Meet a Mom and the Owner of Olive & Elm Crafts

Meet my friend Kelly Fears! Not only is she a mother and business owner, but she also donates her time to supporting other moms. She runs a support group for moms surviving infant loss and a group dedicated to helping other moms run a businesses.

Kelly started her own business making customizable gifts, shirts, tumblers, totes and more, as a way to express her creativity while staying home with her two adorable children. She built her business from scratch and is dedicated to helping other small mom run businesses succeed.

How did you come up with the name for your business? Olive & Elm is a mash up of all my children’s’ names. My twin daughters Ellie & Emma past away on their due date, and I really wanted to make sure all my children were included in the name.

What types of products do you offer through Olive & Elm? Signs, Gifts, Décor, Shirts, Tumblers & more. I also co-admin a local, small business mamas group on Facebook. I put several hours in each week curating content to help small business mamas navigate being a mom & running a small businesses.

Where are you located? I have two locations, one in Dutchess County NY an one in Saratoga County, NY.

Describe your business mission: I create customized items people need with a personalized touch, and offer them the experience to talk to the creator of their products.

How do you relate to The Whatever Mom Philosophy? Honestly, since reading your blog it has helped me to let go of the imperfections that I felt were a character flaw and my failures as a mom/wife etc. So, Identify with your struggles and the reminders to sometimes just say “Whatever” and embrace the messiness.

What do you want other moms to know about you? I also run a support group for moms who have lost mono/mono twins. I started the group in early 2014 after my mono/mono twin loss. It is an extremely rare and extremely high risk pregnancy survival rate, at best it’s about 50%. It was hard to find groups that understood the rare nature, the high risk and then the loss. I created the group in hopes of connecting families who have walked the same path as we did for support and understanding.

What makes you stand out as a mom? I think I’m fairly funny and easy going despite having gone through some of the darkest pain most parents could ever imagine. And, I love owning my small business. I try to help other moms find the in’s and outs of owning a small business as well.

Where can moms find you? Olive & Elm Crafts Facebook Instagram and TikTok.

What is Going Right During this Pandemic?

Several weeks ago, I asked the moms in my Whatever Mom Circle private group what is working for them during quarantine. What is something positive they are gaining from this time at home? Almost everyone said, slowing down has made a big difference in how they feel.

Normally, as moms, we are rushing from one drop off to another, running errands and racing through our day in a blur. Now that we are home more, that hectic pace has shifted. Yes, we are now handling more educational tasks than before, but there is less pressure to get everyone out of the door by a certain time. Most of us are letting the kids sleep in a little longer. It is sad our favorite activities are on hold, but it’s also nice to not have to crack the whip to get through dinner on time for soccer practice.

What else is going right?

Well, I for one feel less anxious about sending my kids off each day into the unknown. Will they be bullied today? Will they be afraid during a lockdown drill and I won’t be there to comfort them? Will they eat their full lunch today? Will they feel ill and sit in the nurses office? Now that we are home together all day, I don’t have to worry so much.

Then there is not having to pack lunches! Shout out to the gods above because I HATE packing two lunches every night. Lunch planning is the bane of my school year! I count down to every Friday because the cafeteria serves pizza. The one school food my kids willingly eat. God bless the lunch ladies! I haven’t met them, but I hold each of them in my heart.

My kids are connecting more with each other. The hectic pace of the school day, shuffling from one classroom to the next and using manners seems to wear them out entirely. This leaves very little patience for one another. As soon as they return home it is non-stop bickering and arguing. They still argue in quarantine, but they are a bit more patient and more accepting of each other in their respective spaces.

Overall, this pandemic at home thing is not ideal. It’s not my favorite experience. But, I am grateful my kids are home with me where I know they are safe. I like that we can slow down and we have less obligations on the calendar. I like that we are eating better. I like that we are using our local farms more, have more time to grow things and my kids are learning life skills.

Plus, there is a lot more wine in the house lately. Perhaps one silver lining to this pandemic.

What is working for you during this pandemic?

Writer Bio for The Whatever Mom

Meet a Mom Monday

This post kicks off my new weekly series, Meet a Mom Monday! I thought it might be a fun way to introduce some moms already in The Whatever Mom community. I put out a call to moms already following along to introduce themselves and tell us more about how they are making a difference within their communities alongside being a mom. It’s easy to lose ourselves in motherhood, especially in those really early years. It’s hard to remember that life will get a little easier and there will be more time for ourselves. I hope the amazing women you are about to meet will inspire you to keep your own dreams alive! I know they inspire me. So, without further ado, meet Nakeyia!

Nakeyia Jones is an author and owner of Uniquely Purposed, LLC a publishing company focusing on children’s books and novels. She has authored children’s books, family devotionals and a recent novella of her own. Her first book, Super Spots shares the story of a young girl living with a skin condition known as Vitiligo, a condition Nakeyia herself lives with. Her hope is to inspire others living with this condition and to raise awareness and acceptance.

Describe your mission: To inspire children to embrace their differences and those of others. I want to reach moms of twins, children with special needs and rare diseases and adults that want a little suspense out of a book.

How many children do you have? Two children and one grandchild.

How do you relate to the Whatever Mom philosophy? We are not given a handbook on how to raise our children. The Whatever Mom helps us all to know we are human, will make mistakes and we are not alone on the parenting journey.

What do you want other moms to know about you? I am passionate about the future of young people and it’s my calling in life to help them find purpose and keep them motivated.

What makes you stand out as a mom? I raised a hyper-active child successfully, that is my super power!

Where can other moms find you? I am on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Virtual Activities to Keep Your Kids Feeling Social

I know moms miss having the kids in school right now, for obvious reasons. There’s no time to work and teach and there is no time to work and teach and cook a million times a day.

Not being in school is incredibly hard on the kids too. Especially the kids who really love going to school each day to see their friends. My kids are social creatures and look forward to conversations with their bus drivers, their teachers, school staff and friends every day in school. There just aren’t as many people to talk to at home. So, we have to get a little creative with how we participate in our friendships from home.

Thank goodness for technology! We use Zoom and Google Meets to keep in touch with teachers and classmates and to have individual virtual play dates. My kids are young so they still like to play on play dates. Here is what they’ve loved so far:

Bake Some Treats – pick a recipe you both have ingredients for (we chose chocolate chip cookies). Follow the steps together and show off your progress. Kids can keep the conversation going while they are waiting for the cookies to finish baking. Once the cookies are cool enough to eat, it’s time for both friends on either side of the screen to grab some milk and get to dunking. There is something so comforting in sharing fresh warm cookies and chatting with a friend.

Play games – There is a whiteboard feature on the Zoom screen. Kids can use this to play tic tac toe, hangman, Pictionary or share the screen to take turns completing a drawing project. This one is so much fun because both kids can participate and no one needs to rummage for the same game pieces.

Watch funny videos together – Zoom and Google Meets allows you to share the screen so you can load up some funny pet videos from the Internet, or share a movie experience together. Everyone can grab their own snacks before they sign on and pick a video or movie to watch together.

Build things – If your kid loves to build with Legos, Blocks or magnetic tiles, or scraps of recycled materials, they will love building something along side a buddy to show off when complete. Kids absolutely love show and tell and sharing their creations.

Get artsy – my kids love to paint or draw or make their own books. Grab all the supplies you need, log on and let the kids brainstorm their own themes and get to work. This is a great way for kids to share in the creative process together while socializing.

Read together – it can be hard to encourage kids to read outside of classwork and school time. But if they have a reading buddy it makes it more fun and feels less like work. Have your child grab a favorite book to read to their friend (and their friend’s pet if they have one). They can chat together in the end about the books, or just about life and connect.

Host a virtual sleep over – we haven’t tried this one yet, but it is on our list! No need to leave your kid logged in all night (mine would never go to bed!). Just hop into some comfy pajamas and get ready to eat some snacks and play some games! You can throw in homemade facials, or chit chat while painting nails. Maybe watch some videos together or make your own silly videos to capture the memory of this really unique slumber party.

Even with the use of technology, it can be hard not seeing people up close and personal. So, we’ve had a few creative socially distant get togethers too. One morning we called our friends and told them meet us outside. We drove to our their houses with music blasting and had a dance party in our car while they were in their yard. We’ve dropped off surprise gifts and we’ve had friends do walk-bys and stand at the end of driveway to offer hellos and air hugs. Just parking 6 feet apart with our cars side by side so the kids can talk across the divide does wonders for their social emotional health.

Now that spring is here and we can be outside, it doesn’t mean we are ready to rush getting together. We still need to keep our socially safe distance apart to keep everyone healthy. We can’t participate in our friendships and socialize the same way as before, but with a little bit of creativity, we can find some new ways to stay together even while we are apart.

Writer Bio for The Whatever Mom

Spring Cleaning During a Pandemic? Leave it to the Professionals!

This post contains sponsored content.

Anyone else feeling overwhelmed by the thought of yard work and exterior home clean up? Between crisis schooling the kids, cooking every meal, sanitizing protocols and working from home I am so exhausted. I am ready for a nap by 2:30 p.m. every day! By Saturday, the last thing I want to do is spend hours on yard clean up and power washing the deck. I feel like as a family we work hard during the week on school assignments, cleaning and chores that I feel guilty doing more work on the weekends.   

As my husband and I made our list of springtime chores, we realize at our current pace and weather patterns, we are so behind. Even when we include our kids in the work, it takes us triple the time to get it done. So, now we are working through the week and on the weekends checking off our springtime cleaning tasks. I am a firm believer that professional help is worth every penny especially when it saves my sanity! So, I want to share with you a family run business out of Clifton Park, NY that I recently discovered, E&J Cleaning and Floors.

Call / Text For Your Free Estimate Today 518-419-4683

Hiring professionals during this COVID crisis can feel uneasy. We want to make sure they are following safety protocols and social distancing practices. Thankfully, E&J Cleaning and Floors has adapted to create a no contact service call to help knock those big cleaning tasks off your list and free up your time. They offer power washing for your siding, deck, fences, driveways, patios, etc., and window washing. All these services can take place at a distance on the exterior of your home, and can be arranged via email, phone or text. Estimates are free and payment handled over the phone before work is completed. That means no face to face, no hand shaking and no pen sharing. This is perfect for families overwhelmed by working, educating and isolating at home, or older homeowners who need the extra help. And, getting these chores taken care of safely will be a huge relief.

Photo credit: E&J Cleaning and Floors

You can visit their website for details and to see before and after photos of all their individual cleaning projects on their Facebook and Instagram pages. Speaking of the details, I notice they also clean home interiors and are providing a unique sanitizing system in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. To help businesses and homes safeguard against the COVID-19 virus, they are using a special Electrostatic Disinfection technique. The technique includes using a designated applicator that administers a negative charge to the EPA approved cleaning solution as it applies an even coating of the solution onto surfaces and into hard to reach places. The E&J Cleaning crew is already using the system inside campers and offices and adapting for residential use. Staff will arrive wearing masks and gloves and keeping a distance from anyone in the house. This service sounds ideal for homes of essential workers who may be worried about exposing their families to the COVID-19 virus, doctors’ offices, families who may be more vulnerable to contracting the virus, etc. I did some quick research and find that it is most effective after a deep clean of your home. E&J Cleaning and Floors also offers in-home deep cleaning and sanitizing those high-touch surfaces such as light switches, doorknobs and handrails.

As a local, small business E&J Cleaning and Floors is ready to serve the greater Capital District area of NY with dedicated and individualized service that includes keeping your health and safety in mind. You can also grab a gift certificate for a cleaning to use when this stay at home life is over. If your house is anything like mine, after four humans living here 24/7 for two months it is probably screaming DEEP CLEAN right about now. (Ahem, Mother’s Day is in 11 days! And nothing says thank you like giving mom the day off from any chore!).

Earth Day Coloring Contest!

Happy 50th Earth Day!

Today is the 50th celebration of Earth Day and on a personal note, it is my 30th celebration. I began celebrating as a high school student when I joined the Student Environmental Action Committee (SEAC). Every Earth Day we hosted a campus wide cleanup of the school grounds and planted trees. During the year we wrote letters to our state representatives asking them to consider funding recycling programs, and we wrote letters to large corporations asking them to stop testing on animals. And right in our own school we worked with our administrators to amplify our recycling efforts and limit the amount of waste we generated as a school community. It was my first lesson in creating change right in my community. I can’t remember if any of our larger efforts outside of our school made direct changes, but I do believe that all of our collective efforts helped power the eco-friendly movement. Thirty years later, I am so excited to share with my own family how to reduce, reuse and recycle what we have. We do our best each day to keep our planet and living creatures healthy, from recycling to pitching single use plastics from our home, we make sure to put thought into our impact on the environment.

This week, my daughter designed an Earth Day poster to share with her class. I shared her design with my friend Kelly at Olive & Elm Crafts who generously jumped on board with an Earth Day coloring contest! Use THIS LINK to find the FREE Earth Day Turtle coloring page. Let your kiddo color it and snap a pic to share on Olive & Elm’s Facebook post announcing the contest. We will pick a winner next week to receive a FREE reusable tote bag with their artwork on it! This is our fun way of celebrating the day with all of you!

* * * Now for the awareness part! * * *

Read on to learn more about small changes your family can make at home for a big impact!

Making eco-friendly changes can feel overwhelming when you aren’t sure where to start. The key is to make changes that your family is most likely to stick to and not give up on. We are so reliant on convenience, but there are plenty of swap outs you can make that are still convenient (and affordable) for a busy family. I always tell families to start with just one simple change and once you have that down pat, look for another. Every bit helps and the more families making small changes, the bigger the long-term effect!

Here are some simple changes families can make to help keep the planet healthy!

  1. Swap out your paper napkins for cloth. This might sound like more laundry, but it really isn’t. I toss our cloth napkins right in with the weekly load of kitchen towels. I am just pitching them into laundry I am already doing, so no extra step. I found our cloth napkins at thrift stores for near pennies!
  2. Recycle properly. I have learned over the years that not all plastics are created equal and many of us just toss all our plastic items into the bin assuming it will be recycled. The term for that is, “wish cycling.” The truth is, not all plastics are accepted in every town. Go to your town’s website and search for a listing of acceptable items. Hang the list on your fridge so everyone in your family can refer to it. Try to avoid buying plastics or other materials that are not recycled in your area.
  3. Pitch the plastic water bottles and sippy cups. Switching to stainless steal is a much healthier alternative. Not only are plastic bottles plaguing our waterways, but we can ingest microplastics and plasticizers (chemicals in plastics). We fill up our stainless bottles and leave in the fridge for a grab and go cold drink during the day and I send them along in the school lunches.
  4. Switch to bamboo toothbrushes instead of using plastic. Did you know every single toothbrush ever manufactured is still living in a landfill or floating in our oceans? It takes hundreds of years for the plastic to bio-degrade. Bamboo is compostable and biodegradable. Plus, it is antimicrobial which stays cleaner than plastic. These brushes are quickly becoming more affordable and only need to be replaced every 6 months.
  5. Reduce convenience packaging. Everything about modern parenting is created with convenience in mind from travel pouches and storage bags to plastic to-go cups that transport easily in the car. We will buy bulk sized snacks (or make our own) and store in reusable containers like mason jars or a soup Thermos for every day snack options and leave the convenience packages for long trips.

I could keep the list going. Every year my family and I take on one new eco-friendly habit to change. The ones listed above are the easiest and most affordable changes for families to make.

What is one change your family is planning to make in honor of Earth Day?

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?

My Favorite Turmeric Tea For Immune Health

A couple of weeks ago I posted on Instagram how I upped my adulting level to drinking Tumeric tea. I was shocked by how many questions I received asking why I drink it and how do I make it.

Well, to tell the truth, drinking tea is one of the ways I make time for self care. The act of making tea kind of slows me down and gives me a moment to pause. Once I pour the hot water into the cup, I hold the warm cup in my hands to soak up the heat. (My hands are continuously frozen from October through May).

I started adding turmeric to my favorite lemon, ginger tea to help tame the inflammation from my arthritis. Getting through the winter in the North East is tough. But, this has truly helped me keep up with my kids hectic pace. Turmeric also gives the immune system a boost. Pairing it with the Vitamin C in the lemon and combining with the health benefits of ginger makes for one tasty, healing tea. I add just enough honey to balance out the spiciness of the turmeric.

There are all kinds of recipes you can find that uses whole fresh ginger root that you peel and slice, then you add a squeeze of fresh lemon…but I don’t have time for that in my day. I use my favorite brand of bagged tea and add in 1/8 tsp of turmeric and 1 tsp of honey. Easy peasy without the lemon squeezy.

I still love my coffee to get me going in the morning, but I love a warm cup of slow sipping tea a few times of the day to slow me down and keep me feeling connected.

How about you? Are you a tea drinker?

Writer Bio for The Whatever Mom

Come Spend the Day with me at Mom University! *Exclusive Discount*

Mom University is a one day event just for moms.
This is a compensated post, but all opinions are authentically my own.

This time last year I was in deep need of a mental and physical break. I had just left a horrible job and was under stress at home while trying to get work lined up. My husband and I were fighting so much, and one of my kiddos was having a rough time at school. I felt like I couldn’t keep up with all the demands coming at me all at once. I was stressed to the max.

I needed a break so badly, that I drove an hour all by myself through the snow and rain to get to an event called, Mom University. It is a one-day event from 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. with food I don’t have to make and coffee and conversation with other moms in the same boat as me. I arrived alone, but I wasn’t alone for long. Other moms invited me to sit at their table and the organizers Jen, Alicia and Laura made me feel welcome. After settling in with my cup of hot, fresh coffee and rooting through my swag bag of goodies, I dove into the breakout session topics. I was excited to spend time with experts in the areas I was struggling with the most, nutrition, finances, self-care and kid behaviors. And, the chair massage and blow out bar were an amazing extra in my day. I laughed so much, and I even cried a little when some of us shared our mom stories. It was a powerful day.

Mom Swag! So much more in the bag, but I couldn’t hold it all up for a selfie.

I came to the event feeling like a hot ball of stress. But when I left, I felt more relaxed, uplifted and ready to face the chaos at home. I had tools to use to take care of myself and my family and the best part, I knew I wasn’t the only mom struggling.

I am excited to return to the gorgeous Locust Grove Estate in Poughkeepsie on March 29th, 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. for another exciting line up of experts to learn from and this time, meet up with mom friends. And I am even more excited to share with my readers and local moms an *exclusive discount* so you can experience Mom University for yourselves! You can buy your tickets —> here <—- and use the code WHATEVERMOM at checkout (before 3/1/20) to take $10.00 off your ticket which entitles you to a full 7 hours of time to connect and recharge. (A full hour alone at the spa costs more and there’s no one feeding you).

Julie Ciardi 2019 Key Note Speaker

As moms, there is no manual for how to make all the things work. It’s kind of a learn as you go job. That’s why we need a village of other moms to talk to and learn from. Mom University is like a career development day for all moms where we can learn to master the challenging parts of motherhood. I’ve been a SAHM, a WAHM and a work outside the home mom and this day applies to every single mom out there. Every mom needs connection. Every mom needs solidarity. Every mom needs time to grow. It’s hard to do all those things with a toddler tugging at your back pockets, or a boss breathing down our neck.

The 2020 event has over 16 workshops lead by professionals and guest speakers to help ignite your passions and help you find balance. This event is created by moms, for moms. You might recognize Jen and Alicia from The Mommy Dash; both moms struggling to make it all work too. It is their vision and passion to bring this day to all of us. (I don’t think they ever sleep).  I am so thankful they still have the energy to take care of all of us with a catered breakfast and lunch, snacks and coffee, mini massages and a mommy marketplace, oh and a DJ dropping the sound track to our lives.

Jen, Laura and Alicia all sporting their fabulous Mom U Sweatshirts from the Mommy Marketplace.

Being a mom myself, I know how hard it is to take an hour for myself, let alone an entire day, but I assure you the house will still be standing when you get back home. The kids will eat garbage while you are gone, and your husband will tell you it was all easy. But you will be ready to let it all roll off your freshly massaged shoulders. And nothing can replace feeling recharged and connected. So don’t wait, go grab your special discount and shoot me an email at [email protected] and tell me to look for you there!

Writer Bio for The Whatever Mom

A Parenting Book Every Kid Will Want to Read!

Working book title selected by The Whatever Mom. Not up for grabs.

For years friends and family have asked me to write a book about my life as a twin mom. How do you survive two babies at once? How do you handle raising two girls the exact same age? That’s a damned good question, because I am not sure my cursing and personal tantrums set the parenting bar very high. Surviving for me, looks like a lot of running to another room to hide from my family, so that I can curse into a closet and come back a wholly refreshed human being.

Nearly every minute of the day, I am writing a book inside my head. Or I am at least ear marking a moment to share later. I really believe we each have our own struggles as parents, and we all think we are the only ones struggling. I can GURANTEE YOU, you are not alone! And I think we can also agree, parenting would be so much easier if it weren’t for the kids.

And that’s why I’ve created this book just for kids! A simple strategy guide for making their lives easier and moving up the ladder to become their mom’s favorite child. By chapter 3, EVERY kid will be able to usurp their siblings place in line as the family favorite. It is filled with real stories of all the times my kids lives would have turned out much better if they had just listened to their mother.

Perhaps you can relate, and are looking for a solution? If your child is old enough to read, they are old enough to follow this easy guide!

How many times do you tell your kid not to do something because they could get hurt, and literally before your very eyes they are doing it and getting hurt? Or how many times have you asked your child to finish a simple task, only for them to throw a 20 minute tantrum and get a consequence they could have avoided if …. they just listened to their mother?

Childhood would really be much easier for kids if they just read my book and follow the cautionary tale of a set of twins refusing to listen to their mother. It could help them avoid countless hours of punishment and countless tears. Gift your child with my book today, and set them on the path to thriving, not just surviving.

Other titles from the author’s child series you might recognize: Just F$#@ing Do It! – A Simple Guide to Clarifying Your Intentions.” “Because I Said So – How to Avoid the Wrath of Mom!” “I Swear to God I Will Throw the Xbox Away! – And Other Ridiculous Things Moms Say.” “Just Get Out of The Car! – How to Be More Efficient With Your Time.”

Writer Bio for The Whatever Mom

Lilla Rose Accessories Review & Giveaway

This is a sponsored post. I received product and payment for my review, but all opinions are honest and my own.

Have you ever found yourself in a hairstyle rut? I used to take the time to at least brush my hair every day, but now that I am a mom, I just swipe it up into a messy bun in the morning. There it stays. All day long. Lately I’ve noticed a lot of my mom friends take the time to do their hair. They look good! And it makes me wonder, “when did I become so bad at just brushing my hair?”

I can’t just blame it on motherhood. I also work from home so the need to style my hair isn’t a big necessity anymore. I usually don’t even notice how crazy my hair is until I pass my reflection in a store window. Then I remember, “whoops! I forgot to do my hair today.”

So, I partnered with an independent stylist from Lilla Rose.  Marianne sent me three Flexi clips to try. I admit I panicked a bit when I thought these clips were two separate pieces. My mom brain would lose them in half a second and it would be extra for me to keep organized. Thankfully, the stick piece of the clip is secured to the decorative clip making it all one piece. Convenient!

The large size is great for twists and upsweeps but did not work for a straight ponytail for me. I have super thick hair that everything slides out of, even hair ties and scrunchies. So, I wasn’t surprised by that, but I was surprised by how quickly I could assemble a more sophisticated and polished style in the same amount of time it takes to throw my hair into a sloppy bun.

Round center with a jet stone and jet bead accents.

The medium size is perfect for a half up, half down look. This is often a go too look for me, but in a hair tie it looks like a fallen sloppy bun. In the clip, it’s a cleaner look with very little effort. This is the perfect size for me!

Silhouette of the moon with a face and gleaming star charms.

The small size is great for a little side sweep. Naturally my daughter fell in love with the tiny size and wanted it for herself. Of course, we had to play with it in her hair too. Like her mother, she enjoys the simplicity of a ponytail, so this was something different and fun.

Lilla Rose offers a wide variety of hair accessories. Besides the unique Flexi-Clip there is a gorgeous selection of U-picks, headbands, sticks, decorative bobby pins and brooches. Designs range from colorful and playful to simple and elegant. There is a design to fit everyone’s fashion sense.

I like that it doesn’t require much more time than I am already spending on my hair, I can get one of these clips in my hair in the same amount of time it takes for me to put my hair into a rubber band. And it gives my look a bit more finesse when I’m leaving the house. These clips are simple, elegant and easy to use. There is a library of styling videos sharing different ways to style with your clips and Marianne can guide you through the sizes and designs that suit you. You can also host an online Style Up party so you can spend time with your other mom friends without having to find a babysitter or leave the house while earning discounts and products of your own.

I love that these are so easy to use for everyday wear, but with the holidays coming up the Flexi Clip will make a great accessory to go with my party outfits. If you’re thinking the same thing, you are in luck! My new friend Marianne is offering a Flexi clip to three lucky readers! THREE WINNERS!

Enter —> HERE <— for your chance to win! There are a variety of ways to enter, each will count as one entry. Winners will be announced on The Whatever Mom Facebook page.

Connecting with My Kids Is Worth Every Minute I am Disconnected from My Phone

Hey, hey, hey! Last week I was on vacation with the fam. It was the first family vacation we’ve taken that no one had a public meltdown! We didn’t even argue. We had a few kid attitudes and grumpiness, but I was totally impressed by my kids use of manners in all the public places.

We spent time at museums, aquariums and shopping in crowded candle shops (with lots of breakable things), we hiked and played outside and discovered we all love the hot tub. My kids not only handled it all, but they seemed to actually enjoy it. There were no complaints of being bored, or begging to go home? Color me shocked!

I never go into a family vacation with the illusion I will get time to relax. After all, parents are never off the clock. If your kids are picky eaters at home, they will be picky eaters on vacation. If your kids have melt downs at home, they will meltdown on vacation. When you are a parent, there is no real vacation, just a change of location. However, this time, I actually felt relaxed. Another shock!

This wasn’t our first family vacation together. We’ve had many colossal vacation fails over the years. So, what was so different about this trip? Was it the extra sleep? Was it less whining? Did my kids suddenly mature since our last vacation? Was it less time on my cell phone? BINGO!

It turns out, it is totally possible to unplug when you are on vacation. Before kids and cell phones my husband and I never made a single phone call, or checked an email while on vacation. We didn’t have the technology attached directly to our hip and it was cumbersome to locate the business center tucked away in a remote area of the hotel or resort, we never bothered to find it. Who has time for that?

This vacation, I decided to live like it was 1990 something. Well, sort of. I limited my social media check-ins and text message replies to early morning before the kids were up and again after the kids went to bed. I locked my cell phone away in the safe, or my purse during the day while we traveled. And surprise, surprise I didn’t miss a thing! Just like in the 90s, if there were any kind of emergency, my friends or family would have left messages for me and awaited my return call.

Besides my limited screen attachment, this was the first family vacation where my husband wasn’t bombarded by several text messages every hour asking him to put out a fire hundreds of miles away. Before cell phones people knew you were on vacation and had no way to reach you. Today, those boundaries are nonexistent with a 24 hour connection.

I noticed our family was feeling more cozy and connected. My husband and I weren’t agitated by other people’s demands and taking it out on each other. I never realized before how having a stressful interaction online or via text message made us less patient with our kids and each other. Toward the end of the week I witnessed how our connection to technology affects family life.

When we woke up to a rainy day we cancelled all our travel plans and planned to hang around the pool instead. The pool was empty except for ourselves and we took full advantage by cranking up our volume and jumping into the pool. After an hour, another family entered. Both parents remained on deck, while they sent their preteen son into the water alone. No judgement here, I don’t know their full story. Maybe it was their first day off in a while and they needed some down time for themselves too. But what I saw next really broke my heart.

One parent opened up their lap top and pulled out the cell phone and had one eye on each, splitting their attention between two screens. That left little time for their kid bobbing around the pool. The other parent laid back on a chaise lounge and pulled their screen to their face and never looked up. Here’s where my heart break came in.

As my heart warmed watching my husband willingly embarrass himself playing Marco Polo with my kids excitedly running and splashing through the pool, my heart broke watching this kid all by himself looking at us and back at his parents and back at us again. I know we don’t have to be our kids only source of entertainment, but the look on this kids face made it clear he felt like he was alone in the pool. He lasted all of 20 minutes in the water before asking his parents to leave. They willingly obliged and packed up.

In that moment I realized just how much our own addiction to being attached and busy affects our kids. I am not comparing my story to theirs, or my family to their family, but watching their child’s experience definitely made me reassess my own digital dependence. Not being connected to a virtual world made it easier to connect to the world right in front of me. And the benefits of my family feeling more balanced and connected was worth every minute I didn’t have a screen in my hand.

The Mom Gear You Didn’t Know You Need!

The Whatever Mom pre-sale logo travel tumbler and V-neck t-shirt.

My fondness and love for Rosie the Riveter began with one simple poster I hung on my wall in college. I hung that poster by my door, so it was the first thing I’d see before leaving, and the first thing I’d see upon arriving. The words, “Yes, We Can!” were written across top, her arm flexing with sleeves rolled up just below. She was ready to believe in me and now, so was I!

I have carried some form of that poster with me for over twenty years to remind myself that no matter how hard things get yes, I can do this. So, when I became a twin mom overcome by fear, confusion and exhaustion, I carried that image on my cellphone and would look at it on my hard days.

It only made sense to me while designing a logo that I incorporate Rosie’s inspiration from my life. She is one-part Rosie the Riveter, one-part me. Ultimately this little logo represents me cheering on every mom. Sloppy bun – check! A tasty cup of motivation – check! And the attitude that yes, we can do whatever it takes to get through the day with our crazy little human tornadoes – check!

Thing is, after I had the logo in hand and slapped it on every social media platform I own, it kind of sat there. Waiting for bigger things. Well that day has come. I am launching some exclusive The Whatever Mom gear this week and showcasing my logo! You can get all the details and pricing options here —-> https://forms.gle/RgmwijA4cLj28NHc7

I selected a sleek 30 oz insulated tumbler to keep your coffee warm no matter where you leave it and a wash and go V-neck t-shirt to kick off my selection of mom gear. It’s all about the lifestyle. I hope to create additional fun and useful pieces to add to my shop very soon. Right now both of these items are in *pre-sale* which means once I reach a minimum quantity of orders my friend Kelly at Olive & Elm Crafts can begin production! This sale will shape all future swag found in my shop, so no pressure! 🙂

My oath to you is that I will not promote anything that I do not use or want for myself. I ordered the tumbler and t-shirt for myself to test out how it fits into hectic mom life. My kind of hectic may not look the same as yours, but at the very least, owning one of my logo pieces will be like having a little Whatever Mom alongside you through the day reminding you that YES, YOU CAN do whatever the day demands from you.

To treat yourself to something JUST FOR YOU, click this link to grab your order form. This pre-sale closes on November 1st 11:59 p.m. EST. When minimums are met and forms complete, invoices will be sent between November 1st and November 4th, 2019. Invoices must be paid in full by November 6th 11:59 p.m. EST. (If for some reason the minimums are not met any paid invoices will be refunded and you will be notified accordingly).

I am deeply grateful and incredibly excited to show off our solidarity and connect our mutual mom philosophy – just do whatever works for YOU!

5 Ways to Stay Healthy During Flu Season

Last week I shared in my newsletter how hard it is for me to keep up when I get sick. Life gets a little derailed and the timeline of our week is tossed around like a jumbled pile of fall leaves. In my house I am the keeper of all of the details and manage everyone’s schedule. So when I need to take time out for myself to heal up and rest, things come to a halt. I can delegate tasks from my bed, but that’s not really restful now is it? My husband gets sick and stays in his room without a peep. If I get sick it’s a million questions about where things go and what foods can everyone eat for snacks.

So my plan is to just not get sick, ever. Maybe that plan is not entirely realistic, but I can do my best to keep colds and viruses from taking over. And when I do get sick, I can give myself permission to rest when I need to.

Top 5 things you need to do to stay healthy this flu season:

1. Wash your hands! Teach kids to wash their hands when ever you return to the house. As soon as they come home from school, a birthday party, or just shopping, everyone must wash their hands. 

2. Remove your shoes! Think about where your shoes go in a day. At some point you are walking through a public bathroom and not everyone is an “expert marksman” if you know what I mean. Bacteria or viruses that stay on the floor travel home with you. Take your shoes off and leave them at the front door. 

3. Change your clothes! Kids are gross. They never look before they sit and don’t seem to mind wiping things on their clothes. Put their school outfit right in the wash in exchange for a clean outfit. It might make extra laundry each week, but worth it when that laundry isn’t due to a 2:00 a.m. vomit session. I also change my clothes when I’ve been in a doctors office or emergent care.

4. Toss the lunchbox left overs! I know, it isn’t a frugal idea to toss the leftovers from the lunch you lovingly packed for your child. But most cafeterias do not have circulating air, so when the kid next to your kid sneezes at the table it’s most likely to land in their lunch. If the food isn’t sealed, it gets tossed.

5. Disinfect the lunch box! Get a small spray bottle of peroxide at the dollar store. Use it to spray the inside of your kids lunch bag and then wipe it clean before putting it away. You can also run your child’s soft lunch box through the washer set on the gentle cycle once or twice per month.

I work from home so I am not exposed to all the germs my kids are. They are like little germ mules carrying bugs through the borders of our home. I can’t escape colds entirely and I get that we need to get sick now and then. But, most of the time moms do not have time to spare to heal from sickness. So by making sure my family and I are following healthy habits it helps block the amount of germs we bring into our house.

Parenting in Survival Mode

My husband traveled every week for the entire month of September and it sucked. It felt like he was home for a day or two with just enough time to unpack before repacking and leaving again. That left me to manage my kids, the house, the chores, the lunch packing, my blog and gave me zero time to take care of myself. Let me tell you, working from home isn’t easy when you’ve got last nights dinner dishes calling you from across the house. And of course it doesn’t feel like I’m winning mom of the year when I forget to pack an extra snack for my daughter’s long bus ride home. Ooops!

Chaos coordinator reporting for duty! When I am left alone to hold down the fort, I go completely into survival mode. Every parent knows survival mode. It’s what gets us through those lengthy stretches of teething and middle of the night vomit. There is nothing glamorous about survival mode.

For the first three years (or four – it’s kind of a blur) after my twins were born, I lived in survival mode. I mostly remember my husband working 17-19 hours per day while I was home alone with two infants and not a single extra helping hand. I cried a lot because I was so exhausted and in constant management mode. I actually made an appointment with a neurologist because I was convinced the exhaustion and dizziness were signs something bigger was wrong. She simply looked at me and said, you’re perfectly fine. You just need more help. And that’s when I realized perfection cannot exist in survival mode. I was trying too hard to make every piece of the puzzle fit perfectly and it was only hurting me in the end. Those early years really taught me how to live life with the bare minimum and that even the hardest days will pass. 

Thankfully, my husband doesn’t travel often and today he only works around 9 hours a day, but there are times those survival skills come in handy! It’s what gets us through a rough week, kid sickness or when things go a little off kilter. It’s good to have those skills, but survival isn’t a place you want to live in for too long. Believe me, there isn’t much joy in it.

I know there are plenty of you out there doing this gig solo every day. Whether you are divorced, widowed or maybe your spouse travels routinely for work. No matter what the reason, carrying the parenting load all alone is incredibly exhausting. My hat goes off to you! I’m sure you are familiar with survival mode, but I hope you are finding the support you need!

It has been a chaotic month for sure. It is also amazing how quickly I can slide right into trading perfection for whatever works. If I slow down and focus on each moment as it comes and not think too far ahead (and extend myself a little grace), I find it easier to survive when the wheels fall off the track.

How are you surviving this week?

Tips if your spouse travels for work:

If you know your spouse is traveling, prepare as much as you can ahead of time. Start by writing a simple menu for the week so you aren’t caught off guard at dinner time.

Use paper plates to eliminate the big clean up.

Line up the help you need – a cleaning lady at the end of the week, or a baby sitter during the week so you can run errands or grocery shop kid free. Order your groceries online and pick up at the store to save time.

Being out numbered by picky eaters and time, I try to keep dinner super simple. I will sometimes call a DIY sandwich night and round everyone up for a picnic on the living room floor, or I might put out a picky platter like this and let everyone chose what they want.

Use your calendar and sticky notes to keep you on task. I try to look at my calendar each night and make a list for the next day of the most important things I need to accomplish (lunches, phone calls, emails, etc). I write my list on a sticky note and I leave the note on my kitchen counter to review again in the morning.

Lower your expectations. Do not expect to fit everything into one day, or make all the ends meet. Your perfect plan will be destroyed by kids with a stomach bug, or a sudden school event you forgot about. Just keep things basic and aim for survival until help returns.

If you want to see what’s happening on the blog before I hit publish, or get a sneak peak at discounts, reviews and giveaways before they hit my social media – sign up for my bi-weekly newsletter (it only publishes two Mondays a month!).

Pirate Ringo’s Salsa Review – Arrrr me tasty!

Photo Credit: Pirate Ringo’s Salsa

Pirates are kind of a thing at our house. We speak in pirate often, well because it’s just fun. We have pirate jokes, enjoy pirate trivia and now we have a pirate salsa!

My friends at Pirate Ringo’s Salsa sent me a jar of their Original salsa to sample. Being the salsa junkie that I am I obliged me mateys (see…no end of pirate puns here!). This blend of medium heat spices and chilis has a good smoky slow burn to it. I tested it on a tortilla chip. It goes down easy before it releases the heat. I reluctantly shared my jar with my husband who lives for spicy food. In fact, there was a time he and a group of co-workers instituted the Iron-Stomach award for their weekly dinner outings. Whoever could finish the spiciest meal on the menu and walk away won bragging rights. This salsa isn’t that level of spicy, so even a light weight like me can handle it. The flavors shine through before the chili’s demand your attention.

As a self-proclaimed salsa junkie, I will eat salsa on a box, in my socks, over here, over there or anywhere. I top my nachos with it, my salads with it, add it to my scrambled eggs, top my baked potatoes with it and toss it into various recipes when I need some good flavor. After tasting this take on Tex-Mex, I knew what I had to do… I had to make a big crock pot full of my award-winning Lazy Tex Chili. If you are a chili lover pressed for time, this recipe is for you! It’s called Lazy for a reason. I literally dump everything into the crock pot and let it simmer for hours. I never touch it again.

But before I share my recipe with you, I have bigger news to share! Pirate Ringo’s is giving my readers an exclusive 20% discount to try their salsa! A jar or two of these salsas will make a great gift for the foodie in your life, that hard to buy for friend, or share for a unique hostess gift this holiday season. Chili is the perfect fall food, so you want to stock up on a few of these fiery tasty treasures to add to your favorite chili. Go to the website and pick a salsa to try and when you add it to the cart enter code WHATEVER20 (This code is only good through 10/2/19 so hurry!).

 * * Now for the recipe * *

This is the first time I am sharing my award-winning recipe for Lazy Tex Chili. I’m not kidding that it is award winning! A group of my friends held a chili contest and we sampled around a dozen different chili recipes among ourselves. Mine won first place! And, much to my husband’s chagrin, my lazy recipe won out over the chili he spent two days sweating over. Nothing says legit chili maker like a tiny plastic gold star trophy proudly displayed in the kitchen. At the time I created this recipe my twins were still toddlers, so I didn’t have a lot of time to stand around in a kitchen cooking with two kids hanging off my back pockets. This recipe was born out of my love for chili and having zero time to invest in making it. Grab a screen shot below!

If you want more simple recipes sign up to receive my newsletter! I send it out only two times a month and I make it short and sweet because we are all busy people! You’ll also get exclusive first looks on giveaways, discount codes, freebies and other fun stuff before it goes live on my blog and social media!

Being The Mom During COVID-19

It sucks.

Don’t get it twisted that I don’t love my kids and appreciate the extra time we are spending together, because I do. I love my kids more than anything and I am kind of happy to be home with them. It isn’t perfect, but we are together and that’s the only place I’d rather be right now. But… being THE MOM through all of this is a royal pain in the arse.

In my household, nothing gets done with out my planning and prep work. Literally nothing. I’m not down playing my husbands efforts, he is the main bread winner and without him we wouldn’t have a roof over our heads. I do appreciate his hard work, but that’s mostly what he is doing 98% of the time. Working for someone else. He pitches in with laundry and dishes and mows the yard and takes out the trash when asked, but the kids schedules, home improvements, vacations, appointments, meal plans, shopping, holidays, doctors, emergency room visits, middle of the night kid anxiety, that’s all me. Before this lockdown, I was already tired and missing out on my own essential self-care. But during lockdown? I wonder if I even exist most days.

I mean obviously, I do exist. In the same way Cinderella exists. Overworked and unnoticed.

As soon as my alarm goes off, my feet hit the floor and take me out to the kitchen to make the kids breakfast. I sling their fresh made pancakes in their direction while they rub the sleep out of their eyes in front of the TV. I take five minutes to get dressed for the day before settling each kid in front of their respective lap tops to log into their online classrooms. Then I spend the next half of the day bouncing between both kids playing tech support resetting WI-FI and helping them with writing assignments. We break for a quick PBJ before we do it all again for the next two hours.

Besides my new career in tech support, I’ve become a virtual assistant scheduling their online classroom meet ups and virtual play dates. So far, my kids have a better social life in quarantine than I do. Tuesday’s one kid bakes cookies, or paints online with a friend. On Thursdays the other kid meets online with a friend to play Minecraft. I stare longingly at the people walking by my house and wonder how weird would it be if I whipped open my front door to yell, “hello, hello, hellooo!!!”

The six hour work day I had before, is now filled with non-stop caretaking and managing other people’s needs. Yes, before the virus I was doing this too, except I was limited to only a few set hours each evening. There were only 4 or 5 hours of the day I was taking care of other people, cooking and cleaning and organizing take out to get out of cooking. Now, I’m on duty from sun up to sun down. And it is exhausting. The last time I was this exhausted, my kids were toddlers waking through the night.

It’s hard being THE MOM during the life and times of COVID-19. All I really want is a little mental space. A little time to do something more than brokering my kids social life and meticulously planning a two week grocery haul so I can avoid being in public.

I miss public.

I had some of my best times there. Talking. Chatting. Laughing. Taking a walk untethered from complaining children who never seem to be happy with anything I do.

For now, I will steal away the even smaller moments in the day to unplug from the motherhood grind. I will give myself grace when I’ve failed to put myself first. I will remain grateful for this time with my family. And I will give myself permission to admit that some days, it just sucks to be THE MOM.

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