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?

Travel Favorites

Good morning! It’s been no secret that we’ve been doing a fair amount of travelling over the past month or two. Whether we are just taking a day trip to somewhere nearby, or a long weekend a little further away, we’ve been out and about A LOT. This is something that we are really enjoying and, while we are still learning the in’s and out’s, I’ve quickly narrowed down some of the “non necessity” things that we actually use and are practical for us. This morning I’ve compiled some of these into a list for you. Some of these things are important, other are more personal preference.

As with all of my posts, some of these favorites are common sense and things you’ve already been using, but some maybe not. Also- some of these are kid related, so just a heads up.

Favorite #1 (The Most Obvious of them all): Trip Advisor

6905943742080302898_IMG_1096.jpgOk, we are starting of with the obvious. Everyone knows and uses Trip Advisor, but it’s really been a wonderful tool for us. We’ve found some really good hidden gems of places on the app and at times it’s been the only thing we could get to work and show us what’s around. I don’t think I really need to say anything further about Trip Advisor as it’s the most popularJ

Favorite #2: Comfortable (but Fashionable) Shoes

637494542946733218_IMG_1097.jpgWe are just going to keep up with the obvious here, with a pair of sneakers. When we moved here I came with my Under Armour workout sneakers. I love these sneakers, but I”ll be honest- they didn’t really work with most of the clothes that I wear. They go with the screenprint tee’s and such, but not with the sweaters that I typically wear in winter/spring. I looked around for a little bit across three brands: Puma, Adiddas, and Superga’s. I found shoe’s that I liked with all three brands, but I finally settled on a pair of Grey Puma Sneakers and I’ve loved them ever since. They are a great pair of walking shoes that let me get away with wearing them with Sweaters and they look like sneakers without looking like sneakers. I don’t know, I think it works…

Favorite #3: A Small (but stylish) Bag

IMG_9585Ok, so still obvious, at this point they may all just be obvious ones. I talked about this new bag in my quarterly favorites, but I wanted to talk about it a little bit more. When we prepped for the move I had purchased an inexpensive bag that I could use for travel, didn’t care much about it getting scuffed or scratched, but still looked nice. I didn’t want to take one of my nicer “designer” hand bags and worry constantly that it was getting damaged while we were traveling. Admittedly, a shoulder tote bag was not the *BEST* option while you are traveling, but I hadn’t really researched any of the backpack purses at that time. Now, the first couple of weekends while we were here we were doing long day trips and that shoulder bag started to get really uncomfortable. So, I looked around to find a smaller “backpack purse”. I was going in between practical and stylish with a Michael Kors/Coach/Kate Spade OR a Fjallraven Kanken Backpack. I ended up settling on this Michael Kors backpack as I felt it was just more of what I wanted. It is the absolute perfect size for our family, fitting the diaper clutch, cups, and snacks for the boys, along with my wallet and a book or notebook (if I’m being generous) without feeling really heavy. It sits comfortably both on my shoulders and back. My only complaint is that it has a drawstring with a magnetic enclosure, which makes me a little wary, but I just shuffle things around so that everything is secure. Either way, if you are a mom with older children that still needs to carry quite a bit (but not enough for a diaper bag) a small backpack is the way to go. And honestly, if you are a traveler at all, a backpack is a better option and a more comfortable option than a purse.

Favorite #4: Rain Jacket/Jacket

IMG_9770 2.jpgSo, Europe is rainy…it rains A LOT. We knew we were going to need rain jackets and we look around constantly for jackets that we liked. We picked up thick waterproof jackets before we came over and those have been perfect for the winter time here. They are perfect for layering underneath and have just enough to keep us dry when those rains hit. I wore this jacket everyday of our Berlin weekend and felt more than warm enough and dry as a bone under it. I’ve also picked up a light weather jacket for Spring/Summer when it is a warm rain. Again waterproof and I can still fit a long sleeve shirt under it for when fall comes.

Fun packing tip- when you are packing a jacket with a hood, the jacket is designed to roll up and fit into the hood. Seems rather obvious but I had never heard of it until the sales associate showed me when I bought mine.

Favorite #5: Camera

IMG_6739.jpgOk, we are getting to the expensive part of this post. The truly expensive part. I LOVE photography. I love taking pictures, sharing pictures, using photo’s as a way to commemorate our time. So much so, that sometimes I drive my husband a little crazy with the amount of pictures I take and the amount of times we have to stop to take a picture. It’s just who I am and how I choose to remember things. Now, your phone has a decent enough camera. You can take some good pictures with it and there are times that I just pull my phone out and get the picture that I want. BUT it honestly doesn’t replace an actual camera. Now, I use a camera for both photo’s and video’s and will use a different camera for different things (for the record I have this one and another DSLR style camera that I would eventually like to sell and replace). For travel, I only take my Canon G7X. You’ve probably heard of this camera before and it is totally worth the hype and the price. It is a really good camera and is very user friendly.

Favorite #6: For the Kids

I am just going to lump a couple of things in this category together as they are all pretty obvious, and related to kids. -4631477505359057470_IMG_0746.jpgThe first thing is I would recommend an umbrella stroller, unless you are at a zoo/park/somewhere that offers the carts. Umbrella strollers get a lot of “crap” talk, but when your 3 year old is tired (or your very heavy 22 month old) having something that is not your arms/shoulders to let them fall asleep in is such a blessing. It’s also a little bit of fun for the two kids to push each other. We are actually going to purchase a second one (we only have one at this time). IMG_6734.jpgMy second favorite is The Dover Little Activity Books. We purchased a set of these prior to our Germany flight and our kids loved doing the little sticker activities. They aren’t big, take up practically no space, and come with everything you need for about 30-40 minutes of quiet. So easy to just throw in your bag and pull out when you need to stop and eat or have a longer train ride or whenever you need just a bit of peace.

And that’s it! Do you have any particular travel favorites? Let me know below as we are still definitely learning what we like and what works for us.