Vacation Planning: How Early is Too Early?

vacation-planning-a-year-in-advanceI’ve mentioned before that I’m not great at planning family vacations. Now that J is in kindergarten, though, the school year feels a lot more constraining on our schedule… and I realize it’s only going to get worse from here on out. In order to try to force myself to plan vacations, my husband and I just picked a few things we know we want to do, are divvying up the planning work, and we’re trying to block the year out ahead of time so we know what’s what, with school schedules and other major dates in there.

I’ve heard a bit about “year planning,” as well as about planning way in advance for some trips (I’ve read articles that suggest you plan Disney 9-12 months in advance!) — so I thought it might make an interesting discussion here.  So: Do YOU plan your year in advance, including visits with far-flung relatives, vacations, mini-trips, date nights, etc? Do you go by the school year, calendar year, or something else? If you have grandparents far away do you try to visit them, have them visit you, or explore a new place together? Does this help you stalk ticket prices/hotel prices and the like, help you with planning (or outsourcing planning), or otherwise mentally help you plan? (For those of you who’ve been doing this a while, are there major pitfalls to watch out for?) I had found a summer planner earlier this year that really saved me this summer (I can’t find it now, of course), and we just had a nice discussion about the best planners and planning tools over on Corporette, so I thought we’d discuss here.

(A blogger’s blogger who I follow, Michael Hyatt, has a single Excel spreadsheet that looks awesome for planning your year — it’s from 2013 but you just have to update one cell to the correct date and it automatically changes the dates to the current year.)

Ladies, what say you — are you this ahead of the game? Does it make division of labor easier or harder for vacation planning, as well as for requesting work vacations and more? 

(Pictured: Private collection; all rights reserved.)

Being the Default Parent — and Asking for Help

Being the Default Parent -- and Asking for HelpA few months ago, I was really stressed. It was of those times where you’re vibrating from stress and you can’t fall asleep because of your stress, and then if/when you wake up in the middle of the night you pick up right where you left off worrying (perhaps with a few more anxiety loops thrown into the mix for extra middle-of-the-night fun). The why doesn’t terribly matter, but it was a perfect whirlwind of traveling for a work conference (stressful!) right before taxes were due (stressful!), in a really complicated tax year for us (as I realized with a sinking feeling when I sent them off to my accountant on April SEVENTH), with upcoming knee surgery (torn ACL!), and the added stress of getting enough blog content in the bank so that I could actually HAVE the surgery and recover without feeling like I was ducking tomatoes the whole time. And I was the default parent.

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3 Ways to Teach Kids a New Language

Teach Kids a New LanguageI still remember the big day in 6th grade that we got to choose the foreign language that we’d start learning: Spanish, French, or German. (I picked Spanish.) Many schools in the U.S. still don’t begin to teach kids a new language until middle school, while most European countries, for example, start instruction of a second language when kids are six to nine years old. Here are a few reasons why it’s beneficial to start language learning sooner rather than later:

  • “The ability to hear different phonetic pronunciations is sharpest before age 3, and we lose the capacity to hear and produce certain sounds if we aren’t exposed to them early on.” [Parents]
  • “After the teen years, the brain changes and makes it extremely challenging (if possible at all) for an adult to learn a foreign language.” [Parent.co]
  • “While new language learning is easiest by age 7, the ability markedly declines after puberty.” [NBC News]

Over at Corporette, we recently talked about ways to learn a foreign language as an adult, so we thought it was a good idea to talk about language-learning for kids, too. If you or your partner don’t speak a second language and neither do your parents/in-laws, here are a few ways to teach kids a new language:
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How to Make Mornings Easier As a Working Mom

Make Mornings EasierIt’s every working mom’s goal: to make mornings easier, both for YOU and for the family/kids. So how do you do it? What hacks and tips have you found? What are you considering?

In Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg shares the story of a woman who put her kids to bed in their school clothes to save 15 minutes in the morning:

One of the other panelists, an executive with two children, was asked the (inevitable) question about how she balances her work and her children. She started her response by saying, “I probably shouldn’t admit this publicly . . . ,” and then she confessed that she put her children to sleep in their school clothes to save fifteen precious minutes every morning. At the time, I though to myself, Yup, she should not have admitted that publicly. Now that I’m a parent, I think this woman was a genius.

It’s too true!  Some tips I’ve tried over the years to make mornings easier (particularly as someone who is not a morning person):

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Mommying Your Husband

Mommying Your HusbandLadies: do you struggle with mommying your husband or partner? Do you fight against it? Does he? Has it added to the stress of keeping the romance alive — or is it just one more task on your to-do list? The “helpless man” stereotype has spawned a whole genre of TV ads like this one — but do you have some real-life examples to share? I’ve had a few wine-fueled conversations with girlfriends about this and have seen a few commenter threads over at Corporette (like here and here), as well as a few news stories that made me think about this, so I thought we’d discuss here.

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A Mom’s Guide to Remembering the Little Things

moms-guide-to-rememberingThese years go quickly, don’t they? They’re filled with so much fun and wonder — some of it captured by photos, some of it captured by videos. But there’s more than just the pictures, and I’m such a sentimentalist I want to memorialize and remember all of it: the quotes, the daily schedule, the obsessions of the moment, the little milestones (first popsicle! first “good” day at daycare! first time watching Star Wars!).

I’ve described before how I try to organize family photos and “process” them, and my current end goal for the photos is to put them, along with other written memories, into a yearly photo album made in Shutterfly; my thinking is that I’ll appreciate these more than a traditional keepsake journal. Minor problem, though: I’m several years behind on my photo albums at this point. (I have 2013 and the second half of 2014 about 80% done, I swear!) So my challenge has been getting all of the written memories in one place so they can be processed at the same time as the photos and ultimately memorialized in the family album. (Pictured at left: 2014 Part I, memorializing that time right after H was born that I told my mother the time was “5:60” and what at the time we thought was an absolutely hilarious lost iPhone story. Also: first sushi after childbirth, always an important milestone.)

Over the years I’ve come up with different strategies for remembering all the little things I want to remember about the kids and our family, but my strategies are far from perfect, so I’d love to hear what you guys are doing too.

Some of the things I’ve done:

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