Posted in Blog

The New Normal: Our Coronavirus Isolation Schedule With Young Kids and Working From Home

I’m always interested in the details of others’ daily routines because there’s always something new I can tweak in my schedule by learning from others. Assuming others might be like me or just be curious, here’s our newest normal.

My husband and I are both authorized and encouraged to work from home for at least the next severals weeks (thank goodness!), so we get to tag team Mr. 4-year-old and Mr. 7-year-old. We tradeoff two-hour shifts and aim to maintain some flexibility as work calls and issues come up. Here’s the nitty gritty.

6am – 8am – I’m still getting up to an alarm just to get a few hours of work in before others start to stir. As much as I hate waking up to the beep of an alarm, I love having the quiet time for deep work, without IMs, emails, and other distractions. The kids wake up at some point during this time and play ABC Mouse.

8am – 10am – My husband logs into work while the kids and I eat, get dressed, and sit down to tackle whatever my one big learning activity is for the day. This is when reading and writing occur because I’ve already learned Mr. 7-year-old is exhausted after lunch and less forgiving of his errors. We’ve researched animals and started a book documenting where they live and what they eat, read books about how the human body works and then drawn diagrams, charted the colors of a basket of Easter eggs, and played with STEM toys to learn about electricity.

10am – 12pm – I return to work to respond to emails and take meetings. My husband is with the kids, typically having them complete worksheets, running around outside, or whatever. He has his work laptop with him since he’s always on call for spontaneous needs, so he’s focused on keeping the kids occupied with self-directed activities. If he has to take a call, the kids get educational screen time with PBS Kids or ABC Mouse.

12pm – 2pm – Sometimes I rejoin the family with lunch on the table, thanks to my husband, or sometimes I’m starting this shift making food. (I’ve been having the boys take turns making sandwiches for lunch too. They love the responsibility….for now.) When the weather is nice, post-lunch is outdoor time. We play games in the backyard, take walks throughout the neighborhood, or ride bikes. If we can’t go outside, then we find indoor activities like reading, playing with Play Doh, drawing or painting, hiding Easter eggs, doing household chores, whatever.

2pm – 4pm – This time slot is essentially a repeat of 10am – 12pm.

4pm – 6pm – My husband returns to work until everything he needs to do for the day is wrapped up. I’m back with the kids keeping it low key at this point. The kids will read me stories to earn marbles. If they haven’t gotten any screen time at this point in the day, they’ll likely get some now. I also have Mr. 7-year-old write a few sentences as a journal entry about his day. I’ll aim to have dinner ready by about 6pm.

6pm – 8pm – We eat dinner and clean up as a family. The kids then get ready for bed, and we wrap up the day watching an episode of The Great British Bake Off or reading a chapter from one of the Harry Potter books.

8pm and onward – This is my time to catch up with my husband (unless he’s retired to his man cave to play video games), read the news, review emails from the kids’ schools, and read books until I pass out only to wake up and do the whole thing all over again the next day.

I have to say, being thrown this curveball of having the rest of the kids’ academic year cancelled threw me off. I might have driven my husband a bit crazy obsessing about how to create a new normal for us because I’m the kind of person who always needs a plan. I’m open to changing it as we go, but I need an idea of how things are supposed to function. For instance, we started out working half-day shifts instead of these two-hour shifts. We found that too hard to balance work and kid needs, so we switched it up to something else.

We’ll see if or how this plan will play out when Mr. 7-year-old starts official distance learning with his class in mid-April. Right now, though, I’m happy enough with this schedule. Boy do I miss my alone time though.

Photo by Emma Matthews Digital Content Production on Unsplash.

Posted in Blog

Friday Fav: Nights Off

Earlier this week I shared on social media the sad new reality of our family’s monthly calendar update for April — blank and boring while sheltering in place to combat this coronavirus.

Since about the only “event” left on the calendar are mom and dad’s nights off, it sparked some interest. Let me share these with you and how much I love them! I look forward to my night off coming around ever week.

We started these nights off when Mr. 7-year-old was a baby and it’s been a tradition ever since. The person with the night free is off the hook from making dinner, cleaning it up, and putting the kids to bed. Typically, we are free to leave the house and do whatever we please or lock ourselves in the basement and binge watch Netflix or play whatever video game.

Why once a week? It works for us. Typically we share evening duties at home, and it’s a weekly chance to take a break. I know myself. If it’s not scheduled, I’m not going to take time for myself. It’s a way I hold myself accountable.

Of course, we’re flexible. Typically there’s one Friday night a month that I get to hang out and drink wine with my neighborhood friends for ladies night, so we switch off. My husband recently took a weekend off to binge play Dungeons and Dragons, which was completely fine.

These nights off have been particularly important for my mental health now being trapped here homeschooling and working what feels like 24/7. I think I’ll use my next night off to go to bed early!

Photo by Mutzii on Unsplash

Posted in Blog

COVID-19’s Impact at Home

I had so many other posts planned for this blog, and then COVID-19 happened. My other thoughts on my favorite purchases from Costco (not toilet paper!) and ways I aim to maintain my sanity with busy schedules just don’t matter anymore or aren’t important.

In the course of a week, where we live, we’ve had all activities and events cancelled. No cub scouts, no school, no sports, no libraries, no rec centers, no travel for spring break. My monthly calendar is depressingly bare. Schools have been closed until further notice, and the rumors I’m hearing is that teachers are being told to prepare to distance teach for the rest of the year. Our school year ends in mid-June…..

So, I’m sad about this. I’m sad for my boys who don’t get to go back to school and see their friends. I’m sad for those who are or will soon be directly impacted by this virus, either sick themselves, caring for someone who is sick, or mourning the loss of someone else. I’m sad for those who are losing their jobs because restaurants, schools, and “non-essential” services are closed. And I’m tired.

Thank goodness my husband and I each have jobs that allow us to work from home, and I largely have the flexibility to work whatever hours I want. With the kids home 24/7 and with the new plan to homeschool, I’m not getting up before the sun to crank out a few hours of work. Once I drag myself out of bed, it’s kind of nice because I’m the only one awake in the house and online at that hour, so I get a lot accomplished in that block of time.

Once the kids are up, we move on to getting them ready for the day and starting school work. We’re only one week into homeschooling, and it’s very obvious that I need to do the serious school work in the AM when they are fresh. Then it’s back to work to log some hours during the work day (which typically means I’m on back-to-back calls), making dinner, and winding down for bed. My free time to unwind has evaporated.

My opinion and mood of this entire situation changes frequently, even within one day. I do enjoy spending time with the kids. They think homeschooling is great (yay, I’m doing something right!) and will hopefully look at this time as fun-filled and family focused. They have FaceTimed regularly with family and friends, and we get outside every day.

I miss my friends and going to the bathroom without someone searching or shouting for me. Quarantine for me means being surrounded by people (I love!) constantly. I’m used to significantly more alone time. My husband and I are hanging in there. It’s a change in routine for us, which neither one of us tends to love, but we’re all home and healthy. We haven’t lost sight of what’s most important. Though, I’m going to continue hoping this virus dies out quickly and normalcy returns soon.

Photo Credit: Photo by CDC on Unsplash

Posted in Blog

Making the Best of Working and Learning from Home

So, this COVID-19 business is taking over all conversation, social media, and the news. It has certainly been the focus of my attention recently because on Friday both of our sons’ schools closed until at least April 10th. Four weeks. That’s four weeks that the kids are home unexpectedly when my husband and I are still slated to be at work.

I know that we’re not unique in this situation and that schools globally are making similar decisions. Really, in many ways, we’re lucky. My husband and I are capable of working from home, and with my part-time schedule, it’s easier to fit in the work hours I need each day while simultaneously keeping the kids alive and educated. I’m fully anticipating it taking 10 hours or more to get 6 hours of actual work done though. Blargh.

This weekend, I took some time to plan out how we’re going to make this work. Mr. 7-year-old and I created a checklist of things to do each day, with a focus on reading and writing and time to fit in whatever academics the teachers eventually email us. Until we hear from the teachers, the boys made lists of topics they want to learn about, like how to stop babies from crying (???) and how marshmallows are made.

With this move to online learning for K-12 kids, a variety of companies are offering discounts and free deals to use their products. Scholastic’s Learn from Home website is one resource we plan on using, and I also downloaded the free 30-day trial of ABC Mouse. The kids tried out ABC Mouse today and loved it! When I asked them why, they mentioned the “fun activities” and “learning path” where you can track your progress and earn digital prizes.

As long as the weather cooperates, I’d like to also get the kids outside every day. I’m keeping a list of what the boys have learned during this “break.” So far, Mr. 7-year-old has learned how to catch a baseball, and Mr. 4-year-old learned how to throw a mean heater!

We’ll see how this whole working and learning from home business goes. I’m sure there will be bumps along the way, but we’ll handle it. I’m such an introvert that it’s going to be strange having people in my space all of the time. Even bathroom breaks don’t see to go uninterrupted. I thought we’d grown out of that phase…..

Posted in Blog

2020 Goals and Progress So Far

As much as I identify as a planner, I never used to be into creating personal goals and New Year resolutions. But, I gave it a try at the start of 2019 and kept it simple. I had goals to drink so many ounces of water a day, cut out evening snacks, and other small steps to lead to healthier life choices. On the whole, I stuck to the plan and am happy with the results.

I wanted to build on my momentum, so at the start of 2020 I created seven personal goals and put them in my planner. I thought about what I wanted to do outside of work that would bring me personal fulfillment that relates to myself and my family. (My professional goals are a separate list.)

Again, I kept them simple or fun. I actually want to do these, not challenge myself so much I get disappointed or feel guilty for breaking them. Here are the goals and my progress so far.

  1. Take a family trip to Florida – On the books, as long as this coronavirus business doesn’t get more out of hand.
  2. Read 25 books – I’m 18 books in already. I’ve cut out a lot of wasted time scrolling online (goodbye, Reddit app!) to read instead and “magically” found the time to devour books. I’ll probably up this goal to 50 later on, if I feel like it.
  3. Donate a set amount of money to charity – This is a fun one! Our family has been discussing what efforts we want to support but haven’t made any final decisions yet.
  4. Go on at least 25 dates with my husband, with at least four of them being to new locations – We are at least seven dates in already, mostly to restaurants. We both work from home on Wednesdays and make lunch a date by going out to eat. So far, we have tried a new Italian restaurant nearby and visited The VOID (an immersive virtual reality experience). Side note, Matt loved The VOID. I was less impressed because it was short and expensive.
  5. Complete two home projects – No progress here yet. At the very least, I want to remodel our half bath and stain our deck.
  6. Complete a 5K race – I have a couple of race options for May. I just need to pick one and register, then I know I’ll train and actually do it. I need a goal to work toward or it will never happen. I’m not super interested in running or exercising in general, but I’m a fan of being healthy.
  7. Floss daily – I have a daily habit tracker (shown above) hanging in my bathroom to remind me to floss. The visual cue is essential or I’d totally forget. I’ve only missed a few days so far!

I review these goals about once a month, just to see how I’m doing and whether I want to focus on any of them for the month. For instance, this month I know I need to actually register for a race and start training. I haven’t run a mile in ages! It should be interesting….

Posted in Blog

Packing Hacks

I was out of town on business last week. I’m still amazed by how much less work it is to pack for myself and not the whole family. I still find packing to be a pain though….a delay in getting me to my destination. As I was preparing to leave, I was reminded of my favorite packing hacks. What am I missing though? What are your hacks? I share mine below for your consideration.

#1. Make a Reusable List

Now that our family uses Cozi, I can put my reusable lists there. For now, everything is still in Excel. I have lists for all kinds of trips: camping, family vacation, business travel, etc. These lists note all the items I have to pack. There’s a spot to check off each item as it’s packed, both when packing to leave and return home.

I also include sections on to-dos, both tasks I can do well beforehand and those that I need to do last minute. Because I’m always interested in others’ details (to get ideas of items I may be missing), below are some of our to-do items before a road trip.

Beforehand:

  • Bathe dog
  • Charge all electronics
  • Get gas
  • Hold mail
  • Notify neighbors/request they hold packages
  • Mow
  • Check car
  • Get cash
  • Fill prescriptions
  • Procure roadtrip snacks
  • Download media

Last-minute items:

  • Pack cooler
  • Fill water bottles
  • Wash final dishes
  • Pack car
  • Turn off electronics (e.g., computers)
  • Ensure doors and windows are locked
  • Set air/heat
  • Close curtains
  • Water plants
  • Take trash out
  • Set house alarm

#2. Minimize Your Luggage

To help reduce the amount of stuff I need to pack, I create outfits all using the same shade. For my last business trip, I mostly wore black. I took a couple of pairs of black pants, multi-colored blazes, a few sweaters/jackets, and then one pair of dress shoes in black. I pair up my clothes and roll up outfits to reduce wrinkles and minimize storage space in my luggage. Works like a charm!

#3. Pack Toiletries the Night Before

By packing my toiletries a day early, I can use them the night and day before I leave. I do this as a way to double check that I’ve packed everything I need. If I go to put on mascara and I don’t have any in my toiletry bag, then I know I forgot it and need it packed. There’s always at least one item that I find I need to add using this system.

Now that I have these packing hacks, I need to think of some ways to make unpacking more enjoyable. Ugh. I’ll pack (which requires fun planning) all day long, but the seemingly pointless task of unpacking always feels like such a burden. I’ll take it though, because unpacking means I’m home!

Posted in Blog

Summer Camp Chaos

I realize that it’s wintertime. In our neck of the woods, summer camp planning happens in January. You better have your top choices booked by early February or you may never get in.

Luckily, we live in an area with a ton of summer camp options for the kids. There are so many cool options that I wish I could go too! There are weeks dedicated to fun activities like building robots, engineering lightsabers, cooking competitions, creating stop-motion videos, and visiting waterparks.

January is dedicated to reviewing the available options and deciding how much I’m willing to spend and how far I’m willing to drive. I create a simple spreadsheet to track it all. The weeks of summer break are across the top and each row is dedicated to a different location/provider. I fill the cells with options.

I then sit down with the kid(s) to see what they are most interested in. They have the “tough” choices, like deciding between a week of fishing vs. art. #firstworldproblems

Then, the best part happens. The parents in my neighborhood sit down together and figure out where we have overlap and plan carpool weeks. It is AWESOME! I’m so thankful to have parents to team up with.

Some of these camps fill up so quickly that we have to sign up as soon as registration begins. I have about a million reminders set on my phone and in our Cozi calendar for the popular camps so I can get in the week we want.

The best part of about the chaos of summer camp planning is that it forces us to plan our summer early. If we want to take time off for vacation, then we need to at least pick the week early. We then plan for the grandparents. My husband’s parents and mine are amazing and volunteer to host the kids for a week at their houses for another whole set of family-fun and adventure.

See why I’m so jealous of the kids’ summers?

Photo credit: Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash