Featured Post: Quiet Time Activities for your Preschooler

Graphic for Quiet Time ActivitiesThere are so many rescources out there for the WAHM now; websites, blogs, groups, retreats where you can go and work while someone watches your kids! One of the sites I’m loving these days is It’s a WAHM Thing. I’m so proud to announce that I was featured on It’s a WAHM Thing this week with an article all about some quiet things T$ loves to do!

I hope you all enjoy the article and I can’t wait to hear what you thought of the activities!

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Photojournal: A Day in the Life of a WAHM

With all the lengthy blogs I’ve been posting I thought it would be nice today to share some photos with you about what a typical day looks like around here. I’m a pretty visual person so I think it is so nice to see what someone’s day looks live vs. just reading or hearing about it. This was one day last week while Buggy was still battling the chickenpox which had to be why he slept in so long!  Click on any of the circles to open the gallery and scroll through.

So does a day in our life look anything like a day in your life? 

WAHM Series: Rotating Toys

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Wow! I cannot believe we are already to the 4th post in my WAHM Series! Just to recap for anyone that is new we have already discussed how I keep the boys and myself on schedule here and here. And earlier this week we spoke about how I have set up Activity Zones so that we can work, play, and lounge in harmony. <— I have been dying to use the term “in harmony” for some reason!

Today I wanted to talk to you about one of the tools that has been most useful in helping to keep my boys happy and me able to work. It is Rotating Toys. I’m sure you have read all over the blogosphere how families store away birthday and Christmas gifts and give their children the new toys throughout the year as they take away old ones. This in theory works great! Especially if your kids are only home playing with their toys a few hours a week. My situation is a bit different. I’m asking for my children to play independently for several hours a day. Unfortunately for me if we don’t have variety the boys get bored QUICKLY. I used to have everything out in the open so the boys could just go and get whatever they wanted to play with and didn’t need my help to get it. WOW I learned quickly what a massive mess that was. And as I mentioned earlier this week, visual clutter does not do it for me.  I needed to come up with a way to mesh the best of both worlds. Some toys needed to be out so I wasn’t getting up every two seconds and some toys needed to be put away so they were exciting when they did come out.

After much trial and error this is what I have found works for us:

  • I have left out “everyday” toys. These are toys that they play with every day whether I put them away or not. These consist of the train table, the dress up clothes, books, the fire truck, and the playhouse.
  • I have sorted the rest of our toys into categories: cars, trains, building blocks, Toy Story toys, Lincoln Logs, and Animal Shop.
  • Some of the sorted toys are out on shelves so they are easy for the boys to remember that we have them. Others are tucked away in a closet so I can suggest them when things are getting interesting AKA crazy!
  • The toys we have upstairs are always kept separate from the toys we have downstairs. This is a pretty big key for us. Downstairs toys are more interactive and are fun for us all to play together (i.e. Pirate Ships, play kitchen, etc.). Upstairs toys are more quiet and focused on imaginative play. This is part of the reason I have 4 different sets of blocks. Each is useful for a different imaginative play situation.
  • Once every 3 or 4 months we go through all the bins and clean them up a bit. We make sure any broken pieces are thrown out, pieces that were incorrectly put away are put back in their bins, and that the theme of the bin is still relevant. We had a “baby” toys bin upstairs for a long time that had rattles, small balls, touch and feel books, etc. that were specific for Buggy to play with as he was developing. At about 9 months of age he was totally done playing with these toys. When we did the last purge and organize session we packed these toys up and created yet another cars bin! (My boys LOOOOVE cars.)

I tried my best to get some clear pictures for you of how we store things but this room is dark and hard to photograph. Please excuse the less than perfect images 🙂

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Some details of our toy shelves and inner closet storage

I got the great idea to store each dress up outfit in a bag so all the pieces are in one place! its working great for us!

I got the great idea from a fellow mama to store each dress up outfit in a bag so all the pieces are in one place! So far this solution is working great for us!

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Our current puzzle storage… needs some work, right?

STORAGE

Where the bulk of the “extra” toys are stored in the closet

I’m curious to find out, what organizing methods do you have for your little one’s toys? Do you rotate or keep them all out? What is working for you and what isn’t? I can’t wait to get some new ideas from all of you!

Embracing the crazy!

~ Rachel

WAHM Series: Part 3 Zones

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Welcome back everyone to Part 3 of my WAHM Series. In Parts 1 and 2 we focused on the schedule of our work days. Today I want to go a little bit more in depth on one of the things that makes that schedule possible, activities zones. Now I have mentioned that we rotate toys during the day and play with only one thing at a time but that is not exactly the same as the zones I’m talking about.

We moved into this house about 2 years ago. The loft has always been my office but it has been rearranged 3 times so that I could achieve not only the most visually appealing look up there but the most functional for me and the boys to work.

What I have now is an *almost* perfect space that works for all 3 of us. Our upstairs consists of the loft that you walk into right away and then there are 3 bedrooms, a bathroom, and a small laundry room. The room closest to the loft served as Buggy’s darling nursery for about the first year of his life. Then we decided to move both boys into T$’s (much larger) room. The boys actually sleep better together, weird I know! Now the old nursery serves as our upstairs playroom. This works so great because the office does not get as cluttered with all the kid gear. I cannot stand visual clutter.  It makes it very difficult for me to focus. Now to the actual zones we have set up:

Overview

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1. My Desk/Work area:

Work Area

I use to have the desk on the opposite wall actually facing the wall. That made so I was constantly turning around to keep an eye on what the boys were doing. Then I faced the desk out still on that wall but it still wasn’t working perfect. Finally I got the brainy idea to just switch sides! DUH! This is what I call my corner to the boys. They are not allowed to come into my corner while I’m working. They never listen but it’s a great idea in theory. The wall organizer is a fairly recent purchase from Staples’ Martha Stewart line. I needed something to store my often accessed papers and to pin receipts to be turned in and various other things, that Buggy could not reach! This was the perfect solution! And it is all interchangeable so I can move things around as my needs change AKA he gets taller and smarter 🙂

2. The Pillow Pet:

Pillow Pet

Oh this one is a funny story I tell ya! My bestie thought it would be a great idea to send the boys a “small” present right after Buggy was born. I opened the front door one day to this massive box that literally fell on top of me. I didn’t know for almost a week who it was from because there was no label or anything on it! I have to say though it’s the perfect spot for the boys to lounge on and read books or watch toons or take a nap. T$ has fallen asleep here more times than I can count. I put it right by my desk because I am trying to keep the immediate area right around my desk a quiet zone.

3. The TV:

TV

No explanation needed here, right?

4. The Office in a Hutch:

HUTCH

As with any home storage, space is at a premium. I don’t have room to be storing all my various office supplies in the linen closet or someplace else. It also happens that we have this gorgeous hutch that I adore from my in-laws (a wedding gift) that I cannot put anywhere downstairs because our formal dinning room is being used for a playroom. I thought a great way to use it would be to store my supplies. Its out of the way, too, so I don’t have to worry about anyone getting hurt or worse yet ruining the hutch. (You’re thinking I have that backwards but I don’t 😉 .) Don’t worry, lots more details on how I organize this thing coming later.

5. The Playroom:

Playroom

So the playroom has its very own command center for the boys complete with message boards for when they receive cards or special things they want to display. T$ has his rewards chart up and then they have their book case. We are a book-obsessed family. It’s insane really. This is just one of the many places I have books stashed. Their train table has provided HOURS of entertainment! I also have an art easel in here that is super light and normally is moved out into the middle of the office for craft time. The toy chest contains a fraction of the dress up outfits. The rest of the toys are stashed in the closet. I’ll be doing an entire post just on that closet and how we sort toys into bins so the one-toy-at-a-time rule can be effective. I have lots of ideas for this room as the boys grow older. The main function now is to control the clutter, provide a place to put everything away, and wrangle the madness. It is also the place I ask the boys to go to if they want to play loudly. It’s far enough away from my desk that I can tune them out a bit but close enough that I can keep an ear on them.

That sums up how I have laid out our workspace and tried to create different zones for work, lounging, crafting, and playing. Do you set up your home decor differently now that you have kiddos? It really changes things, right?

WAHM Series: The Schedule Part 2

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Last week we talked all about our morning schedule. I was thrilled to read your Facebook questions and your comments here on the blog! I LOVE that some of this info is actually helping people and I’m super stoked to connect. Today I want to delve into our afternoon schedule and how I cope with “The Witching Hour”.

Now you may remember that term from when you had a wee newborn and think it only applies to that time in a babies life. I have news for you! It applies to the hours of 4pm to 6pm everyday for years! I don’t know what happens when the clock strikes 4 but I swear all craziness ensues.

Let me back up to where we left off last time though…

After Buggy wakes from his nap we throw in a load of laundry and then head downstairs for lunch. Hubby is an incredible guy. He gets T$’s lunch ready every day and puts it in his Bynto Box. I make Buggy and I lunch (normally the same thing) then we all eat. I try to reserve at least 20-30 minutes each lunch (which I normally take about 60-70 minutes) to really play with the boys. We play rough or go outside or build a structure with blocks. The important part here is that they get devoted one on one time with me. I do not answer calls during lunch, I try not to check my personal email or Facebook. I just hang with the boys.

Normally at this time its about 1pm. Buggy is not quite ready for a nap yet but both boys are getting there. Once again we all head upstairs and I insist on no tv and that they play in their playroom quietly. Again BFF Suri sets a timer and they are off. Once in a while they will come out to talk to me but because they are both getting sleepy this is normally a good hour or so where they are off quietly playing.I try to fold a load of laundry at this time or wipe down the upstairs bathroom or dust upstairs. This is part of how I keep the house up. A little each day.

Then Buggy goes down for nap and T$ goes downstairs for “rest time”. I had a hard time with this for a while but T$ really would not rest unless him and I were separated. He doesn’t normally nap anymore but he SO needs that quiet time. My office is the loft so I can hear every.single.noise downstairs so I’m not too worried about him. Plus our house is totally kid proof. He gets to pick a movie and grab a blankie and hang on the couch. It works great.

This is a dedicated two hours where I can work straight. If I have to make any calls this is normally when I try and do it. It flies by but I find I can get more done in these two hours at home then I would in 4 at the office. Part of being a good WAHM is learning how to power through things and when you know you have a block of time you just have to jam!

Now it hits…. the witching hour.

I’m technically off work at 4pm. I’m almost never done with what I need to get done by then. SO when the movie is over and Buggy wakes up both boys are DYING for my attention. They are also totally done upstairs. So I do what any amazing mom would do… I bribe and stall. Repeat it with me, bribe and stall.

I normally bribe with the idea that if they give me just 5 more minutes we will go downstairs and eat a delicious snack. This normally works. When T$ stars asking why Suri hasn’t talked to him yet I tell him, “OH she must have fallen asleep.” Whatever I need to say to get things done. This is the time of day where things get messy. A piece of paper gets stollen off my desk and ripped up, somehow a highlighter ends up in little hands and now baby brother has a hot pink tattoo. To be honest with you I just roll with it. It gets my work done and no one gets hurt, usually.

We don’t normally clean up before going downstairs. The boys are just so done and to be honest so am I. So we go downstairs and they are perfectly content to play in their playroom for about 10 minutes. 10 minutes is totally enough time to do a chore, cook dinner, have all the dishes done from the day, etc.
NOT!

This is reality people, not some fantasy. So in the 10 minutes they are quiet I can normally devise a plan for what is most important to get done. Normally I try and get all the days dishes done ( I don’t do sippie cups and kids plates, etc. during the day. I let them pile up in a sink of hot soapy water and then do them all at once. We hand wash our sippies so it would take too much valuable time during working hours). Then if we know when hubby will be home (his schedule is different from day to day) we start dinner. T$ has this awesome tower, similar to this,that allows him to safely be at the counter with me helping. And I just pull Buggy’s high chair right up to the counter too. I give them stuff to do while I cook. Mostly they just play with food, whatever it works!

Hubby gets home and then all hell really breaks loose but that is an entirely different story for a different day.

The basic idea during the witching hour for me is really just to survive. I let a lot of rules go, I let them be messier than normal and I just try to get every one laughing. I try to be as empathetic as possible. I’m totally exhausted and done working so I can only imagine how they feel.

I’m interested to hear from you all, what are some of your best bribe and stall techniques? Does the witching hour hit at your house? Please please tell me I’m not alone!

WAHM Series: Sure Ways to Not Lose It While Working From Home

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As I mentioned to you in my very first post being a Work at Home Mom (WAHM) is a major part of my life. I work for a fast-paced international business, that requires me to work semi normal hours and 40+ hours a week. I go into the office every Monday and the other 4 days I am on my own with both boys from about 7am to 5pm. When I tell this to people 9 times out of 10 the response I get is,

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This is the first part in a 5 part series to try and help answer that question.

Let me start with this disclosure, I am not perfect, we have bad days but overall I would say my boys are happy and I’m doing a great job at work. This is all from almost 4 years of trial and error.  Now this series will not just apply to Moms in my situation but any mom who is trying to get some sort of work done with little ones at home.

From the time T$ was very small (I went back to work when he was just 5 weeks old) to now one thing has proven true any time I need to get some work done: we need a schedule. Now I’m not talking about trying to make your 8 week old take a nap every day at 9am on the dot. I’m talking more about a routine that you follow each day with your child so they know what comes next and so you can get in some quality time to work. This has becoming increasingly important as T$ as become older. His attention span is not as long and he constantly wants to be doing something new. So we have set up a schedule so he knows exactly when it is time to change activities. Today I want to share with your our morning schedule and some details about it.

I get up normally about 30 mins before both boys. This gives me some time to check my emails, get my to do list ready for the day and address any urgent time sensetive stuff. 

Boys get up and Daddy normally has milk ready and toons on. The boys play downstairs and wake up while Hubby finishes unloading the dishes, packing lunches and getting himself ready for work. 

When Daddy leaves for work I come downstairs and get the boys their breakfast ready get dressed myself and bring them both upstairs with me. T$ has a special chair that is at my desk that he sits and eats at and Buggy has this highchair from Ikea upstairs. This allows me to keep working while the boys eat. It goes something like this Spoonful of oatmeal, email, spoonful of oatmeal, email. Repeat, repeat, oh crap there is oatmeal on my computer screen, repeat, repeat, how in the heck did Buggy manage to reach the spoon, repeat, clean. I never said this was glorious, I said it was working for us 😉

This is when we pick our first activity of the day. The boys are only allowed to play with one set of toys at a time (more on this in a future post) so we normally start the day with their Toy Story Figurines or Duplo Blocks or once in a while with a craft. Craft is normally more of an afternoon quiet thing though because Buggy isn’t quite big enough for the stuff T$ wants to so I let T$ do it while Buggy is asleep. Here is one of the keys, I let them know how long they have until they can do the next activity. Suri is my new BFF for this because  T$ can “talk” to her and tell her to set a time for X minutes. I will be 100% honest with you Disney Junior or PBS Kids is normally on for most of the morning, it really is more of background noise but its a great way for the kids to know when the next activity is up (When Doc McStuffins is over we will get snack). If I find that T$ is sitting and just absentmindly watching TV for what I feel is too long I turn it off and turn on some toddler songs on Spotify. (TY INTERNET RADIO!) Buggy has zero interest in TV so I don’t worry about him. 

Snack Time! I try to have snacks all ready in advance so all I have to do is run downstairs, grab the snack and bring it up. More on how I prepare snacks ahead of time and my fave products for making this easy in another post I promise!

Buggy is normally ready for a nap right around snack time so depending on the way he is acting I either give him a snack too or put him down for a nap.

While Buggy naps T$ gets to pick another activity to do. He knows that he can switch one more time between now and when Buggy wakes up from his nap. This is when I really can power through some work. T$ has been working from home with me his entire life. He is old enough to play on his own and he knows Mama needs to get some work done. We talk basically the entire time I’m working and when possible I give him tasks to do for me. i.e. T$ go grab that page off the printer for me, sort all of these pages into two piles, stack up all of Mommy’s books, put all the pens in the pen holder. I totally will give him tasks that he thinks are “work” that do not need to be done at all. It keeps him busy and involved and happy. I’m also fostering his learning and devolpment as much as possible now that he is starting to recognize letters and numbers. I will have him count out 5 pages for me or circle all the A’s on an email. Again totally not something I need help with but keeps him happy. 

Once Buggy wakes up we all head downstairs for lunch. 

So that is the basic synopsis of our mornings. Things are a bit different when T$ goes to preschool but school days are an entirely different post in the making! What are some of your go to activities to keep your kiddos happy while you get some things done? I’m always looking for new things!

Embracing the crazy…

~Rachel