Category: health

7 Ways being a parent has made me a horrible friend

Ok, I’m not a horrible friend. But, I am definitely not as good a friend as I used to be. Before motherhood I was the girl you’d call at 2 a.m. and sob about your broken heart. I was the first to remember your birthday and get everyone together for cake. I’d join you at the gym any night of the week; and if your car broke down in the ghetto I’d leave work early to come get you. Now, that I have kids I am completely unreliable to be there in a crisis and my friends may get a birthday card a month later. I know people are disappointed by this. What they don’t realize is that it is just as painful to me to not be available.

When my kids were just about 2 years old a friend’s apartment was hit by the flood waters of a hurricane. It pained me to see pictures and status updates on Facebook showing the ruins of her home. I wanted to be able to rush to help and sift through the remains with her. At the time I had two babies in tow and had to put their safety first (as well as their nap time and feeding schedule). I couldn’t afford to pay someone to sit with my kids to drive 3 hours one way to help and then return home. I didn’t have family that could just stay at my house until I could return. Recognizing my limitations, I did my best to send emotional support from where I was in life. But, it wasn’t enough. She stopped returning my phone calls, emails, private messages, etc. I could tell there was a shift and when I called her out and asked what’s up? I got the cold shoulder. A “nothing” response. Eventually, it came out a year later she was angry that my husband and I did nothing to help her. At the time my husband was working two jobs seven days a week. If we were lucky we saw him for 1 hour a day.

So, what happens when we become parents? Why such a change in our friendships? Here are my thoughts:

1. Everyone has different expectations. It took a really long time for me to adjust to the new normal of parenting. The demands of being the sole caretaker to twins commanded my attention first. I had my own expectations of life as a parent and had to learn to change them all in a second while everyone else continued living at the same pace. My friend’s expectations were I’d still be the same and be able to give as much as I had before. Impossible when you become a mom.

2. Mommy Brain. There is scientific evidence this condition exists! How it works is I walk to the fridge completely set on getting a glass of milk and what I walk away with is the empty coffee pot from the counter. I have zero recollection of how I got to the living room with an empty coffee pot or why I was even in the kitchen in the first place. I wake up Monday morning and I think, “So-and-so’s birthday is next week I should send a card.” Then I wake up in October and think, “I did send her a card right?”

3. Routines and Schedules change. Once you are a parent you live and die by the almighty schedule. There is a schedule for diaper changing, for feeding, for naps and for all the activities you would like to accomplish while nap time takes place. You remember to call your friend to congratulate her on her engagement, or new job just as your head hits the pillow at night. You think, I’ll definitely remember to call tomorrow!

4. Limited Funds. This one doesn’t require much explanation. Once you are paying a mortgage payment for diapers, wipes and formula you get it. Some of us have to live and die by the almighty budget.

5. I used to have conversation skills. I didn’t always talk about the different sizes of bottle nipples and the controversy over vaccines (what childless person even cares?). I also could finish a sentence without stopping abruptly to shout over the chaos you hear happening in the background of our phone conversation. I also miss eye contact while talking to people. Having two kids means I need both eyes on them- one for each kid.

6. Leaving the house has never been such a chore. Before having kids I could get a call and be out the door in 30 seconds or less. Now, I have to analyse if it is worth the risk of a 30 minute screaming meltdown over socks to meet you there. See you there in, oh… 6 hours when my husband gets home.

7. My needs have changed. I have never been a needy person until I became a mom. Now I am so tired and exhausted, frustrated and emotional. If you ask me how is everything I’ll either just fake a smile and say good, or completely crumble and unload. Depends on the day. It isn’t fun riding this roller coaster and asking my friends to take care of me. I’ve always been the strong one taking care of them.

I’m sure there are a few more offenses to add to the list. But, this covers the big ones. Oh and by the way potential new friend, if I seem like I’m just not that into you please don’t take offense. I only appear socially awkward the first time we meet (maybe second). I’m trying hard to look like a put together human who can form sentences and keep my kids from melting down in front of you. But, if you can look past all that and keep your expectations of our relationship  low (really low)  I’m happy to get to know you!

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Charity Starts At Home – 7 Ways to Give back with little ones in tow

So Halloween is over and it’s nearly Christmas already. Oh wait. Did we forget about that little holiday in the middle? The one where we are thankful for our families and friends before donning our sweatpants and stuffing our faces with cheesecake. Right, Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. I love all the colors, the food, the Macy’s Day Parade and the family stuff that goes with it. Growing up the folks at our table may have changed from year to year, and there was even a year we didn’t get to celebrate because we were all too sick; but I always had my brothers, my sister and my mom. It was a time of year when we really felt thankful. We had plenty of food (which didn’t happen for us every day), we didn’t argue (maybe one of the only two days a year we were angels), and we could just relax together. We never took a family vacation growing up so these holidays were our vacations and I think we somehow made the best of them. We watched a lot of movies, ate our favorite foods and shared a lot of laughs.

I grew up incredibly poor. My mom was a single mom to four of us and she worked three jobs. My parents divorced when I was five and we didn’t have much until I was old enough to go to work and help out with school shopping. Even though things were tight my mom always made sure we had enough at the holidays to make up for what we were lacking throughout the year. Sometimes it even meant we were one of the families waiting for a food box from the local church pantry. Growing up like that hurt. It was often hard on all of us. But I think out of everything, we learned to be grateful. At least I know I have.

Now I am a mom to two beautiful kids who had more in their first year of life than I did in my entire childhood. I don’t want them to go without, but I worry about how to teach them to be truly grateful and appreciate what they have. Most of all I worry about teaching them compassion. Before kids I was frequently volunteered at a soup kitchen or as a board member of a few organizations and raising funds for local families. I did a lot of hands-on walk events that included pitching tents, standing at tables and making a lot of phone calls to local businesses. Once my babies arrived I assumed I would just take them along with me and it would be business as usual. Easy peasy. Nope. No can do. (You’ve read my blog about my kids public tantrums right?).

I spent years lending my marketing background to local organizations to help raise funds and awareness.
Before kids I donated my marketing skills to different organizations.

So, I have learned how to give back in ways my kids can participate in often without having to leave home. I hope by sharing these things with my kids and explaining why we do these things will really help them understand the importance of helping; and ultimately instill compassion for their world.

1. Operation Christmas Cheer is the easiest holiday give back you can possibly spend time on. In less than one minute and for less than $1.00 you can send a Christmas card to a child with cancer/terminal illness to decorate their room with. This began as a simple request from a friend of mine to send one card to a few local kids going through chemotherapy. I sent them each one card. But, then I thought why not ask my friends and family to send some cards too. Suddenly, girl scout troops and entire classrooms were getting involved. Over 65 of my friends and family members enlisted the help of their friends and family to send out cards and gifts to children they have never met. And, just like that my small Facebook charity was born. You could easily make cards for a children’s hospital or even a nursing home near you. Go simple with a handful of cards, or call your friends and family to action and get dozens sent.

Operation Christmas Cheer is an easy way to rally the troops and support kids with terminal illness.
Kids of any age can make a card for children spending their holiday away from home.

2. Operation Christmas Child is a fun family project. Families fill a shoe box with gifts and supplies that are sent all around the world to children in impoverished countries. You can even track where your package lands. Little ones love to help select the toys and gifts that go inside each box.

3. Bonnie Boxes are similar in similar concept to the Operation Christmas Child shoe box program, but volunteers hand out shoe boxes full of gifts and activities to local cancer treatment centers. You can gather up a team to fill and wrap boxes to be delivered. You can create packages to go to adults or children. Perhaps you can open your home to organizing a packing event and the little ones can help!

4. Host a coat drive. Ask friends and neighbors for their gently used coats and winter wear. Your house can serve as a drop-off site until you are ready to deliver to a local agency, school nurses’ office or church. No big event to chair or to plan for. Families receiving a warm coat they thought they couldn’t afford is a huge help.

5. Collect supplies. Birthday parties are a great time to collect extra supplies for the food pantry, the local SPCA or a local family in need. People are already gathering in your home and there’s no shopping involved for you. At my girls’ second birthday we began requesting one canned good per family. My kids help me load the bag, take it to church and place in the collection box. Even if they don’t understand the full impact of giving canned goods, they understand their work is important.

6. Give of your time, talent or treasure. If you can’t write a check but still want to give back, donate a skill like crafting or painting. My mother used to take me with her to the hospital nursing home to paint ceramic pieces for the residents. Sometimes she would paint and I would wander the halls chatting with the elderly and help them play bingo. I learned the most about helping others from my time there. Perhaps you could donate crafts or decorations to a local nursing home or family shelter to help brighten the residents’ holiday.

Lending your talents free of charge is a really easy way to give back!
Lending your talents free of charge makes a great gift to anyone!

7. Host a home party event and ask that a portion of the sales be donated to a charity of your choice. Ask friends in direct sales (think Tupperware, Mary Kay, Barefoot Books, etc.) to set up a table at your home. Invite all your friends and family. You get to do a little shopping surrounded by friends while your little ones get to play.

My friend and I joke about how we can’t wait for the day our kids are old enough to volunteer alongside us. I hope my kids get as much out of giving back as I do. With little ones who are still so reliant on a schedule/routine and sparse childcare, it can be a challenge to volunteer your time outside the home. With a little creativity you can still find a way to give back and impart some valuable lessons to your little ones. It is true that charity starts in the home.

 

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Grief In Her Own Words

As October begins to wind down with everyone’s focus on Halloween festivities, my mind drifts toward the child that won’t be celebrating with us this year. I miscarried our first child on October 27, 2007. Coincidentally October is also Infant Loss and Miscarriage Awareness Month. One in four women will miscarry a baby. It is often difficult to talk about or share our experiences, but I have found 3 brave friends willing to do that here in their own words.

I often wonder how my life might look today with a 7-year old and a set of 4-year-old twins. Would I be different? Would my family be different? After I returned home and to work I didn’t find it hard to share my story with friends and family right away. I think it was more uncomfortable for other people because they didn’t always know what to say. Sometimes words just don’t seem adequate enough to express how we feel for someone else’s loss. After a while I didn’t want to talk about it because I didn’t want others to think I was seeking sympathy. But, I would share if another mom shared with me. Although after 7 years the emotions surrounding my miscarriage are far lighter than when I first experienced the loss, there is still an emptiness in my family circle.

When sharing my story, other moms have expressed difficulty in opening up about their loss, or have felt the subject “taboo.” Some are afraid of being judged, or dismissed. I am grateful for the women sharing their stories today.

Erin’s Story In Her Own Words:

On November 29th 2013, at 14 weeks pregnant, I gave birth to a sleeping little boy named River Eleusis. I have learned so much about life, death, myself, and those around me because of this journey. 

First, I learned that loss looks and feels different for everyone. And that’s ok. We are all different and we experience life differently. So of course we will experience hardship and loss differently. Some people cry for days, months, years. Some don’t cry at all. Some feel lost and confused. Some feel peace and comfort.

My journey through River’s birth was very different from what most people would expect for a mother who has just lost her child. I was filled with so much peace, comfort, and thankfulness for what I was given. There were moments in which I felt that I should be crying for days and days, because that’s what you’re supposed to do. But what I’ve learned is that I need to be true to what I am feeling and what I am experiencing. So if I was happy, I felt happy and completely embraced that emotion. If I was sad, I felt sad. If I was lost, I felt lost. I allowed each thought and emotion to run it’s course, in it’s own time. And I will continue to do so. 

Second, loss is a process and journey. It has been almost a year since River was born and I think of him daily. There are days that he brings me so much joy. There are nights that he fills my dreams while I sleep. There are days that I miss him and just want to hold him one more time. As my journey continues, different emotions come up. I’ve shared with others before that I didn’t just lose River. I lost my pregnancy. I lost feeling him kick. I lost giving birth to him. I lost feeding him. I lost having three children. There have been many losses through this process,and they will continue. I have learned to take each one as it comes and to fully feel the emotions that come with it.

The last lesson I want to share with you is that community is so important. My family and I were surrounded by people who truly care for us. We had a couple weeks of dinners prepared for us. We had people who watched our older children so we could freely feel and think. We had tons of messages filled with love, support, and hope; and we had people who we could share River with openly. The hardship about having such an amazing community was that there were quite a few close friends and family members that also had to move through the grieving process of losing River. It was hard for me to see their hurt and pain, but I knew that they were on a journey just like mine. They too needed to embrace the feelings and thoughts that came. I have learned so much from the people in my life and I am forever thankful for them.

Kelly’s story In Her Own Words:

I was pregnant with identical twin girls called Mono Mono or MoMo for short.  The odds were against us from the very beginning, but my girls defied the odds and we made it to the point of viability where medical intervention was possible.  I spent a month in the hospital on rest and monitoring.  Tragically despite our best efforts my girls passed away 2 days before their scheduled delivery.  My rare story took on quite a following with friends and family and my community and I started a blog to keep everyone up to date.  I continue it today to honor my girls and to share my healing process with others in the hopes it can help someone.   We were lucky that our story was so captivating for people.  We had a large community of people who followed our journey. I think since so many people knew all that we had been through made it easier for people to be there for us.

I also miscarried a child in the beginning of that same year at 11 weeks.  It was harder to find support then.  We had only announced the pregnancy a week or two before.  I really had no idea a miscarriage was possible for someone who had a healthy normal pregnancy with no issues before.  I felt foolish for announcing the pregnancy “too early.”  I was devastated and felt foolish for being devastated about a baby I never felt kick.  I felt like there was a much stronger sense of urgency to “move on” and “get over it.”  I don’t feel like either of our losses were taboo to talk about but I do feel like talking about miscarriage is at the top of the list of things people just don’t want to hear about.

My best advice for those who want to help: don’t offer advice or cliches to help fix us.  Saying things like, “everything happens for a reason,”  “you can always try again,”  and “thankfully it was early,” are more hurtful than helpful.  Stick to things that you truly mean:  “I’m sorry,”  “I love you,”  and “I am here for you to talk to, cry with, or whatever you need.” Offer specific ways to help.  Generic offers like, “Can I do anything for you?”  “Do you need anything?” can seem routine and not genuine.  So be more specific, “I’d like to come by this week to check on you.  Would you like me to bring you macaroni and cheese or that soup I made last time you came over?”  “I’m running some errands tomorrow.  Do you need anything from these stores I’m going to?”  When I was grieving it was incredibly hard to think about the normal day-to-day tasks, let alone be able to express to my friends what I needed help with.

My best advice to those who are grieving:  There is no end to grief.  It is a continuous and lifelong process.  There will forever be things that stir up emotions you thought you had long ago dealt with.  You will forever be healing and growing on this journey.  Don’t ever feel like there is this end platform you will stand on and say I’m 100% over it.  I’m done.  I’ve moved on.  I’m fine now.  Also, don’t feel guilty for having bad days.  Bad days just mean you loved your baby and the life you had imagined for them. It is OK to miss your child and it is normal.  Grieving is a journey and different for everyone.  So be kind to yourself and know that grief is an act out of love.

You can read more about Kelly’s journey through loss on her blog: www.momomommyme.blogspot.com

Anonymous In Her Own Words:

Having been told that I would not conceive without medical intervention, I never expected to return to the United States after a whirlwind tour of Europe and find myself carrying a 10-week-old baby.  I also never expected to be informed at the same time that I was in the process of miscarrying her twin.

I was under the care of a fertility team.  I tracked my cycle with scientific precision.  I bought and used pregnancy tests by the dozen.  I had been bleeding and spotting for weeks, phenomena I attributed to high-altitude air travel and a hectic schedule.  Scientifically, medically, and according to all other ‘ally’ words, this should not have happened to me.  Yet it did. For the first time in my life, I was unsure of myself – uncertain as to how I should feel and act in this situation. On the one hand, I was going to be a mom and receive the most beautiful gift of my life.  On the other hand, I was mourning a baby who would never know what life would be like.

Initially, all I felt was guilt and shame because I immediately thought that I could have and should have done something to protect both of my babies.  The fact that I did not know I was pregnant did nothing to minimize the feeling of loss I experienced.  Even though one of my babies never made it through pregnancy, he or she left a permanent mark on our family; his or her death was not the last word.

The next day, my husband and I went in for what would be the first of my weekly ultrasounds.  I heard it before I saw my sweet little gummy bear up on the screen.  A heartbeat!  A strong, glorious, melodious heartbeat.  And do you know what else?  I saw life.  Life is amazing, sad, and powerful all at the same time; it is a journey that sometimes ends far too soon, and in unpredictable and seemingly unfair ways.  I have come to view my loss as something that is woven into the fabric of our family, as it has shaped how I engage the world.

I once shared my story with a “friend,” who responded with disbelief because I failed to tell her about the miscarriage sooner.  After all, she suffered a loss, which was a seemingly positive home pregnancy test very early on that was not confirmed with further home or blood testing, and shared this with me as it was happening.  This “sanctimommy” (read the blog – it’s hysterical) taught me a very valuable lesson, and one that I want to share with you.  Your grieving process is yours and yours alone; only you can define whether sharing this aspect of your life helps you heal.  If reaching out to others and speaking about your loss doesn’t provide you with what you might need to begin living again, there is no rule saying you have to talk about it with others.  My husband and I are very comfortable in our decision to keep this information to ourselves.  And do you know what?  That’s ok.

Just remember that the day will come when you will all meet again for the first time.

 

Loss is such a personal journey, but not an experience you need to do alone. There is no formula to grieving. Whether you choose to share it with the world, or just your partner there is no right or wrong way to embark on that journey. With 1 in 4 women experiencing a loss, there are many of us who understand.

Have you survived the loss of a child or miscarriage? What was something that helped you in the healing process?

 

 

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Things I Won’t Do For My Kids

Welcome to Week 3 of the No Frills version of The Whatever Mom! Hope you are enjoying my personal insights into this parenting gig!

Eating Utensils

 

We had the luxury of going to dinner at two different restaurants this weekend. We are lucky if we eat as a family at a restaurant two times in the same year. This was pretty exciting for all of us. I am not ashamed of the dance of joy I did when my food arrived… food I didn’t have to plan for, shop for or cook! I was even more delighted that I didn’t have to wash the dishes after our meal either. And, this happened TWO DAYS IN A ROW!! If you’re a mom you know the joy of which I speak.

You may be shocked to learn that dining with little ones is not always a relaxing experience. I have to say I am pretty proud of the way my kids behaved and we didn’t even have to bribe them! We reviewed the rules with them before entering and again once we were seated.  Hubby and I were so excited to be out among the living! (I even wore make up and left the frumpy pants at home! I was that excited!). My excitement, however, was dampened when we were seated near a woman who was clearly annoyed by my child’s enthusiasm for being out in a restaurant.

My girl wasn’t doing anything out of the ordinary for a 4-year old (I was actually feeling really grateful for that!). But, nonetheless this woman is shooting me looks and glaring at me as if to send the message “do something about your kid.” At first I felt like I needed to rush in and appease this woman’s expectations for my child to be seen and not heard. I felt like I needed to apologize for her discomfort sitting near a small child. Then I realized it isn’t fair to punish my child when she really wasn’t doing anything rude, or breaking any rules.

I shared last week my kids can have terrible tantrums in public, but they can also be really good in public! No, really! I felt like we were having a good night and my kids were being charming. So, why all the scrutiny from this onlooker? Is there truly NO place for parents to go without being watched and quietly critiqued? My emotions took several twists and turns as we ate our meal and I felt the burning gaze from this woman. Here are the cliff notes of my inner monologue:

I will not apologize for who my children are. Both of my girls are talkative little story tellers full of excitement and energy. I will not expect them to stop talking because it is bothering someone else to hear them. Although most mornings I’m wishing for a pause button on their conversations while I finish my coffee. Only because they wake up like this and its hard to fain interest so early in the day. I could have shushed my child for talking too much, but it wasn’t bothering anyone else except this one person. I was raised in an environment where children were to be seen and not heard. It didn’t stop me from talking. In fact, I think that’s why I talk to every single person I meet because I was rarely allowed to share my thoughts. (And now I have all of you!). I ran through the check list of things in my head: my girls wasn’t shrieking, jumping, yelling, kicking, running or throwing things. She was just being bubbly, chatty and a little wiggly (in all fairness so was I). That’s who she is as a person. I will not ask my daughter to squelch that so someone else can feel better for the 1 hour of their life they have to sit near her.

I will not feel guilty for having spirited children. It is amazing how other people’s glares or judging stares can make us immediately feel guilty. It can make us feel like we have already failed as a parent just walking in the door. I am not entirely sure where this pressure comes from, but I often find it stopping me in my tracks. I want my children to be perceived as the beautiful little people they are. Trust me, they are NOT without faults (hence the reason this blog is not titled, Damn Right My Twins Are Better Than Yours!). My children love to be fully engaged in what’s happening around them. They will soak in all the details and discuss them and ask a ton of questions about them. They notice details like the ceiling fans are not moving and want to know why. They’ll notice every last do not smoke sign, point them out and then count them.  They notice there are two forks on the table and ask why and then rearrange them in an order they like best. It’s just who they are. Again, no one’s throwing knives or running across tables here. It can be completely exhausting to get through a meal with this intensive Q&A (I almost always finish my wine before my meal). But, my child wasn’t asking this person 1,000 questions. So what am I really feeling guilty about here?

I will not explain my children to other people so that they are more comfortable. During this trip we also met up with family. We had to skip out right after our meal to get on the road and  make the 3 hour drive back home. Oh how I wish we could have stayed longer and really soaked up the extra time with everyone. But, I could see how hard my kids worked to get through the last 2 hours in a restaurant, after they worked hard to get through the 1.5 hours at church after not getting nearly enough sleep the night before. I knew in my mother’s heart I could not push them a minute longer let alone another 2 hours of socializing. I spoke with my husband who agreed we should take this opportunity to exit. Not everyone understood why we were leaving. I really wanted to explain that I was saving them (and myself) the torture of a one hour shrieking meltdown once my kids had reached their max. I wanted to explain how Sensory Processing Disorder works; how I am the expert in my kids and I know what’s best for them. I wanted to explain that the last two years of extreme meltdowns has taught me how to recognize when my kids are going to blow. I didn’t explain anything. They just observed my kids being awesome, why can’t we just leave it at that?

On this Whatever journey of mine, I am learning to let a lot go. That includes the pressure from strangers to guide my children in a way that makes THEM comfortable. I have to spend 24/7 with these little people. I also have to make sure they grow up to be productive members of society. I can’t cave under the pressure from outsiders and adjust my parenting style according to the standards of every stranger annoyed by my kids. I have bigger things to worry about in life; like making sure my kids aren’t throwing knives and jumping over tables.

I wanted to be angry and for a second that mama bear in me started to imagine ripping this woman’s face off. But, instead of getting angry (or removing body parts) I gave her a little tip of my glass and said, Whatever!

 

I am having bumper stickers of this one made.
I am having bumper stickers of this one made.

Have you ever had a situation where you felt you wanted to defend your child to a stranger?

 

 

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Happy CrOcktober

Have I shared with all of you how much I love my crock pot? My love affair with slow cooking began a few months after my twins were born. It takes a lot of work to put a hot dinner on the table while adjusting to life with kids! Once I got over the fear of burning down the house  and gave my crock pot a try there was just no turning back! In less than one hour a week I prep 5 week night meals and put in the freezer, then I let the crock pot do all the heavy lifting. Now, I’m not juggling the evening dinner rush with prime time tantrums, phone calls and my own end of day melt down.

I am often asked to share some of my favorite recipes. I have collected a bunch over time and have no idea where I picked them up from (somewhere on the great world wide web), and I have my go-to sites to check out new ones. Here are seven “pop and drop” freezer meals I make most often. Pop and drop means there’s no chopping or dicing. You simply add your chicken and pop open a few cans/jars and dump all into one freezer bag. Your prep is complete. I’m guessing you may not want to eat a full week of chicken dinners, but maybe you’ll find one or more to liven up your freezer meal rotation.

Click links below for free recipe printable:

Lazy Tex Chili

Pesto Chicken with Green Beans

Thai Chicken

Hawaiian Chicken

Chicken Alfred with Broccoli

Maple Dijon Chicken

Creamy Salsa Chicken

NOTE: My kids are picky eaters so I usually make them mac and cheese on the side, but even when they do share our meals there are still plenty of left overs for hubby and I to enjoy for lunch. Even if you do not have kids this is still a pretty awesome system! Imagine not worrying about spending 30 minutes to prepare one meal, or wondering what’s for dinner? I wish I knew about freezer cooking before I even had kids.

quick tips

 

A few of my favorite sites to find dinner inspiration:

http://wp.sixsistersstuff.com/?s=freezer+meals
http://wp.sixsistersstuff.com/?s=freezer+meals

 

MexPumpSoup2ZZ77

http://glutenfreegoddess.blogspot.com/2006/01/mexican-pumpkin-soup.html

 

http://paleopot.com/2012/11/paleo-roasted-red-pepper-sweet-potato-soup/
http://paleopot.com/2012/11/paleo-roasted-red-pepper-sweet-potato-soup/

 

Leave a comment below with your favorite crock pot freezer meal site!

 

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3 Easy Steps to Feel Organized

Every week for nearly the last four years I have proclaimed, “THIS is the week I get organized!” I really mean it when I say this. But, the reality of taking care of the other humans in my home leaves me little time to organize like Martha (as in Stewart). I admit it is disappointing to open the closet to find things spilling out, or open the dresser drawers and see all the mangled clothes. I always feel pressed for time as we race through our mornings before to leaving for school, or getting to a play date. But, Martha doesn’t live here so it’s up to me to make things orderly and accessible.

So, how does a busy twin mom without a moment to spare get organized? Well, first I had to throw away my vision of what  organized looks like and really think about what it feels like. Being organized feels less rushed and less like I am behind on tasks. It feels less stressed. So, what stresses me out the most? Snacks, mealtimes and getting my kids dressed. I often forget to give myself a snack, or suddenly a child is melting down because I forgot to feed them. It is stressful pulling out one shirt after another until my kid finds THE ONE she likes. Suddenly it’s 4:30 in the afternoon and I forgot I have to make dinner! Ack!

Here is my “Master plan” to feeling organized:

SNACK TIME PREP

Use snack sized Ziploc bags to divide up kid sized portions of their favorite snacks.
Use snack sized Ziploc bags to divide up kid sized portions of their favorite snacks.

I divided our snacks into kid friendly portions by using Ziploc snack bags. I measured according to serving size, filled bags then I piled them into a clear plastic box and left on a shelf in a cupboard the girls can reach.

Create an easy-to-reach snack shelf in the fridge for fresh snacks.
Create an easy-to-reach snack shelf in the fridge for fresh snacks.

Next, I set up a shelf in the fridge with squeezable yogurts, carrot sticks, apple slices and drinks they can just grab and go. This alleviates my stress of preparing snacks on demand and gives my girls a bit more independence.

Keep snacks in car to ward off meltdowns on the road.
Keep snacks in car to ward off meltdowns on the road.

Don’t forget snacks for the car! This is my back up in case I forget to grab the snack bag!

Total prep time = 20 minutes (maybe 30 if you let the kids help). Time saved = 1.5 hours of prepping or chopping snacks on demand while the kids complain they didn’t want “thaaaat snack.”

 

DINNER TIME PREP

Prep ahead crock pot freezer meals are a HUGE time saver!
Prep ahead crock pot freezer meals are a HUGE time saver!

I have collected over a months worth of freezer crock pot meals my family will actually eat. I make my menu for the week, buy all my groceries and return home to assemble into Ziploc bags and freeze.

Total prep time = 1 hour. Total time saved = 6 hours.

 

CLOTHING PREP

Kids can see all their options at once.
Kids can see all their options at once.

My kids will not pick out their clothes the night before and stick to wearing that outfit by morning. By simply adding one more fold line to our shirts and pants I save a whole lot of space AND my kids can see all their options at once. For shirts I use a modified ‘Gap fold’ (it’s a real thing Google it!) and then I fold in half one more time. THAT’S IT!

gap fold
Not a true Gap Fold, but your shirts should look like this.
Fold one more time and stack several shirts together before lying down in the drawer.
Fold one more time and stack several shirts together before lying down in the drawer.

 

Fold pants one extra fold, stack and lie down in drawer.
Fold pants one extra fold, stack and lie down in drawer.

This saves me the time (and torture) of watching my kids pull out one shirt at a time to get to the one they want.

Total prep time = mere seconds added to folding time. Total time saved = 40 minutes a week!

 

So, if you like math here are the numbers: Total Prep Time = 1 hour 20 minutes Total Time Saved = 8 hours 30 minutes

Feeling organized and saving hours of stress = PRICELESS!

What are your time saving secrets to keeping your family organized?

 

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What a luxury it is to be anxious for 17 years.

My anxiety about turning 39 began on October 30th, 1997. I know that was 17 years ago, but I vividly remember sitting at my desk in my dorm room studying for an exam. The phone rang. It was my mom. “I’m sorry sweetie but Aunt Christine passed away.” My memory goes blank after that. I don’t remember what I felt or heard next. All I remember is she was only 39.

Aunt Christine on her wedding day.
Aunt Christine on her wedding day.

My aunt Christine died from breast cancer. Cancer had already taken my grandparents (that I barely knew) and some of my mom’s friends I knew as “aunts”. But Christine’s passing was the first loss I understood and felt entirely. She was the sweetest and kindest person I had ever met. Until she passed I never knew what it was like to have regrets when a loved one dies. I grew up in a small town and ran into Christine at the A&P often or while she was out jogging in the neighborhood. Over the years I grew busy with attending college and working. Christine and I only exchanged snippets of conversation, and never had a chance to sit down and talk about life over a leisurely cup of tea. If only I knew then how important it is to make time for connecting with family.

I’ll never forget the first life lesson she taught me at age 6. We were in the back yard eating the picnic she had packed for us. She imparted to me: the “Kiss Principle” Keep It Simple Sweetheart. Because she was the sweetest and kindest person I ever met, she changed it from Keep It Simple Stupid because as she explained, “calling people stupid is just not nice.”

All my aunts and grandma. Christine- front right and my grandma both died from cancer.
All my aunts and grandma. Christine- front right and my grandma both died from cancer.

Cancer  is a disease that just doesn’t know any boundaries. It doesn’t care who it takes or when. I have lost a number of family members to various forms of cancer. Last year I lost 2 friends to cancer; and this year 3 more have been diagnosed. I followed the stories of 3 local children who all lost their battle with cancer. I watched my niece battle and win against Leukemia when she was only 3. That was a long and brutal time in her very young life.

My niece Ashley Christine- even a feeding tube couldn't stop her from smiling.
My niece Ashley Christine- even a feeding tube couldn’t stop her from smiling.

Most of my friends and family know that I am passionate about raising money for various cancer organizations. I’ve celebrated my last 17 birthdays by donating and raising funds for cancer support and research. Giving back on my birthday started as a way for me to honor my loved ones and is now how I celebrate the extra year life has given me.

This year I’m going bigger. This year I turn 39.

Here are is how I will honor my family and friends:

This year I chose to support the Jessie Reese Foundation for my birthday giving. This foundation began as the dream of a 12- year-old cancer patient as a way to give kids inspiration to Never Ever Give Up (NEGU). Courageous Cupcake Sales pay for Joy Jars, power packs and sibling packs for children fighting cancer. I am hosting my own Courageous Cupcake sale to help Jessie’s mission continue. My goal is to raise $390 to buy 20 Joy Jars. With over 20 dozen cupcakes being donated I hope to surpass that goal!

At the same time there is a special bottle/can drive happening. Proceeds will go to a local family who lost their little boy Mac earlier this year. It is their wish to honor what would have been his 3rd birthday with a donation of 35 lbs. of can tabs  to the Ronald McDonald House.

6 professional bakers have donated 20 dozen cupcakes!

I’m not in the habit of asking for things, but this year I asked my husband for this beautiful bracelet for my birthday. Half the proceeds go to the Rocky Strong Organization. The bracelet was designed for a local woman, Christine, who battled stage 4 colon cancer for seven years. Her vision is to help other families in her community pay for the unforeseen expenses associated with cancer like transportation, hotel stays and meals. Christine passed away peacefully just a few days before this post went live.

Available at http://violethilldesigns.storenvy.com/
Available at http://violethilldesigns.storenvy.com/

 

Earlier this month my family and I attended the Muddy Puddles Mess Fest to help raise funds to find less invasive treatments for pediatric cancer. It was an amazing family-friendly and kid-friendly event. It was so fun, that for a second I forgot that this event was made possible by a little boy who lost his fight at only age 5. I didn’t get into the mud- I stayed behind with my anti-messy child. But, my good friend Gloria (and partner in cancer fighting crime) jumped in with her little guy!

http://www.thetlcfoundation.org/muddypuddles.html
My partner in cancer fighting crime, Gloria D. and her son Hudson making a splash at Mess Fest.

These are just some of the events I chose to support in honor of my loved ones. I spent all these years anxious about turning 39 not realizing how lucky I am to have the last 17 years of life to worry. What a luxury it is to turn 39 today.

 

To learn more about any of these organizations please click on the highlighted links.

 

In loving memory of: 

Christine Barrows- Ryberg

Dorothy Smith- Barrows

Cecil Barrows Sr.

Cecil Barrows Jr.

Charles Ferber

Courtney Erickson

Wayne Burlison

Mac and Morgan

 

In honor of those still fighting.

 

 

 

 

 

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Dear Lonely Mom – You are Not Alone

I had a different, fun little piece ready to share, but when I opened my Facebook page my news feed was full of posts about Robin Williams’ suicide. My heart broke. Not because Hollywood lost a great actor, but as humans we lost a great one– his kindness, compassion, wisdom and joy now gone from this earth.

Depression is a scary, unpredictable beast. There are several members of my family who live with this every single day. From seasonal affect disorder to bipolar depression to clinical depression. Not everyone who suffers from depression talks about it or even appears depressed. Many people with depression are capable of getting up every day, going to work and appearing happy and complete. No one else hears that inner voice convincing them suicide is their only option.

No one is immune- not even moms. After hearing the heartbreaking news about Mr. Williams, I thought about moms who may suffer from depression. How many moms get up every day and go through the motions of taking care of their families and leave themselves last on the list? How many moms won’t reach out for fear of judgment or losing their kids?

I often feel lonely in my mothering journey. There are few adults to speak with or to help navigate the difficult days. Being at the service of two demanding toddlers reminds me how difficult the days are compared to my carefree life before kids. All my single friends have moved away or feel they are intruding when asking to spend time with me. My mom friends are just as busy as me. When we get together there’s not much time for bonding between interruptions. Social media is great to keep in touch, but there are days I don’t have time to connect. Some days exhaustion overrides any emotion I have, and I go to bed feeling numb.

I do not have depression, but often feel uneasy about sharing with my friends the loneliness of my day. I don’t want to burden them and so I keep quiet. I wonder how many moms with depression feel the same way. Loneliness itself does not make a mom depressed, but living in a silent, lonely state for a prolonged amount of time can certainly contribute to depression.  According to an online article at OCfamily.com “Statistics show that twice as many women suffer from depression as men, and experts say moms with children at home are a particularly vulnerable group. Women ages 25 to 44 are the hardest hit with clinical depression, the years when most moms are raising their children … Just being a mother does not cause depression, says Dr. Stotland. She treats many depressed and anxious mothers who are overworked, under pressure and do too much with too little support or help with tasks such as childcare.”
“It isn’t that women want to have it all, it’s that women have to do it all. Nobody says that a man with a job and children wants to have it all,” says Dr. Stotland.”

Suffering in silence is not a safe way to live. If you think you may be depressed, have postpartum depression, or maybe you have difficulty finding joy in life please speak to your doctor right away. Please don’t worry that someone will think less of you, or that you can’t be a good mom. Taking care of your own needs is part of being a good mom. Don’t worry about what other people will think, please just worry about your own health. No one will think you’re being selfish. If they do, Whatever! They are not living your life. Most of all please don’t think suicide is your best option. It will end your pain. It will also end your joy and your tomorrows. It will leave a big whole in this world and in the lives of the people who love you. No one can replace you and the important role you have as Mom.

Dear Lonely Mom,

Please reach out.

Please call me for coffee.

I won’t judge you.

Please know you are not alone.

Love,

The Whatever Mom

robin williams suicide hotline

http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

images

http://www.afsp.org/ Find local resources and resources to cope with a suicide loss, and to educate yourself on the risk factors and signs of suicide.

 

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What to Expect When You’re Expecting – Potty Training Edition

So you know that What to Expect when you’re Expecting series of parenting books? I’m about to add another volume to that called, “What to Expect When You’re Expecting- Potty Training Edition.”  Potty training has not been a magical 2 day experience for me. It hasn’t even been a difficult 2 months. It has been an on again off again roller coaster from hell for the last 26 months. No joke. Not even a typo.

My twins are a special breed. There is no pushing them to your way of thinking. No amount of bribery will sway them. They dig their heels in and plant roots. If you are fantasizing your kid (or twins) will be potty trained by age 2 (or at least before age 5) you can expect the following:

Expect to increase the number of potties you own. You will have one that plays music and sings and cheers. I have a Mickey Mouse potty for each twin, plus a travel potty for our traveling rest stop. I also have 2 toilets at home and somehow still have to fight for a seat!

Get a little potty that YOU love, because you will be carting that thing everywhere; birthday parties, ball games, trips to the park. EVERY. WHERE. While you are at it upgrade the family car to an SUV with enough space to accommodate your rolling urinal (complete with life like smell). Expect to keep it fully stocked with extra wipes, undies and clothes. Make sure you include a change of clothes for yourself because believe me $#@! happens.

Woman Cleaning Toilet

Expect to get cozy with poop. Get to know it on a first name basis and be prepared to shake hands because the two of you will be spending a lot of time together. Most kids can’t clean themselves properly until age five. Nope. Not a typo. You can expect to wipe those adorable tushies for nearly FIVE full years.  Also, FYI, you’ll find yourself increasingly obsessed with each family member’s daily constitution. If anyone cries the wrong way, or gets a little crabby the first thing you will wonder is, “when was the last time you pooped?” This applies to husbands as well.

Expect to apologize to Mother Earth right now for the things you will turn a blind eye to. Like the 17 pairs of actual undies you will throw in the trash because there is no way you’re cleaning that! If you are an earth huger try not to think about the BUH-zillion wipes needed to get kids through the first five years of life. Also, (if you use them) the 20 KUH-gillion pull ups you just sent out to the curb wrapped in plastic.

Hands on a globe

Expect to invest a small fortune in laundry cost too. If you are lucky to have a working washer and dryer you can expect to use them every single day (more if you have multiple potty trainers). Or just start searching now for the closest laundromat. This will be your new home for a while. Expect your kid to pee through every single pair of underwear within the first 2 hours of your first day of potty training. (Tip: bathing suits make great back ups in a pinch!).

laundry

Expect to be a hypocrite. Remember all those things you said you’d never do when you have kids? Expect to do them all! Just for funsies here is my ‘never going to’ potty training list:

I’m never going to use rewards like M&M’s, lollipops, stickers, and video games. (Used them ALL).

I’m never going to freak- accidents happen. If by accident you mean a child purposely squats in a corner to set a “pee trap” for the beasts to slip in. (Totally freaked!)

I’m never going to let my kids run around in just underwear in the yard. (Outside potty = clean floors inside).

I’m never rearranging potties. Potties belong in the bathroom. (And the living room, and the kitchen and the hallway).

Everyone keeps telling me that I can expect my kids to potty train when they are ready. But, really no one understands the steely determination my kids have to get their own way. The girls know the ins and outs of potty training. They understand where it goes and even have a potty preference. Heck, they are bringing ME stickers after I flush. Yeah, they’ve got this. At this point they are just messing with me.  And, I can expect that part will never change for us.

potty meme

Special note: If potty training doesn’t happen for you in 48 hours or less your kid is totally normal and you are doing nothing wrong. If your kids are like mine and take 26+ months … Whatever! It’s totally them not you!

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How to Jazz up Your Summertime Hydration and A GIVEAWAY!

Help me welcome my friend and very talented Registered Dietictian, Liz Malgieri as today’s guest blogger! She shares with us how to keep ourselves hydrated through the summer heat. If you want to keep your “Whatever” cool about you  pay attention to Liz’s advice! Read through to the end for a fun giveaway courtesy of Village Apothecary!

Liz

Summertime…sigh. We wait all year for this weather and now we’re right in the thick of it. Long, warm relaxing days lead to cool, breezy nights. Except…wait, we’re moms! Our days are often more frenzied than relaxing. We run from activity to activity well into the night. Playground visits, backyard sandcastles, chasing after toddlers, keeping our kids afloat in the pool; both kids and moms are always sweating. Amid the fun chaos that is a summer with kids lies one big problem…most of us, adults and kids alike are subject to dehydration. Making sure that you and your family stay hydrated should be of utmost importance, especially in the summer.

photo 1

We lose about ten cups of water per day between breathing, perspiring and other bodily functions. This increases even more in the summertime. As a busy mom, I know I can barely make sure that I eat lunch, let alone make sure that I drink over ten cups of water per day! Dehydration can drain more than your water levels. It can drain your energy levels and lead to fatigue, increased blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, constipation and even weight gain. Yes, weight gain. Some common signs of dehydration are dark yellow or orange colored urine – light yellow to clear is a great sign that you’re hydrated. A headache and light cramps in legs can also be signs of dehydration.

photo 2

Here are some tips to help you and your family stay happily hydrated this summer:

1. Drink water!

  • Our bodies will use the fluids in many common drinks and foods to aid in hydration, but nothing is better than water!
  • Only water and herbal teas are considered hydrating fluids. Milk and juices, not as much.

2. Avoid caffeinated and alcoholic beverages.

  • Caffeine and alcohol have a diuretic effect on the body. This means that not only will you excrete the fluids that you drank, but water will also be drawn from cells to be excreted! For every 8oz. of a caffeinated or serving of alcohol that you drink, consume 12oz. of water to make up for it.

3. Avoid sports drinks.

  • Unless you are a hardcore marathon runner or athlete, these are not necessary for electrolyte replenishment. They are basically sugary salt water. Hello calories!
  • If you are worried that you or your child is dehydrated with electrolyte loss, drink water with a banana with peanut butter OR if on the go, try coconut water. Even more portable is coconut water powder that you can add to a water bottle to replenish electrolytes without the added food dyes, flavors and sugar.

photo 3

If you find plain water boring here are a few ways to make drinking water more fun:

Fill a water bottle or pitcher with cold water and ice and add your favorite fruit for flavoring! The water will slowly infuse with the flavors of the fruit and when the water is gone, you get a sweet, healthy treat! Some ideas include: Cucumber and ginger slices, strawberry slices and mint leaves, pineapple and mango chunks, or your favorite citrus slices. The combinations are limitless!

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Herbal tea is another easy way to flavor plain water. I love taking a favorite herbal tea bag and infusing  in a water bottle. You don’t need boiling water to make tea. It may take longer to infuse, but it can be delicious and refreshing. My favorite tea for this is a hibiscus tea. The color turns a deep pink and it is fruity and delicious without added sugar or caffeine.

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Make fruity ice cubes! This is a fun way for your kids to get involved! Fill ice cube trays with a chunk or slice of your favorite fruit or herbs and then top with water and freeze. Add to your glass of water for flavor and it looks pretty too!

photo 6

OR Puree your favorite fruits or veggies and fill ice cube trays with puree. When frozen, add to drinking water!

photo 7

This summer, and throughout the year, make sure you and your little ones always have water on hand to stay hydrated.

Bottoms up!

NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAY: One lucky reader will win a 22oz. LifeFactory Flip Cap water bottle, courtesy of Village Apothecary to help stay happily and easily hydrated this summer! Click HERE to enter!

photo 8

Picture to show color selection. Giveaway includes one water bottle for one lucky winner.

Liz Malgieri is a Registered Dietitian and Director of Nutrition at Village Apothecary, a new breed of pharmacy offering free nutritional services and professional level vitamins and supplements. She is a true Whatever Mom and lives in Saugerties with her five year old daughter, Lily.

*This giveaway is CLOSED*

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