Thursday, March 19, 2009

Shhh. Mommy Is On A Very Important Phone Call

Every morning I faithfully check my Yahoo account for any new emails and then I go to Yahoo Shine and read all the headlines. It's a little break I get before I have to start my work day. They have great articles on parenting, love and relationships, food, managing your life, etc. Here was a post that I found today that I thought was great.

10 ways to keep your little kids occupied while you work from home

I have worked out of my home for the past five years and am always looking for new ways to entertain my little ones when I jump on the phone with a client. I thought the article had some great ideas. Most of them I was already doing, but I did find a few that i might try. Thought some of you mommy's or daddy's out there, might enjoy this.....

by Lylah M. Alphonse, on Tue Mar 17, 2009 1:45pm PDT

It's a fact of life for most working moms: At some point or another, whether you work from home or out of the house, you're going to be trying to get your work done with a little one at your side. Maybe your caregiver has the day off. Maybe it's a school vacation day but you can't afford to take one of yours to cover it. Maybe your child is sick. Maybe you're snowed in. Whatever the reason, here are 10 things you can do to help keep your little angel occupied while you make deadline:
1.) Set up a workstation near yours. Stock it with workbooks, coloring books, pens, paints, stickers, play-dough, gak -- whatever you like, just make sure they're all projects or activities your child can do with little or no supervision, and try to include items that they only get to use while you're working. An old computer keyboard makes it especially appealing for little kids. My preschooler keeps her collection of toy cell phones on hers, as well as a wonderful play laptop from her grandmother and assorted pens, stamps, rulers, and scraps of paper.

2.) Don't be afraid to use the television. There are times when my kids watch more TV than I'd like, and yes, I do feel guilty about it -- but not when I have to work. If I don't get my work done, the mortgage doesn't get paid, and that outweighs by far the Is-Two-Hours-of-Dora-Too-Much? issue.

3.) Don't expect to be able to work in blissful silence. There's an unwritten rule out there somewhere that the more urgently you need your children to nap, the less they'll sleep. (My kids swear by this rule.) If you can stand the cacophony, break out the noisy toys -- you know, the ones that you never let them use because they're just too loud and annoying. The novelty of being able to play with them will keep them occupied, and all of the excitement just might lead to a nap after all.

4.) Take breaks for play. Your kids are more likely to let you work in semi-peace if you take the time to devote your full attention to them in between bursts of work activity. Be completely present for play for 15 minutes, and then ask them to cooperate while you complete that assignment or participate in a conference call. When you're done, reward them (and yourself) with another scheduled play time.

5.) Set them up for story time. Books on CD or tape are excellent storytime tools for working moms. Choose familiar stories for younger kids, and be sure to have the accompanying book on hand; ask them to pick out a certain word throughout the story -- have them point out the word "monkey" during a reading of Curious George, for instance. Older kids can read along with the CD, or explore new (parent-approved) books while you're working.

6.) Give them an assignment of their own. Freelance writing moms can have their children write (or dictate into a tape recorder) their own articles at their workstations. Give younger kids a set of three pictures, and ask them to build a story around them. Write (or print out) a story for an older child, and ask her to illustrate it. Have him act out a play with finger puppets.

7.) Organize a marathon. Got a Playstation or a Wii or an XBox? Older kids can boost their hand-eye coordination with a game marathon. Whoever gets the best two out of three (or, if you're really busy, best seven out of eight) gets a special prize.

8.) Create your own board game. There are a hundred different types of "Monopoly" out there -- have your kid come up with a version based at home. Rename properties after ones in your neighborhood and, when the work day is done, play the game.

9.) Let them get wet. If you have a laptop and are willing to take the risk, you can declare early bath time and supervise them from the doorway while you work.

10.) Set aside a box of special toys. I don't mean uber-expensive or complicated playthings; I mean toys that they don't get to play with except when you're working from home. Fill a small box with interesting things -- Post-it notes, simple puzzles, picture books, small stuffed animals, etc. -- and change the contents often to keep things exciting.

Lylah M. Alphonse is a full-time editor, a freelance writer, and mom and step mom to five kids. She writes about juggling career and parenthood at The 36-Hour Day and Work It, Mom!, and blogs at Write. Edit. Repeat.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

What She Had/What We Had

As many of you know the Scout is highly allergic to milk and eggs so I am always trying to find new recipes for her that will replicate what we are having for dinner. So here is what I fixed last night. My husband and the Peanut tried it out and said it tasted just like the Kraft Mac and Cheese.

So here is the recipe. I got a lot of ideas off of the Internet and then changed it up a bit to suit the Scout's likes:

Scout's Vegan Mac and Cheese

2 cups plain soy milk ( I use Silk)
1 tablespoon of dairy free margarine ( I use Nucoa)
10 oz. of vegan-soy cheddar cheese ( I use Follow Your Heart - available at Whole Foods)
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 pound of macaroni

Cook the pasta according to package directions and drain.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Combine soymilk, margarine, and salt over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.
When sauce comes to a boil, keep stirring for about a minute or two. Turn heat to low and stir in the cheese. You can grate the cheese, but I just sliced it up really thin. It will slowly start to turn from yellow to orange. It will also thicken up quite a bit.

Put noodles into a 1.5 quart casserole dish and pour cheese sauce over the top. Stir to coat all noodles. Bake uncovered for 10 - 12 minutes.

Scout is about as picky as they come (I wonder where she gets that from) and she took two bites and said it was too sour. That's the breaks. So she ended up eating chicken nuggets instead. She is a challenge when it comes to eating, but I still have to keep trying to expand her food horizons. The husband the Peanut loved it, so at least I know it will get eaten. Since I am allergic to soy I also made another more grown-up version of mac and cheese which was also well taken by 3/4 of the Crew:

Cheddar Mac Beef Casserole
courtesy of Kraft Food Magazine

1 pkg. Kraft Mac and Cheese (The original - gotta love this stuff)
1 lb. lean ground beef
1 can (14 1/2 oz.) Italian style stewed tomatoes, undrained
1/2 tsp. dried oregano or dried basil (I used oregano)
1 cup Kraft Shredded Cheddar Cheese

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare mac and cheese as directed on package, omitting butter.

Brown meat in large skillet on medium-high heat; drain.

Add tomatoes and oregano, mix well and bring to a boil.

Add meat mixture to mac and cheese and transfer into 2 qt. casserole dish. Sprinkle with cheese.

Bake 10 minutes or until cheese is melted and casserole is heated through.

It was pretty yummy. I also served it with a nice bottle of "Red Truck" wine. My new favorite table wine that you can find at Costco. Good stuff.