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As Kamran described last week, and as I'm sure you are too, we are on lock-down at the house for the foreseeable future. Kamran has been working from home since last week, and I started working from home on Wednesday. Our kids both had mild fevers and coughs this week, so we kept them home from daycare for the safety of the other kids. We're pretty sure they just had little colds, but it's always best to err on the side of caution.

So this has meant starting to master the art of multitasking. In our family, Kamran is notorious for being terrible at multitasking. He can't look at something on his phone and keep an eye on the kids at the same time. I'm very good at multitasking. In fact, I always knit or cross-stitch while watching TV or listening to podcasts. I almost always have a podcast on while I'm doing chores or sewing. But this was a whole new expectation.

Our kids are 1 and 3. Watching and playing with them is fun, messy, silly, cuddly, and exhausting. They are both still at the age where they want us to actively play with them and engage in what they are doing. Rami is curious about everything and wants us to answer questions. Saira wants to do sign language, read The Pout Pout Fish over and over again, and engage back and forth with us. Since they were born, we have incorporated "alone time" or "bored time" so that the kids know how to be bored and keep themselves entertained. We also have no scheduled screen time for the kids, and have really only recently started letting Rami watch small videos as rewards. I think this has helped them to keep themselves busy and find joy in little things. Or maybe I'm just that mean mom who doesn't let her kids watch TV?

All this leads to a need for keeping our kids busy. But we also both have full-time jobs that we need to do. So, we've come up with a system to make this work. We have been splitting watching the kids for two hours each while the other works, then we both work from 1pm to 4pm (nap time). This has worked really well, and has helped us complete our work while also providing our kids with a loving and attentive parent. Recently, we decided that we needed a more consistent schedule for the kids, as they have a very laid-out schedule at daycare and we wanted to replicate that.

Here is the schedule we came up with:

7:30am - 9:00am    Waking up, breakfast, free play
9:00am - 9:30am    Circle Time (Letters, numbers, songs, weather,
            calendar, sign language)
9:30am - 10:00am      Large motor or outdoor play
10:00am - 10:30am       Sensory time or outdoor play
10:30am - 11:15am      Free play
11:15am - 12:00pm     Lunch
12:00pm - 1:00pm      Reading time, free play, getting ready for nap
1:00pm - 4:00pm    Nap time
4:00pm - 4:30pm    Large motor or outdoor play
4:30pm - 5:00pm    Art time, puzzles, or reading time
5:00pm - 6:00pm    Dinner and chores
6:00pm - 7:00pm    Free play and clean up
7:00pm - 7:30pm    Bedtime routine
7:30pm          Bedtime

I realized that the kids needed more large motor play and that we needed to incorporate some chores and other ways to help the kids with the flow of the day. We ended up trying the new schedule last Friday, and it seemed to work well. Saira enjoyed learning a new sign ("stop!") and Rami really liked practicing his numbers and letters, as well as playing Ring Around the Rosie. Kamran and I talked about it, and we think we will do the schedule on weekdays, and let weekends be more casual. It's a nice way to make a distinction between days.

I've relied a little bit on Pinterest for ideas of art projects, motor games, and sensory activities, but I find that Pinterest activities tend to be very gimmicky, messy, or frankly not worth the prep time or money. My kids are really fine with easy things. For example, when I blew up two balloons, the kids had a blast hitting them around and squishing them. Rami has also been begging me for a ball of yarn to unravel and drag around. He asks me for yarn any time he sees my knitting! So I gave him one this time and here was the result:

Toddlers are pretty easy to entertain. Seriously. Rami also loves building and cars made out of cardboard:

This was a ramp made out of a diaper box! He and Saira both enjoyed putting cars and balls down the ramp.

Here are some other various pictures of our family fun. The first picture is Rami "sewing" with yarn and a paper plate with holes in it. The second picture is Rami coloring under the slide in our living room (the slide is now inside, because it's too cold to play outside and the kids were bouncing off the walls). The bottom two pictures are Saira and Rami playing with "playdough soap" I made off of Pinterest. It was fun to make, and Rami loves adding food coloring to everything. However, it really didn't hold together and was kind of gross and squishy once it was in the water. It did, however, create an insane amount of bubbles when the kids kicked and splashed around, so that was super fun.

If you're still looking for ideas, check out Accidental Homeschooler resources!

Mostly, our kids are easily entertained and know how to keep themselves busy. This has been a fun couple of days with them. It makes me realize how much I miss them when they're at school. Don't get me wrong, I am glad that they have social time with their friends and teachers. They both adore their teachers, and get exposed to so much learning and interaction, I would never want to take that away. But during this scary time, it's just nice to be able to hold my babies just a little bit closer.

Kamran's Work at Home Thoughts

Kamran here. Pre-Virus (will that be a phrase now?) I was imagining what it might look like to work remotely full-time. Well, now I get a taste of that. I think what's important to realize though is that these are not normal circumstances. Usually when you are able to work full-time remotely, your company is also remote or has full support for remote workers.

We've been thrust into this situation and we have to work while having this stress of a global pandemic. Not only that, you might have kids at home who are normally at daycare and you might also be stressing out about finances and a looming economic crisis. It is safe to say you are not alone if you aren't putting in 100% at work. I hope Cassie has shown you an idea of what we do to try and maximize work and parenting time but I'll also send you over to folks who've done this a lot longer than we have.

My office

Since I'm a programmer by trade, a gamer, and I do side gigs, I am privileged to already have a home office ready to go.

Cassie is using my side table and she's even recorded videos with my desktop for her kids at school. So we have a lot of advantages here with a dedicated space to work, with sit-stand desk, away from kids all thanks to me being a geek.

Many people don't have the luxury of a home office and are working from kitchens, couches, and counters. If this is going to drag on, it would be worth buying a small office desk, if possible.

When I work at home, it's not a chore at all. I have everything I need to be productive with a webcam, microphone, headphones, laptop dock, and a cable to hook up my laptop to my monitor.

Besides the fact that there's a pandemic ravaging the world, working with a 100% remote team has actually been pretty good. One side effect of this pandemic may end up being more embracing of remote work though I suspect that many companies are struggling right now to transition from an office setting, not to mention the GLOBAL PANDEMIC weighing on our collective psyche.

REMOTE: Office Not Required
In this book, Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson show both employers and employees how they can work together, remotely, from any desk, in any place, anytime, anywhere.

My routine

I sent out meeting invites to my team that recur each day that have my Core Hours. These are the hours I try hard to commit to working everyday. The hours line up with naptime, so 1pm-4pm. My team knows I should be online during these hours and can reach me. The 2 hour morning shift I usually have been taking is 9:30-11:30 and that works for my typical meetings. I make sure my Slack status is always updated with my current status.

I prioritize my tasks in the morning to follow-up and unblock others by doing 1:1 calls and responding to messages. In the afternoon, I attend meetings or focus on a handful of tasks. I've been using a task journal for the past month or so where at the start of the day I list what I need to do and then I check them off as I go. I also use it as a scratchpad to take notes. It keeps me on task and doubles as a way to look back at each day and see what I did (or didn't) accomplish.

You know what else is unsurprising? I tend to get the same or more amount of work done at home in 6 hours than in the office for 8 hours! I can tell because my task lists are the same or longer each day. With all of the typical office distractions removed, you suddenly can focus a bit more. At the office, I can turn and talk to a colleague about a problem. When everyone's remote, you don't get that by default so what our team did was create a persistent Zoom chat we can all hop in and out of. If we want to chat, hop in, ask a question, leave. We also use Slack calls for 1:1 sharing or a quick chat – don't underestimate the power of 1:1 video calls, they are usually more effective and productive than typing out everything in chat.

If you're brand new to working remotely, I recommend this conference talk which is free to view!

Working Remotely: From Isolation to Inclusion to Innovation with Craig Golightly
Even before these unprecedented global events, remote work has been transforming how organisations and teams collaborate. Join Pluralsight Author and Senior Software Consultant Craig Golightly in an engaging and timely exploration of remote work.

Things aren't peachy right now but they could also be much worse. I am happy to still be employed and that my team and company has transitioned to remote work so well on a dime and that things aren't falling apart.

Be well and stay safe!