Posted in Blog

A Slice of Life View of Working from Home with Two Elementary Kids

I didn’t get a chance to write yesterday, so I’m going to skip the money series post this week and pick it up next Wednesday instead. Today I wanted to share a glimpse of what it’s like to work from home with two young elementary kids in virtual school all day. Here’s a day in the life of this working mom:

  • 1:30am – Woke up to my alarm to take Mr. 4 year old to the potty
  • 6:15am – Woke up to Mr. 4 year old wanting snuggles
  • 6:30am – Up with my alarm to start working after Mr. 4 year old fell back to sleep
  • 7:30am – Get kids and myself fed and ready for the day
  • 8:15am – Take the kids outside to walk and ride scooters
  • 8:45am – Get the kids logged into school and clean up the kitchen
  • 9:30am – Take a work call while sometimes answering kid questions and baking banana bread
  • 10:15am – Eat said banana bread snack with kids during their school break
  • 10:30am – Back to work
  • 12pm – Make, eat, and clean up lunch
  • 1pm – Bathe Mr. 4 year old who got covered in mud while playing outside in the rain and mud puddles
  • 1:15pm – Kids log back into school, while I write a blog post and respond to personal emails
  • 2pm – Back to work
  • 4:15pm – Read with Mr. 4 year old
  • 4:45pm – Make dinner and talk with husband
  • 5:45pm – Eat then clean up
  • 6:30pm – Scroll online
  • 7:15pm – Kids and I read together
  • 8pm – Kids to bed

From 8pm to my bedtime (which is anywhere from 9pm to 11pm) I don’t do anything I don’t want to do. I sometimes write, like tonight, but typically I watch a show or read a book. I’m spent and need to recharge.

Overall, this schedule is doable. We’re making it work with employers who are being flexible and two adults at home, and for that I’m extremely grateful.

In the past, I wrote about my experiment with time tracking. I don’t continue to track my time each week. However, in the future I’d like to take another week to track my time, then compare it to a pre-COVID week. I have a feeling that, although my days are more fragmented than ever before, the percentage of time I spent in each category (e.g., family, self-care, work, etc.) is likely the same. We shall see!

Photo: Today’s visitor while I was answering personal emails this afternoon.

Posted in Blog

Friday Fav: Self-Care Products

Given the sameness of every day, I have found that “spoiling” myself with some self-care products has been a nice stress relief. Here are some of my favorite products for an at-home spa day.

  • Sally Hansen’s Diamond Strength nail polish, particularly the Brilliant Blush color. It’s under $4 at Walmart! I love how long this brand lasts and its light shade with a shimmer. I’ve even attempted my own french manicure with this color as the base. I need some practice, but it’s certainly cheaper than a spa manicure.
  • Baby Foot Exfoliation Foot Peel is awesome! Stay with me here. It is kind of gross, but it’s so worth it. This is the best brand I’ve tried. You wrap your feet in these booties with “6 types of natural extracts” for one hour, wash it off, and wait for your feet to peel over the next several days. (You’ll want to wear socks.) Afterward, your feet are extra soft and worth the gross peeling feet stage.
  • Jergens Wet Skin Moisturizer keeps my skin moisturized without feeling sticky like you can sometimes with lotion. It is quick and easy with a sweet subtle scent.
  • Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hyaluronic Acid Hydrating Water Gel is a great facial moisturizer that is light and feels hydrating. A little bit goes a long way, which makes the small bottle last a while.
  • The Bow Ties and Bourbon scent from Bath and Body Works is one I love that my husband even tolerates well. It’s a seasonal scent, which means when I see it, I need to grab it immediately. I particularly like the “wallflowers” room air freshers and leave them in my bathroom so every time I walk in I get to smell the scent.

Husband, if you are reading this, bookmark this page for Christmas! *wink*

Happy Friday!

Photo by Camille Brodard ~ Kmile Feminine Creative Designer on Unsplash

Posted in Blog

Staying Prepared with a Medical Information Printable

As a planner, I like to be prepared for possible emergencies. I’m that person who packs medicines for kids when we take trips and has an emergency kit stashed in the house in case we need it.

One of the ways I prepare is by having a one-page print out of my medical information in my wallet in case I need it. I can’t tell you how handy it’s been to have at doctor visits to either help fill out paperwork or to give to the doctor for reference. My husband knows it is there as well, so he has all of my information available if I’m incapacitated.

I made some updates to the file this weekend. Now I’m inspired to make one up for both of the kids too!

In an effort to help others avoid reinventing the wheel, feel free to download an editable Word template of the medical information printable below.

Template of my medical information printable
Template of my medical information printable

The printable includes the following sections:

  • Personal Information: List what you want medical professionals to see right away and they most frequently ask for: blood type, allergies, contact information, etc.
  • Medication and Purpose: List the medication taken regularly, what it’s used for, and how often/what dosage you take.
  • Personal Medical History: Here I include dates and my age when I had various medical procedures, but I could see others listing different relevant information here about illnesses or diseases.
  • Vaccinations and Tests: Here are the dates and results of various tests run and vaccinations received. In the printable template provided, I left in the vaccinations and tests in my file, but there is space to add others.

Of course, the glory of having a Word document printable is that you can edit the form as you see fit. This is a starting point to think about what information you think is important to caption for you, your loved ones, and your doctors. If you adopt this tool, I encourage you to customize it to fit your needs.

Posted in Blog

Friday Fav: Comfy Outfits 24/7

I’m so behind on this “fashion trend” of wearing loungewear or athletic gear as the day’s outfit. Even though I’ve exclusively worked from home for years in my consultancy role, I’ve always taken the time to put on a decent outfit, perhaps a touch of makeup, and “put myself together” before logging into work for the day. It has helped me feel confident and ready to tackle my work tasks.

Once COVID hit our area in mid-March, I ditched all of that. I’m rolling out of bed at 5:55am to get a few hours of uninterrupted work time in or some exercise before the house begins to stir. I’m lucky if I’m out of my pajamas by 9am. I never wear makeup anymore.

When I get around to throwing on fresh clothes, it’s all leggings, sweats, t-shirts, and hoodies. I’ve purchased several of Costco’s 32 degrees clothes in the past few months, including the lightweight hoodies and ladies shorts. They are great for working out in or just wearing around the house. Who is going to see me anyway?!?

The 32 degree shirts work well for work video conferences. I can throw a nice blouse on overtop for client video conferences, and they work just fine alone for my video calls with colleagues who don’t care what I’m wearing as long as I’m dressed. (I totally have a nice shirt stashed in my office space that I can quickly thrown on if I need to unexpectedly join a video conference.)

I doubt I’ll keep this trend of wearing exclusively comfy clothes every day when some more formal sense of “normalcy” returns, but it works for today. Whatever gets us through each day is all that matters to me right now. I might as well be comfy while I transition from making erupting volcanos with the kids one minute and presenting a multi-faceted plan for teaching a three-day training exercise the next.

I’m so glad it’s Friday. I may need to celebrate the end of the work week with some dessert…. Yet another reason I love my comfy clothes. They stretch.

Photo by Mnz on Unsplash

Posted in Blog

Contemplations and the Complexities of Getting Older

This weekend we celebrated my birthday, and since it fell on a weekend day, I claimed Friday evening through Sunday as mine. We kept it low key, because ::gestures wildly:: but we were able to snag some scheduled time at our community pool and hang out with a few friends. All in all, a great weekend.

Getting older always seems to result in complex feelings for me. On one hand, I’ve never been bothered by the fact I’m getting older. I’ve always felt like a 45-year-old woman, so my age is just starting to catch up with my brain.

I’ve always been that person who wants to get a job they love (done!) and have a husband and kids they adore (done!) with a sweet dog at her feet (done!). As far as I’m concerned, I’ve got it all and hopefully many years to enjoy it. So, I don’t look at my birthday as a reminder of all the things I wanted to do with my life and haven’t yet achieved.

What I always find myself thinking around my birthday is how strange it will be to age passed my brother who died when he was 42. I don’t think he got all the things he wanted to accomplish in life. It’s been almost ten years since he died by suicide. Although time teaches one to deal with the loss, the pain never goes away. Most of the time, I’m able to deal with the ache of his missing presence. Since we were adults who lived far away from each other, we weren’t a daily part of each other’s lives. Birthdays are rough though. My brother never got to meet my boys or visit me in our current home. He has missed so much. He is missed so much.

I remember one birthday he promised to buy me the best present if I picked chocolate cake with chocolate icing for my birthday. That wasn’t a hard sell since it is my favorite. I really wanted a bike that year. My parents gave me enough money to buy one, but my brother bought me a helmet. I was young and thought to myself, “Huh? A helmet is the best present?” But it really was! There’s no way that my parents were going to let me ride a bike without one, and I definitely didn’t have money in my budget to get it. I’d forgotten all about the need for a helmet. And, anyone in my family will attest to the safety equipment being the epitome of the type of gift my family gives. We are a protective bunch.

Well, this post took a turn, but it captures how I’ve been feeling about my birthday this year. Here’s to remembering those we love, making more happy memories today, and looking ahead to better times. (Is 2020 over yet?!)

Photo by Becky Fantham on Unsplash

Posted in Blog

Friday Fav: Painting

I am not the family artist. That title definitely goes to my little sister who has the real talent, but I do enjoy abstract painting on occasion. Well, really, I like having the finished product hung in our home so we display something more personal than a store-bought art piece.

Ages ago I bought a huge canvas at Michael’s to paint and hang in the hallway. I stumbled across it when clearing out the basement during one of our COVID home projects, and I figured if I can’t find time to paint when stuck at home for months, then I’m never going to do it. So, one weekend afternoon, I dragged the canvas and art supplies outside and got to work.

The finished product

I didn’t really have a plan on what I wanted besides the paint colors. We had leftover house paint from rooms we’ve redecorated and sample cans for rooms we plan to redo. So, after priming, I added the grays and greens. The splatters were integrated by flicking the paintbrush at the canvas. I started to see the image as different generations of our families, so I added the subtle A in silver around the middle for ancestors and the gold lines to separate the main colors. The five overlapping circles represent our family (including the pup!), which I made by dipping the top of a red solo cup in ivory paint used for our interior trim.

Mr. 7 year old pointed out that my initials in the corner look like SS but also S5, so I said the S5 is for our five family members. As Bob Ross would say, it was a “happy accident.”

Now the canvas is hanging in our hallway. It’s my Friday Fav today, but it makes me smile to see it there every day.

On full display

Posted in Blog

My List of “I Don’ts” as a Working Mom

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about this blog and the impression it gives others. I don’t want this to be a Pollyanna view of life as a working mom. Life is messy. I’m not a “perfect” mom, and we certainly have bad days in this house. Our home is often loud with people shouting and running around. I put my foot in my mouth often. And if you could see how many books and toys are just haphazardly stacked all over our family room….Woah.

Regardless of these so-called “fails,” I am very happy with my professional career and my family life. In many ways, we are lucky to have the life we do. Much of it is also engineered by thought, listening to others, experimentation, learning from mistakes, and letting things go.

This blog is my outlet for sharing what works well for us, not to convince you to adopt my strategies or feel bad for doing it differently. I’m just another perspective. I’ve always enjoyed hearing from others so I can satisfy my curiosity and so I can consider new ideas to implement myself. This blog is my contribution to that space.

So, all of that has been swirling around my head, and then today I saw an article posted by Working Mother about all the things working moms are not doing. It was my eureka moment of how to structure this post to share my “I Don’ts.”

I Don’t…

  • Regularly meal plan – I hate the whole process of planning meals, grocery shopping, making food, insisting to kids that this is the only food they are getting, and then cleaning it up. I typically skip meal planning and pull something random together with what’s in the house. It then becomes increasingly stressful and annoying.
  • Clean – We have largely outsourced this with a cleaning service and the robot vacuum. I just worry about daily maintenance, mainly in the kitchen. Deep cleaning rarely happens. There’s no annual “Spring Cleaning” in this house.
  • Play make believe – You won’t find me on the floor playing with superhero toys or race cars. I pawn this task off on the brothers. They play these games very well with each other.
  • Stick to an exercise schedule – I’ve never made this much of a priority, even when I say it is something I want. I think it is related to being an Obliger.
  • Fix things – If a toy breaks, my immediate response is “talk to Dad.” I can repair many things, but it’s not my jam. My husband is quite the handyman anyway.
  • Always keep my cool – I’m patient until I’m not, and then everyone knows Momma ain’t happy.

I’m at peace with this list. I’m never going to be able to “do it all” 100% of the time. What I can do is make sure I spend my time and energy on what is important to me. I’m okay with that plan.

Photo by Bernard Hermant on Unsplash

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My Podcast Recs

I often enjoy a good podcast. For me, it’s a way to learn something new while I’m multitasking, whether that’s driving, exercising, or cleaning. My podcast consumption has decreased significantly now that I’m never commuting anywhere, but when I can sneak them in, here’s what I like to listen to most often:

Best of Both Worlds is hosted by Laura Vanderkam and Sarah Hart-Unger who are two working moms who discuss career-related and family topics. My caveat is they and their husbands all have well paying jobs, so many strategies discussed involve utilizing financial resources. I like their dynamic and the topics covered. I recently added to my “to read” list after episode 147: Summer Reading with KJ Dell’Antonia.

Freakonomics is hosted by Stephen Dubner, co-author of the Freakonomics books that I devoured ages ago. I enjoy how topics are explored in depth during each show with one or more interviews. Most often, the psychology of human decision making and the effect of unintended consequences is covered in a thoughtful and engaging way.

No Stupid Questions is a new podcast that’s a partnership between Stephen Dubner from Freakonomics and Angela Duckworth, university professor and author of Grit. These two co-host friends informally discuss a number of questions about human behavior. I feel like I’m sitting at a bar listening to friends chat. It’s a great mix of the banter I love from Best of Both Worlds and the intellectual simulation I enjoy from Freakonomics.

This American Life is hosted by Ira Glass. It is an extremely popular public radio show that covers a topic a week in good depth, typically featuring multiple stories centered around a theme. I recently listened to episode 709: The Reprieve, which explored how medical staff at one hospital in Detroit have been impacted by COVID-19, and episode 706: A Mess to Be Reckoned With about Lissa Yellow Bird, a woman who searches for missing people.

Reply All, hosted by PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman, has been a favorite in the past, but I haven’t loved some of their newer episodes. Too often I’m been on this hour-long journey in the podcast to have an unsatisfying and rather incomplete ending, which I find beyond frustrating. However, check out the archives. I really like their Yes Yes No episodes where their producer brings PJ and Alex a tweet he doesn’t understand and PJ and Alex give the background and explain it. Super tech support episodes are also good, like episode 147: The Woman in the Air Conditioner.

I’ve even introduced Mr. 7 year old to podcasts, and now the kids have a list of favorites I’ll have to cover in a future post. Let me know if you have any podcasts recommendations for either kids or adults. I’d love to explore more of them.

Photo by Juja Han on Unsplash

Posted in Blog

Friday Fav: Video Chats and Parties

Apps like Zoom, Facebook messenger, Skype, and Facetime have been a lifesaver for me the past few weeks. They have kept me and my family sane by connecting us with families and friends. The kids can have play dates, I can have virtual happy hours, school sessions occur, and my work gets done.

I think many of us were familiar with these tools and used them in various ways, but perhaps not as frequently or with the same groups of people. Now they are often the best way to share and communicate with others.

If you haven’t already connected your young kids to their friends and young family, I recommend giving it a try. I can’t follow Mr. 7-year-old’s conversation about Pokemon or whatever video game, but his friends and cousins can and seem to love catching up. I’ve seen kids playing video games together online, somehow playing hide and seek, connecting via Facebook Messenger for kids, and separately but somehow together having Bakugan battles.

Relatives can read stories, play board games (with the kids taking their turn for them), and sing songs. Sometimes just giving the kids a new audience is all they need to lift their moods (and give mom and dad a few minute reprieve).

My husband even uses such tech for online DnD sessions. We are all finding our way online to stay connected to each other. I hope you are too.

Photo Credit to Sergey Zolkin from Unsplased

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A Little Introduction

I’ve always been a planner. I was that kid in high school starting a two-week project the first night it was assigned so I wouldn’t get behind. I planned a solo weekend trip to London when I was studying aboard in Ireland just because I wanted to go. I plan projects daily at work, making sure tasks get done well, on time, and within budget.

I plan beyond the big stuff. I’m thinking about doctor’s appointments, summer camp schedules, meal plans, to-do lists, errands to run, gifts to buy, etc., etc., forever. It is often exhausting, but I realize that most of the time I like it.

I’ve humorously suggested to my husband that I’m the Director of Home Operations while he’s the Director of Special Projects. Anything that breaks or needs irregularly maintenance in the house or with the cars is all my husband’s domain — thank goodness! I focus on keeping home operations running smoothly.

I recognize that this division of responsibility isn’t an option for everyone or the best way to do it, but it works well for us. I’ve come with techniques that have worked well for me in this role of Director of Home Operations. I’ll be sharing them on this blog as it continues on topics like bedtime routines, the morning rush to school, summer camp planning, and coordinating after school activities.

The other half of this coin is work-related planning and organization. Work includes topics like planning performance goals and managing work priorities. I look forward to talking about all of these topics.