Last week I lamented and vented with Family Far Away: The Tough Stuff. This week it’s time for the good news! All is not lost thanks to today’s technology and there are a number of great ways to stay connected with long-distance family and friends. Turn that frown upside down and heal that “miss you” heart with these seven tips to staying in touch!
1. Social Media – Facebook and Instagram
The 24/7 real time access to every detail of our lives through social media has its very good and very bad points, but a major win at the top of the list of good points is that family far away get to live vicariously through our images, updates and video shares. Relationships that would have otherwise been extremely difficult to keep alive get a new lease on life by following and interacting with each other on platforms like Facebook and Instagram. I’m so thankful my family can see what the kids are up to on a daily basis.
2. Video Chat – Skype and FaceTime
Voice recognition via frequent phone calls was the best way to keep in touch and develop a relationship in the past. Technology has taken that so much further with things like Skype, FaceTime (and Google Hangouts!). My kids know their grandparents voice, but even more importantly, they know their faces. They love to video chat, share silly faces, sing together and even see the family pets each week. Plus, the video feature keeps their attention better and they stay much more engaged than they would on the phone.
3. Pen Pal Care Packages
Even with all this new technology, there is still something so special and exciting about receiving “real mail.” Sending little care packages back and forth with pictures, treats and cards can be a fantastic way to keep in touch with family and friends far away. Checking the mail is the highlight of my boys’ day and if there’s something for them?! Immediate chaos ensues with how excited they are.
4. Write a Book Together
My mom actually came up with this idea forever ago. What a neat way to create together, build something truly special and share a project over time. The grandparent (or other family far away member) starts the book and sets up the beginning story line, drawing pictures, introducing characters, etc. Then you ship it to the child and they continue the story at the “left off” point! (This of course can create great hilarity for a child with an awesome imagination and sense of humor.) The child leaves off at some point and ships it back. And so on and so forth. You can even self-publish it when you’re done and have official copies!
5. Recordable Books – Hallmark
Here is another great voice recognition and fun learning opportunity when keeping in touch with family members far away. It can also serve as a wonderful source of comfort on a bad day. Both sides of the family send our boys recordable books. They record them reading the story and then the boys get to listen to it. They love hearing familiar voices and of course love reading a new book! There’s nothing better than starting the story and hearing “Hey! That’s Gramma!”
6. Picture Magnets – Sticky9
I adore Instagram. But one step better? Sticky9 (formerly Stickygram). They do the awesome. You can take your Instagram photos and turn them into magnets. WIN!!! This has been such a big hit in our home. The boys get such a kick out of seeing themselves stuck to the fridge. It’s also great for family far away. Having pictures up as reference to ask “Who is that? You’re right! That’s Gramma! We love our Gramma!” is another great face recognition game that will make in-person visits that much better.
7. Shared Online Picture Gallery – PASS
All of the photographs I take of the boys get uploaded to an online gallery. All family and friends have the link, and anytime they want to see the latest and greatest, they can go straight to the gallery and see what’s new. They can download high resolution files, share to social media and even order prints to ship to their homes. Plus, I know my images are safe in the cloud, so I get the peace of mind that my memories are backed up. I upload the digital files of their school pictures, any fun pictures I take for blog posts, and normal day-to-day stuff. They can follow our lives visually and wallpaper their homes with pictures of the boys if they so choose.
Make Learning Fun With Robots
In today’s world, technology is everywhere from our kitchens, to our offices, to our cars. We use smartphones every day not just for work, but also for play. Maybe you’re reading this article on your phone right now. Some moms are worried about the impact of such widespread technology on their kids’ education. They may be worried that all the cell phones, computers, and smart TVs in today’s environment are too distracting for young people.
However, technology is a real part of children’s future careers. It can help kids learn any subject, especially when robotics are involved. More and more mom blogs are discussing the intersection of learning and technology, it seems like it’s the blogger’s choice as long as it’s relevant to their children’s education.
There are even competitions sponsored by everyone from the government to colleges for children to really show off what they’ve learned. One example is the Robot Olympics and another one is the Robots 4 Us video challenge. No matter where you are, there’s a fun way for your kids to learn about STEM and STEAM — science, technology, engineering, art and math — in an educational, engaging way.
One great place to start is by watching some videos and making robots at home. These fun, futuristic tutorials help kids learn how to make all kinds of things, like a motorized coloring machine, and more.
If your kids really like at home projects and watching robotics videos, why not try an afterschool program or a summer camp. There are many options out there for any curious boy or girl of any age. One first step to take is to look up your state and school district on the Afterschool Alliance page to check out what’s available.
Today’s technological options might seem a bit too new to those of us in the older generation, but they’re really not so scary. Kids can have fun and learn skills at the same time. The economy of the future is becoming more and more focused on technology and STEM skills.
By getting your kids into robotics, whether it’s a summer camp, an after school program, or an at home project, you’re giving them a future edge not only in school, but in their career as well. And as a parent, you’ll also learn valuable skills for your own career, as well as having lots of good, clean, family fun.
Self Care Tips for Working Moms
Being a single working mom of twins and a teenager means I often put myself at the bottom of the to do list. Whether I’m playing chef, chauffeur, bandager of boo boos or homework advisor, the hat I put on least often is woman. As a married working mom, I practically forgot I was a beautiful woman and wife. As a single working mom, I struggle to embrace myself as a confident available woman. Focused mainly on carrying my family through the days, I forget that taking the time to focus on myself every once in awhile ultimately makes me a better parent. Here are some fun self care tips for working moms that could spark that little feisty woman you know is in there but haven’t seen in forever.
1. Boudoir Shoot: Yup. I’m certain a great many of you just went “Yeah, right. Thanks for nothing.” WAIT! Seriously…I know this is what I do for a living, and I’m not listing this one at the top of the list as a shameless plug. I’m listing it at the top of the list because of the why behind what I do as a photographer. Our tagline at Modern Femme Photography is “because you deserve to feel beautiful.” A boudoir shoot is a fabulous way to celebrate and embrace your unique journey as a woman, be pampered, but most importantly, be reminded that you are beautiful, just as you are. And because it’s important to practice what you preach, I hopped in front of the camera a couple of weeks ago as part of a two-session process I’ve planned to reclaim my confidence and self-worth as a newly single woman.
2. Support Group: We have a great online community growing at Working Moms United that gives support and encouragement at those low points where being a work mom chips away at your energy, self-esteem and willpower. It’s a wonderful resource for moms on-the-go who need a pep talk but can only pop online here and there or might not have available time to meet up with others. I’ve also recently joined a local church and have been attending their quarterly women’s brunches. They provide child care for a few hours while I sit and chat with other women, feel refreshed and feel supported in prayer as a woman of faith. I’ve also identified a few key accountability partners in my life. Girl friends with similar life circumstances who can serve as trusted encouragers and keep me on track.
3. Learn Something New: Switching up the routine and enjoying something fresh and new can be a great way to recharge. Recently, I booked a makeup lesson with Dhalia Edwards of The Bride’s Corner. Dhalia is not only a dear friend of mine, but she’s incredibly talented both in her technique and her warm-hearted care of her clients. She patiently took 3 hours of her day to sift through my old, dated make up, repurpose old tools for new styles and teach me proper application techniques for everyday looks. Not only did I feel pampered and pretty when I left, but I felt rejuvenated and more confident in how to achieve a flawless look on my own.
4. Schedule Quiet Time: Spare minutes are a hot commodity for the working mom. Every second of every day feels tied to a never-ending to do list that typically revolves around everyone other than yourself. You need to make a choice to declare a bit of each day for yourself. Whether it’s 5 minutes, 20 minutes or the luxurious full hour, diligently schedule quiet time. Take the time to breathe in the quiet, write in a journal, pray, speak out gratitudes, do a few yoga stretches…whatever your peace may be. Do not allow yourself to skimp on this part of your day.
Remember, the first step towards being a better mom is being a better you. That better you needs some TLC! It may feel overwhelming or even scary to put any of these self care tips for workings moms into practice, but trust me, you’ll be glad that you did. Remember the positive, reclaim your beauty, refresh your soul and recharge!
Year-End Money Tips for Working Moms and Female Entrepreneurs
I don’t know about you but the end of the year brings two thoughts…well, three thoughts for me. One, CHRISTMAS!!!!! Two, fresh start on January 1st! And three, holy cow, what’s my money situation? Taxes are coming.
A big, big thank you to Kristen Robinson, SVP of Women and Young Investors at Fidelity Investments for taking the time to develop these year-end money tips for working moms and female entrepreneurs!
2 Tips for Female Business Owners / Entrepreneurs:
Keep Your Future in Mind with the Right Retirement Account for Your Needs
- Look into the different plans available to business owners, such as a 401(k) for Small Business, a self-employed 401(k), SEP IRA or SIMPLE IRA. You may need to appoint a plan administrator- someone who takes care of administrative responsibilities and ensures the plan is operating according to the Plan Document. Learn more about these different types of accounts here.
- Contribute to your account. The deadline for depositing employer profit-sharing contributions for the current calendar year is generally the business’ tax-filing deadline, plus extensions (for unincorporated businesses, this date is usually April 15 of the following year, plus any extensions).
- If you own a business, have you considered how best to plan for the future? If you plan to keep it in the family, consider creating a structure that makes it easier to transfer the business’s assets to other family members, such as a family limited partnership or a family limited liability company.
- There are many options; your attorney or tax adviser can help you select one that is appropriate for you in light of your specific situation.
4 Tips for Single Moms:
Get Involved in Your Family’s Finances
- It’s important to have a full picture of the family financial situation. At minimum, know what accounts you have and with whom. That includes banks and investing accounts, life insurance, mortgages, and loans. Having a handle on this information is an important foundation as you plan for the future, and can bring greater peace of mind.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Yes! Yes! Yes! I am still getting a grip on my finances after the divorce. I realize now how little I knew before and how problematic that can be.)
Save for Retirement
- Retirement is not a destination but a journey, and it’s never too early – or too late – to start putting away savings for the future. Along the way, there are myriad opportunities to get off the path—and back on it. And at virtually any turn in the road, there are possibilities to speed up your progress.
- Make it a goal to save 15% or more of your income each year. If that’s not reachable today, make sure to make it a priority to carve out what you can. Even smaller amounts will add up over time.
- Aim to have no more than 50% of your take-home pay go toward your “must-have” expenses.
Try to Save Three to Six Months of Essential Expenses in an Emergency Fund.
Look for Growth Potential from your Investments
- Knowing your financial personality can help you determine the right mix of stocks, bonds and short-term investments that match how comfortable you are with risk, and have the growth potential to meet your life’s needs, be that when you want to retire or when you want to send kids to college.
- If you’re not sure where to start, read up online, or reach out to a professional. There’s never a fee to come into Fidelity to talk to a financial planner, but we do recommend you reevaluate twice a year. Just like you take care of your physical health by visiting the doctor and dentist, think of this as taking care of your financial health, which is vitally important as well.
Protect your Legacy
- In order to ensure that what you’ve accumulated is distributed to your children, family and causes you care about most, it is important to name beneficiaries and create a will and health care proxy. Yes, it can be uncomfortable to think about the ‘what it’s,’ but it’s important to be prepared for the unknown. Do you really want someone else making these decisions for you?