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Family Far Away: 7 Tips to Stay in Touch

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Family Far Away | 7 Tips to Stay in Touch | Chaos & Kiddos: Mommy's Survival Guide

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!

Family Far Away: 7 Tips to Stay 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!”

Family Far Away: 7 Tips to Stay in Touch

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.

Family Far Away: 7 Tips to Stay in Touch
How do you stay in touch with far away family?
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10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Mrs. AOK

    July 19, 2014 at 1:21 pm

    First off, kudos on the new digs 😉
    My family and I live faraway from our extended family, we have for years. It is hard for us at times. What is even more tough is at times it feels as though… out of sight, out of mind takes place.
    I really enjoy when we get together for a Skype.
    I totally prefer Skype over SM. I don’t do FB and my IG is more geared towards blogging.
    We’ve done the recorded books and my kids LOVED them.
    Writing a book together, now, that, is AWESOME!
    Thanks for sharing 🙂
    XOXO

    • Katy Blevins

      July 19, 2014 at 7:30 pm

      I totally get the “out of sight, out of mind” thing. We are challenged with that too, especially when life gets super hectic. I love how excited the boys get when they FaceTime or Skype with anyone. It’s always hilarious and makes that relationship “real.” Ya know? XOXO

  2. Sadia

    July 21, 2014 at 12:03 am

    It’s so important to stay connected with family (at least positive, supportive family!). I’m in the odd position of being the distant parent, since my girls are visiting my ex-husband and his girlfriend. We speak on the phone every day, occasionally videochat, and they receive care packages from me at least once a week.

    When my then-husband was deployed, I came to realize that communication requires two… if he wasn’t willing to look at the photos I sent, there wasn’t much I could do about it!!

    • Katy Blevins

      July 21, 2014 at 9:53 am

      You are absolutely right. It is a two way street for sure. I’m sure having the girls far away right now is not easy for you. So glad you get to use technology to stay in touch!

  3. Lauren Tamm

    August 26, 2014 at 8:39 am

    Great ideas, especially for military families who are almost always away from family! We use both Google hangouts and Skype. We’ve actually done several virtual baby showers, birthdays and holidays over the internet. Google hangouts offers multiple people to participate for FREE!!

    • Katy Blevins

      September 1, 2014 at 8:01 am

      Lauren! That is an absolutely fabulous idea! I never even thought of hosting holidays, baby showers and birthdays online. I am so going to do that with my family!!!

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Purposeful Parenting

Self Care Tips for Working Moms

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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.

Self Care Tips for Working Moms

 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.

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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.

Working Moms United | Proud Member | Chaos & Kiddos

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.

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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.

Self Care Tips for Working Moms

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!

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Purposeful Parenting

Year-End Money Tips for Working Moms and Female Entrepreneurs

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Money Tips for Working Moms

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!

Money Tips for Working Moms

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).

Business Succession

  • 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.)

Money Tips for Working Moms

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?

 

 

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Purposeful Parenting

Be Kind To Yourself: Words of Wisdom from Alyssa Milano

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Be Kind to Yourself | Alyssa Milano | Sprout Mom-Bassador

I had the opportunity to chat with actress and working mom, Alyssa Milano, last week as she celebrated her new role as “Mom-Bassador” for the Sprout channel’s 10 year anniversary. I had the opportunity to ask her a few questions about her life as a working mom and her answers always centered around one fundamental rule: Be Kind to Yourself.

Be Kind to Yourself | Alyssa Milano | Sprout Mom-Bassador

I thought this was especially powerful, because as mothers, we so often overlook self-care as we race around taking care of everyone else around us. Her words rang true as she reminded me that I can’t be my best mom if I’m not my best me. So what does motherhood look like for Alyssa Milano?

Things are Always in Motion

You have to be able to shift and make changes, go with the flow! Just when you think you’ve got a routine down…there it goes. Having kids will always keep you guessing and send you moving in new directions into uncharted territory. Be flexible and allow yourself to embrace change. Don’t hold too firmly to what you think you know – Change will always be in process and something’s got to give in order to keep moving forward. You are a great mom and you are doing the best you can right now in this moment. Be kind to yourself, releasing the pressure to be perfect and releasing the guilt when you inevitably fall short of that unnatural expectation. You are a great mom.

Healthy Mom = Healthy Childhood

Alyssa Milano clings to two “must-haves” in her daily routine as a busy, working mom. This type of consistency helps her be her best self, which makes her the best mom that she can be for her children. By being kind to herself, she keeps her mental health sacred so that her children experience the best childhood possible. What are the two “must-haves” Alyssa Milano can’t live without?

  • Break a sweat. She puts aside 45 minutes to an hour every day to get moving. Whether she goes to the gym for a workout or simply takes a walk, she focuses on taking care of her body and keeping a level head with some healthy movement each and every day. If she has busy weeks with jobs, meetings or events, she schedules it into her day like it’s part of her job or another appointment. It’s not optional.
  • Keep the bedtime routine solid. The children go to bed at the same time every night. The routine is solid, it’s something they expect and she sticks closely to it. After 7:30PM each night, it’s time for her and her husband. Quality time that is kind to both of them, keeping their marriage strong and setting a solid example for their children in love and commitment. Carving out time for her husband with a regular routine makes sure that life as a busy working mom doesn’t accidentally let her marriage slip away.

When was the last time you were kind to yourself? What simple changes can you make in your perspective as a busy, working mom to focus more on self-care and less on burn out? It’s encouraging to see working moms like Alyssa Milano step up to the plate to send a clear message to society – Being a mom means so much more than trying to be everything to everyone all the time. Being a mom means taking care with yourself, making sure you are equipped with the love and energy to pour into your family in a meaningful way. You’re doing a great job, mom. Yes, you! Go ahead, pat yourself on the back.

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