The Power of Sleep

When life gets overwhelming, instead nagging . . . try sleeping.

When life gets overwhelming, instead nagging . . . try sleeping.


Yours, ours, and theirs. It’s a tool. It’s a lifelong skill. When things get rough with a child, go back and clean up bedrooms and everyone's sleep routine. This is a bit of a paradox because you can’t MAKE someone go to sleep AND you can do a lot around the whole sleep topic to make the bedtime/sleep time more effective, successful and pleasant. Take a quick look at Underused Parenting Tool: Sleep for specific recommendations and sleep requirements broken down by age.

If you want more detailed information on sleep and the brain, check out The Organized Mind. Daniel Levitin shares detailed scientific research about sleep and it’s truly fascinating. Here’s a good juicy quote: “Sleep is among the most critical factors for peak performance, memory, productivity, immune function and mood regulation". If you live with children, who couldn’t benefit from better MOOD REGULATION? He is pro nap!  Check out what happens, for you and your young child when we nap: “Naps also allow for the recalibration of our emotional equilibrium-after being exposed to angry and frightening stimuli, a nap can turn around negative emotions and increase happiness." Think new power struggle de-escalation strategy – take a nap!

For the teen set, Michael Bradley has this sobering thought on sleep, ". . .some frighteningly large percentage of what we diagnose, therapies, and powerfully medicate as adolescent mental illness is actually sleep deprivation." Teens need nine hours a night, if they have to wake up at 6:30 am - that's a 9:30 pm bedtime with a DEVICE DOWN time of 8:30pm. Close to impossible in our culture of AP classes, full year sports, and time spent socializing online.

Never underestimate the power of sleep to increase family harmony and cooperation.

Notice What is RIGHT!

Noticing what is RIGHT promotes creative problem solving....

Noticing what is RIGHT promotes creative problem solving....

When my son was in middle school he had trouble getting up. He set his alarm, he hit snooze, I yelled, nagged, reminded and shamed. One night I decided I was going to take him to a high school open house in the morning, so he didn’t need to be ready for school. I thought this might be a good time to see what would happen if I did nothing. Carpool was coming to our house for his younger brother anyway. His alarm went off, he snoozed, it got later and later. When carpool tooted their horn he came RACING down the stairs, uniform on, teeth unbrushed, hair uncombed, backpack slung over his shoulder. I stopped him before he ran out the door and said, “Wow, I see a kid who wants to get to school on time.” I then informed him he was going to the open house.

Later we chatted about ways to wake up on time. He told me he loved that delicious twilight sleeping between snoozes, and it was hard to get up when he did that. I asked him if he would consider setting his alarm LATER (counterintuitive, and yet genius, I don't mean to sound braggy) and wake up the first time. More sleep, less snoozing. He was willing to try and guess what?! I probably had to help him get up once a quarter. I was no longer worried, upset, anxious or mad at him. I really saw him as someone who could get up on time.

Where can you notice and comment and appreciate what your kid is doing RIGHT?! guys, that means it goes for us too, no more carrying on that we are the worst parents!

Beware - We Are Not Parenting Ourselves

They have their own mountain to climb . . .

They have their own mountain to climb . . .

Have we accidentally found ourselves in the terrain of parenting our younger self instead of the actual child that lives in our house?

Were we asked to grow up too soon and do too much and maybe parent our own parent so we have given our child our, time, our attention and service? Instead of being grateful and energized by all we have done, they act entitled and unmotivated?

Did we party too much in college? It makes sense to us then put our kids on lock-down so they don't do the same thing, because we think, 'of course they would do the same' instead of observing who they actually are. Maybe they are not as compelled to alter their brains as we were  because they had an entirely different childhood then we had.

Do we feel like we need to control things, stop bad things from happening, give warnings and information because something big and scary happened to an adult in our life that we couldn't control?

Did we have an overly controlling and intrusive parent so we are super laissez-faire with our kid believing that freedom=faith in them?

Our kids were born on a different mountain then us, they have different dragons to slay, they have other demons in their heads. We cannot protect them from the journey, the dragons or the demons. 

When we feel like we are speaking to deaf ears, repeating ourselves, doing things that aren't solving the problem - STOP, and see if we aren't accidentally parenting ourselves. If we are, take a deep breath and look around, it's a new mountain and we are now the support team on their mountain journey. 

Quiet, Shhhhh, Hold On, Give Them a Second

Shhhh.. ...

Shhhh.. ...

You know that idea that you teach what you need to learn? THIS is what I teach because I need to learn it (and learn it again, and re-learn it, and learn it over and over).

Most of us parents talk too much. It relieves our anxiety, it makes us feel in control and we have so many good ideas. In addition, we aren't such good listeners and we don't practice the patience we so often ask from our kids. We rush our kids, we don't consider, or really even know their thoughts and desires. And you know why we might want to get super duper curious about what our children think, feel, want, need, desire?

Rudolf Dreikurs put it so well .. . . "We need to accept our children as partners in the business of creating family harmony. Their ideas and viewpoints are important, particularly since they act in accordance with them!"

Instead of lecturing your small people this week, try one or more of the below. . . 

1. Talk 80% less at your kids.

2. Give advice only when asked (eek, what? impossible, I know).      

3. What ever advice you want to give them - turn it around on yourself (stop procrastinating, clean your room, go work out, call a friend, get off your device, practice your piano).

4. When it's necessary to give them directions, go to them, get down on their eye level, touch their arm lightly and give the direction.

5. Give them a minute to respond, let their brains work, allow space for cooperation, accept some bad decision making because Mark Twain said . . “Good judgement is the result of experience and experience the result of bad judgement.” Best to get some of that bad judgment out of the way before they leave the house.

6. Ask an open ended question and then listen, and do nothing else. "How can mornings go more smoothly?" "What meal would you like to learn how to cook?" "How can we make 2018 better for our family?"

I promise, if you do one or two of these you will learn A LOT about the people you live with!


Family Life, it's stressful!

Family Life, it's stressful!

Stress - it's everywhere, we are stressed, our kids are stressed, we are stressed about being stressed. I've come to think about stress a bit like food. We can't NOT have it, AND we have to select nourishing stress over sugary/caffeiney/boozey stress. Let's do a listicle (less stress!):

Junk Food Stress

  1. mindlessly scrolling on social media
  2. comparing our kids to other peoples kids
  3. sugar/caffeine/booze
  4. over-scheduling so we don't have to deal with kids and screens at home
  5. over-spending, using a credit card when it can't be paid in full at the end of the month
  6. too much stuff (shoes, clothes, kitchen gadgets, sheets, towels... jammed up and squeezed in drawers and cupboards)
  7. reinventing the "getting out of the house" or "going to bed" routine every day
  8. our kids problems, that they can/should solve (getting up, homework, friends, fashion)
  9. how our co-parent parents, trying to get them to change
  10. procrastinating (start your taxes, people!)

Nourishing Stress*

  1. waking up early to workout, meditate, journal or read (it IS stressful to do this)
  2. goals that are just out of reach, and not totally crazy
  3. doing Special Time with our kids on a regular basis
  4. menu planning / healthy meals / healthy food in the house
  5. creating and maintaining routines
  6. our own problems (our career, our relationships, our hobbies)
  7. connecting with friends (can be on social media, or the phone, or in person)
  8. making & eating greens, caffeine free drinks, booze free evenings
  9. continually editing our stuff and calendar so it reflects our values
  10. going to the Dr's for annual exams, mammograms, colonoscopys, mole checks, etc

*The "aha moment" is that the good for you stuff causes stress also. Trying to fit it in, not wanting to, it's uncomfortable - all stressful. And at the end of the day the nourishing stress makes us feel good tired and the junk food stress makes feel wired tired.

Ask & Show, Don't Tell

WORDS-training copy.jpg

What do you think training is? (Pssst . . . this is a great way to start training your child – with a question about what they already know!) Go back and think about parents, coaches, bosses, and friends in your past that really trained you well. Did they give lectures? Did they use terse and annoyed voices? What elements inspired you to do well, to try something new, to persevere? Training is not telling your child to do something. Training is asking what task your child might want to do. Training is asking the child to show you what they already know about the task. Watch, listen, learn. Provide some instruction, encouragement, and independence. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Some tasks you can help your child train in include: putting chips in baggies, making a salad, folding towels, sorting laundry, making YOU a cup of tea or coffee, sweeping the porch, buying presents for relatives (use a budget) on Amazon, grating cheese, setting the table (fancy & not fancy), calling a doctor's office to make, cancel or change an appointment, riding the bus. 

Training is relationship building. Remember, do NOT train if it’s really game time, do not train if you are cranky, do not train if you are trying to MAKE the child responsible for his laundry. Training is a life-long skill and a real relationship builder. Such a win/win! Check out Splish, Splash . . . Chores and Seriously, How Do I Get Them to do Chores for a few more tips and tidbits and a sampling of chores by age. 

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Treat, Treasure or Trash?

It's tiiiimmmmeee. . . . .

It's tiiiimmmmeee. . . . .

The holidays are officially over. It's time to review Treat, Treasure or Trash.

I love, love, LOVE holiday cards. LOVE, and, it's time to let them go. I will sit down one last time to flip through each and every one. Appreciate everyones kids, vacations and pets and then I will release them. 

Treats: Your holiday cards to me. These are treats. I can watch your life from the sidelines and be grateful you thought of me. However, your holiday card to me is NOT a treasure. I do not need to file it, keep it, store it, box it up, label it, or put a rubber band around it. If I keep your treat, with too many other treats, it turns into trash that I have accidentally filed, kept, stored, boxed, labeled or rubber banded. Who needs trash in their house?

Treasure: My holiday card is a treasure to me. I keep a few so my kids can have copies. I throw a few into my daily tickler file so a few times a month I remember how cute my boys are, how great our vacations are and how much I still love my husband and the Bentley. 

Trash: After January 10th-sh, holiday cards are trash. We pitch the trash and open up our mantle piece, our piano top, our good silver bowl to emptiness. Emptiness invites calmness and creativity. Then we go on to live our own big lives and wait for the days to get short and the 2018 cards to roll in!

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The New You!

Oh, if only it were so as easy as declaring it on a Post It!

Oh, if only it were so as easy as declaring it on a Post It!

Everyone go to the gym? Did we all 'just say no' to that cocktail we promised ourselves we were giving up? Budget anyone? Bueller, Bueller, anyone Bueller?

Turns out we are still our same old selves on January 3rd as we were on Dec 31st. Unfortunately, just as we can't nag, shame, or yell our kids into being different, we can't nag, shame ourselves into our being different either.

Here are a five ideas to keep us realistic as we change, modify, exchange habits that no longer serve us.

1. Add, don't subtract. Instead of thinking, "I'm eliminating cheese!" Think, "I'm adding in guacamole and hummus."

2. 5% is better. Do not minimize tiny, incremental steps. "I wanted to yell every morning at the children to get up, I spoke in a normal voice that one morning. Gee that felt good."

3. It's all about the re-boot. Kitchen counters, front hallways, coat closets, shoe bins, kids cubbies need to be emptied, sorted and 'put to rights' FREQUENTLY. Do not stop because it didn't "STAY ORGANIZED". PEOPLE! Organizing is like sit-ups, you can't do them once and be slender and svelte. 

4. Date your problems. Read, Buy it a Drink!

5. You are still you, they are still them, even if it's 2018. Sit down and ponder that one!

Below are links to a few other posts to keep you thinking, inspired and encouraged about the same old, and yet improved and fantastic 2018 YOU!

This IS Tomorrow

Who Do I Need to Be?

Five Steps to Getting SERIOUSLY Organized this Year

New Years Resolutions

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Rest, Reflect, Reset

Bentley is taking a minute to review his year. . . . 

Bentley is taking a minute to review his year. . . . 

There is no parenting finish line, it's more like a giant, cosmic, joke of a game of whack a mole. So instead of trying harder, going faster, comparing ourselves to everyone else we need these tools before we start on a brand new year.

REST - we can't do it all, there are seasons of parenting that need to be respected and honored. Dreaming is a great thing to do while you are resting. try - First a Dream.

REFLECT - what worked in 2017, remember - we can only build our house on strengths, never on weakness. Did we yell less? Did we listen more? Did we laugh heartily? Did we minimize criticism? Did we have fun? Where was I too firm? Where was I too friendly? What tasks can my kids take on for themselves? Where am I over-parenting and where am I under-parenting? Do I need to think about my own life more and let the kids be? Am I working too much and I don't have enough time with them?

RESET - The new year is the perfect time to re-set. If you need help with household chores, maintenance and dinners, check out the FlyLady, she'll get you on track. If you need Parenting support, check out PEP (I'm leading THREE bootcamps this winter!). If you need workout help, try Beachbody On Demand. If you need nutritional support, check out Simple Well Being.

4 Time Management tips for Parenting

Arggghhhhhhh . . . too much to do in too little time!

Arggghhhhhhh . . . too much to do in too little time!

I love fresh inspiration for old stale problems! Julie Morgenstern, author of Time Management from the Inside Out offers up the 4D's as a way to handle overwhelm. I love it as parenting tool. Let's review!

Diminish - "Yes, and a wee bit smaller, please."

Time Management Hosting a dinner party? Diminish the overwhelm by getting part of the food pre-prepared,  Diminish the overwhelm by NOT using your fancy china, and still use the fancy wine glasses. Think, "How can I get the essence of a fancy party without going crazy."

Diminish: Parenting - Devices, Hello?! Screens are here to stay. Can we diminish the impact having  house rules on bedtime and wakeup time? Diminish by allowing screens in only the public part of the house. Diminish by having one "Device Free" day a week. Diminish by turning off the router at a certain time each evening.

Delete - "No thank you."

Time Management - Just don't do it. Say "no" to the holiday card if you don't love it. Say no to The cookie exchange if it doesn't bring you joy. Say no to the holiday traveling if it brings only stress.

Parenting - Fighting about shorts in winter, either delete shorts (take them out of their room) or delete the fight (you decide not to care about it). Trouble cleaning the playroom - DELETE 80% of crap/stuff in there. Yes, 80%, you will thank me!

Delay - "Yes, and later."

Time Management - Need to clean out the garage? YES! And we don't have time for that during the holiday season. Note your calendar, hire and organizer and schedule for a couple days in March.

Parenting - Child asks if they can go to an edgy concert. A fabulous phrase I learned from PEP, "If you need an answer now, it's no. If you can wait until tonight (or until I talk to your Dad, or until you bring me more information), the answer is maybe."

Delegate - "Yes, and not me."

Time Management - Vacuuming the house before our holiday party goes to our tween. We know we can do it better, AND we are grateful for the mediocre effort the tween does. Delegating means we appreciate help and we act like we appreciate the help.

Parenting - Sometimes we all need a little help. We can't really delegate parenting, and we can take breaks to re-energize. Hand off to a spouse (without a spreadsheet of instructions on how to do it OUR way). Hand off to a reliable teen, an hour to yourself in your house alone while children are outside at the park can do wonders for you, your child and that teen!

In a time management or parenting pickle, think the 4D's!

5 Resolutions for the Holidays

Originally published in the December 2017 Burleith Bell

Originally published in the December 2017 Burleith Bell

As we enter the crazy season of holidays and vacations and resolutions I’ve been thinking about how our parenting skills can get out of whack and take a beating during this time. Below is a list of holiday and New Years resolutions to ponder.

I resolve to live by “The Less is More” motto.

Less is more toys – let’s just start there.  This is the season of gift giving and let’s all be mindful that the junk we buy our family and friends becomes the  junk they have to nag their kids to pick-up.   The less you have in your house, the less you have to pick up.  Remember that most kids favorite game is to fight with their sibling as close to a parent as possible. No legos needed for that game to work.

I resolve to have realistic expectations.

If you have little kids and you travel on vacation, don’t expect much sleep.  If you have kids and it’s a holiday, expect runny noses, sore throats and head aches.  If you have kids and you go to holiday party, expect sugar highs and bed time lows.  If you have tweens expect that the sweater, or phone, or book you bought them is completely dorky and for losers.  If you have teens expect them to either be out with their friends or asleep.  If you have family traditions with tweens and teens expect eye rolls and groans and sarcasm.  Keep doing the tradition, but expect the push back.  Expect these things and you will have an easier time dealing with them. 

I resolve to take care of myself.

Nag yourself to make your own bed, clean your own room, go outside for some fresh air, find a play date, take a nap, eat something healthy, practice your musical instrument, read a book. You’ll be glad you did.

I resolve to be grateful.

We live in a culture where it’s never enough.  Never enough money, never a good enough education, never a clean enough house, never a healthy enough meal. We live with an attitude of scarcity.  Let’s buck the system and resolve to be grateful for what we have.  Let’s live with an attitude of gratitude.  We don’t have to Keep Up with the Kardashians, let’s just be grateful that we are so fortunate to live in a close knit, beautiful and diverse community.

I resolve to volunteer.

The best way to get that attitude of gratitude is to volunteer your time and services. Shovel a neighbors walk, have your child decorate a homemade card for your neighbor’s birthday, take a dish to the folks down the street with new twins, pick up some trash in front of the bus stop.  There’s always a way to pitch in and it always makes you feel better.

In Conclusion

The holidays are part magic and part drudgery, part delight and part exhausting.  Resolve to abide by one or two of these resolutions and see if you can glide through the season with more grace and gratitude.

Please e-mail me if you have any parenting/organizing questions. Check out to see upcoming online or In the Neighborhood presentations. Join me for a PEP Parenting Bootcamp January 19 and 20 on Capitol Hill and February 2 and 3 in Kensington, MD (save 20% if you register before 2018)

Giving, Gifts & Thank You Notes

Originally published in the December/January issue of the Glover Park Gazette

Originally published in the December/January issue of the Glover Park Gazette

Tis the Season! The season of giving, gifts and thank you notes. We can make it hard on ourselves or we can make it easier on ourselves (note easier, not EASY, there is a difference). Try one or more of these tips and tidbits.

Giving: What are ways our kids can give gifts that are truly giving. Can they give the gift of service? What are they good at that they could give to relatives – a 14 year old can give the gift of teaching a grandparent how to use skype and then be available to skype once a week with said grandparent. For friends can they give the gift of experiences – a great birthday gift is a coupon for a sleepover and ice creams sundaes.  On the flip side what can we give our kids that is creative and useful? I love a room makeover budget. “Honey, we can spend this much $ and I have this many hours to devote to elbow grease. What should we do? Paint the walls, sew a new duvet cover, purchase a new dresser?” Working together, dreaming together, bumping up against money and time limits together all build and nurture the relationship without adding CLUTTER!

Gifts: Our kids will probably get a lot this year. NOW is the time to consider zero population growth. Take a minute to consider what reasonably fits in your kid’s room, playroom, basement. Then, as items/gifts/offerings come into your house donate, trash, give away a similar item to achieve zero population growth. Parents, we will have to plan on lots of follow through, “Becca, you may have that new book Aunt Sarah gave you when a book is put in the donate bag.” Be unimpressed by the promise of, “I’ll do it later.” Or “It’s soooooOOOOoooo unfair.” Stand your ground with love and compassion. “It can be hard to choose and donate things, I understand.” Zero population growth is a firm and friendly limit, and best if you used by all (psst, that means you too – think books, kitchen gadgets, clothes, any other stuff you love and ‘collect’).


Thank You Notes: Kids are developmentally unable to understand the WHY of writing thank you notes AND I believe it’s a skill and habit we should instill. They don’t understand why because they have never stood at Sullivan’s Toy Store having no idea what to get their 11 year old nephew, and they have never spent THEIR money on presents for others. Us explaining to them might make us feel superior, and it doesn’t impress them one bit. This year try some of these ideas. BEFORE gifts arrive have kids write envelopes and stamp them to the regular gift givers, that way the note is ready to rock and roll once the gift is received. Give the gift to the child AFTER the thank you note has been written. We must endure complaining and whining to complete this. Please do NOT warn, give in and then COMPLAIN the thank you note was not written. Have them use paperless post to write emails online. This will need follow through by a parent. That means you can’t just tell them to do it and it will be done. Hello?! We can do ours at the same time as theirs, we can dice it up into small pieces, we can hold onto the gift until the email is done.

Giving, gifts and thank you notes all hold mystical and magical lessons and relationship building tools.

Please e-mail if you have any parenting/organizing questions Check out to see upcoming online, or IN THE neighborhood presentations. Join me for a Parenting Bootcamp – January 19th & 20th  on Capitol Hill February 2nd & 3rd in Kensington, MD.





Expectations vs. Reality

Expectations . . . 

Expectations . . . 

Expectations: Cozy car ride talking to each other and playing the alphabet game and singing Raffi songs.  Delicious home cooked nutritious meals where children try new foods and eat yellow and green and orange things.  Getting to that pilates class &long walks after meals.  Playing board games and doing puzzles. Combed hair, none of it in eyes, all of it in a hairband and no squabbles over styles or washing. Wearing the fancy & nice clothes Nana bought, all of it ironed, most of it unstained.  Loving and understanding relatives who honor, cherish and cheer for each other. Sleeping in, oh I'm not crazy, I read that other post, Expectations 101, just a couple of mornings of uninterrupted sleep will do.                                             

Reality . . . . 

Reality . . . . 

Reality:  Traffic, she is on his side, they don't like that song, every 35 minute bathroom breaks.   Carbs, sugar, booze, caffeine, carbs, more carbs. More booze, caffeine, carbs, lethargy, complaining, fat pants.  Begging and pleading and even crying to get them off screens and standing up.  Lice.  Wrinkled shirt, I took that darn PEP class and let them pack, they forgot their khakis and now there is no choice but sweats for Thanksgiving dinner.  Snarky and gossipy relatives who judge the kids, the parenting, the lice, the sweat pants.  Four year old who wakes up at 4:30 am, urgent care, strep throat.

Expectations 101, Read it, learn it, try it, live it.                

*Originally posted in 2014. Still makes me giggle.

The Gratitude Attitude

Originally published in the November 2017 Glover Park Gazette.

Originally published in the November 2017 Glover Park Gazette.

Gratefulness as a parenting tool is often, often overlooked. We minimize gratefulness and its quiet power. We NEED it when the days get short and the holidays are pressing upon this. Gratitude gives us comfort and courage.

Let’s take the time to be grateful for the teeny, tiny itty bitty miracles that children bring us. When they go to sleep. When they master reading. When they learn how to walk. When you buy the last bag of diapers. When the double stroller breaks and kids need to get out and walk (I will NEVER forget that day, 16 years ago, joy, joy and more JOY!). When someone miraculously hangs up a towel. When you hear them thank your Mom friend for the chicken nuggets at the potluck.

We can be grateful for the contrast. Who knew that going out with ADULTS ONLY was so incredibly amazing? Who thought that sleeping until 8am could be a luxury? Anyone else feel like they lost 17 lbs JUST by traveling on an airplane with NO children? I never knew how beautiful and restorative simply being alone could be.

Honestly, I think one very overlooked gift children bring us is living DIRECTLY in THIS moment. Kids give us no choice but to be in the here and now. Their mercurial moods keep us wide awake and responding to life as it is. When we are responsible for another human our self-obsession tends to diminish, what a relief!

Our kids give us the gift of learning, re-learning, and learning one more time that we are not in control of the universe. All our worrying, our obsessive planning our crazy Googling, none of that can control completely how our lives, or their lives, unfold.

Finally, our kids give us the gift of so much love. Love we didn’t even know was in our hearts. Anne Lamott sums it up well, “I don't remember who said this, but there really are places in the heart you don't even know exist until you love a child.” 



Talk, Talk, All You Do to Me is Talk Talk

We all need more tools . . . 

We all need more tools . . . 

Remember "I Told Them Challenge" ? Take a minute if you need a refresher, I'll wait. . . . Has anyone else noticed that people respond WAY faster to new action then they do to old lectures? Talk is cheap, and rarely works how we'd like it to. We can keep talking AND let's add in some of these new ideas.


Instead of "I told them to do their homework." Try asking a curiosity question and . . .  wait for it . . . LISTEN to what they have to say. We may learn they want to wake up early and work in the morning. We may learn they prefer to do homework after a snack. We may learn they like to do homework after their little sibling goes to bed. 


Instead of "I told them to clean their room.", try - de-cluttering so each bedroom is 15 minutes from clean. Take everything out that isn't a book, stuffed animal or clothes. Ditch 40% of their clothes (we all wear only 20% of what we own). 

Be Willing / Unwilling

Instead of "I told them to put their clothes in the hamper.", try informing them that you are willing to wash all the clothes in the hamper and un-willing to pick up clothes off the floor. THEN DO THAT without REMINDERS or feeling bad when they cry.

Use pre-frontal cortex

Instead of "I told them to throw out the microwave popcorn bags.", try anticipating that they won't throw out the popcorn bags and inform them that you are going to take a break from purchasing them for two weeks until you can rest up. 

Zip the lip and get into action! You'll be surprised by what you learn.