Here we go. The big kick off. For the kids, it is the end of lazy days and sleeping in and endless time with friends and elongated road trips and boredom and movies galore and midnight bedtimes (or later) and long stretches of time to read and draw and having it be possible to be invited over to someone's house at 8 at night and the answer being yes, we can go.

It's back-to-school time, and it crescendo'ed last week with Meet the Teacher Day and school supplies delivered and classrooms found and the school monkey bars revisited. The monthly bus pass has been purchased for the oldest. The trumpet was oiled for the next. The desired teacher was gotten for the third and the monkey bars were enough to convince the youngest that everything would be OK as he fondly remembered his ridiculously calloused hands from last year.

This year, once again, we'll have four kids in three different schools with three different schedules. Two kids taking the city bus. And growing kids who don't necessarily need our help, but might sometimes want it anyway.

It's going to take some real good communication and intentions and calendar checks and coordinating (and did I say communication?) to keep it all cool, calm, collected and connected.

So here, in no particular order, are 10 things I'm going to try to do this year to make sure we all get what we need from the world and from each other, too...

1. Stay present to the ones I'm with. This is a biggie. Love the one I'm with. Phone down, tasks paused, eyes on the prize. In this case, the prize being the person who is standing in front of me.

2. Stay present to the task at hand. Driving? Drive. Cooking? Cook. Writing? Write. Socializing? Socialize. Playing? Play. You get the point.

3. Screen-free times. In the house for the whole family, we will have set hours that are screen-free and certain days as well. No phones, TV, computer, etc. Screen-free. We did it last year and it was really great. We got off that bandwagon this summer, though.

4. Electronics-free alone time. Walk. Meditation. Swim. Read. Etc. Be alone. Truly alone. Not alone but with virtual friends. Not alone but talking on the phone. Alone. Truly alone. With my own thoughts and ideas. Every day, at least.

5. Listen more. Fix less. My tendency has been to rush in with answers. My goal with my growing children is to listen more and let them work most of it out through talking it out. And I'll be more likely to sense the real need as opposed to just the words that are stated.

6. Ask before I offer advice. Not just to my kids, but to people in general. Before I offer advice, I'll ask if it's wanted. "Want my input?" It's a simple question that will take some practice to make a part of my day-to-day.

7. Pre-planned play dates. Sure, there will be after-school play dates, but they will be planned ahead of time. The on-the-fly play dates tweak me and tweak the balance of the household. Exceptions only in emergencies or for once-in-a-lifetime kind of opportunities, such as tickets to a circus or a chance to dine with Gandhi or some such rarity.

8. Alone time once a month with each child. This is sometimes tricky to accomplish, but I think setting it up ahead of time will be the key. On the calendar it goes. It doesn't need to be huge -- just intentional. A walk, a trip to the grocery store for a light shop, a croissant at the bakery, a visit to the playground.

9. One night out each week with friends. A designated night. Each week. And if friends can't make it, then out somewhere on my own. Just to sit, ponder life, collect my adult thoughts, share ideas, get inspired and have some fun. Out might be on the screened porch or at the cafe next door, just out, away from bedtime routines.

10. Be thoughtful about my commitments. I have a lot of good ideas for things to do in the community, but I can't do them all. Instead, this year, I plan on handing out those good ideas freely to anyone who is looking for one. And sometimes even just floating them out there to the universe for people to grab who didn't even know they were looking for a good idea. Of course I'll volunteer where and how I can, making sure to factor in the family needs as well as the various school communities.

It's funny, when my kids were little and playing with friends I would always tell them, "I'm not base!!" as they tagged me furiously in attempts to be safe from "it". But really now I am base. Especially now.

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