Wednesday, December 2: Managing Holiday Stress

Managing Holiday Stress

When: TODAY, Wednesday, December 2, 2020
4:00 – 4:45 pm ET
1:00 – 1:45 pm PT
Then continuing on YouTube
4:45 – 5:15 pm ET
1:45 – 2:15 pm ET
https://bit.ly/33z59XC
Let’s face it, as much as we enjoy the Holidays, there’s always a certain amount of stress. Buying gifts, preparing meals, managing our budgets, juggling our schedules, and caring for loved ones is taxing in a normal year and will certainly be magnified in 2020.
Join host Pam Rossi (@Always5Star) and the team
at 4 pm ET (1 pm PT) on Wednesday, December 2 as we offer tips and share ideas for Managing Holiday Stress! We’ll begin the chat on Twitter and finish the discussion LIVE on YouTube from 4:45 pm ET https://bit.ly/33z59XC !
RSVP and attend the chat for a chance to win one of TWO $250 Amazon Gift Cards!
Click here to learn more about our Twitter chats. (You must RSVP and attend the party to be eligible for a prize.)
To RSVP:
  1. Email RSVP@theonlinemom.com (subject line: CareSmart) indicating your Twitter ID.
  2. Spread the word and RT this link on your Twitter feed: https://bit.ly/3llo0eK
  3. Join us on TweetDeck or HootSuite (#CareSmart) on Wednesday, December 2 between 4:00 – 4:45 pm ET and afterwards on YouTube https://bit.ly/33z59XC .
  4. Tell your Twitter followers!
PRIZE WINNERS will be announced during the Party!

Monday, November 30: Holiday Entertainment

Holiday Entertainment

When: Monday, November 30, 2020
3:00 – 4:00 pm ET
12:00 – 1:00 pm PT
Holiday entertainment promises to be especially challenging in 2020. But relax, we’ve got answers!
Join host Marybeth Hamilton (@BabySavers) and the team at 3 pm ET (12 noon PT) on Monday, November 30 as we explore how having reliable #AlwaysOn Internet can be a welcome addition to the holiday entertainment mix. We’ll be sharing movies, series, games and recipes that are sure to keep us entertained through the Holidays!
RSVP and attend the chat for a chance to win one of TWO $250 Amazon Gift Cards!
Click here to learn more about our Twitter chats. (You must RSVP and attend the party to be eligible for a prize.)
To RSVP:
  1. Email RSVP@theonlinemom.com (subject line: AlwaysOn) indicating your Twitter ID.
  2. Spread the word and RT this link on your Twitter feed: https://bit.ly/3mfYqZE
  3. Join us on TweetDeck or HootSuite (#AlwaysOn) on Monday, November 30 between 3:00 – 4:00 pm ET.
  4. Tell your Twitter followers!
PRIZE WINNERS will be announced during the Party!

Socially Distanced Acts of Kindness for Families 

By Tracey Dowdy

I feel like nearly everything I’ve written for the last eight months starts with some iteration or acknowledgment of the statement “2020 has brought unprecedented challenges to families…” One of the healthiest ways to take your mind of the relentless bad news cycle and frustration is and see all the good that’s happening around us is to take our eyes off ourselves and do something kind for others. 

As parents, we tend to prioritize our children’s happiness and achievements over their concern for others. But, part of raising healthy children who mature into healthy adults is teaching them kindness and compassion towards others. 

So with Thanksgiving just days away, here are a few ways for your family to show small acts of kindness to those who may need some encouragement and bring a little light and happiness into their lives. 

Though some home-baked goods may not be an option during a pandemic, there are still ways to say thank you to frontline workers like nurses, doctors, EMTs, firefighters, and law enforcement for the extraordinary work they’ve been doing. Have your children create a card or make a poster and drop it off at their station, hospital, or clinic. If you want to go bigger, get your neighbors, playgroup, or friends to pitch in a buy them all pizza or coffee and doughnuts. 

Next time you’re in line at a drive-through, pay for the car behind you in line. It’s a simple gesture, but it teaches your children that being kind is important whether the receiver ever shows you gratitude or recognizes what you’ve done. 

Whether you go old school and write out the notes by hand, send texts, emails, or through social media, have your children think of people who’ve shown them kindness, taught them something new, or served them their Happy Meal with a smile. 2020 has been hard on all of us, but the service industry – house cleaners, baristas, servers, and tradespeople – has been hit particularly hard. 

Stock up on non-perishable items like canned goods, pasta, rice, beans, personal hygiene items, or socks and drop them off at a local food bank or homeless shelter. For specifics on what to donate and what to skip, click on this list from Local Love and Domestic Shelters helps you find domestic violence shelters that are accepting donations right now. 

Deliver meals, groceries, or pharmacies to a shut-in or senior citizen in your neighborhood or help them do yard work and winterize their home. 

Blood donations have dropped significantly over the past several months, so if you and your child are eligible, consider donating blood. Click here for a blood drive in your area. 

Finally, if you prefer to volunteer from home, All for Good has a list of service ideas and opportunities in your area. 

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

 

Make Your Virtual Thanksgiving Fun

By Tracey Dowdy

With the recent surge in COVID cases, many of us are heeding the CDC’s warning regarding holiday gatherings and opting for a virtual Thanksgiving with those we love. Though sharing a meal via a video conference is something few of us could have anticipated this time last year, there are still ways to make your holiday memorable in all the best ways. 

First, choose the platform you’re going to connect through. Zoom has lifted its 40 minute limit on free accounts from midnight ET on Nov. 26 through 6 a.m. ET on Nov. 27 so your dad doesn’t get cut off in the middle of his classic “Thanksgiving of ‘82” story. Other platforms like Skype Meet NowGoogle MeetJitsiFacebook, and WhatsApp all offer free video conferencing, with differing levels of service and features. Take some time over the next day or two and determine which features are most important for your crew. 

Platforms like BrightfulBoard Game Arena, and Tabletopia allow you to play hundreds of new and old games online. Plus, many of your favorite board games are available as apps for your iOS or Android device, and several have online multiplayer modes so you can play while voice or video chatting with your family and friends. ZoomJam created sociable face-to-face games to play with family and friends through video chat, with a dozen games to choose from. And, if all seems to be going well and you’re looking to ruin everything, Hasbro allows users to play their most popular games, including Monopoly, through their site. A few years back, they set up a hotline for players to call and settle those savage Monopoly disputes – here’s hoping it makes a comeback this year. 

As with all video conference calls, be mindful of what’s in the background. There’s been countless horrifying or hilarious – depending on who you ask – stories of video conferencing fails since we all started working from home back in March. Remind everyone when the camera is live and when your mic is on. If you want to keep your mother in law from judging your housekeeping even from out of state, consider downloading or selecting a custom background for your video chat. Of course, Zoom offers its own selection, and Apple’s FaceTime will allow you to chat as your memoji avatar. 

Apps like Teleparty (formerly Netflix party), Amazon Prime Watch Party, and Hulu Watch Party allow you to watch a movie together, all from the safety and comfort of your own home. Most require a subscription, so keep that in mind as you choose a platform. Make Use Of has a more comprehensive list of options. Watch2Gether not only offers video options, but it also allows you to listen to music, do karaoke, or even “go shopping” so you can still hit those Black Friday sales together. 

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Prep for Black Friday Shopping 2020

How to Prep for Black Friday 2020

Black Friday is just around the corner – November 27, 2020. While many of us will eschew the crowds and instead do our shopping online, whatever you choose, it’s wise to go in with a plan. 

First and foremost, create a budget and stick to it. It’s easy to get carried away with the “steals and deals” promoted online and in-store, but remember, businesses are interested in making a profit, not a friend, so your budget is not their bottom line. Make a list of the must-haves on your list, and compare that to what you can afford to spend. If there’s still room in the budget, start planning additional shopping around that amount. Since many of us won’t be traveling this year due to travel restrictions, make sure you budget for shipping if you’re not having gifts sent directly to the recipient. 

Second, do your homework. This is especially important for those – must-have gifts. Use price tracker sites like CamelCamelCamel for Amazon, or Honey, a free browser extension that automatically finds, tests, and applies the best coupon codes at checkout for over 30,000 popular sites. You can see the price over the past several weeks and compare it to the current deal offered. For example, knowing that the Amazon Echo 3rd-gen smart speaker is going for $30 instead of its regular price of $60 means you’re getting a good deal. Go through online circulars – you can get a sneak peek here – and make a note of the cost of items that catch your eye, then compare with other sites. Better yet, let price comparison apps like ShopSavvy or BuyVia do the work for you. 

Third, opt for curbside pickup or delivery if possible. If you’re shopping big box stores like Walmart, Target, or Macy’s, shop online and pick up items curbside or have them delivered to avoid the crowds and the higher risk of COVID exposure. 

Beware of doorbusters and final sale items. Doorbusters are designed to get you in the store but be aware that these deals are often only available for a limited time, sometimes less than an hour, and there are generally a small number of the item available. Products with a “final sale” tag typically can’t be returned, and if they can be, there’s usually a restocking fee of at least 15%, so that expensive electronic item may not be that great a deal after all. 

As an alternative to Black Friday madness, consider supporting local small businesses by shopping on Small Business Saturday.  Amazon will likely close out the year with record profits, but COVID restrictions have hit small retailers and mom and pop shops particularly hard. This holiday season will be make or break for some of them.

Finally, be kind. 2020 has been a challenge for everyone, and retail workers are among those hit especially hard. Remember, that cashier has no control over inventory or pricing, and the security guard is there for everyone’s safety, not to referee a wrestling match over the last Instant Pot on the shelf. 

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

 

Holiday Gift Ideas for Those Working from Home

 By Tracey Dowdy

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that working from home isn’t the dream some thought it would be. Unreliable internet, frequent interruptions from our family or housemates, and the countless other distractions that come with working at the kitchen table mean our productivity and job satisfaction have been all over the place. 

With the number of COVID cases skyrocketing around the country, many employers will maintain their “work-from-home” policies well into the new year. That means we need tech that adapts to our new environment, helps us stay focused, and lets us hold on to what’s left of our sanity. 

Tech Radar just published a list of the best noise-canceling headphones of 2020, whatever your budget. Top of the list is Sony’s WH-1000XM4 Wireless Headphones, but at nearly $300, they may be outside your price range. A less expensive but still reliable choice is their WF-1000XM3/S for $168.

If you still need to hear what your kids are up to, a white noise machine may be a better option. The Lectrofan Noise Machine gets consistently high marks from sites like PC Magazine and Wirecutter. It offers brown and pink noise options, is aesthetically pleasing, and at just $30, the price is hard to beat. 

Though most offices do their best to be paperless, desk organizers are still essential. An organized workspace is an efficient workspace, so choosing the right design is important. Get inspired with this list of The Best Desktop Organizers from Wirecutter, or check out this list of The Best Desk Organizers, According to Professional Organizers from New York Magazine. 

Speaking of going paperless, a smart notebook is a great way to eliminate waste while making note-taking more intuitive and interactive. Smart notebooks allow you to write with pen and paper while offering the ability to turn notes into digital files users can edit and manipulate digitally later on. Business Insider has a list of the best smart notebooks ranging in price from $25 to $200. 

According to a study by the University of Exeter, a houseplant transforms your workspace and has the potential to boost productivity by 15%. Who knew? And, who doesn’t need a little boost these days? The Sill offers a huge selection of plants, with entire categories dedicated to pet-friendly and beginner-friendly plants. Of course, if even hardy succulents aren’t a good option, sites like IkeaTargetWest Elm, and Wayfair offer plenty of artificial alternatives. 

If your commute included walking or time for the gym, working from home may have interfered with your fitness routine. You can change that up with an under-desk elliptical like the Stamina Inmotion Elliptical, the Cubii Pro Under-Desk Elliptical, or replace a  traditional desk with the Flexispot Bike Desk

Somehow, it seems choosing a healthy snack or lunch is trickier when working from home. It’s easier to grab something quick or to eat whatever you’ve fixed for your kids. To help resist the temptation to make poor choices, Urban Tastebud collated a list of the 20 Best Monthly Healthy Subscription Boxes at various price points. The list includes organic, gluten-free, and vegan options, and even boxes designed with the perfect personalized protein powder blend.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

 

Friday, November 20: Staying Connected

Staying Connected

When: Friday, November 20, 2020
3:00 – 4:00 pm ET
12:00 – 1:00 pm PT
High-speed fiber optic and Wideband 5G connections are ushering in a whole new generation of applications and connected devices that are rapidly improving our lives at home and on-the-go.
Join host Melissa Chapman (@MelissaSChapman) and the #MobileAndHome team at 3 pm ET (12 noon PT) on Friday, November 20 as we explore these exciting innovations and discuss why a fast and reliable Internet connection is more important than ever!
RSVP and attend the chat for a chance to win one of TWO $250 Amazon Gift Cards!
Click here to learn more about our Twitter chats. (You must RSVP and attend the party to be eligible for a prize.)
To RSVP:
  1. Email RSVP@theonlinemom.com (subject line: MobileAndHome) indicating your Twitter ID.
  2. Spread the word and RT this link on your Twitter feed: https://bit.ly/36sx3oB
  3. Join us on TweetDeck or HootSuite (#MobileAndHome) on Friday, November 20 between 3:00 – 4:00 pm ET.
  4. Tell your Twitter followers!
PRIZE WINNERS will be announced during the Party!

More Screen-Free Activities for Kids

By Tracey Dowdy 

On a scale of “Guess How Much I Love You” to “Lord of the Flies,” how are things at your house? Learning to parent through a pandemic is something none of us expected to have to do, yet here we are. 

For many parents, understandably, screen time limits have become more like suggestions rather than rules as we try to navigate uncharted and often choppy waters. If you’re flat out of ideas and looking for activities to fill an afternoon or more, here are some fun options. 

Plant a garden. I know it may seem a little late to get started, but there are plants you can start now, indoors, to transplant in the spring. If you’re not sure where or what to plant, the Old Farmer’s Almanac has a guide that drills down to specific towns in the U.S. and Canada from Fairfax, Virginia, to Port Hawkesbury, Nova Scotia. Just type in your zip or postal code to bring up your planting calendar. If an outdoor garden isn’t an option, you kids can plant an indoor herb garden. You can even teach your children how to grow pineapples, avocados, onions, garlic, or a host of other vegetables from the parts you’d typically compost or throw in the trash. 

Organize. With the holidays fast approaching, there’s a good chance that your children will be expecting – and accepting – new clothes, toys, books, and games from Santa and Hannukah Harry. This is a great time to go through closets, toy boxes, and playrooms to purge things the things your children have grown out of. This is a job you could easily do on your own, but it’s an opportunity to teach your children generosity. It has been a challenging year for many families, with many parents out of work due to the pandemic. Donating unused clothes and toys teaches your children to think beyond their own needs to the needs of those around them. It teaches compassion for others and gratitude for what they have. Be aware that some charities are not accepting donations right now, but here’s where you can donate clothes and toys right now. 

Write a book, scrapbook, or create a memory box together. While it’s true that many of us will be happy to see 2020 and this pandemic in the rearview mirror, we’ve lived through a significant event in world history. Why not document your family’s experience for grandchildren and generations beyond? Have your kids write a letter to their future selves about what they loved and hated, their favorite pastime in quarantine, what they thought of virtual schooling, what they missed, and what they learned. Write your own letter, documenting what it was like to parent during this season. You can gather photos and publish your own photobook of “Our Life in Quarantine 2020,” or document the whole year in a “2020 – What a Year for the Mathesons!” Include snapshots of virtual school, what you did in your downtime, relevant news stories, rallies, or protests you participated in, socially distanced playdates and proms, information about the election – whatever resonates with your family. Or, create a scrapbook or memory box of letters and items that remind you of this season. 

Write a book together. Has your family started cooking together? Compile your favorite meals you’ve prepared over the past several months, write out the recipes, include photos of the finished dish, or even better, your children actually preparing and eating it. Voila, you’ve just published a cookbook! Or, have your child write a story, letting their imagination run wild. Along with writing the text, have them draw the illustrations, then print a hardcopy or publish it online to share with family and friends. 

Get in the kitchen. For a few weeks at the beginning of quarantine, my husband and I did a live cooking demonstration for family and friends then gave the meal to a local viewer. It was silly, fun, and a great way to feel less alone while we were all housebound. If a live demo isn’t a good fit, do your version of Iron Chef, the Great British Baking Show, or Top Chef, and see who makes the best brownies, cupcakes, or grilled cheese. Since eating out options are limited, learn how to make restaurant favorites at home, or teach your children how to make family favorites or recipes handed down through the years. 

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Monday, November 16: Prepping for the Holidays

Prepping for the Holidays

When: TODAY, Monday, November 16, 2020
3:00 – 4:00 pm ET
12:00 – 1:00 pm PT
2020 will forever be remembered as the year that threw our normal routines out the window. It has totally changed the way we live, work, play, learn and shop. Now with the final weeks of the year upon us, we have a whole new set of challenges, as we figure how to navigate our holiday celebrations and shopping.
Join host Zippy Sandler (@zipporahs) and the team at 3 pm ET (12 noon PT) on Monday, November 16 as we offer tips and share ideas for Prepping for the Holidays!
RSVP and attend the chat for a chance to win one of TWO $250 Amazon Gift Cards AND a #CareSmart Watch activated for 6 months!
Click here to learn more about our Twitter chats. (You must RSVP and attend the party to be eligible for a prize.)
To RSVP:
  1. Email RSVP@theonlinemom.com (subject line: CareSmart) indicating your Twitter ID.
  2. Spread the word and RT this link on your Twitter feed: https://bit.ly/2IrHDEr
  3. Join us on TweetDeck or HootSuite (#CareSmart) on Monday, November 16 between 3:00 – 4:00 pm ET.
  4. Tell your Twitter followers!
PRIZE WINNERS will be announced during the Party!