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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6 professional bakers have donated 20 dozen cupcakes!

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

In loving memory of: 

Christine Barrows- Ryberg

Dorothy Smith- Barrows

Cecil Barrows Sr.

Cecil Barrows Jr.

Charles Ferber

Courtney Erickson

Wayne Burlison

Mac and Morgan

 

In honor of those still fighting.

 

 

 

 

 

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Dear Lonely Mom – You are Not Alone

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear Lonely Mom,

Please reach out.

Please call me for coffee.

I won’t judge you.

Please know you are not alone.

Love,

The Whatever Mom

robin williams suicide hotline

http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

images

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Woman Cleaning Toilet

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

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

Hands on a globe

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

laundry

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

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

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

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

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

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

potty meme

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

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The Whatever Mom Wants You to Join the Whatever Army!

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!

SAHM

DSC_4900

tatoo

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.

CSC_4937

Twin moms

Hudson moms

Crunchy mom

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).

Tech rox edit

Formula fed

birth edit

Gay edit

Food edit

Most people hear Mommy wars and picture this:

Mom life edit

I hear Mommy wars and picture this:

Glasco3

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. 

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What To Do on This Rainy July 4th

Greetings on this rainy 4th of July! If your day is starting out like ours, you may need some ideas on how to spend this rainy day inside with your little ones. Below is a recap of some fun things to do while stuck inside.

 

Today is the perfect opportunity to check off some of those summer bucket list items! If you haven’t made your summer bucket list yet there’s still plenty of time! Or you can just use this 2014 Summer Bucket List printable.

Check list

 

 

Arrrr ya ready for an indoor Pirate adventure? Take some time to make a map then hide treasures around the house and find them using your map.

Final maps
Final maps

 

Did you miss my post on making pinwheels? This is a quick, fun activity to do with the kids. Use whatever paper you have on hand!

Final product
Final product

 

How about simply bringing out the paints and paper and let the kids run wild? Here are some easy, fun July 4th craft ideas.

Step 1

 

And, if you can’t get out to see the fireworks, why not paint them? Here’s a fun craft from our friend Pam at Creating Barefoot.

fireworks

 

 

So you just blew through all the crafts in less than an hour, now what? Who says you have to stay inside ALL day? Why not let your kids run outside to play in the rain? Every kid loves dancing n the rain! They are only little once! Maybe it will inspire you to host your own Mess Fest later this summer?

The perfect day for puddle jumping!
The perfect day for puddle jumping!

 

However you choose to spend your day I hope it is relaxing, safe and enjoyable. Happy July 4th everyone!

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Make Paper Pinwheels for your next Summer Party

Final product
Final product

It was such a gorgeous day today, the girls and I spent most of it outside. We played with the water table, ran around flying kites, kicked a ball and even enjoyed our lunch outside. Then someone said, “Let’s make a craft.” I didn’t feel like making a huge mess with paint and no one was biting the line for crayons and coloring books. Quickly, I remembered I have this fun book I picked up from a retired teacher selling her 20 year collection of classroom books! I scored 2 big boxes of pristine kids books for $8.00!

There were a few different crafting books in the collection and I nearly forgot about this one. But, my girls pulled it out recently and asked to make a craft. I guess I couldn’t put it off any longer.

 

Original print date 1979
Original print date 1978

I love that it felt like I was opening a time capsule from the 1970’s when I opened this “How-to” book!

 

Easy to follow pictures in a book is easier for little ones to see and read.
Easy to follow pictures in a book is easier for little ones to see and read.

You can certainly find instructions on how to make pinwheels on Pintrest. But I love that the instructions are in pictures and simply laid out in this book. It is a much easier way for little ones to follow without the annoyance of scrolling and dropping WiFi signals. Plus, there’s a lot less pressure for perfection. (For me).

Here are the materials you need:

Materials for pinwheels
Materials for pinwheels
  • Scrap book paper (double sided has a great effect).
  • Scissors
  • Wooden dowels (I used wooden skewers).
  • A pencil
  • Thumb tacks
  • A ruler
  • A 1-2 inch circle to trace

 

Snag your kids toys for projects
Snag your kids toys for projects

STEP 1: Measure an 8×8 square on paper. (I cheated and traced the instruction book to create my square page).

STEP 2: Cut out square.

STEP 3: Fold your square corner to corner and crease. Unfold and refold to opposite corners and crease.

STEP 4: Draw a circle in the center point. (I found this easier to do after I made the creases).

STEP 5: Cut along the fold lines and stop at the circle.

STEP 6: Lift every other corner of each triangle and pull to the center circle.

STEP 7: Push a thumb tack through the center of paper and then through the wooden dowel (or skewer).

Ta-da!
Ta-da!

The pinwheels really turned out better than I expected (since I didn’t use any actual tools to measure).

We did this just for fun, but it would make a brilliant party decoration! I inserted the stems of the finished pinwheels into colorful drinking mason jars. I removed the straws and pushed in the skewers. The points on the skewers makes it easy to poke into potted plants around a deck, or push into the ground to line a walk way. You can even fill up buckets with fun treats with a pinwheel poking out. Or just make it a fun way to pass the time on a sunny day!

 

What’s your on-the-fly/go-to craft? Feel free to share pictures or comments below!

 

Disclaimer: Clearly in 1978 kids were allowed to play with thumb tacks. Most likely while sliding down a hot aluminum slide over top of loose gravel. If you make this craft, please be sure you take precautions for little ones who still like to explore by putting things in their mouth.

 

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Family Savings Jars – Dimes for Disney

Most of my crafty ideas start with me rummaging through the house to find whatever items I already have on hand.  I found these awesome mason jars (which held our store bought pasta sauce) and knew I needed to use them for something! Disney jars it is! I think my girls are still a little too young to appreciate the magic of Disney World. I really want them to experience it while they are young enough to believe in magic, but old enough to remember taking it all in. So the goal is to save up our dimes and celebrate their 5th birthday in Disney!

Here’s how I made the jars:

I chose glass jars so we can watch the money add up each week! They’re also small enough to carry to the bank when we are ready to deposit. (No thanks water cooler jug). Removing the labels is easy; just soak for 10 min. in hot soapy water.

Materials I found
Materials I rummaged

I found this great site that allows me to print Mickey ears with my kids’ initials in the Disney font. I cut and paste into a Word document and re-sized them to what I need.

Print on card stock, cut and apply
Print on card stock, cut and apply

It would have been awesome if I had thought to print on card stock (and checked my ink levels). Since I did not, I used them as templates to make these:

If you did not print on card stock use printed ears as template on actual card stock
If you did not print on card stock use printed ears as template for actual card stock

I found some pink polka dot ribbon to match the pink letters. I simply taped one edge to the glass and wrapped the ribbon tightly around the jar and used a glue gun to secure it. (Glue guns scare the heck out of me so I only use very sparingly).

Fold one end of ribbon over to create a clean fold before securing to other end of ribbon
Fold one end of ribbon over to create a clean fold before securing to other end of ribbon

I painted the lids to the jars last. I didn’t have any spray paint on hand, but I did have a pint of latex paint from a project I never completed. So, I just brushed some of that on. In hindsight spray paint might have been quicker, and I totally regret not using glitter.

Use spray paint for quicker application and clean up
Use spray paint for quicker application and clean up
Presto change-o!
Presto change-o!

Now how will we fill these wonderful Disney jars? With the blood, sweat and tears of toddlers of course! How else do toddlers earn a little extra pocket money? Yep! Chores! I am putting my 3 1/2 year-olds to work and using a Disney chore chart! I feel your concern regarding child labor laws, but let me assure you we keep the toddler chores pretty simple around here. The girls chore list includes picking up their own shoes, toys and dishes; which they do already. Only now we reward them with stickers and pennies. This is a great way to introduce the concept of rewards and consequences. Mwahahaha!

Finished jars
Finished jars

Maybe you’re not saving for Disney, but it might be fun to start a family fun jar to pay for a pizza night, movie tickets, or entrance to a water park. Whatever your goal is get the kids excited. Help them decorate a jar and decide on ways they can earn money to deposit. Drop in coins when you can, or let them deposit their allowance. It’s whatever you make of it!

 

 

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Introducing Phase 2

We interrupt this regularly scheduled crafty blog to focus a moment on Phase 2 of my frumpy to fabulous plan. Remember my post about how to spring clean your look? Well that was Phase 1 of my plan. I decided to add Phase 2, Healthy Eating and Exercise, after my daughter caught me getting out of the shower. Her exact words were, “Mama, you’re floppy!” (She used to be my favorite).

Before kids, getting out of the house was so much easier. I could be out the door in 15 minutes or less. Now it takes an hour. The breakdown of that hour looks like this: 20 minutes discussing pants (actual topic); 10 minutes spinning in circles before putting on socks; 10 minutes answering questions about socks; 5 minutes wrestling shoes onto toddlers; 10 minutes countering complaints about having to leave the house; 3 minutes 30 seconds just to cross over the threshold to the outside world; and 1 minute 30 seconds to count every single flower on the way to the car.

All that spinning and wrestling might sound like a work out, but it sadly isn’t helping any with the aforementioned floppiness. As a mom with twins glued to my hip I don’t get much time to myself. I don’t have babysitters or money for the gym

But, with recent news of my floppiness, I went in search of what could possibly work for a mom in my situation. I found an at-home solution through Great Expectings.  Christine McCracken, owner of Great Expectings, is also a nurse, a mom and fitness enthusiast. She has made it her goal to help women (and moms like me) with limited time and access to a gym get fit. (Is that a choir of angels I hear?)

We spoke over the phone for an initial consultation. I shared all my injuries and postpartum issues and she went right to work creating work outs I can do at home. Each week she emails me a daily workout schedule to complete. Each day I log my food and exercise choices at myfitnesspal (she can see what I eat- ack!). I have access to her every day via email, text or phone. It feels like having an exercise buddy cheering me on and it motivates me to stay accountable.

On the healthy eating front I have my groceries delivered each week. This saves me from the candy aisle and impulse buying (yes, I meant to buy a Kit-Kat, 2 bouncy balls and a new hammock). I try to incorporate Christine’s tips for healthy eating into my meal plan. Like drinking water and including extra veggies at each meal. Outsourcing my workout planning and having my food delivered, I’m feeling pretty fabulous already!

Readers, I think you know by now The Whatever Mom Credo is to simplify and to do “whatever it takes to get through the day.” Well, that includes fitting in exercise and time to take care of our health. This is one area it is not safe to say, “Whatever.” You don’t have to join a gym, or do what I do. Just find what works for you!

 

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Recipe Round Up!

Some of you have requested recipes for my sneaky sweet treats. You can Download your FREE copies using the links below.

All recipes have been toddler tested and hubby approved! Hope you enjoy!

 

avocado pudding Chocolate Avocado Pudding

My kids LOVE this recipe! I won’t name names, but one very picky eater won’t even touch an avocado. But, you mix it with dark chocolate cocoa powder and a some honey she’s all over it! We may have also enjoyed this as a lunch option once or twice.

 

Cookie snack Peanut Butter Chickpea Cookies

This twist on a traditional chocolate chip cookie goes completely undetected! The only difference is the texture. It doesn’t get crispy like a thin cookie, but remains doughy (will firm up once cool).

 

 

Banana ice cream Banana Ice Cream Sandwiches

This is a great dairy alternative for those with sensitivities! It takes a little longer with freeze time. My kids thought it was a fun “experiment.” Hey, whatever gets them to eat it! You can skip the crackers and eat the banana ice cream straight from the bowl! The flavor combinations are endless. Add in peanut butter, frozen berries, chocolate. Get creative!

 

 

Hummus Sweet potato hummus

Picky eater says what? This homemade hummus made with chickpeas and sweet potatoes has a slight sweetness. It pairs well with apples, carrots, purple grapes and the toddler staple: Goldfish crackers. As a bonus, I used this hummus in place of oil in a boxed brownie mix. It made cake like, dense brownies. I am pretending the extra protein balanced out all the sugar in the mix.

 

2014 5 23 038

 

Please share any favorite ‘hidden’ recipes!

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Backyard Pirate Adventure

I had been trapped for hours in the back yard. Forced to swashbuckle against my will. Someone put a twig in my hand and made me sword fight before I was told to walk the plank. This is not a bad dream. This is my children’s obsession with all things Pirate. Yes, friends my girls love pirates. The bad boys of the high seas. So, when a friend of mine hand delivered an invitation to her son’s pirate themed birthday party, I had no choice. I had to make them their own treasure maps. Mostly because I had two kids fighting over one treasure map. (Thanks G!)

Start by brewing some tea. Not to relax with, but to paint with! Be sure to allow the tea to steep long enough to make a dark brown color. The tea stains make the paper look like aged parchment paper.

Brew regular or decaf tea
Brew regular or decaf tea

Pour a small amount into a bowl, or cup.

Pour small amount into bowl. Small amount = smaller spill.
Small amount = smaller spill.

Use whatever paper you have on hand. (We used regular drawing paper pulled from the tablet). Next, give your kid their favorite paint brush and let the painting begin. Or, you can place smaller pieces of paper on a tray with edges (baking sheet works too) and let them pour the tea over them. Hang it up to dry.

The color on our paper came out lighter than I wanted. After it dried I poured more tea over it and allowed to dry. This made a wonderful layered color effect.

Use paint brush to apply tea to paper

Use paint brush to apply tea to paper

Since the pages were too wet to draw our maps on we left them in the sun to dry while we searched for treasure. The girls sorted their glass gems and gathered their “booty” from their dress up jewelry collection.

Panning for golden treasure
Panning for golden treasure

Once the pages were dry I tore them in half to give the edges a more weathered look. This also gave each kid two maps of their very own.  I used our markers to add colorful nautical art to each map. In true pirate fashion, the girls dictated what they wanted me to draw on their maps.

Final maps
Our maps next to the inspiration map

After everything had completely dried we took the maps outside to walk a treasure trail in our yard.We took turns hiding and finding our treasures. Of course I had to walk the plank AGAIN. It’s not my fault I’m an awesome treasure hunter! Best part of the project is it didn’t cost me a single doubloon.

 

What ‘argh’ ya planning for your back yard adventures? ‘Shiver me timbers’ I need to get out more!

 

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