Monday, December 24, 2012

Nothing Ever Goes As Planned

You know that thing where you go on a week's vacation you've been planning for what seems like forever and two out of your three kids get sick and you end up seeing the rather costly cruise ship doctor four times in three days (once after hours)? And yet you still manage to have a decent time? Yep; that was us, last week.

Boarding the ship . . . all still healthy
I've written before about how we are huge Disney fans. Last Saturday, Hubby, the Agents, and I set sail on the Disney Fantasy bound for the Eastern Caribbean. We booked this trip back in January. Yes, as in twelve months in advance. We may have been a tad excited about it. This would be our second Disney Cruise, having sailed on the Magic last summer. 

Of course, we try to have reasonable expectations for traveling with the Agents. And, this was not our first experience with battling illness while vacationing. (There was that whole Julia puking in Siena, Italy incident.) 

This time, Agent A came down with a very bad cold and ear infection (his first) and a couple of cold-related nose bleeds. Once we got some antibiotics in him, he was a new man within 12 hours. (I wish we had taken him in a day sooner.) Then Agent J caught his cold, and it triggered her asthma cough . . . the never-ending, barking, horrible-sounding, Agent J Signature Cough. We finally got her some meds that worked, and after a couple of nebulizer treatments she eventually moved on to normal I-have-a-bad-cold coughing opposed to I-sound-like-I'm-dying coughing. 

Meet and greet with Snow White and Dopey
(Folks in close proximity to Agent J had one of two reactions: They either looked on in horror, thinking she was carrying some sort of plague, or nodded sympathetically and said she sounded like their asthmatic kids when they were younger. Guess which ones I hoped we ended up on the elevator with.)

All in all, though, we had a good time. Really. It helped that we didn't have to worry about driving anywhere, or preparing meals, or even so much as cleaning up after ourselves. Hubby and I ended up each spending a significant amount of usually rare one-on-one time with the Agents (either in the room with the one not feeling well, or out-and-about with the other one). We missed out on some things, but in general we still had fun, even Agents J and A. (Agent E, of course, had the time of her life. And promptly came down with the same illness shortly after we returned home.)

Still, I would be lying if I said it wasn't at least a little disappointing. We completely missed the port visit to San Juan, Puerto Rico, because that was the day that Agents J and A overlapped in really feeling bad and we all stayed on board. Only Hubby and Eva got to partake in Pirate Night. Agent J had to miss out on a few days of activities at the kids' club, and we cancelled our special date brunch at the "adults only" restaurant because even once A felt better there was no way we would leave him with anyone while he had a cold and just wanted Mommy Comfort.

Nursing Agent A . . . in a hammock . . . on the beach . . . in the Bahamas
(Can I just mention how glad I am to have a nursing toddler after that week? A refused food and water for nearly three days, but he still nursed. Otherwise, he would have been completely dehydrated and way worse off. Now I'm even more unsure about this whole weaning thing.)

However, we still saw lots of characters, ate tons of good food, met Princesses, got all dolled up for formal night, and had fun at the aquarium and at the beach. We even made it to three of the theater shows (Agent A slept through all of them) and by Friday everyone felt well enough to hit the pools and ride AquaDuck. A pretty good week after all.

How did your last family vacation turn out?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Interest-Led Learning

The thing I love most about homeschooling is the freedom we have to choose our own path.
While a more structured course of study might work for some, just as having none at all might work for others, we fall somewhere in the middle. Our school at home tends to be (mostly) child-led and we create much of our “curriculum” on the fly by following our current passions.

We’ve discovered that interest-led learning is . . .
Interesting

(Kind of an obvious one, huh?) When you were in school did you ever wish you could skip all the boring parts and get to what you love? Of course I have a vision in my mind of the things I’d like her to know as she grows. However, for now we focus on what gets her excited about learning. We let her enthusiasm guide our overall choices of what to learn about as well as our day-to-day activities.

The result? She thinks learning is fun. She wants to do “school work” at all hours of the day, whenever the mood strikes her. The distinction between “learning time” and “other time” is blurred.
Individual
If someone asks, Eva will say she’s in first grade. And in many aspects she’s right on target for a typical six-year-old. Much of what we study she would also be learning if she attended our local elementary school. Yet when it comes to reading, she can easily read second/third grade level books, even some fourth/fifth grade (with a little help).

She often wants to study things not covered in the typical first-grade classroom (e.g., multiplication, cursive writing, Spanish) and we accommodate that. Other times she wants to review things (puzzles, games, worksheets) that come easy to her because she finds them enjoyable. Other topics we skim or even skip.We follow her lead.
Inspiring
I was not one of those people who always knew they would homeschool their children. Truthfully, I found the whole notion crazy. We had two years of preschool under our belt and the Kindergarten registration was long completed.

About six weeks before the beginning of the school year, the thought popped into my head quite randomly: What if we didn’t send her? Now, just a year and a half later, it would not be an exaggeration to say my entire worldview of education has been altered. It’s not just about school at home. You begin to see everything as a learning experience because that’s what life is. I used to worry we’d have trouble coming up with ideas; now our list of potential topics overflows.
What interests are you following on your homeschooling journey?
This post was also shared at The Momma Knows.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Four Reasons We're Not Stressing About the Holidays

Have you found yourself saying (or hearing) one of the following: Oh, this time of year . . . it's so busy! I just have so many things to do! I can't wait until January when thing slow down! There is just so much happening between Thanksgiving and New Year's!

I honestly don't feel this way at all. In fact, this time of year seems to be even less stressful than usual. Homeschooling is humming along. Agents are enjoying the warm days and spending lots of time outside. (Gotta love living in an area where you can run out into the back yard in your bare feet in the middle of December.) We're pretty relaxed here this season, and following are just a few reasons why:

We won't be calling on relatives. Face it: No matter how well you get along with your own parents or your in-laws, visiting far-away family during the holidays is Stressful with a capital S. Why? Because you (and your kids) are out of your element. You can pack creature comforts from home and adjust to the temporary quarters and have a good time overall, but it's not the same as being in your own home. Regardless of your length of stay, this will take a toll on your sanity (and, likely, your kids' behavior). Honestly, not worrying about whom to visit and when and how long is kind of a relief. That's not to say we are complete homebodies for the holidays. In fact . . .

How we spent Christmas day 2011
We vacation in December. This is the second year in a row we will spend part of the time leading up to Christmas traveling . . . just me, Hubby, and our three Secret Agents. We don't really do gifts and so in a way this is our family "gift" to ourselves. Instead of anticipating this time of year as chaotic and stress-inducing, we look forward to the time to relax and unwind before the new year.

We don't stress about shopping. No Black Friday lines or early morning treks out for bargains here. We only buy presents for a select few people (primarily our children's cousins as part of a gift exchange) and we make most (if not all) of those purchases online. Part of this is likely just the introvert in me but I haven't set foot in a mall in months. The holidays don't change that.

We don't do Santa. Or that darn Elf. The Great Santa/Elf Discussion has been buzzing around my newsfeed for a while now. Yours, too? Seems some folks have some pretty strong opinions about both. I've written previously about why we don't push either of these stories at our house. I can't even fathom trying to keep up with these fabrications.

Lest you think we're all bah humbug, we do celebrate Christmas. We'll talk about St. Nicholas. We'll have birthday cake for Jesus. We'll open presents from the grandparents and cousins. We just don't get overly wrapped up in the hub-bub that most folks seem to this time of year. Sometimes, however, it feels like we're the only ones.

Does this time of year stress or rejuvenate you?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Top Ten {Tuesday}: Tricks for a Clean House

Linking up at Many Little Blessings. Thanks to Angie for hosting Top Ten {Tuesday} each week.

Publishing a post on keeping a clean house makes me giggle a bit, especially if you could actually see what my house looks like at the exact moment I'm drafting this. Best of intentions here, people, best of intentions. I will try really hard to follow my own advice on this one. :-) 

1. Just say no to clutter. The fewer things you have, the less you have to clean/work around. Simplify. Take a look at what you have out. Do you really want to move/clean this stuff on a regular basis? Related to that . . .

2. Make the best use of space. One thing I love about our current house is the plethora of potential storage areas. (Especially after coming from Italy, where apparently they have a thing against closets.) If you don't use it all the time, don't leave it out. Another popular version of this is "a place for everything and everything in its place." This works, too. Sort of. I find this to be a never-ending project.

3. Clean every day. Yes, every. single. day. Even if it's just your must do list (see #10). I also try to spend 5-10 minutes each evening walking from room to room looking for obvious issues (e.g., snack bowls in the play room, rugs out of place, books knocked off shelves, hand towels that need replaced).

4. Enlist the kids' help. Capitalize on the fact that young children love to "help" with everything. Give them a dust rag and tell them to go at it. Teach them how to fold laundry or empty non-breakables from the dishwasher. Have them clean the bathtub. Worried about exposure to chemicals? Well then . . .

5. Use green cleaners. Truthfully, I'm more likely to clean now that I'm using vinegar and water almost exclusively and I'm not as worried about what I'm spraying around the Agents.

6. Have a plan . . . or not. For some things I like having a set time to do them (e.g., run the dishwasher and clean up the kitchen after dinner). Other cleaning jobs might be done on the same day each week. (I realize some folks might find the idea of scheduling cleaning insane.)

7. Work toward a deadline. I always have an idea in the back of my mind of when I'd like to have something "done." Usually it involves a date I know Hubby is coming home. Not that I'm cleaning to impress him, per se. He knows the real us. :-) It's just more of a goal-setting technique.

8. Clean a clean house. This one is so obvious, yet hard for me to grasp. The only way your house is going to stay clean is if you clean it on a regular basis whether it "needs" it or not. I find this especially true concerning the kitchen and bathrooms. Just do it. Don't wait until it's a complete disaster and you begin to think it would be easier to just move. (Not that I speak from experience. But I speak from experience.)

9. Know what you can let go. Personally, dust on shelves doesn't bother me. Changing the sheets can almost always wait a few more days. If the play room isn't picked up, eh. Concentrate on what matters to you. Which leads me to . . .

10. Pick your daily battles. For me, it's dishes, laundry, and vacuuming. I aim to have these three things under control each day. Someone not at home during the day might not create as many dishes. A home without pets and small children might be able to get by with vacuuming less frequently. But for us, this is our "thing."

How do you keep cleaning under control at your house?