30 July 2012

Getting Out: What Does It Mean To You?

Today I have some questions for my readers who are stay-at-home parents of young children, which I'm guessing is most of you. (And if it doesn't describe you right now, it probably did in the not so distant past.)

Have you received the advice to "get out of the house and make sure you have adult conversation"? Do you follow it? Do you go out every day? Or only when you have a specific reason?

Sometimes we prefer to stay home and do this
Because personally, I like spending time with my family, and don't consider communicating with my own children to be subpar to communicating with other adults. And does anyone really take their kids out every single day, for the sake of leaving the house? Because seriously, three times a week or so and we're good. Even when hubby is gone. I know I tend to be all introvert-y, but still. The thought of packing everyone up every single day and going somewhere simply to be able to say we did does not appeal to me. 

So, I'm curious . . . What does "getting out" mean to you?
  • Does a prearranged lunch and play date with another stay-at-home mom count?
  • When we go to the library by ourselves but end up chatting with another mom and her kids in the children's room, does that count?
  • If the Agents and I go to the commissary, and we don't talk to anyone except the cashier and the person who bags our groceries, does that count?
  • When we stop at Starbucks and have a 40-second conversation with the gentlemen in line in front of us, does that count?
  • Does the back yard count?
Just wondering what others' experiences have been, as this advice seems to be the first thing out of folks' mouths when they learn I'm a stay-at-home mom who homeschools with a rarely-home husband. (Right after praising my patience or declaring me fit for sainthood, both of which make me giggle.)

What do you think? Leaving the house: daily necessity? or overrated?

20 July 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday (33)

Happy Friday, everyone! Another edition of Quick Takes here . . . my thirty-third. If you blog, join us. It's lots of fun and a great way to clear out your writer's mind. At least for me it is. Be sure to pop over to Conversion Diary and check out Jen's post and some of the others linked there.

1. The rest of our stuff is arriving today! Yippee! (I may be a wee bit excited about this.) This is the shipment I wrote about in this post; basically all the things we kept out of our main household goods move and instead packed right before we shifted over to living out of suitcases. I am especially missing my Roomba and my coffeepot. The Agents will be super excited to see more of their toys. And the waffle iron.

2. Also arriving today: Hubby! He's been out of town for two weeks . . . and he leaves again soon for a few months. The two weeks were remarkably uneventful. The Agents will be glad to see him, of course, but really they were pretty chill with the whole idea. Here's hoping the next, longer separation is just as low key.

3. Seems I let my snarkiness show through a couple times this week. First, with this post about all of the conspiracy theories dangers lurking around every corner. Second, with this post about the hypocrite in all of us. Third, with this post about how we all have blinders on when it comes to our own beliefs. Wow. I'm going to have to be nice for weeks to even things out now.

Agent J playing kitty cat
4. I no longer have any daytime nappers around here. At 20 months, A is the youngest to give up naps completely, but it's been several weeks now, and we ain't goin back. (E stopped at 2.5 and J stopped at 2.) He now appears to be evolving into a 12/12 routine: 12 hours up and active then 12 hours sleeping (not continuous; he typically wakes to nurse twice in that time). Sometimes he holds out for an extra hour or so at night, too, so more of a 13/11 schedule. I much prefer this to when he was napping for an hour or so in the afternoon and then not ready for bed at all. Give me an earlier, easy bedtime any day.

5. The Senior Agents, however, are having some difficulty getting out of party mode. It's now been seven weeks since we moved back to the states. In those seven weeks, we stayed in two different hotels, traveled to visit family for 11 days (staying at three different houses along the way), made two trips to Disney, and (mostly) unpacked and set up a four-bedroom house. I know it's been a lot for them to adjust to, but seriously . . . I really thought they'd be in more of a groove by now.

6. I, however, have fallen into a pretty nice "groove" for myself . . . at least as far as maintaining everyday stuff around the house goes, anyway. I don't feel overwhelmed with daily tasks the way I used to. Although I'm still trying to get myself off party time, too, it seems. While I've been enjoying some late night quiet and getting some writing done each night after the Agents go to bed, I miss being a morning person.

7. Our weekend will consist of even more unpacking and organizing. It will be nice to have all of our things in one place. So far we've managed to avoid the cluttered feel here that we had at our apartment in Italy. Granted, this place is bigger but I think we've also been more aware of how we are organizing everything.

19 July 2012

Excuse Me . . . Your Bias Is Showing

Note: I've been in a super sarcastic, snark-fest kind of mood lately. It won't last forever. Bear with me. Kitty cats and daisy petals returning soon, I promise.

It always makes me snicker a little when I read something like the following in the comments to an article posted online: the evidence is clear, or many studies support this, or scientific peer-reviewed research shows, or (my personal favorite) I've done the research myself. (Really? I'm surprised you had time to pick up a [medical license, degree in immunology, xyz certification] and conduct your own [double-blind studies, psychological evaluations, lab tests]. You must be way more efficient at this parenting thing than I am.) Yet I continually see folks spouting one of two viewpoints:

1. If Only You Had More Information, You'd Agree With Me.

2. Don't Bore Me With Facts; I Know I'm Right.

Tip: Having access to the Internet does not make you an "expert" in anything. This article might be my favorite piece EVER on the topic. (Actually, I find the whole blog from which this post was taken entertaining, in an irreverent and snippy I-cannot-believe-he-just-wrote-that sort of way. Not for the faint of heart.)

Another eye-roller is when folks quote a respected agency when it supports their opinion, and yet completely disregard that same agency's views when it conflicts with their own. We're all about quoting reputable organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Centers for Disease Control, or the World Health Organization when they support our own agenda, but poo poo them if they disagree with us. 

Someone on the Internet doesn't agree with me
For example, I see this some version of this line almost daily in the crunchy parenting blogosphere: The AAP recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months, and then once solids are added, continued breastfeeding until at least 12 months. (Yes; folks always feet the need to emphasize the "at least" part.) Yet when it comes to the AAP's views on vaccination, well . . . eh, who needs em, right?

The truth is, whether in favor of [insert divisive parenting issue here] or not, you will always be able to find "research" that supports your view. 

So why is that?

We have a natural tendency to pay attention to the things that confirm our feelings or views and la la la la ourselves away from the things that might disprove them. In psychological jargon, this is called confirmation bias. (For a simple explanation, see the wikipedia entry. For a specific example, check out this post from Psychology Today.)

Honestly, we're all walking contradictions (myself included). I know I am likely to praise any article that portrays breastfeeding in a positive light, and downplay any article that depicts it even the slightest bit negatively. Same with co-sleeping. I'm a fan, so I will applaud researchers like Dr. McKenna but minimize the suggestion from the AAP that "the baby should sleep in the same room as the parents, but not in the same bed (room-sharing without bed-sharing)."

What biases do you admit to?

18 July 2012

Just Some Things To Think About

Do you limit your children's TV time, then DVR half a dozen shows to watch after they're in bed?

Do you carefully monitor how much time your child spends on the computer, then putter on Pinterest, or Facebook, or Twitter, or [fill in the blank with website of choice] for hours each day?

Have you ever given your child a swat or popped their hand after they hit a sibling or a playmate, admonishing them "not to hit"?

Do you feel that offering rewards to children undermines their sense of intrinsic motivation and yet treat yourself to a [fill in the blank with bling of choice] when you [fill in the blank with goal of choice]?

Do you think all women should have the opportunity to birth the way they choose? Do you praise the woman who delivers without drugs, vilify the woman who requests pain medication or induces, and all but break out the pitchforks when you hear the words elective c-section?

Do you long for more free and unstructured time for yourself, and yet shuttle your kids from one scheduled activity to the next?

Have you "trained" your child to sleep alone, ignoring their cries for comfort, and then complain that you can't sleep when your spouse is out of town?

Hello, Ms. Pot? There's a Mr. Kettle holding on line one.

17 July 2012

Top Ten {Tuesday}: Things That Might Kill Us (Or Not)

Top Ten {Tuesday} time once again! Be sure to stop by Many Little Blessings to check out Angie's post and the others linked there.

Following is a brief look at some absolutely evil and terrifying things we do on a regular basis. Or so it would seem if you took a peek at my Facebook newsfeed. I see articles and blog posts bemoaning these things daily, complete with really, really (really!) impassioned comments. I get that everyone has their mountain. And it's not even that I completely disagree with the things in this list, I just . . . I just don't get quite so "ack!" about them. I kid you not, every single one of these popped up in my newsfeed in the 24-48 hours I had this post in my draft file. Every. single. one. 

(Side note: Some of these I also mentioned in this natural parenting confession post, but I can't resist the opportunity to organize items into a nice list.)

I'm not so sure about this
1. We use antibacterial soap. It's on every sink in our house. (Would this be a bad time to mention that I also freaking love hand sanitizer?)

2. We drink milk. Moo! While I completely agree that children do not need cow's milk the nanosecond they turn one, and fully support human milk for human babies, I do not believe the dairy industry is one giant conspiracy.

3. We (okay, I) birthed two of our three children with the help of an epidural. And I liked it. Wait, check that . . . it rocked.

4. We brush with fluoride toothpaste. I know; the horror.

5. We eat stuff with food dyes.

6. We praise our kids.

7. We shampoo our hair with products containing sodium lauryl sulfate.

8. We use sunblock. This one was new to me, so in case you haven't heard: apparently it's the sunblock, not the sunburn, that's causing all those pesky skin cancer cases.

9. We watch television. Clearly the root of all that is wrong with the world today. Or not.

10. We visit a regular old medical doctor for wellness visits or when we are sick.

Have you also noticed that everything is bad for you now? Did anything on this list strike a nerve with you?

15 July 2012

Sunday Morning Conversation

I woke up this morning to two sets of little fingers poking my leg to get my attention. Agent E and Agent J had wandered into my room to rouse me from peaceful sleep. After shushing them out of the room quickly, hence they wake up Agent A (I had actually fallen asleep on his bed), I shuttled them back to their own room and sat with them on their bed until they got settled again. This is how our conversation went:

E: You didn't come back.

Me: What are you talking about?

One of my favorites of the Senior Agents sleeping
(March 2009)
E: You said you would come back before the lights went out [they have one of those stars-on-the-ceiling lights that goes out after 10 minutes] and you didn't. I wanted you to turn on the fan because I'm hot. And you didn't come back.

Me: Um, honey, I did come back, you were already sleeping.

E: No I wasn't. I was hot. And the lights went out. But I'm tired and ready for bed now.

Me: Sweetie, it's 5:30 in the morning. I came back after I checked on Andrew, and you and your sister were both sound asleep. You've already slept for almost 7 hours [yeah, it was a late night last night]. And now it's morning, but very early, so try to get more rest. Plus, your brother and sister need to sleep for a couple more hours, so let's be very quiet.

E: Next time, just come back.


What fun early morning conversations have you had with your kids?

13 July 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday (32)

Welcome back to 7 Quick Takes Friday . . . it's been a while. Be sure to stop by Jennifer's blog and check out her post.

1. My last quick takes post was, um, a long time ago. I mused a little about what I've been doing instead of writing in this post

2. We donated five boxes plus a few big baby items last week. It's a start but we have a ways to go. It's almost embarrassing to admit how many things we had, given that we just moved them all a few weeks ago.

3. After years of co-sleeping the girls are in their own room in our new house. It's mostly working out. We occasionally have a middle-of-the-night visitor, but generally they seem fine with it. 

Fun morning in the sandbox
4. I decided this week that I really dislike study Bibles. And Bibles that have cutesy commentaries and sidebars. I can't quite put my finger on why, but I flipped through two that I have had on my bookshelf for years, and suddenly just looking at them made me feel all grumpy. I've been struggling with daily readings, so much so that I stopped for a while because it started to feel like a chore.

5. Agent E started first grade. I still have no solid plan for this year, because quite honestly I thought she wouldn't want to even think about it for at least another month, but here we are. Look for more posts about our homeschooling adventures once I finally get my act together.

6. Hubby is out of town and I can't sleep. I've been up past midnight almost every night since he left, and it's making me crabby during the day. You would think I'd be exhausted by the time the Agents go to bed, but I just can't settle. Then every morning I think, okay, insane person, you are so going to bed at a reasonable hour tonight. And then I don't. Sigh.

Sweet that he's such a willing participant
7. We are still waiting for some of our things to get here. I'm really missing my coffeepot (the French press just isn't the same), Roomba (I had to break down and vacuum), and the printer (hello, trying to homeschool here). Hoping this last shipment arrives before the end of July.

And there you have my very boring quick takes for the week. Going to try to be less of a slacker in the upcoming weeks.

12 July 2012

Staying Sane When Your Spouse Is Away

Whether for military service or business travel, short term or long term, it's likely that even those of us blessed with a supportive parenting partner will have to go it alone at some point. Following are six tips for keeping it together when your significant other is not around.

1. Be prepared. For a short trip, this may be as simple as stocking up on groceries and making sure the car is filled with gas so you don't have to worry about it. For longer separations, consider the things your spouse usually takes care of that you will need to add to your radar (e.g., I would never remember what day the trash is picked up if it weren't in my calendar because that's not my usual domain). Use bill pay and other automatic set-ups when possible. Arrange for someone to take care of the lawn.

2. Be really prepared. It's pretty much a guarantee that during the time your husband is gone, something completely out of the ordinary and semi-disastrous will occur. Have a plan. Know in advance who you would call if the washer, the toilet, or the roof started leaking. Make sure your car maintenance is up-to-date, check the tires and fluids, and confirm you have roadside assistance. Change all the smoke detector batteries. Know where the nearest emergency room is. Make sure you have flashlights and candles.

3. Embrace routine. You don't need to account for every waking hour, but having some semblance of a schedule, even if you normally balk at the idea, is critical. If nothing else, it means you don't have to think too hard about what to do next when you feel overwhelmed. For us, we also have a few activities we always do on certain days to help make the week more predictable: groceries on Wednesdays, park time on Fridays, etc.

4. Respect that each child will respond differently. Our six-year-old wants to know details (where he is, what he's doing), to mark days off on the calendar, and to be my official helper. The four-year-old kind of understands, but doesn't have a great grasp on time yet, so she needs to be distracted and kept busy. At 20 months, A barely notices. Really. Sure, he'll be excited to see Daddy again, but as long as his primary object of affection (Mommy) is accessible he's good.

5. Don't take it personally. I remember the first couple of times Dear Hubby left for a long stretch, I would worry when I didn't get a response to an e-mail, or a phone call when I expected one. Keep in mind that whatever your spouse is doing, he's probably just very busy and not slighting you. If you plan to correspond via video chat, clarify when and how often this will be possible. 

6. Take care of yourself. You won't be able to help your kids through the transition if you are running on empty. Prioritize time to do whatever fills your own cup. For some that may mean time with friends, away from the kids. For others it may mean joining a gym with free child care. Maybe family could visit during his absence. Everyone has different needs when it comes to what energizes them.

What would you add to this list?

This post was also shared at Connected Mom.

10 July 2012

Top Ten {Tuesday}: Disney Tips

Happy Tuesday, everyone. Joining up again with Angie at Many Little Blesssings for Top Ten {Tuesday}.

This will come as no surprise to those who know me personally (or readers who saw my recent Facebook posts), but we. love. Disney. We have Florida resident annual passes and we are also DVC members. We've lived in Florida for all of five weeks and have been to Walt Disney World twice. Prior to moving here, we visited the Orlando parks two separate times (once pre-kids and once with 3.5-year-old Eva and 1.5-year-old Julia). We have visited Disneyland Paris two times (once with two kids and a pregnant Momma and once with all three Agents) and taken a ten-day Disney cruise. It's safe to say it's our favorite vacation spot (for right now, anyway).

I think we may have finally figured out what works and what doesn't when planning and executing such a venture, so today's post will share some of what we've learned.

Group hug for Daisy
1. Choose where you stay wisely. On a recent trip we booked a room at Animal Kingdom Lodge. It's beautiful, it's peaceful, and it has safari animals outside your window. It's also pretty darn far from three of the four main parks, even before factoring in time waiting for buses. Probably not the best choice of hotels for us with the Agents at the ages they are currently.

2. Get the dining plan. Seriously, do it. It is totally worth it if you plan on eating one "nice" (read: sit-down, table service) meal a day. The best part: character meals are included! (We did one a day. Agents loved it. Okay, Momma did, too.) You also get drink mugs you can refill anytime at your resort and one snack a day per person. The "snack" could be something as simple as a bottle of water or a diet coke (or a Mickey-shaped ice cream bar, ahem), but it also includes some pretty substantial dessert treats, smoothies, and even fresh fruit.

3. Don't plan anything too early if you're not a morning person. Yes, it is possible to schedule a character breakfast first thing. But can you manage getting everyone up and out and to the parks (or another resort) in time? Keep in mind that most restaurants where reservations are recommended also charge for no shows ($10 a person).

Snuggles for Tigger
4. Use the Fast Pass option. I cannot even tell you how many times on our most recent visit we walked past rides where the wait time was 60 or 80 minutes. Guess what? Children don't like standing in line. They get fidgety, they get bored, and they drive you crazy. Avoid it. With Fast Pass, you can get a receipt with a specific time block (a one-hour window) to come back and board the ride with little to no wait. Granted, you can only have one at a time, but if you plan it right you can just keep picking one up every couple hours all day long and hit several major attractions that way. The longest we ever stood in the Fast Pass line was about ten minutes.

5. Use rider swap. If a ride is not suitable for all members of your party, everyone can still go on it without having to wait twice. Just tell the cast member at the entrance to the line that you have a small child that someone will need to stay with, and they will give you a pass so that when the first person is done, the second can go right up without waiting again. You can also use this in combination with Fast Pass, and the ticket they give you is good for up to three people. So if you have, say, two little girls who absolutely love Soarin, you can grab Fast Passes for it, come back later at your designated time, have Dad take them on while Mom entertains the baby, and then pass the baby to Dad and have Mom immediately take them on a second time.

6. Let your children lead the way. Depending on their ages, they may be simultaneously fascinated with and terrified of what you find to be perfectly benign. Some dark rides may creep them out; others they may beg to go on. (Oddly, E found the dark parts of Splash Mountain scary, yet we went on Pirates of the Caribbean three times.) One child may get off Big Thunder Mountain yelling, "that was awesome!" while one is repeating over and over, "I am never going on that ride again. I hate that ride." (Not that it happened to us. But it happened to us.) Just go with it. If they want to see the same show more than once, who cares? We have lost count of how many times we've sat through Disney Junior Live (beginning with when it was still Playhouse Disney Live on Stage).

With Toy Story friends
7. Respect your children's personal space. We never forced any of them to interact with the characters. The first time A saw a costumed cartoon mouse he clung to me so tight, I'm pretty sure if I had a pouch he would have crawled right in. By about the third or fourth time, he became every character's best buddy. (And at the end we were physically prying him away from them while he muttered things like "I want Tigger.")

8. Consider whether the stroller is helping or hindering. Every visit I cannot help but wondering, at what point during the Disney vacation planning does one think, "I know what would make this week even more magical: pushing my ten-year-old around in a stroller." (If you think I'm exaggerating, clearly you've never visited Disney.) We personally find it easier, with two adults and no ambulatory or back issues, to carry Agent A or let him walk in the less crowded areas. We made an exception and took the stroller when visiting Epcot; it seems a lot more practical there, especially if you visit the World Showcase. In the Magic Kingdom, however, we would have been parking it every five minutes. (You cannot take strollers in line queues for rides or characters, into shows, into most restaurants, etc.) 

9. Accept that you cannot do everything. I know for many people going to Disney on vacation is a huge financial commitment, and that one visit may be their only one. Disney is BIG . . . four main parks, two water parks, Downtown Disney, the boardwalk, countless restaurants, shows, rides . . . you need to prioritize. Because we know we'll be going back in a few months, we don't stress if we "miss" something, and neither do the Agents. But if you only have limited time, definitely do some research beforehand and know your own "must do list" in advance. 

Agent A and Piglet
10. Find your breaking point, and try not to push the limits. I'm talking total time you can be out and about (including travel to/from the resort and meals) before someone loses it. For us, this is about 10 hours. This means we can be really motivated and leave the room by 8:00 a.m., but only if we commit to being back by 6:00 p.m. Or if we want to stay for the 9:00 fireworks and not make it back to the room until 10:00, we shouldn't even consider heading to the parks before noon. Our typical day that worked well tended to be around 10:00-8:00; not too early of a start, and still back at the resort to do bath time and bed time at a reasonable hour. When we stepped outside these parameters, things (and people) fell apart.

p.s. For more great info, check out a few of my favorite go to Disney resources: the Walt Disney World Moms PanelMouseSavers, and the Disney Parks Blog

07 July 2012

Homeschooling: First Grade Edition

We started our new school year this past Tuesday, July 3rd. I did not intend to start until at least August 1st, maybe September 1st, but Agent E had another agenda (as she often does). I expect to "do school" year round eventually, but we were kind of taking a bit more time "off" now (or so I thought) because of that whole moving and settling in thing. Apparently, though, she's had enough of a break and now she's ready to get down to business. So I'm going with it. First grade: it's on.

Dress up time
For this year, we are still not following any particular curriculum. Child-led learning seems to be working well for us, so we are continuing with that "method" for now.

Not long ago someone gave E on of those big grade level workbooks that has a bunch of worksheets and puzzles divided into sections like spelling, reading comprehension, xyz math skills, etc. Given her penchant for a good printout that she can look at, fill in, decorate, and talk about, it's a big hit. The pages tear out easily, and so she will randomly take one or two, complete them, and put them in her folder. I know this wouldn't work for every six-year-old, but E likes this. (She also likes things like flash cards, in a the-only-kids-who-like-flash-cards-are-those-who-don't-need-them sort of way.) She enjoys the sense of accomplishment: "I finished the whole section on fractions and now I'm moving on to maps."

This may seem like a weird method to some, but it works for her. And it's not our only tool, of course. I asked her what three things she would like to concentrate on for the next few months of school. This, obviously, would be in addition to the regular library visits, outside exploration time, computer time, independent reading time, and general helping around the house and life skills time. We talked about it, and I offered some suggestions so she could narrow them down. 

Our new playroom
She concluded that for first grade she would like to concentrate on the 50 states, weather, and Spanish. For the states we'll probably do a state-of-the-week sort of thing. (We actually did this with countries at the beginning of last year, but then we kind of got off track.) We'll make weather our "science" for the year, likely in a series of unit studies. Spanish? I studied it in high school, which wasn't that long ago (cough, cough). Okay, it was eons ago. And I'm probably going to need more help than what Dora and Diego can offer. But we'll figure it out as we go along. That's pretty much what we do.

I know this may sound super organized to some and completely willy nilly to others. But that's how we roll. We find things we are interested in, we study them for a while, we tweak what's not working with our routine, we move on. Toward the end of Home Kindergarten we got pretty lax as far as formal instruction. I don't think we'll completely swing over to a hard and fast daily schedule of specific subjects, but I think we'll be trying a little more structure in the next few months as far as what we study. Either way, I think she will still learn what she needs to know.

Homeschooling friends, have you started your "school year" yet? Tell me about your plans.

03 July 2012

Top Ten {Tuesday}: Things I've Been Doing Instead of Writing

It's been a while since I participated in Top Ten {Tuesday}, graciously hosted by Angie at Many Little Blessings each week. My last one was five weeks ago. So, what have I been up to? 

1. Getting settled (whatever that means) in our new home in Florida. We still have a lot of unpacking to do, and some of our things haven't arrived yet (although they should have by now, ahem) but for the most part this place is starting to look like a family actually lives here.

2. Traveling to visit family we hadn't seen in over two years. Ten days, three houses, countless relatives. Senior Agents loved it, although Agent A didn't fully warm up to everyone, as expected. It kind of surprised me how well the girls remembered everyone, given how long it had been and how young they are. 

We love Pooh
3. Going to Disney. Again. This was our second trip with the kids to Disney World in Orlando, our third overall. (We went on our honeymoon.) Add in the cruise we took last summer (one year ago this week, actually) and our two trips to Disneyland Paris, and well, yes . . . we are those people.

4. Helping the Agents organize their bedroom and play room. We had a teeny fiasco with the new beds we ordered, so for now the girls are still sleeping on the guest bed mattress, which we just pulled over and popped on their floor. But . . . they are really excited (okay, Momma is, too) that we now have enough space for a dedicated play room. I think it's such a great use of this space, as opposed to making it a sunroom/sitting area. Plenty of room, lots of windows/light, easy access to the back yard . . . love!

5. Contemplating homeschooling. I haven't officially sent in my intent to homeschool Agent E this year, nor have I taken any steps toward enrolling her in public or private school. And school starts here in 6.5 weeks. I really want to homeschool her for this year, if nothing else to confirm for both of us whether or not it is "working." I think it will be a lot different than last year in Naples, as this is more "real" Navy life for us (i.e., hubby will be gone for long stretches and we will have a whole new "Momma only" routine to contend with). Yet I still feel totally unprepared to begin this year.

Agent A being silly
6. Making plans to lose at least 1000 pounds. Yes, you read that right. I'm talking household goods. When the military moves your stuff, they give you an invoice that's measured in pounds. We did not come close to our weight limit this time, but we are sort of on this decluttering mission, so we made a goal to have 1000 pounds less on our next move. Note that to net such a loss this will actually involve getting rid of way more than 1000 pounds, as we already added a new washer and dryer to the mix, and I'm certain we will make other purchases in the next two years. 

7. Thinking about writing. Yes, even when I'm not posting, I'm thinking about future posts and topics and ideas all the time. It's a writer thing. It's hard to turn your writer brain off completely. So, I have lots of tidbits jotted down that will likely make it into full posts someday. I'm thinking a series of posts on traveling with young children, and a collection of Disney-specific tips.

8. Re-evaluating my discipline methods. The Agents were a bit nuts on this last trip. And we made so many rookie traveling-with-children mistakes. It got to the point were I was just losing it, yelling at them and having zero patience. I started to think maybe I need to be a bit harder on them, have more control, that this whole gentle parenting thing was not working out at all. It's kind of a blur now, but I'm sure there were times last week that I looked and sounded like "that" parent who snaps at their kids for every little thing and acts like a complete tyrant. This is not who I want to be. It wasn't until we returned that it hit me: the more control I tried to exert, the harder it became. Once I relaxed and let go, biting my tongue before lashing out over every little thing and realizing 99% of it was not even close to being an emergency, guess what? Suddenly their "behavior" improved, they started "listening" better, and we all got along again. Sigh.

Everyone playing nice
9. Creating homemade cleaners. I've started by making my own furniture polish and all-purpose cleaner. So far, so good. Honestly, I cannot believe I didn't do this sooner. It's simple, way cheaper, and I can have the Senior Agents help me clean without worrying about them handling chemicals. Score!

10. Researching Bible studies. I got out of the habit of daily Bible reading. I think I need a study (in person or online) to help get me back on track, but I don't know what. If you use an online study, would you mind sharing in the comments? I've tried a few general "accountability" groups, but I really need something more specific.