• Activities
    Family And Kids

    5 Quiet Time Activities for Your Preschooler

    We all want our kids to be active, imaginative and outgoing. Sometimes though, we just need a little quiet. I work from home 4 days a week and I need quiet many hours a day. I don’t want to stifle my kids, especially my preschooler but I need to get my work done too! So what’s a mom to do? Well I’ve just had to come up with some go to activities that always settle my guy down and let Mama get some work done. Here are some of our favorite quiet time activities:

    • Coloring

    I know it seems so obvious and boring and like there is no way this will keep your child’s attention for very long but I’m telling you it works! There are a few things you can do to set this activity up for success. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “You eat with your eyes first.” Well the same is basically true for everything you do with kids. Its all in the presentation. If you throw some paper and a few random pens on a desk your kid is likely to be bored pretty quick, or worse yet not even want to give it a try. However, if you have an art station set up things all of a sudden become more interesting. My preschooler is really into dressup right now so I start things off by putting a “smock” on him. Check out this great idea for an art smock out of an old t-shirt. I help to make coloring a bit of a sensory activity as well by setting out stickers, stamps and different types of writing utensils. If your child isn’t getting the creative juices flowing try reading a quick story first, then asking them to draw about the story. This normally works to get things started.

    • Cutting

    At first I was really hesitant to let my little guy go to town with scissors but as soon as we found some nice child safe scissors and we talked about the rules I felt better about it. Of course, he is never left alone with them and they are stored in a safe place. Cutting is such a great activity for so many reasons; it builds fine motor skills, it is a life skill they need, and it requires lots of concentration. At first I just gave my little man a piece of paper and let him cut it up however he chose. Now that he is more skilled at using scissors I will draw lines on the paper for him to trace. We also stumbled upon this really great book, The Super Scissors Book, that even comes with two pairs of fun scissors.

    • Dress Up

    Before becoming the mom of two boys I always thought dress up was all about princesses and fairies. OH boy do I know better now! My oldest son, almost 4, loves nothing more than to get into character. Superheroes, Pirates, Cowboys, and fireman are just some of the costumes we have around here. I love this as a quiet time activity because it forces my child to use his imagination. It also helps him build fine motor skills by doing the buttons on his own, pulling up pants, etc. Another reason why I find it to be a great activity is because it sparks ideas for other quiet time activities. If he plays dress up in the morning, in the afternoon when its coloring time I can use who he was dressing up as for a prompt. For example, this morning you were dressing up as Captain Hook, can you draw Mommy a picture of Captain Hook? I will admit this activity is sometimes not as quiet as I would like it, a rousing sword fight can become very loud, but usually it works out pretty well.

    • Puzzles/Memory Games

    This is one of the only quiet time activities that we sometimes use an electronic tool for. I try very hard to limit screen time and not let devices watch my kids. But I also know that we live in a technologically advanced world and that is not all bad. There are so many great puzzle and memory apps out there. We also have a TON of wooden puzzles and a few memory games. When it’s puzzle time I normally lay out 3-5 puzzles in varying difficulty. I tell my boys to come and find me once all the puzzles are completed. This is a great way to get siblings to work together. Let’s face it our kids pretty much want to be with us 24/7 so if we walk away and give them a task that the reward is coming to be with us they will work twice as hard and fast! Never is there an argument when I set this situation up with my boys.

    • Sorting

    Sorting is a favorite around here for everyone. I love it because I can set up a sorting game anywhere anytime. For example, when doing the laundry I can have the boys sort out different items of clothing (i.e. put the shirts in one pile, the pants in another, etc.) When cleaning the house I can ask the boys to sort all of their cars into piles of different colors. When at the grocery store I can ask the boys to sort all of the green items in our basket into one pile. The list seriously never ends and can be customized to whatever skill your child is working on at the time. My preschooler is beginning to read so we are currently sorting everything we can that involves letters.

    I hope these tips are helpful and fun for you and your preschoolers! What are some of your favorite quiet time activities to do with your wee ones? What are their favorites to do on their own?

  • Hardworking
    Family And Kids

    Get the Job Done with a Hardworking Playroom-Office

    Many work-at-home moms will say that time with their kids is one of the best perks of their employment arrangement. But they will also admit that time with their kids is one of the biggest obstacles in their employment arrangement.

    Fortunately, with some thoughtful preparations and clever design ideas, anyone can create a smart space that excels at two jobs: home office for the boss, playroom for her smallest staffers. Done well, a double-duty setup earns mom a chance to turn her attention to the task at hand without having to banish the children to a back room to watch TV. And putting the kids to work executing the plan gains them the opportunity to put their mark on the final product, making them even more excited to play when mom has to punch in.

    Here are a handful of tips for promoting a playroom-meets-workroom scheme in your house:

    Behind The Desk

    If your children are school-aged, consider setting up workstations for both you and the kids — they can tackle homework while you tackle your to-dos. And having you plugging away beside them will set a ‘taking-care-of-business’ tone. Consider installing a long work surface along one wall, and then break up the counter into individual workspaces using drawers underneath as dividers. Each person’s “cubicle” should contain the supplies he or she needs to complete their work — colored pencils, notebook paper, calculators, and graph paper for them; staples, envelopes, notepads, and pens for you. Allow each child to select desktop accessories to personalize their place.

    Those with younger children might consider orienting their desks away from the wall, instead facing the room so that they can keep an eye on petite players while working. You also should be sure to wrangle wires and lamp cords to reduce the risk of having your electronics and accessories yanked from the desktop. Opt for a surge protector that closes to keep little fingers out of dangerous outlets, and then mount it to the underside of the desk to hide it away. Cable cord organizers and slim PVC pipe can also be employed for containing cords.

    Functional Fun

    To accomplish its primary responsibility — keeping the children entertained and safe while you’re on the job — the playroom needs to both work hard and play hard. So set yourself up for success by including a number of zones that are both functional and fun. Outfit one corner with bookshelves or cubbies that can house baskets and bins for toys and books, then use the upper shelves for stowing those off-limits items that are necessary to an office but don’t need to be desk-side: the printer, a file sorter, and reference books.

    Turn another nook into a craft corner complete with a small table, old magazines, paper, glue sticks, safety scissors, crayons, markers, stickers, and more (depending on the child’s age). Nearby, have the kids help you tape off and paint a chalkboard wall, which will provide them a creative outlet and may also come in handy for jotting your own notes and messages.

    Lastly, give little ones a place to flex their imaginations, whether it’s a play kitchen, pretend train yard, or costume closet. Get the kids involved with collecting wacky clothes and accessories from thrift shops, party stores, and relatives to fill a DIY dress-up bin. For added appeal, spend time together decorating the outside of the trunk with paint or decals — in one afternoon, you can transform a simple wooden box into a treasure chest, a princess carriage, a pirate ship, a race car, or a jewel box that will play into your children’s fantasies for hours to come.

    Quiet Time

    While blinking gadgets and buzzing gizmos provide a temporary distraction for your kids, they’ll likely distract you, too — and in the long run, such toys won’t hold their attention in a healthy way. When filling up the aforementioned baskets and bins, consider quiet toys like books, dolls, board games, and puzzles, as well as plenty of soft surfaces such as pillows and stuffed animals.

    And unless you want to fight to focus over the songs and silliness of your children’s favorite cartoons, it’s best to skip including a television in this space. Instead, I recommend offering a kids’ hideaway for times when you need to make an important phone call or spend a few moments intensely concentrating: a reading tent, fabric fort, or pop-up playhouse, for example.

    Change of Scenery

    No matter how well you design your office-playroom combo space, eventually the kids will get bored. Be ready to offer them a change of scenery. If your kids are old enough to play outside on their own, situate your desk at a window that overlooks that backyard and be sure that your outdoor playset strictly meets safety standards.

    For example, swings and other hanging components should be attached to a beam rather than monkey bars; the ground cover should be a soft material such as wood chips, sand, or rubber mulch; and the swing set should have a clearance of six feet around its entire perimeter. For added assurance, regularly check wooden playsets to ensure the framework is in good condition. (This can also be turned into a game with your kids — have them play “inspector” and look for problems with the equipment.)

    Feel more comfortable being on site? Create a portable workspace for yourself with a Wi-Fi-enabled laptop and a wheeled file/supply box that can be rolled out onto the patio or deck whenever your kids want some fresh air.

    What big ideas do you have for accomplishing work tasks while in the company of little ones?

  • Soccer
    Family And Kids

    My Secret Mom Confession: I Don’t Like Soccer

    This is the first year that any of our kids have played soccer – both Lucas(14) and Noah(13) signed up and they were excited to try something new even though they’re on separate teams since the brackets break up right between age 13 and age 14. So here we are right in the middle of soccer season and I’m here to confess that I am not enjoying it very much…

    The kids are great. It’s the adults that are giving me a headache.

    Many of the other parents have expressed that they don’t like having “the new kid” on their kids’ team because their kid has been playing soccer hard core since they were 2 years old and these “new kids” are holding them back.

    They’ve even complained to the community team organizers about having newbies on the team. Keep in mind that this is just the local rec league, this isn’t playing for the school or for the bigger league, and there are no division playoffs to be had at the end of the season.

    The main purpose of rec league is to have fun, make friends, and learn a sport. There is a separate league (I believe it’s called Travel League) for the serious soccer players who want to play more often or don’t have a school team and who want to go into a playoffs division. Rec league is for fun and learning, not craziness.

    The other kids don’t care that my kids are newbies, they’re actually really helpful and they enjoy teaching each other all sorts of things. The experienced kids love showing off what they know and being able to teach it to someone else makes them feel accomplished at what they’re doing. And it’s easier for kids to learn from other kids. The coach can explain and demonstrate all afternoon without the kids “getting” something, then after one explanation and demo from a teammate suddenly everyone understands and they’re having fun instead of getting frustrated.

    Kids are awesome and adults are idiots sometimes – that’s just the way it goes.

    Soccer Saturday – Noah’s Game
    This photo was taken by me at one of Noah’s games on a Saturday morning.

    The soccer fields in our area are all set up to put a line of separation between parents and the playing field. There’s one set of bleachers back and away, some fields even have a fence between the bleachers and the playing field. The bleachers are divided into two sections, one for “home” and one for “away.” 95% of the parents do not sit back and away, they bring lawn chairs and park their butts right up against the field out of bounds line. (And of course they then whine and complain when a ball hits them or knocks over their fancy water bottle…)

    These parents sit or stand on the sidelines, literally right up against the line, and yell and complain during games and practices. I don’t think they realize they’re distracting their kid more than helping them. A few times our coach has told parents to be quiet, because she’s losing her voice trying to yell over them to communicate with the team.

    It’s supposed to storm all day tomorrow, and I hate to admit it but I’m kind of glad because games will all get canceled. Our last three soccer games have been played in light rain and we’re all starting to get sick at this point. I might not always like soccer and the other parents might think I’m strange, but I will be there to support my kid even if it means standing in the rain and wind for 90 minutes.

    So what’s the business lesson here? Well, there are a few things we can learn from kids playing soccer….

    First of all, there’s always someone further along in skill than you at what you’re doing, but you can always learn from each other. Ignore whatever is being yelled at you from the sidelines by crazy people trying to sell you on the idea that their way is the best way and just focus on the goal.

  • Holiday
    Family And Kids

    Holiday Ideas For Families

    Make sure that you take time to enjoy your family this holiday season. Instead of getting all bogged down in holiday shopping and the stress of finding the perfect gifts think of ways that you can spread joy. I know most work at home moms have a hard time finding the work/holiday balance. Take time off to enjoy every special moment with your children and loved ones. Whether you are a Christian or not this season is a season for giving and being thankful for all you have. Here are some fun holiday ideas to inspire you:

    Progressive Neighborhood Party – This is one of my favorites. Each home hosts a different part of the party. The 1st home everyone visits will host the drinks, the 2nd home – appetizers, 3rd home – salads/soups, 4th home – main entree, 5th home – desserts, 6th home – after dinner drinks/coffee/tea. Depending on the group of people and how many homes you have this can be altered. On your walk from home to home you can stop by the other homes you may not know and sing carols.
    Have your child start an ‘I Am Thankful’ list. Have him add one thing he is thankful for each day. You can turn this into a decoration by having him write it on a paper Christmas tree or snowflake that you then hang across the fireplace or some other area.
    As a family, write your holiday letter. Have each member contribute one memorable moment from the year to be recorded to share with friends and family.
    Giving back – there are many ways to give back. Some ideas include: Volunteering at the local food bank, Donating to a giving tree for those in need, start a canned food drive in your neighborhood or school, donate your used clothing, deliver fresh baked goods to the local fire department, police station and hospitals, visit the senior citizen homes, visit children hospitals.


    Invite friends who are alone over for dinner.


    Have a movie marathon.
    Craft day – there are many crafts that you can do but here are some ideas: Create a pine cone holiday tree, make reindeer food out of oatmeal, sugar, and colorful sprinkles, popcorn garland, personalized ornaments, fun shaped and decorate sugar cookies.
    Whatever you do make sure you remember to include those who are alone, put work aside and enjoy every moment you have with your family and loved ones. Happy Holidays.

  • Holiday-Gifts
    Family And Kids

    What If You Can’t Afford the Holiday Gifts This Year?

    Adults understand the larger meaning behind holidays that have become highly commercialized. While Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and other wintertime holidays represent significant events and remembrances relating to faith, culture and family, these messages are often lost on children who instead think of the holidays in material terms.

    To put it bluntly, the centerpiece of each of these holidays is the exchange of gifts. Whether or not they believe in Santa, the anticipation of gifts creates expectations among children that are sometimes hard for parents to match. Unfortunately, many working moms are on tight budgets that don’t allow them to fulfill every last material desire of their children.

    But that doesn’t mean the holiday season has to be a letdown. Instead, moms just need to get a little more creative in finding ways to deliver a satisfying, joyous holiday that kids of all ages will be able to appreciate.

    That may seem impossible at first glance, but it’s not! Here’s a quick guide to planning a successful holiday season on a small-to-nonexistent budget.

    Emphasize giving rather than receiving

    Understanding the giving mentality of the holidays is valuable at any age, and it can instill children with a sense of fulfillment and service that may be as satisfying as any gift. This is tougher to sell to really young kids, but if your children are old enough to understand the challenges of the less fortunate, they might be more inclined to helping out. This service can come in a variety of ways: By gathering up unused toys and other items to donate to less fortunate kids, or by offering to volunteer at a local church or shelter in whatever capacity needed.

    Such acts of service will also demonstrate to your children the harsh realities many poor people face, and it will help them embrace their own situation and be thankful for all that they have.

    Free activities in the community

    A variety of holiday-themed events are available in most communities. Check your local newspaper and pick out some fun events to go to. Many communities put on parades at the holidays, and you can also take your kid to various church services putting on holiday specials, as well as schools and local community theaters performing plays or musical performances. And there’s always the option of going through town checking out the various holiday lights displays.

    Make hand-crafted decorations

    Crafts are an inexpensive way to keep kids busy and provide them with a finished product. According to WAHM.com, your local library or a quick Internet search should reveal a number of options of hand-made items, such as gingerbread houses, popcorn garlands and other items that will spruce up your home at a nominal cost — and keep your kids busy for a solid afternoon.

    Offer gifts of service to one another

    If you can’t afford gifts of any kind, encourage your family to provide gifts to one another in the form of acts of service. For example, children could offer to do certain chores for their parents, while older kids could offer babysitting or special one-on-one time with younger siblings that look up to them.

    Put on family celebration events

    The holidays will still feel special as long as you deviate from your normal schedule to have fun in new, festive ways. Think of family events that are inexpensive to put on and will be fun for the entire family. For example, watching a movie with popcorn and other snacks will gather the entire family and make for a pleasant experience. Other options include doing a jigsaw puzzle, going sledding or on other outdoors adventures, or having celebrations specific to the religious meaning behind your celebrated holidays.

    Ultimately, your kids will most remember the experience of the holidays more than the gifts they receive. Even if you don’t have any extra funds to provide gifts, you can always give more of your time and attention to indulging in the holiday experience with your kids.

    With a little extra planning and creativity, your kids will barely notice the bare spots underneath your Christmas tree.

  • Mom
    Family And Kids

    Introducing My Mom, Cindy (@cingroomer)

    I was on the phone with my mom today when I was trying to come up with an idea for my post. We were chatting about a little bit of everything–from my daughter’s birthday to one of the merchants that she manages. That’s how all of our conversations go. The personal gets mixed in with the business. I thought to myself…what better topic to write about today on a mom site than my own work-at-home mom?

    When I was a kid, my mom always worked at least one job but most of the time more than that. She usually had one “real” job and then some kind of venture that she started herself. Some were kind of odd (like the home screen printing business) and some turned into full-time jobs (like the pet grooming business she started in our back room). I always saw her working and she always found ways to involve the rest of the family. Sometimes we helped in return for getting paid. Sometimes we helped just because she was the mom and she said so.

    I have no doubt that watching my mom in her businesses helped me when it came to starting my own. Seeing up close and personal the amount of work it takes to be your own boss prepared me for what I would face. And thankfully I can still call her when I have questions.

    Even though she doesn’t have kids at home anymore, my mom is still a work-at-home mom. Now she is an outsourced program manager (OPM) for Greg Hoffman Consulting. She doesn’t have her own kids underfoot, but she does have plenty of dogs and cats around plus occasionally some grandkids. She deals with a lot of the same work issues that I do like neighbors dropping in during the day and trying to balance work and personal time when they seem to bleed into each other all the time.

    If you don’t know my mom, Cindy Ballard, you should. If you are in affiliate marketing, she’s a good source of information. If you are a WAHM, she’s an inspiration for how to run your own business. Even if you are neither of those, you will find her to be a spirited, entertaining person worth getting to know.

    (Wait until she finds out that I was multi-tasking and writing this article while I was talking to her about Harley shirts and Medicare!)

    January seems like such a relaxing month after all the craziness of the holidays. You can just sit back, send your kids back to school, start working on your goals for 2013. All the sudden you look at the calendar and realize that your child’s birthday is right around the corner and you have done no planning at all. I know, because I have been helping plan children’s birthday parties for over 11 years with my party planning persona Partyelf.

    What’s a busy work at home Mom to do? Research and shop online of course. One of the reasons that I started Partyelf is because I know that parents do not have time to run from store to store trying to find everything they need to host a birthday party that their child will always remember.

    My top tip is to talk to your child about what kind of party theme that they want or if they are not quite verbal yet, take into account what their interests are. My daughter wants to be a ballerina, loves the Olivia books, and is a huge fan of ladybugs. And those are some of the birthday party themes that I have used when planning her parties.

    Need some inspiration? Here are 5 of the hottest birthday party themes right now:

    Little Man Mustache Basic Party Pack for 8Little Man Mustache Party – Everyone needs a little mustache in their life. This party theme is very cute with a mustache on everything, including a Stick the Mustache game. Despite the title, I think this can be a very gender neutral or large age range birthday party.
    Ballerina Tutu Deluxe Party Pack for 8Ballerina Tutu Party – Pink, tulle and ballet slippers. Need I say more? This classic party theme is sure to be loved by many little girls. It is such a hit in my house that my daughter wants to have another ballerina party.
    Sock Monkey Red Deluxe Party Pack for 8Sock Monkey Party – This simple toy has had a resurgence of popularity in the last couple of years. It appeals to both boys and girls and it is just darn cute! A fun activity for this party is having a create your own sock monkey station set up for your guests.
    Madeline Basic Party Pack for 8Madeline Party – I can just picture all the party guests in blue dresses and yellow hats. March them all in two straight lines right to the birthday cake! I absolutely adore the yellow hat piñata.
    Goldfish 1st Birthday Deluxe Party Pack for 8Goldfish 1st Birthday Party – A first birthday is a very special occasion and I think this party theme is perfect. You guests will just flip over it! (Hey I couldn’t resist making at least one lame joke.)
    I hope that helps inspire you and makes planning your child’s next birthday party a little bit easier. Trust me, when the big box of things arrives on your doorstep, you will be so happy with all the time that you save. Plus save money when you use this link to save 10% on your next Birthday Express order.

  • Gifts
    Family And Kids

    4 Ideas for Great Last Minute Holiday Gifts

    It always seems to happen in December, time just slips away and before you know it there’s barely any time at all left to shop and the stores are packed with last minute shoppers who have no idea what to buy. You might be a last minute shopper, but I can help you figure out what to buy before you get to the crazy chaos filled store with these five quick ideas for last minute holiday gifts that are easy and affordable…

    1: Gift Cards

    You probably saw that coming, right? But don’t grab just any old gift card off the rack and your local gas station. Choose a gift card that the recipient is going to actually be excited to receive.

    Maybe your sister has been stressed out lately and could use a trip to her favorite salon for some pampering – Stop into the shop to pick up a gift certificate and while you’re there ask them if they can help you pick something to go with it. A lot of salons keep a record of each client’s “favorite” list, including colors of nail polish, favorite shampoo/conditioner, and so on. Those little things make a big difference.

    Maybe your favorite Aunt is a foodie and would love to try the new restaurant in town but hasn’t been there yet because she’s worried about her budget – A gift certificate works nicely in this instance and she’ll be able to leave a nice tip. If you’re nice she might even invite you to dinner with her 😉

    Maybe you happen to know that your nephew is getting a video game console this holiday – With the online gaming connections for Playstation, Xbox, and Nintendo you can purchase add-ons and even full games with their points systems or directly from the console with a credit card (though, after the Playstation Network hack earlier this year, points are probably safer.) You can usually find gift cards for the points at stores like Target and Best Buy, anyplace that sells video games.

    If you’re totally stumped and don’t know what the person would truly enjoy, or for the mysterious teenager in your life, you can always go with a plain old Visa gift card for any amount and let them choose their own adventure and splurge on anything anywhere Visa is accepted.

    2: Shop Your Local Mom & Pop Shops

    This is like two gifts in one. While the majority of shoppers are off at the big box stores a lot of small business owners are wondering where the crowd is.

    Take a trip off the beaten path and visit local small stores to pick up gifts. You’ll avoid the big box crowd, wait in line less, find some pretty amazing gifts that everyone will love, and you’ll support a local small business owner all at the same time. It’s win-win.

    3: Practical, but Creatively So

    A bottle of wine is a pretty standard gift, but if the person you’re shopping for is a wine lover then there’s nothing wrong with giving a bottle of wine. Get creative and pair that bottle of wine with a set of new wine glasses, an interesting corkscrew, aerator, or some other wine gadgetry.

    Or perhaps your gift recipient isn’t a wine drinker at all. Think about something they enjoy, whether it’s a daily breakfast smoothie or their favorite chocolates. Get that item and something that could go with it nicely, like an eco-friendly drink container or a unique candy jar for the kitchen. As an example, my youngest son has started a tradition of buying me a bag of Starbucks coffee and one of their holiday collector’s mugs for my birthday every year (that’s on Dec 27th in case you’re wondering wink wink)

    4: Go for the Ornament or Other Decoration

    It might be a bit cliché to give an ornament for the holidays, but if you know the recipient appreciates that sort of gift it can actually be a really great gift to give. And it doesn’t have to be an ornament, it can be any holiday decoration. Think about when you’re decorating for the holidays and how each piece you unpack and put in its place sparks a memory for you – receiving your gift could be that memory and it will be appreciated year after year.

    If you have a favorite photo of you and the recipient, there are some fun photo frame ornaments out there that display digital photos. Those are especially cool if you went on vacation together or attended an event together, you can load the photos into the ornament for a fun gift full of memories.

    Last Minute Gifts Can Be Awesome
    So just because there are only a few days left and you’re in a rush to finish your shopping this weekend doesn’t mean you can’t give great gifts that will be adored and appreciated. Just take a few minutes to think about the recipient and remember, it’s the thought that counts.

    Happy Holidays!
    One last tip before I go…. If you really don’t want to leave the house to do that last minute holiday shopping this weekend, today (Friday December 21) is the last day to get 2-day shipping on Amazon orders in time for delivery before December 25th as long as you order by 4:00 PM PST.

  • Work at Home
    Family And Kids,  Work At Home Mom Issues

    WAHM-WHAD Podcast With Work at Home Dad Mike Moyer

    WAHMoms/WAHDads host Deborah Carney is joined by guest Mike Moyer.

    Tell us a little about yourself:
    Mike Moyer is an entrepreneur who has started a number of companies including Bananagraphics, a product development and merchandising company, Moondog, an outdoor clothing manufacturing company; Vicarious Communication, Inc, a marketing technology company for the medical industry; Cappex.com, a site that helps students find the right college; College Peas, LLC which provides publications and consulting on college admissions; and Trade Show Samurai, LLC a company that teaches trade show exhibitors how to capture lots and lots of leads. In addition to his experience as an entrepreneur he has held a number of senior-level marketing positions with companies that sell everything from vacuum cleaners to financial data services to motor home chassis to luxury wine.He has taught entrepreneurship at both Northwestern University and the University of Chicago. Mike is the author of How to Make Colleges Want You, College Peas, Trade Show Samurai and Slicing Pie, a book about dividing up equity in early-stage companies. He has an MS in integrated marketing from Northwestern University and an MBA from the University of Chicago. He lives in Lake Forest, Illinois with his wife, two kids and the Lizard of Oz.

    As a work at home parent what is your biggest challenge?
    Staying focused on work with a lot of distractions can be a lot of work. It’s important to create structure around time and space so that you can get done what you need done.

    What is the biggest advantage to being a work at home parent?
    Time with the family is great. I see my kids all the time and I can spend time with them during the day.

    As a work at home parent what advice would you give other work at home parents?
    Set expectations with your spouse and your family so they can help you find the time and space you need to get your work done.

    Website
    SlicingPie.com
    CollegePeas.com
    TradeShowSamurai.com

    Thanks to GeekCast.fm for hosting all of our podcasts. Visit them for more podcasts about marketing and working from home. Also join the forum that is for women to interact with other successful women, JoinWOMU

  • Birthday-Party
    Family And Kids

    Birthday Party Planning and the Work at Home Mom

    January seems like such a relaxing month after all the craziness of the holidays. You can just sit back, send your kids back to school, start working on your goals for 2013. All the sudden you look at the calendar and realize that your child’s birthday is right around the corner and you have done no planning at all. I know, because I have been helping plan children’s birthday parties for over 11 years with my party planning persona Partyelf.

    What’s a busy work at home Mom to do? Research and shop online of course. One of the reasons that I started Partyelf is because I know that parents do not have time to run from store to store trying to find everything they need to host a birthday party that their child will always remember.

    My top tip is to talk to your child about what kind of party theme that they want or if they are not quite verbal yet, take into account what their interests are. My daughter wants to be a ballerina, loves the Olivia books, and is a huge fan of ladybugs. And those are some of the birthday party themes that I have used when planning her parties.

    Need some inspiration? Here are 5 of the hottest birthday party themes right now:

    Little Man Mustache Basic Party Pack for 8Little Man Mustache Party – Everyone needs a little mustache in their life. This party theme is very cute with a mustache on everything, including a Stick the Mustache game. Despite the title, I think this can be a very gender neutral or large age range birthday party.
    Ballerina Tutu Deluxe Party Pack for 8Ballerina Tutu Party – Pink, tulle and ballet slippers. Need I say more? This classic party theme is sure to be loved by many little girls. It is such a hit in my house that my daughter wants to have another ballerina party.
    Sock Monkey Red Deluxe Party Pack for 8Sock Monkey Party – This simple toy has had a resurgence of popularity in the last couple of years. It appeals to both boys and girls and it is just darn cute! A fun activity for this party is having a create your own sock monkey station set up for your guests.
    Madeline Basic Party Pack for 8Madeline Party – I can just picture all the party guests in blue dresses and yellow hats. March them all in two straight lines right to the birthday cake! I absolutely adore the yellow hat piñata.
    Goldfish 1st Birthday Deluxe Party Pack for 8Goldfish 1st Birthday Party – A first birthday is a very special occasion and I think this party theme is perfect. You guests will just flip over it! (Hey I couldn’t resist making at least one lame joke.)
    I hope that helps inspire you and makes planning your child’s next birthday party a little bit easier. Trust me, when the big box of things arrives on your doorstep, you will be so happy with all the time that you save. Plus save money when you use this link to save 10% on your next Birthday Express order.

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    Family And Kids

    Nothing Says “I Love You” Like Long Term Care Insurance

    As my anniversary approached last year, I considered many different gifts for my husband. But after facing a personal medical crisis, I knew the best way I could show my love and devotion was to offer him something more practical than romantic.

    So I purchased long term care insurance for our family.

    (I can see you turning your head to the side and thinking, “Whaaaa?” )

    I realize that not only is the idea of long term care insurance unromantic; it is one of those needs that seems far down the list of important family care items. Health insurance is critical, life insurance too – but long term care insurance? Is that really necessary?

    It is, and here is why. While health insurance will cover medical bills incurred by a hospital or a doctor, if you need more extensive care once you leave the hospital you will discover that long term care is going to be incredibly expensive.

    What do I mean by expensive? Well, a home care aid for just eight hours a day can cost from $40,000 to $70,000 a year – a staggering expense if you are too ill or injured to work, or if your spouse cannot work because they are caring for you. Nursing homes are even more expensive – almost $80,000 a year and even more if a specialized facility is needed. (Check out these other staggering costs.)

    I watched this happen to a friend. Her mother-in-law was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and needed some in home care because she was no longer allowed to drive. At first a home health aid was only needed for a few hours a week, but after an incident of leaving a pot on the stove and nearly starting a fire, the mother-in-law was forced to move into a nursing home with a specialized Alzheimer’s ward.

    Without the long term care insurance the mother-in-law had purchased in her 40s, my friend’s family would have been forced to make compromises in her care – the $250,000 the mother-in-law had in savings and stocks would have amounted to less than three years of nursing home care.

    I do not wish that for my family. If I am sick, or incapacitated, I very much want my family to know that I am safe and secure and getting the best care available without burdening them with huge bills or debt.

    While at my (delightfully young) age the prospect of needing long term care seems far away, I was shocked into acknowledging the necessity of it by a cervical cancer scare. When I thought about what would happen to my family without my income – with the additional burden of having to pay for my care – I was honestly scared. I began researching long term care insurance to make sure that never happened to those I love the most.

    Here is what I discovered; first, long term care insurance can be a tricky bit of insurance coverage. People who have less than $300,000 in assets above and beyond the value of their homes might not find it cost effective; after all, those with limited assets are typically covered by Medicaid.

    It is also not inexpensive; the price can range from $150 to $250 a month or more, as you age. Luckily, long term care insurance is considered a medical expense and is tax deductible, although it depends on age (for a breakdown of the tax code, this article is helpful).

    If you decide to purchase a plan for yourself or a family member, a lot of research or a great (and trusted) insurance broker can go a long way to helping you make the best choice. I am so glad I took the time to choose the right plan for my family.

    When I presented my husband with my gift, I knew I had married the right guy when he got it right away. He knew my gift was a sign that I wanted to care for him and the kids, and that I chose it because I love them. The most precious assets I have are my family, and I want them to be cared for, no matter what.