Why Modern Moms Need a Life Coach

What I discovered when I met with a life coach for motherhood.

I want to introduce you to my new friend, Emily Heyer. She is a certified life coach focusing on motherhood and mental health. Not only is she living la Vida Loca with a two-year-old, but she is also learning to connect with her own personal joy and joy in motherhood. Yes, those can be two separate things that happen simultaneously.

One of the biggest misconceptions about motherhood is that we must give up our own hobbies, passions, or interests or even careers to focus solely on the needs of our families. We convince ourselves that all the busyness of taking care of our kids and our spouses is just the sacrifice we make to be moms. Sacrifice has become synonymous with motherhood, and it often comes with a cost to our mental health.  

Sacrificing my own interests made me feel like there was a big missing piece to my life. I was disconnected from myself and the things that bring me joy because I had waited too long to nurture them.   

It’s no wonder moms can feel so stressed out. When we sacrifice our own happiness too often, what is there to get excited about? There is not a lot of joy in swapping weekends at 4-star hotels for dirty diapers and cleaning up crumbs a million times a day with no breaks.

Wanting joy for ourselves, does not mean we take away joy from our families and it is not selfish. We are allowed to nourish ourselves with the same intensity and love we do our families. So, why is it so frowned upon?

Well, that’s exactly what Emily and I chatted about during our one-hour consultation. I was curious about the mom coaching she offers. We talked about how society defines our roles, how other moms can expect us to stay confined to those roles and the overall effect that has on our mental health.

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Then, she asked my one simple question, “if you had a magic wand, what is one thing you’d change about your life right now?”

My answer was that I want to return to work outside of the house again, but my fear is that I don’t know where I’d fit in. I have been out of the traditional 9-5 workforce for a decade, and I may be too old or irrelevant for some jobs. I had two successful careers before motherhood but going back to them I’d be at the bottom of the ladder again.

Emily helped me unravel that thought process and determine how I am relevant right now. We discussed how the pandemic has changed the way people work and connect and that I am already well versed on how to work from home. Can I just tell you that shifting that perspective made me realize I still have valuable skills? I have been a SAHM and WAHM for nearly ten years. I may have lost touch with some traditional 9-5 aspects of my previous two careers in an office because I am not doing them every day, but I have picked up an entirely new skillset that not only makes me relevant but opens new opportunities.

Emily and I also discussed ways I connect with my own joy, what makes me happy and how I can participate in those things this week, not some day when my kids are grown and flown.

For one full hour, I was able to talk about myself with another mom who listened. I shared my stress with someone who could relate firsthand. And when we were done, I had small, actionable steps to take with me toward my personal fulfillment. I felt heard and validated, which as moms we don’t get to feel nearly enough. I felt empowered to re-align with my own interests again and to feel less guilty for wanting those things for myself. It was well worth it to meet with a life coach at this point in my motherhood journey. I really wish I had taken this opportunity sooner, especially in those early years when I tried hard to make everything perfect. Reconnecting to my personal joy makes me a healthier mom and a good role model for my kids. They deserve to see how to make themselves a priority too without the stigma of it being selfish.

You can meet Emily yourself in this short video, “3 Things Every Mom Needs to Know.”

Tips to Pitch the Plastic as a Family

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It can feel overwhelming trying to pitch the plastics from our homes. And it might be unrealistic for families with young kids to eliminate every ounce of plastic from their lives. The busier we get, the more we tend to rely on convenience packaging, grab and go meals and water bottles for hydration. But there are ways to greatly reduce the amount of plastics we use on a daily basis, thereby reducing the amount of plastics in our water stream and landfills. And it can even save us some money.

If you try to eliminate plastic all at once, it can feel daunting. It might feel like too much change at once. But if you introduce one new habit at a time, or start with simple swaps, it will get easier in time. Once you have the hang of ditching plastics, you’ll discover you have an eye for earth friendly materials, and thinking about our environment will become second nature.

Here are my tips to families looking to purge the plastics from their lives:

START WITH ONE SIMPLE SWAP

For us, it was replacing our paper napkins and towels with cloth. This eliminates plastic wrappers that cannot be recycled. To make it more affordable, I shopped thrift stores for my collection of cloth napkins. We use them at every meal and toss into the laundry basket with our kitchen towels. To replace paper towels, I gathered up old hand towels and wash cloths (a great way to recycle baby bath cloths). I did purchase some Norwex cloths because they are absorbent and designed to last for years. It did take time to get everyone in my house in the habit of grabbing a cloth, or towel to wipe up spills instead of grabbing paper towels. Since we have a dog that makes some pretty gross messes, I do purchase a small number of paper towel rolls. I get paper made from bamboo and packaged in paper, not plastic. This feels like small change, but it will have added impact.

Silicon Jar Jackets- Click to buy

NEXT REPURPOSE, REUSE AND RELAX

Instead of cupboards filled with toppling towers of plastic cups, we only use glass. I know that just gave a lot of moms anxiety, but I use mason jars because the glass is more durable. For extra protection, I use a silicon sleeve for better gripping, and if my kid drops their glass it won’t shatter. If glass is still too much anxiety, you can use stainless steel cups which are quickly becoming a trend.

I reuse glass jars for pantry storage. I’ve already paid for a jar when I purchased my pasta sauce and pickles, why send them to the curb? My husband thought I was kind of crazy those few weeks I was obsessed with saving our glass jars, but it is worth it to revamp my pantry with a matching set of jars I didn’t have to pay extra for. And, if one breaks I won’t be heart broken, or have difficulty finding another matching jar. To make this truly zero waste and plastic free, I take my jars to the bulk bins and fill up in the store.

WHAT TO REPLACE

I went room by room and made a list of plastic products I want to replace. I focused on replacing things in one room before I moved on to the next room. This created new shopping habits and made the process much simpler and easy to manage.

In the kitchen, we replaced our plastic coated dish sponge with a net dish cloth. It was definitely an adjustment because I was convinced it was never going to work as well as a sponge. It actually works great! Plus, it lasts for 10 years, so I am saving my wallet and the earth in one step.

I stopped using plastic food containers or baggies for left overs. I use pint sized mason jars to store things like sauce, veggies, avocados, apple slices, lemon slices, canned goods, and more. The seal on the jar keeps things fresher longer than in plastic and with no chemicals leaching into my food. I also picked up a set of glass storage containers at the thrift store that were brand new. (My guess is they were a duplicate wedding gift). I can see what’s inside and toss right in the microwave and have hot food in minutes.

We made some big changes in the bathroom with our care products. Did you know that every plastic tooth brush manufactured since the 1940s, still lives in landfills today? As soon as I read that, I switched to bamboo tooth brushes. They work just as good as their plastic counterparts, but do less damage to our water ways. Bamboo is renewable and breaks down in your compost.

Instead of plastic floss containers, I use glass. This is such an easy, affordable swap. The glass container can be recycled or repurposed. I use this brand because it is produced with manmade fibers and not from silk moths.

Switching to toothpaste tabs was an adventure. My kids had zero problems with it, I think because it felt like chewing candy. It did take my husband and myself time to get used to crunching our tooth paste before we use it. Knowing the eco-impact of removing the most purchased piece of plastic helped us power through. The tabs come in glass jars, and you can subscribe to receive new tabs in paper packaging instead of buying a new jar each time, or simply purchase a new jar. Honestly, buying a jar to recycle or reuse is still avoiding significant plastics from entering our water stream.

Buying bars of soap without packaging is another super easy swap. My local grocery store carries a large assortment of package free soaps made from organic and natural ingredients. The price per bar is around the same as name brand soap. You can’t buy a mega sized, family pack. But, you can buy a few fresh scents and know there’s no garbage to toss later.

Lotion bars are a great way to eliminate plastic tubes that are rarely recycled. These bars are so easy to use and create less mess. I store my bars in a washable and reusable zipper pouch (I can toss right in with our weekly towel wash). The heat from my hands melts the lotion bar enough to apply to where I need it, but the bar stays solid.

Stainless steel water bottle – click to find your perfect color.

HOW TO PITCH THE PLASTIC OUTSIDE THE HOME

We’ve stopped asking for plastic straws at the drive thru. We aren’t a family that needs to use plastic straws, so we carry a reusable and washable wet bag filled with metal straws. I keep it right in the glove box. When we are traveling, we use our plastic free utensils and put them back in the wet bag to take back home to clean.

We’ve stopped grabbing plastic water bottles at gas stations on our short trips. Instead, we bring water from home in our reusable stainless steal beverage containers. Plus, the double wall feature keeps beverages ice cold for 24 hours.

To avoid grabbing prepackaged foods, we often bring along our own snacks or meals in sustainable packaging, or seek out local family friendly spots who use eco-friendly containers. I have reusable snack bags that I use to fill from our larger container of snacks that I pack in our cooler bag. And I’ve swapped plastic containers for steal.

I bring reusable bags to the grocery store, and if I forget them, I request paper. Some areas charge to use the store bags, so by using my own I avoid the 5 cent per bag fee. Plus, my reusable bags are stronger and carry more in them, which means less trips from the car. I leave my bags in the trunk, so I don’t forget them.

It doesn’t have to cost a million dollars to pitch the plastic, and you don’t need to buy all new products for your home. Focus on your biggest priority for change, then when you have that down, move on to the next. It’s really easy once you get started and your kids will easily follow your lead. Convenience packaging and relying on the same products is easy, but true change takes a little extra thought and a new purchasing pattern.

How are you planning to pitch some plastic this month?

Get your FREE Pitch the Plastic Action Guide Here

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Get the Kids Outdoor Ready this Summer {plus my Top 5 Beach Hacks}

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Do you have an all-weather kid? One that plays real hard no matter what? There could be wind, or sleet, mud or snow and they still go out to paly? That’s my kids! They are non-stop energy and not about to let a little mud, or sand, or dirt stand in their way of a good time. We go through clothes and shoes quickly, not just because my kids outgrow them so fast, but because they destroy them. I have yet to find a shoe that can outlast their pace. In fact I have polled every moms group I belong to asking for recommendations, and still have not found anything that is long lasting for active kids.

There are two things I look for in a kid shoe – durability and materials. I’ve noticed the shoes with the synthetic materials that are smooth and lightweight, wear out much quicker and are not recyclable. My kids wear their shoes until threadbare and their toes are poking out. Our only option is to toss them into the trash because the materials aren’t recyclable. Those synthetic, low quality (high priced) materials do not make it through an entire school year before we need to purchase a second pair.

That’s why I am so excited to partner with Reima and try these all-season waterproof machine washable sneakers with Velcro. We need durable shoes that will hold up to different terrains and are easy to keep clean. These are machine washable, but we simply hosed off the shoes when we returned from the beach.

“Wow mom! I can watch the water roll right off my shoes!”

These high-tops have a Velcro closure and elastic built in laces. This should save a lot of time getting out the door, but my kids have never worn high-top shoes before, and it took a few minutes to figure them out. As soon as everyone was comfy and ready to jump into the car, we were off to our favorite river beach. The beautiful thing about the beaches along the Hudson is there is typically a park, lots of water and hiking trails. So, there is a good chance of getting messy.

Taking a forest walk.
Testing how water proof the shoes are. The water just rolls off in beads!

To keep the kids covered and protected from the sun during our play break, my girls wore their terry cloth, SPF 50 cover up hoodies with matching shorts, also from Reima. These are soft and comfortable. One of my kiddos wears this new hoodie at home or just riding in the car. The long sleeves are perfect while near the water. It’s often cooler and the temp drops a few degrees, not to mention there are always bugs. The hoodies kept my kids warm and safe and comfortable. Which means a more enjoyable time for all of us.

Can not miss a chance to climb some rocks!
This is her new favorite hoodie.

“I am glad you made me wear the long sleeves, mom. Why is it always colder by the water?”

Click to get my Top 5 Beach Hacks

Overall, my kids love the shoes and the cover ups. But here are a few things about the company that makes my mom heart happy:   

Reima uses non-toxic, fluorocarbon free and recyclable materials. The dyes used are free of carcinogens and the fibers are selected with the lifecycle of the product in mind. Everything is designed for active, playful children, and to be carefree for parents. Say goodbye to disposable fashion because these are made durable enough for your child to wear for several seasons before passing along to a sibling, or a friend. Reima has spent over 75 years future-proofing the next generations by creating long lasting, durable clothing that keeps our kids and our planet safe.

I am fully committed to sharing products I have personally tried, and I’ll share anything that makes my job as a mom easier.  Purchasing washable, durable, sustainable clothes and shoes that our kids can wear season after season is a big budget saver! It makes sense for our bank accounts and for the planet. If you have an active kid and you need stress free activewear options, take a look at what Reima has to offer, and you can feel good about buying sustainably.

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Father’s Day Dinner Recipe Round-up

There are few things my husband asks for, for Father’s Day. But he does enjoy a good celebration meal. His favorite thing to eat is a grilled steak. It doesn’t matter what sides are served if there is the perfect beer to balance it out.

That’s it. He isn’t really picky about the details.

All the gifts he gets are from the kids and it is typically a silly joke between them printed on a t-shirt, or something handmade. They help me prepare dinner and set the table. The kids help me pick out the side dishes (usually things they will eat, and dad just goes along with). I don’t think there has ever been a takeout night or dinner outside our backyard to celebrate. I try to keep things low key and simple. The family seems to enjoy that most.

Do you have a traditional meal to celebrate Father’s Day in your home? Here are a few ideas for inspiration. And if you don’t celebrate Father’s Day, these are great meals to make any day of the year.

Beef – for the family that enjoys a little fancy.

Honey Bourbon Steak

Sheet pan Steak and Veggies

Ribeye Steak and Shrimp

Seafood – for lighter fair.

Creamy Garlic Shrimp

Garlic Butter Cod with Asparagus

The Best Grilled Salmon

Casual Pub Grub – for those who like low key eats.

BBQ Chicken Pizza

Slow Cooker Teriyaki Chicken Wings

19 Easy Charcuterie Boards

Backyard BBQ – when you need to feed a crowd.

The Best Macaroni Salad

Loaded Baked Potato Salad

Classic Southern Deviled Eggs

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Intergenerational Trauma and Healing Our Families

As COVID restrictions are lifting, you may be having mixed feelings about getting together with family members again.  For some people, these past 18 months have been a respite from toxic relationships. COVID and mandated social distancing has provided a great excuse to keep distant from family members and provided us with an opportunity to self reflect on those relationships.  Now, we have an opportunity to redraw boundaries and make changes that create empowering environments for ourselves and our children.

Within the past 30 years, studies have established that we inherit much more than eye color from our ancestors.  We also inherit many neurological and emotional characteristics, such as temper, anxieties, and parenting styles.  Intergenerational trauma is passed down as we grow up, rather than when we are born.  We take on characteristics from our caretakers, internalize them as our internal dialogue, and then bestow the same inheritance upon our own children.  When these habits and traits are harmful physically and emotionally, this is intergenerational trauma or inherited trauma, (IT). As our society learns more about IT, adults today are becoming much more aware of their own emotional well-being and the potential toxicity of their familial relationships.  Turning the huge ship of IT around requires a rewrite of your inner dialogue. If you’re a parent, it requires a reflection on your parenting techniques. If your discipline and parenting techniques with your children are the same that you experienced growing up, you are likely continuing the pattern of trauma, whether you realize it or not.  To help you through the process of healing from this trauma and changing your learned habits, mental health professionals are readily available through a variety of platforms, apps, zoom calls, or traditional in-person meetings.  

I inherited generations of trauma from both sides of my family.  As a new mom, I decided 5 years ago that this inheritance of toxic relationships ends with me.  I’ve taken parenting classes, read books, listen often to parenting podcasts, see a therapist regularly, and work hard every day to change my inner dialogue.  I grew up with fear based parenting; spanking, intimidation, plans cancelled as punishment, beloved items taken away, and a general lack of privacy and trust.  When the parenting skills that I inherited ‘pop’ out of my mouth, and I see the looks of fear on my kids, I know I’m going back to old traumatic habits. I remind myself that I’ve got this, seek support from my husband and friends, and review positive parenting resources for skills I may have forgotten.  My husband and I are on the same page and check-in regularly with plans and boundaries.  When one of us gets triggered, the other will take over the situation without shame or guilt.  

Fear based parenting was a popular form of discipline for previous generations of my family, and is still well practiced in today’s society.  Studies have shown fear based parenting practices to be damaging to children. It also creates a parent/child relationship that is very difficult to adjust when children become adults due to its authoritarian characteristics.  Parenting styles are deeply ingrained in our inner dialogue and are difficult skills to change.  Popular alternative parenting styles such as Conscious Discipline and Positive Parenting, all address these challenges in their books and training.  There are many parenting coaches in the Hudson Valley to help your family through this change as well.

As we return to social situations, it is important to remember the following responsibilities to our self and our children:

  1. Our Time and Energy is Valuable: We do not have to spend time with anyone we don’t want to, and nor do our children.  Don’t stress about the length of life a toxic relative has. Make your time the priority.  Life can be short no matter what age you are. 
  2. Giving hugs is always a choice: You own your body and have a choice who your body comes into contact with. Teach your children positive body image and give them the choices to hug or to just wave.   Listen to their words and watch their body language (even as babies); honor their choice to be touched or not.
  3. Only those who empower you have the privilege of your time:  Being a blood relative does not give anyone the authority to belittle, mock, tease, abuse, harass, or harm you.  In fact, no other human being has that authority, and blood relatives don’t get special privileges either.
  4. Set Boundaries:  It is your responsibility to communicate to others what you are and are not comfortable with.  Others can’t read your mind.  If a boundary is crossed, you need to remind and reinforce.   As a parent, the responsibility to set boundaries and reinforce them is even more important.  For young children, you are their only way of learning how to set and have those boundaries respected.  

These changes may seem like a lot of work, but it is absolutely worth it.  Living a life with clear communication, boundaries, and empowering relationships will help you blossom into your true self.  Bestowing this new inheritance on your kids will give them the tools they need for healthy relationships in all facets of their life.  You have the power to heal generations of trauma and stop the cycle with your family.  

Get help locating a therapist in your area by searching Psychology Today

Navigating the Teen Years with Boy Mom Jennifer Vergara

Contributing guest post.

I am a mom to three teenage boys, ages 12, 16 and 19. You might be thinking, 12 isn’t technically a teenager, but let me tell you, puberty has already made its ugly appearance. In my book, he’s a full-blown teenager, equipped with all the hormones, smells, body hair, and attitude that comes with it.  

There is a lot of testosterone floating around my house on the daily (even our dog is a dude). To make matters worse, we live outside of the US, away from our families and close friends, so my estrogen-rich relationships are via phone and Zoom. Then there was that thing last year, the pandemic, which resulted in all 5 of us being stuck together in the house. All day, every day – working from home and schooling from home. We live in Guatemala, where most houses do not have yards, so even the dog has been quarantined inside with us.

Again, So. Much. Testosterone.

I am not complaining about this, as I adjusted to being the only female a long time ago. I have acclimated to the vulgarity of most conversations being centered around specific male body parts, or at least the reference of them, spontaneous bursts of what smells like deadly gases, and the collection of 20+ Marvel superhero movies playing on a constant loop. I’m cool with all of this.

What has been difficult though, as we’ve entered the teenage years, is finding ways to stay connected with each of them. Let’s face it, there are certain topics that are just naturally easier for boys to talk about with their dad. I get that. And my husband? He is AMAZING at having these talks and has a knack for keeping the conversation casual, so that no one feels embarrassed or uncomfortable.

But it’s not just the awkward talks, it’s the everyday connection they have that I’m a bit envious of. When our sons were little, I was the twinkle in their eyes. It was easy to stay connected to them because they always wanted Mom. Now, they turn to their dad to talk about guy stuff, girls, video games, cars etc. And while I’m grateful that they have this amazing connection with their dad, I can’t help but feel a little left out and disconnected at times. Those feelings paired with my inability to accept that they are no longer babies, has been a struggle.

At least this is how I felt for a while. I wallowed in my own momma-pity for some time, mostly during the week of my period each month, when I’m super-duper emotional. I had talks (ugly cries) with my husband about how I felt, and I binged on chick-flicks when I had time off. I was seriously in a funk.

But then I decided to change my outlook, because frankly- it was getting to be a bit depressing. I was so caught up in my feelings about the boys getting bigger and not needing me as much, that I was missing out on the joys of their current life stages.

I decided to quit splashing around in my pool of tears and sentimental pity, and instead, I began embracing the present.

As far as connecting more with my sons, it is still possible; it just takes more work on my behalf. They are so overwhelmed with hormones and new challenges and body changes and new relationships, that they just don’t have the bandwidth to also go out of their way to try and connect with Mom, on a sentimental level. Not because they don’t want to or because they don’t need me anymore. They’re just teenagers. Their interests change and their priorities shift, AND they’re trying to figure out who the heck they are.

Once I came to this realization, everything changed, in a positive way.

If you’re struggling with the teenage years, here are a few tips that might help, they did for me.

1) Show interest. Even if it is something you aren’t interested in… try to be, for the sake of your child. Listen to their music. Watch their favorite movies. Play video games with them. Whatever their hobbies are, embrace them. Trust me, if you’re not interested, they’ll find someone else who is.

2) Be open. They’re teenagers, which means they have teenager problems and curiosities. Be open to talking about relationships, drugs, sex, fears, death- whatever is on their mind. Don’t make it awkward or turn it into a big deal. If you’re uncomfortable, then know that they are too. The more awkward you make the experience, the less they will seek you out for advice.

3) Trust them. Trust your parenting and trust that you’ve raised a well-rounded individual who can make the right decisions. Does this mean they always will? No, of course not, but you should start by giving them the benefit of the doubt. Example: our 16-year-old told us that he was offered alcohol by some older teen friends of his. We didn’t freak out. We didn’t condemn him. Instead, we listened and then asked him what he did; and guess what? He made the right decision on his own.

4) Give them space. Trust me, they need it. Respect their privacy and allow for them to have time alone. They’ve got a ton of things they’re trying to figure out.

5) Let them know they are loved unconditionally.  Your love and support should come with no bounds. No matter how bad they might mess up, no matter how dark their thoughts may be, no matter what sexual preference they have, no matter what gender roles they identify with- you will always love them and be there for them, and they need to know that.

What a blessing it is to be able to watch our children grow up. Not everyone gets this opportunity, so make the extra effort when you can. I promise it will be worth it.

Moms, Get in The Picture {Giveaway Announcement}

Giveaway product generously provided by www.sharpimagesphotographic.com

It’s hard to believe that this time last year, our entire state was locked down to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus. We couldn’t think passed the next two weeks, let alone imagine what a year ahead would look like.  School buildings were closed, playgrounds were closed and basically any place with a door on it, closed. We couldn’t pass the time at the mall or go to museums and all our favorite activities were closed. There wasn’t much else to do, except go outside.

That’s when I started documenting our outdoor adventures on my phone camera. Every night before bed, I found joy in just scrolling through the camera roll looking at the smiles on my kids’ faces. I snapped some amazing shots of them exploring waterfalls and standing in awe of the horizon, building fires in the backyard, and tackling sticky s’mores. I wanted to capture as many colorful details as possible of how my kids spent their childhood living through this pandemic. I expect that one day, they will be sharing those photos with their own kids and telling them what it was like.

Then one day I noticed something.

I wasn’t in the photos.

I snapped some great shots of my husband candidly holding hands with one of my kids, or him pointing off into the distance in a teachable moment, but there weren’t any pics of me with my kids. So, I started taking selfies with the family to at least prove I was there too. Those selfies were hard to coordinate at an arms-length and it was awkward trying to huddle in front of the small camera aperture on my phone.

Don’t get me wrong, I got some silly pics of us together that captured our humor brilliantly. However, none of them capture much beyond our four heads huddled together. Someone is always a little out of frame and none of us thought to coordinate our hiking attire.

That’s when I decided, no matter what 2021 brings, we need new family portraits. Thankfully, family photographers are skilled at working from a distance and including moms in the pictures. Plus, we aren’t the only ones wrangling everyone to “look at the camera.” There’s someone else in charge of that. Moms, we just show up and smile. So much easier than trying to smoosh into a selfie (or an “us-ie” as my kids call them).

I know I am not the only mom that struggles to get in the photo (for various reasons), so I want to help another mom out by getting her in the photo with her family! That’s why I’ve partnered with local Hudson Valley photographer, Maureen Gates from Sharp Images Photographic.  

In honor of Mother’s Day, Maureen is generously giving away a family portrait session ($250 value) and an 11×14 wall portrait!

Maureen captured my family photos a few years ago just before my kids entered Kindergarten. It was a beautiful fall day and she worked fast to keep my kids moving and smiling. Social distance wasn’t a thing back then, but in our outside setting she didn’t need to stand close to get the perfect photos of my babies. Today, she knows the right precautions to take, and I am confident, still quick at assembling the family for some great shots.

If you are in the Hudson Valley region and you’d like to enter to win this portrait session package, please head to The Whatever Mom Facebook page to “click” like and “follow” along. This portrait giveaway is the kickoff event to 5 days of giveaways!  I’m giving away something just for moms every day from May 3rd-May 7th (2021). You won’t want to miss the daily giveaways!

How to Prepare for Re-entry after COVID Lockdown

Re-entry anxiety after a global pandemic is a real thing. After a year of social distancing and curbside delivery, it may be hard to remember a time when those things didn’t exist. As our communities slowly open back up, now is a good time to ease our way back into outings and activities we once enjoyed, like dining in public, going to museums, or browsing a store. Maybe your mind races wondering how to feel safe doing these things again, or maybe you’re just ready to get back out there. Either way, it’s OK to have feelings about it. What matters is, we do what makes us feel comfortable and healthy.

Me? I am ready to get back to scheduling things with friends and finding new places to explore that aren’t just nature trails. My family however, not so much. They are all reclusive home bodies to begin with, but I think for our collective mental health it’s time for us to get back out into our community and enjoy our favorite ways to explore. Given the current CDC Guidelines and protocols, which can change week to week, it is safest to call ahead or search a website before making a trip out. Masking is standard in our area, but some places may require an appointment before arriving to ensure social distancing. Knowing what to expect before you leave the house will help ease a lot of anxiety.

To help my family adjust to life after quarantine, we recently, took a little trip to explore the fun, artsy town of Beacon, NY. We paired up with friends and made a simple itinerary to visit three specific locations we knew the kids would enjoy. I wanted my family to see that we can still find joy while remaining safe. Here’s how we spent our time and how we prepared for safety.

One of the many beautiful murals we found on the side of buildings.

Hudson Beach Glass – normally, you can assist in creating a glass blown piece. For now, you can watch the professional glass blower creating their unique pieces from behind a glass window. That’s fine too because it is such a cool process to observe. During our visit, the artist was creating small vases. She made it all look so easy, and made three different pieces in just 15 minutes. The number of people permitted inside is limited to 8. Thankfully, we only had a group of 7. The shop is just gorgeous and filled with enough breakable things to make a mom’s heart race. There is also an art gallery upstairs.

Watching the glassblower at work is mesmerizing.

Next up, we let the kids explore a few shops. There was a toy store directly across from us, with a giant colorful sign that read PLAY. Of course, we had to go in. It’s important to note that we have not been in any building just to browse in a year. We pick up our goods in the parking lot, and if we must go inside, we get what we came for and leave. This shop limited the number of people allowed in, masks are required and there was a hand sanitizing station as you walk in. We browed a couple of other stores with the same requirements, so it seems like the trend for Main Street stores in this town. To some, that might feel like too much, but to me, a mom with two kids who like touching everything, it is a relief.

After we checked out a few shops, we headed straight for Glazed Over Donuts. Once we placed our order, we watched our donuts being made before picking them up at the end of the counter. There is no indoor dining, so after our donuts were complete, we sat outside to dig in. There was a hand sanitizing station upon entry, a bathroom to allow for hand washing and wet wipes to wash down hands before (or after) touching our food. The kids were completely unfazed that sun shifted, the temp dropped a couple of digits and there was a slight drizzle, we were allowing them to eat mega amounts of sugar. This was their nirvana!

Watching our donuts being made minutes before devouring them.

Our last stop took us to Beans Cat Café. It is one part coffee shop, one part cat rescue. We paid $7.00 per person for a 30-minute session with just our group (8 person maximum) to spend time with the cats. They were all extremely sweet and some were even snuggly. This was a dream come true for my kids who read stories to the cats and sat and relaxed by their side. My kids’ dream of having a pet cat, but this mom is super allergic. Sorry kids! Everyone, again, was required to wear masks, even while alone with the cats and we were asked to wash our hands before handling the cats. That made it easier to get the kids to wash their hands before leaving for our trip back home.  

Getting a tour of the café and learning about each individual cat.

The most stressful part for me, was the thought of using public bathrooms, but isn’t that something all moms stress about? I was not a fan pre-COVID, but now I would rather skip it entirely. However, we all know when a kid has got to go, they like to wait until the last possible second. We traveled an hour, so I thought we will just figure it out when we get there. Some places offered bathrooms and due to protocols were cleaning more frequently. So, they are probably cleaner now than anytime in 2019.

Here’s how to get prepared if you are feeling anxious about re-entering the outside world:

Start small by making an itinerary that includes specific places to visit.

Contact businesses directly or look up on their website/social media to clarify what their protocols are. I assure you; most businesses are following CDD guidelines for disinfecting, social distancing, and masking measures.

Bring a pocket-sized hand sanitizer for your bag, and a small package of sanitation wipes.

Make sure everyone has a mask, carry an extra one for each person in your party just in case.

Leave a larger bottle of sanitizer in the car for a final clean before heading home.

Take advantage of opportunities to wash hands using soap and water when you can.

Attend activities or events that are with small, socially distanced groups either outside or in a building with proper ventilation. Hiking trails and outdoor dining areas, petting zoos and small farm settings are a great way to slowly get used to being around people again.

Now that the warmer weather is here, the infection rates (in our area) are coming down and businesses are taking plenty of precautions, I feel much more at ease getting out this year than I did last year. Am I ready for a giant vacation? Maybe, but I know my family isn’t. So, for now, I’ll continue these smaller adventures to help them feel comfortable getting back out there. This trip was definitely worth it for us to help us ease back into being in public again.

How about you? Are you feeling ready for re-entry or traveling again? If you’re not, that’s totally OK too. I’d love to hear more about it in the comments below.

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Meal Plan Monday: Grilled Sweet Potatoes

Earlier this week, I shared on my personal social media pages the grilled sweet potatoes that my very picky eaters enjoyed (and gave a rave review by the way!). It felt like a total win when my whole family ate them without a single complaint.

I started eating a vegan diet at the beginning of the year for my own personal health reasons. The goal was to eat a vegan diet for 30 days. Well, after 120 days, I’m still going strong. I don’t expect my entire family to make the switch, it is something I am doing for myself. But, that does mean I need to spend a little time coming up with one meal that can fit three different pallets at once. I am thrilled that this easy sweet potato side dish is something we all agree on! And it is so easy to make on a weeknight, or for a family barbecue.

Free recipe card

Of course I can’t let on how over joyed I am that my kids ate a healthy serving of a fiber, nutrient rich VEGETABLE! Otherwise, they will never eat it again. So, I silently turn cartwheels inside my heart and commit the recipe to memory, promising to only make it now and then. I have to make sure to no over use it. Moms with picky eaters know about this quiet victory dance, and how we have to steel our emotions against believing this is the breakthrough vegetable.

For myself, I served this alongside some marinated baby portabella mushroom skewers and grilled romaine, topped with shredded vegan parmesan.

For my family, I served alongside Spiedies Marinaded chicken. If you haven’t had a chicken Spiedies sandwich before, well you are missing out! It is an upstate New York favorite. Hmmm… I feel a new recipe post coming on.

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Just to keep things simple, I made these potato slices in foil packets so I wouldn’t have to spend time flipping each individual potato slice. The steam created during the grill time also helps soften the potatoes quicker.

I’ve also made this recipe with regular potatoes to create a completely different flavor.

What do you think? Do you have a favorite vegetable to toss on the grill? I’d love to hear in the comments below.

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10 Day Inspirational Home Declutter Course and Special Offer

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Clutter in our homes has a direct impact on our social and emotional stress. It can impact how we feel about ourselves, our creativity and overall mental wellness. A recent survey finds that most people are more annoyed by clutter than dirt. Perhaps this is because it feels less overwhelming to run the vacuum over a pile of dirt to remove it in seconds, than making decisions about what to keep and what to toss. Personally, I feel deflated just looking at the messes and clutter piles around my house. Most of those messes are created by my family with all the things they leave behind. You know the shoe pile by the front door, the growing stack of mail that no one else knows what to do with, baskets of laundry calling me. I could go on, but I am sure you have similar hot spots in your homes too.

I know I am not alone.

But moms, I’ve met a new friend to help. Her name is Emily, she is a mom with small kids and the owner of The Orange Slate blog. She created an Inspiring 10-day e-course to help us reclaim the spaces in our homes. It’s a one-time download that you own forever. 

I followed the daily actions for 10 days (I may have missed a day or two in between, but Emily knows busy moms oversee a lot of things and missing a day or two is going to happen). My favorite part is that in true Whatever Mom fashion, Emily is not seeking perfection here. She is simply sharing her systems for reclaiming the messiest places in the home so we can feel less stress in our day. She tosses aside the notion of creating a house to share on Pinterest for the idea of creating a home to live in.

Kids make messes. Families make messes. It’s where the living really happens. Playtime is messy. We get busy with life and things pile up. It is perfectly normal to live in a house with clutter. This e-course shares how to create daily habits to tackle the clutter to minimize your stress and daily battle with clutter. 

sample pages from a course
Sample pages from the course.

I followed this e-course for myself and found it helpful and easy to follow along with. I also find it helpful to hand off some of the action items to my husband and kids, so they can learn to help care for our space too. We schedule a time each day to declare, “tidy time” and we all pitch in to put away our own things and clean up our own clutter. This clutter sweep saves me a lot of time from cleaning up everyone else’s messes and teaches my kids some life skills. Using Emily’s lessons, we now have an evening routine to reset the kitchen and living spaces to create a calm, clutter free space for our morning. Getting us all on onboard with habits and routines helps me feel less overwhelmed by having to do it all.

As a bonus, Emily has sprinkled in links to her top blog posts about how to simplify your home life and her best tips on meal planning and creating rituals as a mom. You will feel truly inspired by her 10-day home reset and relating to another mom who gets what it is like trying to find balance in parenting.

As a special gift to my readers, Emily is offering her course at a discount. Use this link to download and code: WHATEVER to receive your e-course right away. For a tiny fraction of what it costs to hire a professional, you can own this course. Start when you are ready and reuse when you need to. We all fall out of rhythm from time to time. I can’t wait for you to share your review with me.

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Easter Basket Gift Round Up!

Non-candy easter basket gift ideas
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Easter is traditionally observed as a religious holiday, but like any holiday in America, everyone is invited to join in. The Easter season begins with Lent and ends with Pentecost. The season lasts for 50 days (nearly two months, not just one day!). Just for this one holiday season, more than 90 million chocolate bunnies, 91.4 billion eggs and 700 million Peeps are produced each year in the United States alone.

Next to Halloween, Easter is the biggest candy driven holiday. When I was a kid our Easter baskets were FILLED to the brim with chocolate treats and sugary confections. I don’t know what my mom was thinking giving all four of her children (very close in age) free reign over so much candy. Maybe she was too tired to care, or just opened the door and tossed the candy on the lawn so we had to fight over it and only one of us could reign supreme? (Old age makes the details fuzzy).

Babies

Anyway, a lot has changed now that I am a parent. Instead of focusing on the treats, we try to fill our kids’ Easter baskets with things they need, or items they can use rather than eat. The first holiday my twins were just babies and we bought them a few outfits and stuffed animals to snuggle, but really did not go overboard. At six months old they were too young to participate in anything. It was more fun just to dress them up and ooh and awe at their cuteness, or sharing a storybook before bed.

Toddlers

By age two my kids understood plastic eggs delivered the good stuff, but they still weren’t ready for a sugar overload. So we loaded their baskets with fun things like bug kits, umbrellas, rainboots, puzzles and outdoor toys. They loved their magic bubble wands and sidewalk chalk. And when they were about school age we filled their baskets with bathing suits, sunglasses, educational books, and pool toys.

Pre-teens

Now as pre-teens, my kiddos are way into candy, so we don’t deny them. But we do set limits (for our own sanity). They get the most important holiday classics like a chocolate bunny and some egg shaped peanut butter cups. The rest of the baskets are filled with fun craft and science kits, seeds and garden kits or painting kits to keep them busy. My kids would make everything in one day, so I strategically hide them to dole out through the rainy days of spring. One kiddo mentioned she found these beaker creatures online and wanted a set of her own. Of course, we tucked that idea away for Easter baskets!

You can also skip toys and crafts and candy all together and put in gift certificates for experiences to a local zoo or ice cream place. A fun list of hikes tucked inside of a pair of new hiking boots with a plan to explore together. This holiday may be steeped in traditions, but there is no tradition dictating what kinds of things you put in your child’s Easter baskets. Other moms might have opinions about giving gifts at Easter, but you do what works for you and your family. I know for my family; it doesn’t work to hand my kids a bucket sized basket of candy. Not only would it be a sugar crash waiting to happen, but would also be very boring for my busy, active kids.

And if you don’t celebrate Easter in your family, celebrating the coming of spring with gifts and earth based ceremonies are just as important. We all celebrate in whatever way works for our own family. I have noticed the common threads between the celebrations usually involves family, food and time to reflect on the gifts we already have. Whatever holiday you celebrate – even if it’s just to feel joyful about spring – I wish you a healthy and happy celebration!

The whatever mom blogger bio

Going Gray is the New Female Empowerment Movement

One of the things I preach around here is to embrace the real. The messy parts, the not so perfect parts and sometimes even the uncomfortable parts. So, I am about to confess something of my own that is real, and uncomfortable, with all of you. I am coming out as gray.

I have been hiding my true colors for years because I was just too self-conscious to expose my gray hair. I started losing my natural dark shade shortly after my twins were born. I was considered a “geriatric” mom in my mid-thirties and the gray settled in quickly after having twins. I started coloring my hair immediately because I was not yet ready to let go of feeling like I was in my 20s. So, I kept covering it up. I spent hours at the salon and made a mad dash to the drug store between colorings just to keep my grays under wraps. It was a stealthy covert operation that cost me thousands of dollars over the last ten years. Before I went to any big event, a reunion, a wedding, or a vacation, I scheduled myself to sit in a salon chair for nearly 3 hours to temporarily delete this obvious sign of aging.

Last year, when the COVID pandemic hit and shut down every salon in the world, I panicked. My appointment was only days away and my roots were already on display. I felt anxious the shut down was going to create some noticeably awkward hair growth, or what I refer to as “the skunk stripe.” As I scrolled for daily updates on when I could safely return to the salon, I noticed that nearly everyone on my friends list was confessing to missing their colorist too. Bloggers around the globe were suddenly showing up in videos and IG reels with silver streaks. As the weeks rolled into months, I found I wasn’t the only one awkwardly trying to cover my part.

Just as I was contemplating between coloring again or embracing this touch of gray, my colorist (or hair therapist as I call her) dropped off a professional grade color kit for me to use at home. I immediately rushed to color my hair and as I saw myself frantically brushing hair dye against my head, I thought this just doesn’t feel right anymore. I began wondering if I could pull off silver fox status. But…will I look…old? I decided the worst-case scenario is I hate it and I go back to dying it. And the best case scenario I love it and keep going. A year later, I am still dye free and learning to love it. But let me tell you, it’s still not easy. I am about two good hair cuts away from being fully gray.

I haven’t made a public post about it before now because I am still getting used to seeing myself with salt and pepper strands peeking through. It’s now very obvious and easily recognizable in my photos. Now is the time to admit it to myself and to those whom I haven’t seen face to face in the last year. It’s time to share it with my followers because my headshots are clearly not the same. Will anyone recognize me?

woman with gray hair
Me in my natural state of gray hair and no make up.

The longer my gray roots grow, the taller I grow in my own confidence. It turns out I’m not alone there either! I made a cryptic post on my personal social media page about contemplating life as a silver fox and a childhood friend sent a text message that she was inspired to do the same. Now we encourage each other by sending snapshots of our changing hair. Another friend from high school recently posted that she was going to give up coloring her hair to be more authentic too. Suddenly, I am in very good company and feeling bolder about this choice.

I am finding inspiration from women all over Instagram embracing their gray hair. There are a lot of us feeling powerful walking through life with silvery tendrils, and as one woman pointed out, “It takes a lot of confidence to walk around daily with two-toned hair.” Isn’t it funny, that people can have rainbow hair, two different shades of purple, or bleached or fading colors and no one second guesses that persons value and relevance. But women with gray hair are told they look “too old” or look like they “let themselves go.”

And oddly enough, I am finding inspiration from men with gray hair. When men age they are referred to as “distinguished” which implies dignity and respect. But when women age they are referred to as “washed up.” I noticed male lead actors that dominated the TV screen in my childhood are still on TV and fully gray. They’ve grown up, just like I have. Yet, no one is accusing them of having let themselves go. In fact, they are given the commanding roles with younger looking wives or partners. Honestly, if men can walk around with new found confidence with fully gray hair, then I can feel just as empowered to do the same.

So, here I am.

On my way to a braver, grayer self.

Have you embraced your new, natural color since the pandemic? Does gray hair make you feel bolder? Wiser? More empowered? I’d love to read about it in the comments below.

How to Tackle Home Clutter (Free offer)

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Clutter is defined as ‘a collection of things laying around in an untidy mass.’ As moms, we are familiar with the untidy mass and the frustration it creates. It is well known by now how clutter impacts our minds. Organizers tout the benefits of decluttering by hauling out our belongings to sort into piles to toss or donate. Who doesn’t love replacing a chaotic mess with a well-organized bin with a cute label, right? But not everyone has time for an extreme make over.

Moms are busy and often the only person to tackle the clutter at home. We might set aside time once a year (usually in the spring) to clean out our closets and kid toys, but it is the daily management of clutter that can wear us down. Managing the daily clutter and mess causes stress. Clutter impacts our mood when we feel like we are nagging, it affects our relationship with our loved ones because we can resent having to do it all by ourselves, and it can be physically draining being a cleaning team of one.

As much as I love an organized closet and escalate to giddy heights over the perfect storage solution, I find the daily clutter to be the most overwhelming. It distracts me from working and feeling productive, it takes time to clear the dining table so we can eat, and I am exhausted at the end of the day after returning items back to where my family took them from. I admit, my blood boils when no one else notices the crumbs and puddles on the counter nor remembers that coats do not belong on the floor.

Scientists agree that clutter signals to our brain that our work is never done. It can be difficult to relax when we feel like we see an endless task list. I don’t know about you, but I could use a few less things on my to-do list. I already have enough running to-do lists taking up space in my brain. What I need is a simple solution to tackle the daily clutter my family creates.

Sort mail as it comes in! (Click to add to cart).

Cleaning out the closet doesn’t make me feel better when my husband tosses the mail in a pile on the side table next to my workspace and leaves it for me to take care of.

Putting the kids toys in cute bins with pretty labels doesn’t make me feel better when I find toys strung about the house left for me to take care of.

Rounding up things to donate or toss doesn’t make me feel better when there is a new stream of stuff right behind me to take care of.

I’ve noticed, I am the only one doing all that cleaning and organizing on top of the daily cleaning and organizing and I am tired.

One day, I thought about what will make me feel better. I will feel better when my family pitches in to take ownership of their own stuff.

After months of feeling angry and festering in silence, I realize it isn’t fair to me or my family to just do everything myself. It isn’t teaching them life skills they need to learn, and it isn’t fair to drain my energy each day picking up after other people who can pick up after themselves.

FREE DOWNLOAD – 5 Tips to Tackle Home Clutter

I created a list of the top five sources of clutter in my home and planned how to tackle each one.

After I made my list and my plan, I sat my family down for a family meeting and told them they needed to pitch in. We are a team, and we are all capable of sharing the workload to maintain our home.

Organize your purse to save time and minimize clutter! (Click to add to cart).

That’s it.

I set the expectation for their help and explained how working as a team frees up time and energy for all of us, it improves our moods and our relationship.  That doesn’t mean every day is perfect or that I stop giving reminders, but now there is no question of where and when I need help. It minimizes my nagging and pleading and saves me energy!

So, how do I motivate them without nagging and making an elaborate chore chart?

I assign a tidy time each day. We all pitch in together to put away our own clutter and items that need to return to their point of origin. If we are all working together, there is less complaining and not one person feels like they are the only ones doing the work. I am less exhausted and less annoyed.

I delegate responsibilities, not just tasks. My kids need to learn to be responsible with their belongings. So, I assign each of them their own laundry day. I taught them the steps to loading the washer and dryer. They still need help folding, but they are responsible for putting away their laundry. They pick up the clothes on their floor during tidy time and do their own laundry on their laundry day. This is a huge step toward independence and less for me to tackle.

If you want to know the other steps in my daily declutter plan, sign up for my monthly newsletter! My list of 5 ways to Tackle Home Clutter is my free gift to you, and it arrives in your in box within minutes.  

How do you get your family to pitch in more? I’d love to read in the comments below!

Roxanne Ferber is a twin mom and creator/owner of The Whatever Mom community. As a freelance writer she has contributed to parenting magazines and influencer campaigns. A fan of snarky comedy, she uses humor to share the messier parts of her parenting life and helps other moms embrace the chaos and let go of perfection.

Cooking Basics for Kids with a Fun Recipe Round-up!

Is your kid ready to learn some basic kitchen skills? Cooking with kids can be a little stressful because most often we see the mess we have to clean up. The key here is it will all clean up. Let your kids learn from their messy mistakes and learn how to clean up after their cooking adventures. Afterall, cleaning up after themselves is also a valuable life skill, right?

So here are the basics when cooking with kids:

Chose the right recipe. Select recipes that require skills your kids already have. For example, you might have your 2-year-old help bake cookies, or pretzels because rolling out the dough is easy and fun. But you wouldn’t have them help you make a 4-course dinner with a million steps.

Keep it simple. If your kids are just starting out in the kitchen start out with recipes that require fewer steps to complete. Your kid will stay motivated to learn more. Start with easy snacks to nail down the basics like cutting and planning, then work up to meals that requires bigger skills.

Use the right tools. If you are worried about your kids using knives or any of your kitchen tools, get them a kid version that they can use with easy. I always have plenty of towels and a broom and dustpan on hand to clean up any messes.

Chose the right time. Don’t try to teach your kid some cooking skills while they are hungry and impatient, or during the dinner time rush. You want to select a recipe that will fit into the time you have to get through the recipe without pressure to get it done quickly.

Here are some simple recipes you can help your child make:

Toddlers:

Banana sushi

Soft pretzels

Garlic bread pizza

Older kids (ages 6-10):

Egg salad wraps

Pancakes

Meatballs and sauce.

Tweens: (Age 10+)

Grilled cheese

Homemade mac and cheese

Scrambled egg burritos

What are you cooking with the kids this week? I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments below!

Roxanne is a twin mom and freelance writer. She owns this little piece of the blogosphere where parents are encouraged to let go and embrace the messier parts of parenting, without judgement.

Recipe Round-up: Sheet pan meals!

As much as I love cooking, I don’t love spending hours in the kitchen. I will often prep my meals ahead of time if I can, and pull them out as I need them through the week. But when I am pressed for time, I absolutely love tossing everything on one baking sheet to cook together in the oven. One sheet pan meals make dinner time easier because there is only one pan to clean!

Here are my favorite sheet pan meals to try this week!

Sheet pan fajitas

Mini meatloaf sheet pan meal

Sheet pan BBQ Tofu

Easy sheet pan sausage and veggies

Vegan herbed veggies sheet pan meal

And when I am feeling lazy, I mean “pressed for time” I simply put some frozen veggie burgers and sweet potato fries on one sheet pan and toss in the oven. In less than 30 minutes I have a full dinner made complete with veggies my family will eat.

Do you have a favorite sheet pan meal recipe you love? Please share in the comments below! I’d love to give it a try!

Roxanne is a twin mom and freelance writer. She owns this little piece of the blogosphere where parents are encouraged to let go and embrace the messier parts of parenting, without judgement.

Amazon Bulk Buys – Our Favorite Snacks

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Buying in bulk isn’t always an option since most stores are still limiting the number of items one can purchase at a time. Since we are still avoiding crowded stores and long lines, buying bulk items on Amazon and having them delivered is a time saver. I can stock my cupboards and keep my little eating machines in snacks.

We typically buy the kids snacks in bulk and hide them away then ration them out. Otherwise they will eat everything at once and still claim to be hungry.

Here are some of favorite snacks we buy in bulky proportions:

Seaweed Snacks

Pirates Booty puffed cheddar snacks

Emerald nut variety packs

Go Go Squeeze fruit pouches

Nuts & Protein bars

Sensible portions veggie straws

Kid Cliff Z bar

Natures Bakery fig bars

Off the Eaten Path organic variety snacks

Biena Chickpea Snacks

How are you serving up snacks to your insatiable eating machines? Buying in bulk and preparing a few days worth of health snacks helps keep my family fed.

Roxanne is a twin mom and freelance writer. She owns this little piece of the blogosphere where parents are encouraged to let go and embrace the messier parts of parenting, without judgement.

Recipe Round-up: Gluten Free Crock-pot Meals!

As a busy mom, I rely on my crock-pot to get me through at least one or two dinners each week. When my kids were toddlers and I was cooking two different meals, it was easier to let the crock-pot do the heavy lifting of cooking the main meals. This gave me a little extra time to make the toddler favorites or dress up a side dish we could all eat. Freezer to crock-pot meals became my jam. I love prepping 5 meals at once and tossing into the freezer. I pull one out each night to dump in the crock pot the next day.

I love that there is less clean up and less thinking about what to make each night. 

Finding gluten free meals to enjoy can be a little stressful and time consuming.

Here are five gluten free meals I found to try this week: 

Slow cooker gluten free cocktail meatballs my kids go crazy for these along with maple roasted carrots.

Low carb crock-pot chili

Creamy salsa chicken

Vegetarian portobello crock-pot roast

Slow cookier coconut quinoa curry

That’s five nights of a crock-pot meals done! Which one will you try first?

Roxanne is a twin mom and freelance writer. She owns this little piece of the blogosphere where parents are encouraged to let go and embrace the messier parts of parenting, without judgement.

Spring Cleaning Just in Time for Spring to Arrive

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I know it might sound early for spring cleaning since we are still in winter. But this is the perfect time to start cleaning. I take advantage of being inside more due to the cold weather and start cleaning out closets, dusting ceiling fans and giving the house a deeper clean. Then when the sun pops out and it’s warmer outside, we won’t waste any time inside cleaning.

Most people start with a room-by-room strategy, but I tackle the same hot spots throughout the house. For example, I focus on cleaning all the closets at once instead of the closet in the room I am currently cleaning. Instead of cleaning one ceiling fan, I clean them all the same day. This way I have all donation items take out at the same time, and I have all the dusting finished at once instead of starting that process over again in each room. Does that make sense? It can feel different if you are not used to do it that way.

Here’s how I get it all done:

Closets and dressers are the first place I start so I can eliminate anything we no longer use. Old clothes, tablecloths, sheets, towels, etc. I bag everything up and toss it near the door for one trip to the donation bin. I find the Hefty extra strong black out bags are best for donations.

Bathrooms: I make sure to toss any expired makeup or cleaning supplies and make a checklist of items that need to be replaced. We love Method Bathroom cleaner because it cleans, disinfects and gets rid of bathroom smells.

Kitchen: I pull all the pantry items out at the same time and toss anything that has expired. Then I wipe out each cabinet before I return items. Then I move on to the fridge to toss anything that may be expired and give the fridge a good wipe down with my Norwex Envirocloth. I check each cabinet for any dishes that may need to be tossed or re-organized.

I use a Swiffer extended handle duster to clean each ceiling fan in the house and then I dust the walls from ceiling to floor, including the base boards. Now each room should be cleaned out, organized and free from dust. The only thing left to do is clean the floors.

We have a Dyson Animal vacuum for deep cleaning (that thing is still kicking 14 years later) and a Yeedi robot vacuum for a daily sweep of the main living areas (that little guy is brand new!). This helps keep the pet hair and kid dirt managed.

I leave window washing until the very last because it is my least favorite. However, using my Norwex window cloth has been the easiest and fastest streak free window cleaning system I have found! Since I am the only one in my house to clean the windows, I am a big fan of anything that will get it done quick.

That’s how I spend my February. In upstate NY we can still get a few snowstorms in March, but we can also get a rare week of 80-degrees and sunshine. And those are the days I’ll be ready for because my chores will be done!

Roxanne is a twin mom and freelance writer. She owns this little piece of the blogosphere where parents are encouraged to let go and embrace the messier parts of parenting, without judgement.

Home Organizing Week Product Round-up

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This week we are organizing like crazy. Every year I do the 40 bags in 40-days challenge. That’s where you fill one bag a day for 40 days with things to donate or toss. You would think I’d run out of things to toss, but somehow, we end up with so much stuff!

My kids grow out of things so quickly and honestly, as each year passes, I get comfortable with letting go of more things. We are donating toys my kids have outgrown. We have clothes and housewares that we are no longer into. So, it all gets tossed in a bag and sent on it’s way to a new home. But I want to organize what is left in a way that makes sense.

Here is my organizing plan for this week:

Stackable Lego or toy car storage we have a lot of free build pieces and some display builds. Finding storage for those lose bricks is always a challenge.

Art supplies my kids are super creative so they get a lot of art supplies as gifts. I need to toss anything that is old and unusable and organize what is left.

Shoes I am constantly fighting against a mountain of shoes. It drives me crazy that my children will kick their shoes off their feet and into a pile at the back of the closet. Maybe these will help them take better care of their shoes.

Books we have a ton of books to sort through. It is hard to part with ones we love so much, but I am going to upcycle them to friends and family.

Blankets what is the deal with kids dragging blankets everywhere? It’s like 3 feet to the basket, or even easier just fold it neatly and leave on the back of the couch. Why kids?

Make-up I have tweens who are getting into a skin care routine, so that means we each need our own storage for our respective products.

Spice rack my kitchen cupboard is overrun with random spices I bought for that one time meal or I bought at a home party. I need to toss what is expired and organize what is left.

Drawer organizers I could use these in every single drawer in the house. From our nightstand drawers to the kitchen and even the garage. I love opening a drawer and finding what I need instead of rummaging.

I think that’s enough for this week right? I won’t get to all 40 bags this week, but I am on a mission to get the bulk of this organizing project complete this week. Wish me luck!

What are your organizing tips?

Roxanne is a twin mom and freelance writer. She owns this little piece of the blogosphere where parents are encouraged to let go and embrace the messier parts of parenting, without judgement.

Vegan Recipe Round Up

Post contains affiliate links. I make a commission on purchases at no extra cost to you.

Shop my favorites: Coconut wraps | Vegan mayo | Veggie Burger| Biena crunchy chickpeas | Omega 3 cranberries | Curry | Popcorn kernels | Nut butter | Pumpkin seeds | Quinoa |Quorn Chik’n Nuggets | Seaweed snacks | Vega Protein Powder | Bragg’s Nutritional Yeast (Nooch)| Oreos

It’s your meal plan Monday!

This month I took on the Veganuary challenge and committed to eating vegan for 30 days. Many of you are probably asking WHY!?! Well, I am always on the hunt for healthy options and after cooking nearly every meal for a year straight, I am kind of in a food rut. I enjoy trying new things, I thought this might be an interesting way to explore. I was also curious to see if it impacts any changes in my health.

Thankfully, I truly love my veggies. After two weeks into eating all vegan, I felt great! My energy levels increased and my chronic pain issues decreased. I found some new foods to enjoy and new nutrition combinations. So, this week I am sharing some of the vegan recipes I’ve tried so far and enjoyed.

Breakfast:

Vegan donuts are a new family favorite. This recipe calls for bananas and nut butter and maple syrup instead of processed sugar. A new family favorite!

Quinoa bowls not everyone in my family is a fan of quinoa. But, I love that I can make so many different types of dishes with it. I make up a big batch and leave in the fridge and mix into my veggie bowls or salads.

Smoothie my hands down favorite is a chocolate avocado smoothie. It is filling and chocolatey! I love this recipe but I omit the bananas because my smoothie mixer can’t handle how thick the avocado makes this drink!

Lunch:

Un-chicken salad on a wrap warning, this does not taste anything like chicken. But it is delicious as it’s own recipe. I highly recommend if you are not used to vegan mayo, start off by using your favorite brand. Easy to make ahead for a few lunches through the week.

Hummus wrap hummus is my new favorite go-to condiment for almost everything. I slather it on my wraps, add a dollop on my salad or quinoa bowl and I even top my baked potato with it. Adding it to a veggie wrap adds flavor and protein to your midday meal.

Dinner:

Portobello or veggie burger with sweet potato fries: I’m not going lie, I buy all of these premade from the freezer section to make it an easy night off from cooking. My family will eat this with me, so it’s nice when we are all eating the same meal at once.

Lentil Bolognese over pasta this one was a hit at home. No one noticed the extra veggies. I will say that I’ve also cheated by just warming up meatless crumbles into our favorite sauce and tossing it over pasta to save time.

Chickpea curry over rice this one is loaded with veggies and glorious nutrition. It is also a little more time consuming, so I make it on the weekends when I have more time to devote to cooking.

Snacks:

Popcorn with crunchy chickpeas and pumpkin seeds, cranberries. I just mix all of these together in a bowl and munch on them while I am working.

Apple slices sprinkled with cinnamon and drizzled with nut butter. This is also a new kid favorite. They don’t even complain that it’s healthy.

Orange slices with chocolate hummus is a new go-to sweet snack.

Oreos with almond milk. Yes, it’s true, Oreos are VEGAN!

Tips:

If you are interested in going vegan be sure to research it well to be sure it is a diet you can follow and check with your doctor first.

Plan your meals and snacks ahead because you will be definitely be hungry more often as veggies tend to be less calorie dense.

Try to include healthy fats so your body can feel fuller longer.

Drink a lot of water and herbal teas between meals to keep all that extra fiber moving.

Don’t make it all or nothing to start. You can try one meal or new product a week, then add another and another until you are fully vegan or at a place where you feel comfortable including more plant based meals into your diet.

Also, don’t hate me. But there is no good vegan cheese substitute. There. I said it! I do add nutritional yeast in place of grated cheese for a mild cheese flavor. But, I have yet to find anything that has the same taste or texture equivalent. If you’ve found one you love, tell me in the comments below!

Roxanne Ferber is a twin mom and freelance writer. The Whatever Mom blog is here to help other moms accept the messier parts of parenting and find solutions.

How to Plan a Virtual Birthday Party this Winter

Planning a birthday party for your winter baby is hard enough when there isn’t a worldwide pandemic. But now with social distancing a must and sometimes mask wearing is mandated, it’s even harder to plan a party in the same way we did only a year ago.

My twins celebrated a double-digit birthday back in November and we made the choice to host a very small, all-masked, back yard party. The girls could invite just one friend each to make s’mores in our back yard. All kids and parents wore a mask, and all our snacks and beverages were prepackaged or prepared with gloves. It was different, but everyone was so happy to spend time together that the extra safety protocols didn’t even feel inconvenient.

Now that we are in the dead of winter in the North East with plummeting temperatures and most indoor places closed off for gatherings, birthday party ideas are running short. That’s why I created a virtual party planner to help you get creative and keep the details organized.

RELATED READ: How to Host a Socially Distant Party with Friends

As a mom, I am always looking for easy solutions to the most common problems we all face and right now, we are all facing some tough choices for the safety of our kids. Indoor gatherings are not advised, and not everyone is feeling comfortable having people in their home. Last year drive-by birthday parades were a hit, this year virtual parties are taking over. But, creating a party through a screen is all new. If 2020 taught me anything, it is to embrace what we’ve got to work with. I hope this helps other moms embrace fun in a new way and makes kids feel celebrated!

I asked other moms to test this planner before I share it and one mom said, “I used this for their “virtual party” on Friday. And honestly it gave me ideas I didn’t even think of. I was able to organize who I wanted to join, sent out links and plan games (I didn’t even know this was a thing)! Your planner helped me get everything together and I really appreciate it. The kids had a great time!”

This planner is free when you sign up for my e-newsletter (which only arrives once a month). I send out mom hacks and simple solutions to the most common struggles like picky eating, self-care, meal planning and more. As a thank you for signing up to follow along, I will email you this easy-to-use party planner right away!

Grab your copy here! —-> here <—-

Roxanne Ferber is a twin mom, writer and blog owner. She is helping other moms feel less alone and creating the community support she wants as a mom.

2020 Was the Worst, but We Can Still Carry Light Into the New Year

Sparkler, Holding, Hands, Firework, Sparkles, Fire

It’s the last day of 2020 and everyone is ready for this year to be over. While I am one to lean into optimism for a happier new year, I am also realistic enough to understand the flip of a calendar isn’t going to change the circumstances we carry into 2021.

This year has been a solid suck fest, one thing after another to worry about, leave behind or pivot away from. It has been mentally exhausting and at times draining just working with our new restrictions for shopping, vacationing, and finding activities that do not involve being near other people. My kids have attended remote school for almost a year and their mental health has incrementally declined since the beginning of our “quarantine life.” But overall, we have persevered. I feel like I had just enough positivity in me to get through the spring and summer months. It was easier when we could still get outside and do things we enjoyed, but with winter here, I can feel it faltering.

I know it’s hard to think of anything positive from this last year, but everything exists in opposites. So, we can’t have good without evil, or evil without the good. Looking back over 2020, I can see the darkness and the sadness, but I can also see the love and kindness that came out of this “unprecedented” year.

The nurses, doctors, EMS, EMTs, and ER staff working the front lines caring for us jumped in with sleeves rolled up and ready to love complete strangers through their most difficult days. Nurses held up iPads for families to say goodbye and wept right alongside of them while they died. Nursing home staff gave married couples dying from COVID the dignity and compassion to spend their final days side by side. Love was found in the strangers who sent pizzas, meals, coffee, cards, and gifts to those on the front lines.

Kindess was found in the landlords that gave rent relief to those who lost their jobs.

Love was found in the teachers who scurried to create virtual classrooms so they can stay connected to their students, not just dole out a lesson plan. Love was found in the cafeteria workers who put together meals for kids who eat most of their meals at school. Love was found in the school nurse who prepared to return in a gown and plastic face shield to keep their students safe.

Love was found in firefighters and police officers offering birthday parades to kids during quarantine because traditional birthday parties were not allowed.

Kindness was found in neighbors feeding neighbors. Neighbors watching over each other and delivering goods to those who weren’t feeling safe going into a store.

Kindness was found in those who donated blood for those in need.

Love was found in those who continued to volunteer to feed, clothe and help their communities most vulnerable populations.

I’ll bet if you look around your own community and neighborhood, you will find places love and kindness suddenly showed up. Maybe in places it didn’t exist before. Maybe you were on the receiving end of someone who helped you that you didn’t expect or count on before. I am still blown away by kind friends who drop deliveries at my doorstep, left crafts for my kids, sent packages to brighten our days and listened to me when I was most frustrated by so many changes happening at once.

In my broader community, people are filling refrigerators outside their doorstep for anyone in need to shop from. Families are sending cards and happy mail to our local nursing homes, so no one feels alone. Our local restaurants are partnering to create feeding programs to serve those in need and finding creative ways to keep their own doors open. Churches are keeping their feeding programs open. Warming centers are quickly evolving to meet safety protocols, families are adopting other families Christmas wish lists. Some of my friends are donating their time to serve community meals. This is love in action. If I stop and think back on this year, I can find several ways love and kindness still pulled through.

I am in no way thankful for COVID and things like “quarantine” and “cohorts,” but if I dig deep enough through the craziest parts of this year, I can still find a lot of love and gratitude to take with me into the new year. This won’t solve our current crisis and is in no way meant to gloss over the deep wounds many of us still feel from the year, but reminding ourselves of the good gives us hope that there is still goodness left to come, even if we must actively look for it.

One of the things that has helped me through the sadness of missing out on our usual things and the feeling of time standing still, is taking pictures of us trying new things together. Every time we hiked a new trail or found a new place to play, I took a bunch of photos. On the days I am feeling sad about missing out on our vacation or our life pre COVID, I scroll through those bright photos and remember we can still find happiness.

What is one bright spot you had during 2020?

Roxanne Ferber is a twin mom, writer and owner of this blog. Thank you for reading along and for being a part of this supportive motherhood community. Follow along on Facebook or Instagram.

To the Moms Living with Depression at Christmas

To the moms living with depression at Christmas, I see you. Maybe you’re grieving right now. Maybe you just aren’t feeling like yourself this year, or maybe you’ve had depression for as long as you can remember. Either way, I see you. I know what it feels like to grieve and feel depressed through the Christmas season.

I’ve had many, many horrible loses right around Christmas. We discovered my niece had cancer right around Christmas. I had one last Christmas with my dad two months before he died. I lost our first child just before Christmas. There was the year my brother-in-law was stationed in Iraq, and years later, I spent two consecutive Christmases decorating a hospital room and holding hands with my nephew praying through his mysterious illness that he was going to be OK. (Thankfully, he was).

Too often we believe we can’t feel anything other than joy and happiness through the Christmas season. As if our only job is to exude happiness through our fingertips and make magic for those around us. If you are a mom, you are the keeper of the magic and everyone looks to you for the fun, the joy, the perfect hot coca after the snow, the fresh new jammies on Christmas morning. Without those things it wouldn’t feel like Christmas to them. But to you, it all feels like work and exhaustion.

Full disclosure: I am not clinically depressed, but I have lived with depression during the holidays and I feel like I can closely relate. The year I lost our baby, was the absolute worst. I stuffed that depression down so deep that when it finally hit, I couldn’t get out of bed. I went to work in a fog and came home to get into my bed and stayed there all night. Life was a hazy blur as I raced through the motions so the day would just be over. One night my husband returned home from work to find me in my pajamas cooking dinner and asked, “are you finally getting out of bed now?” and I was so angry, I threw a raw chicken at him. That’s when I knew it was time to face the grief I felt and maybe learn to express it in more productive ways. (For the record, we laugh at that night now, 13 years later).

The brain fog and mental fatigue alone make it hard to really connect to anything else around you, including the sparkly lights and the kid’s enjoyment while baking cookies together. It all feels like too much and not enough all at the same time. And then we pile on the guilt for not enjoying it and not giving enough to our kids. (Believe me, you are enough).

There is so much pressure to make things perfect the entire month of December. But I want to normalize that it’s OK to have other feelings that aren’t festive or Merry. It is possible to feel pain in your heart and carry sadness around with you. It’s also OK to talk about those feelings. People will seem dismissive with their trite, “look on the bright side” “well at least you have other kids” or “it’s Christmas, everything is happy at Christmas.” Those are the words of someone who doesn’t know how to help. They may be afraid of your pain. They may be afraid of saying the wrong thing. Or they may be clueless what it feels like to be missing pieces of themselves. Running into those phrases can make someone with depression want to retreat and never mention it again, or feel ashamed of not being as happy as everyone else. But talking about it with someone who can relate, or has felt grief, is the best way to get through this. We can feel like talking about our sadness will make other people sad, but it won’t. Holding it in and denying that it exists makes it harder for other feelings to get in, including joy and happiness.

I see how hard you are working to keep it all bottled up inside like nothing is wrong, but believe me, you need to find your safe space before you find yourself hurling poultry during an out of body experience. Talking about your pain, your sadness, and the loved ones you miss should be completely acceptable even at Christmas.

This year the pandemic restrictions that keep us from being with people and parties that make us feel less alone, also makes it harder to reach out or use our regular coping mechanisms. It is elevating the level of pain we can normally feel in control of. I too am feeling the grief more deeply than in the past.

The other day, I was simply preparing our tree for decorating and listening to Christmas carols. I love caroling. In fact, for several years my friend coordinated a caroling event at a local nursing home and I looked forward to that tradition every year. As I was belting out “The First Noelle,” I suddenly burst in to tears when I realized that tradition is gone and so is my friend. She died almost two years ago. All I could remember was the last Christmas we caroled together. And as I began grieving for her, it opened the flood gates for all the grief I normally feel at Christmas, but keep myself too busy to feel. Crying did feel better. But talking to a friend who understands grief and heartache made it easier for me to process and make room for feelings of gratitude. Just knowing I wasn’t alone in feeling this way and hearing kind words, “I know how you feel” “I know this is so hard” “I am sending you hugs” felt like band aids to my broken heart. My friend’s compassion and understanding were the healing salve I needed to carry on. My grief will continue no matter what, but knowing I could express it without judgement makes it easier to cope with it.

I don’t need to be you or have suffered the same exact losses to know that grief any time of year is hard, but during the holidays when everyone else is stacking their happiness in colorful packages, depression can feel out of place. And I also know that grief and sadness, depression and loss can co-exist alongside feelings of joy. I hope you will reach out to those around you who can share in this with you. If you don’t have that kind of support in your home, I hope you can find it in a support group or a therapist’s office. More than anything, I hope you know you’re allowed to have more than one feeling during the holidays.

Roxanne Ferber is a twin mom, writer and owner of The Whatever Mom blog. You can find more of her messy motherhood stories on Facebook.

12 Movie Date Nights of Christmas

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It’s Christmas, during a pandemic, and getting a baby sitter is not as easy as it was during Christmases of yore. So, on the first day of Christmas, I’m giving my true love a list of movie date nights to choose from. We can’t get reservations at a local restaurant either, so I created a list of cocktails we can make at home to sip along with some take out appetizers. Everything we need can be picked up curbside at a safe distance.

If you do not drink alcohol, mocktails are equally fun and festive. If you prefer to you can choose a main dish from a movie to recreate and eat while watching along. The key is to just make the most of the evening while the kids are either in bed, or in their own rooms.

RELATED READING: 10 Date Night Ideas for Couples Without a Babysitter

12 Movies + 12 Cocktails = 12 Date Nights of Christmas

It’s a Wonderful Life – our favorite classic movie to kick off the season with. You have to sip your way through this holiday tear jerker with a simple Bailey’s on the rocks, or shake it with cream and serve in a chilled martini glass.

Home Alone – one of my personal favorites! I have to go with a chocolate martini here in honor of the giant sundae Kevin eats while no one is watching. Toss in some mini marshmallows and a sprinkle of crushed candy canes.

Home Alone 2 – normally I am not a fan of sequels, but this one was as good as the first movie. It is a must see in our house! Since Kevin is lost in Manhattan, you’re going to need a Manhattan cocktail to go along with this movie.

A Christmas Story – another classic we watch year after year. A simple red wine goes along with this movie. It’s the drink the mom and dad share while taking in the splendor of their Christmas night in front of the tree.

Scrooged – This is my husbands favorite and one I was reluctant to watch. I just didn’t think it looked very Christmasy. Now it’s on our annual watch list! In this movie Bill Murray’s character repeatedly requests a Tab and Vodka. I’ve never had that one, but willing to give it a try. (p.s. Tab was discontinued in October this year, but you can use a cola drink instead).

Elf – This is a quirky little mish mosh of a Christmas movie, but in honor of Buddy’s search for the Worlds Best Coffee, I’d fix up an Espresso Martini.

Christmas Vacation – we usually watch this while finishing up our gift wrapping. It’s just tradition! You can’t go wrong with a simple Rum and Nog (eggnog). Any store bout eggnog will do!

Die Hard – I confess, I’ve never watched this movie. My husband (and several friends) swear it is a traditional Christmas movie. I agreed this year to watch it. We have not tried this movie + cocktail combination yet, but I found the Nakatomi Plaza Bomb.

Miracle on 34th Street – No matter how old you are, this movie is still pretty magical. We paired this with a Winter White Cosmopolitan Martini.

The Grinch Who Stole Christmas – there are so many versions of this movie made, just pick the one you love most! I found this simple Grinch Martini to try!

The Santa Clause – another one of my favorites from childhood! I paired this with a Sugar Cookie Martini. (You could reuse some of the Bailey’s from a previous movie night if you haven’t drank it all yet).

Deck the Halls – this back and forth competition of bright lights is too hilarious to forget about. Nothing says Christmas like dueling neighborhood light shows! A boozy Hot Chocolate will keep you lit through the chilly adventure.

If you choose to make the cocktails portion of these themed date nights, please drink responsibly, and pace yourself! If you can’t handle one cocktail a night then don’t! Just pick one or two nights of fun as you count down to Christmas!

Roxanne Ferber is a twin mom, writer/blogger just trying her best to survive parenthood. You can follow along with her less than perfect adventures at The Whatever Mom.

My Winter Wellness Guide

Happy Light | Nature’s Bounty Vitamin D3 | Nordic Naturals Omega 3 Fish Oil | Sketchers Ultra Groove Sneakers | Lady Bird Deluxe 2021 Planner | Stash Organic Tea

It is no secret that I need the sun to feel my healthy best. Living in the North East where we have dark, cloudy winters, getting enough sunshine is a challenge for me.

I have never been diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), but I can tell you my mood changes through the winter. I am less patient, I feel more stressed and less motivated. Over the years I have developed a winter wellness routine that helps me get through the dark days of winter.

I use the Happy Light from Verilux – this little light creates the same feeling of being in the sun. I use it in the mornings during my treadmill walks. During the winter, the morning is too dark and cold for me to walk outside, so I bring the outside in. I set my light up near my treadmill and walk for 30 minutes.

I take my supplements. I normally run deficient in vitamin D3 (known as the sunshine vitamin) and have for many, many years. I supplement all year, but in the winter I change the dose according to my doctors recommendation. Omega 3 fish oil also help increase a positive mood. Always check with your own doctor if these supplements are safe for you to take.

I get outside when I can. If the sun is out, I am out too. I grab my Sketchers and head out the door for a quick walk around the block. I turn on the tunes and soak in the light and get those endorphins pumping.

I ditch my late night to-do list. I am a natural born night owl and often stay up way to late to get things done. But that always leaves me with a grumpy attitude and a hangover effect. You know when your head is too foggy and you just want to crawl back to bed? I make myself go to bed at the same time as my kids (around 9:30 or 10). I read a little, or write out my to-do list in my planner for the next day instead of trying to get it all done right now.

I drink tea – a lot of tea. I’m not giving up coffee any time soon, but I love a good cup of hot tea in the middle of a cold day. I try to be mindful of stopping what I am doing and grabbing some tea while I phone a friend, or call home to chat with my mom. It’s like a little happy hour routine in my day that keeps me connected.

I take time to center my thoughts. I am a mom, writer, homeowner, wife and dog mom. I have a lot of things to do in a day and my brain often feels like someone dumped a big old box of ping pong balls and they are all bouncing out of control. I take 5-10 minutes each morning to meditate, or simply stand at my open back door and listen to the birds and take three deep breaths.

I may not get to do these things all in one day, but I strive to work them into my daily routine. Each little action creates a bigger impact on my mood and how I am feeling as a mom.

Do you have a winter wellness routine? I’d love to hear more about how you make time to take care of yourself.

Roxanne Ferber is a twin mom, writer and owner of The Whatever Mom blog. She spends most of her time learning to let go of perfection and sharing her messier parent moments with other moms. You can follow her Facebook page to see the messiness unfold.

Join Me for a virtual International Family Summit

Post contains affiliate links. I make a small commission for purchases at no cost to you.

I am excited to share that my friend Dr. Orlena has invited me to be a guest speaker in her Fit and Fabulous Family International Summit! It’s a virtual 3 day summit just for parents!

Dr Orlena has invited 17 amazing speakers, all of whom are parents, so they know your struggles! Each of the speakers will talk about a different aspect of health and wellness. For example, I’m talking about how to create easy selfcare routines for overall wellness.

Dr Orlena’s Fit and Fabulous philosophy focuses on 4 pillars of healthy living.

1. What we eat.

2. Exercise

3. Sleep 

4. Emotional wellness (how we reduce stress and create a loving atmosphere in our homes.)

Because we are all busy parents, just like you, each video is 15 minutes or less to maximize your time, and covers different aspects of all 4 pillars.

Why Attend?

Do you worry about your family’s health and wellness?

Do you want a long healthy life for you and your kids, but life seems to get in the way of your goals?

The goal of this summit is to show you how to create healthy living habits, so you and your family can feel fit and fabulous! We’ll show you how to make it easy and fun!

The event is entirely FREE for 3 whole days from Friday December 4th to Sunday Dec 6th.

You can find out more here.

Life Time Ticket Option

If you’d like to have lasting access to the videos, Dr. Orlena has created a lifetime ticket, so you can watch the videos whenever you want. This makes it so much easier for busy moms!

The lifetime ticket also includes other fabulous products that have been donated by contributors.

Until Tuesday 8th Dec the lifetime ticket will be just $47.

On Tuesday 8th Dec the lifetime ticket goes up to $97.

Want to win some prizes?

Simply click to share this link on your Facebook page and tag Dr. Orlena to enter.

See you at the summit!

Roxanne Ferber is a twin mom, writer and owner of this blogspace. She spends a lot of time trying to find balance and teaching other moms that it is OK to embrace the messier parts of parenting! Follow her on Facebook for her less than perfect posts.

Why I Like to Spend Time Alone

I took a walk all by myself today, literally over the river and through woods. It was glorious!

I rarely get time to myself, but this week my husband is on vacation. It means I am on vacation too.   I know, I know “but he works!” Well, so do I. I work from home as a freelance writer while making sandwiches and packing two kids for a day at the beach. He works only one job at a time, albeit stressful he isn’t managing meltdowns while trying to look professional to a client. We both deserve a break. But while he is working 70 hours a week, I am covering all the childcare needs while simultaneously running a business. I’m not kidding when I say, if I go down no one knows how to the food gets in the house or when the toilets get cleaned. It’s all courtesy of moi!

I walked 1.28 miles one way without pushing a stroller or with any kids hanging on me!

Today, I chose to visit one of my favorite walking trails because it is quiet and has such beautiful views of the Hudson River. I’ve only ever walked this trail with my kids, so it felt strange not pushing a stroller or pulling a heavy wagon full of screaming kids. I made pretty good time walking nearly three miles. I had my favorite music pushing me on and no one to talk too. The silence was golden.  

No answering questions about sea creatures.

No organizing lunches.

No packing up a swim bag.

No blowing up pool toys.

No slathering sunscreen and carrying an armful of towels to the pool.

It was a glorious start to my vacation!

This is the first break for myself I’ve had all summer. My kids and I have been tethered since their last day of school. It’s OK, I love them. But as a work from home/stay at home mom the daily tasks of motherhood can become the weekly grind. It’s almost cliché to call my job as a mom exhausting. Everyone knows how tired we are because we can’t stop telling everyone we are tired.

View from 212 feet in the air walking over a converted train bridge.

Taking a walk while you’re that kind of exhausted sounds counter-intuitive, but it’s exactly what I needed! To roam freely, unattached to a to-do list, or locked into mealtime demands. Listening to my own thoughts without interruptions helps me declutter things that are bugging me. Do I really need to hold on to that friend if she clearly let me go? How about cleaning out some of this guilt about letting my kids eat so many hot dogs? Being alone allows me to regroup a little and feel lighter. It’s like therapy.

Are you someone that likes to be alone in your head? Or do you enjoy escaping from the mom demands with friends? Leave me a comment below, or feel free to join the conversation on Facebook! ????

Roxanne Ferber is a freelance writer and owner of The Whatever Mom blog. Nearly nine years on the coffee wagon and she still doesn’t have enough energy to keep up with her twins. But she is a survivor and she’s gonna make it; even if she has to white knuckle it through each day until her kids graduate. Follow her on FacebookTwitter or Insta.

Supporting Small Business this Christmas with an Exclusive Reader Discount

Not affiliated or compensated for this post. Just sharing a discount with my readers!

Christmas 2020 is going to look very different. It is easier to shop the big box stores for the things my kids love, but when it comes to gifts for the grown ups in my life I strive to shop as many local businesses as possible. This year has hit small businesses pretty hard, so giving them our support now will help keep them going all winter long.

What I love most about small businesses, or mom run businesses is that I get to know the people behind the products and I know that my dollars are going to help support a family vs. a big CEO buy another yacht.

Today, I’d like to introduce one of my favorite Etsy creators and personal friend, Shelly Kelly. She handmakes beautiful jewelry and crocheted items under the name MamaMoonLocks. You can get an exclusive 20% reader discount using the code WHATEVERMOM20.

Here are some samples of her beautiful handmade goods. Click on the image to see the listing and enter your discount code at check out.

Vegan Faux Leather Teardrop Lotus Earrings image 0
Vegan Leather Lotus Earrings
Turquoise and Blue Stone Pendant Nacklace image 0
Turquoise and Blue Stone Pendant
100% Wool Yoga Socks image 0
100% Wool Yoga Socks
Gold and beige Vegan faux Leather stacked Earrings image 0
Gold and Beige Vegan Leather Earrings

These are all items on my personal wish list! Everything is made with an eye on sustainability, durability and functionality. You will love everything you find in her Etsy shop!

Roxanne Ferber is a twin mom looking to ditch perfection and just do whatever saves her the most sanity each day. You can follow along with her on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.

Thanksgiving Leftovers Recipe Round Up

This recipe round up is just in time for our meal planning Monday!

We all know leftovers are the best part of our Thanksgiving dinner! Nothing compares to the ultimate turkey sandwich the very next day, or even as a midnight snack (no judgement). But, with a little creativity you can fix up something delicious and new!

I polled the moms in my Circle of Moms for their favorite leftover recipes and then I scoured Pinterest for easy recipes that do not require more than what you might already have on hand. Enjoy!

Thanksgiving Egg Rolls | Thanksgiving Crescent Ring | Easy Turkey Salad Wrap| Thanksgiving Pizza | Turkey Stuffing Dumpling Soup | Cranberry Turkey Quesadilla | Turkey Cranberry Sliders | Stuffin Muffins

Click the pin below to go directly to my Thanksgiving Leftovers board on Pinterest.

Which one are you making first? Classic sandwich, or the egg rolls?

Roxanne Ferber is a twin mom, freelance writer and owner of The Whatever Mom blog. She shares her solutions to letting go of perfection and embracing the messier parts of parenting so other moms don’t feel alone.

Gift Guide for Star Wars Lovers & Gamers

The Child Animated Character | The Light Saber Collection | 3D Illusion Star Wars Night Light | The Child Plush | LEGO Advent Calendar | 5 pc. Bamboo Kitchen Utensil Set | R2D2 Popcorn Maker | Millennium Falcon Waffle Maker

*This post contains affiliate links where I make a small commission on qualified purchases at no cost to you. For full disclosure, read here.

Headstand with USB Charger | Blue Light Blocking Glasses | Throw Throw Burrito Board Game | Pokemon Battle Academy | I Paused My Game Hoodie | Fisher-Price Laugh and Learn Controller

Got a Star Wars fan or a game enthusiast living in your house? I have both! We love family game nights and curling up to watch a Star Wars movie. Here are some great gift ideas for every age and stage of fandom. Some of these gift ideas may have come straight from my family’s wish list.

Roxanne Ferber is a twin mom, writer and owner of The Whatever Mom. Her family is totally into Star Wars for the special effects and laser beams.

Perfection Is Not a Place To Live

The other morning was really rough. My kids didn’t want to get out of bed and I was getting really impatient. I may have blown my top once or twice and barked some commands. Of course I always feel like a jerk after. In my defense motivating my one daughter out of bed in the morning can take up most of our morning routine. When she wakes up in a grumpy mood it makes the morning even harder.

What made this particular morning so rough was during our heated exchange she shouted back at me, “you just want everything to be perfect!” It literally caught me off guard. My kids can tell me they hate me and it rolls right off my back, but this hurt. I think it hurt because I work really hard to let go of expecting things to be perfect or pushing things to be perfect. I mean I only write a blog about letting go of perfection, so I MUST be an expert already right?

But she is right. Old habits die hard. I can’t escape how I am hard wired to be any more than she can escape her hatred of mornings. We have several home projects that need to be finished before winter; I have a house to manage and a few blogs to write each week, plus all that pesky meal planning and laundry to do. I try to stick to segmenting my time for each thing I need to manage. As a result I can seem a bit like a drill sergeant because I EXPECT this will get done in the exact amount of time I have allotted for it. That would be a symptom of perfection by the way.

If only life were that neat and tidy.

Last night I decided to loosen the reins a bit with our evening routine. I am also exhausted from the constant running around and finishing things, so I called it a make your own sandwich night for dinner, which seemed to make everyone happy. I know I was happy to not spend my time cooking something no one would eat! Then we put on some tunes and chatted through dinner.

After dinner my husband agreed to make the lunches while I sat down to play a board game with the kids. I am always rushing to make lunches and getting two kids showered – usually at the same time. So getting to take a break from that was simply amazing. My girls and I spent 30 minutes rolling in laughter because we just caught a case of the sillies. And it was exactly what we needed. You can’t script those moments and when my kids look back on their childhood they will remember it wasn’t perfect, but it did have perfect moments like this.

The night time routine was a little easier, no one kept fighting for more attention and both kids drifted off to sleep easier. Best of all there was zero yelling in the morning before school. It seems unplugging from the race to keep everything in order and on time was exactly what I needed to do. I can’t say I won’t get caught up in it again, because I am hard wired with a drive for perfection. But maybe now I can recognize it sooner and let go of it much quicker. That’s always my goal anyway.

It’s funny how when I think I’ve got this perfection thing licked, or under control, my kid will make sure to remind me that I’ve gone off the rails. Thanks for keeping me on track kid, and thanks for helping mommy grow!

The Whatever Mom is a twin mom learning to let go of perfection. She shares her real life struggles with parenting through her blog. When she isn’t writing you can find her chugging coffee, folding laundry and not judging other parents.  

11 Secret Sister Gifts $10 or Less

  • This post contains affiliate links where I make a small commission on qualified purchases at no cost to you. For full disclosure, read here.

A few years ago, a friend invited me to participate in a secret sister gift exchange. That’s where you sign up to send one gift to one other woman and you are supposed to receive 36 in return. Almost everyone worried it was a scam and backed out, but before that I received a couple of great gifts, not the intended 36 that the gift exchange boasts. Which if you do the math, it does not equal 36 gifts. But it is fun to send off (and receive) some good cheer!

This year I have been invited to at least a dozen of these secret sister gift exchanges. No one is worried it’s a scam anymore and it is pretty safe to do among friends and friends of friends on Facebook.

So, if you are wondering what to include in your gifting, I created list of affordable gift ideas for $10 or less. You can ship directly to your secret sister today!

100 Inspirational quote Cards | A fun wine glass | Bath bombs or shower soothers | Cozy Christmas socks | Christmas ornament | Holiday kitchen towels | Hand sanitizer | Stationary with a really nice pen | Amazon gift card | Warm gloves | Gratitude Sticky Notes

These are all easy, allergy friendly ideas. You won’t have to worry about personal diets, food sensitivities, alcohol/coffee preferences. They are super cute and easy to pair with other embellishments. The best part of this gift exchange is how much fun it is! So, keep spreading the joy!

Roxanne Ferber is a twin mom, writer and owner of the The Whatever Mom. Her mission is to help other parents let go of perfection and embrace the messier parts of parenting.

Picky Eater Solutions: How to Minimize the Fight

Many of you know by now, I have two very picky eaters. There was a day I could feed them anything without a problem. Suddenly, they decided food wasn’t exciting anymore. They began limiting themselves to the familiar favorites of macaroni and cheese and chicken nuggets.

Before kids, I was not a meal planner nor spent hours prepping ahead. I love the joy of cooking and spontaneously creating a meal from ingredients I’ve tossed together. I love sampling the food combos I’ve dreamed up. Unless it is made entirely of cheese, my kids could care less about my craftiness in the kitchen. So, over the years I’ve learned to push passed my frustration with their picky habits. I’ve realized the main focus is getting food into the belly. Not just any food, but nutritious food. So, how do I get nutritious food into such picky eaters? Here are some lessons I’ve learned over the years.

1. PICK YOUR BATTLES: If you are tired of missing out on meals because your entire time is spent fighting a kid to eat, let it go. If that means prepping a smaller side dish that your kid will eat, then do it if it works for you. To me that is easier than missing my own meal to focus on a battle I am not going to win. I let my kids eat boxed mac and cheese and stir in a couple spoonful’s of squash or cauliflower puree. It makes them happy to eat what they love and it makes me happy they are getting extra nutrition.

I like this hidden veggie mac and cheese recipe from My Fussy Eater.

2. FOCUS ON NUTRITION: Often as parents we get caught up in subscribing to the clean plate club. But this doesn’t help kids understand their hunger cues. Portion sizes vary widely for kids, some enjoy larger portions than others. I try to make sure what I am serving is so packed with nutrition that even if they take two bites, it counts for something. I have become the queen of concealing veggies in my kids’ favorite foods.

My picky eaters don’t even notice the spinach in these Secret Ingredient Pistachio Muffins from Making Thyme for Health.

3. GET THEM INVOVLED WITH FOOD: My kids may turn their noses up to sitting at a table with a full meal before them, but they will nibble all day long on familiar favorites. I encourage them to make their own foods by putting out a sandwich bar or a “picky” tray filled with proteins and nourishment like cold cuts, devilled eggs, hummus and veggies, fruit and dip, etc. It makes things easier for me and we all win when our bellies are full.

Related post: Moms to Kids Everywhere, Make Your Own Damned Sandwiches

4. CHANGE THE WAY YOU CELEBRATE WITH FOOD: Before kids, the only meal planning I did was around the holidays. I created a menu combining my and my husbands favorites from childhood. All I had to do was pull out the recipes and go shopping. But my kids really aren’t into stuffing and Ambrosia Salad. If your kid isn’t into your favorite holiday meals, move your celebration to the meal they love the most. Make a special breakfast, or lunch and enjoy a less stressful experience. You can still enjoy the traditional foods you love at dinner and let them eat smaller portions or something they will stay at the table for. Memories of being at the table together without a war will mean more to them in the future than whether or not they finished the dreaded peas.

We make this Dublin Coddle for St. Patrick’s Day from Fit Slow Cooker Queen. My kids just pick out the parts they will eat.

5. USE COMPASSION: Some kids have anxiety around food, or sensory disorders, they will stick to the foods they know are familiar. Ultimately, it was this discovery in my own kids that made it easier to accept there are times I need to make two different dinners. The old school technique of forcing kids to eat, DOES NOT work for kids with anxiety, or sensory issues. It only forces them to become more rigid with their choices. It can really do more harm than good.

Learn More at Anxious Toddler.

Do you have a picky eater? How do you plan for meals?

The Coffee Cleanse I’d Rather Forget

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Let me tell you about that time I tried to replace my morning coffee with a hot lemon water cleanse. Not only did it make me dizzy and exhausted, but I literally forgot I have children. (Disclaimer: No children were harmed during this cleansing process).

Several weeks ago, I was feeling tired and run down and I thought my coffee addiction might be the culprit of my insomnia. I read article after article with cures and tinctures when I landed on an article written by an “expert,” that suggested coffee was messing with my blood sugar and cortisol levels (that’s a stress hormone). This expert also suggested removing coffee and replacing it with hot lemon water every morning for “increased energy and vitality.”  

It was all lies.

The first day I was tired, but I made it through my day convinced this little coffee detox might just work.

The second day, I was so tired I fell asleep around 1:00 o’clock in the afternoon. I woke up two hours later completely unaware that I had dozed off.

The third day, I was yawning so much, tears were streaming down my face. It looked like I was crying for help and I could barely keep my head up. I finally took a nap.

The fourth day, I was driving along minding my own business and enjoying some tunes when I heard my kid from the backseat yell out how much she LOVES this song! I freaked out! I completely forgot I had a child in the car with me. I forgot I was the parent on duty! That’s how foggy my brain had become after just 4 days without coffee!

The fifth day, I gave up. I brewed a pot of coffee first thing in the morning and drank it fat. My energy returned and the brain fog lifted. I could remember words and I knew where my kids were the whole day.

Click photo to be redirected to Reverie Coffee

I had no idea how much my brain function depends on caffeine.  My morning coffee is literally the fluid holding my mind and body connection together. A mom who runs on coffee. Shocking right? I was supposed to replace my morning coffee with hot lemon water for 14 days. I bailed on day 5 and I jumped back on the coffee wagon.

Right when I jumped back on that wagon, I discovered a small coffee roasting company and sampled some of their flavored coffees. I tried three flavors, Dark Chocolate Cherry, French Toast and Maple Bacon. MAPLE. BACON. (Do I even need to tell you how good this is?). You could say, this is the coffee that saved me.

Maple Bacon colab w/ Soukup Farms

I have tried A LOT of fancy syrups and creamers in my coffee, but I am always disappointed because I end up with a chemical after taste, or a bad reaction to the amount of sugar or additives. All three of these delicious flavors are gluten and dairy free, vegan and no sugar added, yet very flavorful. Even my 9-year-old was sipping off my morning brew and telling me how good it is.

After poking around the website, I find that Reverie Coffee is a woman owned business, the coffee is roasted in small batches and they partner with local charities each moth to give back. It is 100% arabica beans that are sustainably grown. It checks off the boxes that make me feel better about a product. And did I mention it tastes really good?

In fact, I love it so much I asked for a reader discount for all of you to give it a try! Go to Take Me to Reverie fill your cart and use code WHATEVERMOM for 20% off your order! If you love the coffee you ordered, there is a subscription service available. That means the magic beans just show up at your door without you having to remember to order them!

If you love (and depend on) coffee as much as I do, you are going to LOVE Reverie coffee!

Roxanne Ferber is a twin mom, freelance writer and certified coffee addict. She will stop at nothing to find the perfect soothing cup of coffee to start her morning.

Tips for a Sensory Friendly Halloween

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Halloween can be overwhelming to anyone with sensory processing disorder (SPD). If you haven’t heard of this particular disorder before, you are not alone. Most people do not know what it is until their own child is diagnosed. The difficulty is that even with a diagnosis, you as a parent may struggle to understand your child’s sensory triggers.

According to the website Understood.org, children with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) “may be oversensitive or undersensitive to the world around them. When the brain receives information, it gives meaning to even the smallest bits of information. Keeping all that information organized and responding appropriately is challenging for them.”

Some kids never notice the feeling of a tag inside their shirt, or the seam inside their socks. But there are kids who are so distracted by this sensation that they can cry or scream, or even become aggressive. One in twenty children live with some varying degree of sensory processing disorder. Navigating daily life can be a struggle, let alone while wearing an itchy costume in a crowded, loud setting.

After speaking with other moms whose kiddos have SPD, I can share some really great tips. The most important thing is, do not force your child beyond their limits. Halloween activities are for their enjoyment and it is OK to let them enjoy activities in their own way. If your child can only handle wearing a small piece of their costume, or no costume at all, let that be enough.

PRO MOM TIPS

  • Select a costume that is mask free, or does not require face paint.
  • Let your kids use their own familiar clothing as part of their costume to help them enjoy dressing up.
  • For kids with auditory sensory issues, using noise cancelling headphones works great.
  • For kids who are sensitive to bright lights, start your trick or treat night as early as possible and take advantage of the day light.
  • If your child tires easily map out a short route, or bring along a wagon to let them take a break. And again, it’s OK if you cut your time short and head back home early.
  • Skip the costumes and make your kiddo feel included with fun family coordinated themed set of t-shirts. Use a small, personalization business like Mom Squad Creations to print up your matching shirts and you’ll be ready to head out together.

PRO TIPS

  • Avoid a meltdown by keeping your child informed of timing of events.
  • Host a small gathering in your home for your child’s comfort.
  • Trick or treat on streets with sidewalks to lesson anxiety.
  • Get creative in how your child participates. Nothing is set in stone. Instead of bobbing for apples, maybe your child can stack apples in a bucket.
  • Put yourself in their shoes. Being a parent of a child with sensory issues can feel overwhelming, but imagine being the child who is struggling to process so much sensory information at once. It can provoke a lot of anxiety not knowing what is happening next.
  • Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant Gina Bergdall suggests allowing your child to carry a fidget toy. This will allow them a constructive “place to focus their anxiety on.” Bergdall also shares these tips provided by the American Occupational Therapy Association. 
  • Pick only a few places to trick or treat and review that plan with your child before hand so they know what to expect.

If your child is overly sensitive to crowds or noises, there are no rules mandating they go trick or treating. You can make some really amazing traditions right at home. Bake and decorate treats, have a fun meal together, or make some popcorn and settle in for a movie. There is no wrong way to participate in Halloween! 

If this Halloween looks different than the way other families are celebrating, that’s OK. Embrace your unique traditions! If your child is comfortable at home watching Halloween specials and eating popcorn, join them! Deciding to follow their lead helps them feel capable and less stressed.

Roxanne Ferber is a twin mom, blogger and freelance writer. Her spookiest Halloween decoration is an empty coffee pot. *shudder*

Get Ready for the Tooth Fairy with These Easy DIY Tooth Fairy Giving Bags

diytooth-fairy-bags
Post contains affiliate links. I make a small commission if you purchase through the links.

Would you believe me if I told you that I used to work as a craft blogger? True story! Someone paid me to share the really lazy crafts I made each week with my kids. Turns out moms want easy crafts, preferably without glitter. And there are some moms who can’t resist a cute DIY.

I shared in my moms only group this week that I use these simple little DIY baggies to automate our tooth fairy giving. I made six at once and I keep 4 of the baggies pre-filled at all times so the tooth fairy never misses a stop! The other 2 bags I leave empty, one for each kiddo to collect their fallen teeth and leave under the pillow. Once they are asleep, I just swap out for the pre-filled baggie.

This system has worked for me for several years. It especially came in handy during the COVID quarantine when businesses closed. I couldn’t get the usual chocolate coins, or the gold dollar coin our tooth fairy traditionally leaves behind. Thankfully, I was already ahead of myself with this easy system. You can read my original post here, or scroll below for the step by step directions.

tooth-fairy-bags

Here’s what you’ll need: (Makes 4 bags)

6 Medium organza gift bags (you can find at the dollar store)

1 Piece of white felt

Download a tooth shape to trace

12 Googly eyes

School glue

8 inches of string or yarn

Wax paper

*Optional pink paint for rosy cheeks

I found the tooth shape online and printed it out to trace and cut the felt shapes for all six bags.

To make the face, I cut the string into two inch pieces and glued to the felt, next I glued on the eyes. If you’d like cute little pink cheeks, dip a pencil eraser, small dowel, or the end of a round paint brush  (whatever you have on hand) into the pink paint and apply at the ends of the smile. Allow time for the glue to dry before attaching the tooth shape to the bag.

Since you are working with an organza bag the glue will seep through and make a mess. If you cut a small square of wax paper to fit inside the bag it will keep the glue from sealing the bag closed.

Begin by inserting the wax paper into the bag before applying the felt shaped tooth. Once the tooth is on the baggie, wait a few minutes before removing the wax paper. Then, hang the open bag to dry. You can leave it at the end of a chopstick, a pencil or paint brush to keep the bag open while it dries. Allow the glue to dry overnight and before filling with treats.

We fill our bags with one gold dollar coin and five chocolate coins. Nothing fancy. I have heard of parents giving their kids $5 per tooth, or $20 for the first tooth and some parents put together an entire basket of gifts. Whatever works. I just know that having twins means double the magic and double the tooth fairy money. So keeping some pre-filled bags between payouts means I won’t be caught off guard the night a tooth falls out.

Do you go all out for the tooth fairy, or do you keep it simple?

Roxanne Ferber is a twin mom, blogger and freelance writer. She likes to keep expectations low by avoiding craft projects that involve any real crafting. Follow along with her daily posts on Facebook.

6 Easy Trick or Treat Alternatives

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This year, trick or treat may look and feel a bit different. Many parents are rethinking ways to enjoy the candy filled spooky season without creating a super spreader event. Even my own family is working on a COVID friendly treat distribution. But, what if you aren’t totally feeling the traditional walking door to door for candy?

Here are 6 easy alternatives to trick our treating:

CANDY HUNT

Make the kids work a little harder this year for their stash of candy. Hide some clues around the back yard that will lead them to a mega trove of treats.

GLOW IN THE DARK CANDY HUNT

Put a few treats in a clear bag and add in one glow stick. Hide the treat bags in the back yard after dark (or around the house and turn off the lights). Turn on the spooky sounds and let the kids follow the light for their Halloween sweets.

DRIVE BY TRICK OR TREAT

This is especially great if you live in a more remote area and normally do not get a lot of trick or treaters. Set up a table of pre-packaged, store bought treats and invite your friends to drive by to pick up a treat from you personally. It’s like the birthday parades that were fashionable in the spring, only everyone else gets a take home treat.

HOLIDAY DRIVE BY

If trick or treat is completely banned in your area, you can provide a little eye candy for passersby. Decorate the yard with lights and spooky décor. Encourage folks to drive by to take in the sights.

HOST A VIRTUAL PARTY

If social distance is keeping you apart from friends and loved ones, dial up a Zoom conference to create a virtual Halloween party! Put together a fun “scare package” of crafts and treats to drop off at someone’s door before meeting on Zoom. Then, kids can show off their costumes, craft together and turn up some Halloween tunes for a dance off.

HOST A SOCIALLY DISTANT PARTY

If you have a yard or park area large enough for kids to stay spread out and stay at a healthy distance away from each other, there’s no harm in hosting. Keep it small, encourage masks and hand out prepackaged treats. It’s really smart to stay cautious, so no one will hold it against you if you take temps or offer hand sanitizer at the event. A lot of kids are struggling right now without in-person social connections. This will definitely keep the traditional Halloween fun alive and give kids a little boost of joy.

Are you changing the way you trick or treat on Halloween? I’d love to know how!

Roxanne Ferber is a twin mom, blogger and freelance writer. She writes about the challenges in her motherhood, like how to keep her kids at a socially acceptable distance while trying to work from home.

Halloween Recipe Round up

Halloween is a fun tradition for many families, including my own. My kids are always excited to show off their costumes to our closest neighbors and spend time walking door to door with their friends. But before we head out, I want to make sure their tummies are full and they have enough energy to make it through the neighborhood.

I’ve rounded up some of our quickest and most favorite Halloween dinner ideas. When my kids were just toddlers, these fun recipes were also a fun holiday themed activity and eating our creepy morsels was part of the fun.

MUMMY DOGS from Home Made Interest are super easy and super fun!

Mummy Dogs is an easy Halloween recipe

MUMMY PIZZA from “Cents”able Mama uses store bought ingredients to make this fun dinner fast!

BAKED QUESADILLAS from That Fit Fam are perfect for your little cheese lover! Serve with some carrot sticks or an apple sauce pouch for a quick meal before heading out the door.

Halloween shaped baked quesadillas

SWEET AND SOUR BAT WINGS from Sprinkles and Sprouts. How spooky are these?? Marinate overnight in the fridge and put in the oven in time for your pre-treat dinner.

close up on the wing tip of a black chicken wing on a grey plate

If you have time to make all of these at once you’ll have a variety of fun things to offer the kids before heading out for candy. We usually don’t serve a dessert since we know we are going to eat a bunch of candy as soon as we get home. Happy treating!

What’s your favorite Halloween recipe to make?

Roxanne Ferber is a twin mom, blogger and freelance writer. She spends most of her time making food her kids won’t eat and fantasizing about how a beach vacation where naps are required. You can find her at The Whatever Mom on Facebook and on Instagram. For more recipe ideas, follow her on Pinterest.

Creating a Healthy Home Fragrance for Fall

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Before kids I had a major candle addiction that typically peaked as the Fall season began. I love all the scents of autumn and anything with a warm cinnamon or a hearty clove smell had to be in my collection. Those famous little spices warm my home and soul as the temperature begins to drop. Once I had babies, I learned how unhealthy burning candles can be for indoor air quality, not to mention how anxious I felt leaving an open flame for tiny exploring hands to find. Since then, I’ve discovered healthier ways to bring those seasonal scents into my home without all the toxins and worry.

Here are my favorite ways to bring the smell off fall safely into my home:

Oil diffuse

ESSENTIAL OIL DIFFUSER

You can use an electric oil diffuser without any worry of heat, flame or burning. Simply fill the with water and add in a few drops of your favorite essential oil. One of my favorites to diffuse during the fall and winter months is Germ Away Organic Essential Oil Blend by Three Sister’s Herbals. The antiviral properties of thieves oil help purify the air and won’t leave behind toxic chemicals. Plus, it is made with clove and cinnamon, two traditional fall scents. I also love to use it in my ceramic wax warmer. I add one TBSP of coconut oil ¼ teaspoon of ground cinnamon and 5-10 drops of Germ Away Oil. The light of the tealight candle adds ambiance and warmth as it diffuses the protective elements of thieves oil into the air. You can use this same recipe in an electric wax warmer to avoid the open flame around little ones. Be sure to keep it far enough out of reach the kiddos can’t pull it down.

I also use the Germ Away Hand and Surface Essential Oil spray to wipe down high touch surfaces like light switches, doorknobs, faucet handles and countertops. It safely adds a scent of fall to my home while keeping germs at bay. And because it safe to use around babies and animals, I can hand this job off to one of the kiddos without any worries.

LIGHT A FIRE

Nothing feels warmer or more soothing in the fall than a crackling fire. Unfortunately, I do not have a fireplace in my home, but I have found a way to recreate the scent and feel of a warm fire, without an actual fire. A friend of mine gifted me Palo Santo sticks to burn like incense in my home. The scent made by this tiny stick of wood is as comforting as any fire. Simply light it, let it burn for 30 seconds before blowing it out and leaving to sit in a fire safe dish (I use a ceramic saucer). This burns cleaner than store bought incense which can be full of chemicals and respiratory irritants, plus there is no open flame to worry about. You can use other wood sticks like cedar, hickory, and pine to fill your home with that feeling and scent of a warm fire.

DRINK TEA

I find that a simple cup of chai tea (which uses cinnamon and cardamom) elicits a feeling of warmth and coziness. Other flavors I love are cinnamon apple, pumpkin spice, citrus and cinnamon spice, and cranberry. The health benefits of drinking tea are well documented but stopping long enough to enjoy a cup of tea is a great way to relax. Simply allowing your tea to steep a few minutes before drinking will surround you with a familiar fall fragrance.

How do you fill your home with the smells of the season?

Roxanne Ferber is a twin mom, coffee addict and freelance writer. She will write about almost anything you want her to for a small fee. Just check out her about me section to find out how to hire her.

Prep These Easy French Toast Rolls for the Week Ahead!

My kids have fought me on eating any kind of veggies since their toddlerhood. Now, they are almost ten. These picky eaters dominate our meal time choices, but they aren’t always winning the war. I sneak veggies inside of their favorite foods undetected all the time. For breakfast, lunch and dinner. They have no clue.

I typically meal prep our breakfast for the week ahead on Sunday. I like stuff I can freeze for a quick reheat in the morning. Now that my kids are older, this method makes it easier for them to make their own breakfast. This is a huge time saver for us all!

So… this weekend I made sausage stuffed French toast with some hidden sweet potato in there. I tried to make it two ways, the traditional frying method vs. baking in the oven. Even though making one big batch in the oven at once is convenient, frying the rolls individually made for a better texture. And it hid the miniscule pieces of orange potato better.

Here is what you need:

12 of your favorite sausage links

12 slices of your favorite bread

3 eggs

2 TBSP of sweet potato puree

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp maple syrup

Dash of cinnamon

2-4TBSP coconut oil

Rolling pin

* If you do not have sweet potato puree on hand, you’ll need to start by peeling and dicing a sweet potato and boiling until soft enough to mash before adding to the egg mixture. I made the sweet potato puree while I pre-cooked the sausage links in the oven. You can also use summer squash puree which you can find in the freezer section of your grocery store.*

Once you have your puree and cooked sausage you are ready to begin!

EGG MIXTURE

Crack open 3 eggs and dump into a shallow dish. Add sweet potato, vanilla, maple syrup and cinnamon. Whisk together until well mixed and no large clumps.

ASSEMBLING ROLL UPS

Use the rolling pin to roll flat each slice of bread (I did four at a time because it’s an easier amount to work with and it is faster than just one at a time). Place a fully cooked sausage on one edge of the flattened bread and roll together. Next, dip the stuffed bread roll into the egg mixture and lay seam side down on a plate.

COOKING

I fried in batches of four to make assembling easier and to leave enough room in the pan. Heat 2 TBSP coconut oil in frying pan. Place each roll up seam side down into the pan. Let cook 2-3 minutes before turning. Be sure to cook all sides.

I stored the rolls in a flat layer in a freezer bag for the family to grab what they need and make for their breakfast. This made one dozen rolls which my family gladly enjoyed with a favorite fruit and glass of milk.

What do you think? Would you hide veggies in your kids favorite foods?

Roxanne Ferber is a twin mom and freelance writer, also known as The Whatever Mom. She is on a mission to connect struggling moms with little ones with her community to laugh, grow and embrace the messy parts of parenting so that they feel empowered and confident in their mom choices.

10 Date Night Ideas for Couples Without a Babysitter

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Date nights with your spouse are an essential investment in your relationship. After all, you were each other’s everything before you became parents. It is important to spend time nurturing your romantic relationship too. Once the kids grow up and leave, it will be just you and the hubby together again. Plus, it makes it easier to cope with those annoying habits like absurdly loud chewing and never changing out the empty tooth paste tube. *eye twitch*

COVID has created some complications for date night opportunities, but even before this pandemic it was hard for my husband and I to spend a Friday night out on the town together. We do not have access to regular babysitters and the extra cost to pay for childcare limited what we could spend on dinner, or a movie. My kids did not love being left with a babysitter and would cry, which always led to me feeling guilty and wanting to rush back home. When my husband started working from home it was easier to treat ourselves to a grown-up lunch while the kids were in school. Except, now school is happening at home.

So where do parents with two rambunctious children and zero babysitting options go for a date night?

Here are 10 date night ideas for couples without a babysitter:

  1. If you have a back yard, us it! Light a fire, grab a blanket and a couple of favorite beverages and head to the back yard to gaze up at the stars. Super easy and spontaneous.

2. Have a subscription box delivered to open together after the kids go to bed. Take turns presenting each other with a new snack box, or silly gifts to exchange.

3. Host a Zoom night double date with good friends and include a wine tasting. Each couple can recommend a bottle for the other couple to taste and sample along with some snacks. Treat the kid to their own special movie night in the living room with snacks and separate places to get cozy to buy yourself some quiet time with friends.

4. Host a game night with another couple on Zoom. You can split your screen for online games or go old school with fun Pictionary or charades.

5. Set up a candlelight picnic outside under the stars after the kids go to bed. Order out some grown-up appetizers from that new place you have wanted to try, but you know the kids will not like.

6. Stream a movie on the lawn. Set up a comfy spot with an air mattress and cozy blankets, or a double seated swing chair to snuggle in while watching. Bring out the snacks and beverages to enjoy.

7. Order a DIY craft kit from a local maker and make something at home. A lot of local crafters are offering a make and take kit to do at home. Pick one that you both like and give it a try! It does not have to be perfect, just fun.

8. Pick up a favorite dessert that you don’t want to share with the kids. Once they go to bed, bring it out and do not feel guilty!  

9. Go through old photos and movies together and laugh at some of the crazy shenanigans you have taken part in over the years. Pop open some champagne and re-watch your wedding video or honeymoon videos.

10. Make it an early morning date. Wake up an hour or two before the kids and enjoy some quiet coffee and a savory brunch without picky eaters. You don’t even need to get fancy, just toss some fresh bagels out and call it breakfast. The point is you’re alone and it’s quiet.

Even when bedtime is a struggle (as it is in my house) these ideas are all easy enough to put together without a lot of planning. And they can break you out of the channel surfing rut most of us find ourselves in after the kids go to bed.

Roxanne Ferber is a twin mom and freelance writer in search of picky eater free meals and exciting adult conversation. Visit The Whatever Mom on Facebook Instagram Pinterest and Twitter.

Prep These Easy Chicken Dinners Ahead This Week!

Now that back to school is here and life is a little chaotic with a new schedule to work with, I find meal prepping a giant life saver. I actually get a little excited to see my hard work stacked up neatly in the freezer. Knowing that most of my meal prep work is done takes a lot of stress off of my plate, especially on those crazy days where everything else seems to be going wrong, or I am running behind.

As I was prepping I stopped quickly to take a few pics of what I was making to show you how easy it is to make two different chicken dinners ahead of time to stash in the freezer for later in the week. I made Honey Mustard Chicken to serve with rice pilaf and I made Thai Chicken Soup. One package of chicken split between two different recipes and I was done in minutes.

HONEY MUSTARD CHICKEN

1 lb. chicken breast (I use thighs because it’s usually cheaper and tastier)

1 bottle of your favorite honey mustard dressing or marinade

1 package of French cut green beans

Salt and pepper

1 gallon zip seal freezer bag

Place chicken pieces into bottom of the bag, pour one half of the bottle of honey mustard dressing over the chicken and then dump the frozen veggies on top. Sprinkle in some salt and pepper. Press all of the air out of the bag before you seal it and stack in the freezer. That’s it for prep!

When you are ready to cook, remove the prepped meal from the freezer and place in the fridge overnight to thaw out. Empty contents into the crock-pot and be sure to arrange with green beans on the bottom and chicken on top. Cook on high for 3-4 hours. *Every crock-pot heats differently. Mine cooks really fast, so I only need 3 hours for this meal.* Serve with rice, pasta or roasted potatoes (you can get prechopped potatoes in the produce section or in the freezer section to save more time).

THAI CHICKEN SOUP

1 lb. chicken breast (thigh definitely is best for this recipe, but either works)

1 jar of salsa

1/4 cup peanut butter

1 lime

1 TBSP soy sauce (or coconut aminos)

1 can coconut milk

1 gallon zip seal freezer bag

*optional serve over cooked rice, or rice noodles.

Place chicken pieces in the bottom of the bag. In a separate bowl add peanut butter, juice of one lime, soy sauce and the jar of salsa. Mix until it is all combined and pour over chicken in the bag. Seal and freeze.

When you are ready to cook, remove from the freezer and leave in the fridge overnight. Put the mixture into the crockpot and allow it to cook on high 3-4 hours. *Crock-pots may vary in cooking times. Mine will cook this meal in 2.5 hours.* The last half an hour of cook time, shred the chicken and add in can of coconut milk. Allow to simmer for remaining 30 minutes. If you chose to serve over rice, you can get those really quick 90 second microwave rice packs that will bring this meal together quick. You can even delegate that small part of dinner to a helper.

That’s it! Two recipes to prep this week that will take you as much time as it takes to read this post. Enjoy! Oh and don’t forget to prep those breakfast smoothies too! If you try any of these feel free to comment below, or stop by The Whatever Mom Facebook page to share, or find me on Insta.

Roxanne Ferber is twin mom and freelance writer doing whatever it takes to find extra sanity in the day.

Sometimes I Need to Get Away From My Family, and I Don’t Feel Bad About It

A good friend once said to me, “you need to get away from the husband and kids. You need time to miss them.” She is totally right.

My husband and I both work from home, and now both of our kids are attending school from home. We spend every waking hour together. I love them and I am so grateful we have the option to bet together through these crazy COVID times, but, I need mental space. And sometimes I really need physical space. I need to not be on demand for a meal, a snack, a quick question or to settle an argument.

Before the pandemic hit and the kids were in school for most of the day, I met with friends for coffee and we talked about our lives as moms. We vented about our stress and laughed at the ridiculous things our husbands can’t seem to find right in front of their faces. It was good for our mental health to drop those feelings in a safe space and let them go.

Now that I am “teaching” all day while trying to write and balance the chores, I am stuck inside my house more and it really makes me crazy. I am not a “homebody” or one to sit still for long. Movement and getting out of my house (and away from my family) is essential selfcare for my mental wellness. Some days I fantasize about running away or leaving a note on the counter, “Dear family, I love you. Now get away from me.” That’s not considered polite, so here are four ways to nicely inform your family you need time alone with your thoughts.

FIND SOME HEADSPACE

Taking a daily walk through my neighborhood each morning before logging everyone into a laptop helps me feel free. There’s no schedule, there’s no tether to my home, there is only me, the fresh air and my air pods. It isn’t the spa or working out at the gym, but it truly helps me clear my head and get ready for the chaos of the day. If I can’t get outside to walk because of weather, I walk on my treadmill. And sometimes, I just stand at an open door and quietly sip my coffee and listen to the birds chirp.

SOCIALLY DISTANT VENT SESSIONS

Once a week, usually a weekend morning, I invite other moms to join me on socially distant hikes. We walk on opposite sides of the trail while we chat about our stress and laugh about how crazy our families make us. It’s a great way to stay connected to my village and take in nature, which always makes me feel more grounded. Once a month, I meet with a couple of other moms outside in one of our driveways, or an empty lot just to talk about our stress. We sit 10 feet apart and bring our own chairs.

JUST LEAVE THE STRESS BEHIND

There are some days after the laptops are off and the kids are plugged into a video game, I leave the house. I no longer walk the aisles of Target slowly to peruse. Instead, I head to the drive through for a coffee and take the back country roads and soak in the passing scenery. Sometimes, I get out at a park to sit on a bench and watch people go by, read a book, write in a journal or phone a friend, which ever I am in the mood for.

SCHEDULE TIME TO UNPLUG

About once or twice a week, I skip watching TV after the kids go to bed and opt for reading a book. I leave the phone in another room so that I am not tempted to scroll, or look through the horrifying headlines of the daily news. This gives me time to unwind and plug into things that bring me joy like reading a good book and being in my cozy bed.

Selfcare means something different to everyone. I personally, need deep connections to others and nature and time to connect with myself. I miss dining out at leisure and going to the gym. But, scaling back to basics have really helped me cope with how different things are right now.

Do you spend time away from your family to recharge?

Roxanne Ferber is a twin mom and freelance writer just looking for a quiet space to enjoy her own thoughts.

Time Saving Meal Prep Ideas

Going back to school this year looks vastly different than any other year. Many of us are working from home, while also teaching our kids at home. We are not sending our kids off on the bus and our back to school traditions may have changed.

At least this time around we are not feeling the last-minute scramble of a complete shutdown, we are starting day one at home. Thankfully, we learned what worked and did not work and we can use that to plan this year.

The one big thing I learned during our shutdown in the spring, is that I am over standing in my kitchen all day making meals on demand. Scrambling to prepare food in between Zoom classes did not work well for me. I spent a lot of time making fresh meals three times a day for picky eaters and it was exhausting. So, to free up that time this year I am ramping up my meal prepping.

Since becoming a mom meal prepping is my go-to sanity saver and number one-time management technique. It does require a one to two-hour time commitment in the kitchen, but the amount of time it saves me from clean up and standing in front of the stove the rest of the week is worth it.

Here are my quick tips for planning and prepping for each meal of the week. Maybe it will help you save some time/sanity around remote learning this Fall.

BREAKFAST

I use the weekends to prep ahead a few different breakfast options that my family can grab and go or warm up for themselves. I wake up an hour before the family on Sunday morning to have the kitchen to myself. You can check out my Pinterest board for ideas, but some of our favorites are breakfast burritos, protein pancakes, breakfast sandwiches, hidden veggie muffins and smoothie blender cups. I make two options for my family to choose from and then I make the blender cups for myself. I have them preloaded and stacked in the freezer to make my mornings easier. My family can reheat their breakfast sandwiches and pancakes on their own or grab a muffin from the fridge.

LUNCH

Each night after dinner, I have the kids pack a lunch just like they did when going to school. And my husband and I pack up our own lunches. This saves me the headache of making two different sandwiches or rummaging around for leftovers to reheat every day. Preparing all of our lunches each night saves enough time for all of us to take our lunch break together, and it encourages my kids to be self sufficient.

DINNER

Before I even go grocery shopping, I make a dinner menu for the week. My meal plan for the week includes a DIY pizza night (or take out) and a leftovers night to give me a night off from cooking. On my grocery shopping day, I like to wash all the produce before putting it away and I prepare as many meals ahead of time that I can. I am especially fond of freezer meals that I can toss together in a freezer bag and dump into the crock pot later. This is a huge time saver and way less mess to clean up during the busy week. I am also a fan of one sheet pan meals to make in the oven. And on really busy nights, I’ll make a charcuterie board that fits everyone’s picky favorites. You can find some of my favorite go to meal pins here.

SNACKS

I discovered my kids will eat through a bag of chips like its an Olympic sport. So, I stopped buying bags of chips that literally disappears within minutes and leaves my kids crabby. I set up bins in the fridge with grab and go options like cheese sticks, baby bell cheeses, yogurt tubes, mini oranges, hummus cups and bags of veggies. Don’t get me wrong, chips are delicious, and I do not judge anyone buying them for their kids. I just know my kids stay fuller longer (and stay less moody) when they eat protein and fruits.

It took me a little while to make these prepping hacks a routine. So, don’t think you have to do all of the above to be efficient. Pick the toughest meal of the day and prep it in advance to help make that time of day run a bit smoother for you.

What’s the toughest meal for you to prepare each day? Mine is breakfast, so I will always prepare breakfast in advance. I like sleep more than I like to cook.

If you have any great meal prep hacks or recipes, feel free to share in comments below or send them to [email protected]

Roxanne Ferber is a twin mom, fur mom, wife and freelance writer just trying to eek out as much sanity as she can from each day.

Is it Time to Hire Professional Help?

After nearly six months at home with my family here around the clock, I might be ready to lose my mind. I cannot tell you how many messes I have cleaned up, nor how often I’ve heard myself yelling, “pick that up” or “put that back where you got it!” or “don’t even think about stepping over that one more time!”

I am officially burned out from all of the cleaning and sanitizing. I don’t know about you, but I like a good deep clean right after summer to clean up all the mess we dragged in through the season. Since I am so tired of it all, I am seriously considering hiring a cleaning service to do the heavy lifting for me.

4 Reasons You Can and You Will Get a Cleaning Lady

We aren’t ready to have a weekly cleaning person come into our home, but we could definitely use some help with a deeper cleaning. The folks at E&J Cleaning and Floors have provided deep cleaning and sanitizing services for businesses and residents throughout the Capital District. They have perfected their sanitation levels and protocols throughout this Pandemic, and they are ready to help you too! Their team will arrive to your home with masks and gloves and stay at a safe distance while they work.

Not only can they sanitize high touch surfaces by hand, but they also offer an Electrostatic Disinfection Technique to apply an EPA approved sanitizing solution to surfaces that lasts for months. A great way to protect your home as we head into flu-season.

Visit their Facebook and Instagram pages to see before and after photos of their residential, furniture and floor cleanings and what a great job they can do! Having someone else shampoo the couches and carpets will save me a ton of time and energy that I just don’t have right now, while planning our return to remote learning for two kids, working from home, meal planning and wiping down all the door knobs.

If you are worn out by all the extra cleaning, or trying to balance all the extra messes with working and cooking and everything else that comes along with this Pandemic life, do yourself a favor and hire someone who can help. Treat yourself to a little extra time in your week, or month and let someone else do the heavy lifting. You can use that time to relax in the back yard reading a book, or taking the kids for a drive for ice cream. If you hire someone for a weekly cleaning, count that time as self care and head to your local drive through to pick up lunch or dinner. Hiring extra help definitely leaves room for sanity in our day.

A clean and sanitized home is one less thing to stress about as we head into back to school season, holiday planning and worries about keeping our family safe. Call / Text For Your Free Estimate Today (518) 419-4683

(This is a paid post, but all opinions expressed are my own).

Meet The Whatever Mom

I hope you enjoyed my meet a mom series this summer and found a sense of solidarity among these interviews. Even though the moms featured are business owners, writers, bakers, scientists and more, as moms they still have to endure kid tantrums and picky eating. As schools across the country begin to reopen, I want to focus more on content moms can use right now, so I am going to retire the series (for now). Before I do, I thought maybe now would be a good time to share a little about myself. Things have certainly changed since I began writing

I started writing about my messy life as a mom nearly 8 years ago while my twins were toddlers. Back then, life was messy in the very literal sense. My kids were into finger paints and playdough, dumping cereal and pulling pans out of the cupboards. I was living through the early messy phases of potty training and picky eating. I learned that the messiest part of all, was me. I felt like a failure every day. I felt like I couldn’t keep up with the other moms. Most days were a scramble, so I started sharing those moments and solutions that work for my family. Turns out, other moms feel the same way. I often hear from moms, that reading this blog gives them permission to let go of making things perfect and that it’s ok to embrace the chaos.

My twins are now pre-teens. Life looks messy in a new way. There are many emotional messes and sibling arguments to overcome. The bills are tighter, my kids need deeper conversations about life and there still aren’t enough hours in the day to finish every task demanded of me as mom, a wife, a writer, a blogger and from my own expectations. And, don’t even get me started on the demands of parenting through a pandemic!

However, the payoff to all this stressful living is watching my kids become independent and self-driven little people. Being a mom is a pretty amazing journey. It really does go by as fast as people tell you. Along the way there are many unexpected speed bumps and worries you wouldn’t have if you weren’t in charge of someone else’s survival. In the end, all of those messes clean up, and everything works out.

Meet The Whatever Mom – a.k.a Roxanne!

What is the name of your blog? The Whatever Mom (obvi)

Who is your target audience? Moms just like me who are trying to make it through the day with as much sanity as we can.

Why did you begin blogging? When I became a mom there was this very thin line of acceptance for sloppy buns and rolling into play groups a total hot mess. It was also taboo to talk about things like miscarriage, divorce, marriage issues and worries about your kid’s development during park meet ups. I can’t tell you how many times I’d meet new parents at the park and hear how perfect their lives were, while they fed their kids all organic fruits and seeds from their stainless-steel bento boxes. I felt like I couldn’t measure up to those standards. I want my blog to be a safe place for myself and other moms to connect regardless of our parenting styles.

How many children do you have? I have twins, two girls, about to turn ten. In the twin world, I’d call them *G/G ID twins* That stands for girl/girl, identical twins.  

Describe your business mission: Well, my mission is to develop this little blog of mine into a thriving business. Not only do I want to provide a non-judgey place to commiserate, but I’d like to one day employ other stay at home moms, or mompreneurs and help them find success following their dreams. Or at least pay them enough money to get their very own latte without having to worry about taking money out of the family budget.

How do you most relate to The Whatever Mom philosophy? For the record, I didn’t create an entirely new philosophy. When I was a brand-new mom, I spent hours crying because I felt like I was always behind the eight ball. No matter what I did, my twins just cried. My husband worked 17 hours (yes, truly 17) a day while I learned how to manage two infants at once. I honestly thought I was going to lose my mind. Until a friend said to me, you just “do whatever it takes to make it through to the end of the day with the most amount of sanity left.” If plan A doesn’t work, toss it out and go with plan B. There will be some days you make it all the way to plan Z, but if it means less stress and less crying, then that’s the plan you go with. So, being a whatever mom means learning to roll with the punches and making it work for your family. I added the whole non-judgey part because it was really getting on my nerves to hear moms tear each other down for making different choices. I hate to break it to ya, but we’re all wiping butts for at least the first three years of motherhood, no one is better than anyone else.

What do you want other moms to know about you? I want other moms to know that motherhood is a struggle for me. I did not take to motherhood as easily as I thought I would. I love my kids dearly and as strong willed as my kids are, I wouldn’t trade them for anything. But, letting go of who I was before kids was hard. I had two successful careers before I became a mom. I succeeded at just about anything I tried, so when I couldn’t make things perfect as a mom, I felt hopeless and defeated. What helped me through it was connecting with other moms, learning how to take self-care seriously and a learning to let go of perfection.

What makes you stand out as a mom? Funny, when I put this in the questionnaire, I thought it was an easy question. Now, I know why everyone said it was hard to answer. We are all moms dedicated to our kids, right? I think what makes me standout as a mom is my ability to learn and grow alongside my kids. Not just in learning new life lessons but learning to tune into myself and each of my kids as individuals. Not only am I teaching them how to not need me one day, but they are changing my perception of the world. And they are teaching me how to play video games because I am really, really, like REALLY BAD at them! 😉

Roxanne Ferber is a twin mom and freelance writer. She enjoys drinking coffee in total silence while she scrolls mindlessly through social media. Shhh… no talkie before the coffee.

How to Host a Socially Distant Party with Friends

Last year, I made a big plan in my head to celebrate my summer birthday with a backyard bash. I wanted lights, catered food, friends and music. Just a relaxing summer night with people I enjoy most, eating cake and toasting with prosecco. As always, when I make a plan the world steps in with different ideas.

[Enter a world wide Pandemic]

One of the bummers about this COVID Pandemic is that birthday celebrations just aren’t the same. We can’t have our usual big gatherings to celebrate. There can be no sharing of bowls filled with snacks and dips for potentially contaminated fingers to swim around in. Pouring drinks from large containers means a variety of hands touching the same surface and sanitizing after every use. It feels daunting to try to entertain safely right now.

But, I wasn’t giving up on what I want, which was food and friends. Instead, I found another way to celebrate on a much smaller scale while enjoying some of my favorite things. Instead of fifty people, I had five. I didn’t serve a catered menu, but we did enjoy some safe snacks at a distance. And yes, there was prosecco and music. For a background playlist I chose the Hamilton musical soundtrack. If you haven’t listened yet, you are missing out.

Our small group enjoyed gathering around the firepit in the open air where we could maintain enough distance without worrying about spreading germs. Since no celebration is complete without food and wine, I got a little creative with how to serve sanitary snacks at a distance without constant sanitation.

I picked up some reusable storage bins at the dollar store to fill with ice and some snacks. I added a bottle of water, two mini bottles of my favorite prosecco and prepackaged snack plates that include cheese, prosciutto and toasty bread. It was a big hit! Plus, moms could take the entire bin home with them, so no worries about sanitizing after.

I placed the individual snack boxes on the ground six-feet apart around the firepit in my yard, and asked each mom to bring their own chair for seating. When they arrived I pointed them to a sanitized snack box to set up next to in our circle. We spent the next three hours socializing and snacking safely. I also asked moms to bring their masks just incase, but we didn’t need them because we sat far enough apart. Chatting without a face covering felt a little more like the normalcy of pre-pandemic times.

It also felt great to celebrate my birthday with friends, but it was even better to commiserate with other moms in person. We laughed about our kids, shared our anxieties about school, told hilarious stories about ourselves and it felt like we left our worries behind for a bit. It was a great moms night out!

My only regret is that it was too dark for photos outside. But, I’ll have the memories of our time together to look back on as we get through the uncertainty of the winter ahead of us.

Did you celebrate a birthday during the pandemic? How was it different this year? I’d love to hear about your creative celebrations in comments below!

Roxanne Ferber is raising twins with double the fun of writing from home during a pandemic. Her parenting style is messy with a side of chaos and archiving it all on her blog for others to read.

Meet a Mom and Motivational Speaker

Photo credit: Tri-County Woman Magazine

I first met Laura Bagnarol at a moms retreat two years ago. I recognized her as the creator of the Pigskin Princess Project. Before meeting her in person, I only knew her through social media. Now, I am in love with her Be Big Be Brave mission.

Laura started the Pigskin Princess Project when her daughter was just 4 years old. She was not satisfied by the local sports programs, so she created one of her own, a flag-football team that focuses on combating harmful gender stereotypes. Through her Be Big Be Brave company she has helped raise funds to build an inclusive play ground and support local and national non-profits.

Today, Laura is a mother to three children, a public speaker, community organizer, creator of The Brave Project, freelance writer and strives to empower children age 3 to college (and if I am honest, she is an inspiration to those around her). She is proof that moms can do anything and will do anything for their kids while making waves of change right in their own community.

How are your programs helping others? I offer empowerment workshops, programs, and products for kids. I am the founder of the Pigskin Princess Project and its companion program the Pigskin Prince Project. These are flag-football programs for girls, ages 3-11 and pre-k age boys. We teach the fundamentals of the sport but also use the sport of football as a tool to combat harmful gender stereotypes and to introduce kids to the many inspiring individuals in our community and beyond, that are doing incredible things off the field. I also co-created, The Brave Project, an educational awareness program for girls in 5th grade through college age. I am also a motivational speaker and present to a variety of groups from Girl Scouts to women in business. I am a contributing writer to Her View From Home blog site.

Where are you located? Hopewell Junction but will travel all over the Hudson Valley and beyond!

Who is your target audience? Kids, ages 3 through college age!

Can you describe your business mission for us? To inspire kids to be their big, brave selves! I create programs and products that are designed to help kids build resiliency, recognize their strengths, combat bullying, become more self-aware, and build confidence.

How many children do you have? Three: Girl (11); Boy (9); Girl (7)

How do you most relate to the Whatever Mom philosophy? Love the nonjudgmental tone, combined with the realness and humor. The Whatever Mom philosophy shatters the myth of perfect parenting and takes the pressure – of knowing it all and being it all – OFF us moms.

What do you want other moms to know about you? I care deeply about creating a culture where kids can lead safe, happy, healthy lives in large part because of my professional background. I have my master’s in social work and spent my 20s and 30s working with victims of crime of all ages and backgrounds. It is this work that has made me so passionate about educating children to look out for themselves and each other.

What makes you stand out as a mom? I have big ideas that I have to make come to fruition. I started my flag football empowerment program for girls because I just wasn’t loving the sports programs that were available to my then 4-year-old daughter. I also love those teachable moments that are happening all the time in life and will use them whenever I can to try to teach my kids something. (This, as you can imagine, is quite annoying to them.) I also like to make my kids laugh. (Me learning TikTok dances is always good for a laugh.) My 7-year-old will tell you that my butter cookies make me stand out.

Where can other moms find you on social media? Be Big Be Brave, LLC Etsy Shop Facebook Instagram YouTube

Gluten Free Pizza Pasta Dish – Great for lunch boxes!

Yes, it’s another deconstructed pizza recipe from me! I can’t help it, my family loves pizza! You may have enjoyed our Easy Pizza Rolls for family pizza night or even our Pizza Cookie for dessert. But, this gluten free pizza pasta casserole is just for me because I can’t have gluten or (most) dairy. So, finding anything resembling a real pizza is near impossible. I am from New York, home of the best pizza and there is no substitute. However, this easy recipe brings the same flavors and makes me feel like I am not missing out entirely.

This whips together in under 30 minutes and FYI, it is a great recipe for school lunch boxes! Make it on a Sunday, reheat to put into a thermos and pack in a lunch box.

Pizza is simply crust (base carb), cheese, sauce and favorite toppings.

Our deconstructed pizza uses gluten free pasta as the base carb, mixed with sauce and favorite toppings like pepperoni, sausage or favorite veggies and of course cheese. We use a gluten free pasta from the grocery store that everyone in my family likes and suddenly we are all eating one meal! Since I can’t have most dairy, I use grated parmesan cheese, affectionately known in my house as “shaker cheese.” It isn’t the hot gooey mess of melted Mozzarella, but it still tastes so darn good!

Directions:

Cook 1 pound of pasta according to directions on package.

Add in one jar of your favorite sauce.

Stir in favorite pizza toppings (I sliced up pepperoni, black olives, green pepper and red onion).

Sprinkle with grated parmesan, or add in shredded mozzarella. (The mozzarella will melt into the hot pasta and sauce, so no need to bake to melt).

Give it a good mix before serving! This goes great with a salad or a side of wings. Anything you’d normally eat with your pizza!

It’s a super easy meal to make on a week night when the kids are hungry and you need something fast, or as a quick side dish for your picky eater who only eats pasta, pizza and cheese.

Roxanne Ferber is a twin mom, freelance writer and wannabe foodie. Food tastes better when other people cook it, or when kids aren’t complaining about it, but she doesn’t have a lot of time to cook it fancy. If you have a recipe to share email it to [email protected] or share it over on The Whatever Mom Facebook page.

Meet a Mom and Travel Blogger

Jacqueline Ramirez (Jackie for short) is mom to two teenagers, ages 14 and 17, an incredible iPhone photographer and the owner of Hudson Valley Exposed blog, chronicling her travel adventures over six different counties in the Hudson Valley. On top of her busy life raising kids, she produces digital guides and lists for budget friendly places to take the kids to play, for ice cream, the movies, local events, farmers markets and even date night ideas. She makes light work for busy parents planning their family fun.

Originally from the Bronx, Jackie settled in the Hudson Valley just after college and has taken many adventures with her family. Alongside her recommendations for family friendly trips, she gives tips for travel and snapping just the right pic with your iPhone. Even if you are not currently living in the Hudson Valley, take a look at all the exciting things Jackie shares and you may be inspired to take the trip.

Meet Jackie!

How do you help families find their weekend adventures? I offer digital Hudson Valley Guides and lists they can use to plan their next day together.

Where in the Hudson Valley are you located? I am completely digital – on the web and social media.

Who do you write your blog for? Anyone looking to see & do new things in the Hudson Valley.

Why did you begin blogging these adventures? I want to help others explore the Hudson Valley the easiest and stress free way. I encourage everyone to explore without breaking the bank.

How do you most relate to the Whatever Mom philosophy? I think women can do it all. Motherhood, business owner and more.

What do you want other moms to know about you? I love what I do and look forward to providing important information to others. I sometimes struggle with organization and feel completely overwhelmed the majority of the time.

What makes you stand out as a mom? I take my kids on all my Hudson Valley outings and make them a part of my online business journey. I have no family up here and we are doing all of this completely on our own.

Where can others find Hudson Valley Exposed? Find my website or follow me on Facebook and Instagram.

Meet a Bad Mom and Squad Leader

Amber Murphy is mom to two girls, a teenager and a little one, and the owner/lead designer of Mom Squad Creations. She likes to keep it real by finding the funny in motherhood which shines through in the personalized products she creates. Whether it’s her personal philosophy scrolled across a shopping bag, or a customer’s inside joke on the outside of a cup, Amber will bring it to life.

Amber identifies as a “Bad Mom” who enjoys coffee and swearing. She enjoys all things sparkly, snarky and loud. And she runs her businesses the same way while raising two humans to be creative, inclusive and true to themselves.

Meet Amber!

What is your full name? *Princess Consuela Banana Hammock….. I mean, Amber Murphy.

What kind of products do you offer? Drinkware and Apparel with a snarky twist.

Where are you located? Halfmoon, NY

Who do you create these snarky things for? Moms, particularly the moms who fall under the “bad moms” category.

How do you most relate to the Whatever Mom philosophy? I’m realllllll down with the Whatever part. ? We are all just doing our best to survive the experience of motherhood. Anyone who says they have motherhood figured out is lying to you, we are all a hot mess just doing our best.

What do you want other moms to know about you? I’m not sure. I don’t know what there is to know because I’m generally transparent and we show a lot of my personality through my business. I guess I’d like people to know I really do read every comment. I’m on top of every comment, message, etc. For some reason people sometimes don’t understand there’s a real person/mom reading and responding to everything! Especially when you start to really brand your business people assume everything is robotic…. but it’s me, a real person! I’m on the other side of the screen carefully selecting the funny gifs to respond to you! ?

What makes you stand out as a mom? My lack of a filter.

Where can other moms find you? My website, Facebook and IG

This post contains affiliate links. I make a small commission for each purchase made through these links.

My Daily Smoothie Hack

I have to confess, I am addicted to drinking smoothies. Not only are they easy to make, but I can just toss a bunch of stuff in a cup without measuring and it still tastes good. The one thing I don’t like, is the clean up. Plus, rummaging around for ingredients and pulling them all out of different locations in the kitchen while I am barely awake, is a pain.

It is so tempting to sign up for a smoothie subscription and have premade smoothies delivered to my door step. I even found a local company to source them, but then I saw the price. It will cost me around $100 for one dozen premade smoothies. I can’t justify spending that much just for my personal breakfast each morning. I’d save time on the prep, but I’d still have to dispose of all the packaging and shipping materials after I transfer all the cups to the freezer. That still takes up time. But man, I’d sure love the convenience and simplicity of dumping a cup of ingredients into a blender.

So….

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That’s what I do!

I found some left over disposable coffee cups with lids stashed away on a shelf in my basement and realize they make the perfect DIY grab and go smoothie cups. I make seven smoothies ahead of time, stash in the freezer and grab one each day. My kids have caught on to this and will grab one for themselves occasionally. They won’t make their own smoothies if they have to lug out all the individual bags of produce. Now that mom has done all the prep work it’s suddenly fair game. At least they are eating healthy and feeding themselves, right? In the future, I’d like to switch out the coffee cups for glass jars with lids to minimize waste, but since my kids are young and clumsy, paper cups do the trick.

Ready to see how easy it is to make a weeks worth of smoothies in about 10 minutes?

Line up seven freezer friendly cups.

Pull out all your favorite fruits and veggies to divide between containers. You can add nut butters or protein powders, seeds or any extras you like in your smoothie.

Just layer in each ingredient, attach the lids and put in the freezer.

When you are ready for a smoothie, remove one from the fridge and fill container with your favorite milk or water (are you a creamy smoothie drinker or a watery smoothie drinker?), dump the entire cup into the smoothie blender and give it a whirl. Then you can dump the mixture right back into the cup to take along with you. If you need something fancier to transport, I’ve attached a couple of options here in this post.

I topped each cup with a piece of waxed paper before adding the lid. This provides an extra “seal” against ice crystals and it keeps the fruit from absorbing any funky flavors from the freezer. Now I have breakfast already made for the entire week (as long as neither of my kiddos takes one for themselves).

Now you have a full week of breakfast (or snacks) for significantly less money and with less wasteful packaging to have to cart to the curb. I love a good hack that gives me more for less!

Our favorite combination so far is bananas, blueberries, strawberries, cherries, kale, spinach, pumpkin seeds and peanut butter. What do you put in your smoothie?

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Meet a Mom and Cake Designer

Stephanie Feuker is a busy mom to two very energetic little boys (ages 2 and 4) and a specialty cake (and cupcake) maker. Her designs are out of this world perfect for any occasion, a kid party, mom’s night or dessert on a Tuesday. Visit Caked with Love by Steph on Facebook to see photos of her cakes. You will be so impressed (and you may drool a little)!

Not only is Stephanie incredibly talented, but she also has a Masters degree in Mental Health Counseling and previously worked in the financial services industry before creating her custom cake operations. To say she is, “just baking now” would overlook how much time she puts into creating these perfect designs for each order. Baking is what gives Stephanie joy and she loves doing it in a way that she has never love anything else before.

Meet Stephanie!

Where are you located? Latham, NY

Who are you making these incredible cakes for? Anyone in need of a special dessert for an occasion!

Describe your business mission. To meet or exceed every single cake/cupcake expectation each and every time I create something.

How do you most relate to the Whatever Mom philosophy? Motherhood is by far the hardest (but hands down the most wonderful) thing I’ve ever done. As a mom, I am part of a tribe now, and in that sense, I feel like there’s a “we-ness” among moms in the struggles and victories we share.

What do you want other moms to know about you? I want moms to know I am a FAR from perfect mom. I feel like on social media, we tend to share the best of ourselves. In reality, my kids get to much screen time, I yell too much and I lose my patience too often. I’m constantly riddled with mom guilt (every single day). I have a lot of anxiety with the thoughts of something bad happening to my kids. But I love my boys and I try every day to be a good mom. I feel nothing short of blessed to have them. There have been several instances during this pandemic where I have stepped back and just realized how unbelievably lucky I am. It brings tears to my eyes some days.

What makes you stand out as a mom? Honestly, I don’t feel like I stand out as a mom. I feel like every day I’m just like a bunch of other moms, doing our best and trying to get thru the day without losing our patience. I’m a mom that makes fun cakes. I guess that makes me stand out. My boys think that’s cool.

How can other moms find you? You can message me through my Facebook page

Meet a Motivated Mom and Blogger

I first met Diedre Anthony through a blogger group on Facebook. I was drawn to her kindness and her willingness to support other women. She is the blog owner and writer for Are Those Your Kids where she shares her life as mom from the perspective of a mom raising three beautiful bi-racial children. She doesn’t shy away from sharing what that looks like and feels like in this world.

Besides being a mom and blogger, Diedre is also a farm wife, school counselor and runs an essential oil business and more! She does a brilliant job at chasing her dreams alongside motherhood. Even if you are not raising bi-racial children, or come from a diverse family, Diedre’s blog is still a wonderful parenting resource. And if you follow her on Instagram you get a closer look at her farm life and family fun.

Meet Diedre!

Do you offer any other products as a blogger? Curly hair guide I have dedicated this guide to providing hair and skin care tips, tools and everything in between to parents who need assistance.

Where are you located? Statesboro, GA

Who do you write this blog for? Multiracial families

How would you describe your blog mission? I want to provide resources to the multiracial family to promote curly hair care, education, identity and diversity.

How do you most relate to the Whatever Mom philosophy? I love that you embrace the messy side of parenting–and keep it all the way real.

What do you want other moms to know about you? That I’m an advocate for all.

What makes you stand out as a mom? I’ve got my hand in so many things–being a farm wife, school counselor, mom of 3 littles, running an essential oil business, writer/influencer. It can be done. You can be a good mom and wife and still pursue your dreams.

Where can other moms find you? My website Are Those Your Kids and on Facebook or Instagram.

Meet a Mom and Science Lover

Margaret Liberti is mom to Keaton, a science educator and a business owner. She owns Mad Science of the Capital District and provides hands on learning for kids in her community. She has hand delivered a bagful of science experiments for my own kiddos to enjoy. I love watching their faces light up as they work with magnets or take data on a set of growing brains. I also love learning right along side them. If you are looking for a way to keep your kiddos occupied this summer, need a virtual camp or want to encourage your child’s love of science, check out the Loop Lab subscription kits, camp options or the science delivered options on her website.

As a Professor, Margaret has witnessed the disdain students in higher education have for science. They’ve been told that they’re not good at science, or they’re not smart enough, or it’s boring, and they believe it. She is on a mission to change that for kids beginning at an earlier age. Oh and she is also a 2014-15 recipient of the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Adjunct Teaching. This is the highest honor that can be bestowed upon an adjunct faculty member in the State University of New York system. Excelling in her field, running a business and being mom? That’s a whole lot of awesome!

Meet Margaret!

What is the name of your business? Mad Science of the Capital District

What products do you offer? STEM programming such as birthday parties, backyard camps, virtual camps, camp in a box, in person camps, special events, workshops, and after school programming.

Where are you located? I am operating in the Albany/Capital District, but Mad Science is a traveling business that owns the territories of the following counties: Columbia, Greene, Albany, Schenectady, Rensselaer , Saratoga, Warren, Washington, Bennington, and can travel north and as far west as Syracuse!

What age group do you share your experiments with? Ages 3-12, anyone who loves/is interested in STEM!

Describe your business mission. As both a professor and a science education business owner, I want science to be fun and exciting. I want students to learn science without thinking, “yep. This is science. Still hate it.” Science is everywhere, and once applied in a fun manner, exciting, or related to your students, you’re going to see a change in their beliefs and attitude towards science. And igniting passion (or at least a lesser dislike) for science is my goal.

What makes you stand out as a mom? I think this goes for every mom, but my son comes first above all else. I went through a lot to have him, and although he’s what I have always wanted, I don’t let him get away with bad behavior.

How do you most relate to the Whatever Mom philosophy? We all have to roll with the punches, particularly in the current environment.

What do you want other moms to know about you? Being mom to Keaton and a fur-mom is my greatest accomplishment. I love science, education, students, and dogs.

Where can other moms find you? Visit my website, Facebook page or drop an email at [email protected]

Pizza Cookies, the Lazy Mom’s Best Friend

This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission from items you purchase through my merch link.

The pizza cookie is the lazy mom’s best friend.

Maybe you are not lazy, but some days I am just too tired, and I don’t really feel like making dozens of cookies. A pizza cookie is basically one giant cookie that the kids can top with their own little hands. Less work for me and dare I say, life skills for the kids?

I made this cookie from scratch, which I really don’t advise. Unless baking is your thing. Then go for it!

Otherwise you can grab a tube of ready-made cookie dough and spread it out in a circle on a pizza pan or pizza stone. Bake according to the directions on the package (around 11-13 minutes).

Once the cookie is cool, top with fruits and berries. We used strawberry sauce as the pizza sauce and topped with banana slices, frozen blueberries, chocolate chips and a drizzle of chocolate syrup, that’s it. A super easy and quick dessert any night of the week.

The strawberry sauce:

1 cup of strawberries (frozen or fresh)

2 TBSP cane sugar

Sprinkle the sugar over the strawberries and leave in the fridge for a few hours. The sugar breaks down the berries until they are juicy. I used a potato masher to squish them into a sauce. Spoon over the cookie crust as the pizza sauce.

You can get as fancy as you want and add whatever fruits or berries your kids will eat. If your kiddo can have nuts, drizzle on some melted peanut butter. You really can not mess this up, just make it your own and enjoy!

Check out my cheater recipe for beignets or pizza rolls.

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Roxanne Ferber is a blogger mom and freelance writer. She enjoys the sweet silence of kids sleeping in and has a crippling coffee addiction. Motherhood has changed her in many ways, but remaining non-judgey and ready to support other moms are her strong suits. If you’d like to work with her, visit the work with me link in the side bar. If you want to send her happy thoughts or share your motherhood story drop a line at [email protected], or find The Whatever Mom on Facebook.

Meet a Mom and Licensed Massage Therapist

Sakinah Irizarry is a mom to two young sons (ages 10 and 12) and a licensed massage therapist. She has a lot to balance between raising two amazing kids and running a business, but that doesn’t stop her from investing time and energy in her own community. On top of her mom life, she volunteers for the PTA, raises funds for local charities, champions inclusive school activities and works hard to elevate her mission for educational equity.

Her pursuit for equality for students doesn’t stop at making sure her own sons are included, but that every student is included. Sakinah stresses the value of having students in special education classes incorporated regularly at school events. She advocates for a broader presentation of American history in school and she works to break down barriers of race, ability and gender in early education. Beginning with her own small town, she is creating a stronger foundation that encompasses equality for her children and their peers. I truly admire her strength, her courage and the energy she commits to making the changes she wants to see in this world. You know, all while working the toughest job in the world, being mom.

Meet Sakinah!

What do you do as a massage therapist? I offer massage for stress relief, pain relief and prenatal massage.

Who can benefit from massage? My niche is caring for caretakers, such as teachers, nurses and new moms, also people caring for elderly family members or special needs children at home.

What is your business mission? My mission is to hold space for those who give so much of themselves to receive and be cared for, not only as a necessary component of being a caretaker, but because they are deserving as an individual.

How do you most relate to the Whatever Mom philosophy? Parenting is the hardest job I ever loved, and I often have to remind myself that perfection can be the enemy of the good. I do my best to lead with my heart and allow my kids to see me strive and overcome my own challenges.

What do you want other moms to know about you? I want other moms to know that educational equity is my passion. I am striving not only for the benefit of my biracial black and latinx sons, but for the benefit of all children in our district. I am of the belief that changing our society for the better begins with how we educate our children. They deserve equitable opportunities, a curriculum that reflects a wider variety of lived experiences and an age-appropriate and accurate reckoning with history.

In addition, I am a huge Star Trek fan.

What makes you stand out as a mom? I stand out in some obvious ways (I’m over 6 feet tall), but as a mom? I’m still learning and always willing to learn.

Where can other moms find you? Stop by my website or my Facebook page to learn more about my business.

Frozen Treats for Your Furry Child {Dog Moms this is for You!}

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Summer is finally here, and it has been so hot! Of course, when it is hot outside, our minds drift right to ice cream and icy treats. Our pup always gives us the sad eyes while we enjoy our ice cream, so of course we have to spoil him too. Except dogs shouldn’t eat dairy and the puppy ice cream in the stores we purchased a few years ago was made entirely with chemicals. Not one drop of food. We really questioned what was in it when it didn’t even melt while sitting in the direct sun. Yikes!

After making some strawberry and banana ice cream cupcakes for ourselves, we set out to make some fun bite-sized frozen treats for our best friend (and sometimes the most well behaved child in my home).

My furry child knows when we are whirling up frozen bananas, he is going to get a treat too. In fact, we have a special bone shaped silicon mold just for this recipe. If you couldn’t tell, he is a bit spoiled by his #dogmom and family.

If you want to make these for your fur-baby you do not need a special mold, you can just fill a lined muffin baking tray and put in the freezer. Before you serve them, simply peel off the paper and put the cupcake into your pup’s bowl and I guarantee they will eat it up!

Here is what you need:

2-3 overripe bananas (you know the ones the rest of the family won’t touch) peeled, sliced and frozen.

1 TBSP peanut butter (make sure it is natural, made without Xylitol).

Splash of non-dairy milk.

Blender or food processor

Silicon mold, or paper lined muffin baking pan

Place the frozen bananas in the food processor and add a splash of milk to help break up the bananas. Once the bananas begin to break up (about 1-2 minutes in the processor) add in the peanut butter (or another nut butter you know your dog can have safely). The consistency should begin to look like soft serve ice cream.

Scoop the soft serve bananas into your silicon mold (we used mini dog bone shapes) or into a lined muffin tray and place in the freezer for one hour. Pop the shapes out of the mold and store in freezer safe container. Serve on a hot day or when you think your doggie could use a tasty treat.

If you want to make dairy free ice cream cupcakes for yourself, you literally make them the same way. Except maybe make the cupcake sized treats for the humans? Listen, I won’t judge you if you use the little tiny bone shapes. They are supper cute.

Our guy loves this easy ice cream recipe so much, we always make him his own batch to keep in the freezer. Just look at the excitement on his face!

Roxanne Ferber is a twin mom, writer and blogger. She enjoys the finer things in life like drinking coffee in total silence and driving alone in the car listening to her own play list on full blast. You can join her private Circle of Moms Facebook group if you need mom support (but there’s a strict no selling stuff policy) or follow along on The Whatever Mom Facebook page if you need some laughs. Thanks for reading along!

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Meet a Mom and Kindness Hustler

Jessica Negron, mother of two and the owner of Three Wishes Boutique has been a friend for a few years. Not only is she a wonderful part of The Whatever Mom community and circle of moms, but she is busy living The Whatever Mom philosophy by empowering other women and staying true to herself.

Raising two amazing humans is a lot of work, but Jessica makes it look effortless along side college classes, fundraising for the St. Baldrick’s organization, fostering dogs in her home, and volunteering for every cause that speaks to her. She recently made sure our front line medical workers in the community had access to PPE and self-care kits. If there is a person or creature in need, Jessica will create a way to lend her support.

Meet Jessica!

Where does the name for your business “Three Wishes Boutique” come from? The “Three Wishes” in the business name stand for my wishes to:

1.) Be able to support my family without compromising my time with them while supporting other female made local small businesses!

2.) Be able to give back to the community & create a safe community for women through clothing & accessories!

3.) Remain successful for years to come so I can continue the first two wishes!!

Where are you located? I am located in Port Ewen, NY. I also travel with my renovated delivery truck. It has a fitting room and additional shopping displays filled with products made by other local moms.

What makes you stand out as a mom? Oh wow, well this is a tough one…. “Stand out?” I feel like I do what most moms do. Maybe juggling school and small business ownership adds a layer of chaos that I struggle to manage well, but I still try my best to give my kids my best. I think that’s what we all do though. I love being involved in community causes and signing up to chair mega fundraisers and coach sports teams despite the chaos it can bring to my schedule. I know it is a struggle to find parent volunteers that have the time to commit to causes. (Which is another reason my small business has been an AMAZING blessing to me, it offers me the flexibility to be in all the places!)

What do you want other moms to know about you? I am a hot mess, just like (and probably more than) you! The connections I’ve made through my business have created the most amazing and LOVING network of women who have helped me through hard times, and helped me help THEM and find the community where the need is! It is THAT, that fills my cup every day and keeps my purpose alive! I love that I have the support of my community rallied behind me in everything I do! And I love sending that support anywhere it is needed as well!

How do you most relate to the Whatever Mom philosophy? My business works to create a safe space for women to NOT feel judged, to help learn to love their bodies and where they are on their journey in life. Letting go of the “perfection” and being kind to yourself is what I try to demonstrate through sharing my vulnerabilities with the community of women I’ve created in my group.

Where can other moms find you? Please join me at Lularoe Jess Negron _Three Wishes Boutique

Dairy Free Ice Cream Cupcakes

Picking your own berries and fruit is a great way to get kids outside and enjoying nature. Strawberries, cherries, blueberries and raspberries are all in season right now. And we are here for it!

This week we picked 4 gallons of strawberries and 8 lbs. of sweet cherries. We definitely could have picked more, but the storm clouds were moving in fast. We climbed into the car to go home just as the first raindrop fell. Perfect timing! My kids love cherry picking the most because they can climb the trees to reach the top branches. Thankfully, cherry trees are’t terribly high. Tomorrow we plan to pick blueberries and I can only imagine how many we will come home with.

After we picked all of our strawberries, I washed them and divided into freezer bags and tossed in the freezer. This assures me they will be usable later. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve let the berries sit for too long and wasted them, literally spoiling the fruits of my labor.

We have our standard uses for Strawberries. I toss them into our smoothies, pancakes and baked goods. And every year I make fresh strawberry ice cream. I make it right in my food processor and it is ridiculously easy.

I also make frozen banana ice cream pretty regularly. So, when I eyeballed those sad little bananas on my counter just turning brown, I had an idea. Why not make banana strawberry ice cream cupcakes? I’ll throw a little peanut butter into the banana ice cream for protein and it will practically be a health food! ~ genius

Here is the recipe I whipped up for my family to enjoy. It is dairy, gluten, soy, dye free and there is no added sugar. We did add a layer of graham cracker crumbs between the ice cream layers, but that is optional. Next time I am going to make the strawberry ice cream with coconut milk to see how that changes the texture. This makes six cupcakes, however, there will be about a pint of additional strawberry ice cream you can tuck away for yourself for later. You’re welcome!

I hope you make these and enjoy! Do you get out to pick your own berries? What do you make with all of those sweet berries?

Roxanne Ferber is a blogger mom and freelance writer. She enjoys the sweet silence of kids sleeping in and has a crippling coffee addiction. Motherhood has changed her in many ways, but remaining non-judgey and ready to support other moms are her strong suits. If you’d like to work with her, visit the work with me link in the side bar. If you want to send her happy thoughts or share your motherhood story drop a line at [email protected], or find The Whatever Mom on Facebook.

Eco-Friendly Play Kits from Love Play Create

Summer time is here and I am stocking up on all the play kits and science experiments I can to keep my kids busy. My kids are almost ten, but they still enjoy creating with playdough and using their very active imaginations. Since we are an eco-friendly family, we are always looking for healthy options for playing and living.

I purchased two awesome play kits from Love Play Create because everything is made with love and attention to detail. My kids fell in love with the bumble bee and the dragon themes. Take a look at what’s inside!

How cute are these bees? The play dough is made from all natural ingredients and stored inside glass mason jars which keeps the playdough fluffy for longer. All the play things my kids use to build their imaginary meadow, or bee hive are made from paper, wood or glass.

The shipping materials are all paper based and can be put in the recycling or compost bin, which we love! For preschool aged players this would pair perfectly with a story about bumble bees in the garden or how bees pollinate our food supply. Planting flowers after playing with bees helps little ones connect the busy work of bees! (Always supervise little ones while playing with small parts).

The dragon theme box is an equal favorite and truly indulges a creative imagination. The toad stools are hand painted wine corks and the adorable dragon cookie cutter is reusable. Don’t you think this set calls out for an after play time tea party with dragon shaped cookies to decorate? This is such a fun box!

Here’s what my kids say:

What is your favorite part? The playdough is fluffier than store bought.

What do you think of the accessories? These things are fun to use to design the picture I have in my mind.

What do you think of the materials? I love that it’s safe for us and healthier for the earth!

Which theme do you like better? I love them both, I just can’t decide!

There you have it, we are in love with these adorable play boxes! Now you can get yours for 10% off THROUGH SEPTEMBER 1ST 2020!! That’s the entire summer! Check out all the awesome themes available to keep your kids busy at the Love Play Create Etsy store, and use code WHATEVERMOM.

What is your kiddos favorite way to create?

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