Choose your night! Decide which night works best in your family’s schedule to spend time watching a full-length movie.
Select a movie!Find out which channels and times movies are offered, select two movies, and ask the family to vote which one to watch! (P.s. you can also borrow DVDs from your local library for movie nights).
Grab your snacks! Make a fresh bowl of popcorn and toss out some toppings to let everyone create the ultimate snack bowl, offer a charcuterie board for everyone to pick at, or just have everyone rummage in the pantry for whatever they are in the mood for.
Choose your location! Typically, we like to set up inside with cozy blankets and pillows, maybe grab our favorite wooly slippers. But I keep dreaming of a movie night in the back yard with a cozy fire and s’mores. There will still be lots of blankets, just maybe not super close to the fire pit.
Does your family like staying home for a movie night?
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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).
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.
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!
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:
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.
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!
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:
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 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 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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.