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Back to School, Homeschol and Distance Learning Organization Guide

It’s the start of a new school year in my home and I’m determined to make sure we have a smooth, clutter-free and positive school year.

As an avid believer in  and the positive impact of having a decluttered and organized home, I believe having an organization system and clutter and junk free home are essential for ensuring positive energy flow and clear thought.

I highly recommend that parents use the beginning of a school year as another excuse to get organized, not just for the school routine, but the family home in general.  So even if you did Spring or New Year cleaning, use the late summer/early fall to re-organize your life and priorities as well.

Even if your kids have already gone back, you can still get started. Here are some declutter and home organization tips that I’ve put together that I hope can help get you through the year.

Clean and DeClutter

Clean and Declutter the Kids Play, Work Rooms and Nursery.  Limit the number of toys and books in the kids room. Get rid of old broken toys. Give away old books and toys to the Salvation Army, Good Will or another family member with children younger than yours. Keep only a few of the favorite story books and the toys your child or children play with regularly. Don’t let them know you’re getting rid of the stuff they don’t even play with. They likely won’t even know it and you don’t need the headache of having them plea for you to keep it.

Infuse Calming Scents in the Home.  I’m a also a big believer in aromatheraphy and that scents guide the mood. Buy Glade or some other brand’s plugins to keep the air fresh and clean smelling. You can burn candles when you’re home or if you’re an incense type of person, those work too.  Consider using those with essential oils or scents such as chamomile, rose, vanilla and lavender. They are calming scents.

Thoroughly Clean the Room. Wash and Wipe down the walls, baseboards, windows and floors — with natural cleaners. Repair wall holes, cracks, squeaky windows, peeling paint. A clean home is great for fostering clear thoughts and just clarity, in general.

Set up Calendar and Chore Lists. Even if you’re a stay-at-home mom, you shouldn’t be doing all of the cleaning and upkeep. Set up a chore sheet for the refrigerator for after school chores. Also, start a new family calendar for keeping up with back to school nights, upcoming field trips, sports activities and other events so everyone knows what’s going on. If you’re the family manager as mom, you shouldn’t be the only one aware of what days are soccer practice.  Sitters, your spouse and house guests should too. Also, a chore list is great for keeping up the principles of feng shui which are all about clean spaces.

Keep Toys Dedicated to ONE area of the home (or maybe two) Avoid the chaotic mind that comes when you have toys and other things sprinkled in every nook and cranny of the home. Toys should be kept only to the play room, the kids room or one area of the apartment that is quartered off and situated with a toy chest, storage bin or some place where you can quickly toss all the toys hanging out all over the house. The tough part may be to stick to this one simple rule.

When the kids are not playing with a toy, there is really no need for it to be taking up space on the kitchen table or creating a tripping hazard for you or a guest. Either you, your partner or trained kids if they are old enough should make a concerted effort to gather all errant toys and keep them in the designated area.

It seems pretty intuitive, huh?

Over time, it will become a habit or second nature and you will find toys are not strewn about as much anymore. I do this with other areas of my home and life.  All papers, books, newspapers, invoices, magazines are usually put away in our home office.  All clothes go in a hamper, closet or bedroom.  Dishes, cups and silverware discovered anywhere in the house are picked up and taken in the kitchen

Think of this mantra:  “There is a place for Everything and Everything in its place.”

Organize the Paper Trails. Each year, families accumulate reports, information from school, permission slips and the such. It will get mixed in with bills, receipts, warranties and other paper that come into your life.

This Home Organization plan will make it easy for you:  Get a binder or two and dividers or one of those mega accordion file folders with tabs and divide them in the following categories:

School Category

  • Car maintenance schedule/Receipts
  • School schedules and holiday list
  • Lunch menus
  • School information page
  • School reading lists
  • Summer Camp and programs information
  • Medical information sheet for each family member
  • Emergency directory
  • House-sitter information sheet
  • PTA newsletters and rosters

Health Categories

  • Prescription drug record
  • Health insurance information

Home Vacation

  • Travel packing checklist
  • Before-we-leave checklist
  • Vacation idea list

Home Renovation

  • Home renovation contractor lists
  • Contracts and Bids
  • Warranty information
  • Utilities/services directory
  • Home decorating ideas

Home Business

  • Business records
  • Tax Documents for Business
  • Consultants and Independent Contractor records
  • Liability Insurance
  • Business & Office Equipment registry

Financial

  • Tax Documents for Personal
  • Big Ticket Items receipts
  • Life insurance information
  • Budget/spending record
  • Bills to pay

Hope these Declutter and Home Organization Tips are helpful to you as you get yourself and your family organized for the season! Good luck!

 

10 Baby Names Inspired by Summer

Photo by Leah Kelley from Pexels

New parents get inspired to name their babies from lots of things including seasons! And because it is Summer, it is fun to think about what names are selected that reminds parents of Summer.

Before the company went out of business, genealogy analysts at MooseRoots, a Graphiq  collected data from the Social Security Administration to come up with hottest five Summer baby names for boys and girls and while names like aqua and August seem easily identifiable with the Summer season, other names may surprise you.

Here are the names on the list:

#10. Lucia

 Female

The feminine form of Lucius, Lucia has Italian origins and is likely the derivative of the Latin word meaning “light.”

#9. Summer

Female

If summer is your favorite season, why not name your child after it? Summer is a common female name in the U.S. but it saw its highest popularity ever in 1977, when it was the 119th most common female baby name.

#8. Isla

 Female

Pronounced ‘eye-la,’ Isla comes from the word Islay, an island off the western coast of Scotland.

#7. Mary

Female

Mary, a name that has withstood the test of time. The New Testament form of Miriam derives from elements meaning “drop of the sea.”

#6. Julia

 Female

Julia is the feminine form of the name Julius, the Roman term once used for the month of July.

#5. Kai

Male

Kai, a common male name derived from the Hawaiian word meaning “the sea,” has seen a steady increase in popularity in the U.S.

#4. Parker

 Male

Parker has become increasingly more common since 1974, and has experienced its highest level of popularity in the last few years.

#3. Julian

 Male

Julian is another derivative of the Latin name Julius.

#2. Isaac

Male

The Hebrew name Isaac dates back to biblical times and means “to laugh.” The name has been ascending in popularity, and had the highest state-specific ranking at No. 10 in Nebraska.

#1. Dylan

Male

Dylan is of Welsh origins and is connected to the Celtic word meaning “sea.”

 

 

College Dorm Essentials and Quarantine ‘Go Bag’ Packing List

Update: According to the New York Times, “coronavirus is already spreading through colleges and universities at a frightening pace — and some of the biggest clusters have been at sororities, fraternities and off-campus parties.” As of September 6, 2020, the paper has linked “at least 251 cases of the virus to fraternities and sororities across the country, including in Washington, North CarolinaBerkeley, Calif., and Oxford, Miss.”

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, sending a child off to college and shopping for dorm essentials is a little different this year for parents of first time freshmen and upperclassen too.

Although a lot of universities have decided to be “online only” this fall semester, many institutions are still having in-person and hybrid online and in person classes. My son’s school in upstate New York is one.

His college, along with others that have decided to welcome students to campus this year are telling parents and students to pack light and to bring just enough stuff to stay for 2-3 weeks in case there is an outbreak and they have to shut it all down right after classes start.

As a recent New York Times article noted, “[p]arents are discovering that, regardless of what guidelines are posted, policies are changing with new data and little notice almost daily.”

Yikes!

It’s not just about packing lighter than normal, it’s also changing the landscape of the college experience.

Schools are converting triples and quads into double and single occupancy rooms to decrease the density and crowding of dormitories. The move-in process is also changing. At my son’s school, they are only allowing one person to accompany a student at move in day. This decision means the entire extended family that planned to accompany us to send him off to college will have to simply wait in the car.

He had to take a COVID-19 test and quarantine for 14 days in advance of arriving on campus, subject himself to New York state contact tracers and conduct daily health check ins with his school’s app! Oy vey!!

These big changes also mean we parents now have to update, edit and toss aside those 200+ item college dorm shopping checklists we all researched, pinned and downloaded.

Likewise, readers of this blog can go ahead and ignore my tips for creating a lavish dorm room. You won’t be needing all that this year. You can go to Dormify if  you insist on making it super cozy and on getting accent elements but don’t get carried away with the matching window treatments, room accents, plush pillows, throw rugs and string lights.

So as far as the packing list goes, it’s safe to keep the usual must-have items on there: casual clothes, an interview, job fair or class presentation outfit, workout gear, PJs, fall and winter outerwear wear along with an umbrella.

However, there is no need to purchase and schlep along school supplies like binders, printer paper, pens and clip boards when your  kid can get that stuff at the local Walmart or Target after she moves in. I’d say skip the bed risers to make room under the bed to store supplies needed for an entire school year. Just get plastic collapsible storage bags and be done with it.

Also, I think to save space and time, there is no need to purchase a mini vacuum cleaner, broom and a bunch of cleaning supplies, and I say this not because your kid won’t clean, but this year, you can expect the college will have extra cleaning supplies on hand and will have a housekeeping staff there to do a thorough sweep through more regularly than before.

A bottle of disinfectant and paper towels or a reusable rag for dusting will do…oh and snacks. You can never send too much snacks!

This year, you have other things to focus on such as COVID-specific essentials like Vitamins,  disposable disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizers and UV light air purifier.

There is evidence that copper and silver reduce the life span of viruses and while most copper-infused gloves are not touch screen compatible, the GliderGloves Copper Infused Touch Screen Gloves are and are only $14.99 a pair! It can’t hurt and you never know!

Personally, to prepare to pack the car, I edited and adjusted the old college dorm checklists I’ve downloaded from Facebook parenting groups to just include the bare essentials and a Covid-19 quarantine essentials “Go” bag.

That’s the bag that has all a kid would need to be holed up in a hotel, a friend or family’s house for up to 14 days in case the college student tests positive for the coronavirus and needs to go to the hospital and later quarantine somewhere on campus or nearby, in case they are exposed to a roomate, suite mate, floormate or lab partner who contracts the disease and need to do a 14 day quarantine because of that exposure.

The other scenario is that the school decides to shut down altogether and you cannot collect your child in time and need to arrange for him to stay at a hotel or some other transition housing until you can make arrangements to bring them home.

Here is an abbreviated list of what should be on  this year’s Covid era dorm packing list:

LAPTOP

In lieu of a full desktop that some kids haul to campus, consider investing in a laptop which is more portable solution like this renewed Apple Macbook  Air with 128 gigs of ram at Amazon. My son is a computer science major and insists on taking the two monitor system he built in the 11th grade so we are traveling with that, but most people will not need to go that route.

 

ANTIMICROBIAL DESK PAD

Because we are in a season of trying to mininize germs and knowing that computer keyboards and mouse controllers are a common source for accumulating germs, an antimicrobial desk pad like this Artistic Rhinolin II Self-healing desk pad, available at Amazon may be a good thing to have.  I also found a less expensive one at Walmart.

 

PORTABLE AIR PURIFIER WITH UV LIGHT

There is some evidence that UVC light kills viruses, there is a thinking out there among some moms that it cannot hurt to invest in an air purifier that kills germs with UVC light  and  has that capability. I found a pluggable portable one that sanitizes, purifies and cleanses germs from the air for $39.99 made by Germ Guardian which has GREAT REVIEWS from asthmatics and others who’ve used this product! That’s a good size and price for a small room!

[SEE MY POST AND VIDEO REVIEWING THIS PORTABLE AIR PURIFIER]

BLUETOOH SPEAKER

A mini pill sound box is not just good for listening to music but also for connecting a phone or mobile device to it while listening or watching a class. Your student can multitask and get dressed for the morning, do some light cleaning or fold laundry without having to be at the desk watching. The Beats mini portable speaker is $126 on Amazon.

A much less expensive bluetooth speaker is the DOSS for just $27.99 which produces top quality sound and gets decent reviews.

 COFFEE MAKER

My kid doesn’t drink coffee but I heard great things about the Keurig K mini coffee machine which can be enivronmentally friendly if you opt to used the reusable filter and purchase coffee grounds! It’s a good price at $78 and comes with great reviews. Alternatively, for a cheaper and definitely eco friendly option, you can get a mini Mr. Coffee for just a little over $25!

 

POWER STRIP

 

You can never have too many power outlets so a power strip which is also a surge protector is a must have. We got a double pack at a steal for just $4.99 at Ikea!  Also, because of COVID , he may spend more time in his room than the computer lab.

 

Although the students in my kid’s school say they did not use the printer they took to college in previous years, this year may be different with reduced hours or with students wanting to limit their time spent in buildings and spaces that are not their rooms. Therefore, it may be worth it to invest in a small printer to print out paper assignments, or project elements.

I have a printer graveyard but the one that has been the best to us is the Canon PIXMA MG-2522. The ink cartridge replacement is significantly cheaper than for HP and other brands.

It’s a little loud but you get tons of ink jobs before it runs out and I predict your child will not need to replace ink all semester but if she does, you can sign up for the cartridge replacement plan which itself is really reasonable.

CLIP ON FAN

 

If your college student will be rooming with another person, it is inevitable that there will be some disagreements on the room temperature. If ever your kid gets too hot, having his/her own portable mini fan like this one is a good bet.

 

CLIP ON DESK LAMP

Similar to a small fan, a small light is needed for those nights when the roomate is napping or sleeping but your college kid still has an exam to study for. I got my son a clippable desk lamp that can be easily moved from his desk to a post on the bed. It was at Target for just $7!

FLOOR LAMP

Although I would think a floor lamp would be overkill, I like lots of light. Heavy illumination brightens my mood, gets me in the mindset to work and keeps me alert.

And I believe there is research to back up the fact that plenty of light energizes in addition to makes it easier to see what’s on a computer screen or inside a text book when working on a desk with a desk lamp.

Here is a chart with some data to back me up:

I plan to pick up this one above from Walmart.

UNDER BED STORAGE UNITS

In lieu of hard collapsible storage container that take up room, this year, opt instead for plastic underbed storage containers that are pliable and are maneuverable in a crowded mini van or SUV and takes up less space. Also, this year, skip the bed risers and stuff thse plastic and cloth storage container under the bed. The Onlyeasy foldable storage container comes in packs of 2. Fold and Carry the winter clothes in there and have your kid replace them with the August and early September clothes for the warmer months.

SHEETS SET

Send two sets of sheets: one that can be used while the other is in the laundry bag. I went with recommendations from blogger Sophia Lee and purchased the Mellani Bed Sheets  on Amazon.com.

MATTRESS TOPPER
Mattress topper dorm essentials list

My son’s school needs a specific kind of protectors that meets a very high California consumer board anti-flammable standard. One brand that works is sold at Target but is always sold out there so we lucked out and got one from Walmart.

COMFORTER

A plush and cozy comforter is a must have for having a full rest before class. I lucked out and got a steal on a nice comfy reversible grey Brookside Downs comforer at Overstock.com.

BLANKET

Blanket College Dorm Essential Packing List

For studying in the student lounge at the desk on chilly evenings, a blanket or throw is in order. This is also a good cover option for warmer months when a comforter may be too much coverage. We got a very soft one at Ikea this past weekend. They have other styles and materials and this one in other colors like pink and other feminine colors.

PILLOWS
Back Pillow College Dorm Essentials Packing

Any standard pillow would do but in addition, a back rest pillow is a must to lean up against those concrete dorm walls or while in the study lounge propped up against a wall or sofa.

We picked up the Therapedic back rest at Bed Bath and Beyond which is a bit pricey considering there are a lot of much much cheaper ones out there, but if you get it online after signing up for their newsletter, you can get it 20% off!

COMMAND STRIPS

For hanging up photos, white boards, mirrors and other heavy vanity items, the Command strips are a plus. A lot of dorms forbid hammering in nails so if you get a 7 pack of the command strips, you should be good to go! They’re about $5 at my local Target or if you don’t want to go into a store, order this pack of 7.

HANGERS

Hangers College Dorm Essentials Packing List

I got two sets of wooden hangers for at  Ikea  in packs of 8 and plan to pick up a couple packs of plastic ones at the Dollar Tree or Target.

DORM ROOM SLIPPERS

My son has always wanted a more manly pair of slippers so it was wonderful to see these Dockers slippers on sale at our local Sears for only $20.99.  I saw Joe Boxer brand had some for young women at $19.99 too while I was in there!



 

laundry detergent

This year, college kids may be in a position of having to be hospitalized, God forbid, and have a medical directive, also, some may need a passport or social security card for getting an on or off campus job to satisfy employer verification process.

Further, even though a lot of us use digital form of currency, in an emergency, having actual cash may be necessary. A small safe like this one disguised as a book is the best to store cash and valuable and high security documents.

TOWEL SET

BATHROOM TOWELS COLLEGE DORM ESSENTIALS PACKING LIST

We have not yet gotten our towels but I think I will get the set I saw at Sears when I was there picking up casual clothing for the kids. These are the softest around.

BATHROOM CADDY

My son has indicated that he would prefer not to use a shower caddy so, we got hin the Kusoofa Shower Caddy tote which doesn’t look like a traditional and more femine tote at Amazon.com because it got great reviews from travelers, gym goers and others.

SHOWER SHOES/FLIP FLOPS

shower shoes college dorm essentials packinglist

shower slippers college dorm essentials packing list

 An old pair of rubber flip flops or beach slipper syour kid already has will probably be enough to use for shower shoes. These are shoes you wear when using a community shower as they have in dormatories. If your child will be in a suite or apartment with a dedicated bath for just the unit habitants, this may not be necessessary.

Walmart sells a good low cost pair that gets great reviews for just $7.49! 

 

WATER PURIFIER

WATER PURIFIER COLLEGE DORM ESSENTIALS PACKING LIST

Save money on purchasing bottle water by getting a water purifier jug so your coed can just filler up out of the tap and put this in this in the fridge. A BPA-Free Brita Water filter goes for $34.99 on Amazon but you can find other brands for less at other big box retail stores.

PLASTIC DINNER SET

plastic plates cultery

A set of hard plastic bowls, plates, cups and cutlery is in order considering that your kid may be spending more time in his or her room consuming food than inside the dining halls especially if your child is immunodeficient and is being extra cautious about being inside enclosed places where it is easier to contract the novel coronavirus.

These are pretty cheap and in fact, Target has each piece for $.78 cents right now. If you want to get an entire matching set, 12 piece Cambridge dinner set sells on Amazon and is a Prime recommended product!

PRESCRIPTIONS
PILL BOX COLLEGE ESSENTIALS PACKING LIST
PILL BOX college dorm essentials packing list

Whether your child has prescriptions or just takes over the counter allergy medicines, vitamins and other pills for common ailments, get these all pre-ordered and enough for the year with insurance to save the hassle of transfering orders to a local pharmacy at your child’s college.

I make my kid fill up his in  Sunday-Saturday pill box us older folks use to keep track of all of our medicines. It’s not too embarrasing because it can stay in the dorm and they only get to be embarrassed by their roomate. This tool is great for travel and to be added to the quaranting Go bag!

I purchased the Apex twice a day pill box from Walmart! 

 

LAUNDRY BAG

laundry bag college dorm essentials packing list

Again, Ikea to the rescue! I considered getting a collapsible laundry bag or basket and then saw mention of a laundry backpack in a parenting book.

I saw one promoted on Amazon for $15 but then at Ikea spotted a backpack that is 8 gallons and would work!

 

LAUNDRY SHEETS OR PODS
laundry detergent sheets college dorm essentials packing list
laundry detergent


Instead of heavy bottles, the wisdom from current college students is to go with the detergent pods or detergent sheets.

A popular brand is Breezeo and 48 sheets sell for under $9 on Amazon. They are light and easier to carry and store. Your kid just pops a sheet on top of a  load and can go and they are less likely to destroy clothes the way pods can for kids who never ever do their own laundry and might not know what the heck to do!

DOWNLOAD A PRINTABLE VERSION OF THIS PACKING LIST HERE!

It’s a different world out there and this year, a pre-packed bag is needed that can be picked up in a hurry in case a kid tests positive and cannot return to the dorm. He or she can simply tell his or her roomate to grab the grey Nike bag in the closet, for example.

This bag is a headache saver. No need to have them run around the room gathering stuff and rummaging through private stuff trying to fill up what’s needed.

Here is what needs to go in that bag:

DUFFEL BAG or BACK PACK

Start with a large duffel bag or backpack that is big enough to hold a few bulky items like clothes, a towel and a toiletries kit. I purchased an extra IKEA backpack that I got for him to use as  laundry bag but in another color for the go bag to avoid confustion.

FIRST AID KIT

A lot of parents say these kits are rarely if ever used but just like at home, they are a great thing to have and add a feeling of security knowing one is in the room. You don’t have to get a large one like this one at Amazon  because you can probably get a smaller kit at a brick and mortar store like Target or Walmart for less.

I would suggest taking out the excess first aid items and replacing small bottle of cold, cough and flu medicine, fever reducer, elderberry throat longezes and cough drops, Vick’s vapor rub,  a small thermometer.

PULSE OXIMETER

pulse ox

Sadly, if your kid does get the novel coronavirus, she may need to take her blood oxygen level and so a portable pulse oximeter is a good purchase to put in the bag for safety and security sake. The Zacurate Pro has the most positive user reviews on Amazon compared to other brands on the market so I will be putting my trust in other consumers here and hope for the best.

IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS

waterproof clasp envelope

Important documents (e.g., driver’s license or government ID, health insurance card or copy, social security card) – Keep these in a platic waterproof envelope or plastic envelope with a clasp like this one that you can get on Amazon for $8.70 for a pack of 3.

Face masks – 7-10 face masks, a mix of cloth and paper ones will do. We just ordered a set of  N95 replicas for $16.95 in a pack of 5 from Amazon and a pack of 50 masks we picked up from our local Target but which is also available on Amazon for $18.99.

Portable charger – Portable charge bank like this one at Amazon for $12.99

2 pill boxes -For prescriptions, pre-fill two weeks worth of medicine, vitamins and OTC drugs. See Above.

Hand sanitizers – A couple travel size containers and/or a large pump

Disinfectant Wipes – Inside a resealable package that is soft and pliable and can easily fit in a bag

Reusable Water Bottle – A water bottle with a filter would be plum. A Hydro Cell is $23.99

2 weeks worth of clothes – Think casual clothes, tee shirts, sweatshirt and shirt pants, maybe 3 outfits that can be recylced and don’t forget undergarments

Towels – A full set in case the one your kid has used in the morning is still hanging up to dry and they need a fresh one just for the go bag

TOILETRIES KIT

These travel kits can be purchased in drug stores, on Amazon pre-packaged or  you can create your own kit. This men’s bag is just $17.99 and includes everything in it. a A women’s version is a dollar less. 

Umbrella – a smaller portable umbrella is good to be put in the go bag.

Headphones – A separate less expensive back up pair of headphones your son or daughter may already ave at home or on hand can go in the bag as a back up.

Non Eletronic Entertainment – Coloring book, Soduku, magazine, novel or some other non electronic thing to distract or pass time.

DOWNLOAD A PRINTABLE VERSION OF THIS PACKING LIST HERE!

Don’t overpack.

What not to bring tips curated from Winds of Change:

• Decide about the “nice to haves” once you’ve lived there a while. Maybe you’ll realize it would good to have an area rug, a full-length mirror, or a closet organizer. But you don’t have to know everything ahead of time. Get settled in first.

• Avoid bringing hard-sided suitcases. They can be difficult to store and create clutter. Instead, opt for duffel bags or collapsible storage bags (and don’t forget under-the-bed storage).

• You don’t need a year’s worth of toiletries — they take up space too. Pack enough for a couple of weeks, then restock.

• Know how you’ll get stuff you don’t pack. Research nearby stores. Consider ordering items online and having them delivered. (Back-to-school merchandise often goes on sale after September). Budget to make a few purchases once you have your bearings.

• Have secure, clean, and cashless ways to pay for things. This means at least two options, whether credit or debit cards (which can be pre-paid), wallet apps, gift cards, or vouchers.

That’s it! Good luck and God speed to all of our children as we are indeed all in this together! Stay safe!





JJ Ghatt

20+ Swimming Season Spirit Gear and Gifts

Photo by Etienne Girardet

I am a Swim mom but this year, because of COVID, my family decided to skip joining the Summer recreational league swim team.

I am certainly going to miss it. love it even though it’s a tough job. Being a swim mom (or dad) involves getting up at the crack of dawn to load the car, pick up your team snack bar contributions, and schlep the family to the pool in time for warm-ups, then spending upwards to 4-5 hours standing up volunteering as a timer, runner or scorekeeper.

To make up for losing a year, I decided to treat myself with a swim mom-related t-shirt or other souvenirs to wear, cherish, and show off. Here is what I have my eye on, mainly from Etsy.

[Note; If you swim parents out there decide to beat me to it to purchase any of these items, I earn a small commission as an Etsy affiliate.]

I love this “I can Fly” tee shirt which is a take off of the Butterfly stroke.  ($24)

In this COVID-19 era, people are wearing masks that reflect their personalities, likes and passions so this Swimming Face Mask is perfect. ($19.99)

This Tears of my Swimmers wine cup is great for a mom or a coach or a mom who is also a coach. ($25)

Add this Swim mom pendant to your toggle bracelet ($13.95)

Your swimmer will heartily appreciate this personalized swim print ($10.95)

Get this wooden display plaque to hang all your swimmers’ swimming medals ($36.99)

You can never go wrong with personal swim bag tags ($12.99)

Your swimmer will appreciate being able to send greetings and personal notes with these personalized swim note cars ($2)

For the mom who has a daughter or daughters on the swim team, get this personalized matching mom-daughter tumbler set ($33)

I’m a cap girl so I found this cap with a swimmer inside a heart so adorable! Swim cap- $19.89

Be chic  and rep your kid’s sport with these cute assorted “Swim Mom” graphic t-shirts (starting at $10)

Parents: 4 Tips For Setting Screen Time Limits Pandemic

Photo by Julia M Cameron from Pexels

With a summer overshadowed by COVID-19, parents are taking a hard look at how to make the right decisions regarding their kids’ increased reliance on screens— which are helping to maintain a sense of normalcy during this socially-distanced time— while also finding the right balance with other important activities.

TV, streaming platforms, and app downloads have all seen notable in their use since the pandemic started, and children’s television viewing has also skyrocketed as parents across the world are increasingly turning to screens and technology to entertain and engage their kids.

To get further insights into kids’ screen time habits and behaviors during the pandemic, Brainly the world’s largest online learning community for students, parents, and teachers— surveyed 5,000 U.S. students (grades 6th-12th, ages 11-18) on its platform.

Some shocking insights were discovered. Consider this: About 25% of kids spend more than 9 hours every day looking at a screen. That screen time has led to just over 50% of students reporting headaches, soreness, and dry or irritated eyes. Since the pandemic began, students said they are spending at least 50% more time in front of screens daily.

Given the unprecedented situation we are facing which has brought on copious new challenges, the traditional boundaries and limits for screen time need to be reassessed.

So, how can parents handle screen time during the pandemic? Eric Oldfield, Chief Business Officer of Brainly and father of two school-age daughters, has a few tips for parents to consider when deciding the best course of action.

  • Not all screen time is created equal. It’s important for parents to assess how their child is spending their screen time with this in mind. Consuming content to gain information and get creative, as well as collaborating or socializing with their peers, is a great way for kids to maintain connections and continue learning during this unique time. However, time spent playing non-educational video games and watching mindless TV should be more closely monitored. 



  • Designate specific times the entire family unplugs. To avoid battles, it’s best to establish and communicate boundaries before your children start using devices, and sticking to those limits as much as possible. Children, especially younger ones, often crave structure, especially during unpredictable times. It’s still good, for instance, for everyone to eliminate screen use for at least one hour or two before bedtime to avoid impacting sleep cycles. 



  • Make sure screentime consumption is done healthily. Parents may want to consider having their children use blue screen glasses or switching their computer display screen settings to make sure their eyes are protected from harmful blue light. It’s also a good idea to ensure kids don’t sit too close to the screen, get up for a break at least once an hour, and sit with good posture while on the computer for hours on end doing schoolwork. 



  • Come up with a plan that makes sense for your children. As a parent, you know your child better than anyone else and are therefore the best person to decide what and how much media use is the right amount. Remember that screens are no longer the enemies of social interaction, learning, and productivity. Rather, they are enabling people around the world to work and learn and communicate with others during this uncertain time.

    The real enemies of healthy development in children are the same as adults: a sedentary lifestyle, social isolation, and distractions from schoolwork and learning. Using screens too much can contribute to all of these problems – but they can also counter them.  

  • The COVID-19 pandemic could last for a long time, so as families create new routines, it’s always best to focus on habits that are practical and sustainable. Above all else, don’t feel guilty about turning to screens more than you used to.

    Copy These Back to School Homeschool Workstation Set Ups

    Back to steal workstation idea 1

    Every year, I share a post on how to set up a homework station where work will get done.[ Read that post here].

    This year, now that more and more school systems across America and the globe have decided to continue distance learning, I think it is time we all step it up a notch and start being more deliberate, intentional and strategic about setting up a home school set up that works.

    I mean no more allowing your grown rug rats to study in the basement or in their rooms where there is a TV and video games there to distract them and keep them unfocused on the daily assignments.

    Also, no more leaving it up to them to schedule their work and break times.

    In real school, their teachers alot for scheduled breaks from instruction and you should too. So, I scoured the Internets and my Pinterest feed and came up with a few  workstations that you can copy and try to replicate this month before school officially launches next month.

    Check them out with affiliate links to sources where you can buy some of the items you’ll see in these dreamy set ups!

     

    If you have a small nook in your home that you can comfortably squeeze in a table and desk, do so because it’s ideal for removing distractions by having your child confined to the equivalent of a pod space so they can focus. I like the idea of a large chalkboard stationed above them that can be used to jot down drills, motivational words like in the above poster or their schedule.

    The rustic cannisters affixed to the wall in this set up are great for housing supplies like pens, pencils, sharpeners, rulers, etc so your child or children have no excuse to leave this space during instructional or homework time.  The closest thing I could find similar to achieve this similar set up were bathroom storage containers on Amazon for like $29.98 otherwise make do with pieces you already have at home.  If you’re handy, hammer a storage bin or affix one to the wall  using 3M command strips.

    RECREATE THIS SPACE

    Buy this Rustic Framed magnetic chalk board, 18″ x 22″ ($38.18)

    For people who live in small spaces and do not have a dedicated space away from distractions, you might want to set up your child’s work station in your dining room or eating area. Why is this a good idea? Because this space is usually an open area so you can keep an eye on them to make sure they are doing their work or watching their zoom or Google classroom instructions.

    Ideally, you have to use a wireless router or have a wired connection if you need to set up a computer, tablet or desktop in this space. But for the most part, sacrificing a corner of your dining room could be a great option.

    RECREATE THIS SPACE

    AmazonBasics Kids Solid Wood Table and 2 Chair Set ($79.99)

     

    It can be tempting to store items away to keep things looking neat but keeping supplies like art supplies- crayons, markers, paints, chalk, etc. in glass jars are great for making sure they are in mind and available to use as an option during instructional breaks in lieu of watching TV or gaming. That was the idea that blogger Tiffany of Raising Lemons had when she arranged her supplies on a shelf in her kitchen like this in this photo from her website. I love it!

    1 Gallon Anchor Hocking Glass Storage Heritage Hill Jar ($14.99)

     

    Ordinarily I would think that you need to be at a desk and in a chair to concentrate but when reading a book or scrolling a device doing research, it might just be better if your child is  in a comfortable seat and that’s where a big old bean bag chair may come in handy. We used to have a papasan and it was wonderful space for reading a good book. If you have unconventional seating somewhere in your home, drag it out into the work space or grab one online.

    RECREATE THIS SPACE

    Source

    Memory Foam Bean Bag Chair ($72.51)

    Now if you have the space and room for more furnishings, you might want to consider investing in a new multifunctional shelving unit that can accommodate baskets for holding binders, notebooks and other large items and a farm table with a bench. The larger table can allow your young scholar to spread out and situate various supplies, papers, and pens and more across a larger space. Some kids are messy and others just like to see their options sprawled out all over the place. A large farm style table will accomplish this.

    source

    RECREATE THIS SPACE

    Farmhouse table and bench ($199.99)

    TRYING TO CONCEIVE THIS YEAR? DOWNLOAD MY FREE FERTILITY 100 EBOOK

    RECREATE THIS SPACE

    source

    Collapsible Storage Bins ($19.99)

    IKEA Billy Bookshelf ($158)

     

    I think everything on any homeschool or distance learning station needs proper lighting. A nice standing lamp or a good desk lamp that varies in degree of illumination will be perfect. Whether your kid prefers to work in the early morning or the wee hours of the night like my kids do, they will need to be able to read their text and good lighting is part of that.

    Children’s Author’s 10 Tips For Managing Quarantine Life with Kids

     

    RECREATE THIS SPACE

    LED Desk Lamp ($43.99)

    6 Self Care Tips While Working From Home

    In addition to a comfy lounge chair for reading, I think every child should be seated in a comfy office chair if possible that is good for their back.

    You don’t have to get a brand new chair either. I purchased most of our office chairs for our work spaces for five people from second hand online marketplaces like Facebook Marketplace. If it is within your budget, you should invest in a good quality chair with solid ergonomics. They’ll be occupying a lot of space at home working so they should be set up properly.

    The 3 Step Guide for Setting Up Your Quarantine Homeschool

    RECREATE THIS SPACE

     

    Ikea Swivel Chair ($149)

    No matter what you do, study your child’s habits from Spring semester and adjust the workstation to suit your child’s learning needs and habits. It can really make a difference as to whether you will have a successful fall semester or not.

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    How COVID will Change Parenting

    family

    I am reposting and updating a post I did in the past about how the new decade will change for parenting. I believe now that the COVID era will be additionally instrumental in the way people parent their children because by the time we get over this pandemic, more of us will become experts in home schooling.

    Here is the post again. Enjoy!

    Now that I’ve reviewed the parenting trends of the past, from a celebrity perspective, let’s take a look at the top parenting trends that we can expect in the coming decade.

    From Helicopter to Free Range Parenting, child raising techniques and patterns change over time, with each generation and with scholarship and research.

    There really is no right way to accomplish this fine craft and art of raising decent human beings from newborns to young adult.

    However, each generation adopts varying habits and patterns that mark their eras in distinctive ways.

    The Millennial Generation has already established itself as separate and almost the anti-Generation of its Gen X and Baby Boomer generations that precedes it.

    One report indicates that 82% of babies born each year is to Millennial moms, so here is how this new generation of parents are creating new trends for the next decade.

    1.More traveling with baby and small children

    Parents will be less timid about taking their babies and small children with them while traveling the world.

    The concept of traveling with children is not new but was limited to trips to Disney world or roadtrips in the Summer to the Grand Canyon.  Of course, we always had those bold wanderlust or Peace Corp types of parents who were never fearful about picking up their toddler and heading to the Andes but they were in the minority.

    A new report by Resonance Consultancy points to the increasing importance of Millennials to the family travel market.

    Travel Agents Report states that “44 percent of Millennial travelers take their vacations with the kids in tow,” according to the firm’s new Future of U.S. Millennial Travel report.

    More than half (58%) of U.S. Millennials who traveled overnight last year have children under the age of 18 in the household, Resonance learned.

    Once kids enter the picture, Millennial parents continue to travel.

    Now and in the future, millennial parents will not even hesitate to do so. Many are open to the idea of home schooling their children while living and working as digital nomads abroad. They do not think a child necessarily needs in-school instructions. As a result, we will see more children grow up as students of the world.

    The well traveled child is the future.

    2. Making home made baby food

    In the last decade alone, American spending on baby food has dropped dramatically, and there’s a growing emphasis on making baby food at home.

    Millennial parents have grown up in the age of information, and generally speaking, it shows.

    They’re not feeding their kids the super-processed, questionably-nutritious baby and kid food of yore, and they want to maintain their principles of eco-minded, earth- and animal-friendly living once they become parents.

    And according to Forbes, newer baby food brands are catering to them by partnering up with nutritionists and food engineers to offer sustainable biodynamic food sourcing and processes.

    Because Millennial parents of all economic classes want nutritious, organic, science-backed food for their babies , their babies Generation Alpha will be the best fed kids.

    3. More Baby wearing, Less investment in multiple strollers

    Not long ago, the stroller was a status symbol. Posh parents would have purchased more than two strollers by the time their child reached Kindergarten: a baby carriage or infant car system, a jogging stroller and a toddler stroller.

    Nowadays, it’s all about baby-wearing. Also, newer parents have less income and are interested in sustainable living, less waste and extravagance. They do not rely on things like strollers to make a statement.

    The term “babywearing” was coined by William Sears, a California-based pediatrician who in 1992 wrote “The Baby Book,” which popularized the concept of “attachment parenting.”

    Along with co-sleeping and extended breast-feeding, baby carrying is a core tenet of that parenting approach, which is supposed to nurture a closer attachment between parent and baby and ultimately a healthier child.

    The future of parenting is more engaged and connected parents and baby wearing is part of that.

    4. Single by Choice/More cohabitation before marriage or without plans to ever marry

    Beginning with Generation X, women have been willing to have babies on their own, or elect to just co-habitate with a partner and skip getting married altogether. However, most eventually bowed to societal pressure to find the one, exchange vows and have kids.

    Future parents are not willing to be handcuffed by societal rules and tradition.

    In 2009, the oldest millennials were in their 20s and as The Wall Street Journal reports, of those older millennials who did have kids, most were unmarried.

    And generally, what is norm has changed.

    A Pew report finds that just 46% of kids in 2016 were living in a household with two married parents in their first marriage, compared to 61% in 1980.

    Generation Z is coming up behind the Millenial generation and are said to be more financially savvy,  the next era of parents will be even less constrained by standards of traditional practices.

    Their family planning practices will reflect this prediction.

    5. More demanding about Parental Leave

    Dads in the Generation Y are also leading the charge in changing gender-based roles in the home, and likewise will change policies related to parental leave.

    Millennial dads are more likely to take paternity leave after their spouses or partners have a child.  They are also more likely to be stay at home dads and to baby wear.

    A Business Insider report states that “millennial dads are far more likely than their fathers were to take time off work after the birth of a baby” and quotes a 2016 Cornell University study  which asserts that dads who take longer paternal leave tend to be more engaged and involved with their kids in the long run.

    That same report indicated that “in 1989, only 10% of these stay-at-home parents were dads, whereas today, stay-at-home fathers account for 17% of such caregivers” and noted that while “women still account for the vast majority of parents in this role, but the numbers are on a course toward more balance.”

    Further,it states that in many dual-income millennial homes in which both parents work full time (that’s 46% of households, according to Pew), the mother is the primary earner.

    They are making private companies and the government adjust to this new dynamic.

    Millennial parents have influenced employers such as Microsoft and Netflix to announce significant expansions to their paid parental leave benefits.

    As more private companies start to offer extended family leave and generous paternity leave, future parents from up and down the socioeconomic ladder will start expecting and even demanding adequate time off after welcoming a child to the family.

    They will also be more likely to support laws or support candidates that propose new laws standardizing and expanding parental leave policies and laws.

    6. More Social Media – Less Friends/Family as Advice Source

    Parents will be more comfortable about sharing photos of their children in social media and some with actually brand their children from birth, similar to the way celebrities do now.

    About 4 in 5 millennials admit to posting a picture of their kid online at least once, according to a poll conducted by TIME and Survey Monkey. Half of baby boomers, meanwhile, have never posted a photo of their kids online, as well as 30% of Gen X parents.

    A Business Insider report about how Millennials use their children as status symbols state they are spending up to $100,000 on things like Instagram-worthy nurseries.

    Month-by-Month posts for the first  year of a baby’s life and fabulous color coordinated themed first birthday parties are a thing that Instagram following are made of!

    Being that the new generation of parents are more digital conscious and aware, they will continue to skip friends and family for advice and turn to Google.

    A recent New York Times article states that millennial parents go to Google, chat rooms, and apps for parenting advice and as one expert told the paper, “Google is the new grandparent, the new neighbor, the new nanny.”

    7. Creative Names and Less Formal Names with History and Meaning

    “Finding a name that has authentic roots, but is completely undiscovered, is the ultimate baby name status symbol,” Pamela Redmond Satran, a founder of the site Nameberry and author of “The Nameberry Guide to Off-the-Grid Baby Names,” told Alex Williams of The New York Times.

    The future of parenting will include names that are not necessarily connected to a family or tradition.

    In fact, more Millennial parents are reportedly looking for a name that is not already attached to a domain.

    Also, that New York Times article mentions that many millennial parents are giving their kids personal hashtags and YouTube channels.

    8. Raising Gender Neutral Children

    With more awareness of LGBTQ issues and variances of how members of that community identify, modern and Millennial parents are cognizant about how they label their children. In year’s past, we followed strict gender identity and roles. To put it bluntly, children were either male or female. However, in the coming years, more parents will be open with raising children without subjecting them to or assigning them gender identity.  Future parents may be more likely to let their kids determine for themselves how they want to identify.

    A Euromonitor international report states that middle class parents in developed world, especially older Millennials who are becoming parents, are taking a more gender-neutral approach to child raising, using neutral colors and with names suitable for either gender proving popular.

    9. Less Religious – More Spiritual or Non Religious

    A lot of holidays in secular society have become so homogenized and commercial that it is very easy for a child raised in a non-religious household to not feel left out. Christmas, Easter even Halloween and Day of the Dead which have cultural and spiritual origins are practiced and recognized by people who do not go to Church or follow the initial practices of each holiday.

    Four in ten millennials now say they are religiously unaffiliated, according to the Pew Research Center. In fact, millennials (those between the ages of 23 and 38) are now almost as likely to say they have no religion as they are to identify as Christian.

    10. They will do what feels right to them 

    If any of the aforementioned are clues, the next generation of parenting will go with their gut and not abide by what books, society, the media, the government or advertisers tell them.

    In fact, they will be the one dictating what these ancient institutions do!

    The next era of parents will be more empowered.

    The future is here and it’s going to be quite different!

     

    Extended Penalty Free Tax Filing Deadline Is Tomorrow: H&R Block’s Online is Free for Your Teen

    Because of COVID-19, the US government extended the tax filing deadline without penalty to tomorrow, July 15th so the procrastinators are scrambling to file their taxes in time.

    If you do not have an accountant or have not booked a time for your tax guy (or gal) to hook up your taxes in time, you can still get an extension albeit with the penalty. Alternatively, if you have time and a simple return, you can use any number of online or package filing tax software.

    In past, we have used with ease H&R Block’s online service for our teen. The company is part of the IRS Free File Alliance and offers free state and federal filing for taxpayers between the ages of 17 and 51 with an adjusted gross income (AGI) of $69,000 or less and active members of the military.

    This is great for your teen or college kid who works all year and earns enough money to not be tax exempt!

    Here is an excerpt of Nerd Wallet’s assessment and a video on how to use it from The College Investor below:

    H&R Block’s prices

    One of H&R Block’s biggest pluses is its free version, which is better than most. Like the free tax software from most of its competitors, H&R Block Free lets you file the Form 1040, take the child tax credit, the earned income tax credit and the credit for the elderly or disabled.

    But it also lets you file schedules 1, 2 and 3, which is a big bonus because many taxpayers need to file those forms. Schedules 1-3 are forms you would need in the process of reporting things such as business income, alimony, deductible student loan interest, certain retirement contributions, the alternative minimum tax, the credit for dependent care expenses, the Lifetime Learning Credit or the Saver’s Credit.

    If you plan to itemize deductions, were a landlord, freelanced or ran a small business or had any other situations going on, you’ll probably need to upgrade to one of H&R Block’s paid packages. These are solid choices as well — maybe not be as flashy as TurboTax, but they’ll get you from Point A to Point B on your tax return without any trouble. And while it isn’t discount software, it’s not the most expensive option either. That makes it a solid choice for value-seekers who still want sturdy support options and modern features.

    H&R Block’s ease of use

    What it looks like

    H&R Block’s interface is good-looking, straightforward and easy to use, and it steps up to explain concepts as you go. You can skip around if you want to, and a banner across the top keeps track of where you stand in the process. A Price Preview button up top also tells you the tax-prep package you’re buying and how much it costs.

    Handy features

    There is a W-2 photo import, which lets you avoid time spent keying in numbers from little boxes. You can import 1099s, and the Premium and Self-Employed packages also import data from some popular expense-tracking apps.

    Help is available within the preparation process — terminology in the question-and-answer process is hyperlinked with a “learn more” tag so you can get more information without having to wander around. The help menu updates according to where you are, and you can click to access the Online Assist portal.

    H&R Block will import last year’s return from other tax prep companies. The free version doesn’t automatically import last year’s H&R Block return, though.

    Where you can use it

    Because the software is online, you can log in from other devices if you choose to work on your return here and there. There is also a mobile app available.

    Go check out H&R Block Online Before Tax Day 2020

    13 Free Reources to Beat Summer Brain Drain and Keep Your Child Ahead of the Class

    It might be tempting to lie around, post videos to TikTok or watch Netflix all day. Instead high schoolers should use this time to learn a new skill, take an interesting course or prepare for standardized tests like the SAT or ACT. Here are 13 free resources for high school students to get ahead while school is out.

    1. Khan Academy

    Khan Academy offers daily schedules for students ages 4-18. The free website also has courses in math, physics, U.S. history, grammar, economics and biology. High school sophomores and juniors can also find free SAT practice questions and tests. Even though the upcoming SAT administrations have been canceled or postponed, students still might want to prepare for this important exam.

    2. edX

    Even though your classes and extracurricular activities have been canceled, it doesn’t mean you should stop learning. EdX is an online platform that offers more than 2,500 courses online for free. Taking an online course is a great way to boost your resume and prove to colleges you can handle challenging material. Take this time to learn a new skill or explore a possible major from institutions like MIT, Harvard, University of California-Berkeley and more.

    3. Coursera

    Coursera is another e-learning platform that allows you to be taught by professors from Ivy League schools and other elite schools like the University of Pennsylvania, Stanford and Duke. All the courses are available for free, and topics available include C++, marketing, engineering and psychology. By taking these advanced courses, you can explore a possible major choice when you go to college.

    4. Quill

    Quill is offering its services for free to anyone affected by school closures. The interactive writing site is perfect for anyone who wants to brush up on their craft before writing their college admissions essays. On Quill, you can gain editing skills by proofreading passages, practicing grammar skills through short activities and advancing your writing.

    5. Duolingo

    The cognitive benefits of learning another language are undeniable. Studies have shown that being bilingual can benefit memoryproblem-solving abilities and even intelligenceDuolingo is a free app that high school students should take advantage of now. Some schools offer limited foreign language options, but through Duolingo, students can learn Spanish, French, Italian, Japanese, Arabic, Hindi, Russian and many more. If you want, you can even learn fictional languages like Klingon and High Valyrian.

    6. Codecademy

    While you might not be thinking about the job market just yet, coding is one of the most valuable skills that you can pick up. Codecademy is offering Pro scholarships to students affected by school closures. On the free site, you can choose what to learn, including building websites to analyze data. You’ll learn by doing and can start writing code within a few minutes of joining the site.

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