Hello! I’m Maria Chambers, the Chicago Editor for Red Tricycle and a full-time working mom of 4 (ages 24, 16, 14, 12) who is extremely lucky to work from home, even when we’re not in the middle of a worldwide pandemic. My kids started remote learning in March and have been in my workspace more than usual this summer with closures and social limitations. This has required a whole lot of patience and creativity—on their part, too—to keep them busy. Scroll through to find my favorite products we found for them (and me!) that have helped us get through the months.

Color Your World with Tie Dye

My 12yo daughter has tie-dyed anything white she could get her hands on. Camis, shorts, her bath towel, a bandana for her hair. The dog even spent a few days with rainbow-hued tips, courtesy of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. This was a fun way to get her friends together where they could still socially distance in the driveway. 

Buy yours here, the kit is $29.99.

DIY Swim Club: Blow-Up Pool

Our neighborhood pool has always been the center of our summer entertainment. The kids just show up and it's packed with friends, no playdate setup required. Access to pools and splash pads was limited this year, so we opted for a blow-up pool. While we were a bit salty about the loss of pool time at first, the blow-up led to some pretty hilarious afternoons in the backyard.

Buy yours here, one large enough for the family is $119.99.

Also, having an electric air pump in the house was key this summer. Buy yours here, $15.98.

YETI for All

I can't even say for sure how it got started, but my family has become obsessed with YETI. All 4 kids made a big deal about picking out which color would be their signature. Each of my kids has the 26 oz Rambler, while I have the 36 oz beast (in chartreuse) that I fill with 2 iced lattes every morning. Once our district proceeds with in-person learning, the drinking fountains will not be accessible for a while, so these will come in handy. 

Buy yours here, the 26 oz. is $39.98.

The 12 oz. YETI Rambler Jr. is a good gateway YETI for little hands and includes a straw lid. Get yours here, the 12 oz is 29.98.

 

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RedBubble YETI Bling

To personalize their YETIs, the kids chose stickers that fit their interests and personalities. My 14yo son looked for stickers that resembled our pets and SCI-Fi-related shows and games, while my 12yo daughter went for sports. RedBubble gives independent artists a way to sell their creations and was our resource for finding sticker art. And, flipping through the options killed a rainy afternoon.

Find your personality here. Size and cost of stickers ranges, but prices are very reasonable.

DIY Paracord Bracelets

When we were knee-deep in quarantine and most things were closed, my kids and I learned how to make paracord bracelets. My daughter now wears hers every day. It was a fun project and also interesting to learn all the uses for the bracelets when used by soldiers and hunters. 

If you're interested in making bracelets for soldiers as a family community service project, find the details on where to send and how they're used here

Buy your colorful paracord here, a kit is $30.49. If you're looking for colors appropriate to donate to soldiers, buy the kit here, for $14.49.

Tree Swing

We have spent way more time at home than ever before, so one of the projects I worked on this spring was getting my backyard in order. For the last few years, my kids had been spending the majority of their free time out and about in the neighborhood and not hanging in the yard. So, it had gotten a bit unruly and had been neglected. One of the additions we made was hanging a macrame chair swing in the tree. 

Get yours here, $62.99

photo: HelloFresh

HelloFresh

We have cut way back on eating out since March. I am very much a foodie and enjoy the experience of dinner out with the family. . . a lot. I also tried to cut my grocery runs down to once a week, so HelloFresh was a lifesaver with 3 meals a week delivered to my door at a time when grocery delivery services were experiencing major delays. Truth be told, I've been using HelloFresh for years, but I was very glad three nights of meals were taken off my plate (no pun intended) during a time I was also pretending to have a teaching degree and patience. 

Start your meal delivery plan here. Or, find a different plan that works for you here

 

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Crocs & Birks

My daughter has been spending as much time outside as possible and she's developing her own sense of style—which is kinda fun to watch. She's very active and prefers athleisure over dressy. So, her two favorite purchases for summer were her Birkenstocks (yellow with white bottoms) and her white crocs. As much as I don't love the look of Crocs, I have to say it's convenient she wears shoes you can hose down, which is very useful when you have a kid like my Tate.

Get your Crocs here and you Birkenstocks here.  Also, if you have a kid that likes comfy clothes, like my daughter, check out Chicago-mom-owned Makoshey.

Fire Pit Table

Another project I worked on this spring is making my front porch a place the kids wanted to hang out and curl up to read a book. We enjoy it so much, we've started eating dinner around the fire pit table. It's my favorite spot to end an evening, with a cocktail in hand, decompressing from a long day. The kids sometimes invite their friends over to roast marshmallows, which is another great (and delicious) activity that lends itself to being socially distant. 

Get your fire table here, $179.

Home Gym Equipment

I really like starting my day with a good workout. With gyms being closed, it was a struggle to find ways to keep up the routine. I've made due by purchasing a few things to use in my sad, sad workout space in my bedroom. It was unexpectedly fun with my kids because they would try out the equipment when it arrived, turning it over in their hands as if it came from another planet, trying to figure out its purpose. And, usually guessing wrong, which led to lots of laughs.

Here are a few of my favorite purchases:

Yes4All Aerobic Step found here, $64.99.

Yes4All Weighted Bar found here, $46.89.

Ab Roller Wheel found here, $34.88 (this one led to days of laughs because my 14yo did 3 ab rolls could barely move for the next two days).

Henkelion Adjustable ankle weights found here, $34.99. 

Beauty Face Masks

My daughter and I both indulged in quite a bit of self-care. Her go-to a few nights a week has been face masks. 

Get yours here, $8.50/pack of 6.

photo: Epsom Salt Bath Soak

Epsom Salt Soak

Along with the face masks, came very long bathtimes which included an Epsom salt soak.

Our favorite can be found here, $19.95/2-pack.

Flawless Hair Remover

And, my new favorite product is the Flawless Hair Remover. I am very fuzzy in the facial region, like a peach. It's all blonde, but still very fuzzy. I once tried to wax around my lip area. That was a huge mistake. I looked like I had an inverted handlebar mustache. Very unfortunate since I also chose to try eyebrow tinting that same day and looked like a blonde Groucho Marx, with a sleek inverted handlebar mustache. Friends and family would not look me directly in the face for weeks.

An also-previously-fuzzy girlfriend clued me into this remover and my makeup goes on much smoother and cleansers don't get stuck in the hairs, creating little dried product balls. Yes, I had that much.

Get yours here, $19.88.

Intex Explorer Boat

We live close to the DuPage River, so a good friend and I had the idea to purchase blow-up boats and float down the river. My daughter and I were in one boat, and my friend and her daughter were in a second boat. We found a good drop-in spot and just let the current take us. It was actually really fun to see the river we drive and walk past everyday from a different, eye-level perspective. It gave us a newfound appreciation of its beauty and the animals that call it home. And, was also a really chill, soul-centering way to spend the morning.

Buy yours here, $26.99, and the oars here, $17.99.

Fever-Tree Tonic Water

Back to the cocktail I mentioned around the fire pit at the end of a long day. I discovered Fever-Tree Handpicked Elderflower Tonic Water this past spring. My 14yo son has started using it to make mocktails, muddling berries and giving a squeeze of fresh lime juice. It's ridiculously delicious.

Buy yours here, $4.99/4-pack.

Family Photo Session

One thing my ex-husband, his partner and I did this spring was to schedule a porch photo session with our favorite photographer, Alicia's Photography. This was our quarantine-crew and we wanted to memorialize the (excessive amount of) time together and the memories made.

— Maria Chambers

featured photo: credit Alicia’s Photography

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