Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Kindergarten Mom's Survival Kit

As you may remember, I had a rough time when my girls started kindergarten. I never thought I'd be one of those moms, but I was.  (Click here to read more:  Kindergarten from August 2013)

I definitely "got by with a little help from my friends." A group of first-time kindergarten moms went to breakfast together after drop-off on the first day of school, which provided much-needed group therapy for us all.

And when I got home, there was a gift bag sitting on my doorstep. Though unsigned, it had all the markings of my awesome, thoughtful friend, Jen, so I knew right away that she was my Hang In There Fairy.  I will be doing something similar to boost the spirits of kindergarten mom friends soon!

The note reads:

Head inside
Cry for 6 minutes
Open whichever of these will help the most
It's a 9 am no judgement zone!

Thank you again, dear Jen!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Seven Strategies for a Smooth Move

Well, folks, we have moved again!  Home is where the Air Force sends you, and this time, we're "home" in Tennessee for a year.  The good great news is that we are much closer to our home state of Georgia than we have ever been before.  The bad news is that we still had to MOVE in order to get here.

It had been 4 1/2 years since our last move, and I had blissfully forgotten some of the ins and outs of the whole process.  In the past several weeks, it has all come screaming back to me.  Here are a few things I wish I'd remembered:

1. Clear your calendar as much as possible in the months leading up to a move, and avoid an ER visit.
  • Moving is stressful. Researchers' lists of "life's most stressful experiences" always include moving in the top 10. Like a {well-meaning} fool, I took on three different volunteer positions this past year.  (In another post, I'll have to reflect on the end of my girls' year in kindergarten!) I had so many odds and ends to wrap up for these volunteer jobs that, compounded with the stress of a move looming on the horizon, I found myself in the ER with heart palpitations--which the cardiologist diagnosed as stress-induced (and, thankfully, benign). Do not make the same mistake I made! 
2. Start packing early.
  • The good thing about Air Force moves is that the military pays for the move.  Packers come in, pack all of your stuff over a couple of days, and then movers load it up and drive it away.  However, there is always stuff that you have to pack yourself. And the packers need close supervision, not so much because they might steal stuff (although some might), but because they are packing machines and will pack anything in sight.
    • Think about whatever you plan to move yourself (including the long list of hazardous materials, houseplants, checkbooks, birth certificates, jewelry, your computer, wedding pictures, etc.) EARLY. Go ahead and start packing the things that you know you won't need to use between now and your move date.
    • If you have photos that are not digital (like our wedding album and some of our girls' baby pictures), choose the ones that you couldn't stand to lose, scan them, and save yourself having to carry all those albums yourself.  (I need to do this before we move again in a year.)
    • There is a high likelihood that you will run out of room and/or the will to pack those bottles of motor oil, houseplants, etc.  Be realistic, and give some of that stuff to your friends and neighbors (or properly dispose of it) ahead of time.
    • Clean out your pantry before the packers show up.  I teased our kitchen guy about packing our trash (which they sometimes do!); he didn't pack our garbage, but he did pack our bread.  I was less than thrilled to unpack those squished loaves a week later. At least they weren't covered with mold.

3. Think about what you'll want on hand right away when you arrive, and move those things yourself. If you're moving everything yourself, put the essentials on your truck last (last on, first off) so you'll have them right away.
  • Toilet paper
  • Coffee maker & supplies
  • Stereo--if you're like we are and want some tunes while you're working
  • Cleaning supplies (including vacuum cleaner)
  • Paper towels
  • Bath towels
  • Hand soap
  • Box cutter
4. Take good care of your packers/movers, and they'll take good care of your stuff.
  • Even if they do pack your bread, they're working hard, especially if it's 96 degrees outside. Generally speaking, if you take good care of your movers, they'll take good care of your stuff.  It should go without saying to be polite and kind to them.  Also have plenty of bottled water and some Cokes on hand, and offer it to them often.  Providing lunch is a nice gesture, too, especially if you're going out to get something for yourself, anyway.
5. Get your kids out of the house as much as possible.
  • God bless my friend, Holly, who took our girls for a whole day when the packers were busy in our house! Besides not needing to be under foot, as Holly pointed out, your kids do not need to watch someone pack up all of their toys and special things. And God bless our neighbor-friends, Sonny & Mary, who not only fed us and let us live in their guest rooms, but let the girls veg out in front of their TV while the movers were loading the truck.  (I think I'll have to do another post about mitigating the stress of moving for children.)
  • And God bless my parents for keeping the girls for three days so we could unpack!  My sister, Allison, came to help us, so we had three adults working all day, every day, for three straight days, and we put a considerable dent in the moving-in process. The day that the movers were unloading the truck, we would have been hard-pressed to even find a corner of the house that would have been an out-of-the-way spot for the girls to sit still and color or watch movies on the computer or something--we were so thankful that they had somewhere else to be that day, with someone else giving them the attention and freedom that we could not have given them. Once the girls came home, my productivity was cut in half--at least their room was set up, and they could play, but taking care of their needs zapped my ability to get nearly as much done. Next time, we may not have the luxury of family close-by, but I'm so glad we could take advantage of it this time around!
6. Plan to do some shopping, or plan to do without.
  • Thank goodness the Air Force pays for these moves--anyone who has moved themselves knows how expensive movers are, or even renting a truck and buying boxes and supplies if you are a pure do-it-yourself-er. Every move prior to this one has been up-sizing for us, but with this move we've down-sized into a home about half the size of our last one. Consequently, we thought, "At least we won't have to buy all those random extra trashcans for additional bedrooms or hand towels for bathrooms we didn't have before!" You'd think that on our 6th move in 13 years, we wouldn't be so naive. We left all of our curtains with our old house, and the windows at this home were bare, so I've bought several sets of curtains. And the backyard here is basically dirt and weeds, so I've invested in microfiber door mats to help reduce the dirt that our dog tracks in.  And the bathroom cabinets do not have shelves in them, so I've bought containers to help hold the stuff under the sinks. And there's nowhere to wall-mount our TV in this house, so we've bought a TV stand. And...  And... And...  Below are a few things you may spend some money on:
    • Packing materials (boxes, tape, wrapping materials)
    • Moving truck and/or trailer
    • Eating out for a few days while your kitchen is packed-up and being unpacked
    • Moving truck and/or trailer rental
    • Gasoline/diesel fuel
    • Hotel room(s) when your beds have been packed and haven't yet arrived--plus any nights that you're traveling. (So thankful we could relax in the homes of friends along the way!)
    • Random stuff mentioned above--there will always be random stuff to buy when moving.
7. Make time to say goodbye.
  • We didn't want our girls' last day of school to be a tear-filled last day they'd see their beloved teacher and friends, so we planned a going away party a week later and invited their friends, as well as ours. We thought about holding the little event at a local park, but decided to have it in our backyard, instead. We were touched by how many people came, and our girls had fun playing with their friends one more time before we moved. I think everyone needs to feel a sense of closure when leaving a place, so make time to say goodbye to everyone before you go. It's inevitable that you'll miss someone on your list, but do your best. You'll be glad you did.
The anticipation is the worst part--know that once you have moved, it'll all work out fine.

Between the sadness of leaving cherished friends, the to-do lists spinning in your head, and the sense of the unknown looming ahead, anticipating the move is the worst part. I got to the point that when people asked if we were ready to move, I would respond that I wasn't ready to go, but I was ready to "rip off the band-aid." Even with the work of unpacking, I find that the stress of moving is much less as soon as we are heading out of town. Hang in there! Before you know it, your new house will feel like home.

What would you add to this list? Share your comments below.

Next up: Make yourself at home!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Keep Calm and Christmas On

Yesterday evening--the first evening of December--I found myself already flustered by the holidays. Our house was a mess, the Christmas tree in a state of incomplete decorating, our giant ladder sitting in the living room, boxes all over the place, the long Thanksgiving weekend coming to a close. I had wanted to get a jump on making cookie dough! And those Christmas cards that I was so proud to have ordered a month ago were sitting in their box upstairs, untouched. And don't even get me started on the Christmas shopping that I had delusionally thought I might get done early this year. Aaaak!


Well, the girls went to bed, Stephen used the ladder to reverse and dust our ceiling fan, and then put the ladder away. I put the last ornaments on our tree {including some precious ones that always melt my heart}, adiosed some of the boxes, and wrote our Christmas letter to accompany our cards. I even found time for a cup of hot tea before bed.

And this morning, I read the following important reminder:

What will be the highlight of your Christmas season this year? It probably won't be something perfectly planned. Let's face it, Christmas will not be perfect. Thank goodness! Imperfection helps us remember to focus on the perfection of the One having the birthday.

This is the second day of watching the world celebrate the holidays. Can you return it to the "holy" days? Watch for Jesus in large and small events. Nothing will be perfect except the child in the manger. Keep your eyes on Him, and you will not be disappointed.

From Preparing My Heart for Advent by Ann Marie Stewart

Merry Christmas!