Making it work ~ Telecommuting with a Spouse

Couple Working Together at Home Just before 2012 went out in style (and escaped the dreaded Mayan end of the world apocolypse) my husband took a new job. We were both very happy with this move. It was very rewarding professional, looked like a great fit both travel wise and financially, and it was a home based position when we wasn’t on the road.
When I began to mention to people that he would be working from home alongside me now I received a lot of split reviews. There were the “Oh no” group who gasped wondering how we were going to get anything done for our respective positions. There was the “that’s awesome, now he can take the kids to school” group who, like me, immediately saw how our parenting workload might shift. And there was the “I’d never get anything done” group, who probably aren’t cut out to be telecommuters anyway.
From the start it’s been great, but there were definitely a few things that were key to our success in both working from home.

1. We new we would each need our own space. Several months back we remade our dining room over into my office (in a way that still allowed the room to serve its purpose during entertaining events). Check out the design and before and after pictures! Since my space was located downstairs we quickly determined that his “office” was going to have to fit into either the upstairs family room or our bedroom. Since my husband travels a good deal I wanted his office to be able to dissappear when he was on the road.

A few quick Pinterest searches later and I was on the hunt for one of these Armoire Style desks. I would be able to shut the doors and it would by bye bye office, hello bedroom every day at 5.

Isn't this awesome?

Isn’t this awesome?

I happened to be in our super nice Salvation Army about three days later and couldn’t believe it when there one sat!  It was in good shape, even had an L-table drop down for extra office space. I was good and waited semi-patiently until Hubs returned from that weeks travel and then promptly drug him to the store. Bada bing, bada bam…Hubs had a new office. Now I’ll be the first to admit my spacious spread and his awesome armoire are not equal but it works. We each have our own space, own office supplies, own phone lines, own printers, etc.

2. Office hours are a must. I learned this one the hard way years ago when I first became a telecommuter. I needed to shut the computer, switch off the work cellphone and walk away from work just as I had in physcially leaving an office. It is way to easy to walk by a computer, see mail sitting in your inbox and lose an hour on something that would have just as easily been tackled the next morning.  I’m a minority in my company since I still haven’t synced up my phone with the email servers and don’t work on weekends and vacations, but it helps me keep the balance between work and life.  This is something that Hubs, who is new to telecommuting is working on. I’ll occasionally search the house for him and find him hiding in his armoire checking email.

3. Find a routine that works for you. I work early in the morning, take a break to get the kids ready and off to school and then finish up by the time to pick them up. Fitting in daily exercise is something I need to work hard on this year but my routine allows me to focus on where I truly want to be, when I want to be there, in my case available for my kids after school hours. With Hubs joining me in telecommuting we’ve been able to improve on our routine, splitting up who takes and picks up each kid to allow both of us to spend some one on one time with each kid each day.

4. keepcalmandgotostarbucksA coffee frother, the gym, and Pandora…yeah I know these don’t make a lick of sense in the same sentence, but they are all vital to making telecommuting work for me. I’m a coffee fanatic and a loyal Starbucks customer through and through. Only problem is now it would mean a special trip out of the house, just for coffee to get my morning fix. I stumbled on a coffee frother at Bed Bath and Beyond one day and haven’t looked back! Each morning I mix up my own latte at home and Starbucks has become more of a treat than a daily vice.  The gym is Hubs escape. At the end of a day working from home, eating at home and not leaving other than to pick up the kids, he escapes to the neighborhood gym for a workout and some socialization.  Last but not lease, Pandora = Productivity for me. A good jamming playlist, a quiet house and a long to do list that gets knocked out quickly is a daily ritual for me.

5. Calendar blocks are also essential. When I have tasks to do that are not meetings with others or travel, I schedule them as meetings on my calendar. For instance if I need to do expense reports, work on my to do list, send a block of emails or draft a powerpoint, I make a point to put a block of time on my calendar, marked as busy to work on those objectives. The hardest part for my peers when I moved to working from home was not having the visual that I was busy. I ended up with a lot of random, last minute requests that kept me from completing my tasks. Scheduling my tasks on my calendar gave them back that visual and kept me from being overloaded with last minute piddly items.

I could go on and on but these are some of the key items that made telecommuting work for me and that I’ve shared to help Hubs be successful in his new endeavor.

Working from home with a sick kid

Is there anything tougher than knowing work won’t wait when your child is sick?  As a telecommuting, work from home mom, I can honestly say no.  When I was in an office and stayed home sick I was out of sight out of mind, but now my co-workers see no difference on the days when I’m out either caring for a sick kid or home sick myself.  What ends up happening is we pull double duty trying to please everyone.  How many of you have ended up more exhausted than your sick kid by running back and forth between caring for your kid and checking email.

All I can say is Thank Goodness for the mute button! I’ve had a sick, cranky kid home all week. Between teething and the horrible allergies she is overtired, wants nothing more than an around the clock supply of juice and Wonder Pets (side note: I want to know how to call that can phone so they come rescue me from this tiny tyrant ;)). I’ve held two live webinars and more than 7 conference calls this week and although they all went well there were some nerve wracking moments. 

My advice if you are home with a sick kid- don’t even open the computer, but if you don’t have a choice, plan ahead. I hold off on the WonderPets until right before a meeting, we eat lunch early and get in a good nap so I can power through some pressing work and I work early or late so I can take time when she needs me to just sit and cuddle on the couch.

Fisher Price Little Tykes Car DIY Makeover

I hinted at the “upgrade” I was giving Livi’s Little Tykes Fisher Price car a few days ago in this post.  My little diva lives in pink and needed a cute ride for her trips up and down the sidewalk.  The hand me down car from big brother was looking a bit faded and worse for the wear and the spray paint for plastic was calling my name.

Here’s my quick tutorial, a few fun pictures and my advice if you’re going to tackle something like this!


  1. Be sure to get painters tape, plenty of newspaper, spray paint intended specifically for plastics (Krylon Fusion for Plastics, Rustoleum and a few specialty brands at Michaels and Hobby Lobby all note clearly that they can be used on plastics).
  2. Use the newspaper to tape off and cover the top portion of the car. Also tape off any accent pieces you want to stand out later. I taped off the “grill” the gas cap, the license plate, the tail lights and the bolts on the front.  I also taped the steering wheel and used plastic bags to cover the tires.
  3. Turn the car over and spray the “under carriage”. I used a silver for this.
  4.  Turn the car back right side up and spray the body of the car. Use light even coats and just keep building up for even coverage. I did three light coats to get a solid robin’s egg blue for my car.
  5. I then lightly covered all but the interior seat area, and sprayed that silver for a little “leather look.”  My girl’s got style! 🙂
  6. Once everything was dry, really, really dry…I took off key pieces of tape and switched the paper from covering up to covering down. If it’s easier just yank the paper and recover the body of the car.  Spray the top and four sides of the top with your top color.
  7. Once everything was dry and all the paper was off I could see yellow and red in the cracks. I used a fine paint brush and some craft paint to cover that.
  8. Finally I pulled out some great sterling silver craft paint and painted “rims” inside the black tires, painted the front boltcovers, painted the gas cap and tail lights.  I used black craft paint to paint the front grill.
  9. Last I did two light coats of Clear UV glossy protectant for plastics (Krylon) to seal it and make sure my hard work lasts!

It was a fun project and just looking at the car and my little girl having so much fun makes me smile.

Now for the pictures!

DIY Kid Car Makeover

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My advice: 
Get in there and get your hands dirty! There is nothing like making something for your kids to make you feel like super mom! I turned an old TV stand into a play kitchen (tutorial coming soon), upgraded this car, who knows what’s next! Be sure to buy real blue painters tape to be sure you don’t pull your paint right off. Also try to tape paper to paper when wrapping your car!

Cost: $15

We had the car—$0

4 cans of spray paint (3 from Hobby Lobby on clearance, 1 regular price from Walmart) – $15

Today it’s The Traveling Tyrant

Let me start this by saying that 5 am is a ridiculously early time to get up. I know there are some amazing/crazy people who get up at this hour every day to workout and do all kinds of good stuff, but since the onset of Moody Tyrant and Tiny Tyrant, the little people that run my life, there is never enough sleep. However today I was up bright and early at 4:45 am to catch a 7 am plane to the wintry northern lands of Detroit.

Generally I love to travel. I love the break from my routine chaos, love the adult time where conversation doesn’t require an encyclopedic knowledge of every superhero every made, their superpowers and who’s nemesis is whose. However this has been a tricky trip from the beginning. I got late notice, booked a super expensive flight, only to realize that Mr. Dictator was also traveling. So starts the scramble for a sitter for my kids who is willing to pull a 36 hour shift.

Sitters are never in short supply but I always feel a bit Machiavellian booking anyone for an overnight. My kids are not solid sleepers, nope not one bit. Matter of fact, Tiny Tyrant who is definitely showing significant signs of being another High Sensitivity Child (HSC) woke up with a blood curdling scream at 10:05pm last night just as I was getting into bed and for the next hour rivaled Paris Hilton with her dramatics. She screamed, she flung herself around, she demanded food and beverage befitting her tyrant state and then flung every offering away as unacceptable. All of this while tears pour down her face, she breaks out in a face rash from the screaming and refuses to be held and comforted, but also refuses to be put down. (this results in a series of back bends out of my arms so that she can be both in my arms and as far away from me as possible at the same moment)

Let me just tell you that there is nothing that will break your heart more than a child whose emotions are so overpowering to them that they are lost at sea and can’t even recognize Mom as a safe harbor. Both of my kids handle the ups and downs that life dishes out with screams, tears and extreme joy. Every moment is an up or down and our life is a runaway roller coaster. Learning to accept this as normal for us, learning to brush off the judgmental among us and learning to accept my kids for who they are instead of who I pictured they would be.

This post is a bit rambling but hopefully you’ll forgive me since this was written by a sleep deprived, caffeinated traveler!

Quick Blog Update and then back to my lazy Sunday

Life is flying by so quickly recently I feel like someone in a movie who’s standing still while everyone moves in fast forward around them. Livi is growing up so quickly, Alex is a self-proclaimed genius who never sits still and the daily grind just never lets up.

We’re sitting around today doing our taxes in our jammies (don’t knock it…it takes me a bit of motivation to get around to taxes… a jammy day and a mocha latte are significant motivation in my book). I use Turbo Tax and while I’m waiting on hubby to supply the numbers I’ve requested I decided to flip over and update my very neglected blog. Sorry blog, there are just not enough hours in the day for everything calling my name recently.

Soccer season has started and I’m happy to say Tryant #1 is enjoying his time on the field and I’m highly enjoying the hard core serious soccer playing that gets interrupted every 5 minutes by one of the boys bringing us flowers, or pointing out a plane or just dancing in circles instead of watching the ball. It’s hilarious! Tyrant #2 quite enjoys watching the chaos and I truly appreciate the 2 hours a week when I’m forced to sit outside and do nothing. Ahhh

I have so many plans and such limited implementation time! Stay tuned for upcoming blogs on free business resources, great ideas for work at home mommies to stay organized and productive and some great stress relievers like online journals.

Holiday Recap-Recipes, Pictures and More

It took me getting sick and camping out on the couch to find time to write this. Two kiddos, work, hobbies there’s just not enough time in the day is there.

This year we hosted a dessert party, did a day trip to Houston and back on Christmas Eve, and managed 4 Christmas celebrations in 42 hours. Talk about controlled chaos. The new van came in super handy, the kids were fabulous and I enjoyed every minute. of course I kept thinking to myself on the road…if I had an IPad I’d be writing right now hehehe! Thanks to all the family and friends who showered me with gift cards I think there’s an IPad in my near future.

The natives are restless so I’ll keep this short and sweet!

My favorite holiday recipe…hands down it was the Crockpot Chocolate Pudding Cake I made for our dessert party. It was quick to prep, cooked while we were out and about and combined with the timer on our coffee pot, allowed me to arrive home minutes before our guests and have everything ready to roll!

Crock-pot Chocolate Pudding Cake (dairy free, gluten free, corn free, soy free options)

  • 1 pkg (3.9oz) Jell-O Chocolate Instant Pudding Mix (or check out http://www.allrecipes.com for an allergy free recipe sub)
  • 3 cups milk (regular, almond, coconut)
  • 1 pkg (2 layer size) chocolate fudge cake mix (I use Cherrybrook Kitchen Gluten Free Chocolate Cake Mix)
  • 2 squares Baker’s Semi-Sweet Chocolate chopped (sprinkle Enjoy Life chocolate chips for dairy/soy free)
  • 2 cups thawed cool whip or whip cream (Soy whipped cream if soy tolerant, or omit, I didn’t mind the omission :))

To Make It:

  • Spray your crock-pot with cooking spray, or lightly coat with shortening. (Some Pam sprays have soy so check labels). Beat pudding mix and milk in your crock-pot with a wire whisk for 2 minutes. The recipe calls for a 3 1/2 quart but I have the larger oval and it worked fine.
  • In another bowl prepare the cake batter according to the boxes instructions. Slowly pour it over the pudding mixture. DO NOT STIR. Cover the crock-pot with the lid.
  • Cook on low 2 1/2 – 3 hours (or on high 1 1/2 – 2 hours) until toothpick inserted comes out of cake clean. Top with chopped chocolate or chips. Turn off the cooker and let stand covered 30 minutes to allow the pudding to thicken. Serve with cool whip and dusted with cocoa powder or chocolate shavings.

My Must Have Kitchen Gadget for the holidays: Hands down it was my new Beka sauce pan. I whipped up quick quesidillas, chocolate sauces, you name it in there and was able to wash and reuse in minutes. The non-stick coating is amazing and a few more of these will be on my Christmas list for next year. And even better…this company has an environmental record that puts most other companies to shame. I just love them! Check them out here.

My ‘Couldn’t get dinner on the table without it’ recipe sites: I have two favorites without question are Dinner Tool and All Recipes. Dinner Tool lets me meal plan, add my own recipes, create shopping lists and have a quick printout of my weeks plan. Allrecipes.com lets me search by ingredients so I can plug in something I’m trying to get out of the pantry or fridge and up pops a slew of choices. LOVE IT!

My favorite photo sharing site: With all the IPads, E-readers, and smartphones out there we’ve become a society of digital sharing. In most cases I’m right on that bandwagon but some vestiges of society are being lost in the cyber rush. I firmly believe it teaches real values for kids to recognize the generosity of Christmas and respond with a heartfelt thank you note. However I’ve found that over the last few years it is tough to interest my oldest in writing them. This year I stepped up my game and we used Smilebox to create digital thank you cards we could send to family. Normally this would have gone against my edict that thank you notes are personal and it’s hard to get that touch with a digital card, but Smilebox allows you to add video clips to your card. So we sat down and recorded a bunch of 10-30 second clips on our Flip with my son thanking friends and family for their gifts. Each person got an individual thank you card with a video clip of Alex thanking them. Better than forcing him to sit at the table and write his name on cards he couldn’t read, this worked great. He could relate to this and I loved the message he got from working with me to put it together.

Last but not least to catch me up over the last few weeks…Livi turned 6 months. It’s been an amazing time with her and we are truly blessed to have such an angel living with us.

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Working with children at home

I have to admit, 2 weeks ago as we approached the end of the school year I was very worried about how to keep my kiddo busy while I worked. Working from home is probably very tough for a toddler to understand. Mom is home, available and should be ready to play right?

Normally I would have arranged for a summer camp, but none will take a three year old, even a potty trained, articulate, just finished Pre K one. Too bad cause this little guy hums with energy and I would gladly hand over some green to find the soccer came that would wear him out! Since there were no takers on a short camp option over June, Camp at Home began.

Week One: Getting in routine. Learning the ropes took about a week. There were a few tantrums, not a lot of TV and a good bit of “but Mrs. Pack says” (his teacher and the end all authority figure in his book). Not a lot was accomplished other than my learning that Alex has a terrific memory and amazing talent and love for puzzles.

Week Two: Camp out week. We had mini sub sandwiches made from hot dog buns, turkey, cheese,and fixings. Spritzers with juice and sprite, set up a tent in the playroom and napped in it, and set up our earning system for TV and computer time. So far things are going great and without jinxing myself I find that I’m optimistically looking for additional things for him to do.

I checked out a great book called “When the Kids are Home from School” and it’s filled with advice and ideas that have inspired me to plan a little ahead and ensure he has lots to do during the day.

The Art of Balance

Tightrope Walker, Palolem, Goa, IndiaImage by racoles via Flickr

This week has flown by, largely because I’ve been so blasted busy. There’s a great conference here in Austin that I’ve been attending and it’s crazy how much more time attending a conference in your home town takes, rather than attending one out of town.

I’m still making dinner each day, only now I do it at 6 am in the crockpot so the guys have something to eat!

I’m still driving home after the conference and networking sessions but that means not getting home until around 9 each night.

I have had little to no time with family except to shout instructions on what’s for dinner as I’m dashing out the door.

It’s amazing how much less energy an almost 8 month pregnant lady has! I’m doing some work helping the Austin Sweet Songs group pull their CD Release Party and benefit together, have my baby sprinkle next weekend, and still need to find time to sit and relax before this new little one decides to join us. That doesn’t even start to take into account the regular work that must get done, house cleaning, or anything resembling fun like reading a book or studying up on the Hypnobirthing I want to do this time around. More than anything I need to revisit my own goals for balance.

This whole blog started out of my attempt to balance telecommuting, charitable work, my family, and fun. Just like New Year’s resolutions, goals to be more balanced need to be revisited occasionally to keep us on track. I personally find that it takes more commitment than a new gym regimen to focus on myself and ensure some personal downtime is built into our schedule.

So I guess it’s back to basics and re-evaluating how to travel the tightrope as I get closer and closer to an even busier schedule in just under 10 weeks. The count down is on!

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27 weeks tomorrow

This pregnancy is flying by! I’m so excited about the upcoming “sprinkle” (a mini shower…get it! :)), getting ready for our little girl and getting Eric in pink mode after 3 years of blue.

A quick pregnancy update for those who’ve been asking. I’m doing pretty good, but have had a few high blood pressure readings so they are watching that closely (next appt tomorrow). I’m still having all day long, never ending, yeah right first trimester only my rear end sickness. This has led to a few unfortunate episodes in public, once again making more thankful than I can ever say that I telecommute! I recently adopted Eric’s gluten free diet and am happy to say that has kept the pregnancy weight gain to a minimum, safe level since it was out of control with Alex. Alex is super excited, wants to know when Olivia is going to be here and if she is going to arrive ready to go ride bikes with him.

Alex is doing great, although we are having daily meltdowns over next to nothing. Today has been a great day with no volcano like eruptions so I was not surprised at all to find that he actually napped today. Although as I type this he’s going into whiny toddler who needs a nap mode. It really stinks that by the time his neighborhood friends are home to play he’s not in any condition to be a good friend since 5-7 is the witching hour in our house. On a good note though he is sleeping through the night much better. So good in fact that when we wake him up at 10 to go potty he generally falls back asleep on the toilet. One of these days I’m going to get a good video of his “sleep talking” during this. 🙂

I am really looking forward this upcoming weekend. It’s hard to believe it will be our 5 year anniversary. 🙂 Now if only I knew what to get Eric to celebrate!