just have to stop myself and think: Would I say these words to this person if he/she were standing right in front of me? If the answer is no, I will not. go. there.

I will respond with compassion. If I cannot respond with compassion, I will not respond at all.

As you were.

Before you speak, think: Is it necessary? Is it true? Is it kind? Will it hurt anyone? Will it improve on the silence?
—Sri Sathya Sai Baba

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Friday, September 9, 2011

7 Quick Takes Friday (6)

Quick Takes time once again. Hop over to Jennifer's blog to read her Takes and then scroll down to check out some other great bloggers. Happy reading!

1. Week one of Home Kindergarten is mostly over and we mostly survived. A summary of our week can be found here.

2. Very irritated this week with Random People Who Think They Have the Inside Scoop on God. Please get over thyself.

3. On a related note, this morning I unsubscribed from and "unliked" the FB page of a blog I used to love reading. Why? Lately it became so . . . disappointing . . . I just couldn't bring myself to read it anymore. Very stereotypical and judgmental . . . I just don't have time for that kind of negativity.

4. I'm having trouble getting past the "we don't have to do things at a specific time or on someone else's schedule" aspect of homeschooling. It's a hard habit to break.

5. Hubby is on "duty" this week, so he worked on Labor day and will be working this weekend. Not sure what the Agents and I will do Saturday and Sunday, but it may include a trip to the movies to see Winnie the Pooh. We have never had success with going to the movie theater, so why I think it will work now, I'm not sure.

6. The girl were playing "travel" with their stuffed animals this morning. They get in the car, sometimes stop for lunch, and then finally make it to the hotel, where the Daddy Bear goes to check in and get the luggage and Mommy Bear gives the kids a snack. Sometimes they take a plane instead, just to mix it up a bit. Cannot imagine where they got that from.

The view from our ship as we pulled into Malta
7. For my early morning Bible reading I'm finishing up Acts right now . . . almost done and not sure what book to move on to next, but probably something from the OT; it's been a while. I love reading about places Paul travels and thinking we were there (or are planning to go there). Our November travels will have stops in Greece and Egypt and Turkey (including a visit to the house of the Virgin Mary). Earlier this summer we visited Malta, the island where Paul was shipwrecked on his way to Rome. Love that I am able to share this with my children.

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Week One: Surviving, Mourning, and (Oh, Yeah) Some Learning, Too

We may need a wee bit more time to adjust to this new homeschooling routine. The Senior Agents decided this week to throw all semblance of normal sleep out the window. Agent A, my super sleeper, has also become restless at bedtime . . . poking and scratching and latching on forcefully but not really nursing . . . kind of like laying down next to an angry chicken. Two days this week at least one of my children woke up before 5:00 a.m. Good times.

Can you feel a sense of loss over something you never had? I did not expect the emotions that would surface seeing all the first day of Kindergarten photos of my daughter's preschool friends. One of my biggest worries about homeschooling is/was that my girls love school. Seeing "everyone" else experience this milestone stirred up some odd feelings. I'm not sure if I am sad or relieved. 

Agent E reading to Agent J one day this week
I started the week with a general plan of what we would cover and then let Agent E pick what she wanted to do each day. We printed some pages on Italy (map, flag, the Coliseum, the Leaning Tower of Pisa . . . Italy is our country of the week), did some math (single-digit subtraction), talked about the five senses, read a few Bible stories, and did some word scrambles/word searches (she loves those). Oh, and we listened to some Italian songs and vocabulary while we colored. (Coloring is big around here.) Mostly she enjoyed playing with Agent J while Agent A observed and made mental notes. We also watched Hello Kitty Goes to the Movies about 10 times. Once in French. Thursday I told her we were taking all of our current library books back on Friday (today), so we had a lot of reading time Thursday afternoon.

To sum, overall our first week went well, but I'm feeling a bit disorganized. Oh, well . . . there's always next week.

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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Random Discipline Reminders

I've written a bit on discipline on this blog, including my own failures. In general, I take three things into consideration when considering positive discipline at our house:

This was taken 6 (!) months ago . . . one of my favorites
Does it sound like a plan for training pets?
If so, I probably don't want it applied to my children.

Would I be comfortable with another person (e.g., teacher, babysitter, friend) implementing it in my absence?
If not, I probably shouldn't be using it either.

Will it have a positive effect on our relationship?
I try to abide by a connect first, address second guideline.

My goal for this week, this day, this hour (on those really frustrating days) is to remember the relationship I have with my children is more important than any "issue" we deal with. 

I will focus on the positive and the present. 

I will speak intentionally and kindly.

I will demonstrate not demand.

Join me?

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Monday, September 5, 2011

Home Kindergarten: Day One


Well, here it is . . . today is our first day of homeschooling! Hard to believe it has only been six weeks since I first seriously considered *not* sending Agent E to school . . . it feels like I've been researching, and making lists, and blogging about it for much longer.

I have to admit: I'm probably more excited than Eva is. Although, maybe not . . . she couldn't sleep last night. Three times in the middle of the night she woke up and asked me if it were morning yet. And this is a kid who typically sleeps like a rock. First day of school jitters?

I'll be posting this before we do any actual school work . . . probably before the Agents even get out of bed. So no blogging about how it's actually working out until later this week. My plan is to do a summary of our first week on Friday and link up with the Weekly Wrap-Up over at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers, one of my absolute favorite homeschooling sites.

I'm writing this on Monday morning, unusual for me as I prefer to have Monday posts completed over the weekend. Somehow the weekend got away from me, though. I know it's a holiday for my US friends, but Hubby is working today, so it's just an ordinary Monday around here. (Normally he has all the US holidays and the Italian holidays off . . . a nice little NATO perk . . . but he's on duty today.)

So . . . wish us luck! Enjoy your week.

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Thursday, September 1, 2011

Sleep, Routine, and Other Epic Failures

So it seems the Agents have gotten on this new sleep pattern and I am not a fan.

I like routine. I like to be up early. I like to come home from traveling and get back to "normal" days as soon as possible. Usually my children have other ideas. Since we returned from our vacation last Friday, bedtime has moved to later and later, and wake-up time has shifted as well. (Although I guess I should be grateful they are at least sleeping in a bit . . . usually when this happens they start going to bed late and getting up early.)

Friday night camp out in the living room
Side note: We recently rearranged our sleeping configuration so we now have three queen beds in our master bedroom. (Yep, three.) It's actually one on a bed frame, one mattress only, and one foam mattress top. Andrew sleeps on the mattress and the girls sleep on the topper thingy. Hubby and I get the "real" bed. Inevitably at some point Andrew migrates to the girls' bed . . . at least a few times a week I find him curled up in a ball at the foot of their bed like a cat, dozing peacefully.

Anyway, I am a morning person, so it's nice to have some extra time to myself in the mornings, but we are also starting on this homeschooling gig next week, and if they aren't getting out of bed until 8:30 or 9:00 . . . well, that kind of ruins my evil, master plan.

Of course I have an ideal plan in my head of how the perfectly executed day would flow. It happens about . . . never.

10 months of beautiful, squishy baby
You would think with all the traveling we have done I would be a pro at Operation Get Back On Routine by now, but alas, no. Any pointers? How are y'all getting into your school year (homeschooling, public, private, or otherwise) groove? We start Monday and I don't want to be all out of sorts.

p.s. Agent A is 10 months old today!

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