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Navigating the Teen Years with Boy Mom Jennifer Vergara

Contributing guest post.

I am a mom to three teenage boys, ages 12, 16 and 19. You might be thinking, 12 isn’t technically a teenager, but let me tell you, puberty has already made its ugly appearance. In my book, he’s a full-blown teenager, equipped with all the hormones, smells, body hair, and attitude that comes with it.  

There is a lot of testosterone floating around my house on the daily (even our dog is a dude). To make matters worse, we live outside of the US, away from our families and close friends, so my estrogen-rich relationships are via phone and Zoom. Then there was that thing last year, the pandemic, which resulted in all 5 of us being stuck together in the house. All day, every day – working from home and schooling from home. We live in Guatemala, where most houses do not have yards, so even the dog has been quarantined inside with us.

Again, So. Much. Testosterone.

I am not complaining about this, as I adjusted to being the only female a long time ago. I have acclimated to the vulgarity of most conversations being centered around specific male body parts, or at least the reference of them, spontaneous bursts of what smells like deadly gases, and the collection of 20+ Marvel superhero movies playing on a constant loop. I’m cool with all of this.

What has been difficult though, as we’ve entered the teenage years, is finding ways to stay connected with each of them. Let’s face it, there are certain topics that are just naturally easier for boys to talk about with their dad. I get that. And my husband? He is AMAZING at having these talks and has a knack for keeping the conversation casual, so that no one feels embarrassed or uncomfortable.

But it’s not just the awkward talks, it’s the everyday connection they have that I’m a bit envious of. When our sons were little, I was the twinkle in their eyes. It was easy to stay connected to them because they always wanted Mom. Now, they turn to their dad to talk about guy stuff, girls, video games, cars etc. And while I’m grateful that they have this amazing connection with their dad, I can’t help but feel a little left out and disconnected at times. Those feelings paired with my inability to accept that they are no longer babies, has been a struggle.

At least this is how I felt for a while. I wallowed in my own momma-pity for some time, mostly during the week of my period each month, when I’m super-duper emotional. I had talks (ugly cries) with my husband about how I felt, and I binged on chick-flicks when I had time off. I was seriously in a funk.

But then I decided to change my outlook, because frankly- it was getting to be a bit depressing. I was so caught up in my feelings about the boys getting bigger and not needing me as much, that I was missing out on the joys of their current life stages.

I decided to quit splashing around in my pool of tears and sentimental pity, and instead, I began embracing the present.

As far as connecting more with my sons, it is still possible; it just takes more work on my behalf. They are so overwhelmed with hormones and new challenges and body changes and new relationships, that they just don’t have the bandwidth to also go out of their way to try and connect with Mom, on a sentimental level. Not because they don’t want to or because they don’t need me anymore. They’re just teenagers. Their interests change and their priorities shift, AND they’re trying to figure out who the heck they are.

Once I came to this realization, everything changed, in a positive way.

If you’re struggling with the teenage years, here are a few tips that might help, they did for me.

1) Show interest. Even if it is something you aren’t interested in… try to be, for the sake of your child. Listen to their music. Watch their favorite movies. Play video games with them. Whatever their hobbies are, embrace them. Trust me, if you’re not interested, they’ll find someone else who is.

2) Be open. They’re teenagers, which means they have teenager problems and curiosities. Be open to talking about relationships, drugs, sex, fears, death- whatever is on their mind. Don’t make it awkward or turn it into a big deal. If you’re uncomfortable, then know that they are too. The more awkward you make the experience, the less they will seek you out for advice.

3) Trust them. Trust your parenting and trust that you’ve raised a well-rounded individual who can make the right decisions. Does this mean they always will? No, of course not, but you should start by giving them the benefit of the doubt. Example: our 16-year-old told us that he was offered alcohol by some older teen friends of his. We didn’t freak out. We didn’t condemn him. Instead, we listened and then asked him what he did; and guess what? He made the right decision on his own.

4) Give them space. Trust me, they need it. Respect their privacy and allow for them to have time alone. They’ve got a ton of things they’re trying to figure out.

5) Let them know they are loved unconditionally.  Your love and support should come with no bounds. No matter how bad they might mess up, no matter how dark their thoughts may be, no matter what sexual preference they have, no matter what gender roles they identify with- you will always love them and be there for them, and they need to know that.

What a blessing it is to be able to watch our children grow up. Not everyone gets this opportunity, so make the extra effort when you can. I promise it will be worth it.

Moms, Get in The Picture {Giveaway Announcement}

Giveaway product generously provided by www.sharpimagesphotographic.com

It’s hard to believe that this time last year, our entire state was locked down to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus. We couldn’t think passed the next two weeks, let alone imagine what a year ahead would look like.  School buildings were closed, playgrounds were closed and basically any place with a door on it, closed. We couldn’t pass the time at the mall or go to museums and all our favorite activities were closed. There wasn’t much else to do, except go outside.

That’s when I started documenting our outdoor adventures on my phone camera. Every night before bed, I found joy in just scrolling through the camera roll looking at the smiles on my kids’ faces. I snapped some amazing shots of them exploring waterfalls and standing in awe of the horizon, building fires in the backyard, and tackling sticky s’mores. I wanted to capture as many colorful details as possible of how my kids spent their childhood living through this pandemic. I expect that one day, they will be sharing those photos with their own kids and telling them what it was like.

Then one day I noticed something.

I wasn’t in the photos.

I snapped some great shots of my husband candidly holding hands with one of my kids, or him pointing off into the distance in a teachable moment, but there weren’t any pics of me with my kids. So, I started taking selfies with the family to at least prove I was there too. Those selfies were hard to coordinate at an arms-length and it was awkward trying to huddle in front of the small camera aperture on my phone.

Don’t get me wrong, I got some silly pics of us together that captured our humor brilliantly. However, none of them capture much beyond our four heads huddled together. Someone is always a little out of frame and none of us thought to coordinate our hiking attire.

That’s when I decided, no matter what 2021 brings, we need new family portraits. Thankfully, family photographers are skilled at working from a distance and including moms in the pictures. Plus, we aren’t the only ones wrangling everyone to “look at the camera.” There’s someone else in charge of that. Moms, we just show up and smile. So much easier than trying to smoosh into a selfie (or an “us-ie” as my kids call them).

I know I am not the only mom that struggles to get in the photo (for various reasons), so I want to help another mom out by getting her in the photo with her family! That’s why I’ve partnered with local Hudson Valley photographer, Maureen Gates from Sharp Images Photographic.  

In honor of Mother’s Day, Maureen is generously giving away a family portrait session ($250 value) and an 11×14 wall portrait!

Maureen captured my family photos a few years ago just before my kids entered Kindergarten. It was a beautiful fall day and she worked fast to keep my kids moving and smiling. Social distance wasn’t a thing back then, but in our outside setting she didn’t need to stand close to get the perfect photos of my babies. Today, she knows the right precautions to take, and I am confident, still quick at assembling the family for some great shots.

If you are in the Hudson Valley region and you’d like to enter to win this portrait session package, please head to The Whatever Mom Facebook page to “click” like and “follow” along. This portrait giveaway is the kickoff event to 5 days of giveaways!  I’m giving away something just for moms every day from May 3rd-May 7th (2021). You won’t want to miss the daily giveaways!

How to Prepare for Re-entry after COVID Lockdown

Re-entry anxiety after a global pandemic is a real thing. After a year of social distancing and curbside delivery, it may be hard to remember a time when those things didn’t exist. As our communities slowly open back up, now is a good time to ease our way back into outings and activities we once enjoyed, like dining in public, going to museums, or browsing a store. Maybe your mind races wondering how to feel safe doing these things again, or maybe you’re just ready to get back out there. Either way, it’s OK to have feelings about it. What matters is, we do what makes us feel comfortable and healthy.

Me? I am ready to get back to scheduling things with friends and finding new places to explore that aren’t just nature trails. My family however, not so much. They are all reclusive home bodies to begin with, but I think for our collective mental health it’s time for us to get back out into our community and enjoy our favorite ways to explore. Given the current CDC Guidelines and protocols, which can change week to week, it is safest to call ahead or search a website before making a trip out. Masking is standard in our area, but some places may require an appointment before arriving to ensure social distancing. Knowing what to expect before you leave the house will help ease a lot of anxiety.

To help my family adjust to life after quarantine, we recently, took a little trip to explore the fun, artsy town of Beacon, NY. We paired up with friends and made a simple itinerary to visit three specific locations we knew the kids would enjoy. I wanted my family to see that we can still find joy while remaining safe. Here’s how we spent our time and how we prepared for safety.

One of the many beautiful murals we found on the side of buildings.

Hudson Beach Glass – normally, you can assist in creating a glass blown piece. For now, you can watch the professional glass blower creating their unique pieces from behind a glass window. That’s fine too because it is such a cool process to observe. During our visit, the artist was creating small vases. She made it all look so easy, and made three different pieces in just 15 minutes. The number of people permitted inside is limited to 8. Thankfully, we only had a group of 7. The shop is just gorgeous and filled with enough breakable things to make a mom’s heart race. There is also an art gallery upstairs.

Watching the glassblower at work is mesmerizing.

Next up, we let the kids explore a few shops. There was a toy store directly across from us, with a giant colorful sign that read PLAY. Of course, we had to go in. It’s important to note that we have not been in any building just to browse in a year. We pick up our goods in the parking lot, and if we must go inside, we get what we came for and leave. This shop limited the number of people allowed in, masks are required and there was a hand sanitizing station as you walk in. We browed a couple of other stores with the same requirements, so it seems like the trend for Main Street stores in this town. To some, that might feel like too much, but to me, a mom with two kids who like touching everything, it is a relief.

After we checked out a few shops, we headed straight for Glazed Over Donuts. Once we placed our order, we watched our donuts being made before picking them up at the end of the counter. There is no indoor dining, so after our donuts were complete, we sat outside to dig in. There was a hand sanitizing station upon entry, a bathroom to allow for hand washing and wet wipes to wash down hands before (or after) touching our food. The kids were completely unfazed that sun shifted, the temp dropped a couple of digits and there was a slight drizzle, we were allowing them to eat mega amounts of sugar. This was their nirvana!

Watching our donuts being made minutes before devouring them.

Our last stop took us to Beans Cat Café. It is one part coffee shop, one part cat rescue. We paid $7.00 per person for a 30-minute session with just our group (8 person maximum) to spend time with the cats. They were all extremely sweet and some were even snuggly. This was a dream come true for my kids who read stories to the cats and sat and relaxed by their side. My kids’ dream of having a pet cat, but this mom is super allergic. Sorry kids! Everyone, again, was required to wear masks, even while alone with the cats and we were asked to wash our hands before handling the cats. That made it easier to get the kids to wash their hands before leaving for our trip back home.  

Getting a tour of the café and learning about each individual cat.

The most stressful part for me, was the thought of using public bathrooms, but isn’t that something all moms stress about? I was not a fan pre-COVID, but now I would rather skip it entirely. However, we all know when a kid has got to go, they like to wait until the last possible second. We traveled an hour, so I thought we will just figure it out when we get there. Some places offered bathrooms and due to protocols were cleaning more frequently. So, they are probably cleaner now than anytime in 2019.

Here’s how to get prepared if you are feeling anxious about re-entering the outside world:

Start small by making an itinerary that includes specific places to visit.

Contact businesses directly or look up on their website/social media to clarify what their protocols are. I assure you; most businesses are following CDD guidelines for disinfecting, social distancing, and masking measures.

Bring a pocket-sized hand sanitizer for your bag, and a small package of sanitation wipes.

Make sure everyone has a mask, carry an extra one for each person in your party just in case.

Leave a larger bottle of sanitizer in the car for a final clean before heading home.

Take advantage of opportunities to wash hands using soap and water when you can.

Attend activities or events that are with small, socially distanced groups either outside or in a building with proper ventilation. Hiking trails and outdoor dining areas, petting zoos and small farm settings are a great way to slowly get used to being around people again.

Now that the warmer weather is here, the infection rates (in our area) are coming down and businesses are taking plenty of precautions, I feel much more at ease getting out this year than I did last year. Am I ready for a giant vacation? Maybe, but I know my family isn’t. So, for now, I’ll continue these smaller adventures to help them feel comfortable getting back out there. This trip was definitely worth it for us to help us ease back into being in public again.

How about you? Are you feeling ready for re-entry or traveling again? If you’re not, that’s totally OK too. I’d love to hear more about it in the comments below.

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Meal Plan Monday: Grilled Sweet Potatoes

Earlier this week, I shared on my personal social media pages the grilled sweet potatoes that my very picky eaters enjoyed (and gave a rave review by the way!). It felt like a total win when my whole family ate them without a single complaint.

I started eating a vegan diet at the beginning of the year for my own personal health reasons. The goal was to eat a vegan diet for 30 days. Well, after 120 days, I’m still going strong. I don’t expect my entire family to make the switch, it is something I am doing for myself. But, that does mean I need to spend a little time coming up with one meal that can fit three different pallets at once. I am thrilled that this easy sweet potato side dish is something we all agree on! And it is so easy to make on a weeknight, or for a family barbecue.

Free recipe card

Of course I can’t let on how over joyed I am that my kids ate a healthy serving of a fiber, nutrient rich VEGETABLE! Otherwise, they will never eat it again. So, I silently turn cartwheels inside my heart and commit the recipe to memory, promising to only make it now and then. I have to make sure to no over use it. Moms with picky eaters know about this quiet victory dance, and how we have to steel our emotions against believing this is the breakthrough vegetable.

For myself, I served this alongside some marinated baby portabella mushroom skewers and grilled romaine, topped with shredded vegan parmesan.

For my family, I served alongside Spiedies Marinaded chicken. If you haven’t had a chicken Spiedies sandwich before, well you are missing out! It is an upstate New York favorite. Hmmm… I feel a new recipe post coming on.

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Just to keep things simple, I made these potato slices in foil packets so I wouldn’t have to spend time flipping each individual potato slice. The steam created during the grill time also helps soften the potatoes quicker.

I’ve also made this recipe with regular potatoes to create a completely different flavor.

What do you think? Do you have a favorite vegetable to toss on the grill? I’d love to hear in the comments below.

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10 Day Inspirational Home Declutter Course and Special Offer

image of a workspace
Post contains affiliate links. I make a small commission at no cost to you.

Clutter in our homes has a direct impact on our social and emotional stress. It can impact how we feel about ourselves, our creativity and overall mental wellness. A recent survey finds that most people are more annoyed by clutter than dirt. Perhaps this is because it feels less overwhelming to run the vacuum over a pile of dirt to remove it in seconds, than making decisions about what to keep and what to toss. Personally, I feel deflated just looking at the messes and clutter piles around my house. Most of those messes are created by my family with all the things they leave behind. You know the shoe pile by the front door, the growing stack of mail that no one else knows what to do with, baskets of laundry calling me. I could go on, but I am sure you have similar hot spots in your homes too.

I know I am not alone.

But moms, I’ve met a new friend to help. Her name is Emily, she is a mom with small kids and the owner of The Orange Slate blog. She created an Inspiring 10-day e-course to help us reclaim the spaces in our homes. It’s a one-time download that you own forever. 

I followed the daily actions for 10 days (I may have missed a day or two in between, but Emily knows busy moms oversee a lot of things and missing a day or two is going to happen). My favorite part is that in true Whatever Mom fashion, Emily is not seeking perfection here. She is simply sharing her systems for reclaiming the messiest places in the home so we can feel less stress in our day. She tosses aside the notion of creating a house to share on Pinterest for the idea of creating a home to live in.

Kids make messes. Families make messes. It’s where the living really happens. Playtime is messy. We get busy with life and things pile up. It is perfectly normal to live in a house with clutter. This e-course shares how to create daily habits to tackle the clutter to minimize your stress and daily battle with clutter. 

sample pages from a course
Sample pages from the course.

I followed this e-course for myself and found it helpful and easy to follow along with. I also find it helpful to hand off some of the action items to my husband and kids, so they can learn to help care for our space too. We schedule a time each day to declare, “tidy time” and we all pitch in to put away our own things and clean up our own clutter. This clutter sweep saves me a lot of time from cleaning up everyone else’s messes and teaches my kids some life skills. Using Emily’s lessons, we now have an evening routine to reset the kitchen and living spaces to create a calm, clutter free space for our morning. Getting us all on onboard with habits and routines helps me feel less overwhelmed by having to do it all.

As a bonus, Emily has sprinkled in links to her top blog posts about how to simplify your home life and her best tips on meal planning and creating rituals as a mom. You will feel truly inspired by her 10-day home reset and relating to another mom who gets what it is like trying to find balance in parenting.

As a special gift to my readers, Emily is offering her course at a discount. Use this link to download and code: WHATEVER to receive your e-course right away. For a tiny fraction of what it costs to hire a professional, you can own this course. Start when you are ready and reuse when you need to. We all fall out of rhythm from time to time. I can’t wait for you to share your review with me.

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Easter Basket Gift Round Up!

Non-candy easter basket gift ideas
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Easter is traditionally observed as a religious holiday, but like any holiday in America, everyone is invited to join in. The Easter season begins with Lent and ends with Pentecost. The season lasts for 50 days (nearly two months, not just one day!). Just for this one holiday season, more than 90 million chocolate bunnies, 91.4 billion eggs and 700 million Peeps are produced each year in the United States alone.

Next to Halloween, Easter is the biggest candy driven holiday. When I was a kid our Easter baskets were FILLED to the brim with chocolate treats and sugary confections. I don’t know what my mom was thinking giving all four of her children (very close in age) free reign over so much candy. Maybe she was too tired to care, or just opened the door and tossed the candy on the lawn so we had to fight over it and only one of us could reign supreme? (Old age makes the details fuzzy).

Babies

Anyway, a lot has changed now that I am a parent. Instead of focusing on the treats, we try to fill our kids’ Easter baskets with things they need, or items they can use rather than eat. The first holiday my twins were just babies and we bought them a few outfits and stuffed animals to snuggle, but really did not go overboard. At six months old they were too young to participate in anything. It was more fun just to dress them up and ooh and awe at their cuteness, or sharing a storybook before bed.

Toddlers

By age two my kids understood plastic eggs delivered the good stuff, but they still weren’t ready for a sugar overload. So we loaded their baskets with fun things like bug kits, umbrellas, rainboots, puzzles and outdoor toys. They loved their magic bubble wands and sidewalk chalk. And when they were about school age we filled their baskets with bathing suits, sunglasses, educational books, and pool toys.

Pre-teens

Now as pre-teens, my kiddos are way into candy, so we don’t deny them. But we do set limits (for our own sanity). They get the most important holiday classics like a chocolate bunny and some egg shaped peanut butter cups. The rest of the baskets are filled with fun craft and science kits, seeds and garden kits or painting kits to keep them busy. My kids would make everything in one day, so I strategically hide them to dole out through the rainy days of spring. One kiddo mentioned she found these beaker creatures online and wanted a set of her own. Of course, we tucked that idea away for Easter baskets!

You can also skip toys and crafts and candy all together and put in gift certificates for experiences to a local zoo or ice cream place. A fun list of hikes tucked inside of a pair of new hiking boots with a plan to explore together. This holiday may be steeped in traditions, but there is no tradition dictating what kinds of things you put in your child’s Easter baskets. Other moms might have opinions about giving gifts at Easter, but you do what works for you and your family. I know for my family; it doesn’t work to hand my kids a bucket sized basket of candy. Not only would it be a sugar crash waiting to happen, but would also be very boring for my busy, active kids.

And if you don’t celebrate Easter in your family, celebrating the coming of spring with gifts and earth based ceremonies are just as important. We all celebrate in whatever way works for our own family. I have noticed the common threads between the celebrations usually involves family, food and time to reflect on the gifts we already have. Whatever holiday you celebrate – even if it’s just to feel joyful about spring – I wish you a healthy and happy celebration!

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Going Gray is the New Female Empowerment Movement

One of the things I preach around here is to embrace the real. The messy parts, the not so perfect parts and sometimes even the uncomfortable parts. So, I am about to confess something of my own that is real, and uncomfortable, with all of you. I am coming out as gray.

I have been hiding my true colors for years because I was just too self-conscious to expose my gray hair. I started losing my natural dark shade shortly after my twins were born. I was considered a “geriatric” mom in my mid-thirties and the gray settled in quickly after having twins. I started coloring my hair immediately because I was not yet ready to let go of feeling like I was in my 20s. So, I kept covering it up. I spent hours at the salon and made a mad dash to the drug store between colorings just to keep my grays under wraps. It was a stealthy covert operation that cost me thousands of dollars over the last ten years. Before I went to any big event, a reunion, a wedding, or a vacation, I scheduled myself to sit in a salon chair for nearly 3 hours to temporarily delete this obvious sign of aging.

Last year, when the COVID pandemic hit and shut down every salon in the world, I panicked. My appointment was only days away and my roots were already on display. I felt anxious the shut down was going to create some noticeably awkward hair growth, or what I refer to as “the skunk stripe.” As I scrolled for daily updates on when I could safely return to the salon, I noticed that nearly everyone on my friends list was confessing to missing their colorist too. Bloggers around the globe were suddenly showing up in videos and IG reels with silver streaks. As the weeks rolled into months, I found I wasn’t the only one awkwardly trying to cover my part.

Just as I was contemplating between coloring again or embracing this touch of gray, my colorist (or hair therapist as I call her) dropped off a professional grade color kit for me to use at home. I immediately rushed to color my hair and as I saw myself frantically brushing hair dye against my head, I thought this just doesn’t feel right anymore. I began wondering if I could pull off silver fox status. But…will I look…old? I decided the worst-case scenario is I hate it and I go back to dying it. And the best case scenario I love it and keep going. A year later, I am still dye free and learning to love it. But let me tell you, it’s still not easy. I am about two good hair cuts away from being fully gray.

I haven’t made a public post about it before now because I am still getting used to seeing myself with salt and pepper strands peeking through. It’s now very obvious and easily recognizable in my photos. Now is the time to admit it to myself and to those whom I haven’t seen face to face in the last year. It’s time to share it with my followers because my headshots are clearly not the same. Will anyone recognize me?

woman with gray hair
Me in my natural state of gray hair and no make up.

The longer my gray roots grow, the taller I grow in my own confidence. It turns out I’m not alone there either! I made a cryptic post on my personal social media page about contemplating life as a silver fox and a childhood friend sent a text message that she was inspired to do the same. Now we encourage each other by sending snapshots of our changing hair. Another friend from high school recently posted that she was going to give up coloring her hair to be more authentic too. Suddenly, I am in very good company and feeling bolder about this choice.

I am finding inspiration from women all over Instagram embracing their gray hair. There are a lot of us feeling powerful walking through life with silvery tendrils, and as one woman pointed out, “It takes a lot of confidence to walk around daily with two-toned hair.” Isn’t it funny, that people can have rainbow hair, two different shades of purple, or bleached or fading colors and no one second guesses that persons value and relevance. But women with gray hair are told they look “too old” or look like they “let themselves go.”

And oddly enough, I am finding inspiration from men with gray hair. When men age they are referred to as “distinguished” which implies dignity and respect. But when women age they are referred to as “washed up.” I noticed male lead actors that dominated the TV screen in my childhood are still on TV and fully gray. They’ve grown up, just like I have. Yet, no one is accusing them of having let themselves go. In fact, they are given the commanding roles with younger looking wives or partners. Honestly, if men can walk around with new found confidence with fully gray hair, then I can feel just as empowered to do the same.

So, here I am.

On my way to a braver, grayer self.

Have you embraced your new, natural color since the pandemic? Does gray hair make you feel bolder? Wiser? More empowered? I’d love to read about it in the comments below.

How to Tackle Home Clutter (Free offer)

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Clutter is defined as ‘a collection of things laying around in an untidy mass.’ As moms, we are familiar with the untidy mass and the frustration it creates. It is well known by now how clutter impacts our minds. Organizers tout the benefits of decluttering by hauling out our belongings to sort into piles to toss or donate. Who doesn’t love replacing a chaotic mess with a well-organized bin with a cute label, right? But not everyone has time for an extreme make over.

Moms are busy and often the only person to tackle the clutter at home. We might set aside time once a year (usually in the spring) to clean out our closets and kid toys, but it is the daily management of clutter that can wear us down. Managing the daily clutter and mess causes stress. Clutter impacts our mood when we feel like we are nagging, it affects our relationship with our loved ones because we can resent having to do it all by ourselves, and it can be physically draining being a cleaning team of one.

As much as I love an organized closet and escalate to giddy heights over the perfect storage solution, I find the daily clutter to be the most overwhelming. It distracts me from working and feeling productive, it takes time to clear the dining table so we can eat, and I am exhausted at the end of the day after returning items back to where my family took them from. I admit, my blood boils when no one else notices the crumbs and puddles on the counter nor remembers that coats do not belong on the floor.

Scientists agree that clutter signals to our brain that our work is never done. It can be difficult to relax when we feel like we see an endless task list. I don’t know about you, but I could use a few less things on my to-do list. I already have enough running to-do lists taking up space in my brain. What I need is a simple solution to tackle the daily clutter my family creates.

Sort mail as it comes in! (Click to add to cart).

Cleaning out the closet doesn’t make me feel better when my husband tosses the mail in a pile on the side table next to my workspace and leaves it for me to take care of.

Putting the kids toys in cute bins with pretty labels doesn’t make me feel better when I find toys strung about the house left for me to take care of.

Rounding up things to donate or toss doesn’t make me feel better when there is a new stream of stuff right behind me to take care of.

I’ve noticed, I am the only one doing all that cleaning and organizing on top of the daily cleaning and organizing and I am tired.

One day, I thought about what will make me feel better. I will feel better when my family pitches in to take ownership of their own stuff.

After months of feeling angry and festering in silence, I realize it isn’t fair to me or my family to just do everything myself. It isn’t teaching them life skills they need to learn, and it isn’t fair to drain my energy each day picking up after other people who can pick up after themselves.

FREE DOWNLOAD – 5 Tips to Tackle Home Clutter

I created a list of the top five sources of clutter in my home and planned how to tackle each one.

After I made my list and my plan, I sat my family down for a family meeting and told them they needed to pitch in. We are a team, and we are all capable of sharing the workload to maintain our home.

Organize your purse to save time and minimize clutter! (Click to add to cart).

That’s it.

I set the expectation for their help and explained how working as a team frees up time and energy for all of us, it improves our moods and our relationship.  That doesn’t mean every day is perfect or that I stop giving reminders, but now there is no question of where and when I need help. It minimizes my nagging and pleading and saves me energy!

So, how do I motivate them without nagging and making an elaborate chore chart?

I assign a tidy time each day. We all pitch in together to put away our own clutter and items that need to return to their point of origin. If we are all working together, there is less complaining and not one person feels like they are the only ones doing the work. I am less exhausted and less annoyed.

I delegate responsibilities, not just tasks. My kids need to learn to be responsible with their belongings. So, I assign each of them their own laundry day. I taught them the steps to loading the washer and dryer. They still need help folding, but they are responsible for putting away their laundry. They pick up the clothes on their floor during tidy time and do their own laundry on their laundry day. This is a huge step toward independence and less for me to tackle.

If you want to know the other steps in my daily declutter plan, sign up for my monthly newsletter! My list of 5 ways to Tackle Home Clutter is my free gift to you, and it arrives in your in box within minutes.  

How do you get your family to pitch in more? I’d love to read in the comments below!

Roxanne Ferber is a twin mom and creator/owner of The Whatever Mom community. As a freelance writer she has contributed to parenting magazines and influencer campaigns. A fan of snarky comedy, she uses humor to share the messier parts of her parenting life and helps other moms embrace the chaos and let go of perfection.

Cooking Basics for Kids with a Fun Recipe Round-up!

Is your kid ready to learn some basic kitchen skills? Cooking with kids can be a little stressful because most often we see the mess we have to clean up. The key here is it will all clean up. Let your kids learn from their messy mistakes and learn how to clean up after their cooking adventures. Afterall, cleaning up after themselves is also a valuable life skill, right?

So here are the basics when cooking with kids:

Chose the right recipe. Select recipes that require skills your kids already have. For example, you might have your 2-year-old help bake cookies, or pretzels because rolling out the dough is easy and fun. But you wouldn’t have them help you make a 4-course dinner with a million steps.

Keep it simple. If your kids are just starting out in the kitchen start out with recipes that require fewer steps to complete. Your kid will stay motivated to learn more. Start with easy snacks to nail down the basics like cutting and planning, then work up to meals that requires bigger skills.

Use the right tools. If you are worried about your kids using knives or any of your kitchen tools, get them a kid version that they can use with easy. I always have plenty of towels and a broom and dustpan on hand to clean up any messes.

Chose the right time. Don’t try to teach your kid some cooking skills while they are hungry and impatient, or during the dinner time rush. You want to select a recipe that will fit into the time you have to get through the recipe without pressure to get it done quickly.

Here are some simple recipes you can help your child make:

Toddlers:

Banana sushi

Soft pretzels

Garlic bread pizza

Older kids (ages 6-10):

Egg salad wraps

Pancakes

Meatballs and sauce.

Tweens: (Age 10+)

Grilled cheese

Homemade mac and cheese

Scrambled egg burritos

What are you cooking with the kids this week? I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments below!

Roxanne is a twin mom and freelance writer. She owns this little piece of the blogosphere where parents are encouraged to let go and embrace the messier parts of parenting, without judgement.

Recipe Round-up: Sheet pan meals!

As much as I love cooking, I don’t love spending hours in the kitchen. I will often prep my meals ahead of time if I can, and pull them out as I need them through the week. But when I am pressed for time, I absolutely love tossing everything on one baking sheet to cook together in the oven. One sheet pan meals make dinner time easier because there is only one pan to clean!

Here are my favorite sheet pan meals to try this week!

Sheet pan fajitas

Mini meatloaf sheet pan meal

Sheet pan BBQ Tofu

Easy sheet pan sausage and veggies

Vegan herbed veggies sheet pan meal

And when I am feeling lazy, I mean “pressed for time” I simply put some frozen veggie burgers and sweet potato fries on one sheet pan and toss in the oven. In less than 30 minutes I have a full dinner made complete with veggies my family will eat.

Do you have a favorite sheet pan meal recipe you love? Please share in the comments below! I’d love to give it a try!

Roxanne is a twin mom and freelance writer. She owns this little piece of the blogosphere where parents are encouraged to let go and embrace the messier parts of parenting, without judgement.

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