I know Father’s Day is on the calendar every year and I have exactly 1 year of planning time between each celebration. But, I always remember last minute I need to get my hubby a gift. Actually, hubby and I do not exchange gifts with each other on Father’s Day or Mother’s Day. The gifts come from the kids. He store buys my gifts in a mad panic the night before Mother’s Day, and I hand create something magical in less than 5 minutes the morning of Father’s Day. It’s really the thought that counts right?
This will be our fifth year celebrating Father’s Day and I thought I’d share a some of our low cost gift ideas and traditions.
A Picture Says It All. For my husbands first Father’s day I did my planning in advance (by two weeks). He gave up his Camaro when he found out I was pregnant with twins. So, I converted an empty formula can into a Daddy’s Camaro Fund jar. I used pretty paper to wrap the can, glued on a picture of his beloved Camaro and used foam letter stickers to spell out “Daddy’s Camaro Fund.” I paired it with a custom t-shirt. I took a picture of our twins holding a plastic set of keys. I had the picture screened onto a shirt and above the picture I had printed, “Our tiny hands hold the keys to daddy’s heart.” I spent less than $20 and hubby wears that t-shirt every single year. Print out a cute picture of your kids holding letters that spell out D-A-D and put in a cute frame for his desk at work.
Go On A Picnic. We live in an amazingly scenic valley. We walk the same walkway trail every year and stop for a picnic. Hubby wears his t-shirt and I pack a lunch for everyone. It doesn’t matter where we eat. It is just a lovely way to spend the day outside and enjoy some time together. Take your dad to a favorite hiking spot, a park or outdoor area and treat him to a homemade meal.
Make Dad The King. After we take our usual walk we return home so hubby can sit in his favorite comfy outside chair with an icy cold beer. My husband works a lot of hours so we can afford for me to stay home (and write this killer blog). It’s only fitting to let him relax while we do a little work. The girls and I wash his car. It isn’t always a perfect car wash with two littles helping out, but it is a nice way to let him enjoy some down time and I can teach my kids how to do something nice for someone else.
Kiddie Coupons. One year I was so behind in my planning that I grabbed blank, white printer paper and hand drew some cute coupons from the kids. Of course the girls helped me with the silly ideas. We made coupons for free snuggles, free date days and free car washes. Hand make some fun little coupons to let dad know you appreciate his hard work, or find a great Pinterest site with kiddie coupons and print them out!
Overall, we don’t make a big fuss about Father’s Day. My kids are still so little that it is really more about laying the foundation for showing gratitude and expressing appreciation. One day the girls will be in charge of the gift planning and I hope they understand it isn’t the amount of money that goes into a gift, rather the amount of thought that goes into it.
What are some of your favorite Father’s Day gift ideas? Please share away!
I remember watching the Pull Ups commercial where the little girl is sometimes a “potty super hero, and sometimes she’s a potty princess” and I thought, “yeah that’s not gonna happen!” I am not going to make potty training this magical fun fest that never goes away. You have to pee, you put it in the potty end of discussion.
Well, fast forward to age four and a half and my little lovies are still fearful of using the big potty for more than the business of #1. We still have issues with #2 (To my child’s future therapist, I am not sharing this to humiliate my child as she will claim, but it is to help OTHER MOMS know they are not the only ones who do these crazy things in the name of helping their child “grow”).
Ya’ll… I willingly sprinkled glitter (a.k.a. magical fairy dust) all over my house to convince my children they had been visited by the potty fairy. What is the purpose of this potty fairy? Well, each child gets their own personal fairy who will go with them to the potty and keep them safe. I assured my innocent little cherubs that these fairies will give them the confidence they need to be successful little poopers. These magic fairies report back to Fairy Godmother who will grant them prizes based on their success. I said I’d never make the potty a magical place. And, now I hang my head in shame and share with the world the biggest, fattest lie I have ever told my children. And why? Because I am just trying to make it through ONE day without having to clean up you know. . . p-o-o-p.
We are on day two of the magic and so far one kid has lost her stupid little fairy, and the other is insisting her fairy will be making the poops for her, so she never has to sit on the potty again. *Sigh* I tried moms. I tried.
The most useful parenting advice I ever received: “all those things you said you’ll never do- you will do them ALL!” So, fess up moms! What have you done that you said you would NEVER DO?
Ever meet a mom and think, “Man, I wanna be her friend!” That happened to me at the park today.
I was just sitting there minding my own business, watching my kids run all over the play area when this other woman walked toward us with two girls close to my kids ages. I really did not want to make small talk. I just wanted to sit alone … in silence. Our kids were so ecstatic when they met each other I thought they were long lost friends.
“Hello, how are you?
“Good, how about you?”
From there she sat down on my bench and I don’t remember much about our conversation other than we laughed and we had the same vibe going. We watched our kids from afar as they helped themselves up and down the stairs, come down the slide together and even walked over to use the bathroom by themselves. This mom didn’t even flinch when all of the kids kicked off their shoes to run through the park in their socks! Neither of us jumped up to scold or demand the kids keep their shoes on. We just rolled with it and continued our conversation.
Every time one of her kids asked her a question she replied with the same tone and remarks I encourage my kids with, “You can do it. YES you CAN!” “No, I just sat down.” “OK, so just go to the bathroom.” It was like hearing myself, but with a voice outside of my own head. I felt like, “so I’m NOT the only one that says these things!!?” We both sat back and let the kids just play and make up stories while we chatted. It was so nice to not feel pressured to impress this mom with how attentive I can be, or for either of us to defend our decisions on organic food, co sleeping, or vaccines. We were just two tired moms sitting at the park watching our kids. We didn’t need to be anything more.
We shared stories about how life used to be when kids could just open the door and run free. A time when kids ate dirt and peed in the yard. It was incredible to share this space with a mom who was just so Whatever. She didn’t judge me and I didn’t judge her. We didn’t even judge other moms. We just shared the same philosophy of keeping life simple and doing what we need to, to get through the day. She is a grandma well into her 60’s and I am a mother about to turn 40. And, we just clicked.
“Man, these kids exhaust me. As soon as I hit the pillow I’m out like a light.”
This week has been incredibly eye opening. On Monday I had a lovely visit with a more seasoned mom who has raised three children, all three on their way out of the nest. I was a little on edge with two whirling littles, mostly because we are so noisy. I was worried they’d make a mess, break something or just completely melt down. Thankfully, they were complete angels! It was such a wonderful experience spending time with a mom whom I did not have to itemize my organic food choices with, or plead my case for having to formula feed babies instead of breast feeding. It was just nice to be accepted as a member of this mom community where we all work our hardest to provide the best for our kids.
Then Tuesday came and the shaming began. Articles started popping up in my Facebook news feed about the stigma of having a c-section. I was curious to know if anyone actually felt shamed for having a c-section. I had a c-section and people often ask if I did. Maybe that’s par for the twin parenting course? Maybe I am too busy to hear these kinds of reactions, or maybe I’ve just been really lucky I haven’t crossed paths with such ugliness. But, no one has ever commented on how I “took the easy way out,” or worse, “didn’t actually give birth.”
Dear Moms of the World,
What are we doing????! Are we really that insecure about our positions as mothers that we need someone else to feel superior to? Aren’t we better than that? Aren’t we in charge of role modeling loving, caring, productive behaviors so we can raise loving, caring and productive human beings? Why are we “mean girling” potential friends and judging moms whose stories we most likely don’t even know?! Why are we freely dumping our personal opinions onto the world wide web and not sorry when it hurts? Can we all agree that every decision we make for our kids is hard? Can we all just have a giant group hug and drink a hot cup of coffee til this whole me vs. you thing blows over? I know I’d really like that.
You may have noticed a break since my last post. We have been traveling and jumping into our new soccer routine. During our Spring break vacation we made an over night trip to Mystic Connecticut to see the Aquarium and a few other local family friendly places to play. My kids love, love, love ocean life. They absolutely adore penguins and whales and all kinds of sea creatures. Thankfully the Mystic Aquarium has all of the above! My kids almost lost their minds when the Beluga whale came out of no where to give them a great big kiss through the glass tank! The excited looks on their faces and their squealing was priceless!
If you’ve ever wanted to make a trip to see the aquarium in Mystic, here’s what you need to know:
Purchase tickets online for a 15% discount (the hotels only offer $2-$3 discount coupons). Redeemed printed tickets at the aquarium for actual tickets to take with you.
We did not know there were so many outdoor exhibits such as the Beluga Whales, Sea Lions and African Penguins. It was a drizzly day and a little chilly. Thankfully we were dressed properly, but if the rain had not held out we would have missed out on a few key exhibits. Be sure to bring back up rain gear, or an extra coat on a chilly day! The inside exhibits are plentiful! There are many interactive things to keep little ones busy. My kids couldn’t get enough of the Sea Lion show, or the hands-on Wild exhibit. At the Wild exhibit we picked up a Scavenger Hunt card on our way in and had fun checking off everything on the list. My kids especially loved the science area where they could dig for dinosaur bones. The majority of the museum is stroller friendly and there is stroller parking available at the Foxwoods Maritime Sea lion show. It is very accessible for wheel chairs as well. They make it easy for your entire family to enjoy the exhibits.
Tips: There is a cafe to purchase lunch. However, it is simple fair of chicken fingers, burgers, fries, pizza, wraps and soft pretzels. If you want to save some money buy a large pizza and share it with the family. Or, pack your own lunch and eat at the cafe (no food or beverages allowed inside the aquarium) and keep the $40-$50 dollars you would have spent to buy a cute something at the souvenir shop. Even better- skip the souvenir shop all together and purchase the photos they take when you walk in the entrance. Those run about $25.00 for two 3×5 pictures, or $35.00 for (2) 3×5’s (1) 4×6 and (2) 5×7’s. Last, bring some change for the penny press machines 50 cents per penny. Parking is FREE. If you don’t get to see everything in one day, or miss the outside exhibits due to rain, you can have your admission tickets validated to use again the next day.
We stayed at the Hampton Inn and Suites just four minutes away from the aquarium. We chose this hotel after careful research and recommendations. There are certainly cheaper hotels, but the pricing was middle of the road with great reviews. We were sold on the free breakfast in the morning (another savings of around $50 for a family of four) and free cookies at night. Sounds like such a little thing, but my kids looked adorable coming down in their P.J.’s for cookies and cocoa before bedtime. We also used the pool to tire the kids out after dinner. There is a small fridge and microwave for use in each room.
Tips: Coffee/tea and cocoa are available in the lobby 24/7. The free cookies may only be available during the week. Ask when making reservations if there are any cookies/snacks provided on the weekends. There are family packages available that bundle the price of the room with tickets to the aquarium, but it is cheaper to pay separately (especially if you purchase in advance online). I also really like that the site we used to book our room adds all taxes and fees for you. So, you get to see the exact price before booking your room.
Mystic Pizza! You can’t make a trip to Mystic CT without eating at the famous Mystic Pizza. If you haven’t watched the movie yet they have it on continual loop at the restaurant! Or, you could rent it at home too. I loved everything about this place! It was cozy and the staff very friendly. But, most of all the pizza was delicious!! Hubby and I enjoyed sharing a seafood pizza (since I missed out on getting a lobster roll). The kids each had their own personal pizzas. The prices were very reasonable and as the slogan says it was a “slice of heaven.”
We stayed only one night. But, to maximize our fun we decided to break up the drive back home into smaller adventures. My kids love of ocean creatures is only second to their love of Dinosaurs. They also really love exploring kids museums. So, we found something to satisfy both loves.
We traveled about an hour West of Mystic to Rocky Hill where we found Dinosaur State Park. This place is the real dino deal. A giant fossil (with 2,000 dinosaur foot prints!!) was unearthed during construction for another building project and BAM! They built an entire museum around the fossil! Kids can interact with the exhibits all around the museum. It is a very scientific look at the earth, how fossils are made, and how dinosaurs existed in New England and around the world. The very last exhibit is a hands-on learning room full of fossils, minerals, puppets, coloring and craft activities. Kids can hold actual fossils, play dinosaur games and identify animal sounds.
This room is jam packed full of interactive stuff! We spent over an hour in this room alone! They have short films throughout the day you can view for free. They announce each film as it is about to play. The museum sits on a National Park, so there are several hiking trails and picnic areas to use. In the summer months they also let kids help make a plaster cast of fossils.
Tips: Admission is only $6.00 per person (under age 5 is FREE). You can make a souvenir penny press, but all the gifts in the small gift shop are super affordable. They even make a cute little goody bag for $5.00. If you don’t get a chance to pack your own lunch the museum staff has already put together a list of local restaurants.
We traveled 50 minutes from Rocky Hill to Torrington to spend a few hours getting a hands on education at the Kids Play Museum. The admission price is only $5.00 per person! There are some super cute exhibits! My kids especially loved the mini super market, the 1950’s diner and the race car pit stop. There is a small toddler area for kids age two and under. Everything was pretty clean for our late afternoon visit at a super busy time of day.
Tips: Parking is a challenge. You can find street parking in front of the building, or on side streets and pay the meter tolls (so bring some quarters!). A few blocks further down and you will find free Municipal parking. We were lucky to find street parking right in front of the museum on our rainy day visit.
This was definitely a whirl wind visit! There are so many more places to go and see in Mystic we will definitely go back!
The Whatever Mom did not receive any financial compensation for this review. The opinions and views about the businesses listed in this blog are solely the opinions and views of the The Whatever Mom. Be sure to click on the headings for each business review to directly link to each website.
My kids love to play games. They love board games, building games, I-Spy games- any game really. They also love counting, matching and sorting. So, I thought I would make a few file folder games they could pull out any time!
Start by cutting out the squares and place the pictures of dinosaurs in correct order. Set the number squares aside. Then, adhere a piece of double stick tape on each edge of the square. Turn over and stick to the folder.
Use double sided tape or a glue stick to keep pictures in place.
Next laminate both sides of the entire folder using clear laminate/contact paper. (Even easier if you have a laminating machine). Then laminate the number cards separately.
I found these Velcro squares at Lowes. You can also find them in the craft section at Walmart, or in craft stores like Joanne’s Fabrics and Michael’s.
Tip: cut the page of Velcro squares in half and then “sandwich” both sides of Velcro pieces together.
Pull the backing off and stick to the number square.
Then, adhere to the laminated folder.
To play the game simply pull all the numbers off of the folder and mix into a pile. The kids count the dinosaurs in each square and find the corresponding number to match.
These games are great to pull out before dinner, before bed and travel easy. Take them with you to grandma’s house or play while out to dinner at a restaurant. My girls couldn’t wait to play with their new game! These folders will be a great addition to our busy binder activities!
Got a kid who loves dinosaurs? Check out these DIY Fossil cookies I made for my blog at Hudson Valley Parent.
The Whatever Mom is a twin mom learning to let go of perfection. She shares her real life struggles with parenting through her blog and contributes her time and talents as a writer to Hudson Valley Parent and Masshole Mommy. When she isn’t writing you can find her chugging coffee, folding laundry and not judging other parents. Don’t forget to subscribe via email so you never miss a blog post again! You can also find her work featured on Mamapedia and The Novice Mommy.
My husband and I have officially been on two dates in the same month. This is rare. Very rare. The last time we had a “date” alone together it was 2012. I can’t really call it a date. A friend of mine stayed with the kids while my husband trained me as a substitute for his early morning paper route. We woke up together at 2:30 a.m. grabbed some coffee and hit the open road. The sun was about to rise as we clink’d our hot cups of coffee to celebrate a new day. I know it sounds kind of sexy until you hear the details. He drove us all over the twisty back mountain roads while I tried not to vomit. My lack of sleep in combination with car sickness did not make for a very pleasant experience. P.s. I never drove the route again.
As we were getting ready for our first official date night in four years I started thinking, can I remember how to act while on a date? Would I remember I could sit down in a chair, or a booth to chew my food, or would my sense memory kick in and I’d want to scarf my meal over the kitchen sink? What if my waitress drops some food? Would I immediately hand her a napkin and grumble, “pick it up” or would I remember that’s not my job here. Then suddenly, I worried, WHAT would we talk about?
Thankfully, once we were settled at our table we immediately set the ground rule of no talking about the kids or his job the whole night. Those topics weren’t off the table, but they were among a checklist of things to talk about. We also agreed the phones could be on the table in silence and only used if the baby sitter contacted us (and of course to take pics of our awesome food). Then something really amazing happened. I realized that even though my husband and I have very different interests I do find him interesting. His opinions have always been important to me. He can really be insightful in ways that I am not. I often take for granted that he does know me better than anyone else (he likes to look at the menu online before we leave to silently predict my menu choices, just so he can say “I knew you’d pick that!”). Our conversations were about how much we love the kids, how much we hope for them. We talked about politics, religion, education, current events- all the topics that are off the table at play dates yet I so desperately crave having conversations about. It was like when we first started dating. When we would stay up all night long and talk about our lives, our hopes and dreams for the future. It is nice to connect like that now and to remember we are people not just parents.
Here are 5 date night best practices:
1. Dress to impress. You don’t have to go over board here. (And, yes make-up is optional). It is nice to see my husband in something other than his work clothes. I’m sure he is happy to see me return to the woman he married vs. the scraggly mom in jeans and a sloppy bun. It fires up that chemistry between us.
2. Keep it simple. Coordinating schedules and bed time routines and date night details can be stressful. Don’t worry about all the planets lining up just right. Take advantage of the time you do have. If you have a baby sitter for only 2 hours don’t drive to the fancy restaurant out of town. Pack a picnic and hit the park closest to your house, walk the mall hand in hand and window shop, or grab a cup of coffee at that cute little bistro you’ve had your eye on.
3. Be your best self. We live in such a rushed state as parents. We shout from one side of the house with demands while chasing after kids. Our days are filled with noise. Slow down. Compliment each other. Open doors for each other and say kind things in a nice voice. Remember the softer side of your relationship and reconnect with those lovely people for a while.
4. Communicate. Put down the phone, or leave it in your purse. Make eye contact with each other and not a TV. Share your thoughts on your relationship and tell your spouse things you appreciate about them but maybe didn’t have time to say it. Remember this isn’t a time to share everything that pissed you off during the week. And for the love do NOT bring up your in-laws!
5. Enjoy this time together. You will spend the next twenty-one years rushing and trying to meet the demands of the little people in your home. It’s nice to press the pause button on all that chaos and connect with the person you will spend (if you’re lucky) the next 50 years with.
Here’s a #TBT for ya! (That’s a Throw Back Thursday). My husband was kind enough to surprise me with a trip to New Orleans for my 30th birthday! (Many years ago). It was a dream come true to spend a week in the beautiful Crescent city. One of my favorite memories from that vacation is our breakfast trip to Cafe du mond. A small little slice of local life mixed with bustling tourism. The beignets and chicory coffee are amazing! Before leaving NOLA I vow to make them once a year and add chicory to my coffee forever!
That ambition didn’t pan out. But, the memory still remains.
I remember these little pillows from heaven during this weeks snow storm. We spent the day inside wearing our pajamas and snuggling on the couch. The snow coming down in powdery fluffs- my kids asked me if we are in a snow globe. Watching the feathery precipitation pile up reminds me of the snowy mounds of powdered sugar on those delicious biegnets. I quickly Google a recipe to see if I even have the ingredients for them. Of course not. But, I DO have frozen bread dough!
Even before my favorable memories of biegnets and chicory coffee, I have even more delightful memories of making “Pizza frite.” I am not sure why my family calls fried dough “fried pizza,” but I think it is because we shape the dough into small little pizzas before we fry them. We spent many, many, Saturday mornings making these together! I am happy to pass this tradition down to my girls!
Lucky for me I have everything I need to make beignet knock offs:
Frozen bread dough
Powdered sugar (or granular sugar and cinnamon)
Paper lunch sacks
Simply follow thawing instructions on the back of the package and allow bread to rise.
Heat 1/4 cup of coconut oil in large skillet or frying pan. (Coconut oil is pretty much a health food- so you are really doing everyone a favor by frying your dough in it).
Once the dough is ready, pull off small pieces to roll into a ball. Using your fingers begin to flatted the dough, keeping it in round circles.
You will know the dough is ready to flip when the outer edges of the dough start to brown and thicken. The edges loose their “sheen” and you may see air bubbles. (Similar to cooking a pancake).
Once you flip the dough allow your pizza frite to cook completely on the other side (approx. another 3 minutes).
Dough should be golden, light and fluffy.
Next add powdered sugar, or sugar and cinnamon into a paper lunch sack.
Little hands LOVE to put the dough in the sack and shake it all up! Watch out! This could get messy!!
If you have ever had a beignet you will know these are not exactly the same. But, they will do with a cup of sweet coffee on a white washed wintry day in NY.
Cheers! (My other favorite vacation memory includes martini’s in the oldest cigar bar in NOLA).
Let’s talk Valentine’s day. I’m sure by now you already have your Pintrest board all pinned and ready to go. So, I won’t bore you with another crafty hand print to hang on the fridge, or to mail off to grandma. Instead I want to share with you my most favorite tradition of all. It’s so simple and will only cost pennies to make. Are you ready? Write your kids a love letter.
Growing up my mom struggled to make ends meet as a single mom working three jobs. My siblings and I really didn’t get to see her often. My mom didn’t get to attend my soccer games, or school pageants because she was always working. I know this wore on her and it was not easy missing out on so much. But, every Valentine’s day we could count on two things: 1. a heart shaped box of chocolates and 2. a love letter. I remember rushing down the stairs to find both left at my place on the dining room table.
Write a letter for every birthday and holiday to tuck away for your child.
I loved opening the envelop to see her pretty penmanship float across the page in precise circles and loops. It was almost comforting to see my name written in her script. Every year she said all the things she didn’t have time to say to me on a daily basis. How proud she was of me, how much she loved me. I still have my letters tied in a ribbon, tucked away in an old box my mother decorated for me. It is one of my most cherished childhood possessions.
I love this tradition so much I started doing it with my own kids. I know they are only four and can’t read yet, but I have purchased a card every year since they were born. I have written to each of them how much I love them. I seal the envelop, write the year on it and tuck it away in their keepsake box. Now, I purchase a card for every major holiday and I write in it how we spent our holiday, what they were into at that time, what milestones they hit, or something personal about how I feel about being their mom.
One day I’ll hand over the box and hopefully they’ll allow me to open it with them.
Tips for writing a love letter to your child:
1. Tell them how much you love them. You may say it every day, but writing it down allows them to revisit it any time they need to.
2. Share your favorite times with them. Maybe you took a special hike, or played a new game together. Maybe you love that time you danced in the rain together, or how much you love rocking them to sleep at night. Reading your perspective from those special events really deepens their understanding of your bond.
3. Tell them how it feels to be their parent. We all get so busy with life. Our kids need to hear how happy it makes us feel to be their parent. (You know in between all the commands for “get your shoes on!” “hurry up let’s go!”).
4. Tell them what you are proud of them for. Not just “great game,” but how about “I love that you enjoy sports so much. It makes me proud to cheer you on every week.”
5. Share your dreams for them. Encourage your child to be anything they want to be. Teenagers especially need to hear this; busy teens need to know how much their parents are invested in their happiness. Trust me it will be worth all that eye rolling.
My kids are totally obsessed with fuzzy pom-poms. You may have gathered that from my Easter post. They love to make crafts with them, count them, sort them, and now we are making games out of them. My kids do not like going outside in the winter- which I do not fuss about! So, we need to get creative with how we spend our time inside.
I should also admit that my twins are very competitive with one another. They make everything a competition to try to be the first to win a non-existent trophy. No joke. If one reaches the sink first, she will run back to her sister to snatch the invisible trophy from above her head. Then she chant’s, “I won the trophy and youuuu didn’t!” Not as charming when experienced first hand.
It isn’t any wonder that the girls really LOVE this game! They rush to see who can empty the pom pom bowl the fastest. You can make this game at home by grabbing whatever you have on hand!!
Fuzzy pom-poms (we through in some rubber spiky balls for fun)
A pair of tongs
2 empty paper towel tubes
2 empty baskets
Tape your empty tubes to the fridge, a door, or a wall. I taped ours to the fridge to keep the kids occupied while I make dinner. It was hard at first to not to play this game too. I’m kind of a winner and I like to compete. (Oh my little apples, I’m so sorry).
To play, simply use the tongs (or even tweezers) to drop the pom-poms through the tube and into the basket! The first one to fill their basket wins the game! (And gets to snatch the invisible trophy hanging above their siblings head).
This is great for developing fine motor skills. It also encourages color matching/sorting, sorting by size and counting. You’re child doesn’t have to be ready for any of those things to play this game. This is great for even the 18M + crowd. As long as you are playing with them to be sure they do not eat the pom-poms, or the tweezers, or lick the fridge. Well, that might not be so harmful.
Click the links below for more fun ways to play with pom-poms: