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!
To the moms living with depression at Christmas, I see you. Maybe you’re grieving right now. Maybe you just aren’t feeling like yourself this year, or maybe you’ve had depression for as long as you can remember. Either way, I see you. I know what it feels like to grieve and feel depressed through the Christmas season.
I’ve had many, many horrible loses right around Christmas. We discovered my niece had cancer right around Christmas. I had one last Christmas with my dad two months before he died. I lost our first child just before Christmas. There was the year my brother-in-law was stationed in Iraq, and years later, I spent two consecutive Christmases decorating a hospital room and holding hands with my nephew praying through his mysterious illness that he was going to be OK. (Thankfully, he was).
Too often we believe we can’t feel anything other than joy and happiness through the Christmas season. As if our only job is to exude happiness through our fingertips and make magic for those around us. If you are a mom, you are the keeper of the magic and everyone looks to you for the fun, the joy, the perfect hot coca after the snow, the fresh new jammies on Christmas morning. Without those things it wouldn’t feel like Christmas to them. But to you, it all feels like work and exhaustion.
Full disclosure: I am not clinically depressed, but I have lived with depression during the holidays and I feel like I can closely relate. The year I lost our baby, was the absolute worst. I stuffed that depression down so deep that when it finally hit, I couldn’t get out of bed. I went to work in a fog and came home to get into my bed and stayed there all night. Life was a hazy blur as I raced through the motions so the day would just be over. One night my husband returned home from work to find me in my pajamas cooking dinner and asked, “are you finally getting out of bed now?” and I was so angry, I threw a raw chicken at him. That’s when I knew it was time to face the grief I felt and maybe learn to express it in more productive ways. (For the record, we laugh at that night now, 13 years later).
The brain fog and mental fatigue alone make it hard to really connect to anything else around you, including the sparkly lights and the kid’s enjoyment while baking cookies together. It all feels like too much and not enough all at the same time. And then we pile on the guilt for not enjoying it and not giving enough to our kids. (Believe me, you are enough).
There is so much pressure to make things perfect the entire month of December. But I want to normalize that it’s OK to have other feelings that aren’t festive or Merry. It is possible to feel pain in your heart and carry sadness around with you. It’s also OK to talk about those feelings. People will seem dismissive with their trite, “look on the bright side” “well at least you have other kids” or “it’s Christmas, everything is happy at Christmas.” Those are the words of someone who doesn’t know how to help. They may be afraid of your pain. They may be afraid of saying the wrong thing. Or they may be clueless what it feels like to be missing pieces of themselves. Running into those phrases can make someone with depression want to retreat and never mention it again, or feel ashamed of not being as happy as everyone else. But talking about it with someone who can relate, or has felt grief, is the best way to get through this. We can feel like talking about our sadness will make other people sad, but it won’t. Holding it in and denying that it exists makes it harder for other feelings to get in, including joy and happiness.
I see how hard you are working to keep it all bottled up inside like nothing is wrong, but believe me, you need to find your safe space before you find yourself hurling poultry during an out of body experience. Talking about your pain, your sadness, and the loved ones you miss should be completely acceptable even at Christmas.
This year the pandemic restrictions that keep us from being with people and parties that make us feel less alone, also makes it harder to reach out or use our regular coping mechanisms. It is elevating the level of pain we can normally feel in control of. I too am feeling the grief more deeply than in the past.
The other day, I was simply preparing our tree for decorating and listening to Christmas carols. I love caroling. In fact, for several years my friend coordinated a caroling event at a local nursing home and I looked forward to that tradition every year. As I was belting out “The First Noelle,” I suddenly burst in to tears when I realized that tradition is gone and so is my friend. She died almost two years ago. All I could remember was the last Christmas we caroled together. And as I began grieving for her, it opened the flood gates for all the grief I normally feel at Christmas, but keep myself too busy to feel. Crying did feel better. But talking to a friend who understands grief and heartache made it easier for me to process and make room for feelings of gratitude. Just knowing I wasn’t alone in feeling this way and hearing kind words, “I know how you feel” “I know this is so hard” “I am sending you hugs” felt like band aids to my broken heart. My friend’s compassion and understanding were the healing salve I needed to carry on. My grief will continue no matter what, but knowing I could express it without judgement makes it easier to cope with it.
I don’t need to be you or have suffered the same exact losses to know that grief any time of year is hard, but during the holidays when everyone else is stacking their happiness in colorful packages, depression can feel out of place. And I also know that grief and sadness, depression and loss can co-exist alongside feelings of joy. I hope you will reach out to those around you who can share in this with you. If you don’t have that kind of support in your home, I hope you can find it in a support group or a therapist’s office. More than anything, I hope you know you’re allowed to have more than one feeling during the holidays.
It is no secret that I need the sun to feel my healthy best. Living in the North East where we have dark, cloudy winters, getting enough sunshine is a challenge for me.
I have never been diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), but I can tell you my mood changes through the winter. I am less patient, I feel more stressed and less motivated. Over the years I have developed a winter wellness routine that helps me get through the dark days of winter.
I use the Happy Light from Verilux – this little light creates the same feeling of being in the sun. I use it in the mornings during my treadmill walks. During the winter, the morning is too dark and cold for me to walk outside, so I bring the outside in. I set my light up near my treadmill and walk for 30 minutes.
I take my supplements. I normally run deficient in vitamin D3 (known as the sunshine vitamin) and have for many, many years. I supplement all year, but in the winter I change the dose according to my doctors recommendation. Omega 3 fish oil also help increase a positive mood. Always check with your own doctor if these supplements are safe for you to take.
I get outside when I can. If the sun is out, I am out too. I grab my Sketchers and head out the door for a quick walk around the block. I turn on the tunes and soak in the light and get those endorphins pumping.
I ditch my late night to-do list. I am a natural born night owl and often stay up way to late to get things done. But that always leaves me with a grumpy attitude and a hangover effect. You know when your head is too foggy and you just want to crawl back to bed? I make myself go to bed at the same time as my kids (around 9:30 or 10). I read a little, or write out my to-do list in my planner for the next day instead of trying to get it all done right now.
I drink tea – a lot of tea. I’m not giving up coffee any time soon, but I love a good cup of hot tea in the middle of a cold day. I try to be mindful of stopping what I am doing and grabbing some tea while I phone a friend, or call home to chat with my mom. It’s like a little happy hour routine in my day that keeps me connected.
I take time to center my thoughts. I am a mom, writer, homeowner, wife and dog mom. I have a lot of things to do in a day and my brain often feels like someone dumped a big old box of ping pong balls and they are all bouncing out of control. I take 5-10 minutes each morning to meditate, or simply stand at my open back door and listen to the birds and take three deep breaths.
I may not get to do these things all in one day, but I strive to work them into my daily routine. Each little action creates a bigger impact on my mood and how I am feeling as a mom.
Do you have a winter wellness routine? I’d love to hear more about how you make time to take care of yourself.
Roxanne Ferber is a twin mom, writer and owner of The Whatever Mom blog. She spends most of her time learning to let go of perfection and sharing her messier parent moments with other moms. You can follow her Facebook page to see the messiness unfold.
Got a Star Wars fan or a game enthusiast living in your house? I have both! We love family game nights and curling up to watch a Star Wars movie. Here are some great gift ideas for every age and stage of fandom. Some of these gift ideas may have come straight from my family’s wish list.
Roxanne Ferber is a twin mom, writer and owner of The Whatever Mom. Her family is totally into Star Wars for the special effects and laser beams.
The other morning was really rough. My kids didn’t want to get out of bed and I was getting really impatient. I may have blown my top once or twice and barked some commands. Of course I always feel like a jerk after. In my defense motivating my one daughter out of bed in the morning can take up most of our morning routine. When she wakes up in a grumpy mood it makes the morning even harder.
What made this particular morning so rough was during our heated exchange she shouted back at me, “you just want everything to be perfect!” It literally caught me off guard. My kids can tell me they hate me and it rolls right off my back, but this hurt. I think it hurt because I work really hard to let go of expecting things to be perfect or pushing things to be perfect. I mean I only write a blog about letting go of perfection, so I MUST be an expert already right?
But she is right. Old habits die hard. I can’t escape how I am hard wired to be any more than she can escape her hatred of mornings. We have several home projects that need to be finished before winter; I have a house to manage and a few blogs to write each week, plus all that pesky meal planning and laundry to do. I try to stick to segmenting my time for each thing I need to manage. As a result I can seem a bit like a drill sergeant because I EXPECT this will get done in the exact amount of time I have allotted for it. That would be a symptom of perfection by the way.
If only life were that neat and tidy.
Last night I decided to loosen the reins a bit with our evening routine. I am also exhausted from the constant running around and finishing things, so I called it a make your own sandwich night for dinner, which seemed to make everyone happy. I know I was happy to not spend my time cooking something no one would eat! Then we put on some tunes and chatted through dinner.
After dinner my husband agreed to make the lunches while I sat down to play a board game with the kids. I am always rushing to make lunches and getting two kids showered – usually at the same time. So getting to take a break from that was simply amazing. My girls and I spent 30 minutes rolling in laughter because we just caught a case of the sillies. And it was exactly what we needed. You can’t script those moments and when my kids look back on their childhood they will remember it wasn’t perfect, but it did have perfect moments like this.
The night time routine was a little easier, no one kept fighting for more attention and both kids drifted off to sleep easier. Best of all there was zero yelling in the morning before school. It seems unplugging from the race to keep everything in order and on time was exactly what I needed to do. I can’t say I won’t get caught up in it again, because I am hard wired with a drive for perfection. But maybe now I can recognize it sooner and let go of it much quicker. That’s always my goal anyway.
It’s funny how when I think I’ve got this perfection thing licked, or under control, my kid will make sure to remind me that I’ve gone off the rails. Thanks for keeping me on track kid, and thanks for helping mommy grow!
The Whatever Mom is a twin mom learning to let go of perfection. She shares her real life struggles with parenting through her blog. When she isn’t writing you can find her chugging coffee, folding laundry and not judging other parents.
Many of you know by now, I have two very picky eaters. There was a day I could feed them anything without a problem. Suddenly, they decided food wasn’t exciting anymore. They began limiting themselves to the familiar favorites of macaroni and cheese and chicken nuggets.
Before kids, I was not a meal planner nor spent hours prepping ahead. I love the joy of cooking and spontaneously creating a meal from ingredients I’ve tossed together. I love sampling the food combos I’ve dreamed up. Unless it is made entirely of cheese, my kids could care less about my craftiness in the kitchen. So, over the years I’ve learned to push passed my frustration with their picky habits. I’ve realized the main focus is getting food into the belly. Not just any food, but nutritious food. So, how do I get nutritious food into such picky eaters? Here are some lessons I’ve learned over the years.
1. PICK YOUR BATTLES: If you are tired of missing out on meals because your entire time is spent fighting a kid to eat, let it go. If that means prepping a smaller side dish that your kid will eat, then do it if it works for you. To me that is easier than missing my own meal to focus on a battle I am not going to win. I let my kids eat boxed mac and cheese and stir in a couple spoonful’s of squash or cauliflower puree. It makes them happy to eat what they love and it makes me happy they are getting extra nutrition.
2. FOCUS ON NUTRITION: Often as parents we get caught up in subscribing to the clean plate club. But this doesn’t help kids understand their hunger cues. Portion sizes vary widely for kids, some enjoy larger portions than others. I try to make sure what I am serving is so packed with nutrition that even if they take two bites, it counts for something. I have become the queen of concealing veggies in my kids’ favorite foods.
3. GET THEM INVOVLED WITH FOOD: My kids may turn their noses up to sitting at a table with a full meal before them, but they will nibble all day long on familiar favorites. I encourage them to make their own foods by putting out a sandwich bar or a “picky” tray filled with proteins and nourishment like cold cuts, devilled eggs, hummus and veggies, fruit and dip, etc. It makes things easier for me and we all win when our bellies are full.
4. CHANGE THE WAY YOU CELEBRATE WITH FOOD: Before kids, the only meal planning I did was around the holidays. I created a menu combining my and my husbands favorites from childhood. All I had to do was pull out the recipes and go shopping. But my kids really aren’t into stuffing and Ambrosia Salad. If your kid isn’t into your favorite holiday meals, move your celebration to the meal they love the most. Make a special breakfast, or lunch and enjoy a less stressful experience. You can still enjoy the traditional foods you love at dinner and let them eat smaller portions or something they will stay at the table for. Memories of being at the table together without a war will mean more to them in the future than whether or not they finished the dreaded peas.
5. USE COMPASSION: Some kids have anxiety around food, or sensory disorders, they will stick to the foods they know are familiar. Ultimately, it was this discovery in my own kids that made it easier to accept there are times I need to make two different dinners. The old school technique of forcing kids to eat, DOES NOT work for kids with anxiety, or sensory issues. It only forces them to become more rigid with their choices. It can really do more harm than good.
Let me tell you about that time I tried to replace my morning coffee with a hot lemon water cleanse. Not only did it make me dizzy and exhausted, but I literally forgot I have children. (Disclaimer: No children were harmed during this cleansing process).
Several weeks ago, I was feeling tired and run down and I thought my coffee addiction might be the culprit of my insomnia. I read article after article with cures and tinctures when I landed on an article written by an “expert,” that suggested coffee was messing with my blood sugar and cortisol levels (that’s a stress hormone). This expert also suggested removing coffee and replacing it with hot lemon water every morning for “increased energy and vitality.”
It was all lies.
The first day I was tired, but I made it through my day convinced this little coffee detox might just work.
The second day, I was so tired I fell asleep around 1:00 o’clock in the afternoon. I woke up two hours later completely unaware that I had dozed off.
The third day, I was yawning so much, tears were streaming down my face. It looked like I was crying for help and I could barely keep my head up. I finally took a nap.
The fourth day, I was driving along minding my own business and enjoying some tunes when I heard my kid from the backseat yell out how much she LOVES this song! I freaked out! I completely forgot I had a child in the car with me. I forgot I was the parent on duty! That’s how foggy my brain had become after just 4 days without coffee!
The fifth day, I gave up. I brewed a pot of coffee first thing in the morning and drank it fat. My energy returned and the brain fog lifted. I could remember words and I knew where my kids were the whole day.
I had no idea how much my brain function depends on caffeine. My morning coffee is literally the fluid holding my mind and body connection together. A mom who runs on coffee. Shocking right? I was supposed to replace my morning coffee with hot lemon water for 14 days. I bailed on day 5 and I jumped back on the coffee wagon.
Right when I jumped back on that wagon, I discovered a small coffee roasting company and sampled some of their flavored coffees. I tried three flavors, Dark Chocolate Cherry, French Toast and Maple Bacon. MAPLE. BACON. (Do I even need to tell you how good this is?). You could say, this is the coffee that saved me.
I have tried A LOT of fancy syrups and creamers in my coffee, but I am always disappointed because I end up with a chemical after taste, or a bad reaction to the amount of sugar or additives. All three of these delicious flavors are gluten and dairy free, vegan and no sugar added, yet very flavorful. Even my 9-year-old was sipping off my morning brew and telling me how good it is.
After poking around the website, I find that Reverie Coffee is a woman owned business, the coffee is roasted in small batches and they partner with local charities each moth to give back. It is 100% arabica beans that are sustainably grown. It checks off the boxes that make me feel better about a product. And did I mention it tastes really good?
In fact, I love it so much I asked for a reader discount for all of you to give it a try! Go to Take Me to Reverie fill your cart and use code WHATEVERMOM for 20% off your order! If you love the coffee you ordered, there is a subscription service available. That means the magic beans just show up at your door without you having to remember to order them!
If you love (and depend on) coffee as much as I do, you are going to LOVE Reverie coffee!
Roxanne Ferber is a twin mom, freelance writer and certified coffee addict. She will stop at nothing to find the perfect soothing cup of coffee to start her morning.
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.
The one question invading every mom’s group on social media, every conversation I overhear at the park and in line at the store is, “How are you feeling about sending the kids back in the fall?” Even my own child asked me tonight, “what will school look like in the fall and how can I be ready for it?”
Parents, we are facing some tough choices about sending our kids back to school safely, while living through a raging world-wide pandemic (because parenting just is not challenging enough is it?). We are now living with a virus so brand spanking new that we are not entirely sure how it affects us long term, or the most effective way to treat it. At least with the flu, we know what we are in for and it comes with a healthy side of chicken soup and all the tea one can drink.
The truth is, I have no idea what back to school will look like for us. And to be honest, I have too many feelings about it and not enough time to sort them all out. My mind is already fatigued from managing the last four months of virtual school and remembering where we last saw our masks before leaving the house. Not to mention the mental gymnastics just assessing our risk exposure before running errands. I am also the new cruise director making the schedule to keep everyone from getting bored. I feel like a regular mom, but amped up on steroids raging through overtime shifts I never signed up for. I am so consumed with managing our daily life as it is right now, with our new guidelines and safety measures, AND making up for lost summer camps and cancelled vacations, that I just can’t muster the mental energy to make one more decision.
So, I won’t.
I just won’t make this decision until I have to.
I do not know what our school’s reopening plan is yet.
I do not know if our state will reopen schools in the fall yet.
I do not know what to do right now, and I am not planning to ‘make a plan’ for at least another month when the new school year begins.
I do know my kids are craving connection with their friends and family.
I do know it is hard as hell to write while kids are screaming for sandwiches.
I do know my kids are tired of being home for days on end.
I do know my kids are tired of talking to people through a screen.
I do know that whatever the upcoming school year holds, my kids will need to be ready to handle it. In person school will not be the same as it was when they left in March. Remote learning is not what they are looking forward to. And homeschool, will be entirely different than what they love about classroom learning. Every back to school option on the table right now requires some amount of adjustment and anxiety for all of us, not just our kids.
So, instead of imagining every potential scenario and stressing about which one I am going to choose, I am going to spend this time focusing on my kid’s mental health and investing in their resilience. The only way I can do that is by focusing on the present. The summer sun is calling, the pool is primed, and we live in an amazingly beautiful area of our state. We can spend time outdoors exploring and seeing friends from a distance. I cannot control this virus and I cannot control how schools will open up again, but I can control our day and how we learn to deal with this new challenge.
Giving myself permission to not make a choice RIGHT NOW, truly relieves a lot of the pressure to decide what happens in the fall. I am going to stay informed. I am going to watch the numbers. I am going to prepare my kids with school supplies and new outfits, just like I would any other year. But I am not going to make the final decision about how I am sending my kids to school until I must.
Until then, we are taking a break from the stress and anxiety by pressing pause on overthinking. I am confident this decision will help build our resilience to deal with whatever school looks like for us a month from now.
If you haven’t met Jenny Yeung, you haven’t met her creative vibe and non- stop energy. I’ve watched her (through social media updates) build and create two Asian/Mexican fusion restaurants and two satellite Bunsen Tea Lab locations for her amazing bubble tea and bites. I may also eat my fair share of shrimp pad Thai on a regular basis.
Jenny owns and manages two brands and several restaurant locations while she works hard raising two young children. Her food creations and flavor combinations are unique and just plain yummy. I seriously asked if her secret to this kind of energy comes from drinking bubble tea, because I’ll have what she’s having!
What is your business? Crazy Bowls, a Asian/Mexican fusion restaurant with two locations, Kingston and New Paltz, NY.
Who is your ideal customer? Anyone who appreciates good food!
How would you describe your business mission: Serving the community quality food fast and at an affordable price. A better alternative than fast food chains.
How do you relate most to the Whatever Mom Philosophy: Wine before coffee. Coffee before the face of my kids.
What do you want other moms to know about you? I think all moms are strong and unique in their own way.
What makes you stand out as a mom? I built a restaurant from scratch during my pregnancies and then grew those businesses while dealing with two little demons at day and angels at night.
Where can moms find out more about your business? Feel free to drool along with Crazy Bowls food updates on Facebook and IG.