29 March 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday (49)

Ooh, yes . . . it's Friday. And that usually means 7QT at Conversion Diary. But there is not one today. But I wrote this before I knew that. I love writing these posts each week. Have a blog? You should join us. (Yes; I'm talking to you.) Anyway, here's my Quick Takes post that's not really a Quick Takes post because there is no Quick Takes post this week.

1. One day last week Agent A kept saying over and over what sounded like, I can't find my butt. I need my butt on. Help me put my butt on. Took me a looooong while to figure out the word he was looking for was belt, and not even a real belt, one from one of those puzzles that teaches you how to buckle, snap, zip, etc.

2. In the car on the way to the gym, Agent E started asking a million questions about going to school vs. homeschooling: Would she have to go every day? (Well, Monday through Friday, yes, unless there's a holiday.) Would it be like the preschool class she remembers? (Um, no.) Would she have homework? (Probably.) Would she take a bus or would Momma drive? (Eh . . . not sure.) If she took the bus, what time does the bus get to our house? (Well, it doesn't stop in front of our house, we'd have to leave the house at 7:30 and walk a block or two to meet it.) 7:30? You mean 7:30 a.m.? In the morning? (long pause) Yeah; that's too early.

3. Anyone else spring cleaning? I'm sort of on this decluttering and cleaning mission . . . so far, so good. The other day I cleared some books off my bookshelf that I've been dragging around with me move to move for like 15 years and finally decided I should just let go. I was quite proud of myself, because I usually have a hard time letting go of books. (Other stuff, not so much.) Then later that same day I came home with ten books from the YMCA's used book sale. In my defense, they were all for Agent E, not for me. Which brings me to #4 . . .

4. Do you find yourself encouraging your children to read the same books (or types of books) you read at the same ages? Or are there some that you "missed" the first time around but now find yourself seeking out for your own children? Two of the books I came home from the Y with were Anne of Green Gables and Little Women. Never. read. either. (Is that awful?) Agent E, however, read (and loved) both of them. 

5. I should clarify . . . the books Agent E is reading are watered-down versions of these stories. They are hardback books, about 175 pages, with lots of black and white drawings. So, the basic story modified for younger readers. They are both from from this series of Great Classics for Children. I honestly have no idea what age/grade level the original works are intended for. (Anyone want to help me out with this? Agent E is 6 and reading well, definitely above a first grade level. And, she can have a conversation about the characters and the plot, so I know she's really "getting" it.)

6. Spoiler alert, if you happen to be the other person on the planet besides me who hasn't read Anne of Green Gables: I asked Eva what she thought of it. The first thing she told me was, well, I liked it, and I like Anne, she does lots of fun things on the farm, but the ending is sad when Matthew dies. (Note to self: Do not ask Agent E what she thinks of a book you haven't read yet.)

7. So, I asked this question on my Facebook page earlier this week, but I'm going to ask it again here: Do you, Dear Reader of This Blog, also have your own blog? If so, leave a link in the comments and I will check it out.

26 March 2013

Never Say This To a New Parent

Please, please, please . . . just don't let these words leave your lips.

1. What do you do all day? Unless you want the answer to be “plot your untimely death.”

2. Is he/she sleeping through the night? I had people ask me this of my exclusively breastfed, days-old baby.

3. You hold him/her too much. You will spoil him/her. I’ll spare you my Attachment Parenting rant, nor will I share the myriad evidence that suggests it’s basically impossible to spoil a young infant with appropriate attention and love, and just say this: He is my last baby. If I want to hold him 24 hours a day, I will. And I will not regret a moment.

4. He/she is just using you as a pacifier. To pacify means to bring peace, so yes, I am bringing peace to my baby. Would it be preferable if he were chewing on a piece of rubber?

5. Was this one planned? None of your @#$% business. Besides,
Baby Agent A (~6 weeks)
he/she is already here. Do you really even want to go there?

6. How nice that you have a boy/girl since your other child/children is/are a boy(s)/girl(s). Yes, we were totally thinking of sending our third back if it were the “wrong” gender.

7. Anything related to discipline. No one wants your advice. Trust me.

8. You look tired. Because clearly the only appropriate answer to this gem is, “Thanks for noticing. So, you will be coming over every afternoon to entertain my older children while I nap with the baby? Great. When do you start?”

What would you add to this list?

Top Ten {Tuesday}: Momma's Kindle Favorites

Top Ten Tuesday at Many Little Blessings Linking up once again with Angie at Many Little Blessings for Top Ten {Tuesday}. Today I'm sharing what apps/books I have saved as favorites on my Kindle.

1. Bible. I actually have two of these in my favorites: YouVersion (which I prefer, but you need an Internet connection to use) and a copy of the ESV (not my favorite, but the only free, complete Bible I could find . . . and sometimes I want to read when I don't have a connection, like at the Y).

2. Books. I include whatever books I am currently reading here, just to make them easier to find.

3. Calendar. I don't use this calendar per se (no appointments, notes, to-do's in it), but I keep it accessible in case I want to quickly check a date on something. And, sometimes I literally cannot remember what day it is and I need an easy reference.

4. Disney Hours. This app shows the WDW park hours (including magic hours), as well as show and parade times, for any date you put in. I added this to my favorites when we made yet another Disney trip earlier this month, and never removed it. Since we don't usually go too long between trips, I just decided to leave it there.

Agents with Duffy earlier in March
5. E-mail. Love having a super-quick way to check both my personal and my blog e-mail.

6. Evernote. This is my primary method of creating blog drafts, as well as keeping track of the pages on the blog (i.e., the tabs across the top; check them out hint hint) so that I can update them easily. Any edits I make here automatically sync up with Evernote on my laptop.

7. Facebook. The only think I don't like about this app is that I can only access one newsfeed. So, I can see my entire personal newsfeed, but I can only see my own page profile, not its associated newsfeed. 

8. Kindle FreeTime. For Agent E . . . she has tons of books and games loaded on "her" Kindle that she absolutely loves. I'm always on the lookout for new apps to complement what we're studying in School With Mommy. I wrote about some of them here.

9. Silk. I use this mostly to browse my own blog homepage . . . every day I scroll through the Blogs I Love list and click on any new posts that have popped up since my last check. Other than that, I don't do a lot of Internet surfing on the Kindle; I prefer to wait until I have my laptop out.

10. Weather. Specifically, The Weather Channel app. (Agent E has this one on hers, too. She's weirdly obsessed with the weather. It's one of the first things I check every day, so she probably gets it from me.)

Do you have a Kindle (or similar device)? What features do you use most often?

24 March 2013

Posts That Never Get Written

I've written previously about blogging topics that never come to fruition. In addition just simply never getting around too it, as was the case with this list of abandoned blog ideas, there are three main reasons I end up not writing about a topic that pops into my head, even if I really wanted to and initially thought it would have made an awesome post.

1. It's no longer timely. Truth: Momma is a good-intentioned procrastinator. I will never be one of those bloggers who has it together enough to write about current events or something trendy or controversial and generating lots of responses. Mostly I just end up debating the issue in my own head until it's too late to do much about it.

2. My thoughts are often more snarky than encouraging or informative. This is what sparked this short post, which has consistently been in my top-ten most viewed since the week I shared it. Sometimes things sound a lot better in my own brain, and I stop myself before I spew them out. 

3. I simply cannot remember what I wanted to write about. This is the biggest reason by far. I wish I could just turn my brain off when I'm driving, showering, nursing A in the middle of the night, or otherwise unable to jot something down. I've started keeping a dry erase board on the refrigerator so I can at least attempt to write cryptic notes to myself if I happen to be home and able. Most of the time, however, these snippets of great potential just disappear, never to be recalled again.

Do you have posts inside your head that will never be published for these (or other) reasons?

22 March 2013

What We're Really Doing

A recent conversation with a homeschooling friend led me to this conclusion: Although my initial reaction to describing our homeschool "style" is to go with child-led, interest-led, or some version of that, in reality when it comes to method what we are doing is a series of really long unit studies simultaneously.

Now, the "child-led" component is still a big part of it, as we (Agent E and I) always discuss options for what we want to study together and make mutual decisions as to what comes next, but . . . yeah. We are Unit Study People.

This is pretty much our strategy: We pick a few central topics, and organize our "school work" around them for a few months, then move on to new topics. In doing so, we incorporate our chosen subjects into reading, writing, science, math . . . even field trips. (Of course we add other things in from time to time as well, such as current holidays, random science experiments involving household items, or information specific to upcoming travels.)

One of our most used resources is the public library. Other than the Internet (a post of its own, coming soon) I cannot think of anything more valuable to a homeschooling family, especially one that is pretty much winging it and making up curriculum on the fly.

At any given time, we have anywhere from 15 to 40 books checked out. We (meaning I) find it easier to check out a ton of books and renew them once or twice rather than trying to get to the library more frequently. Especially when Agent A sees every visit as an opportunity to participate in a fun new game called Toddlers Run Wild at the Children's Room While Trying To Topple and Destroy As Many Things As Possible

What are your kids reading?

p.s. I'm linking this post up at the Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers Weekly Wrap-Up.

21 March 2013

Sleeping Like a Baby

When pregnant with Baby #1, Dear Hubby and I researched cribs and crib mattresses as if world peace hinged on our decision. Of course, we also had a bassinet for our room, where we figured she might sleep for "a few weeks, maybe" until we moved her across the hall to her own room, because . . . that's what parents do, that's what parents need, that's what babies do, that's what babies need.

Baby #1 (aka, Agent E) had a different idea.

I'll spare you the saga of long nights sitting up with E, attempt after failed attempt to get her back in that bassinet. How I swung back and forth between letting her "really" wake up (i.e., get mad enough to start crying) and grabbing her immediately at the first whimper. How it took me weeks (months? It's a blur now.) to realize that her night time needs were not going to go away, and I needed a sustainable plan for dealing with them while maintaining my own sanity.

Someone had given me a copy of a very nice sounding book about infant/child sleep. I won't mention it specifically, but let's just say it implied that following its recommendations would not only lead to "better" sleep all around, but also health and happiness. So promising! And then I actually read it.

Truthfully, it made me queasy. Forcing baby into a strict schedule to fit your needs (not hers), solitary sleep in a dark room with no contact presented as the only option, listening to your baby cry for up to an hour, even if she made herself throw up. I had a hard time believing (to put it mildly) that people read this and think, yeah, that sounds about right.

I knew there had to be another way. I wandered the "baby and child care" section at the nearest bookstore looking for something to pop out at me. I came home with a copy of The Baby Book by Dr. Sears. I began reading it a little at a time during E's nursing sessions (which were plentiful, and new-mom confusing in their own right, another post). 

Holy light-bulb moments. I nodded along so much with the text, at one point I might have been mistaken for a Breastfeeding Bobblehead.

The thing is, I hadn't considered sleep "options" at all while pregnant. In my mind, there was only one thing to do: solo sleep, bassinet to crib as quickly as possible, baby in her own room basically from the get-go. I didn't even realize there were choices: bedsharing vs. co-sleeping (no; they're not the same), crib in the same room vs. crib in a separate room, starting out the night in one place and moving on the first wake up. It seems ridiculous to me now (and even a tad embarrassing) that it never occurred to me that I could do whichever one of these worked for us as a family and it would be fine.

Still, I hesitated. If I bought a bed rail, did that mean I couldn't change my mind and move her out of our bed later if it weren't working? If I asked Hubby to dismantle the crib and refashion it as a sidecar, did that mean I had to commit to this idea long term?

I know a huge part of the problem I had reconciling my choices at first was that conventional wisdom about babies and sleep led me to think in absolutes. I was confronted from every angle by if . . . then statements. If you bring baby into your bed, then she'll never want to leave. If you don't teach her to sleep on her own, then she will depend on you to fall asleep forever. If you always nurse to sleep, then she will always expect it.

The major flaw in this logic is that it assumes babies (and children, and parents for that matter) are inflexible and stagnant. This is simply not true. Babies' needs change. Parents' needs change. Everything changes.

The other flaw is that it imposes an unnatural sense of urgency on a natural development. The belief that simply waiting it out is not good enough. That you need to take action. Speed things up.

The truth is, it is okay to wait. It is okay to allow your baby (or toddler, or preschooler) to ease into solo sleep following his or her own timeframe. Really.

As for my little Agent E? The one whose newborn night time needs caused me to re-evaluate? She'll be seven soon. Contrary to what well-meaning folks tried to warn me about, she sleeps well, all night (barring any illness or nightmares), in her own bed, without coercion. Oh, and she weaned a long time ago, mostly of her own accord. As all children eventually do, she gave up nursing to sleep, she no longer needed me to be near her all night, and she learned to not just tolerate but actually love her own bed in her own room . . . when she was ready.

This post was also shared at Connected Mom.

15 March 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday (48): The One With All the Illness

Linking up at Conversion Diary. Be sure to stop by Jen's post and leave some comment love. Then check out a few of the many bloggers who participate each week. Have a blog? Join us.

Just in case this blog was starting to err on the side of too many kitty-cats-and-daisy-petals kind of posts, I thought I'd share a few of the less glamourous highlights of recent days.

Alternate subtitle: How in the Heck Do People Who Rarely Leave the House Pick Up So Many Freaking Germs?

Warning: Do not read if you are grossed out by puke stories. It's not terribly graphic, but some folks may just not want to think about it, ya know?

1. Two weeks ago in a Quick Takes I wrote that we were fast-approaching yet another Disney adventure. I even made a snarky comment comparing its potential to our last Disney trip, which didn't go exactly according to plan. Ha! Clearly the universe decided, I'll see your barking cough, bloody nose, and multiple ER trips and raise you one randomly puking kid 24 hours before you are due to leaveTake that.

Being silly with Russell and Dug
2. Yep; Agent J threw up Friday morning at 8:00; we were planning to leave Saturday morning at 8:00. She had stopped completely and was mostly okay after about six hours, but didn't eat much the rest of the day. Friday afternoon we decided to go ahead and cancel our reservation for Saturday night, and postpone our trip by 24 hours, knowing full well we might end up calling back to cancel the whole thing. Of course, she woke up Saturday morning totally fine, acting completely normal, and we could have easily left on schedule. Instead we spent the extra day at home cleaning and finishing packing. We spent Sunday through Wednesday at the happiest place on earth without incident. (Well, without any recurring or new illnesses. There was plenty of Agent-induced drama, par for the course.) Returned home and had (relatively) normal days Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

3. At about 2:00 a.m. Sunday morning, Agent A woke up puking. A lot. I happened to be lying next to him at the time, so overall it was a mutually joyous experience. We both changed pajamas while Dear Hubby took care of getting laundry started, taking two stuffed animals that received a hit to the "spa" and cleaning the surrounding carpet. (So grateful he was home and not out to sea.) I sat up in the rocker with A for the next hour or so, and eventually we both fell back to sleep, but later experienced two more similar episodes. Needless to say, we canceled all plans for Sunday. Luckily, Agent A mostly recovered by early that afternoon.

(Tip: If you have a child in diapers who is throwing up, the last thing he is going to want to do is lay down to be changed. We opted to keep Agent A in pull-ups for the rest of the night and into the next day; much easier to change him standing up that way.)

4. Monday Agent E had a pretty rockin fever, and spent most of the day in bed. She didn't have much of an appetite, but her primary complaint was being hot and tired. It took her until sometime Tuesday afternoon to start her round of sickness. (Note to self: We need to find a better carpet cleaner.) She was fine by bedtime, but the next morning, just when we thought she was cured, she threw up one more time, for good measure. 

5. Tuesday night, just before bed, Agent J came down with the same intense fever, but thankfully was able to sleep. (I camped out in the living room with her and Eva so I could be accessible to both of them and still hear Andrew when he woke needing a milk fix.) Wednesday morning the fever was still hanging around, and we spent most of Wednesday afternoon with our good friends from Pixar (Monsters, Inc. and Wall-E, to be exact).

Yes; I'm talking about you, cat
6. The cat threw up on Wednesday as well . . . on the end of the bed, right on Agent J's favorite blanket, at 6:00 a.m. Just for a little added bonus awesomeness. Thanks so much, Agent C.

7. By Wednesday evening, Agent J had managed to hold off on the puking, although she was still working the fever. (Can you say heat rock?) She ate some fruit and a muffin just before bed and slept all night (another campout for Momma and the Senior Agents) with nary a peep. Woke up cooler and happier and we were finally in the clear. Typical Agent antics prevailed for the remainder of Thursday. Yeah!

Have you battled sickness at your house this winter? How do you (and the kids) stay sane?

14 March 2013

Cats and Kids: A Birthday Tribute To Agent C (with lots of photos)

Today is our cat's birthday. Cinnamon (aka, Agent C) is ten years old. She's lived with us for eight years. We adopted her from an animal shelter in March 2005. She had been returned by her previous family, along with her "sister" cat with the request they go to separate homes. (Pretty clear why . . . poor Agent C had this huge cut across her nose/face where the other cat had clobbered her.) 

Happy Birthday, Agent C!
So, Agent C became a part of our family just over a year before Agent E came along. When we brought Eva home from the hospital, the cat was not sure what to make of this new curiosity. Of course, we eventually added two more of those "creatures" (i.e., Agents J and A). Each time I imagined Cinnamon rolling her little kitty eyes at me, as if to say, really people? another one?

Following are some photos we've accumulated throughout the years. Notice the almost-complete absence of Agent J. I'm not sure why this is, although I'd venture to guess the cat figured her out pretty early on and stayed clear.

Toddler Agent E and Agent C

Stay away from my food, kid

What? It's cozy up here

You mean this isn't for me?

Agent E (age 4) practicing her baby-holding skills

Apparently the cat wasn't snug enough

Found you!

Agents E and C cuddling on the couch

Checking up on the cat after her journey from Italy to Virginia

I love this cat

Sidecar co-sleepers: Not just for babies

Nap time


As I'm drafting this, the Agents are next to me at their art table creating a birthday banner and decorations. Later today we'll be making and eating cupcakes in Cinnamon's honor. The (human) Agents can't wait.

Do you celebrate pet birthdays at your house? 

12 March 2013

Top Ten {Tuesday}: Meal Planning

Sharing this over at Many Little Blessings. Be sure to stop by and check out Angie's post and the others linked up there.

One of the many "organizational" things I keep trying to convince myself I'm actually going to do one day is to create (and stick to) a two-week meal rotation for dinners. Consider the following list my brainstorming out loud. Imagine the usual appropriate side dishes (salad, bread, vegetables, potatoes, rice, etc.) where applicable. 

1. Beef and Bean Casserole. My fall-back meal. Easy, toss it all in one pot, everyone likes it. (The recipe made its way into a previous post, if you're curious.)

2. Chicken. Usually just lightly breaded and cooked in the oven. I can make a pretty good curry, too, but haven't for a while.

3. Chili. For some reason, Agent E will not touch this. On chili nights, she gladly has peanut butter and jelly instead.

4. Fish. Tilapia, to be exact. I know; boring.

BLW in action: 6-month-old Agent A enjoying
some pizza in Bari, Italy (May 2011)
5. Kabob-less Kabobs. The same meat and veggies cooked separately and without the use of a deadly sharp object.

6. Pasta and Meatballs. Whole wheat pasta and homemade meatballs. Store-bought sauce. (I used to love making homemade sauce, and intend to again someday, but for now convenience wins.)

7. Pork Chops. On the grill if Hubby is around, in the oven if not. (Side note: They are in the oven right now as I'm typing this draft.)

8. Tacos/Burritos. We could probably make these healthier than we do. The processed side dishes are what gets us. I need to come up with better alternatives.

9. Tater Tot Casserole. Yes; this is as bad for you as it sounds. And I should probably remove it from the list. But, alas, I haven't.

10. Turkey Meatloaf. Made with the stuffing baked in. An Agent E and Agent A favorite.

And . . . that's only ten ideas, not enough for a two-week plan. We often have leftovers, but rarely enough for a complete meal the next night, so the Agents and I usually finish them off for the next day's lunch. The only other thing I can come up with is stew, which is simple (hello, crock pot) and I love, but for whatever reason have not made in probably three years. And I should probably just be realistic and add "pizza or takeout" to the list because we inevitably do this at least once every two weeks.

What does dinner look like at your house? Do you have a plan or just wing it?

06 March 2013

Momma's SITS Day

Hello and happy Wednesday to all of you! Today is an exciting day for Momma: My SITS day!

What is SITS, you say? It's a place for bloggers to find support, resources, and new skills, as well as grow their audience, all while supporting fellow writers. And it's 40,000 members strong. Follow this link to learn more.

A big welcome to all of you visiting from SITS. And to all of you who are regular readers. And to all of you who stumbled upon this page randomly and were really trying to get somewhere else.

Agents and Tigger
A little bit about me: I'm a Navy wife, married for almost ten years, and a stay-at-home Momma to three Secret Agents, ages 6.5, 4.5, and 2. A few weeks before my oldest was due to begin Kindergarten, I had this crazy idea to homeschool instead. I drink coffee every morning. I eat too much chocolate. I get more excited about trips to Disney than my kids. (Side note: I hit "publish" on this post from inside a Disney resort.)

I encourage you to poke around and read some past posts. (Although that early stuff is . . . yikes. Tell me I'm not the only blogger who'd like to virtually shred her beginning days?) 

Please, kick back and stay a while.

p.s. Stop by and visit me on Facebook, too.

01 March 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday (47)

Happy Friday and welcome to March! Linking up another Quick Takes post with Jennifer at Conversion Diary. Be sure to stop by her page and offer some comment love.

1. Soon we will be embarking on yet another Disney escapade. If no one sounds like a barking seal most of their waking hours, and no one starts randomly spouting blood from their nose, and we end up in the ER fewer than four times, it will be more of a success than our last Disney venture.

2. I asked Agent A what he wanted to do on our upcoming trip. He wants to see Pluto, Pooh, Ferb, and Snow White. He told me, "I sit on Snow White's lap. And kiss her." (Imagine a super cute 30-second video here showing just that. I couldn't get it to upload.)

3. A few weeks ago on my Facebook page I commented that I had taken several books out of the library for me, ones I had heard about again and again in my little Internet circle of AP/gentle parenting. In all honestly, they weren't that great. Well, one was a pretty good read . . . even when I disagreed with the author I still felt like I understood what she was getting at and she'd be a nice person to chat with over coffee. One was entirely too "I'm so smart, here's some science-y stuff." Another (which folks I know just raved about) was actually quite boring . . . one of those books that is like 250 pages and could have been 25 pages. The last one I could barely stomach . . . I kept choking on psychobabble. So disappointing. Give me a classic Dr. Sears any day.

4. Homeschooling-wise, we're still very much into dinosaurs and space here. We're adding some books/lessons about the body as well. That was supposed to be our next major topic, probably beginning around early April. Instead, Agent E decided she wanted to get started now. When I tried to put it off, thinking we already had more than enough to work with for now, she told me, "but you said in School With Mommy I can study whatever I want. And I want to learn about the lungs and the brain." Sigh.

5. Do your children like to clean? Mine are fascinated by it, and I plan to take full advantage of this. They love to dust and wipe down windows. I even had all three of them following me around the house last week as I cleaned the bathrooms. I think I need to transition some cleaning responsibilities to them before they get older and realize it's not all that exciting after all. 

6. The Agents and I spent some time earlier this week looking at photos from past Disney trips. They look so small. Here are a few of my favorites:
Senior Agents (ages 3.5. and 1.5) with JoJo and Goliath
(Walt Disney World, fall 2009)
Agent E (age 4) and Agent J (age 2) admiring the castle
(Disneyland Paris, summer 2010)
Agent A (age 8 months) meets his first princess
(Disney Magic, summer 2011)
7. Are you looking forward to spring where you are? It's actually getting colder here, not warmer. Ugh. (And by "cold" I mean like low to mid sixties at least a few days this week. I've lived in Florida too long. I've lost all perspective.)