Yes, things are hard…but we have all figured out at least a few ways to make this work/home/homeschool dance a bit more rhythmic after almost two months in the Covid-19 quarantine. Today I’m sharing ten strategies with you that are making life in the Inlander household go a little more smoothly at present. I hope something is helpful!
From the trenches,
1. Doing Concentrated Work in My Bedroom
I love working in my large, beautiful home office. When you get your dream office, you want to use it right? Everyone else is scrambling to set up a home office now. Luckily, I’ve always had one.
Spending so much time at clients’ homes and shopping in stores, it never made sense to rent an office outside of my home. 6 1/2 years ago we expanded into the apartment next door, which allowed me to move from the corner of the living room into my own dedicated room with a closet for clients’ clothes, room for fittings and a full-time employee.
The placement of my office between my children’s playroom and our living/dining area was brilliant when they were only home in the evenings and on weekends. I could work in my office while still keeping an eye on them. Now that they are home all day, every day, the set up is less than ideal.
Although I had no choice if I had a client Zoom call, I was feeling bad locking myself up in my bedroom to work on the computer when their dad was home and it was “my turn” to work. After a few days of trying to work in my office amidst the home schooling chaos, with them continuing to come to me, no matter how many times I said “ask Daddy, I’m working”, my head was going to explode. Bose headphones couldn’t even block out the constant noise and movement around me.
It is amazing how much more calm I felt, and how much more work I completed, when I returned to my bedroom. My kids used to be out of the house and away from me M-F from 8:30am-6:00pm. I really should not feel bad being in the next room for a few days a week, especially if it means I can pay more attention to them on the other days because my work is more under control. Also, this is really justifying my insistence at purchasing an expensive nursing rocker, with the matching ottoman. And the custom pillow. Of course I had to have the custom pillow too.
2. A Cooking While Zooming Marathon Once Per Week
I told you about my once-a-week calls with a few mom friends in the 5 Ways To Connect With Your Community post. I noticed on the first few calls that there was always someone with an iPad propped up in her kitchen while she cooking. This call was the only time of the week that I sat down idle, and with my having a major issue with idleness, I jumped on the idea of cooking during this weekly call.
We need so much more food now that we are all home. See last week’s blog, What I’m Cooking During the Covid-19 Quarantine. I find that taking one evening a week to cook easy grab-and-go breakfasts and lunches really makes the days go more smoothly. If I didn’t enjoy cooking it would be kind of cruel to ruin my social time with the extra chores. Since I do enjoy cooking, it is more of a bonus!
3. Weekly Hungry Harvest Delivery
How scrumptious does this box of fruit, vegetables, and eggs look? This was our actual delivery last Saturday! I know, I’m soooo lucky. I had no idea how prescient I was in January when I wrote the blog, Lani’s 5 Favorite Life Hacks, about all the ways I was getting food delivered because we were too busy to go grocery shopping.
I am still ordering from Hungry Harvest and Boxed. However, we have stopped ordering from Territory Meals because I have to cook for everyone anyway, and we haven’t been able to get a Whole Foods delivery for about a month. All of this is to say how important Hungry Harvest has become in our lives! I have upped our weekly egg order to three dozen, upsized to their Super Harvest, and routinely add items like pasta sauce and bread from their marketplace to our order. If only they delivered milk…sigh.
4. Helping My Kid Find His Passion
I tried really hard at the beginning of quarantine to get my kids to draw and color with me, to no avail. Eventually I did prevail in getting Max (8) to start watching, and drawing, Mo Willem’s LunchDoodles on YouTube. He was hooked from the first of the 15 episodes, and the whole series really ignited a passion in him for drawing. He now draws on his own too, which he never did previously. I’m having all of his quarantine artwork bound into a book through Plum Print. I just downloaded Adobe Photoshop Sketch onto the iPad for him so that he can draw without going through a ton of paper or fear making a mistake.
5. Giving Kids Ownership Over Their Own Work Space
This white desk was mine before I got my office! I bought it as an inexpensive fix from the Crate & Barrel outlet when we moved in, because I just needed something and wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted long term. It ended up being my desk for 4 years until I got my office! After that it became a repository for kid school stuff and family papers, and I couldn’t wait to trade it out for something with more functional storage. (Don’t tell Kyle but that is her chair from our office!)
I am so grateful that I did not trade that cheap white desk for anything at this point. Who knew our kids would be doing school at home for gosh knows how long and need their own dedicated space? I always believed in the thought process that kids didn’t really use their desks (they ended up doing homework at the dining room table anyway), so why take up the space? Of course, that was pre-pandemic. As we know, this is a new normal. Max has gotten more and more independent in his own space and being able to keep the kids separate is priceless. I mean, my second-grader basically has his own computer! At first we just plopped him there with the computer, but a few weeks ago I finally cleaned everything off the desk that did not relate to his needs, which is something I have been needing to do forever anyway. You can see James (6) at his own table in the playroom below. We already owned the table and chair set, but used it for coloring and play.
6. Daily Checklists
A major tool to help keep the kids focused has been checklists for their work everyday. As you can see from James’ list above, I also try to put the fun stuff on the list so they have more to look forward to and check off. Max’s teacher posts a fantastically thorough document every day with a list of their assigned work, including links. I was going through it and writing a digestible list in pencil in his notebook every morning with boxes for him to check off as he worked. However, I almost fell over the other morning when I came out to the living room at 7:30am and Max had already written his list himself and had started on his work. I thought, “we will survive, and he is growing from this experience.” Hallelujah!
The little chalkboard next to James is something I picked up who knows where a few years ago, because it seemed cute and useful to use myself or for the kids to use in play. Of course then it sat in the playroom, the pictures at the bottom still the ones that came in the frames, totally unused, for years. The kids even tried to give it away when I was cleaning out the playroom a bit after quarantine began. This past week I began to suspect that James could do with his own checklist, so I took some old pictures he liked that were floating around and made it “his” chalkboard. He loves it now and insists on erasing and rewriting the list with me each morning. I think a daily checklist will be a good tool for us even after “school” ends.
7. Exercising With My Kids
At 43, I have long since figured out that I am not the kind of person who will wake up at 5:30am to exercise on my own. You can’t imagine how much I wish I was! I need major outside accountability, convenience, or purpose to get me to stop working and start exercising.
Needing to burn off my kids energy, provide them with a fun adventure, and the family with an activity that did not involve schoolwork or screens, we all started bike riding together during the quarantine. I’m embarrassed to admit that my 6 and 8-yr-olds were still using training wheels before the quarantine only because we had not taken the time to teach them how to ride without them. I’ve heard from others that we are not the only ones who used this time to finally teach their kids how to ride a bike. Mr. Real Life Style bought me my first bike since middle school for our tenth anniversary, and had his old bike fixed up, so now we can ride as a family. (How cool is the new chic helmet he got me to go with the bike?)
I’m still super nervous riding in the city and I’m not sure how I’ll handle bike riding myself or with the kids when there are more cars back on the road, but for now we are having fun and getting exercise. If anyone knows of good trails in my area that don’t require a bike trailer to get to, please let me know!
8. Simple Meals
Yes, I know I just posted a blog, What I’m Cooking During The Covid-19 Quarantine, about all of the fun recipes that I’ve been cooking with and without the kids. However, there are three meals to make every day and most of them have been super simple.
I used to NEVER make the kids what I call “real” pasta, i.e. pasta made from wheat, aside from the occasional ravioli or Annie’s Mac and Cheese. However, I’m so desperate for lunch options and have had a hard time keeping up my stock of red lentil and chickpea pasta, that I’ve resorted to letting them have it. As for dinner, I pick a protein and a few vegetables that I think will go with it best, and I am done.
It helps to have a few go-to recipes and marinades that always work for your family. Mr. Real Life Style will eat anything with SaltLick Dry Rub seasoning on it. And if he is craving something more exotic, he is great at googling recipes that use only what we have, like the Quick Coconut Lamb Curry pictured first. Sometimes I just make a pan of skin-on, bone-in chicken wings or thighs (none of us like white meat), roasted with olive oil, salt, and pepper, then let everyone add their own sauce or seasoning.
9. Post-it To Do Lists
How freaking brilliant is my new To-Do List system? My previous systems, The Productivity Planner and then just a pretty notebook, did not seem to meet the criteria of the current chaos in which we are living. There are many lists, and they all seem to need to stay top of mind at all times. I am so worried something is going to get lost. And then everything changes in an hour. My system couldn’t keep up with my To-Do list. Enter the Sticky Note System. No pages of notebooks to look through or cross out, just a new sticky note to rewrite when necessary, always right next to me on the clipboard that has any papers I need. You’re welcome.
10. Have a Daily Anchor Event
My generous mother-in-law offered to read to the kids once-a-day via Zoom. When they are not fighting over who gets to hold the iPad, it is a wonderful opportunity for me to get a break, for them to connect with their grandmother who lives far away, and also to discover new books from their dad’s childhood. Reading with Grandma is also a constant in our routine that gives us an anchor event in which to schedule our schoolwork and bike ride around.
What is working for you right now? Let us know! Hang in there!
Lani Inlander is a personal stylist who has been working with clients who want to feel their best and look put-together every day for over 20 years. You can find her in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. Learn how you can train with Lani to become a personal stylist at The Stylist Studio.
You can find Lani Inlander and Real Life Style on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.