Today’s “no frills” blog is brought to you by the kind citizens running the local library; and that zit faced little twerp hacker sitting in his moms basement that targeted my personal computer. Alright, that’s not a fair stereotype. Maybe not ALL hackers live at home with their moms. Maybe some of them work for a government agency doing super-spy work on foreign governments. I can respect a working schlub using his hacking intelligence for the greater good! But, I can’t respect a jerk who thinks hacking the 5 year old lap top of a SAHM is going to gain anything. My ancient laptop is (sadly) my link to the outside world. It keeps me connected to all of you, my far off family and helps me generate an income.
As soon as I realized I had been hacked I immediately logged off and could not log back on. My husband has been working for days to get it up and running. Finally, we have resolved to taking it to a professional. I had a mild panic attack about my blog. How the heck am I going to upload my fabby pics now? How am I going to keep everyone aware of our latest crafting adventures and time saving tips? I am the every SAHM- the moms want to hear from me! That’s when I had my first “aha moment!” ever. (It was like Nirvana- I saw Oprah and everything!).
I may not be able to bring you fabby pictorial step by step tutorials of super easy crafts, but I can bring you ME. The mom behind the blog. A real look at what goes on in my world. I’m sure many of you have deep hitting moments like me and wonder, “does this happen to other moms?” So, for the next few weeks I’ll bring you the “no frills” look at my mother hood journey. But, when I get that laptop up and running I’m going the post the heck out of our awesome crafts!
So thank you, Dear Hacker Jerk, you may have sabotaged my main source of communication (and easy access to a thesaurus), but you have not sabotaged The Whatever Mom! The blog must go on!!
This might be a great time to hear from my readers! What are some topics you’d like to hear about from the Whatever Mom?
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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!
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?
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
The other day I cracked under the pressure of potty training the twins alone while my husband was away for FIVE days. I took to social media to share my plight. I described my fantasy of checking into a hotel for three days to shower for 8 hours alone, eat some chocolate cake and watch hours upon hours of mindless TV. Judging by some of the comments not everyone shared my enthusiasm for moms taking alone time.
For the record, I don’t want to spend time away from my kids. I just want to unplug from the demands of my day job. Being home with kids 24/7 is hard work. I would love a break now and then. That’s why I look forward to Mom’s Night Out (MNO)! Whether it’s going out for drinks or dinner or my new favorite, Vine Van Gogh paint night, moms *NEED* a time out!
Here is why I love a night out once in a while:
Spending all my time tuned into the demands of 3-year-olds obscures my link to other humans. I could go days without chatting to another adult. Sometimes I long to be connected to the rest of the world. I don’t mean the dramas of Facebook, but an honest connection with friends. When I spend time with other people it feels like I have more people in my circle than just princesses and Strawberry Shortcake. (FYI: totally a snooty bunch).
When I leave hubby in charge for a night it makes him more aware of the amount of work it takes to get our kids from the breakfast table to bedtime. It’s a bonus if he has to handle the bedtime shenanigans all by himself. Plus, it’s great daddy-daughter bonding time, right?
Sharing war stories with other moms gives me perspective. My kids do stupid things all the time. In the moment of cleaning it all up I’m not laughing… until I hear about how it happened to some other mom. Stuff is just way funnier when its not happening to you! It reminds me that I am not living in a bubble and that all of the stress of parenting is temporary. Yes. Even 18 years is temporary. One day soon I’ll be sending them off on the school bus to spend 6 hours of their day with other people. Then like a week later they’ll start college!
When I talk to other adults and use big words like “legalization” and “perfunctory,” it reminds me I am smart and stuff. It makes me feel like those few remaining brain cells clustered way in the back haven’t failed me!
When I spend too much time with poop it makes me ‘hatey.’ Five days alone with twins who are potty training is insanity … no it’s twinsanity! No one should ever have to clean up that much poop. Ever.
Back when I was a ‘working girl’ I’d count down the week till Friday at 5 o’clock! Then I could check out of my work week and head out for nom-noms and beer. Now my 5 o’clock countdown is for bedtime with no promise of nom-noms or beer. Except on Mom’s Night!
No skills required! Just you, some friends and some fun!
Actual Facebook fantasy status update:After this week alone (that’s 5 days in a row) while hubby was away for work (eating steak for dinner, talking to humans and sleeping in a cushy hotel) I realize something: All I want for my birthday is to check into a hotel for 2 maybe 3 days, take a 8 hour hot shower alone, order some fresh hot food and sit down while I eat it….maybe even lie in bed and eat it… yeah, totally lie in bed and eat it. Might binge on a little (or a lot of) chocolate cake. Watch actual live TV and sleep. I’m not even going to get dressed, just wear a robe. Then I’m going to wake up and take a nap before my lunch of chocolate cake and champagne. I might text a few mom friends while I’m at it and tell them to make up an excuse to get out of the house. Say you need to run to Target for ‘lady supplies’ and drive over here to hang out for a few hours. I’ll put on clothes and we’ll just laugh and eat and watch TV. It will be great!
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.
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.
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!).
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.
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!
We’ve all heard the term “Mommy Wars.” It just doesn’t sound right. Moms are supposed to be peaceful role models for their children. We teach our kids not to fight, to think of other people’s feelings, and to be kind to others. I have struggled the last few months to find just the right words to sum up my thoughts on the “Mommy Wars.” Turns out I don’t need to find the right words; one picture has a thousand of them! So, why not include a whole bunch of pictures? I was inspired to create my own photo montage with local Hudson Valley moms after I read the CT Working Moms Group blog a year ago. I sent out the call to arms to all my Whatever mom friends. They eagerly jumped on board!
As the project unfolded, I realized I know most of the moms pictured here personally. We all met through a Hudson Valley Moms’ Facebook group. We’ve celebrated birthdays together, brought each other meals, and have encouraged and supported each other through the trials of motherhood. There we were standing next to each other smiling and holding signs reflecting our “opposing” mom choices. This just goes to show that even though we make different choices for our families, we can still be friends and even respect each other’s personal choices. Without the different opinions and choices presented by other moms in my circle I wouldn’t know I have options in my parenting.
I admit I am still a little confused as to why we even have a war going on. My mom world does not come to a screeching halt when a mom decides to feed her kid formula or non-organic potatoes or even McDonald’s for dinner. I don’t even feel a slight shift in the wind when a mom uses 409 to clean her floors. And, I’m quite sure that if a mom falls at the playground and no one is around to hear her she still swears like a trucker (oh wait, that’s probably just me).
Most people hear Mommy wars and picture this:
I hear Mommy wars and picture this:
I am convinced that not once has a Harvard grad mentioned in their acceptance speech their gratitude for their mother keeping a meticulous house; making perfect dinners and throwing over the top birthday parties; nor cited those exact reasons for all their success. I am also convinced that if at the end of the day you have kept your kid safe and alive, you’ve pretty much done your job. We all bear the same burden of motherhood. By burden I mean the labels (fun mom, mean mom, Pintrest mom) and the judgments (spoils her child, doesn’t discipline, too strict). No matter what our style of mothering is, we have all run the same course: stomach bugs, sleepless nights and feelings of self-doubt. All of these quintessential mom moments level the battlefield on which we fight our “Mommy war.” None of us is free from flaws, and certainly none of us makes perfect decisions. We all have the same end goal- to raise healthy, happy and productive humans. Does it really matter what path we follow to get them there?
So here’s your call to arms Whatever Moms: do whatever it takes to let go of your fears and worries that you are not enough. Take up the charge to own your mom choices. Decide right now to be confident in your decisions because any decision we make in the best interest of our children is the best decision we can make for them. The question isn’t “which side are you on?” The question is, “can we all stand together?”
SPECIAL THANK YOU TO: Danielle Sidarous for lending your excellent photography skills. Your time and talent is very much appreciated! All the moms who participated in creating this montage. Thank you for your commitment to helping me complete this project! And my husband, Keith for racing home to help twin wrangle while I got to do something besides wipe butts all day!
Important note: republication of these photos is expressly prohibited without consent from Danielle Sidarous.
I think it is important to share that I am afflicted with a type “A” personality; which basically means I am very high strung and I want things done my way. I tend to fall apart when things do not go according to plan. And, by fall apart I mean I have a full systems meltdown (which I did when my girls were around two and a half). I am very lucky I get to stay home with my twins. I do not however have access to family, back up child care and my husband works 98% of each day. So, most days I am out numbered.
Now, let me share with you that having twins as your first born is hard work. There is already a major learning curve to being a first time parent, but you throw in that extra needy little human and things get tough. Whether you have one, two or several, that first year is all about getting your parental bearings. Even with all the curve balls I hit that first year, it was still the easiest so far. Both kids were on the same eating and sleeping schedule. Juggling feeding and bathing two babies alone was difficult, but I managed. By the grace of God they both took two naps a day which gave me approximately three and a half hours to complete my household chores, maybe rest and watch TV. They were in bed by 6 p.m. and I had three more hours to get things done (and drink some wine). Since they were so portable we went for a walk three times a day. Errands were nearly effortless when I only had to pick up their carrier and lock it into the stroller. I was able to get things done, maybe not as perfectly as I could before kids, but my house was orderly, my kids were clean and dinner was on the table every night. I felt like I was THE domestic goddess. My type “A” was happy!
It all changed when my twins started walking. In opposite directions. I could no longer keep them contained and everything they touched was now out of place. They started protesting against diaper changes, wardrobe changes, bath time, car seats, the stroller and what was on the menu. It was exhausting. But, somehow I was determined to continue operating at a level of perfection only I had created. Until one day I landed myself in the ER with my first ever panic attack (a fore mentioned full system melt down). I hated it. I hated feeling like I did not have control. That was the scariest part. After meeting with a neurologist (I was convinced it must be “a tumah”) I realized I needed to make some changes. I needed to let some things go- namely my expectations.
My kids deserve a healthy mom. So, “whatever” became my mantra. I started saying “whatever” to the dishes now and then. I started saying “whatever” to the crumbs on the floor and the splatters of paint on the table after art projects. I even started saying “whatever” to keeping every single thing perfect. I lowered my standards from unattainable perfection to “whatever works.” I’m not going to lie. It was and still is difficult to do. I still get a twinge of “oh man I should be doing THAT!” when I go to other kids parties, or see friends awesome Pintrest projects. I get in a rush to make things bigger and better than I have planned. Then reality sets in that the only extra hands I have are little ones and I call upon my mantra of, “whatever” and I let it go.
I started this blog to give moms permission to do Whatever it takes to get through the day as a parent. You don’t need to keep it all together and make perfect crafts. You don’t need to put perfectly hot meals on the table every single night and hand deliver perfectly folded laundry. So, give yourself permission to leave the dishes in the sink a little longer while you play dress up with the kids. Our little ones actually want to be with us and shower us with kisses for a very short time.
Is your mail piling up? Is the laundry calling your name? Does your neighbor give you funny looks because you feed your kids out of a squishy pouch while driving to school? Repeat after me, Whatever! It works for me!