Category: Uncategorized

The Blog Must Go on!

Today’s “no frills” blog is brought to you by the kind citizens running the local library; and that zit faced little twerp hacker sitting in his moms basement that targeted my personal computer. Alright, that’s not a fair stereotype. Maybe not ALL hackers live at home with their moms. Maybe some of them work for a government agency doing super-spy work on foreign governments. I can respect a working schlub using his hacking intelligence for the greater good! But, I can’t respect a jerk who thinks hacking the 5 year old lap top of a SAHM is going to gain anything. My ancient laptop is (sadly)  my link to the outside world. It keeps me connected to all of you, my far off family and helps me generate an income.

As soon as I realized I had been hacked I immediately logged off and could not log back on. My husband has been working for days to get it up and running. Finally, we have resolved to taking it to a professional. I had a mild panic attack about my blog. How the heck am I going to upload my fabby pics now? How am I going to keep everyone aware of our latest crafting adventures and time saving tips? I am the every SAHM- the moms want to hear from me! That’s when I had my first “aha moment!” ever. (It was like Nirvana- I saw Oprah and everything!).

I may not be able to bring you fabby pictorial step by step tutorials of super easy crafts, but I can bring you ME. The mom behind the blog. A real look at what goes on in my world. I’m sure many of you have deep hitting moments like me and wonder, “does this happen to other moms?” So, for the next few weeks I’ll bring you the “no frills” look at my mother hood journey. But, when I get that laptop up and running I’m going the post the heck out of our awesome crafts!

So thank you, Dear Hacker Jerk, you may have sabotaged my main source of communication (and easy access to a thesaurus), but you have not sabotaged The Whatever Mom! The blog must go on!!

 

This might be a great time to hear from my readers! What are some topics you’d like to hear about from the Whatever Mom?

3 Fun Kid Friendly Decorations for Fall & Halloween

October is here! We can officially get excited about pumpkins and Halloween! I LOVE decorating for Fall!!! (Can never have too many exclamation points when sharing my excitement for Fall!!!). Gone are the days I can display my intricately designed, hand crafted grown up tablescapes. The delicate ensembles of thin glass hurricane lamps and the hand carved gourd tea light holders could never hold their own against the power of two Tasmanian toddlers. So, I put away anything glass, all my large ceramic pumpkins and delicate wreaths (you know all the stuff you don’t want kids touching!) for now and found some more kid friendly materials to decorate with.

Here are our favorite ways to decorate for Fall and Halloween.

Make a Monster Impression:

front door edit

This is simple, inexpensive and the kids can help! You can find everything in your dollar store.

supplies

Materials:

  • Large poster board
  • Large round paper plates (any solid color)
  • Small round, black paper plates
  • Small square paper plates (white)
  • Painters tape

Cut poster board in half. Then cut small triangles out of one side of paper to form a hair line. Depending on your door width you may need one, or both pieces of poster board.

Cut poster board in half and cut triangles for hairline.
Cut poster board in half and cut triangles for hairline.

Next, make eyes by taping the small black plate to the large colored paper plate and attach to the door.

Last, make a toothy grin using the square white paper plates.

Feel free to embellish with glittery bats, or other Halloween shapes. We decided to go with a girl monster this year and gave “Henrietta” some sparkly bat barrettes. My girls enjoyed posing with their monster afterward for our annual Fall pic!

 

Acorn Jewels:

Finished jewels. Display among other gems, or alone in a basket, on a tray.
Finished jewels. Display among other gems, or alone in a basket, on a tray.

One of our favorite things to do in the Fall is to collect acorns that fall off the Oak tree in our back yard. This year I found a fun project that is easy and super cheap.  We saved all our acorn caps in a cup and I pulled them out on a rainy day we needed something to do.

Materials:

  • Acorn tops (must be dry, clean and free from cracks)
  • Markers
  • Elmer’s Glue
  • Gems, or stones
  • Tray

Start with a layer of rocks, or gems on your tray. These will secure acorn tops in place.

Next, color the inside of the tops with a marker. It will look rough, but that’s ok!

Color in the acorn caps with favorite color markers.
Color in the acorn caps with favorite color markers.

Then pour Elmer’s school glue into each top and fill to the rim. Leave over night to dry and you won’t believe the effect!

Simply fill with Elmer's school glue and allow to dry over night.
Simply fill with Elmer’s school glue and allow to dry over night.

Have the kids check back to watch the colorful transformation.

The glue starts to soak up the colors and eventually turn clear; leaving behind a shiny coating of color.
The glue starts to soak up the colors and eventually turn clear; leaving behind a shiny coating of color.

What you have left are smooth, colorful jewels! I leave these in a basket of decorative pumpkins for easy access for the kids to play with.

 

Pumpkins, Pumpkins and more Pumpkins!

You simply cannot have enough pumpkins this time of year! We eat them, drink them and decorate with them! We have baskets filled with little decorative pumpkins, we color pumpkins, paint pumpkins and even carve our pumpkins.

pumpkins

Materials:

  • Pumpkins
  • Acrylic paints
  • Paint brushes -OR-
  • Carving tools

Our carving tradition is spearheaded by my hubby. He helps the girls select just the right family of pumpkins. Then they pour over different pumpkin design ideas before making the first cut. My girls are not squeamish at all about digging right in and squishing the pumpkin guts through their fingers.

Hubby manning the gore!
Hubby manning the gore!

Here are last year’s creations:

jack o lanterns

Confession: we made a trip to a pumpkin farm for the whole experience of seeing a real pumpkin patch, but I purchased our carving pumpkins for $2.88 each at Aldi’s. Whatever my kids have no idea…and by not spending $20 for one pumpkin (our above grand total for our cute monster, colorful acorn jewels and 3 carving pumpkins is $14.68) I purchased a few extra pumpkin lattes, pumpkin fritters, pumpkin muffins and pumpkin flavored pumpkins. Did I mention we like pumpkin?

For little ones not yet trustworthy with knives, give them a paint brush and some paints and let them paint their pumpkins!

All these crafts are fun for kids, easy to make and indestructible! Happy Fall Ya’ll!

What would your toddler think of a front door monster?

 

 

Happy CrOcktober

Have I shared with all of you how much I love my crock pot? My love affair with slow cooking began a few months after my twins were born. It takes a lot of work to put a hot dinner on the table while adjusting to life with kids! Once I got over the fear of burning down the house  and gave my crock pot a try there was just no turning back! In less than one hour a week I prep 5 week night meals and put in the freezer, then I let the crock pot do all the heavy lifting. Now, I’m not juggling the evening dinner rush with prime time tantrums, phone calls and my own end of day melt down.

I am often asked to share some of my favorite recipes. I have collected a bunch over time and have no idea where I picked them up from (somewhere on the great world wide web), and I have my go-to sites to check out new ones. Here are seven “pop and drop” freezer meals I make most often. Pop and drop means there’s no chopping or dicing. You simply add your chicken and pop open a few cans/jars and dump all into one freezer bag. Your prep is complete. I’m guessing you may not want to eat a full week of chicken dinners, but maybe you’ll find one or more to liven up your freezer meal rotation.

Click links below for free recipe printable:

Lazy Tex Chili

Pesto Chicken with Green Beans

Thai Chicken

Hawaiian Chicken

Chicken Alfred with Broccoli

Maple Dijon Chicken

Creamy Salsa Chicken

NOTE: My kids are picky eaters so I usually make them mac and cheese on the side, but even when they do share our meals there are still plenty of left overs for hubby and I to enjoy for lunch. Even if you do not have kids this is still a pretty awesome system! Imagine not worrying about spending 30 minutes to prepare one meal, or wondering what’s for dinner? I wish I knew about freezer cooking before I even had kids.

quick tips

 

A few of my favorite sites to find dinner inspiration:

http://wp.sixsistersstuff.com/?s=freezer+meals
http://wp.sixsistersstuff.com/?s=freezer+meals

 

MexPumpSoup2ZZ77

http://glutenfreegoddess.blogspot.com/2006/01/mexican-pumpkin-soup.html

 

http://paleopot.com/2012/11/paleo-roasted-red-pepper-sweet-potato-soup/
http://paleopot.com/2012/11/paleo-roasted-red-pepper-sweet-potato-soup/

 

Leave a comment below with your favorite crock pot freezer meal site!

 

3 Easy Steps to Feel Organized

Every week for nearly the last four years I have proclaimed, “THIS is the week I get organized!” I really mean it when I say this. But, the reality of taking care of the other humans in my home leaves me little time to organize like Martha (as in Stewart). I admit it is disappointing to open the closet to find things spilling out, or open the dresser drawers and see all the mangled clothes. I always feel pressed for time as we race through our mornings before to leaving for school, or getting to a play date. But, Martha doesn’t live here so it’s up to me to make things orderly and accessible.

So, how does a busy twin mom without a moment to spare get organized? Well, first I had to throw away my vision of what  organized looks like and really think about what it feels like. Being organized feels less rushed and less like I am behind on tasks. It feels less stressed. So, what stresses me out the most? Snacks, mealtimes and getting my kids dressed. I often forget to give myself a snack, or suddenly a child is melting down because I forgot to feed them. It is stressful pulling out one shirt after another until my kid finds THE ONE she likes. Suddenly it’s 4:30 in the afternoon and I forgot I have to make dinner! Ack!

Here is my “Master plan” to feeling organized:

SNACK TIME PREP

Use snack sized Ziploc bags to divide up kid sized portions of their favorite snacks.
Use snack sized Ziploc bags to divide up kid sized portions of their favorite snacks.

I divided our snacks into kid friendly portions by using Ziploc snack bags. I measured according to serving size, filled bags then I piled them into a clear plastic box and left on a shelf in a cupboard the girls can reach.

Create an easy-to-reach snack shelf in the fridge for fresh snacks.
Create an easy-to-reach snack shelf in the fridge for fresh snacks.

Next, I set up a shelf in the fridge with squeezable yogurts, carrot sticks, apple slices and drinks they can just grab and go. This alleviates my stress of preparing snacks on demand and gives my girls a bit more independence.

Keep snacks in car to ward off meltdowns on the road.
Keep snacks in car to ward off meltdowns on the road.

Don’t forget snacks for the car! This is my back up in case I forget to grab the snack bag!

Total prep time = 20 minutes (maybe 30 if you let the kids help). Time saved = 1.5 hours of prepping or chopping snacks on demand while the kids complain they didn’t want “thaaaat snack.”

 

DINNER TIME PREP

Prep ahead crock pot freezer meals are a HUGE time saver!
Prep ahead crock pot freezer meals are a HUGE time saver!

I have collected over a months worth of freezer crock pot meals my family will actually eat. I make my menu for the week, buy all my groceries and return home to assemble into Ziploc bags and freeze.

Total prep time = 1 hour. Total time saved = 6 hours.

 

CLOTHING PREP

Kids can see all their options at once.
Kids can see all their options at once.

My kids will not pick out their clothes the night before and stick to wearing that outfit by morning. By simply adding one more fold line to our shirts and pants I save a whole lot of space AND my kids can see all their options at once. For shirts I use a modified ‘Gap fold’ (it’s a real thing Google it!) and then I fold in half one more time. THAT’S IT!

gap fold
Not a true Gap Fold, but your shirts should look like this.
Fold one more time and stack several shirts together before lying down in the drawer.
Fold one more time and stack several shirts together before lying down in the drawer.

 

Fold pants one extra fold, stack and lie down in drawer.
Fold pants one extra fold, stack and lie down in drawer.

This saves me the time (and torture) of watching my kids pull out one shirt at a time to get to the one they want.

Total prep time = mere seconds added to folding time. Total time saved = 40 minutes a week!

 

So, if you like math here are the numbers: Total Prep Time = 1 hour 20 minutes Total Time Saved = 8 hours 30 minutes

Feeling organized and saving hours of stress = PRICELESS!

What are your time saving secrets to keeping your family organized?

 

I had this fantasy that I was going to home school my children. It sounded like fun at the time, but then the reality of being out numbered by two feisty little divas quickly changed my mind. But, I did want to teach them some basics like letters and numbers. So I started on a journey to teach my kids their ABC’s and 123’s. I am not a certified teacher so I have no idea how to formally teach, but I do know how to have fun and that my kids really like learning. I introduced our ABC’s and 123’s in some pretty fun ways and with repetition. You don’t need flash cards or need to spend hours teaching your child. Just incorporate teachable moments  into some every day activities and make it fun! I started introducing letters and numbers when my girls were around 18 months. By the time they were 26 months they had mastered ABC’s and could count to 20.

Here are 10 fun ways to introduce letters and numbers to your toddler:

EAT YOUR ALPHABET

abc

Cookies–  use your favorite sugar cookie recipe. We simply roll out a tube of store bought sugar cookie dough and press out letter shapes. You can go simple and stick to one letter per week, or go all out and help spell words with your cookies. Either way your kiddo will love the end result and it will be a fun experience.

Pick up premade bread dough or pizza dough to create letter shapes
Pick up premade bread dough or pizza dough to create letter shapes

Pretzels– use store bought pizza or bread dough to make pretzels. Start by pulling off a small piece and rolling into a snake (kids love this part) and help kids form a letter.

Alphabet soup– can’t get any easier than that. Pop a can top and pour, or make from scratch. Whatever works for you!

Sandwiches – use letter cutters to cut shapes out of bread and let your kid slather on the PB&J.

Pancakes – use a squeeze bottle to mix and squirt pancake batter onto hot griddle. Cook and enjoy!

 

SENSORY ABC’s

Cut out letters from play dough
Cut out letters from play dough

Play dough– cut letters out of play dough for an interactive alphabet experience.

Shaving cream– spray shaving cream (or whipped cream, yogurt, pudding) onto a tray and show your kids how to make letters using their finger tips. If you worry about the mess your little one will make, squirt shaving cream into a plastic baggie and let the air out. They can trace a letter on the bag and the shape will remain.

Letter hunt– print out letters (or write on index cards) and hide for you kid to find in your yard or around your house. Take the hunt to the streets and point out letters you see while driving through your neighborhood, or while you are at the store.

 

CREATE YOUR ABC’s

Use letter stamps to help kids identify letters
Use letter stamps to help kids identify letters

Stamp it out– use colorful letter stamps to create an alphabet gallery.

Cut letters from magazines and glue to page for a letter collage
Cut letters from magazines and glue to page for a letter collage

Letter collage– help kids find letters in old magazines to cut out and paste on paper to make a collage.

Print out dot paint ABC's and let kids paint
Print out dot paint ABC’s and let kids paint

Dot paints or bingo dauberson do-a-dot sheets. I printed these out from http://www.dltk-teach.com/alphabuddies/daubers/

Whatever you do to help your toddler learn make sure it is fun! Never put any pressure to perform or learn quicker than they are ready. Kids all learn at their own pace.

What are some of your favorite fun toddler activities?

 

3 Fun Ways to Use Paint Swatches

Let me start this post with a confession: once the kids go back to school I kind of go on auto pilot with the whole educational crafting at home thing. I feel like I did my due diligence and picked just the right school for them with teachers who are way more patient…er um, qualified than I am. My kids really truly love going to school. They also love to match colors, sort things and use scissors (which are kept under lock and key). Even after 3 hours of learning at school they like to come home to play with puzzles, string beads and make (ugh) more art projects.

Now that they are learning to write their names and draw shapes, it’s time for my kids to hone those fine motor skills. Those are the skills that help them write, use scissors, buttons and zippers, etc. So, I took their love of colors and matching and made these fun activities for them using some (FREE) paint swatches from the hard ware store.

MATERIALS:

supplies edit
All the materials you need to make the 3 activities below.

2 matching sets of swatches. I selected each color of the rainbow.

Liquid glue

Scissors

Clothe’s pins

Contact paper (optional)

 

COLOR MATCHING

pins edit
A rainbow of colors ready for matching.

My mom actually helped me make these. She did it really quick while watching TV with the kids. What? I had my hands full potty training twins and, she had a couple of extra free hands so I put her to work.

Cut thin strips from each color on the color swatch- as wide as your clothes pin. Next, glue the strip onto clothes pin. Once everything dries kids can match the color on the pin to the color on the swatch. Like this:

match edit
Kids can clip the matching colors on the clothes pin to the swatch.

 

SCISSOR CUTTING

scissors
Help kids cut on the white line separating the colors.

This one really requires little or no effort on your part. Just supervision with the scissors. It’s all fun and games until someone’s bangs go missing. Help your kids hold the swatch and cut on the white line between colors. Great practice for scissor skills.

 

SPELLING

laminate
Laminating swatches ensures several uses.

I laminated my swatch strips for durability and so I can use a washable dry erase marker on them. Confession #2: I do not own a laminate machine. I used clear contact paper. Yes, you can use clear contact paper in place of laminate for many projects. We pull out a laminated swatch and I write the letters on each square and help the girls spell the names of the colors.

Contact paper laminate is easy to do:

Simply cut contact paper to size of item you are covering.
Simply cut contact paper to size of item you are covering.
Place second piece of contact paper over item and smooth out using your hand.
Place second piece of contact paper over item and smooth out using your hand.

The key to using contact paper as laminate is to move slowly, and smooth out any air bubbles as you go. This faux-laminate is durable enough to withstand the pull of Velcro for any projects with movable pieces.

Wondering what else you can make with color swatches from the hardware store? Check out a few of my favorite finds:

How to start your own city swap

With summer winding down I took a look at our summer bucket list. It was fun counting up all the things we have checked off. What a busy summer it has been! It feels like we just made our list yesterday and I can’t believe how quickly this summer has passed!

One special bucket list item we still have left on our list is starting a city swap. I was inspired by those posts from Little Passports that keep popping up in my Facebook news feed. You can choose a monthly payment option which starts around $15/month to receive an explorer kit with info about another country. These kits are geared toward 5-10 year old kids. Nothing for the preschool crowd. But, even preschoolers love getting mail. So, a friend and I decided it would be fun to for our kids to swap facts about the cities we live in. It’s a more personalized way to get to know the world outside of our home town; it’s like having a pen pal but with a twist. (And no financial commitment).

Here’s how I started:

I made a list of important city traits. For example, I live in a former port city so the Hudson River and our light house is a special part of our local culture. Art, music and food are all very important in our city as well. We made a trip to our library to narrow down some information about our city. The girls and I found these great activity guides with facts and educational games about our local ecology. We also found some post cards featuring local art and additional pamphlets to share. Such a fun way for our friend to learn about our city!

Now that we had a few fun things to include in our swap, we decided to introduce ourselves to our new little pal by sending a message in a bottle.  (Keeping with our port theme).

blog-005 edit

We recycled a seltzer bottle by rinsing the inside and stripping the label from the outside. Once the bottle was dry we added our letter and fun facts about our city.

Next, we made a trip to the post office to determine the amount of postage needed to send our bottle. Did you know you can send almost anything in the mail? The woman at the post office said she once received an actual coconut! For some fun, inspiring ideas for sending your own happy mail check out this cool blog www.giverslog.com 

We brought our bottle home and added our stamps. We left it in our mail box for the postal carrier. Wonder what he thought of our silly package?

pen-pal-blog 3

Our next package will include a special surprise. Another short informational pamphlet about one of our favorite hikes, AND these little “water chestnuts.” Thousands of these little black, spiky things liter the shoreline every summer. The locals call them “cow heads.” Since my friend and her son live more inland we thought this might be fun to share. It will definitely seem unusual. These little things are iconic in our hometown.

Again, we recycled something we already have. This time a spice jar. I rolled up the pamphlet and inserted the chestnut shells inside.

spice jar

Here are our first two packages before labels and stamps.

blog-012 edit

This little project has definitely sparked some creativity and challenged our imaginations. The girls love assembling the packages the most. They also enjoy visiting the post office and seeing how everything there works.

Our next few packages will include some local art, maybe some local music and some sweet treats from our favorite chocolatier. Each item we include will of course need a creative package to carry it through the mail. The idea is to share things that make our city so special while getting to know a new friend and the city he lives in. These packages are geared toward tots so the info has to be short, simple and fun.

This is a really fun, creative way for young kids to send and receive mail; or for older kids to keep in touch with friends they met at summer camp, or far away friends and family. As a bonus it’s just fun to get something so unexpected in the mail.

What are some fun things you have sent in the mail?

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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/

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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.

 

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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