Category: Family

Ideas For Relaxed Weekends With No Chores

effects of overscheduling weekendsAre you like me who feels like the weekends fly by in a jiffy? Weekdays are so busy that most of us look forward to Friday evenings. However, weekends get much busier than the weekdays if we lot more things filling up the plate.

Unsurprisingly, many weekends are filled with household chores and activities. It can be trips to grocery store to laundry to house cleaning. If not chores, we pack our weekends with taking kids outside. Spending quality of time with kids is sooo important. But it’s equally important to relax and rejuvenate before the next week starts. Even if it’s 30 minutes, spending time for ourselves is essential. But what about the pending tasks that need to be done during the weekend?

Below are some of the ideas I have tried that made a difference in our lives:

Catch Up Chores On Weekdays:

This is something I have been following religiously for years. Complete the chores during weekdays rather than waiting till the weekend. House chores like grocery shopping, house cleaning, mopping and everything else can be done during the weekdays. Plan 30 minutes a day to complete these tasks.

I have a cleaning schedule I follow to complete our household cleaning. Do I follow them every single day? probably not. But most of the days I stick to my cleaning schedule.

By the time weekend hits, I’m ready to relax. I’d rather sit idle for 2 hours on the couch rather than cleaning the bathroom. I want the weekend to be with minimal chores. Again, if I miss any chores during the weekdays, I do complete them during the weekend. But I don’t want it to be a routine.

Multitasking:

Time and time again I realized I’m not good at multitasking if I want to complete a work effectively. Focusing on just a single task helps me complete it faster than trying to juggle 2 different tasks. I also came across multiple articles that confirmed the same. If you try to multitask, I’d suggest you try to focus on one task at a time and I’m sure you’ll notice the difference.

No Social Media Saturdays:

This is something I have been trying in the last few weeks. Not surprisingly, I love this routine. A few people I know follow this routine on Sundays. Unfortunately, I start checking work emails on Sunday evenings, do some blogging on Sundays etc. So I moved my no-social-media day to Saturday.

Social media has a lot more effect on our behaviors than we realize. That’s why it’s important to connect with the right people even in social media. Only the good things are shared in social media and what you see in there may not be a complete picture. Staying away from social media at least one day a week helps us bounce back to reality. It definitely made me calm, relax, and cherish the current moments.

I don’t know if I am able to explain all of its benefits in words here. But I know I feel good and I would highly suggest you try this approach.

TV Time:

Relaxing doesn’t need to involve TV.  I used to be a person who would switch on TV if I wanted to relax. Back in the days, we used to spend way too many hours in front of TV. Now, Friday evenings are our TV time. Saturday evenings, we either hit the bed early or Husband and I talk instead of switching on TV.

What’s the problem with watching TV?

Nothing except we will be glued to TV rather than conversing with the people next to us.

We made one simple change in our TV setup that made a huge difference in controlling the urge to switch on TV. We moved TV to the end of the living room and it’s not longer a centerpiece of the living room. Now it doesn’t even occur to us to watch TV unless we got to know a specific program and want to watch it.

Once we do follow all the above ideas to clear out the schedule and mind, below are the things we can do to further enjoy the weekend:

Plan Your Weekends:

This may sound like a no-brainer. But planning the weekend ahead of time helps us predict what comes next. My husband and I talk about our weekend plan every Friday evening. It’s a 10 minutes discussion on what we can do during the weekend, where we can go, whether we need to book the tickets, the weather, kids sleeping schedule etc. With 2 kids, we cannot function without planning our schedule. It also keeps us sane especially if the weekend schedule involves any trips.

Family Rituals:

I think it’s important to mention family rituals here. I love family rituals whether it’s pancake breakfast every Sunday morning or watching movies every Friday evenings. It eventually becomes a family tradition that creates some fond memories among us. Our kids will remember these rituals forever and they might end up recreating these when they have their own family.

We already follow some family rituals and we are looking to create more rituals that can be incorporated without too much work/planning.

It’s easy to follow rituals during the weekends because we have more time and our body is more relaxed to try new things. But if you have jam-packed schedule even during the weekend, these things might not be possible.

I’m always on the look for ideas. Please share yours if you follow any rituals in your family.

Meet With Friends:

Even in a hectic schedule, spending time with good company can make a huge difference. Who doesn’t love some good conversations? At the same time, avoid spending time with negative people. They can let you down.

The reason I specifically mentioned “Friends” because they’re your friends for a reason. We choose our friends and it’s obvious that we enjoy their company.

I love game nights with friends. Those are so fun that I still remember some of the fun nights we had with friends. With young baby and toddler, our game nights are non-existant right now. But we are looking forward to resuming it as soon as the baby sleeps longer hours at night.

Child Planning Checklist

As much as baby brings joy to the family, baby also adds major set of responsibilities for parents. Whether you’re thinking of planning for a family or currently pregnant, a little preparation for the upcoming Bundle of Joy helps you better prepared for your baby’s future.

Doctor Checkup:

Before planning for a baby, do your annual checkup (if you haven’t done one in the last 12 months), take that multivitamin, and workout. If you have any issues such as thyroid, PCOD etc, it’s time to address them. Reg multivitamins, I was told by the doctor to take prenatal vitamin at least 3-4 months before we start planning.

Insurance Needs: 

Health Insurance:

Does your employer offer health insurance? If not, search for the one that fits your upcoming needs. If your employer offers one, check your current enrolled plan to see if it fits your needs. For us, HSA was a little expensive than the PPO plan. My pregnancy was better covered under the PPO plan and we didn’t pay much other than the deductible for our second delivery. Even though we paid high premium, considering the delivery cost and doctor visits after delivery, PPO plan worked for us. For our son (my first delivery), we were under HSA plan. Comparing both the plans, PPO was a better plan for my pregnancy.

Life insurance:

Life Insurance itself needs a separate discussion. In summary, if you don’t have life insurance already, make sure to have term life insurance (why “term life insurance” is another big topic) to cover the baby needs until he/she becomes independent. I’m talking about 20-25 years term life insurance here.

Plan a Trip:

My husband is a big travel bug. We traveled quite a lot until our son was born. Even though it didn’t stop us from taking trips, the trips are shorter and planned completely around the baby for the first few months.

We took our baby moon trip to New Orleans just few weeks before my delivery. We are so glad we took it. Take that baby moon and travel as much as possible before delivery (if you health permits). Life takes a 180 degree turn after the baby is born.

Childcare:

I’m not kidding when I say some good daycares have long wait-lists. One childcare I know, had 2.5 years wait-list. Research the area you live and understand the available childcare options. Even if you don’t need to register right away, it’s good to have it in your list.

Baby Furniture:

If you are having a girl, get a full size ladies dresser. If you having a boy, get a man’s chest of drawers. If you do not know if it will be a boy or a girl, wait until the baby is born. By doing this, you eliminate the need to buy baby dressers etc. which will become useless after a few years. If you start off with full size furniture, it will be useful for many years to come.

Baby Freebies:

Here is a full list of baby freebies available for expecting moms. Babies add additional expenses. So, don’t forget to take advantage of these freebies.

Baby Essential Checklist: 

There are millions baby essential checklists available in Pinterest. Buy only the essentials until the baby is born. I got checklist from multiple sources and started putting together one of my own when I was 3 months pregnant. In the next 6 months, I tweaked it so many times and bought only the essentials.

For first time parents, until the baby is born you might not be able to predict the exact things your baby needs. Let me tell you, each baby is different. For example, my son hates the crib and my daughter loves it.

Education Plan:

If you are planning to contribute to your kids education plan, explore the options available in your country. 529 is an education savings plan in US. Here is more on how to choose a 529 for your kids. You can start investing in 529 plan in your baby’s name after he/she is born.

If you planned anything else other than what’s in the list, do let me know. I’d love to add them here.

Choosing the Pediatrician:

Start interviewing pediatricians as soon as you can; there are a LOT of well baby checkups and vaccinations the first year. If you can, talk to all of the doctors and nurse practitioners in the practice since your pediatrician won’t always be available in an emergency.

RELATED:

Post-Delivery Freebies from the Hospital

12 Tips to Entertain Parents Visiting NRI Children

We had both the set of parents visiting us back and forth in the past few years. Considering that they don’t drive here and have limited social circle, we have to get creative in entertaining them. Here are some ways to avoid boredom and create a memorable visit every time.

Internet is your friend:

All the serials that both my parents and in-laws watch are uploaded on YouTube an hour after they’re broadcasted. Even if not in YouTube, you can find them in other regional websites.
Our smart TV is connected to a laptop and we have a keyboard remote through which we access the laptop without carrying a computer keyboard. Just make sure you install a good AdBlock software to avoid them clicking unwanted ads.

We bookmark those regional websites in the browser and all they need to do is click each link for each serial.

We have been using this Lenovo multitasking keyboard remote for 5 years now. We broke one couple of years ago and bought the same one again. It’s easy to use and there is a blacklit option that helps the remote lit up at night. With few minutes of training, our parents started using the remote without any struggle.

Even if you don’t have a smart TV, a laptop is enough to do all the above. They can watch all those serials online. No need of expensive cables.

Community:

if you live in a community where you can find other parents who talk the same language, connect with them even before your elders visit. If not, reach out to people in your regional Facebook group.

Get them a cell phone:

You can get a prepaid cell phone plan for just $10 a month. We get one every time our family visits us. That way, they can go out for walking without worrying about getting lost. They also can feel the independence of going out on their own even if it’s just for walking.

Cook with them:

Currently, my parents are with me. I make snacks in the evenings and cook dinner. I cook with my mom and we both try different recipes together. My dad and the kiddos join us in the kitchen and we talk about everything under the sun. I’m sure I’ll cherish these moments once they’re back home.

Spend time with them EVERY DAY: 

The main reason parents are here is to spend time with us. It’s understandable that we are busy. Still, make sure you spend some quality time with the elders. Sometimes when my toddler demands all my free time, I put the kiddos in the stroller and take them for walking with my mom. That way, my mom and I can talk and my toddler can enjoy the walk.

Take them to movies:

If your elders like to watch movies, take them to movies when there is a new release.

Games:

Have you played your favorite games with your visiting family? One time when we had friends at home, my mother-in-law joined us and played carrom board with us. Until then, I didn’t know she plays carrom. She played better than me and she was the gold star player in that game.

Find their interest:

My mom loves sewing. I bought her a small sewing machine when she came here the first time.

One of the elders likes to visit historic places. So we try to visit nearby historic places with them whenever we can. Find their interest and do things that they enjoy.

Take them to local library:

My father in law reads a lot. When in-laws were here, we frequently went to the library and check-out the books he wanted to read. That occupied him quite well.

Temple classes / events:

Our nearby temple offers classes and events for elders. Check out your local temple and see if there are any events just for elders. It’s also a great place to find like-minded people.

Get-togethers:

Try to arrange get-togethers and take them to your friends get-togethers whenever possible. Visiting parents love to be around people who speak the same language.

Watching movies together:

We try to watch movies on Sunday afternoons when the toddler takes naps.

Last but not least, take it easy:

My mom is my best friend. We talk a lot of things, even then sometimes we have our differences. It’s important to create a light atmosphere and make them feel home. Keep in mind, they’re far away from their own home and the very last thing we want to do is to make them feel alone.

Post-Delivery Freebies From The HOSPITAL

Now that I just delivered our Baby #2 (a week ago), I want to share these freebies list with you when my memory is still fresh. Our body goes through a lot during pregnancy and delivery that these products we receive in the hospital help a lot during the first few days after delivery (and sometimes longer). As a followup to baby freebies for expecting moms, here are the list of freebies you can get from the Hospital post-delivery.

For The Mom:

  1. Mesh panties
  2. Disposable underpads
  3. Hospital squeeze bottle
  4. Wound creams
  5. Pain relieving spray
  6. Maternity pads
  7. Travel toothbrush
  8. Travel toothpaste
  9. Lanolin
  10. Bath and body products (if you don’t find them in the bathroom, you can request some)
  11. Witch hazel pads
  12. Water jug – I used my own water bottle instead
  13. Egg crate foam
    1. I didn’t know about egg crate during when I delivered our son 3 years ago. During the hospital stay this time, a nurse gave me egg crate when I had a hard time sitting on the bed. It was super comfortable that I carried it home and have been using it ever since.

For The Baby:

  1. Newborn diaper
  2. Baby wipes
  3. Nasal aspirator
  4. Baby comb
  5. Baby formula

Other items I haven’t mentioned are, baby blankets and baby clothes that you can use at the hospital. We never carried them home after the stay even though I don’t think it would be a problem.

Hospital Food:

During my first delivery hospital stay, I had no idea food is covered with the hospital stay until the last day. So, this time I specifically asked them how I/my guest can order food  to make sure I don’t pay anything extra for the food that’s already covered under the stay. Some hospitals do offer food for one guest.

RELATED:

How To Choose A 529 Plan For Kids Education?

how-to-choose-a-529-plan

Investment is such a boring, yet important task that we all need to do no matter whether we like it or not. It takes a whole new level of importance when we need to invest for our kids education.

If you’re in US and looking for ways to save for your kids college education, 529 is a great option to explore. We have invested in 529 plan for Chuttu and planning to open one for our 2nd baby as well.

What is 529 Plan?

529 plan is a tax-advantaged savings plan for future college costs.There are 2 types of 529 plans. Pre-paid and savings plan. Pre-paid meaning, you’ll pay the money upfront and let it grow till your kid is ready for college. Savings plan is, recurring contribution to the 529 plan (For example, monthly contribution of $200 or $1000 every few months).

You decide how much you want to invest. There are no hard rules here. The maximum amount you can invest every year is $14,000 without any penalties.

529 withdrawals, without any taxes, can be used for tuition and related fees, room and board, books and supplies, and any school-related special needs services.

Pros:

  • Although the money you contribute is an after-tax income, earnings from 529 plan are tax free when used for the above college expenses.
  • 529 plans can be transferred among family members. Lets say you have some leftover money from your first kid’s 529 plan, you can use that money for your 2nd kid’s college education without any penalty or even your first kid’s masters, cousin’s education, your education etc
  • Grand parents can contribute to their grand kids 529 plans
  • Some states offer tax deductions when you contribute to 529 plans
  • If you kid decides to study abroad, some universities/colleges allow you to pay through 529 plan
  • You can invest in any of the state offered 529 plans. It doesn’t have to be in your home state 529 plan
  • you can transfer the money from one 529 plan to another without any penalties (allowed once a year)

Cons:

  • The money you invest in 529 plan can be used, without penalty, only for college education purposes
  • We don’t know how much college will cost in another 10,20, or 30 years. So a balanced approach is necessary to avoid over-investing in 529 plan
  • The money you contribute are just like regular investments and there is no promise on how much return you’ll earn (you get to choose your preferred investment options from the provided list)

How To Choose A 529 Plan:

As I mentioned, we invested in 529 plan for Chuttu’s college education. From on my research, our final list of 529 plans are Utah, Ohio, New York, Florida, Alaska, and Lousiana. Below are the criteria we looked at when selecting the 529 plan.

  • Expense ratio
  • Age based investment options
  • Static/individual options %
  • Minimum initial contribution
  • Enrollment fee (initial fee)
  • Individual portfolios (do they let us invest in individual portfolios and if so, how many)
  • Annual maintenance fee
  • Residency required?
  • Maximum fund amount allowed
  • State tax deduction (adding this one for you in case if your state offers state tax deductions for 529 contributions)

We were living in Texas when we started the 529 plan for Chuttu and now even after moving to NJ, the plan we chose works for us as there is no state tax benefits for 529 contribution in both the states.

How Much To Contribute?

As I mentioned earlier, there are no hard rules here. If you Google the question, you will get a quite a number of answers. Some plans don’t even have minimum contribution and some start with $25.

Savings for college has some good explanation on how much to contribute. Check it out for more information. How much you need depends on the return for your investment as well. So, there are multiple factors that we don’t have control over.

Here are couple of links where you can find more information about 529 plans:

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