10 Unique Ideas to Keep Kids Busy During COVID-19

With most of the county in a shelter/in/place situation, I keep hearing about how hard it is to keep kids busy. My kids are spoiled in that we live on a 70 acre farm with our own playground, vegetable garden, horses, etc., but we still like to get creative, so here’s our top ten most unique ideas:

  1. Blow bubbles in the bathtub. With cooler winter weather not quite gone, this is a good alternative to outdoor play. And it’s easy to clean up!
  2. Use real kitchen tools and pans with play doh: How about some mini cupcakes? Or a single large cupcake? Don’t forget to add play doh frosting, sprinkles and real candles (don’t light them though)!
  3. Bounce balls off the ceiling into laundry baskets. Normally, we don’t allow throwing balls in the house, but this is a fun challenge and it slows the balls down so if they hit something, it’s not too catastrophic. We use plastic balls. And, if you throw too hard, they bounce out! We give points IF the balls both hit the ceiling AND stay in the basket, so the kids have to throw gently.
  4. Do a “Found Objects” art project by letting your kids raid your office…. paperclips, sticky notes, office paper, file folders…. add a variety of writing utensils, scissors and glue and you are all set.
  5. Build a village under your kitchen or dining room table. Take blocks, legos, Lincoln logs, train sets, cars, etc., and let the kids set up in a room you don’t normally allow. The novelty of the space will make it seem like the toys are brand new!
  6. Set up a “water table” in the sink. Yes, it and the floor will get soaked, yes, the kids will be soaked, but all will be happy. Use a combination of bath toys and actual tools. My daughter likes using my hairbrush, bathroom cup, cuticle pusher, and hair ties.
  7. Play dress up, but include real makeup and elaborate hair-dos. Follow up with a dance party or fashion show using your favorite music app in the living room.
  8. Pick a massive bouquet of flowers/plants from the yard for the kitchen table. Catch the flowers after they’ve bloomed and are about done for the season so you can mostly enjoy them in your yard, but also get a few days with them in the house.
  9. Make a blanket tent or fort, but then decorate it with hanging crafts…. make butterflies, dragonflies, birds, fairies, planets, stars, airplanes. Don’t have string? Consider ribbon, thread or even dental floss.
  10. Play a version of golf in the house. Start in one room (say, the living room), but set a goal for another room (the bathroom stool). Take turns “golfing” and the person with the fewest plays wins. Use self propelled cars, cloth balls, empty toilet paper tubes,

COVID-19 is here, but it’s not coming in my House

My first responder husband is running into COVID-19 every time he works now. When he leaves our 70 acre farm for a 48-hour shift, I feel like he is leaving the safety of our little COVID-19-free oasis and going to the frontlines where his life is being put at risk. It’s a frightening reality. We always knew the risk was coming, but it’s always different when it first gets close to you.

Because COVID-19 has a long incubation period, we won’t know if my husband has it until he’s likely passed it onto us, so there’s all kinds of things that have changed in the house:

Besides the usual hand washing, before he comes home from work, he showers and returns to street clothes. He then changes those clothes as soon as he gets home and washes his hands again. Luckily, his department still has PPE.

We’ve created an odd type of quarantine in place for him. There are two sinks in his bathroom. The kids and I no longer use his sink; we just use mine. We used to have all of our bath towels on hooks the kids could reach. I removed our decorative towels from a towel bar and the kids’ towels and cloths are there now. My husband’s towel hangs on a hook out of reach and by itself. My towel hangs in reach of the children with the kids bath toys.

Every night, after my family is mostly done with the house, I use Lysol the key places in my house:

  • BATHROOMS:
    • Toilet seats and handle
      Sink counters, faucets and handles
      Medicine cabinet handles
      Bathroom door handles and light switches
  • ENTRY:
    • Front door handle and baby gate latches.

    KITCHEN:

      Sink faucet and handle
      Drinking Water faucet and handle (both at sink and refrigerator)
      Anything we frequently touch – refrigerator handles, microwave buttons, toaster oven, dishwasher, coffeemaker, stove
      Kitchen table, backs of chairs and high chair
      Kitchen counters, stovetop, dishwasher top (it’s a portable dishwasher for our ancient house)
      Light switches

    FLOORS

    • Steamer on hard floors, starting with cleanest areas (living room, hallway) and ending with the dirtiest areas (kitchen, entry, bathroom)

    Other practices I’ve implemented include:

    LAUNDRY:

    • My usual favorite cold/warm load has changed to a warm/hot load. Yes, some clothes will probably shrink, but I’d rather that than have the virus sitting around.
    • I’ve combined loads, except for cleaning cloths. The kids and adult clothes mostly get thrown into the wash as they are used. When the washer is full, I run it.
    • If I take laundry from a laundry hamper, I always use a laundry basket so dirty clothes aren’t sitting against me.

    TOWEL REPLACEMENT:

    • Kitchen towels and cloths replaced every night
    • Bathroom towels and cloths replaced every 2-3 days (I would do everyday, but we don’t share hand towels)

    By the 4th day my husband is home, I need a break from the house. By that time, too, I’ve likely killed any virus that came home with him. Our safe oasis is restored. I take a day off from the vigilant cleaning. It feels like a vacation to just wash the dishes and pick up the toys. I am able to get to bed at a reasonable hour and I’m not dog-tired the next day…… But I’ll start again the next night.

    Life at Home Avoiding COVID-19 – A Positive Spin!

    Setting up our new reality is a bit of a process, but we are hitting our routine. Now that I have the basic needs covered (horses are fed and watered…. so are the kids. 🤣), its time to layer in the fun/self-care stuff.

    Kylie and I had a spa day today. Home mani/pedis, face masks (for me), makeup (for her).

    I always include food and workouts in my wellness routine. Shelter in place is a great time to kick start new habits or old habits that fell to the wayside because life got in the way.

    Thanks to my Father-in-law, we now have a double stroller, so I took the kids and our pup for a run. It was my first run since before Connor, now ten months, was born. 3 miles did my soul good. Running has always brought me peace. The kids loved the higher speed and Duke loves to run.

    We returned to make dinner. The kids ate their dinner while I cooked for myself. I’m too much of a foodie to eat what the kids will eat for dinner.

    Need dinner ideas when a trip to the grocery store is limited? I know we can still attend the grocery, but I’m still cautious and will only go if I absolutely have to. So take a recipe you have most things for and use substitutes for the rest.

    Tonight, I made a shrimp stew from Better Homes and Gardens. Sort of.

    The recipe called for hominy. I used canned corn. I was out of oregano, so I used basil. I didn’t have plain diced tomatoes, but did have diced tomatoes with green chilis (luckily, this is supposed to be a spicy dish). I had garlic and chili powder. My shrimp weren’t uncooked, but hey, who cares? The recipe called for more shrimp than veggies, but I prefer it the other way. I did 1/2lb of shrimp instead of a pound. I had leftover steamed mixed veggies from a previous meal and dumped them in, too. Tip? When you are selecting substitutes, compare spice quantity proportionately with what you are adding to a stew. I threw everything in the crockpot for 1.5 hours and the result was heavenly. I will be making it again! Bonus? It’s easy!!!

    I did:

    1 can sweet corn (don’t drain)

    1 can diced tomatoes with green chilis

    2tsp chili pepper

    1 tablespoon dried Basil

    1/2lb pre-cooked shrimp

    4 cloves minced garlic (or hit up the jarred version)

    1.5 hours in the crockpot and dinner was served!

    Don’t feel locked into a recipe. Make adjustments so you can avoid the grocery for a few more days.

    And of it doesn’t turn out the best, who cares? Remember the firefighter rule… it doesn’t have to be good, there just has to be enough!

    My Husband is a First Responder. Be Responsible. Let Him Come Home to Me.

    I’m married to a first responder. I didn’t realize what that meant until years after I was married. First responder spouses are something like a co-ed fraternity. We lead lifestyles unlike anyone else: we aren’t military, who watch their spouses disappear for weeks on end. We aren’t like spouses of business travelers either. Contact is unpredictable. The only guarantee we have is their schedule. My husband works 48 hours and then is home for 96. A 6 day week is folded into the 7 day week the rest of us live by. It presents all kinds of challenges, but that is a topic for another day…..

    My husband puts his life on the line everyday as a firefighter/paramedic and I have to be prepared to keep my family together and functioning no matter what happens to him. It’s a hard life to establish: I must depend on him as a life partner, but I must be forever independent of him so that I can keep our lives and our family together. Its something of an oxymoron.

    I often take it for granted that he will come home after a shift. There are so many safety protocols in place and my husband thinks well in high stress, highly physical situations.

    This is different. As COVID-19 reaches the hundreds in the Saint Louis Metro area, I kissed my husband goodbye this morning for another 48 hour shift.

    Watching COVID-19 start in the Saint Louis area is like starting the slow climb at the beginning of a roller coaster. We are bridging the top now. Next is the drop. Here we go…..

    I’m preparing mentally for the worst possibility: that my firefighter/paramedic husband may get sick and have to quarantine away from us at some point. If he gets sick, he will not be allowed to return home. If he gets sick, we don’t want him to come home. I’m high risk, with asthma, and taking every precaution possible. I’m being very religious about my maintenance inhaler, allergy meds and vitamins. If he gets sick, maybe he will never come home again.

    Its thoughts like these that make first-responder spouses unique…. we can’t dwell on them. I give myself about 24 hours to adjust to the new reality, whatever that might be, and then I move on. I support him in any way that I can: usually, I leave him to cover his job and I take care of everything else. I take care of our kids, play with them, care for the horses, small animals and care for the house and the farm. It doesn’t mean my kitchen is clean or the yard is well-manicured, but everyone is clean, fed, clothed and happy.

    These days, I talk through horse challenges with friends and clients, even though we cannot meet in person. One client is worried about her horse’s recovery from injury being hindered as her barn closes. Another has a horse that recently started coughing and is having trouble maintaining weight. A friend of mine asked about helping her sister’s mother-in-law through grieving for her recently passed horse. Even when I’m not teaching, there is plenty to distract from where my husband is for the next two days.

    I am saddened by the people who don’t take this threat to our lives seriously. Look at Italy, Spain, New York, Washington, California, Illinois and others. Stay safe. Close your door as I have closed our gates. Go home and stay home. Each time you go out, you endanger yourself, your family, the people around you and the healthcare workers who must help you after you catch COVID-19. Please be responsible for yourself so that my husband can come home to me.

    Day 2 of COVID-19 Shut Down

    A new reality is setting in for my family as we reach the second day since I closed the gates of our 25 horse farm in an effort to keep everyone safe from COVID-19. Normally, I operate with staff to help care for the horses, sitters to help with the kids when my husband is at work (48 hour shifts as a firefighter/paramedic) and a housekeeper so I can focus on teaching and training.

    For the first time, since having my first child almost 5 years ago, I have no help. The team of support I depend on is gone. I no longer have the ability to rest or do office work when my kids nap. I sneak off to the feed room to mix feed in preparation for the next meal for the horses, topping off water troughs while I’m there. I do health checks on the horses and administer first aid as needed.z a

    At first, I panicked a bit. Now, I’m learning to pace myself. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Saint Louis County, where most of my clients come from, has issued a shelter-in-place order, too, so we are all facing similar challenges.

    Flexibility is key. This morning, my 4.5 year old daughter woke at 4:45am with a nightmare. I laid with her for a while and once I realized she wasn’t going back to sleep, set her up with videos (her usual morning routine) and told her to call me on her phone if she needed me.

    I made coffee and went to the feed room. I completed morning feeding and mixing feed for dinner before my 10 month old son woke. I’m sure some mornings I won’t get so much done before the kids are up. I’m staging my farm work so I can stop and return to the house at a moments’ notice.

    I depend on the baby monitors we use through our phones so that I can go anywhere on the farm and still know when my kids wake. I can video chat with them through the monitors, too. My daughter can also use FaceTime to reach me whenever she wants. I wouldn’t normally give my child a phone so early on in life, but the farm makes it a necessity: it gives her a way to find me when I could be in the house, feed room, one of the two barns, in the yard, arenas, or pastures.

    Even as I face the realities of shelter-in-place with the farm, I am happy. I truly love my work. The herd and I miss our students, but we still have each other. It will be interesting to see how they react to the lack of people on the farm as time progresses.

    Stay tuned and I’ll keep everyone updated in the coming days. I never intended this blog to be a diary of sorts, but I think the COVID-19 circumstances call for it. Hopefully, we can bring you hope, some fun stories and ideas on how to make it through the coming weeks of isolation.

    The Power of Ten

    Becoming overwhelmed can cause someone to become “stuck.” Rather than taking care of whatever looming thing needs to be done, it can be easy to become incapacitated and hit the couch instead. Dishes pile up in the kitchen, laundry hampers and trash cans overflow and forget making dinner or self-care! The end result is a worse situation because of the unrelated hurdle that is difficult to face.

    So enters the power of ten. It’s possible to do just about anything for ten minutes in a day. The end result is often exponential, too!

    Ten minutes will fill a dishwasher, empty a laundry basket, clear a portion of a garden from weeds, water the houseplants, etc. Once that ten minutes begins, it’s easier to keep going, too!

    I’m focusing on the house, only because that’s the thing that falls to the wayside for me first and it’s the thing that bothers me the most, but don’t rule out other possibilities either.

    It takes less than ten minutes to wash your face and apply your facial essentials (mine are lotion, mascara and eyebrow color).

    It takes 3 minutes to make your favorite cup of tea to help you relax.

    It takes about the same to delete junk emails from my various email accounts, or sort the mail from the day.

    It takes 30 seconds to text a friend and say, “I was just thinking about you! Hope all is well!”

    Stop looking for chunks of time to accomplish things and just do ten minutes (or less)! Before you know it, you’ll be getting done those things you were avoiding…. quick tip… you can try just ten minutes with the big looming thing you were initially avoiding, too!

    How to Make Decisions as a Mom and Career Woman – Determining Value of Required Tasks in the Household

    Choosing which tasks should fall to you and which should be delegated to others in your life depends on value. Value isn’t all monetary, either. In fact, that is only one factor.

    The questions to ask yourself when determining value are:

      Am I capable of the task?
      Does doing the task myself give me great satisfaction?
      Is the task worth my time, if I give it an hourly rate based on my hourly rate as a professional?
      Can the task be accomplished reasonably well by someone else if I delegate?
      Is the return on investment higher if I complete the task or if someone else does?
      Does my quality of life improve if I do this task?

    Using this decision-making paradigm, I am able to quickly make decisions about my household and better manage my own time.

    Here are examples of my choices based on the questions above:

    Four Things I Don’t Do

    1) Clean the house.

    I’m capable of it and I appreciate a clean house, but it doesn’t matter to me if I’m the one pushing the vacuum or not. A professional housekeeper can accomplish the task faster, more effectively and for less monetary value than if I do it myself.

    The hours I save provide a high return on investment because they let me focus on client correspondence/services for existing and new clients instead.

    That, in turn, let’s me spend more time with my family, rather than trying to accomplish correspondence and housekeeping: both tasks that take me away from my family.

    Therefore, hiring a professional housekeeper improves my quality of life.

    With a 6 out of 6, I use a professional housekeeper.

    2) Grocery Shop

    I am capable of it, but it’s just a chore to me. If I do a grocery pick-up service, where I order the groceries, pick them up and put them away, it’s no additional cost to me, but saves me significant time.

    A grocery store employee can select and package my groceries as well as I can (yes, even the produce).

    I can focus my time away from work and home on other errands I need to attend to and pick up groceries on my way home. I can also take the time I would use grocery shopping to do meal planning.

    My quality of life is improved because shopping in a store takes energy and causes me stress/anxiety. There’s no reason for me to spend time in the store AND time “recovering” mentally afterwards at home. My time is much better spent with my family and clients.

    6 out of 6: I am a more effective person by delegating the grocery shopping task.

    3) Keep a “To Do” List

    With all of the moving parts in my life, I am not capable of functioning without a list of some sort, but a traditional “to do” list isn’t my thing. It used to be, until I realized I never finish it and I would forget to add things to it, making me feel unsuccessful on multiple levels.

    Instead, I started using a combined system of alarms and the Reminders app on my phone.

    Repetitive tasks go off automatically and are permanent placeholders in my phone. Then, I don’t forget them (especially the things I only need to do every 2-4 weeks!) and don’t spend time putting them on a list each day or week. If I don’t need to do the task, I simply mark it complete.

    For “one off” tasks, I designate a time to do it and set an alarm on my phone. That way, I can’t forget and, by setting time aside for it, I know it will get done!

    In this case, I delegate my to do list to my smart phone, which is zero additional cost to me and it improves my quality of life vastly because I don’t have to worry about what I might be forgetting!

    Another 6 out of 6. Done!

    4) Put my Child in Day Care

    My husband and I considered day care at first. We quickly realized it would result in rarely seeing our own child. We would not be the people raising her.

    In addition to my work during the day, I teach horseback riding lessons when everyone else is off of work…. evenings and weekends. My days off are Monday and Friday. Day care would certainly free up my day to do farm and office work, but I wouldn’t be raising my own child.

    My husband wouldn’t get to spend much time with our daughter either. With his 48-96 shift schedule (a 6 day week) most days wouldn’t work out well. For example, when he works Monday/Tuesday (8am Monday morning through 8am Wednesday morning), he’d still get home Wednesday morning just in time to take our daughter to day care.

    Then, she’d go to day care through Friday, he’d see her Saturday, but not me because that’s a work day for me. The next shift, he’d work Sunday/Monday (8am Sunday through 8am Tuesday), we’d run into the same problem. Then, he’d be off of work for 4 days, while our daughter was at day care. “Family time” would be non existent. To top it off, we’d still need a sitter on Sunday that week.

    Knowing it would be the harder, but more satisfying route, we opted out of day care, including partial day care. If our daughter went to day care even just two days a week, we’d still run into the same problems.

    It took a lot of sorting, but we opted to keep our daughter home and bring in a sitter when needed. The end result? Our daughter gets a sitter for 3-10 hours a week and the rest of the time, she is with one or both of us.

    How our schedule works and the type of community/clientele I keep so my child can stay home (believe it or not, I have lost clients due to these family-oriented practices), warrants a blog post in itself, but the long and the short of it is, my husband and I both have full time jobs AND spend significant time with our daughter, raising her ourselves.

    This is another 6 out of 6! A no-brainer!

    Four Things I do myself

    1) Take recycling to drop off

    We live in a rural town. There is no such thing as recycling pick-up at the curb, not to mention that our “curb” is 8/10th of a mile from our house.

    I refuse to be a person who skips out on recycling. Our environment is just too important.

    Every week, when I do my other errands, which I’ve managed to reduce to just the bank, post office, grocery pick up, farm store and drug store, I take a trunk full of recycling to our local recycling center.

    2) Mani/Pedis

    My feet live in boots and my hands live in dirt, water, hay, etc.

    My hands need constant attention, including frequent splinter removal, almost daily nail care and callous maintenance so my hands are functional, but still look and feel soft. A professional manicure, even with gels or acrylic, lasts about a week when asked to hold up to the farm work.

    Instead, I took the time to learn what works for my hands and how to trim/file my nails to reduce breakage with farm work. I color my own nails as needed (every week with paint or every 3 weeks with wraps).

    In addition, one of my favorite evening alone-time activities has become mani/pedis.

    Unless it’s a social activity with girlfriends, I don’t go to nail salons.

    3) Groom My Dogs

    On the muddy farm, this is a must. I can’t do the job of a professional and I can’t do it as often as I would like, but the amount of time it takes to drive my dogs to a groomer and then for me to stay off-farm for the duration of the groom, typically makes a professional groomer not worth my time. My dogs like grooming and are content to have one of our “quality time” tasks be bathing, trimming and brushing their coats!

    4) Color My Own Hair

    This is another alone-time activity I love to do….. especially now that the hair color kits have so many options, including using a cap for highlights. I used to have it done professionally, but time and cost got in the way. Now, I go in if I want to make a major change, but otherwise, I do it myself!

    Having a well run household is critical to “having it all.” Don’t be afraid to delegate the non-essential tasks!

    New Year’s Resolutions: To Be or Not to Be?

    Did you know that statistically, most New Year’s Resolutions are abandoned within the first month and only a small percentage of people actually meet their goals?

    CBS reported the numbers in 2016, along with tips on how to keep your resolutions, but I’m here to help you determine if this is a year for a resolution or if it’s a year to skip it! I will also help you determine how big your resolution can be so that you can succeed at your goal and I’ll give you some resolution ideas.

    I opted to skip New Year’s Resolutions this year. Why? Because I have enough goals I’m working toward already. I don’t need to select another goal just because the calendar year changes over.

    Here’s what 2019 looks like for me in addition to everything else I already do:

    • January: Begin better socializing my daughter with other children her age by spending more time with my husband’s family and attending library programs as a transition into school, which she will start in the fall.
    • February: Putting together our son’s nursery
    • March: Being Matron of Honor and mother of the flower girl for my cousin’s wedding
    • April: Prepping and starting the vegetable garden. Yes, I’ll be 8 months pregnant, but my daughter loves gardening and I won’t deny her a year of it just because her brother will be born during prime planting season.
    • May: Having a baby boy
    • June: Maternity leave (sort of….. I do run a horse farm, after all)
    • July: Host Summer School for my students
    • August: Start my daughter in pre-school
    • September: Recovery month from a nutty summer
    • October-December: Holiday season begins on our farm with the Harvest Party in October and then there is a steady stream of events through the New Year.

    With so many large life changes happening this year, it’s a good year for me to skip the Resolutions. Here are some signs you should also consider skipping them:

    • One or more major life changes are already in the works and coming your way: new job, moving to a new town, starting or finishing higher education, getting married, having another baby, getting divorced, facing death of a loved one, etc.
    • You are building a new business. Remember, this is often a 7-10 year commitment. Don’t add more pressure to yourself by including a Resolution unless you think it would be fun and it’s a small, easy-to-accomplish goal.
    • Last year was incredibly tough on you emotionally. Use this year to recover. Believe me, you will spend the entire year (at least) recovering. It takes a long time to recover from less-than-positive life changes…. they affect you emotionally and physically, but also often financially. Financial recovery in this day and age takes many months and many different steps. One resolution won’t do it and may just make you feel worse about yourself.

    2018 was a huge year for me in terms of small goals that made major day-to-day life changes and changed my outlook on life. I accomplished many of these goals quickly and they are now a part of my daily life (thank goodness I didn’t pick just one! A New Year’s Resolution would have slowed me down!)! Many of these will make good resolutions for you, so I will share!

    Before the list, here are some tips for selecting a goal:

    • Choose something that interests you, preferably that you are passionate about. It will motivate you to accomplish your goal.
    • Choose a goal that doesn’t require specific time of day. Life is unpredictable, especially mine on a horse farm with a career and family, so don’t limit yourself by choosing a specific time that you must meet your goal.
    • Forgive yourself. Don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day. Life happens. Start again the next day.
    • Use the “rule of ten” for each of these. Do ten minutes a day because most everyone can find ten minutes AND because, ten minutes can be very motivating…. the next thing you know, you may have done much longer!

    My list from 2018:

    • Read. Great for the mind and soul.
    • Garden/Care for house plants. The health benefits, indoors or outdoors abound, but let’s start with the fact that indoor plants improve indoor air quality.
    • Deep breathe or Meditate for 10 minutes. Teaches you to center your mind, lower anxiety levels and lower your heart rate through controlled breathing.
    • Give yourself permission to shower everyday. Include a decent face/neck lotion and those two makeup components that make you feel the best. It’s the simple things that make you feel like a person. For me, my must-haves are an eyebrow pencil (actually, I use eyeshadow over my brows to keep them soft looking, but to give them the same color as my hair – otherwise, they are blond and disappear into my face) and mascara.
    • Review your bank account. If you have a good understanding of what you have spent, a quick review is all you need to make sure you didn’t get hacked or that you haven’t gotten carried away on spending!
    • Pick up the phone and call a family member. A quick hello is all you need! I’m a transplant to Saint Louis. My family and extended family are all over the country. None are within reasonable driving distance for even a day trip.
    • Pet your cat or walk your dog….. or pig or sheep or horse or…… It’s anxiety reducing for you and for them. It makes you closer to your pet and they will love it (quite possibly more than you do).
    • Fold a load of laundry. Did you know? It takes almost exactly ten minutes to fold one load of laundry and put it away?!
    • Pick up the house as you go. Don’t set something on the table to put away later. It only takes a minute or two. It will eliminate most household clutter…. On the farm, I have designated places to dump things because saving steps is critical for time and for physically surviving the day (20,000-25,000 steps a day is pretty normal for me on the farm). There are Rubbermaid containers in our hall closet labeled with names of our outbuildings. Things that end up in the house, but belong in an outbuilding, go in that box until I’m ready to send them to the right building. I also have at the bottom of our stairs where I can put things that need to go upstairs. I take them up the next time I go.
    • Do a short workout. For me, it’s yoga or weights. Goodness knows I have plenty of cardio in my life! I do get muscle imbalances from working with horses, hay, water troughs and farm equipment, so I focus on correcting the imbalances and stretching crazy tight muscles!
    • Give your children concentrated attention for 15 minutes in the morning, after school (or before and after nap) and before bed. Yep…. this is a more significant goal, but studies have shown quality time is better than quantity of time: short concentrated bursts make for a more emotionally secure child. This is YOUR children we’re talking about, so make some coffee for you, breakfast for them and get to hanging out with your offspring!
    • Give your spouse concentrated attention. Oh right! You’re a mom and a career woman, but chances are, you have a spouse, too! Don’t forget about them or your relationship together! Plan a date twice a month! It doesn’t have to be expensive or time consuming, but get a sitter and get away!

    Let me know what you decide to do! Did you pick a resolution? Which one? Or like me, did you skip for 2019?

    Happy New Year!

    My Steps to Illness and Recovery: Self Care for the Sick Working Mom

    Because I am always on the go, illness hits me hard, even if it takes a few days to come on.

    I am also one who doesn’t get the flu shot due to the inflammatory response it causes in my body. Luckily, even without the flu shot, the flu only hits me once or twice a year.

    This round was a bit worse since I’m also half way through pregnancy and morning sickness has yet to subside! The bad news is, I’m pretty much limited to acetaminophen due to pregnancy, while the good news is, I have a handy prescription for anti-nauseants from morning sickness.

    What do I do for myself when I get sick? I’m not talking about a cold, either. It has to be flu, a sinus infection or worse to truly shut me down.

    1) Unplug.

    Other than informing my clients and staff that I am unavailable due to illness, I disappear from social media, email and phone. My phone is on DND and rarely in the same room as me when I’m ill. Unless someone else is on death’s door (one of the horses, for example), my care-giving ends.

    2) Rest.

    When I’m ill, I can’t even read the news. That’s saying something for me. Under normal circumstances, I use FlipBoard to unwind, keep track of financial news and continue my personal growth (I love Ladders.com!). Note: I use my tablet, which isn’t connected to my email or social media to keep my digital media time truly for myself. If I can’t read the news, typically, I can sleep.

    3) Arrange for a sitter.

    If I need to rest and my husband is at work, caring for my 3 year old daughter isn’t resting, even if I’m on the couch and she’s playing on the floor. I arrange a sitter so that my daughter can still have an active, busy day. Remember, my husband works 48 hour shifts, so if I have a sitter for the day, my daughter is still my responsibility for the evening and overnight. I’m not one to splurge on a sitter unnecessarily, but I learned that if I call a sitter in so I can rest for several hours, I can muscle through the rest of child care during my husband’s shifts. Having a sitter for the day also makes my daughter much more willing to have a quiet evening once she is my responsibility again.

    4) Warm my “The Original Bed Buddy” in the Microwave.

    I love The Original Bed Buddy because it holds its heat, easily let’s me add essential oils to it and is heavy enough to feel like a light massage against my aching muscles.

    5) Clear my sinuses with Nasal Clarity by Hidden Acres Homestead.

    The Nasal Clarity Bath and Spray is my favorite and I spray it on my chest and diffuse it throughout the house, but they make a candle, too, for anyone who doesn’t use diffusers. Not only does it let me breathe again, it includes a natural immune booster called Capiaba.

    6) Take a probiotic.

    I usually take one anyway, but many of them allow temporary increase in dosage and once the illness hits my lower GI, it’s a life saver. I actually become semi-functional 1-2 days sooner than I would without one.

    My favorite is Saccharomyces Boulardii, which I haven’t been able to find in drug stores, but it was recommended to me by my primary physician over a year ago so I order it online.

    My chiropractor also recommends MegaSporeBiotic, which I haven’t tried yet only because I didn’t want to mess with changing probiotics while dealing with morning sickness during pregnancy. However, my research on it suggests it’s a much higher quality product (no toxins, allergens or artificial ingredients) and includes antioxidants. Added benefit? The dosage is half of the one I currently use! I’m excited to try it myself! If you give it a try, use the link above, use registration code TV1274 and then get 10% off using this code: HCPC1274WELCOME.

    Recovery: Return to Life Slowly

    Once I feel up to moving a little, I have to keep myself from overdoing it and ending up back in bed because I am one to push myself too hard. That means setting priorities and taking breaks!

    7) Do a Little Self-Care. Shower. Brush and Floss Teeth. Use Face Lotion Again.

    When I’m truly ill, I can’t stand up long enough to take a shower. As soon as I can stand for 15-20 minutes again, I take a shower, brush my teeth, floss, use mouthwash and use a facial mask to unclog pores and strip off a few days of dead cells. I return to my face/neck/chest skin care regiment, but skip makeup.

    I usually accomplish these tasks the first morning I’m feeling a little better, before my daughter wakes up. If I have time, I do a home mani-pedi, too. Being a professional horsewoman means my hands and feet typically need attention every few days to stay both comfortable and presentable.

    8) Protect the household from my illness.

    I replace and wash all hand towels, bath towels, dish cloths, household cleaning cloths, wash cloths and bed sheets immediately following my shower. I also diffuse the Homestead Equalizer Blend throughout the house and use the Homestead Equalizer Cleanser on countertops, sink vanities, toilets and handles (including microwave, refrigerator, cabinets and door knobs) throughout the house. I really like the Homestead Equalizer Collection because it’s a great continuation of the Nasal Clarity Collection from Hidden Acres Homestead in that it limits the spread of microorganisms and supports immune function.

    9) Be a Semi-Active Mom Again.

    My daughter is next on my list of priorities. Besides returning to basic care and making simple meals for her, rather than depending on ready-made items or leftovers, she and I do short bursts of active play.

    I sit on the living room floor and support the play, but don’t have to rough house myself. Examples are dressing her up to be a witch flying (running) around the room, turning on the movie “Leap” so she can dance to it or playing hide-and-seek with her imaginary friend, Casper the Ghost (he came to keep the bad ghosts away at Halloween this year and stuck around). All I have to do is be his voice and pick hiding spots for him.

    We intermingle active play with legos, play-doh, coloring or painting: activities where she and I are both sitting and taking it easy, but she is fully engaged and happy.

    Even when I’m healthy, we take a mid morning break for snack and a short rest and do it again in the afternoon (she often still naps during afternoon break).

    I also plan a LONG bath time. She loves bath time and all I have to do is sit by the tub to play or to bathe her.

    Next thing I know, we’ve been through an entire day where I got to take it easy and my daughter doesn’t feel like she had to do the same.

    10) Focus on the small animals and plants.

    Once I’m successfully semi-active with my daughter again, I increase my scope to include the other smaller living things on my farm. Other than the houseplants, I don’t get to take a break from the small animals while I’m ill if my husband is working, but if he’s home, he takes care of the house cat, dogs and takes the 300 yard walk to close the chicken coop at night. My staff cover the rest.

    As soon as I can, I return to feeding the small animals in the house and outside. That’s the dogs, house cat, barn cat, pigs and flock of birds.

    I clean the kitty litters and start taking the dogs outside again. Fortunately, my cats are good about using the litter box even if I don’t get to it for a few days so I don’t have to ask my husband to help with that one! Taking the dogs out also means reasserting myself as the dominant over the younger dog (he’s only 3).

    I can walk to open the coop and sheep pen again in the mornings and close the coop at night.

    I water the houseplants. They simply have to survive while I’m sick. I figure my illness mimics the occasional short drought and they’ll make it. I trim the dead leaves and move on.

    11) Return to my digital office.

    That means catching up on anything I can do on my phone without spending time sitting/standing in my office. I catch up on phone calls, texts, five work email addresses and my business social media sites.

    12) Return to the Horses.

    I address any remaining first aid issues that occurred during my illness and restart work with my rehab cases.

    Full Return to My Mosaic Life.

    Steps 1-12 occur in 3-5 days typically. Then, the day I return to full work on the farm (teaching, training, mucking, feeding, repairs, improvements, etc), I am usually hounded by my turkey, pigs and horses. They are excited to see me and it’s a day full of affection from them, which is incredibly healing in itself. Turk the turkey follows me around, Peanut the pig comes for kisses, Tinkerbell the pig comes for a belly rub, our sheep, Bert and Ernie, come get petted and I get hugs from nearly all of the 21 horses on the property (they stick the bridge of their faces into my chest and stomach for an embrace).

    That day also marks a full return to my household responsibilities. Laundry, grocery shopping, meal planning, cooking, and more.

    Illness is allowed to derail you. It’s a time to let your body heal, which means don’t push yourself and stop the internal mental fight with yourself about all the things that aren’t getting done. You will heal faster and come back stronger rather than worn out and already a perfect Petri dish for the next awaiting illness.

    Work-Life Harmony not Work-Life Balance

    Two major concepts jump started my being more kind to myself and they probably aren’t what you would expect.

    1) It’s okay to work on a day off.

    2) You must take a midday break on a work day

    I only recently embraced the concept of work-life harmony as opposed to work-life balance. I read the 2016 Thrive Global interview with Amazon.com’s CEO, Jeff Bezos where he described how work-life balance is too structured and limiting, but work-life harmony offers the flexibility many career people need.

    When I Lived with Work-Life Balance…..

    I used to struggle through my husband’s 48 hour shifts (his fire protection district uses a 48-96 schedule where each crew member works 48 hours and then gets 96 hours off). I would crash the day he came home. Every six days, I experienced this mental and physical crash, which then put all the household and child care responsibility on him the day he got home after two hard days at work.

    I used to struggle to “close” my business before a day off (my days off are every Monday and Friday). I felt guilty and anxious about anything I didn’t get done and proceeded to spend my day off preoccupied with work. The end result was that I couldn’t be mentally present for my family. The secondary result was that I started work again the next day already stressed out about things I had left incomplete. And the viscous cycle continued every single day for five years.

    I’m normally a quite efficient and productive person, but my ability to perform to the high level needed was entirely gone. I had to hire staff to continue to provide the extremely high level of care I expect for our horses, help run the business and keep my life going. At one point, I had feed staff, a farm manager, a scheduler and a PA.

    My husband became frustrated because I appeared to work around the clock: If I wasn’t working, I was definitely thinking about it. It’s a fate worse than a spouse who is glued to their smartphone because a mental distraction is both all-encompassing and invisible. We were surviving as a couple, but we weren’t thriving. My husband often said, “I feel like we’re just roommates.” And then I would feel even worse.

    I wasn’t able to take care of myself either….. I would skip meals, I was lucky to shower every 2-3 days, skincare was lacking, makeup was history and working out was impossible. Sleep was also impossible unless I was completely exhausted.

    As anyone with General Anxiety Disorder knows, lack of sleep is devastating to someone who already faces anxiety issues on a daily basis. I functioned only because my daughter and animals depended on me.

    So what changed over the last year?

    First, I had to let some of my key staff go for performance issues, putting a greater workload back on myself. Then, a few more quit as they became ready to focus on other life goals like school, new careers & international travel, putting even more work back on me.

    After five years of surviving and not thriving, it took six months from when I made my first major staff change to hit rock bottom on all fronts.

    It often takes a major trauma to trigger someone to make a change. Mine happened at the end of May this year. After an outpatient surgery, I became horribly ill for months. My anxiety levels, coupled with the after-effects of surgery and some overwhelming emotions, all but crippled me.

    The only reason I survived was the massive support group of friends and family I had developed over the years. It was the first time I legitimately asked for help rather than pushing through and ignoring my mental state. By some miracle, my business and family survived.

    I was at a convenient crossroads: How could I improve the farm, animal quality of care, customer service to my clients, quality family time, give my husband a break and start to take care of myself again? It sounded impossible.

    Work Smarter Not Harder

    You’ve heard it before: Work smarter, not harder. That is so much easier said than done. It annoyed me to no end when a mentor or C-Suite member of the companies I worked for would say, “Work smarter, not harder,” with a wink and a knowing grin, but then wouldn’t explain how.

    I think how to work smarter and not harder varies for each person depending on personality type and career choice, but I also think a lot of the fundamental concepts to jump start this idea are the same.

    I committed to maintaining a feed staff and to figuring out how to do the rest myself.

    Jeff Bezos brought up work-life harmony and then we watched Tesla’s Elon Musk hit rock bottom personally and professionally over his struggles to bring the Tesla Model 3 to mass production. He slept in his office and didn’t change clothes as his work-life balance fell apart.

    Half way around the world from Elon Musk, Queen Elizabeth II mastered work-life harmony decades ago. The only day each year that her famous Red Box isn’t completed is Christmas. She even completes it during the month of August, when the entire Royal Family is technically on vacation. On the flip side, she also takes tea every afternoon without fail, which serves as her mental and physical break from her obligations each day. Her most common tea time guests? Her dogs! It’s short and sweet, but complete break.

    The Queen is a successful career woman, wife, mother, grandmother and great grandmother, accomplished horsewoman and plans to retire at the nice young age of 95. This is work-life harmony at its best. How many people do you know who can’t wait to retire? In this day and age when retirement is logistically impossible for many and often delayed for those who have the means to retire, we are all in desperate need of a new philosophy.

    Work-life harmony means you work when you feel like you need to and not when you don’t. I should preface all of this with the point that, to be successful at work-life harmony, you must must must be a self-starter and a hard worker.

    Now I Live with Work-Life Harmony…..

    Concept 1) It’s okay to work on a day off.

    This doesn’t mean spend your entire day working or jump to answer every email, text or phone call. You are still technically “off” of work.

    Instead, it means address those work-related items that are occupying your mind so that you can get to a reasonable stopping point. That may mean anything from taking a few minutes to jot down thoughts or action items you don’t want to forget, to having an hour long check-email session to spending a few hours on a task/problem on the forefront of your mind.

    With external communications, you determine if that incoming phone call, email or text will increase your anxiety levels if left unanswered or if it can be left for the next work day.

    If you are in the midst of quality time with your family, it may also be best to use a hybrid method and ignore the communications for a few hours until a window of downtime occurs. Sure, your clients, co-workers, staff and bosses will learn that you screen your calls and have taken control of allowable communications on your days off, but that’s the point. It’s your time off. What you choose to do with it is up to you and not up to them. If someone doesn’t understand that, it’s their problem and not yours. Period. You are not obligated to communicate with them on your off days.

    Work-life Harmony has another awesome benefit if you are in a position to control your own schedule or have flex-start work hours. You can take short stints of time away from work on a work day for your family or yourself. It works because, chances are you already worked some on your days off that week. I no longer feel guilty for taking time to attend a doctor appointment, taking a few hours off in the morning when my husband first gets off of his 48 hour shift or meeting a friend for a long lunch. These moments are concentrated times for self-care and family-care.

    Concept 2) You must take a midday break on a work day.

    I’m talking about a complete break, even if you have good momentum and think you’ll make it through the rest of the day just fine. Stop what you are doing and find a way to detach mentally.

    For me, since my day often runs 5am-8pm, I take afternoon tea, much like Queen Elizabeth (excluding the sweets and including the dogs!). My phone goes on DND, my computer is shut down, I don’t answer my front door (I discourage clients from coming to my door regardless, since I live and work in the same place and need some personal space), I don’t do house or farm chores and my daughter must also rest or nap during this time. I detach from everything related to my work and life to have tea and read, meditate, shower, brush a dog, etc. when I return to my life 1.5 hours later, I feel refreshed, restored and prepared to face the unexpected for the rest of the day. And believe me, on a horse farm with a herd of 21, expecting the unexpected is part of the job description!

    In living work-life harmony, I’m not just getting my work done, I’m getting more done. Like Jeff Bezos, I am happier at work and therefore more energized and relaxed at home. And so goes the upward spiral.

    This article just touches on the tip of the iceberg regarding work-life harmony, but it’s a great place to start. Subscribe to my blog to dive in further!