Monday, August 25, 2014

It All Starts With Me

Hello, friends. A special welcome to those visiting from the iHomeschool Network Day in the Life Hop.

I had a parenting and homeschooling epiphany recently:

Whether the day runs smoothly or is a complete disaster, it's usually always my fault. 

My kids are young (8, 6, and almost 4). If our days are out of whack, it's certainly not because they aren't planning properly and making sure we execute said plans in a timely and organized fashion.


know things work out better if we have more structure. Not just for daily/weekly lesson plans (because, truthfully, "school" is a pretty small amount of our day time-wise) but for just making sure our home runs smoothly. When our days are all over the place, it's not pretty.

So, in spite of wishing for—let's just say too long—that we could be free-flowing and happy-go-lucky in our daily activities, we really need to have a plan. It doesn't need to be etched in stone, but it needs to be there and we need to follow it (even loosely) or we fall apart.

I should clarify here that I'm not talking about our educational approach . . . which tends to be fairly relaxed and interest-led. I'm talking about keeping our curriculum child-led and fun while fitting the actual doing it part into an overall more structured set-up.

Anyway, I created a simple list of guidelines for our day (and printed them out, because my oldest is like me in that she needs to actually see something in writing or it doesn't exist). We work the details around these anchors. Every day doesn't look exactly the same, but at least we have a starting point. Here are some things I included:

Wake/sleep times. These tend to fluctuate a lot for us, depending on the time of year, Dear Hubby's work schedule, and whether or not we're doing any outside activities that have a specific time constraint. The challenge here is that in order to make some other things fall into place, it would really help if we could move our wake up and bedtime by 30 minutes (earlier). It doesn't sound like much, but in reality it will be a slow adjustment.

(Can I just add here that it was another epiphany for me to realize that when you have more than one kid, and they need different amounts of sleep, it makes more sense—at least it does for us—to put them all to bed at the same time and stagger their wake-ups, rather than trying to get one or two of them to go to bed earlier?)

Meal/snack times. My kids like to eat. A lot. (Seriously. I wonder sometimes how we will feed these wolves as teenagers.) I find that while grab-whatever-you-want-when-you-want-it works sometimes, really we are all happier when we have set times and stick to them.

School time. As much as I thought I wanted us to be a Morning Homeschool Family, we. just. aren't. We concentrate best after lunch, so that's when we "do" school. Because the Agents are young (3rd grade, 1st grade, and preschool) it doesn't take more than a few hours total. We can get to everything we "need" to and still keep our mornings relaxing and our late afternoons/evening free. Win-win. 

Outside activities. We don't go out every day (nor do we want to) but we do occasionally interact with other humans for time-dependent events. We also know that mornings are the best time for us to run errands (in spite of all the people who will ask, no school today?) so our mornings are flexible depending on what we need to that day.

Even considering these four points, our daily routine leaves a lot of space for free time, play, and reading. (Some folks might call this margin or freedom within boundaries.) This, of course, includes penciled in time for this super-introvert to recharge each day.
What have you done lately to take control of your routine?

Thanks so much for stopping by today. I would love to connect on FacebookTwitterGoogle+Pinterest, or Bloglovin. I can also be reached via e-mail at mommainprogress (at) gmail (dot) com.

Linking up with iHomeschool Network's Not Back to School Blog Hop: Day in the Life Week.

Also sharing this post as part of the Hip Homeschool Hop at Hip Homeschool Moms and the SHINE Blog Hop Hosted by Jennifer at The Deliberate Mom.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

3 (More) Tips for a Smooth Move

Today I'm sharing a few more ideas to make moving as seamless as possible.

I talked a lot about the importance being prepared in 3 Tips for a Smooth Move, but those were more general (big) things that could be done ahead of time. These suggestions are more specific (little) things that you'll want to do once the move is closer.

Keep in mind I'm writing this from the perspective of a military move, so outside people will be doing the packing, loading, and moving; my wording and suggestions reflect that. However, I think these tips could be easily modified and applied to a DIY move as well.

Focus on the Details

Even though the movers will technically pack most stuff (except some chemicals and the occasional randomness), I like to try to finish as many consumables as possible beforehand. This means using up shampoos, lotions, cleaners, food, etc. You can never be completely sure (a) that they will pack something that is open, or (b) that if they do pack it they will secure it properly and it won't explode all over whatever it is packed with. To play it safe, we like to use up as much as we can so there is simply less to deal with.

Organize the medicine cabinet. Don't move expired or unwanted meds. (If you need guidance on how to dispose of them properly, here are some tips from the FDA.) Plus, you'll already want to go through and pull out anything you need to have with you in the suitcase, so while you're in there it just makes sense to do a quick clean up.

Put anything small that you want to keep together (e.g., medicine bottles, nail polishes, hair accessories) into ziploc bags so they don't get tossed around in a random box.

Know if they are taking everything out of drawers or leaving it as is. Sometimes movers will pack everything into boxes. Sometimes they will just move, say, a dresser, as is with the clothes still inside. Usually when they do this they also try to fill all available space. If that is the case, you may want to go ahead and fill up any un-used (or under-used) drawers with clothes or blankets or whatever rather than have them choose what goes where.

Clean everything. Send kitchen chairs free of crumbs, wipe down furniture, take big toys outside and hose them off. Run bath toys and items from the toy kitchen set through the dishwasher. Make sure it all has a chance to completely dry out.

Pack for the Transition

This will look different depending on how many days you will be spend in a partially packed house and/or living out of a suitcase and/or traveling to your new home. In our case, it will be about two weeks total.

We will pack our suitcases similarly to how we pack for a Disney trip, but instead of one outfit per person per day, we will likely go with four per person max. Yes, we will need to do laundry a couple of times, and yes, we will all be sick of the clothes in the suitcase by the time we arrive. But, four changes of clothes times five people is more than enough to worry about.

Make sure to consider weather (moving from warm to cool? cool to warm?), activities you might do while in transit (e.g., swimsuits for a hotel pool), and entertainment for yourself and the littles (e.g., books, small toys, art supplies, a few DVDs).

Get Ready for The Big Day

Some tips for the night before and/or the morning packing begins:

First and foremost, if you don't want it packed, get it out of sight.

Our experience has been that movers will pack every nonliving thing that is not nailed down. I cannot even count the number of people I know who have found trash or dirty dishes neatly packed with their household goods upon arriving at their destination.

Make sure the trash and recycling are taken out and all receptacles in the house are clean and empty.

Here's a trick for "hiding" kitchen items you don't want packed: put them in the refrigerator, the stove, or the microwave. Seriously, they may try to pack last night's lasagna dish from the sink, but they will not open any of these. Food from the pantry you still plan to use up, the coffee pot, dishes and utensils for a night or two, laundry detergent . . . whatever you'll need in the short-term until the day you walk out the door can be easily hidden here.

Plan for your pet. If you have a pet that needs more space and will have to be let out (e.g., dog) you may want to find a sitter for the day or board him. Other pets (e.g., cat) can simply be put in a small room (e.g., bathroom if you have more than one, laundry room) for the day. You will need to make sure (a) anything in that room that needs to be packed is outside of the door and (b) there is a sign on the door that there is a pet inside and it is not to be opened.

Put your suitcases and anything else you don't want packed (e.g., cleaning supplies, vacuum and/or mop) in the car or the "pet" room if you have one. If there is something you want/need to leave out all day (e.g., cell phone) it's best to have it on your person so it's doesn't accidentally end up in a box.

Make sure the kids' "loveys" or sentimental must-haves for sleeping/travel are also hidden away!

Because we usually have dozens out at any given time, we also need to be aware of any library books we have laying around and "hide" those as well so they don't get mixed in with our regular stash.

Park your car on the street or at a neighbors. Make sure it's far enough away that it's not blocking access in/out of the driveway, garage, front door—wherever folks are going to be moving about.

Finally, hope the kids find it "fun" and don't panic when all their stuff starts disappearing into boxes. :-)

Ok, frequent movers, what did I miss?

Thanks so much for stopping by today. I would love to connect on FacebookTwitterGoogle+Pinterest, or Bloglovin. I can also be reached via e-mail at mommainprogress (at) gmail (dot) com.

Linking up with the SHINE Blog Hop Hosted by Jennifer at The Deliberate Mom.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Person I (Don't) Want To Be

Sometimes Past Me makes Current Me cringe. 

It probably doesn't help that I have a written record (aka, this blog) of significant swaths of my own insanity collected over the last four years.

The truth about blogging is . . . the longer you do it, the more you hate your older posts. You will keep (most of) them up (and maybe add a disclaimer to your About Me sectionbut you will still want to roll your own eyes at yourself. 

Following are some parent/blogger personas/attitudes that I have maybe probably definitely been in the past, but sincerely wish to avoid in the future.

1. If only you knew more, you'd agree with me. Often disguised as "just sharing information" and frequently accompanied by that dreadfully overused Maya Angelou quote (#4 in this list). 

2. You just wait. I'm pretty sure I've been guilty of this a time or two. I hate hearing it from parents of older kids and teens, and so I try not to reflect this to parents of babies and toddlers. Sometimes it's hard because I'm kind of snarky by nature, but yeah. I shouldn't do this.

3. I have one kid and I know everything. Okay, so maybe not a perfect comparison since I have three kids. But you get the idea.

4. I'm distracted but I have a really good reason. Usually involves some level of defensiveness about electronic devices. Folks like to twist this one around so it seems like anyone who looks at them half sideways is judging them and woe is me because I just need a break, dammit. But really, there is a time and a place for everything.

5. I love this, so you should, too. I try to keep this in mind when I write about how much I enjoyed the time I spent breastfeeding the Agents. It's not for everyone, and doesn't need to be. A good reminder for me is to consider that many women feel about breastfeeding the way I feel about babywearing.

Someone please do whatever the polite version of pinching me or kicking me in the butt would be if I drift into this territory again. Thanks.

So, what do I want to do instead?

1. Share information with no ulterior motive other than to share information.

2. Keep in mind that everything has a season, and I need to concentrate on mine.

3. Focus on what works for us.

4. Be mindful of the myriad things competing for my attention, and know my priorities.

5. Enjoy blogging about what is important to me without imposing expectations on anyone else.

What would you add to this list?

Thanks so much for stopping by today. I would love to connect on FacebookTwitterGoogle+Pinterest, or Bloglovin. I can also be reached via e-mail at mommainprogress (at) gmail (dot) com.

Linking up with List It Tuesday, co-hosted by Angie at Real Life at Home and Kris at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

Also linking up with Whatever Wednesday, hosted by Sarah at Thank You Honey.