How We Are Staying Sane in This Time at Home…And How You Can Too

Ok, so this is now our new normal…kids at home, off school (though not entirely), working from home, husbands working from home, parks, playgrounds and other spots not accessible…it’s a lot of “at home time”. Now, I’m a homebody and introvert as it is, so this isn’t necessarily a huge deal for me, but I recognize that for some people it can be quite jarring. Throw in kids being home from school, but not able to go do anything and then have to do homeschooling, along with trying to work from home or just keep the house clean and the laundry done…it’s a lot. So, how do we stay sane?

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I’ve both worked from home and been a stay at home parent (doing both of those for about 3 years) and have come up with a couple of things that helped me. I also have found a few resources that helped out with educational purposes (for our age/grade level), boredom, and just general resources to have and today I’m going to share it all with you in the hopes that it can be helpful to someone else.

Tip #1: Get dressed. This is probably one of those things that I just preach about all the time. I’m a firm believer in how you look/carry/take care of yourself plays a direct role on your outlook and productivity. So, every morning get up and get dressed. I don’t care if that is putting on leggings and a sweater, your comfiest jeans, or dressing to the nines with heals and a smart outfit, just get dressed in something OTHER THAN your sleeping clothes. While it may seem like we don’t have a lot to do during this time, getting dressed will have a huge affect on your mood and outlook. Start doing this and you’ll feel less like just a bump on a log.

Tip #2: Get Active. We can’t do a lot right now. In our area all of the parks, hiking spots, and outdoor activities have been largely closed off as an extra precaution. That doesn’t mean that we can’t move our bodies. We are still able to go for a walk in our neighborhood (which we are doing as long as the weather holds out for us), we can do indoor at home workouts (which we do), and we can have spontaneous dance parties (which we also do…a lot). Being active, getting your body moving and your heart rate up, releases those feel good endorphins in your brain and helps you stay uplifted.

Tip #3: Eat Properly. I think this is the one that I probably struggle with the most (especially right now), but what we put in our bodies plays such a role, similar to what we wear. This is not the time to just eat junk food, pig out because we are bored, or snack all day long. It’s tough because we are at home all day and have easy access to whatever we would like in our kitchen, but avoid it. Eat as you would if you were not home and you will feel infinitely better. Personally, I find that if I am eating a lot of junk or crap food, I not only want to eat more of it (seriously who ONLY eats the recommended portion of chips?!), but I also end up feeling even more like a bump on a long afterwards. Stock your fridge and pantry with healthy options (I’m still working on this) and leave the junk food for special moments that you really need them.

Tip #4: Set a Flexible Routine. This one applies more to those of us with kids (specifically preschool/elementary school aged), but I find that a flexible routine really helps when it feels like everything has been upended. What I mean when I say flexible is that I try to be understanding when the boys have had enough of an activity. Let me give you an idea…Our days breakdown like this:

9AM : Everyone is up, dressed, fed/eating

9:30AM-12:OOAM: Indoor Playtime and School Work. The boys will play throughout the house and I will try and squeeze in worksheets, coloring, reading, etc. to continue to stimulate the brain activity and learning that Colton at least has gotten with school.

12PM: Lunch

12:30PM-2:00PM: Outdoor Play. It’s been much warmer and more spring like the past couple days to in between lunch and naptime we will run outside and play. I’ll take a book out there and read as well.

2PM-3:15/30PM: Andrew Nap Time. Colton and I will spend about 10-15 minutes reading a book and then he will get a little online educational screen time. If he has done a lot of “schooling” already then he can have some screen TV time. This is also when I get on the computer and do some writing if needed OR I’ll do a bit more reading. Overall it’s quiet time across the board in our home.

3:30PM-4:00PM: Afternoon Snack. We didn’t used to do an afternoon snack, but since school has started up it’s been instituted.

4:00PM-6:00PM: Walk/Bike Ride/ Outdoor time. Again, trying to soak up the weather when we get it, this is just another extension of playtime. If the weather is bad we will do some indoor activity or snuggle up for a movie.

6:30PM: Dinner

Post Dinner the boys have playtime in their rooms until it is time to clean up and get ready for bed. This is important as it gives my husband and I a chance to catch up and have some time together as well as a little quiet just in general.

Now, I just use blocks of time within the day. I found that I prefer planning in these types of increments (that’s a whole separate post), BUT it gives for flexibility. If Colton is really struggling to focus at times, I can let him do what he likes, and we will come back to that particular activity later. However, it’s also not just a free for all in our day. The boys know when they are going to get to do something within the day (i.e. Colton knows that we will do “school” in the morning, but he can play the computer school in the afternoon). This obviously changes based on what your school is actively doing about online learning, but for us this works. They get a chance to both learn school subjects that they need to, but they also get some real world learning too.

***For educational needs we are using a couple of different resources. First off we have a workbook that we brought with us for preschool aged children that works through prewriting skills, shapes, letters, numbers, and other necessary skills. We do a couple of work pages out of that along with the other resources listed below.

I print out math worksheets from k5learning.com. Most of these are geared towards K-5th Grade (as the web address would imply), but there are a couple that can be adjusted to the preschool age level as well. I have printed a couple of letter worksheets from this site as well.

Scholastic has a site that breaks down a daily guide HERE. They supply a book, a movie, and then some fun interactive games that include both and stimulate brains. We’ve only done one or two days through this, but Colton has really enjoyed the entire process. It brings some of the things that his teachers are working on in the classroom into our home (the little quiz about first, next, last was a big thing).

Abcmouse.com This has been a big one for us. We used this prior to the closure, and both of our kids absolutely love it. Colton has learned so much through the site and Andrew has loved watching them read the books to him. It makes me feel a little bit better for them having screen time since they are learning something (beyond just the Paw Patrol theme song and missions).

Youtube has some great educational options to choose from as well so you can turn that screen time into something too AND many zoo’s are doing Facebook Lives or Videos talking about their animals while the zoo’s are closed (Cincinnati has been a great option). I have also printed off the Discovery K12 homeschool sites preschool “syllabus” or learning guide just to make sure I touch on all the different options for what the kids need to be learning.

There are so many more out there that I haven’t even touched on. We are in a unique situation with only having one in school and it being preschool, so it’s pretty easy to work with. I know a lot of elementary schools (and upper level) are doing an online learning program and may have different requirements. My only suggestion would be that if it falls into their rules and parameters that you work with your kids. If they are really struggling to focus and they can take a little break, let them.

Tip #5: Keep in Touch. I came across this on Social Media and thought it was a great idea. If you are an extrovert, or someone that just needs adult contact beyond your significant other or roommate, or parents, then video chat with friends! Technology is a great thing and we have such an opportunity right now with the ability to very easily have face to face conversations over our phones. Set up “phone dates” with your friends and chat with them over the phone or through video. It may not be exactly what you picture, but it’s better than absolutely nothing.

Tip #6: Keep Your Brain Engaged. Another big one just in overall terms of feeling “productive”. Here’s the gist of what I am going to say…don’t spend all of your time binge watching Netflix, or scrolling Social Media, or watching YouTube. Look, I’ve got nothing against a good binge watch, wasting away a few hours watching a show that is just that addicting. I’ve done it many a time and will probably do it quite a bit over the next bit of time. BUT don’t let that be the only thing that you do. If you are spending that much time looking at a screen, letting your mind lull, it’ll start to play out in other areas of your life. Take this time to get your brain engaged in something you love or something you’ve always wanted to do. I know that I plan on catching up on a lot of reading, which serves as both a brain engaging activity AND a means of escapism. I also plan on doing a fair amount of writing (even though my posting schedule is drastically changing- more on that soon). There are so many options to keep your brain engaged, pick up a book (need ideas? HERE is a link to my goodreads where you can look at what I’ve been picking up), start a blog (this blog post by Helene In Between is a great guide if you are lost in that process, but want to do it), learn a new skill, take an online class (here’s a good option to search classes, but there are SO MANY free college courses out there and sites like SkillShare that charge a monthly subscription, but give you such a broad scope of tailored classes). All those things that you’ve been saying of I don’t have the time for this? NOW you do. So, use that time. Engaging your brain will make you feel productive, it’ll make you feel like yourself, and have you feeling positive about staying home all day.

Ultimately my tips can be summed up into ways of making this time at home, this abrupt change, into something positive. Keeping our spirits up and our outlooks positive is about the ONLY WAY we are going to get through this with our sanity. As always, caffeine is our friend (except when it disrupts our sleep), music is a great way to bring a smile all around, and checking in on friends and family is a must. Do you have any tips to add?

Recommendations and Tips for – A Stay in Inverness

Well, we’ve come to the final recommendations and tips (and just overall final) post regarding our Summer Holiday. It’s been so much fun sharing “all of the things” with you and being able to relive some of our favorite spots. I left this one for last because Inverness just holds such a special place in my heart, in fact the entire Highlands does. It is so incredibly peaceful there and it just has a certain…way of life that really appeals to me. I definitely plan on going back one day. You can take a look at all of the things that we did while we were in Inverness HERE.

I’m actually going to start backwards and mention the one thing that we wished we could have done, visit the city of Inverness. By the time we got to this destination we were experiencing some travel fatigue, the boys were definitely exhausted, and we honestly just had a couple of light easy days. This meant that we missed out on a couple of things that we would normally have liked to do. I think if we had had one extra day or if we had started our Scotland time in Inverness it would have been a little different. So, the city of Inverness was one spot that we wished we could have gone. It’s always fun to see other cities and spots and experience the local charm of a place.

Recommendations:

Don’t stay in the city. Honestly, get out of the city and into the proper highlands. You can do this by jumping on AirBnB or looking up cottage sites in some of the smaller little towns. Not only is the area just gorgeous, but this gives you the option to actually experience the Highlands, it’s beauty and its people. We stayed at a place called Taffs Barn (which you can find on AirBnB HERE and we absolutely loved it. It was the perfect spot and if it fits your needs, I would recommend staying here. The owner is an England transplant and was so incredibly nice and welcoming to us.

Culloden Battlefield. This is such a big part of the Highlands and their history, so I would definitely recommend a stop. The exhibit is very well laid out, although you definitely are forced to pick a side and stick with it (as would the clans and people of the area when the rebellion was occurring) and it contains a lot of interesting history. Walking the battlefield is an eerie experience, but you can take a look at the stones laid out for the different clans that died at Culloden.

Loch Ness Visitor Center. I would also really highly recommend a stop here as well. There is so much more to Loch Ness than the superstition of a monster in its waters. I wasn’t aware of all the facts about the Loch and all of the different things that have actually happened there. The exhibit does a really good job of melding the mystery with the real-life events and has a really neat video exhibition as you walk the different rooms. There is no need to pre book tickets for this spot, just be prepared to potentially way depending on what time you get there.

Finally, Urquahart Castle. I’ll be blunt, I don’t know that this was really worth the entrance fee. It was really neat (you know how I feel about castles), and while I felt like the views were incredible, they were marred by the shear amount of people that come through. The views are almost better on the hike to get into the castle (pre parking lot and entrance) than at the actual castle itself. The castle has some history to it, but mostly just a couple different Lairds (Lords) and then they blew it up themselves. Also, parking is very limited, both up at the entrance and down where they re direct you to park. If you are going to go, make it early (earliest possible) and you may get lucky with light crowds and easy parking.

Tips:

I don’t have too many tips for Inverness that I haven’t said already for Edinburgh.

You’ll definitely want a car while you are in The Highlands as things are a little bit more laid out (aka it took us 30-40 minutes to get to Loch Ness from our AirBnB) and you’ll definitely want a rain jacket and slightly warmer clothing.

And that is it! That’s the end of our Summer Travels. I’m a bit bummed to have come to the end, but I’m also glad I got to share it all with you. What was your favorite stop? What will you be adding to your travel bucket list?

Recommendations and Tips For: London England

This morning I am going to be sharing some of the things that I learned from our recent trip to London. We spent a total of 4 days in London and saw quite a bit while we are there. I know we didn’t even come close to seeing a fraction of what is there, so I will only be remarking on what we did see, rather than anything else.

Recommendations:

Alright, we are going to start things off with something easy- I would recommend seeing The Tower. You don’t have to spend all day here like we did, the most would be probably 3 hours if you really wanted to do it. I would recommend doing the Yeoman Warder tour as they can give you quite a bit of information and then you can pick and choose from there as to what really interests you. If you do want to see everything and have the time to do so, I would plan for at least half the day spent here.

I would also personally recommend The Tower Bridge. Not only is walking the ramps cool, the view is dramatic and breathtaking in its own way. I would recommend going when they first open, rather than at the end of the day. Crowds can get big, lines can get long, and EVERYONE wants to get that perfect picture on the viewing bits. Save yourself the trouble and do this first on your day ha-ha.

Ok, now for City Tours. If you’ve read my “What We Did” post (you can catch it HERE), you know that we decided to just walk the streets of London. London has a wide variety of ways to see the city from walking tours to the Hop On, Hop Off buses and it is very unique to what works for you and your family. I heard from several people that they really enjoyed the bus tour as they got information that you wouldn’t get just by walking (such as where buildings were hit during World Wars, different routes for royals, parades, etc.). I also know that there are several different walking tours geared toward a variety of interests. For us, walking was what we chose and what I would recommend. The architecture and street scene of London is just so incredible that I feel like bus tours and such don’t do it true justice.

Now, I’m going to give what will probably be a VERY unpopular opinion…The London Eye is not a “must see” attraction. <gasp> What?! I totally thought that it would be a must-see thing, and while I really loved it and had fun looking all around and seeing the city from above, I didn’t find it to be anything truly groundbreaking or incredible. I don’t know if that is just because of what all we have done or what we like to do, but it just wasn’t…”it” for me. The queue’s move fairly quickly, my husband timed it out to waiting in the queue for 35 minutes and the wheel itself is 30 minutes. If you want to do it, do it, but I found Tower Bridge to be a slight bit cooler.

Tips:

Public Transportation. Public Transportation. Public Transportation. The London Tube is one of the most efficient public transports I’ve ever been on. Trains run every 5 minutes or less, if one station or line has an issue there are several other options, all of which are detailed on various boards when you walk into the station, and everything is very organized. We purchased day passes every day, which were not too terribly expensive, and they covered our entire travel for that day. It didn’t matter how many times we got on and off, as long as we stayed in our zones (which were extensive and big) we could just use the one pass. It’s super easy and straightforward to navigate and, honestly, I think the rest of the world could take a lesson or two.

Book-Attractions. This is honestly just a Europe thing that we’ve now learned about in the past couple times we’ve traveled. A lot of places have the option to pre book tours online and if you have the option take it. Often times the prices may be cheaper by booking online, you are guaranteed of your entrance time as queue’s can get busy or tickets may actually sell out(two places, The London Eye and a Museum in Edinburgh didn’t have open entrance times until several hours after we got there and doing the Warner Bro’s studio tour was completely sold out months ahead of our trip date), and it’s easy with either printing your own tickets or doing a will-call and picking them up on site.

Budget Appropriately. London isn’t expensive necessarily, but it also isn’t the cheapest place to stay. You pay for everything (except table water, which was a nice surprise after Germany), and the costs can add up quickly. Parking is a cost that most people don’t think of, but even to just park your car at the hotel will have a charge. Overall, I found the cost of travel wasn’t terrible, but it is something you will want to budget a little bit.

Things You Should Do and Tips for: Austria (Salzburg and Berchtesgaden, Germany)

We just recently spent a weekend away in Austria, which you can read about HERE, and it is a place that I would recommend that everyone and anyone should visit. It has a wide variety of things to offer for any taste and it is absolutely beautiful. I don’t have a lot of “tips” as some of the things we wanted to do, we couldn’t, but I figured I would share what I did learn with you.

Recommendations:

In Berchtesgaden there are two spots to visit. The first is Eagle’s Nest which we did not get to go to. I can’t say much more other than keep an eye on the weather and go during the July/August time period. There were still weather issues when we visited. The second spot is the Berchtesgaden Salt Mines. I would highly recommend this place because not only does it make the whole concept of a Salt Mine interesting and fun. It combines light shows with music, rides, and costumes. It is great for any age (especially the kiddos).

In Salzburg there is so much…

I highly recommend the Fortress, Hohensalzburg Fortress, at the top of the hill. Not only is the fortress itself pretty cool, but the view from atop the tower can’t be beat. If you are worried about the climb to get to the top, you are able to take a funicular up (and down). The base of the funicular is located near Salzburg Cathedral and is a good “jumping off” point for everything else as well.

Speaking of Salzburg Cathedral, I would highly recommend a stop in here. It is absolutely stunning inside and just take in the atmosphere and reverence. You can walk through the halls and head down to the crypt to complete your viewing of the Cathedral.

I would also recommend checking out one (or both if you can) of Mozart’s homes. We chose the birthplace, but you can easily do both if you would like to. The birthplace dealt with his birth, early childhood, and some of his composing as well as bits about his family. The residence deals with the bulk of his composing, everyday life in adulthood and has most of his instruments from later life.

On the Sound of Music tours, I personally chose not to do that. The tours that we were finding were close to 4-5 hours (which can be lengthy with children and a husband who isn’t super interested), on the more expensive side of things, and honestly I think you can cover the spots that you want to see pretty well on your own. I picked out a couple of spots that related to the story or the characters and went to those rather than doing a full tour.

Tips:

Tip #1: A Vignette.To drive in Austria you must have a vignette affixed to your car. You can purchase these in gas stations, at the border, or online (each has different date requirements and options), but if you do not it is a pretty hefty fine. They are inexpensive and easy to buy. Driving in Austria is really not any different than driving anywhere else in Europe (exception being the UK)  and even though we made use of the public transportation, we still really enjoyed having our car as well.

Tip #2: Getting registered.I don’t know if this was done this way simply because of where we were staying, or if it is a country wide thing, but we had to be registered by the AirBnB owner while we were staying there and pay a slight tax. By doing this though, we got a tourist “welcome” card of sorts which gave us a discount on some museums as well as free use of the public transportation (trains and buses).

Tip #3: Public Transportation.Seriously the public transportation in Europe is top notch and I really think you should make use of it whenever you can. It is just so easy to hop on a train, go to a city, not have to worry about parking, traffic, or anything with your car, and then hop a train to go home when you are done. The boys love riding the “choo-choo’s” and we’ve just really adapted to them (not that we really had to).

I don’t really have any other specific tips, but as always I recommend looking around on AirBnB for your accommodation. Not only can they be cheaper than a conventional hotel, but you can get some pretty stunning spots. This time we stayed in the mountains without anyone really near us. It was such a relaxing spot and watching the sunrise/sunset, hearing the birds chirping, and the trees swaying brought a whole new meaning to being in the Alps.

 

Do you have any tips or recommendations for a trip to Salzburg/Berchtesgaden?

Things You Should Do and Trips For : Fussen, Neuschwanstein

Not too long ago we spent one of the most incredible weekends away in the little town of Fussen Germany. You can read about everything that we did while we were there HERE. The entire weekend was like a dream come true and I can’t wait to share some of the things that we loved and would recommend…which is, well, everything. I say that jokingly, but seriously this entire trip should definitely go on a travel bucket list. This will be a shorter tips post as there isn’t as much to do/we didn’t do as much on this trip.

Recommendations:

We shall start with the obvious, the Castles.

I would recommend reserving a pass for both Castle’s at the very least.You can pre reserve tickets online, however you do have to pick them up an hour before your time. Since you are already there you might as well see both and I think it is well worth the price. As I said in my first post there are no true replica’s, everything is original to the castle. If you can really only afford to see one, Hohenschwangau is the most “step” friendly (Neushwanstein has approximately 130 steps up and 130 steps down) and has the most finished rooms. The tour gives you a good insight into the royal family and the castle and grounds. Neuschwanstein is incredible inside, but only has a few finished sections to look through and I found the exterior to be quite incredible and accessible by foot. I should note and say that my husband would disagree and choose to do Neushwanstein over Hohenschwangau.

Marienbrucke Bridge.This is a MUST go when you visit the castles. You are going to get one of the best views of the entire castle and such a wonderful experience out of this bridge. The path up to the bridge is littered with some picture perfect spots and you can cross to the other side of the bridge and see a couple of the other viewing spots. The bridge itself gets packed very quickly so be orderly about viewing/pictures and moving along for others to do the same.

Make a Full Day out of It.There is so much beauty in this area that you could easily pack a lunch/snacks or eat at any of the restaurants/food stands and make a full day out of it.

I’ll briefly touch onFussen:

I would first off recommend staying in town(or as close to in town as you can) and using AirBnB to book your room. Not only are the rates slightly different or better than the hotels, but you can get a true experience of the city and people when you book through AirBnB as opposed to a hotel. They have a wide variety of spots right outside of town (such as where we stayed: Mein Lieber Schwan Fussen/Allgau) and they are absolutely perfect.

I would also recommend going to Kalvarienburg. This was the hike that we did and while it does have a religious aspect to it, you do not have to participate in that if you choose not to. It is truly a beautiful hike, right in nature, with a stunning overlook at the end. This is a must do and I feel like it is a relatively easy hike for those who may not be used to hiking.

Take a morning to sit at a café and soak up the atmosphere.This might not be most peoples “thing” (it definitely is not my husbands, but even he enjoyed this), but in a little town like this it is one of the best things to do. It doesn’t have to be on the main stretch (ours wasn’t), but it is the perfect way to start your day, have a mid afternoon break, or end your evening. There are options for café’s, ice cream stops, or fountains to just rest for a little while. In the meantime you can people watch and soak up the way of life. Sometimes a slow approach can be just as wonderful as going full steem ahead.

Tips:

Castle’s-

Tip #1: Get to the property early.They are very strict about time and if you miss the time of your tour you may not get to see the interior of the castle at all. We arrived about an hour to hour and a half before our tour time to find parking, get our tickets, and explore a little before the tour. There are plenty of spots to sit and relax, take in the view, get a bite to eat, or do a little souvenir shopping, so don’t worry about being too early. You’ll want to be at the entrance gate about 15-20 minutes prior to your ticket time just to err on the side of caution.

Tip #2: Only bring one bag. You can bring backpacks/purses on to the property and in to the castles, however when going into Neuschwanstein you have to carry the backpack or purse on the front of your body. If you are traveling with young children this can be difficult and looking back I feel like we could have made do with just one bag and made our lives a little bit easier going through the castles themselves.

Tip #3: Don’t bring a stroller unless you have an infant/non walking child, and even then try and baby wear.  Seriously, we only used our umbrella stroller once the entire weekend (the first night). We didn’t get it out at the castle as both boys really just wanted to walk and we alternated when they would need a little break. The castle themselves are full of stairs, so a stroller is definitely not feasible and I don’t know that I saw a designated “safe” spot for them.

Fussen-

Tip #1: Walk everywhere!!Seriously the town is just so perfect and was made for strictly walking. Anything you could want is within a walking distance to just about wherever you are and the main street and square are absolute perfection. I would highly recommend just hanging out there!

Tip #2: Make sure to check out Fussen Castle.This castle is not one that is talked about (because let’s be honest, Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein really run that show), but it is still a pretty cool castle and was turned into an art gallery. Even just walking through the path’s within the castle and the little hike behind it is stunning.

So that is it on our Fussen weekend! Have you been to any of these spots? If you have anything to add, leave it in the comments below!