As soon as summer arrives the girls and I hit the open road. We make several road trips each summer to see our family and friends. This weekend we traveled home to see Nana (their grandma). The girls were so excited they started packing two days in advance. Of course all they packed were pajamas and stuffed animals, but hey they were motivated!
On a typical trip home, or an outing anywhere, I pack up individual activity bags for each of my girls. This time I decided to go with one basket of activities. This will save me from having to reload two different bags and keeping track of what items belong in each bag.
I re-purposed a broken picnic basket I had set aside for the trash. (A small child in my care put their foot through the top while using it as a step stool. No names are given to protect the identity of the evil doer). I simply removed the hinges holding the top to the basket- viola! A perfectly usable basket!
My mom has a low tech household, which is fine because we do to. So, I packed activities they could do with grandma: side walk chalk, bubbles, card games, story books, and crayons and coloring books. I even packed our calming bottles just in case we needed to get through a tantrum while at Nana’s (thankfully they were really, really well behaved).
This basket was especially helpful during our drive! I left it in my passenger seat so any time the girls wanted a new book I could easily reach for one and pass it back to them.
The basket idea was a big hit for the girls and worked great for me!
What kind of activities do you keep on hand while traveling with kids?
The Whatever Mom is a full time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here.
I remember watching the Pull Ups commercial where the little girl is sometimes a “potty super hero, and sometimes she’s a potty princess” and I thought, “yeah that’s not gonna happen!” I am not going to make potty training this magical fun fest that never goes away. You have to pee, you put it in the potty end of discussion.
Well, fast forward to age four and a half and my little lovies are still fearful of using the big potty for more than the business of #1. We still have issues with #2 (To my child’s future therapist, I am not sharing this to humiliate my child as she will claim, but it is to help OTHER MOMS know they are not the only ones who do these crazy things in the name of helping their child “grow”).
Ya’ll… I willingly sprinkled glitter (a.k.a. magical fairy dust) all over my house to convince my children they had been visited by the potty fairy. What is the purpose of this potty fairy? Well, each child gets their own personal fairy who will go with them to the potty and keep them safe. I assured my innocent little cherubs that these fairies will give them the confidence they need to be successful little poopers. These magic fairies report back to Fairy Godmother who will grant them prizes based on their success. I said I’d never make the potty a magical place. And, now I hang my head in shame and share with the world the biggest, fattest lie I have ever told my children. And why? Because I am just trying to make it through ONE day without having to clean up you know. . . p-o-o-p.
We are on day two of the magic and so far one kid has lost her stupid little fairy, and the other is insisting her fairy will be making the poops for her, so she never has to sit on the potty again. *Sigh* I tried moms. I tried.
The most useful parenting advice I ever received: “all those things you said you’ll never do- you will do them ALL!” So, fess up moms! What have you done that you said you would NEVER DO?
Here’s a #TBT for ya! (That’s a Throw Back Thursday). My husband was kind enough to surprise me with a trip to New Orleans for my 30th birthday! (Many years ago). It was a dream come true to spend a week in the beautiful Crescent city. One of my favorite memories from that vacation is our breakfast trip to Cafe du mond. A small little slice of local life mixed with bustling tourism. The beignets and chicory coffee are amazing! Before leaving NOLA I vow to make them once a year and add chicory to my coffee forever!
That ambition didn’t pan out. But, the memory still remains.
I remember these little pillows from heaven during this weeks snow storm. We spent the day inside wearing our pajamas and snuggling on the couch. The snow coming down in powdery fluffs- my kids asked me if we are in a snow globe. Watching the feathery precipitation pile up reminds me of the snowy mounds of powdered sugar on those delicious biegnets. I quickly Google a recipe to see if I even have the ingredients for them. Of course not. But, I DO have frozen bread dough!
Even before my favorable memories of biegnets and chicory coffee, I have even more delightful memories of making “Pizza frite.” I am not sure why my family calls fried dough “fried pizza,” but I think it is because we shape the dough into small little pizzas before we fry them. We spent many, many, Saturday mornings making these together! I am happy to pass this tradition down to my girls!
Lucky for me I have everything I need to make beignet knock offs:
Frozen bread dough
Powdered sugar (or granular sugar and cinnamon)
Paper lunch sacks
Simply follow thawing instructions on the back of the package and allow bread to rise.
Heat 1/4 cup of coconut oil in large skillet or frying pan. (Coconut oil is pretty much a health food- so you are really doing everyone a favor by frying your dough in it).
Once the dough is ready, pull off small pieces to roll into a ball. Using your fingers begin to flatted the dough, keeping it in round circles.
You will know the dough is ready to flip when the outer edges of the dough start to brown and thicken. The edges loose their “sheen” and you may see air bubbles. (Similar to cooking a pancake).
Once you flip the dough allow your pizza frite to cook completely on the other side (approx. another 3 minutes).
Dough should be golden, light and fluffy.
Next add powdered sugar, or sugar and cinnamon into a paper lunch sack.
Little hands LOVE to put the dough in the sack and shake it all up! Watch out! This could get messy!!
If you have ever had a beignet you will know these are not exactly the same. But, they will do with a cup of sweet coffee on a white washed wintry day in NY.
Cheers! (My other favorite vacation memory includes martini’s in the oldest cigar bar in NOLA).
Let’s talk Valentine’s day. I’m sure by now you already have your Pintrest board all pinned and ready to go. So, I won’t bore you with another crafty hand print to hang on the fridge, or to mail off to grandma. Instead I want to share with you my most favorite tradition of all. It’s so simple and will only cost pennies to make. Are you ready? Write your kids a love letter.
Growing up my mom struggled to make ends meet as a single mom working three jobs. My siblings and I really didn’t get to see her often. My mom didn’t get to attend my soccer games, or school pageants because she was always working. I know this wore on her and it was not easy missing out on so much. But, every Valentine’s day we could count on two things: 1. a heart shaped box of chocolates and 2. a love letter. I remember rushing down the stairs to find both left at my place on the dining room table.
Write a letter for every birthday and holiday to tuck away for your child.
I loved opening the envelop to see her pretty penmanship float across the page in precise circles and loops. It was almost comforting to see my name written in her script. Every year she said all the things she didn’t have time to say to me on a daily basis. How proud she was of me, how much she loved me. I still have my letters tied in a ribbon, tucked away in an old box my mother decorated for me. It is one of my most cherished childhood possessions.
I love this tradition so much I started doing it with my own kids. I know they are only four and can’t read yet, but I have purchased a card every year since they were born. I have written to each of them how much I love them. I seal the envelop, write the year on it and tuck it away in their keepsake box. Now, I purchase a card for every major holiday and I write in it how we spent our holiday, what they were into at that time, what milestones they hit, or something personal about how I feel about being their mom.
One day I’ll hand over the box and hopefully they’ll allow me to open it with them.
Tips for writing a love letter to your child:
1. Tell them how much you love them. You may say it every day, but writing it down allows them to revisit it any time they need to.
2. Share your favorite times with them. Maybe you took a special hike, or played a new game together. Maybe you love that time you danced in the rain together, or how much you love rocking them to sleep at night. Reading your perspective from those special events really deepens their understanding of your bond.
3. Tell them how it feels to be their parent. We all get so busy with life. Our kids need to hear how happy it makes us feel to be their parent. (You know in between all the commands for “get your shoes on!” “hurry up let’s go!”).
4. Tell them what you are proud of them for. Not just “great game,” but how about “I love that you enjoy sports so much. It makes me proud to cheer you on every week.”
5. Share your dreams for them. Encourage your child to be anything they want to be. Teenagers especially need to hear this; busy teens need to know how much their parents are invested in their happiness. Trust me it will be worth all that eye rolling.
Many people ask me (on a near daily basis) is it hard having twins? My reply is usually “depends on the day.”
I thought I’d share a little glimpse into one of those days:
Thursday November 15, 2012
5:44 a.m. wide awake
6:00 roll out of bed to tackle dishes, laundry, breakfast and get dinner in the crock pot.
6:22 alerted by shrieking child who isn’t due to awaken for another hour. Quickly calculate approx. how long I can let her cry it out while I take a shower.
6:23 hop in shower while drinking coffee
6:24 get dressed while brushing teeth
6:25 walk in to get girls who are angrily emptying their crib in protest to my delay
6:30 give girls bowl of rice crispies and cup of milk
6:32 on hands and knees cleaning rice crispies off of floor
7:00 chase first child and tackle her into outfit & do her hair.
7:22 chase second child and tackle her into outfit & do her hair.
7:30 engage in philosophical debate about why we wear clothes.
7:32 give up and let them run naked.
8:00 attempt to finish dishes while the kids empty dirty laundry from basket and scatter about the house.
8:10 pick up scattered laundry while the girls hunt for mischievous projects
8:15 pick up box full of dried pasta dumped onto kitchen floor while demanding, “don’t eat that!”
8:30 diaper change goes awry x 2.
8:45 Someone frees the kitchen drawer from captivity. I clean up the mess and kiss non-existent boo-boo.
8:50 attempt to make 2nd pot of coffee with a toddler attached to each leg.
9:00 Blue’s Clues TAKE ME AWAY!
9:15 Blue’s Clues is not working- spend next 10 minutes breaking up fist fight over who gets to be in mommy’s lap.
9:30 realize I didn’t eat yet. Quickly make scrambled eggs.
9:35 endure hostile take over of my breakfast.
9:36 begin cursing every person who’s ever asked me, “are you going to have another?”
10:00 both girls start rummaging in the cupboard and argue with me that the gallon sized vinegar bottle is in fact juice. Go ahead try it- I DARE ya!
10:03 attempted unauthorized potty break, assaulted by the toddlerazzi invading my privacy.
10:15 begin the great diaper chase
10:40 children mock my attempts to build with blocks by kicking over my tower and laughing.
10:50 drift off and quickly awakened by someone slapping me and yelling, “mommymommymommyyyyyyyyyyy!”
11:00 turn on Blue’s Clues and forced to participate in ritualistic wailing for mail.
11:15 held captive on the couch and forced to watch as Blue finds every stinking last clue.
12:00 prepared a lovely meal for the floor to enjoy.
12:30 on hands and knees again to clean up floor.
12:45 play let’s make a deal- if you let me change your diaper you can have a cookie!
1:00 toss children in crib with cookie… stick a fork in me cuz I’m DONE!
That’s only HALF MY DAY!!
This post made me laugh then, and it makes me laugh now. When I was in the thick of the insanity of taking care of two toddlers alone I didn’t always find the humor. It felt like those struggles were going to stick around for a long time. The good news is it is two years later and we have all survived and moved on to different dramas!
I wasn’t the most patient parent, and sometimes I put way too much pressure on myself to make everyone happy (friends, family, kids, hubby) and forgot about myself. I really hated when people said, “you will miss these days.” The last thing I thought I’d miss is the nonstop screaming and crying and lack of shower time. I still don’t miss that part, but what I miss most is each unique little age and stage. I feel like I just didn’t get enough time to enjoy each kid during particular stages. It was just the three of us and not enough of me to go around. I felt rushed to get them through their milestones so I could check them off my parental to-do list.
Now that they are four, things are calming down in many ways. My girls are still a handful, and we still have our intense moments of battling wills. But it has only taken me the past four years to understand what it means to slow down, relax and don’t sweat the small stuff. The house is a little messier, the crafts get set aside and I’m happier to just sit down and hold my girls close. This is our last year together before they spring board into being a “big kid”: kids with their own opinions and mom just gets a little less cool each day. I already miss the spunky little toddlers they used to be with their chubby little bodies bobbing through the house, their tiny little giggles and the sweetness of their tiny head tucked under my chin.
Even though people warned me to slow down, take it easy and don’t rush- I just couldn’t understand it until I walked that path myself. I am not one to loiter with mom guilt, but there are days I feel completely guilty for wanting to hurry us through the roughest parts. I didn’t realize that would also hurry us through the sweetest parts too.
Enjoy the insanity- it doesn’t last as long as you think. And, one day when it is over you really will miss it!
My kids are totally obsessed with fuzzy pom-poms. You may have gathered that from my Easter post. They love to make crafts with them, count them, sort them, and now we are making games out of them. My kids do not like going outside in the winter- which I do not fuss about! So, we need to get creative with how we spend our time inside.
I should also admit that my twins are very competitive with one another. They make everything a competition to try to be the first to win a non-existent trophy. No joke. If one reaches the sink first, she will run back to her sister to snatch the invisible trophy from above her head. Then she chant’s, “I won the trophy and youuuu didn’t!” Not as charming when experienced first hand.
It isn’t any wonder that the girls really LOVE this game! They rush to see who can empty the pom pom bowl the fastest. You can make this game at home by grabbing whatever you have on hand!!
Fuzzy pom-poms (we through in some rubber spiky balls for fun)
A pair of tongs
2 empty paper towel tubes
2 empty baskets
Tape your empty tubes to the fridge, a door, or a wall. I taped ours to the fridge to keep the kids occupied while I make dinner. It was hard at first to not to play this game too. I’m kind of a winner and I like to compete. (Oh my little apples, I’m so sorry).
To play, simply use the tongs (or even tweezers) to drop the pom-poms through the tube and into the basket! The first one to fill their basket wins the game! (And gets to snatch the invisible trophy hanging above their siblings head).
This is great for developing fine motor skills. It also encourages color matching/sorting, sorting by size and counting. You’re child doesn’t have to be ready for any of those things to play this game. This is great for even the 18M + crowd. As long as you are playing with them to be sure they do not eat the pom-poms, or the tweezers, or lick the fridge. Well, that might not be so harmful.
Click the links below for more fun ways to play with pom-poms:
If you were a child in the 1980’s your birthday party might look something like this: friends, cake, ice cream and the backyard. Or, if you were really lucky, you got a party at McDonald’s.
If you are a child in the 2000’s your birthday party might look something like this: A high society ball.
We do birthdays a little different. Instead of spending several hundred dollars on a single party, we take our kids on a family vacation. Instead of entertaining them with a 4-hour party we spend the week visiting museums, aquariums, swimming, hiking and making lifelong memories. But my kids do have a specific formula for a birthday: play time, cake, presents and goody bags. In that order.
This year we did not go away because we are saving for a bigger trip next year. But, to satisfy my kids’ birthday requirements, I had a cozy play-date with cupcakes with an under the sea theme. We had a total of 10 kids and 8 adults the day of our party (down from 15 kids and 12 adults). Sadly, six kids cancelled due to ear infections and colds. A common hazard for winter parties: sick kids and snow days.
Our total budget for the party including food, cake, new birthday outfits and presents was just around $170. Here’s what it looked like:
I made these adorable shirts by simply ironing on little octopus embellishments to a tank top we already own. Paired with a 5-layer tutu and leggings, we have a complete ensemble for $15.00 each kid. Total for outfits = $30.00
After a little search on Pintrest I found I can make seaweed out of crepe paper. What? It was really easy! Just tape and twist two different colors of crepe paper together- done! I used less than 2 rolls for all our decorating. I used colorful paper plates as coral, and cut out fish shapes from glittery scrapbook paper.
Next I hung a fishnet that I found for only $3.00 at the local party store. I added seashells, pictures of my kids and little fish embellishments I found at the dollar store.
I took a little help from the party store and purchased pre-made tissue paper pom-poms. (I have attempted to make on my own and they do not look the same). I used crepe paper to look like tentacles. I hung these throughout the play room to look like sea creatures under the sea.
Total for decorations = $23.00
For activities we had a pinata (at my daughters’ request), an under the sea mystery box filled with shells we collected at our last beach outing, and the toys in our play room (totally free by the way).
I left the goody bags empty so the kids could fill them with the loot from the treasure chest. Instead of filling up the box with bags and candy, we chose fake jeweled rings, compass rings, under the sea creatures, necklaces and (chocolate) gold coins. It’s more like pirate booty and less sugar for the kids.
Making our loot bags was super easy thanks to Michael’s. I simply picked up a pack of plain white paper bags for $5.00 and attached some beach themed scrap book stickers. These adorable 3-D sea shell stickers were on clearance. I tied a pretty ocean blue ribbon on the top and done!
The mystery box contained sea shells and beach rocks we collected during our visit to the beach. We added “sea urchins” (little spiky rubber balls) and a few plastic sea creatures. Believe it or not, we already had those items on hand. The only cost for this is the wrapping paper ($1.00 at Target).
I even made a space for an under the sea photo op!
Total for activities = $45
I went really simple with the food: cheese cubes and grapes on skewers to look like coral, fish shaped peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, homemade shells and cheese, fish and chips (Goldfish crackers and potato chips) seaweed salad and sausage and peppers (I couldn’t find a clever name for that). Drinks for kids were juice boxes and for parents beer, wine and seltzer. Easy! Total food & beverages = $60.00
Our total for gifts = $10.00. I know you’re thinking, “What kind of cheapskate parents spend only $10 on birthday presents?” We bought only a handful of small gifts for the kids to open at the party. Their big gift from mommy and daddy was a ride on the polar express. (Purchased months in advance- not part of the party budget).
Since the girls’ birthday falls between Thanksgiving and Christmas we often ask guests to bring a canned good for us to take to the food pantry. This year we collected gently-used coats and warm winter clothes for children in our local foster homes. I was completely taken aback by everyone’s generosity! I hope this is one birthday tradition my kids will continue throughout life- giving back on their birthday.
After the party dust settled, the girls and I recycled some of the party decorations into thank you cards for our guests. I gave the kids some dot paints and paper, then we embellished them with the little decorations from our fish net.
The party was relaxed, the kids had fun and the moms even got a chance to sit down with a glass of wine and finish a few sentences. We didn’t break the bank for the kids to celebrate and get together with friends. I’d say that’s a formula for a successful party!
I don’t know about you but I am filled with a great determination to get organized this year! (Maybe it is just coincidence that about 1.2 million other people have this same urge?). Now that my twins are 4 I feel like I am finally coming out of survival mode. I’ve taken a look around the house and wow is it a mess! Well, not that anyone would actually see it as a mess because like everyone else I keep it all hidden in the closets! *wink*
I was hesitant to write about the dirty little secrets I keep behind closed doors. I mean who really cares about MY messes right? Well, we’re all friends here so I think it’s OK to let you take a peek. It will be like the Whatever philosophy expressed in pictures. Alright, only two pictures. I know we’re friends, but let’s not over share.
I was ridiculously overjoyed when I found these little beauties at Sam’s Club:
Yes, that IS twelve clear-plastic, empty shoe boxes for just $9.94! (I admit I have a strange addiction to storage totes and office supplies). But, where to use them? Hmmm…
How about that crazy bathroom closet I CAN NOT keep tidy?! Here we go! My bathroom closet stores all our extra supplies, the kids bath stuff, my hubby’s stuff and just a bunch of stuff. It looks like this:
Every morning I go rummaging around for my deodorant at the bottom of one of these cute baskets I employ to keep me organized. It’s always the wrong basket and I always drop something. No more!
Let there be boxes!!! Glorious see through boxes!! (I won’t tell you how many boxes are just for my products alone). Now when I do my hair I can pull out just the supplies I need without having to rummage around and carry them in my arms. I can have all my make up next to me at once instead of pulling out three different bags. Now to find pretty labels.
~ ~ FAMILY SHOW PORTION ~ ~
I did say this is a family show, so here is how I plan to bring the kiddos in on helping me keep things tidy.
Neither of my girls will stick to a chore chart. I think the longest one has lasted is three days. BUT! They are amazing helpers. Most often I cannot finish a task alone because one of my littles will ask to help. Sometimes I just want to finish MY OWN task (like tearing apart a closet). That’s where these helping hands come in!
I have a love/hate relationship with stickers (as in I hate peeling them off the floor). I was happy when the girls let the sticker charts go. NOTE: If you notice a chair or rug that seems out of place in our house, it is probably there to cover a stubborn sticker that refused to be removed. (Cue my new strange addition: Goo Gone).
Here’s how Helping Hands work:
Trace your child’s hand on a colorful piece of paper. Allow your child to decorate with (cringe) stickers, or jewels, or just color with a crayon.
Write a chore or helpful task on a Popsicle/craft stick.
Glue the decorated hands to the sticks and allow to dry.
Display upright in a pretty vase or jar, or you can stack them in a … clear plastic storage box? [har har]
When my kids want to help, but I need space to do what I need to get done, I ask them, “you know what would really be helpful? Can you pull out a helping hand?” Maybe my kids are weird (Hello apple? Meet tree.), but they really love a good task!
Now, it’s your turn to share a pic of that secret cluttered mess!
The girls have the entire Thanksgiving week off from school. We have been busy decorating, baking and making the house a giant mess. I am actually thankful for the toys scattered about the house. It means I have two amazingly creative kids who get lost in their imaginations. It’s not fun cleaning it all up again, but one day those little messes won’t be there to organize. Before I know it both my kids will be off to college and ready to start life on their own. Every now and then it hits me that having twins means they both leave at the same time. Such a scary thought. Until then I’ll try to remain thankful for the messes, the chaos and the perfectly imperfect days we share.
Here’s a round up of our week:
We started off by making a Thankful Tree. I used brown craft paper for our tree, but you can easily use a brown paper grocery bag. I traced and cut out leaves to write our thankful things on. Then we it all taped to the wall. The girls decided to pick out pictures of things they are thankful for. We pulled out some family pics I had taken through out the year, but you can easily use pictures cut from a magazine. Both of the girls kept calling it the Giving Tree. That would be a great story to read along with this project if you have it! If not you can get animated versions on Youtube. I found a copy of the original 1973 movie version narrated by Shell Silverstein!
I rolled out brown craft paper the entire length of the table so the girls could create their own pictures. We traced our hands to look like turkeys. The girls enjoyed making mama turkeys and baby turkeys. Again, you can easily recycle brown grocery bags for this project. Let the kids get creative!
I made these counting turkeys a few weeks ago which the girls really enjoy using. I just used materials we have on hand. Yes, I always have clothes pins and googly eyes on hand! Find instructions HERE.
Thanksgiving Eve packets!! I set these activities out the night before to surprise the girls with in the morning. This will keep us busy for a while! If you are following The Whatever Mom on Facebook you already know where to find these turkey printables!
We had our first winter storm yesterday. The snowy morning really put me in the mood for some good, warm comfort food. I made us some coconut, carrot french toast. It is inspired by the french toast I am in love with at one of my favorite restaurants (Love Bites). Not as good as theirs, but still a good way for me to sneak in some veggies and protein!
4 slices of favorite bread
1 small carrot (finely grated)
3 Tablespoons coconut flakes
1/3 cup milk (any kind)
1/4 teaspoon of vanilla
1/8 teaspoon of cinnamon
2 Tablespoons butter
Melt butter in skillet on medium heat. Whisk the eggs and milk together. Then add in rest of ingredients and whisk until combined. Dip bread into mixture and be sure to cover both sides. Place in heated pan. Cook both sides until golden brown.
We didn’t have maple syrup so I sprinkled with powdered sugar. A snow breakfast for a snowy day!
Whatever you do today enjoy your time with family and friends. If you plan to celebrate the day alone, I hope you still have plenty to be thankful for!