Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Working Mom's Guide to Pursuing Your Own Education [Part 1]

If you follow us on Instagram, you may see that some of our posts show us working on our own schooling. What you may not know is that Nat is a Doctor. Word.  She finished her PhD last year and is now teaching a class (in addition to working full time). I'm currently working on my second master's (because why stop with one?) in educational technology online...also while working full time. Since I'm on maternity leave, finding time to squeeze in assignments, readings, and required posts feels a little bit easier. But when I'm working full-time, I've found the BEST way for me to get things completed is a little something Natalie introduced me to: The Pomodoro Method.

What is it?
First, let me tell you that I don't claim to be an expert on this method. If you want to learn more from the pro's - here's a few more resources (Video, Article). However, I am an expert on ADD and having 15 unfinished projects going on at once and an inability to finish one completely. This is why I believe the Pomodoro method is such a game-changer for me. Essentially, you set a timer for 25 minutes and write down a goal that you hope to achieve. Once you complete that task, you get a break. So for example, maybe I need to get started reading an article. Until the timer is done, you focus on that one task. If you read the book or the article, there is more to it, like dividing up tasks, determining how many pomodoros you need to complete the task, etc etc.

Why it works.
For me, there's something about setting a timer that is actually kind of freeing and works for my brain. I know that during that time, I have to focus on that task and nothing else. I also know that once I'm done, I get a break. If I'm working something on the computer, I use that 5 minutes to get up and move around - maybe clean up the kitchen, switch the laundry, refill my wine water.  Truth be told, I don't always do the full 25 minutes. I usually pick somewhere between 15 and 20 minutes (especially if my daughters are home with me). I find, though, that once I get the ball rolling, I tend to work for even longer.

This is seriously one of the quickest and easiest strategies that I have implemented that has helped me to increase my productivity and manage my time better.

Stay tuned because we have more posts coming with our tips and tricks for pursuing your own education while working (and attempting to stay sane) - see the part 2 here. We'd love to hear your tips, too or even feature you as a guest blogger! Email us at workingmomplaybook[at]gmail.com!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Homemade Pizza Party {Weekend Fun}

A few days ago we had my nephews over after school.  I love love love these boys, but they can be picky eaters.  So when it came time to picking something out for dinner, I figured I'd keep it simple and go with something I knew they would like: pizza.  Duh.

Now around here we love to cook.  Pizza included.  In fact, sometimes I think we make a better pie than our favorite local joint.  So the pizza was going to be homemade.  I worried about whether or not the boys would eat it.  If there's one thing I know, though, from raising my daughter it's that if she gets to help cook, she's much more likely to try eating or even enjoy something she had previously not tried/liked.   Enter individual pizzas for each kiddo that they got to make themselves.

Here's how it went down:

I cheated and bought frozen pizza dough.  You can usually find this next to the frozen bread dough and I happen to think it's about 25 times better than the quick mix in the baking aisle, the pre made crusts or the ones out of a can.  The only catch?  You have to give it time to thaw.  I find that if I pull a ball of dough out in the morning before work and leave it on the counter all day, it's usually perfect when we get home.  Or you could always pull it out even sooner and let it thaw in the fridge for a day or two.  My husband is the expert dough stretcher-outer and so he got to work on that.  The older boys even tried their hand at tossing the dough in the air.

I mixed up a batch of our favorite homemade sauce.  It's an old recipe from Cooking Light that we keep coming back to.  The only way I stray from the recipe is that I pulse this in the blender quickly.  That way there's no tomato chunks in the sauce.  Not that it's super-chunky to begin with, it just works better that way with the kiddos.

Then, I put a spread out of all the toppings I knew they'd like and some I hoped they'd try.  Well try they did not (even our daughter insisted on cheese only when she usually eats spinach and almost any other topping we put on our pizza)...but I was ok with that.  The big thing was that I hoped they'd eat what they made.  They LOVED putting the sauce, cheese and toppings on themselves.  In fact one of my littlest nephews favorite phrases right now is "I did all by myself", and we heard that many times during pizza prep and dinner.

After that we popped the pizzas in the oven and told the kiddos to run back downstairs to play while they cooked and cooled.  They DEVOURED their pizza and kept telling us that they liked and how they made them all by themselves.  When my brother came to pick them up, they continued to tell that story.

So if you're looking for something fun to do with the kiddos this weekend, spread out the dough, the toppings and let them get to work on their own pizza.  Share your creations with us on Instagram, too!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Thursday Truth.

Last night my husband and I had a 'come to Jesus' about our finances and how to cut costs.  It seemed like the easiest way was to get rid of our cleaning lady (insert tears here...).  I know I know, having this little service is a luxury, but I sure did love to come home every other Tuesday to a clean house.  What we weren't loving, though, was the $75 cost that came with each cleaning.  So today I've been searching for a cleaning schedule in my free time.  Nothing seems great...yet...which is why we'll probably make our own schedule (because I know if this thing doesn't exist, the house will not be clean).  

But, the one common trend I found out there was that many people try to start a load of laundry every day and then finish it up that night.  Maybe this isn't as mind-boggling to you as it is to me.  We used to do laundry on Thursday nights and through the weekend.  Then, during the week we wouldn't have to worry about it - it was done.  Now that we have another little one in the mix (who is a champ at blowing out diapers), I've come to find that laundry is NEVER done.  So, rather than stress about it or get a little irritated that I left the kitchen dishtowels downstairs or the occasional 'potty accident' bag from daycare, I figure there'll always be a load the next day.  

So, starting today (if I have a full load of laundry - because we don't like to waste) I'm going to try tossing it in in the morning.  We'll see how it goes...and if clothes actually get folded...and then put away.  Don't even get me started on ironing.

What are your best laundry secrets?  Do you wash baby clothes and adult clothes separately? 

Friday, October 3, 2014

Working Mom App of the Month: October

Each month we like to feature an app that's a true 'game-changer' for us as busy, working moms.  
Up this month?  Cozi.

Let me start by saying that this is an app and a website.  So regardless of whether or not your have your phone or a phone that can download this app - this product could be awesome for you!  Using the Cozi app allows you to sync lists on multiple devices as long as they're all signed in to the same account. So, if you're like me you quickly whip up a honey-do list for the hubs so he can see it and all the updates you add to it ;).

In reality though this has been a great app for grocery shopping so either one of us can go to the store and get everything on our list! When we run out of something in the kitchen, I typically just grab my phone and add it into Cozi quickly.  Or, if my husband has a special brew request for the game over the weekend, I know exactly what to snag at the store...or vice versa!

The other thing we love Cozi for in our household is getting projects done.  We built our house and just moved in last November.  While we opted for our contractor to do most of the work for us, we did choose to keep a few things unfinished that we knew we could do ourselves without the added labor cost.  We thought we'd get those projects done lickety-split (insert crazy laugh here).  So while they're not all done yet, we have a list that we update and prioritize regularly to keep the progress moving.

We use the free version of Cozi and have found it to be perfect for our needs, but for a few more features and less ads, you can upgrade to Cozi Gold for just under $30 a year.  Considering it costs less than a new planner and has the great syncing feature it might be worth it.  Here's a list that compares the features between the free version and the Gold version.

Do you use Cozi and love it?  Or do you have another great app we should share?  Submit your app and why you love it to workingmomplaybook[at]gmail.com!

Disclaimer: we weren't paid or perk'd to endorse Cozi.  We just really like how it makes our life easier and the time it saves us!  Oh and that things get checked off on our honey-do list!