Entertaining the kids during this pandemic.

gamingThis pandemic has brought out the creative and skillful in us. Can you imagine a time in our lives when majority of the adults are working from home and the young ones attending their classes online? To be honest, I am still reeling from the changes that this virus has brought in our lives.

In our home alone, two kids are attending their classes online. Both classes are in the morning. My younger sister teaches her pre-school classes online as well. And then two of us accountants are also working from home. Can you imagine the chaos when we are all using the internet and then the speed suddenly fluctuates? You can only imagine the noise when the lot at home shouts for the internet connection to be checked and restored. At night, when everyone is relaxing already, the television is on, most are on social media through their mobile phones, the kids are playing video games… that’s when it hits you. This pandemic has given us a chance to spend more time together and it is one of the positive things that we should be grateful for.

So, anyway, I am sure the adults in your home are struggling to entertain the kids so cabin fever won’t set in. I will share two ways that we skillfully thought of in order for the kids, and the kids at heart, to have fun while stuck at home to avoid exposure to the virus.

Super-TetrisBond over online games. Friendly competition is the name of the game, my friends! I have a seven-year-old nephew who is very competitive and would really learn ways on how to defeat everyone who plays against him. He knows some of the newest video games these days but I thought how much fun would it be to teach him some of the classic games from my generation. Pac-man, Galaga, Super Mario, Street Fighter… Just some of the games that I got hooked on when I was younger. I am grateful for smart television these days, you can easily play online games while lounging on the sofa in the family room. That’s what my nephew and I have been doing the past several months.

We discovered online Neon Invaders, Pac Rat Game, and Super Tetris! Ah, Tetris. My nephew was hooked the first time he played this! We would spend hours beating each others’ high scores. My heart skips a beat whenever I see my nephew enjoying a game from my youth.

I believe most of us older ones know how to play Tetris. You just have to use arrow keys in order for the pieces to fit in and create a straight line. Fit until you find yourself racing against time. It’s so simple that you won’t feel pressure while playing. You can easily play again and again. Trust me, you’d think it was a no-brainer game, not as much fun as other games out there, but you will be surprised at how much time you will spend lining up those falling bricks.

Get those thousand pieces puzzles. And slowly fit the pieces to complete it. Believe me, the kids will go crazy finding every piece that matches the ones that are already sitting in their places. Ah, the hours you will spend just doing it…

Need more skillful ways to entertain the kids?

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Sofa for everyone.

sofaAre you one of those families that converge in a single place at home even though there is a lot of space to sit or lounge at? I belong to one of those families.

My sisters and I love chatting. Even our sister-in-law loves to chat. Since we all live in a single house, we often chat. And we love to do it while eating. Also, when we are in front of the television in the living room. You can just imagine the abuse our chairs would get from us. We would sit there for hours at times, even the nephews love to relax and play with their tablets while lounging with us around.

Just last night, I realized just how much we are in need of a new sofa for the living room. A sidearm is already broken while several sweat stains can be found on the chocolate brown sofa. We are in need of a trip to the furniture store Fredericton soonest.

In choosing a sofa for your home, here are two things to make sure you check: lifestyle and dimension.

When buying a sofa, make sure you choose the right dimension. You don’t want to get a bulky sofa for your small living room. Right? It might eat up all the space you have in that section of the house you want to put it in.

What to do? Measure the space where you plan to put the sofa at. Make sure your measurement is correct. When you are in the store, give your measurement to a store assistant to help you find the right sofa. Check available colors and fabrics. And count the number of people who can seat on it.

We always choose neutral colors. We used to have a gray sofa then we chose a chocolate brown one after. We also always choose leather. Easier to clean and maintain. The fabric ones can easily get broken especially when there are kids at home. Just a pen or scissor can tear one apart.

And, then, consider your lifestyle. Some people love entertaining at home. You choose a roomy sofa, easier to clean and maintain, and aesthetically pleasing to the eyes. For people like us, a sofa is really for lounging, a place where we can sit for hours. It is what we use to chit-chat, watch television, read a book, and just chill. Some buy a sofa for aesthetic purposes and nothing more.

Also, consider if you have kids at home. Better choose a sturdy one even if it is pricier than most. Kids tend to jump on anything soft so you know that the new sofa will be used as a trampoline of sorts.

What’s your choice?

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The cost of freedom.

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When the neighborhood where we used to live became too much for us, we decided to sell our house and move somewhere else. It was not an easy decision since we grew up in that place, it was also the place where my parents spent their childhood. But the new neighbors brought a lot of issues with them that our peace of mind kept being threatened daily. We did everything to prevent us leaving that house we loved so much but it became a priority for us to keep our sanities intact so we left.

It took us quite a while before we were able to find a buyer. We pushed back on the idea, thought of getting a custom home builder to turn our old house into a sound-proof one. Just a day or two after talking about it, we were back to finding a buyer. When we finally found one, it took us less than a month to find a rental. We moved out of our old house and moved into the rental in a week’s time.

There are a number of concerned relatives who told us to find a new permanent home because we are wasting our money in rental payments. I refused to believe that. You know what we are paying for in this rental home we have been living in for the past few years? Peace of mind. Tranquility. Security. Accessibility.

It had been years that we tolerated the noise and nightly ruckus of our previous neighbors. We had enough of those, especially now that we have two kids, nephews, with us. The rental payments are nothing since it translated to our freedom! That is the best thing that our move brought us. We were free from all those issues that made our blood boil almost daily back then. We were wasting so much money going out whenever we could. We would frequent the malls. For those of us working nine to fives, we would stay as late as we could so as to avoid going home early. We would feel guilty leaving our Dad at home, taking care of the house and the dogs. It was such a mess back then! No amount of cajoling, demands, and everything in between worked with our neighbors. In the end, we surrendered and it was the best thing that we decided on and did.

The rental home we moved into? It was an old three-storey house located in a busy street. It is by a big road. Old floor boards, big windows, a tiny kitchen, and two rooms. Not enough space but the rent is reasonable and the neighbors are peaceful and quiet like us. It is so tranquil that most of the time we feel like just lounging and doing nothing. Netflix and reading with lots of eating in between are the best in this house! We can come and go as we like. We can even have deliveries at night without the need to walk past neighbors chitchatting at their doors and looking at us like we were gluttons for eating late at night.

Ah, freedom.

There really is no price for it. And rentals, it can be assets, too. Just like ours.

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A home upgrade in this crisis: doable or not?

home-upgrade Like any other large family out there, our family also struggle with space. Currently, our home is a three-storey, fully-functional old structure that we first rented out before we purchased it. The ground floor is being used as home office, the second floor as dining and living area combined, and, the third floor has the bedrooms. What we love about the old house is that every space inside it is being utilized by every member of our family. No space is wasted.

So, why the thought of upgrading the house, then?

This side of the world was put in lockdown back in March 2020. Scary times. Also, being stuck inside, it became a time when you zoomed in every little thing at home. Number one thought: why haven’t someone from the family noticed how cramped we are with the space we have now? Every sound echoes and can be heard in your meetings and online classes. Every space is being occupied by computer tables/desks, laptops, printers, and even writing areas. With three kids in the family and a couple of adults all in Zoom meetings every few hours, the cramped space is making us crazy!

Thus, the thought of an upgrade. Several considerations have to be discussed amongst family members, of course. Finances, for one. Timeline. And, there’s also the matter of a temporary house for everyone while the upgrade is being done. If you are considering a home upgrade like us, here are three considerations we are currently mulling over.

Financing the home upgrade. These are scary times to be shelling out our hard-earned money but this is also a time when banks and other lending institutions are lenient in loans. Why not take advantage of it? Interest rates are down, amortizations are more affordable. We are actually considering a home remortgage. Remortgage the house to upgrade and repay it in a couple of years. One idea is to use the space above the garage. We can convert it into two rooms to be used for online classes of the kids. Another idea is to put up a fourth floor which will give us ample space a room for home office and two rooms for online classes. We are tossing the ideas and we have been computing, using a mortgage calculator.

With the budget for the upgrade secured, how long will it take for the construction to finish? Timeline is another big consideration. Time is money. The time for the upgrade to complete is the money we will have to spend. We are also reading up on help with the home upgrade. We are weighing the pros and cons of a bigger budget and shorter timeline, or a smaller budget and longer timeline.

A temporary shelter for all of us should the upgrade begin. We are a large family consisting of six adults and three kids. Work and school will be interrupted with the internet connection being affected, plus, the noise of a home construction will cause havoc in our online meetings. This is another consideration being weighed by the adults in the family. We might rent out a house temporarily or stay with a relative but it will put a dent on the upgrade budget.

This pandemic has put so many things into perspective. That is one positive outcome of the lockdown, being inside the house 24/7. You see issues and you find ways to solve it. Every problem is now being zoomed in because we all have time, and that’s great, if you think about it.

So, is a home upgrade in this crisis doable? Yes, I believe it is. Just make sure the whole family is on board the idea and every little aspect will be discussed and decided on.

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Setting up parental controls.

computer-internet Kids these days are expert in gadgets and the internet. They already know which is which and whatnot in order to play their favorite video game or watch that viral video on YouTube. Even a three-year-old kid can operate a tablet all on his own.

But we all know the dangers lurking in every corner of the world wide web. We all know that there are predators out there disguising themselves as kids the same age as ours in order to gain their trust before going for the kill. The internet is such a dangerous place for our kids to be in without our guidance and protection. So, how can we do that? Through setting up parental controls.

What is parental controls? You tinker with your settings in any gadget, tablet or laptop, in order to put control on what your child can see online. Parental control and privacy settings are best friends when it comes to protecting your child from what he can experience online.

A side note: If you cannot do it yourself, there is always a group of IT support team Toronto you can ask help from. It was the same thing we did for our home since we have our own network of gadgets we use and two internet service providers we connect to.

A child has this natural curiosity to explore things, especially what they see from others. Your kid can see you using the internet and his curiosity will likely get going just by that. We all want our kids to explore, learn, and be amazed by how big the world is right at their fingertips. But we also want to make sure that they are safe and protected while doing it. Who does not want a safe online experience for the little ones?

So, get that gadget your kid is using. Go to settings and you will most likely see a parental control button you can click on. If not, check online whether your gadget brand has it. Again, if you cannot do it, you can ask an IT expert to help you out. Just make sure you know exactly what will be done to the gadget so you know how to navigate the controls.

We used to say that we will not let our kids use gadgets until they turn a certain age. I believe it is not applicable anymore considering how we are all so dependent on technology already. Technology is now part of our way of life, every one of us. But since we are aware of how predators lurk in every corner of the web, we can do something about it in order for our kids to explore on their own and still be safe while doing it.

Parental controls. Read about it. Learn how to do it. And use it for your own peace of mind.

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Becoming a “Plant Mom”.

plantita Being a plant mom is the “in” thing these days. Maybe in this part of the world but I have seen in Instagram that a lot of people in different parts of the world have become certified “plant parents”!

I believe it is the need for a healthier environment, one that you can easily control through the placement of plants that help clean the air inside the house. We have seen homeowners remove popcorn ceiling to make sure that they are not breathing fibers in the air which can eventually cause lung diseases.

But that is not enough anymore for most homeowners, most especially those with kids or sick family members at home. A cleaner air is much needed nowadays considering the amount of air pollution that we get when we go out, or even when we open our doors and windows. That is one of the reasons why many individuals are now buying plants to put inside their homes. That is also the very reason why I have become a ‘plant mom’.

So, what is a plant mom, anyway? It is a woman who owns a variety of plants and takes care of it personally. It is very similar to being a pet mom except the things you take care of don’t move or make sounds.

The first plant that was given to me was a snake plant. It is scientifically called Dracaena trifasciata which originated from West Africa. This type of plant is so easy to care for. You need a large pot, or a planter box like what we have at home. Very little sunlight and water needed for this plant. You just put it in a corner and let it be. After just a few weeks, you will notice small growths in between its leaves. You can easily replant those growths and it will start to breathe and grow on its own. No fuss plant. It is the best one I own.

Another plant that I am proud to call my baby is the spider plant or Chlorophytum comosum. I have them planted in plant boxes outside the windows of the house. It purifies the air inside the home while absorbing carbon monoxide and other bad elements in the air. It is also edible so it is safe for kids and pets.

There are a number of succulents and small plants that I also own, given by a friend. And a lot more given to my Dad before he passed away. One other reason why it is really cool to have plants at home? It is soothing to both the eyes and the soul.

Some individuals buy plants to show off that they have more than enough to shell out for pricey plants. I do not like those people. My reason for bringing plants, bought or given, inside our home is for the sole reason of purifying the air we breathe most especially for my nephews. But, hey, if you have the money to part with, then, why not flaunt it. It is your choice, anyway.

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Preparing for the rainy days.

Rainy season in this part of the world comes around late June up to early October. There are rain showers even in months which are supposed to be sunny and clear skies. Being prepared for the rainy days is a priority in this part of the world, especially when your house is situated in low-lying areas which are prone to flooding.

The residential area where our house is located is not prone to flooding but every year we prepare a checklist of what we need to do and get repair or maintenance professionals for. Here are the parts of the house that we check annually to make sure it is in good shape and condition.

Roof – Clean off whatever trash that got stuck on the roof as those stuff will cause deterioration fast. Make sure there is nothing that holds water like a dent or a broken shingle. Water that gets stuck on the roof will make it rust and rot.

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Inspect the flashing just to make sure that it is still in good condition, solid, and not deteriorating already. Get the sealant ready should there is be need. Scrub and make sure it is clean. Also, make sure there are no loose shingles. Again, if there is a need, replace. The gutter is another very important part of the roof. Clean, secure any holes, if there is any, and make sure that the water is flowing freely down the pipes.

Windows – Dish soap with warm water is the best cleaning agent for windows. I have read that when I did a research on how best to clean windows. Not when the sunlight is at its peak, and do not use power hose when washing it.

Remember that windows control the temperature inside the house depending on how you use it. If there really is a need to, get windows winnipeg experts to check your windows. They might need to be replaced and you want the experts to install good and long-lasting windows for you.

Pipes and Drain – This is actually being done every quarter in our house. We make sure there are no leaks in the pipes and water flow freely. The drains we make sure are not clogged and there are no trash in it.

We remind each other at home to not throw away any greasy items in the drain. Also, to always pick up balls of hair that gets stuck in bathroom drains. We already use a drain guard but it is still best to pick up strands of hair that get stuck in it.

These are just the basic parts of the house that we check annually to make sure we are ready for the rainy season. We schedule an earlier check so that when the rains start falling earlier than expected, we will not panic whether the roof over our heads will hold or it will start leaking like crazy.

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Graveyard Shift

It has been a few weeks of searching online for the best custom drapery for my sister’s room. It has been a work from home set-up for her since March of last year. In the beginning, it was not a problem for her to be in the graveyard shift. Her work begins at eight in the evening up to five the next morning. Sometimes, it goes beyond five and I would wake up with her still working at past seven in the morning.

Exhausted from her graveyard shift, she would demand all lights turned off and no noise near her room.

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So, my idea is to find the best blackout curtains for her. 100% of light coming into the room will be blocked by it but I want curtains that will fit her personality and be elegant as well. My sister is the serious kind but when she is in the mood, can crack up everyone around her. I want that to reflect in the draperies I will find for her room.

What is the difference between blackout curtains and room darkening ones, you would ask. Blackout curtains totally shields the room from 100% of light coming in, while room darkening rooms can still let some light, 1% of it, come in. I am totally fine with room darkening curtains because I am not much into dark rooms. At night, yes, but in the morning, I love some sunlight coming in through the windows.

I know there are some people out there who are not into curtains. I remember visiting a friend’s newly renovated condominium unit. I was surprised that her windows looked bare. I asked if she planned to get curtains or blinds for it but she said that she was leaving it like that, bare with the light coming in 100% of the time. I was there in the afternoon and my eyes hurt the whole time we were catching up in her living room.

Drapery is a must in our home. I may like dim rooms but I also like light coming in the house in the morning. Drapery is also for privacy. Our home is a three-storey house and we are located in an area with mix residential-commercial establishments. The structure in front of our home is a car accessories shop so from time to time there are men who would look up at our house. For privacy, we would block out the light and the lingering eyes of strangers. So, you can say that curtains are also a layer of security for our home.

We will be doing another round of general cleaning soon. We will re-arrange stuff inside my sister’s room and we will have the draperies installed. It will be peaceful and quiet mornings for my sister after her graveyard shift five times a week.

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Meal Planning

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Do you go to the supermarket or grocery store with or without a list of items to buy? Do you plan the meals you will cook for the next couple of days?

Meal planning is one way to help save time and money when it comes to grocery shopping. Gather the family to discuss the food they want to eat for the week. (A weekly plan is easier to compared to a monthly one.) Make a list. Discuss the costs and time it will take to cook it. Then, make a meal plan for the next five or seven days. From which you can extract a list of grocery items you need to buy.

Make sure you are done with your freezer repair before going to the supermarket or grocery store. You need your freezer space for the items you are going to purchase and stock up for the next couple of days. Also, make sure you have those fridge bags where you can store your meat, veggies, and other ingredients to keep it fresh.

Here’s how to do meal planning properly.

List all the meals you plan to cook for the week, or next couple of days, depending on your goal. Think of breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Also, snacks in between meals, just to be sure.

List down all the ingredients you will need. Garlic, onions, tomatoes, bellpeppers, herbs. Pork, chicken, beef. Flour, cornstarch, pasta. Everything you will need to complete all the meals in your plan for the week.

Bring the list with you to the grocery store or supermarket. Bring a pen or pencil and tick off all the items you already have in your cart or basket.

When you get home, start cooking those meals that you can store in the fridge and can be reheat when about to be eaten. Normally, meals can be pre-cooked so that it won’t take you as long to cook it as when you need it that day.

Working moms attest to the fact that meal planning is a huge cost and time saver for them. My sisters and I, though not yet mothers, can also attest to the efficacy of meal planning in our daily working lives. Meals that are cheap can easily be budgeted. The time in the kitchen can be decreased and limited. Also, if you are on a diet, meal planning is a great way to control your food intake!

Just make sure the pantry is well-stocked. Make a list and check it twice. Don’t waste ingredients by buying what is already available in your pantry. Check your refrigerator for leftovers. There are meals that you can cook out of it. Buy only what you need. Cook and eat those you know will easily spoil or rot. Don’t let food go to waste by buying and stocking mindlessly.

Meal planning is easy especially when it becomes a part of your weekly, or monthly, routine.

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Simplicity is the key.

With all the clutter in our daily lives, most days we just want everything around us to be neat and minimal. Do you agree?

We can all I agree, I believe, that there is a very small guarantee of a clutter-free home in a house with more than two kids. There is a toy in every corner of the house. There is something you will inevitably step on especially on the staircase. Experience has taught us that the more you increase the number of storage spaces, the more clutter you will accumulate.

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Simplicity is the key.

The idea is to have a minimalist interior design for the house. Open-plan layout, with just key pieces for the living room, kitchen and dining area, starting with entrance doors up to closets and laundry room. The front door will be painted a striking color: red or blue. The dining area will have a large table with simple wooden chairs. Or it can be a kitchen with kitchen island counter seating. Perhaps a booth seating? The latter is great for small kids. Minimal kitchen cabinets but a pantry will compensate for the shortage in storage area. A living room or family room will have couches, a simple wooden center table, and a floor lamp. There is a laundry room directly after the mudroom. The bedrooms will have a bed, built-in cabinets. The bathrooms will have a shower stall, a toilet, built-in cabinets, too.

With the commercialization of almost every aspect of our lives, we tend to overspend on things we actually do not need. And this applies to our homes. We have too many of any single item especially dinnerware. I do believe majority of us is guilty of this, with the automatic reasoning that we are buying extra for guests.

If our goal is to have a clear mind inside our homes, even with kids, we need to downgrade. Again, simplicity. If we turn to minimalism, a clutter-free home will always be on the forefront of our minds. Our tendency to buy more, store more, will be gone, if not minimized. I would like to think that even kids will have less clutter because of the awareness of a neat home.

Transitioning from a traditional house to a minimalist will not be easy. Imagine the number of items you will have to get rid of when organizing your stuff. Do a garage sale. Give away to charity but only those items which are in good condition and will be of use to the recipients. It will be hard to part with some items but if you are really keen on a clutter-free home, sacrifices have to be made.

Again, simplicity is the key. It will have to start from a decision and everything else will follow. Of course, getting every family member on board the idea is a priority step. If one is not on board, there will be clashes along the way.

Your home is your haven. It needs to be a place where you can breathe and be at peace.

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