Sunday, February 27, 2011

Finding Time to Work from Home

by Naomi Rawlings

The baby is asleep, the older children happily playing. You sit down at the computer or sewing machine or office desk to sneak in a few moments of work--you know, the kind of work you get paid for. The kind that doesn't include dishes or laundry or cleaning. Within five minutes, chaos breaks loose.

It happens to every mom that works at home. Let's look at a few ways to sneak some time.

Try getting up early. You probably take advantage of nap time and bed time. Have you considered finding some early morning time? After my youngest was born, I found myself too tired to get anything done at night. I now get up at 5:30am to write. Does it sound crazy? Please know that I started at 6:30 and worked my way back an hour. The early morning time works great for me. I get a start on my day and am often halfway through my writing goal by the time the kids wake. Be warned though, 5:30am is not for everyone.

Hire a babysitter, or use a daycare once a week. Yes, the point of working at home is that you are home--meaning available for your children. However, you might both benefit from a break once a week. Do some figuring. Is the amount of work you'd get done in three hours worth the cost of childcare?

Have your husband babysit. My husband and I have a tentative arrangement. Once a week, he takes the kids for a few hours while I pack up the laptop and go somewhere to write. The arrangement isn't engraved in stone, but most weeks it works out. It also gives daddy some time to focus on the kids.

Arrange play dates. Have you tried coordinating play dates? See if you can set up a time where your kids go play once a week and a corresponding time when you host the play date. Parents of both families benefit from some alone time, and the children benefit from the social interaction. Getting on a weekly or biweekly schedule can work well. It seems as though my four-year-old wants a friend over twice a week, so I keep that in mind and try to arrange for my eldest to be gone during my baby's nap time.

Good old TV. I occasionally rent a dollar movie. I don't use this every day or even every week. But if I need to get work done and I have both kids, I shove a dollar movie into the DVD player while I put my baby down for nap. Try not to overuse TV. Your child probably watches some TV every day. If TV is always a babysitter, your child may become so used to it that it looses it's appeal. Renting a movie can give TV time a special feel and keep your child glued to the screen.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Infant Bang Board Computer Games

by Melissa Jagears

I work on the computer a lot and it stood to reason that my infant wanted to play on the toy Mom spent a lot of her time with.

But before an infant can control a mouse, all they can do is bang on the keyboard. So I searched for "bang board" games.

These 3 were the sites that not only my daughter could do, but enjoyed for many months. These do not require mouse skills.

The Cray Machine

Fisher-Price Infant Online Games

Knee Bouncers - Since my daughter used this, they have added more games but require you to sign up and pay. But there are still 4 free ones.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Act of Encouraging

by Desirea Packard
Encourage the exhausted, and strengthen the feeble.
—Isaiah 35:3
Encouragement is often a hard thing for some. Here are a few things that I do sometimes that are fast and easy and simple when you need to send encouragements.

Once a week send a letter, an email or even a text letting the person know how much they mean to you. Whether it be a spouse, or a best friend a sibling or even a parent. I often send little texts to my husband to let him know how much I appreciate his hard work and that he provides for us daily so that I can stay home and do what I love to do, which is be a mom. Now I am not saying that I don’t contribute, because I do. But he does work hard long hours away from his family every day. I appreciate that. There are some spouses that are away for weeks at a time. My husband often tells me he appreciates these texts especially when he has had a rough day. It’s encouraging. I try and never miss a chance to let someone I know how much I appreciate them. Plus, it’s also a pay it forward kind of thing. Because of this, I have seen him do the same for me or to other people he cares about.

Anticipate someone’s need. I have always believed if you ask someone how you can help, it doesn’t usually mean you really want to help you are just being polite. (I realize this isn’t always the case.) For example, this past week I was sitting in the ER after I had been up all night with a crying sick baby. When I realized he wasn’t getting better, we went to the hospital. I texted my best friend and told her I am heading there, for no reason other than she’s my best friend. Half way through the visit a nurse comes into the room with two hot cups of good coffee (not hospital coffee.) She said these were delivered for you. I knew immediately who the culprit was, and I appreciated it. This was exactly what I needed after being up all night. She knew that I probably didn’t have coffee made at home and I needed a coffee fix. This is what I mean when you try to anticipate someone’s needs. This was exactly what I needed and I was very thankful for the encouragement.

There are also the obvious forms of encouragement that can be done. Sending a card, or flowers, etc. There is nothing wrong with these traditional ways and I still use them from time to time depending on the person and the reason. Sometimes when I can’t think of something to say or do, going this route is the best option because cards have a good way of saying exactly what I want to say when I don’t know how to word it. These are a great idea.

Friends are a great source to tell you what you want to hear or need to hear rather you want to hear it or not. When I am having a bad day being a mom, stepmom, or a wife, etc. My friends are the ones I usually turn to. They usually know exactly what I need.

Pray- This may not be for everyone, but God is the giver of all things so if you are finding you need encouragement, or are struggling with something or just need a boost in your step to help you make it through wherever you’re going, pray. It’s as simple as that. I pray without ceasing. I pray for my spouse, my children, my friends, my finances. (Everything.) I am asking God to send them what they need when I don’t know what they need and I can’t help.

This is just a few things that I do or have done to help those that need encouragement when it comes to great things and the not so great things. I hope that this helps.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Vegetarian Eggs Benedict

by Cherilyn David

Cherilyn’s recipes always include a trick or tip, sometimes new and exciting, sometimes a simple task, that may not be simple to everyone. Cherilyn’s recipes also always include a ‘plan B’… that is substitutions or short cuts to make the dish easier, faster or both!! :) I don’t just list ingredients and instructions. To me, a recipe is a story and I tell the why and what for and mention whatever comes to mind!

*Always read an entire recipe before beginning.

Vegetarian Spinach Eggs Benedict

4 eggs
Hollandaise Sauce mix
Milk, water, butter (depending on the mix)
4 slices whole wheat bread
1 cup chopped baby spinach
8 slices of large or medium portabella tops
(1 mushroom is more than enough)
½ cup chopped scallions
Butter (optional)

Black pepper

Avocado garnish

Obviously this dish has been turned Vegetarian, due to the missing Canadian bacon or ham. The good news is, it’s full of healthy stuff, to try and offset the fact that it is generally a rich, less than perfect choice on the road to a smaller waistline. Not to worry, just don’t have it every day!
This is one of those dishes where you have several balls in the air, but they come together quickly. You’ll want to have your toaster handy. A cookie cutter or a glass with about a 4-inch rim. I find wine glasses to be great as they seem to be thin and sharp. This is for cutting a circle out of our wheat toast. (Healthier than English muffins.)

You want to start your Hollandaise on low, pretty much right away. Throw a mini whisk in there and just whip now and then and it will stay smooth and hot.

Your mushrooms and spinach need very little cooking to reduce and warm up, so they can share a small pan on low as well, not mixed, just spinach on one side and mushrooms on the other.

Now you have two pans going. Throw your toast in the toaster. Whip your sauce.
If you have an egg poacher, great, but totally not necessary.
How to poach an egg: Poached eggs are simply cooked in water. A poaching pan keeps the egg together, but that can be done on its own as well. Get some water, just a couple inches worth, to a rolling boil. As you crack each egg open it slowly into the water. This keeps it together, since the egg cooks almost instantly, then just floats in the water, waiting to be removed. Use a slotted spoon to remove when ready, depending on how well you like the yolks done. This can be done one at a time or all in one pan if you’re pan is big enough and you are quick enough. :)

This is the tricky part, in between eggs, you’re turning your mushrooms and spinach, maybe a whip or two to your sauce and toast is popping up. Cut circles and plate two each. If you want butter on your toast, now would be the time. Next pile some spinach on each wheat round. If you’re worried your spinach isn’t too done, the egg on top will fix that!

Turn all the burners off.

So… wheat round, spinach, egg, mushroom slices, Hollandaise, scallions on top! I pepper the eggs before topping. Hollandaise is very rich and wonderful, so you may let your eaters salt on their own.

If all this multi-tasking makes you crazy, don’t do it. You can cook everything one at a time, eggs last. It just may not stay quite as hot, but eleven seconds in the microwave will fix that. Cooking should be FUN, first and foremost. Don’t do anything that stresses you out… especially in the morning.

I serve mine with avocado on the side, because at my house, there is always room for some avocado.

The good news is, you can substitute anything here! If you don’t like spinach or mushrooms, add something else. The key is bread, egg and Hollandaise. They do make whole wheat English muffins. Some tasty ideas are sun-dried tomatoes or zucchini. If you need it a little heartier, add a layer of hash browns and top with shredded cheese! Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Small Business Tax Questions with an emphasis on writing businesses

by Melissa Jagears

At Reflections in Hindsight this month, professional writers and tax consultants are writing articles for small business people with an emphasis for those that are authors/want to be authors but the information can be helpful to other types of businesses.

February Focus on Market: Writing as a Business

This article gives you tips at the bottom of whether the IRS would consider you a business or a hobby.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Where Do I Begin?

by Doula Brandi

Where do I begin? This is not in reference to writer’s block, on the contrary it’s the question that I ask myself every year when I get the urge to de-clutter and do a deep spring cleaning. I have to admit that since having children I have become a ‘messy’. My past organized self has disappeared behind mountains of laundry, tons of toys, and reams of school papers. I’ve misplaced my day planner not to mention not being able to find the desk top or the sewing machine. This is not to place the blame of my untidiness onto my children, just in recognition of the immense amount of work that a mother has to do, especially a work at home mother. It is also about me realizing that time and space management are of the utmost importance.

Organization is a must for a successful home based business operation. 2011 is my year of taming the tiger of clutter. The inner ‘neat freak’ in me wants to come out, I can feel it. I just need motivation, energy and some inspiration. For a great while I have dreamed of a workspace, one off-limits to inquisitive little hands. Someplace where I can work peacefully and if I need to, leave work laying out in order to finish it later. It was really a dream since there is no such place in our small home of 1100 sq. ft.

In my quest for a set-apart space for work, I enlisted the help of my brother to transform attic space into a studio for me to work in. I had a budget of $400 (which I had been saving back for years, just for something special) to work with and managed to nearly finish the room without going over budget too much. (I still have drywall to finish, trim to install and painting to do-all “lipstick and rouge” touch-ups.)

We have pull-down stairs for our attic right over the area designated “school room” so in theory should be a good working arrangement. My space is roughly 8’X10’ and now houses my sewing machine in addition to a nice 4 foot work bench. At Lowe's I found a 4 ft piece of white counter top marked down to five dollars. We were creative in getting that into our little car’s trunk space, but did manage to get it home in good condition. We previously purchased used cabinets from a friend who remodeled their kitchen and I used the drawer tower for the base of my workbench with the other end anchored to the wall. The entire workbench cost about $10-15 to make.

Two sets of short (think over the fridge) cabinets are stacked on top of each other to give me some storage space on one wall. I sourced used carpet from a friend who had an auction and the carpet didn’t sell. It’s in great condition and makes the room feel cozy and soft for my bare feet. Plus it was absolutely free.

I re-used a light fixture from our dining room, where we recently installed a hunter ceiling fan, bought on clearance of course!

I also found a custom window at Lowe's that was returned, original priced way beyond my budget, but clearance priced at $65 it was perfect and less expensive compared to smaller windows at regular price! Now I have a great source of natural light and an emergency exit if ever needed. I love this new window, easy to open, tilts in for easy cleaning and the screen is removable from the inside.

The major expense of the room was the lumber, then insulation and drywall. I had to purchase all of these items new and paid full retail for them. We insulated the room well since it is in the attic and it has made the room very comfortable without having to heat it this winter. I leave the pull-down stairs open about 8 inches and heat naturally rises to warm the room.

I pulled a small two shelved bookcase out of storage to use for my Doula lending library. This room is definitely a multi-purpose room; sewing, beading & jewelry making, scrapbooking and doula office.

Now that I have my separate work space, I’m beginning to feel some motivation and inspiration moving in. I’m feeling energized to get it stocked and organized in order to use it! Thus my journey to neat living & working has begun. I hope that you will follow me and offer your hints for keeping your home & workspace organized as inspiration to me and others along the way!

~Doula Brandi

“We are what we repeatedly do.

Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit.”


Dealing with Bed-Wetting

by Sally Chambers

Glimpses and Guidance from Grandma’s Garrett

Here’s a question that weighs on a busy mom’s heart.

“How did you deal with a child fully potty trained that still occasionally wets the bed at night?”

Here’s a little bit of help, hope, and encouragement.

Having washed a ton of sheets, rinsed off two little bottoms a gazillion times, dried buckets of frustrated tears, my own included, I can tell you both my two children and I survived without dragging the little problem into adulthood.

How do you deal?

With patience, pull-ups, pads—soft waterproof ones—and prayer, a silent one, for peace of mind and guidance for you and your little one. All will help both of you through the occasional sieges of nighttime bed wetting.

Before anything, know that this isn’t at all unusual. Check with your doctor, limit late liquids, overrule unusual stress, try taking them to the bathroom before you go to bed, and above all, assign no blame to either yourself or your child.

Put it in perspective. You don’t have a loving relationship with the sheets—but you most certainly do with your little one. They’re growing in every way there is to grow. They play hard and sleep hard, and nighttime just doesn’t offer the instant potty break that daytime does.

Something you might try is to put her to bed (with a waterproof sheet) wearing daytime underwear instead of a pull-up. It can sometimes be a psychological reminder not to wet her regular underwear. Rewarding for success with sticky stars on a calendar and similar rewards? I’m not so sure that doesn’t backfire, causing stress and disappointment when there hasn’t been a good night, and, as she goes to sleep, anxiety that she might not earn a star. Always reassure to encourage, and never shame as it only heaps on the stress. Mistakes happen and we pick ourselves up and go on from there.

As difficult as it might be for you, I believe it’s much more distressing for them. Just remember it’s a rare grownup that still wets the bed at night. Your little one will eventually grow up and out of it.

Your comments and questions are welcome, and we’d love for you be become one of our Making Home Work blog-followers.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Easy Dinner for Busy Moms - Creamy Tortilla Soup

by Melissa Jagears

I had extra turkey leftovers from the holidays. (Who doesn't have leftovers?) After a few sandwiches, I was down to the dregs, maybe a cup of shredded turkey. So, Leftover Tortilla Soup was in order.

Quick Easy Creamy Tortilla Soup (Less than 15 minutes)

1 can of diced tomatoes
1 can tomatoes and chilies (Or a substitute for tomatoes and chilies is 1 cup salsa if you do not have this on hand)
1 can refried beans
3 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/2 to 1 cup corn (frozen, fresh, canned, whatever)
1 lb cooked chicken or turkey (or whatever you got left!)
shredded cheese
tortilla chips

Stir tomatoes, salsa, beans, broth and corn in a large pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and add meat until heated through. Ladle into bowls and top with cheese and crushed tortilla chips to liking.

I ladle serving sizes into freezer bags and freeze for later since this makes too much for my family to eat in one sitting.

Pull out of the freezer, place it in a sink of hot water to soften enough to get it out of the bag and zap it in the microwave.