As the days grow shorter and we creep toward autumn, parents eagerly look forward to the time-honored tradition of sending their kids back to school. With kids finally out of the house and accounted for, maybe there’s even a little bit more time to linger over that last cup of coffee in the morning. Unless you’re in the midst of a global pandemic. In which case the longest commute your child will most likely have this fall is downstairs to the breakfast table. Yes, parents, students, and educators find themselves in the midst of remote learning once again. It’s Zoom calls galore, at-home work sheets, projects and three-square meals a day all in the confines of your home. So, in an effort to mitigate some of the stress this scenario will undoubtedly bring, we’ve put together a list of things to make your house more conducive to at-home learning.
Before even determining the space you or your kids will use, make sure everyone has a clear idea of their daily schedules and routines. Everyone should get up and get ready as if they were leaving the house and know what each hour will bring. Something as inexpensive as a dry erase wall calendar from Target can do the trick. Additionally, desk organizers or files can go a long way in keeping students motivated and on task.
Create Usable Space
Your pre-pandemic home improvement punch list probably looked a bit different than it does today. Perhaps you dreamt of a bathroom rehab or kitchen facelift. But with everyone tripping over each other, functional space is at a premium. Fixing up lower levels, spare bedrooms and sunrooms has become essential. And while rehabbing an unfinished attic or basement might be a little more costly and time consuming, it can ultimately provide more sharable space while adding long-term resale value to your home. If you’re not up for a major overhaul, small enhancements can do the trick. Bookshelves can offer more space for storage while also dividing up a room. Wayfair offers several affordable options.
Let There Be Light!
Are you adequately using the natural light in your home for yourself and your newly minted e-scholars? Are bedroom desks placed near windows? Are shades lifted during daylight hours? Maybe you have some heavy drapes that are blocking natural rays and confining space. Smith and Noble can offer a quick fix for custom window treatments, allowing you to spruce up your space while getting a little more vitamin D as the days grow shorter and kids are outside less.
Call The Help Desk
The one thing you’ll be most dependent on in your new role as proctor is, without a doubt, technology. Make sure your router is up to date and you’re getting the best service and deal from your internet provider. There are a bevy of plans and packages, so do your research. If you have internet dead spots in your home, look into internet boosters that plug in to electrical outlets and improve signal strength. Also consider noise cancelling headphones for Zoom calls or to block out ambient noise (Might we suggest getting yourself a pair as well?).
This may seem basic, but you’ll probably find the need to stock your fridge and pantry a little more generously than you would during a ‘normal’ school year. Keep healthy snacks that are easy to reach at eye level – string cheese, yogurt, individually packaged Goldfish. A lovely bowl of fresh fruit is a welcome addition to any kitchen countertop and allows kids to easily choose a healthy pick-me-up.
Although the 2020-2021 school year is shaping up to be rather unconventional, the kids are alright. Patience and humor can go a long way to maintaining your sanity. And once those classroom doors do open back up and your schoolhouse is vacated, pour that extra cup of coffee, put on the noise cancelling headphones, close those window treatments and dance like no one is watching. Because finally, they won’t be.
With several weeks of social distancing under our belts, many of us have already tackled boredom-curing activities like spring cleaning, exercising, baking, and doing puzzles. We’ve previously shared ways to keep the kids amused, but we couldn’t forget about the adults! From organizing a virtual murder mystery party to learning how to bartend, here are nine activities you can enjoy now.
Host a Game Night
Organize a virtual Jeopardy! night with friends using an online template. You can build your very own game with custom questions or use templates created by other people. All you have to do is share your screen with players on Zoom and keep track of their scores. Rotate who hosts each week, and you’ve got yourself a standing game night.
Attend a Virtual Event
Join a virtual festival, watch a live comedy show, or learn about wine from the comfort of your couch. Businesses and leaders throughout Chicago are hosting an array of virtual events that give you the opportunity to meet new people, learn something new, or just be entertained. Checkout Choose Chicago’s roundup of upcoming events here.
Grab your sleeping bag and tent and head to the backyard for an evening under the stars. If you do not have outdoor space, convert your living room into a campsite. Set the ambiance by streaming a campfire on your TV or phone, and don’t forget about the s’mores, which you can easily make in the oven.
Become a Better Bartender
Miss your favorite bartender’s perfectly crafted cocktails? Bartenders across the country are helping you up your at-home bar game by teaching you all the tips, tricks, and recipes you need to elevate Happy Hour. When all else fails, you can always order a cocktail kit from a local restaurant or bar.
Take a Tour
Your travel plans may be on hold for now, but Google Earth still has your back. Tour dozens of national parks and see some of the country’s best views and natural landscapes without leaving the house. Take note of your favorite spots and start planning a future in-person trip.
Learn Something New
There is no time like the present to learn a new skill or subject. Whether you want to take on a new language, master the art of stand-up, or become a poet, there are plenty of online resources to help you take advantage of your free time. Learn from the best of the best in acting, writing, photography, leadership, entrepreneurship, and more from classes taught by the likes of Robin Roberts, Serena Williams, Annie Leibovitz, and Sara Blakely on MasterClass.
Catch a Live Show
Although our favorite music festivals have been cancelled or postponed this summer, you can still take in some live music courtesy of Lollapalooza’s Lolla From the Vault. Streamed on YouTube, Lolla From the Vault brings a different iconic performance from past years’ festivals every Thursday at 7:00 pm CT. You can also check out live performances from the Millennium Park Summer Music Series and Ravinia Festival.
Organize a Murder Mystery Party
You can’t invite your friends over for a murder mystery party right now, but you can use Zoom to experience a thrilling evening of mystery and crime with the help of Red Herring Games. Pick from Red Herring’s many, and often hilarious, storylines such as “The Great British Bump Off” and “Death Actually,” and choose the virtual option when you download the game. From there, assign characters to your participants, and you are ready to go.
Netflix and Enjoy Together
Take movie night to a new level by downloading Netflix Party, which synchronizes everyone’s videos so you and your friends can watch your favorite films or shows at the same time. Netflix Party even adds a group chat feature so you can easily express your “oohs,” “ahs,” and “no ways!” throughout your viewing.
Coronavirus has undoubtedly had a significant impact on our day-to-day lives. It has affected everything from how kids are learning to how we do our jobs and complete once-basic tasks like grocery shopping. We’ve put a lot on hold, but there are some things that absolutely cannot wait. So, what do you do if you have to move during the pandemic?
We’ve outlined all of the steps you need to take to make your move as safe as possible.
Purchase New Packing Supplies
According to USA Today, coronavirus can live for up to 24 hours on cardboard, so play it safe by ordering new boxes and supplies from Home Depot or U-Haul. UBoxes.com even helps you build your own moving kit, which comes with various box sizes, heavy duty tape, bubble wrap, and textile blankets, among other necessary supplies. You can also rely on suitcases, laundry baskets, and reusable grocery bags to transport your belongings.
When it came to moving before the pandemic, you could easily tempt friends to help you pack and schlep boxes with the promise of pizza and drinks. Nowadays, it’s important that you tackle your move with as few people possible to avoid unnecessary contact with each other and your belongings. Try to pack and move as much of your stuff on your own, saving the largest and heaviest items for movers. And if you are moving to or from a multi-unit residential building, ask building management about their policy on reserving elevators so that you can limit contact with neighbors.
Check In With Movers
Movers are considered essential, so should you need them, check on your chosen business’ current operating procedures. Ask them if they are sanitizing their truck(s) before and after moves and inquire about any additional safety precautions employees are taking, such as wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) to slow the spread of the virus.
If you have to be physically present for the move and are not able to supervise via video chat, make sure you maintain six feet between each other. You can also minimize contact by turning on lights and opening all doors, cabinets, and gates ahead of time.
Put Boxes and Packed Belongings In One Area
Limit the contact movers have with your home by placing all of your packed items and smaller furniture in a low traffic room or garage. This will keep any potential germs confined to one area of the home, making it safer and easier to clean and disinfect. If your movers must go into other rooms to pick up larger objects, be sure to clean those areas before and after they enter.
Get Your Sanitizing Materials Ready
When move-in day has arrived, you should be armed with sanitizing materials and enough personal protective equipment for everyone involved. Have hand soap stocked at both locations and hand sanitizer for any contact that’s made along the way. Disinfectant should be used to lightly spray boxes before and after the move as well as any objects (car doors, doorknobs, elevator buttons, and light switches) or surfaces (counter tops, toilets, faucets, and sinks) that are touched.
Deep Clean Your New Digs
Before you move your belongings into your new home, be sure to deep clean every room. The CDC recommends wearing disposable gloves while you clean, throwing them out after each use and washing your hands immediately after the gloves are removed. If you are not able to find or purchase household disinfecting sprays and wipes at the store, you can make your own using bleach and water.
Wait To Unpack
Just as you put your items in one low traffic area when you moved out, you’ll want your movers to take a similar approach when you move in. Confine items to the garage or one room of your home and then be sure to disinfect and wipe everything down. You are advised to wait at least 24 hours to open the boxes, so pack an overnight bag with your essentials separately!
What happens when the lines between work life and home life become blurred? It’s a question many of us are facing as we practice social distancing and the art of working from home.
Maybe you’re someone who runs into distraction after distraction – the dishwasher needs to be unloaded, the laundry needs to be folded, the dog needs to be walked. Or perhaps you’re the type of person who ends up answering emails way beyond normal office hours and working into the wee hours of the morning. Wherever you are on the spectrum, it’s important to find a healthy balance. Here are our tips:
1. Set Your Normal Alarm
Since you aren’t doing your morning commute, you have more time to exercise, tackle household chores, or make breakfast. However you choose to use that extra time in the morning, be sure to wake up when you normally would. It’ll be easier to follow your regular routine than it would be to, let’s say, roll out of bed five minutes before the work day begins. Plus, you can always sleep in on the weekends!
2. Ditch the PJs
While the occasional pajama day may be acceptable, you should stick to your routine of getting dressed for work every morning. No, you don’t need to put on your business best, but you should wear something that’s acceptable for your boss, clients, or colleagues should you need to do a video conference.
3. Have a Dedicated Work Space
Avoid having your work life (physically) spill into your personal life by designating an area of your home for work. Rather than conducting business from the couch, try to find a quiet, low-traffic place where you can set up and recreate elements of your actual work station. If you have a home office, be sure to set boundaries with other members of the household and remind them that this is a work-only zone.
4. Minimize Distractions
Now, more than ever, we feel the pressure to be constantly connected, whether it be to our family, friends, or the news. Set aside specific times to address social media notifications and communication with loved ones, and take some time away from the endless news cycle. Close out of unnecessary tabs on your browser and really focus on your work. Before you know it, it will be time to take a break or shut down for the night.
5. Take Breaks
Just like you normally would, give yourself a midday break to decompress from the morning’s happenings. Eat lunch, check in on a loved one, read a few chapters of a book, or take the dog out for a walk. At the end of the day, allow yourself to fully recharge by signing off and keeping notifications to a minimum.
6. Complete Personal Tasks Outside of Work Hours
Tackle the tasks around the home when you normally would: before or after work. Addressing them while you’re in the middle of an assignment will make it difficult to give your all to either effort. If you’re at a loss for things to do, check out our post on eight ways to make the most of social distancing.
And above all, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Communication is key during a time like this, so keep the dialogue open with your colleagues on how you are feeling and any challenges you are facing.
Please remember to stay safe and look out for those around you.
Chicago goes through a sort of metamorphosis as winter takes a firm grip over the city, bringing cold weather and incredibly short days. But don’t feel bad making runs to the local convenience store in sweatpants and slippers — during the coldest winter days, it takes a lot of motivation and sheer willpower just to leave the house. When not hibernating, Chicago residents can be seen digging their vehicles out from snow drifts and ice, meeting up at corner bars, or even jumping into a frozen Lake Michigan.
With winter officially here, we thought it was only fitting to highlight a few noteworthy Chicago traditions that mark the season. Keep reading and let us know your favorite winter traditions in the comments.
Try to picture hundreds of people clad only in bathing suits running and fully submerging themselves into a frigid Lake Michigan during the coldest period in Chicago. Sound like fun? That’s basically what the Polar Plunge is. Each year towards the end of winter, the event takes place to great fanfare — even sometimes featuring surprise celebrity guests (think Jimmy Fallon and Lady Gaga). And it’s all for a good cause, as proceeds from participant entry dues and their funds raised go to support Special Olympics Chicago.
There’s no local tradition more polarizing than parking dibs. For the uninitiated, the idea is simple: residents claim, or call “dibs” on a street parking space for a few days to upwards of a week (or sometimes longer) after clearing that spot out after a heavy snowfall. When not parked in that space, the dibs participant will place a chair, a traffic cone, or some other item in the spot to signal to others that it has been claimed. Let’s just say some people get particularly creative with the items they use to claim their territory.
One of the greatest things about the holiday season is the wonderment of lighting displays throughout the city’s neighborhoods and cultural attractions. In particular, the ZooLights installation at the Lincoln Park Zoo is a dazzling experience that excites the senses for people of all ages. For over 25 years, the recurring event has been free to the public, showcasing 2.5 million lights throughout the zoo.
Getting into a neighborly spirit
While the jury may be perpetually out on parking dibs, one theme that can be identified as a positive force is that of neighborly camaraderie and unity during cold snaps. We look out for each other during storms and dreaded polar vortex periods. Checking in on neighbors, helping shovel neighbor’s sidewalks, and generally being affable and available towards friends and neighbors is something Chicagoans do. It’s not only a point of pride, but one more reason why Chicago is a great place to call home.