How Printables Saved My Sanity – Guest Post

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Hi! I’m Carolina and kitchen printables have saved my sanity. I spent years believing that structure was for control freaks. Then I came to the life-altering realization that I desperately need order. Yes, after having kids. And yes, the kitchen was the place in most need of a change. That’s when printables started to appear on my fridge.

I used to believe that if I couldn’t keep my kitchen exactly the way I wanted it then it was a lost cause. It felt pointless to clean a mess only to have another one moments later. Dishes were dirty and the cupboards were cluttered. Food was going bad with no meal plan for the future. Having kids meant having even less time for chores. And let’s face it, some of us don’t adjust to motherhood in a timely fashion.

Thankfully, I found printables! Turns out there are whole Pinterest boards dedicated to organizing your life via pre-made lists, and worksheets that you can print at home.  While I wasn’t looking to go quite so crazy, I was willing to start with a simple grocery list to slap on the fridge. Guess what? It helped more than I could have imagined!

Once I got used to working with a grocery list printable I decided to expand my horizons. Before I knew it I was printing off cleaning checklists, cooking tips, weekly schedules and anything else that could up my game. Some I found more useful than others as there’s a huge selection online to choose from. The best allowed me to save time, manage my chores, and they even look pretty on display.

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Fast forward a few years and I’ve created my own set of printables to help busy moms like us. These get me through all the weekly chaos between a husband, two kids, appointments, sports, etc. The meal planner gives me a leg up on the week and basically determines my grocery list. The grocery list is divided into sections, so I can shave off a few minutes of misery not having to scan the entire list over and over while running down the aisles after a toddler.

When the holidays roll around, a self proclaimed scatterbrain such as myself needs a way to organize my thoughts amidst all the holiday madness. When I came up with my dinner party plan worksheet that’s exactly what I had in mind. How can I very simply (and on one sheet of paper) jot down the gist of what’s happening and what I need to do to prepare. With an overwhelming schedule, who can expect any parent to just “whip up” a holiday party? Now I can at least see the big picture. How many seats? Does anyone have a food allergy? Did I clean the bathroom that my 7 year old son destroyed? Never underestimate the power of a worksheet!

I’m no Martha Stewart, nor do I want to be. But I also don’t want to live life constantly at the mercy of my limitations as a parent. If I spend a few minutes per week scribbling off a few ideas on these printables it saves my sanity down the line. You know, like the grocery store line that you’ve waited in for 20 minutes only to recall a dozen items you forgot to pick up when you’re FINALLY next at the register. Ugh.

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Give yourself a boost and try out the grocery list or meal planner I’ve put together (everyone needs groceries!). See if it helps you gain a sense of empowerment in the kitchen. It sure did for me when I needed it the most. And besides, I’m always looking for help in the kitchen whether it’s an extra pair of hands or a to-do list I can print at the push of a button.

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* This season on my food & kitchen blog, A Butterful Mind, I’m connecting with busy mamas who are hosting for the holidays. Some love it, some hate it, some just need help! I’ve got a time saving solution that’ll further save you your sanity. Stay up to date with the progress of this e-book via Facebook and Instagram!

carolina-circleCarolina Weick is the creator of A Butterful Mind, a food blog with step by step recipes and kitchen tips. She lives in South Carolina with her husband and two kids and is all about the local food scene in Charleston. She’s a goofball who loves Jesus and hates chocolate.

5 Self-Care Strategies for First Time Moms

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Now that my kids are in school I am trying to focus more on self-care. I keep thinking back to those very early days as a mom and how hard it was to take care of my own needs. I remember feeling drained and empty. I put way too much pressure on myself to make everyone happy by keeping everything perfect. As a first time mom with twin newborns it was a struggle to just get a shower each day, let alone making sure everyone had clean underwear and the house was properly organized.

Eating and sleeping are crucial, but so is staying connected to friends and family and our own interests. In those early years self -care, for me, was about getting a hot shower and enjoying a meal. I was all alone with two brand new babies and I was trying to make it all work. I barely ate, I barely slept and my record for showering was spotty. I was hungry, depleted and so overwhelmed.

Five years later my self-care looks more like taking time to exercise, or drinking tea and reading a book. Now I get to eat one sit down meal a day while the kids are in school. Do you know how good food tastes when you’re not standing over the sink, shoveling it into your mouth?

Ahhh. It’s almost nirvana.

Here are 5 self-care strategies I used in those early years:

I FOUND SOME FRIENDS

I envied friends who had a sister or a friend expecting a child at the same time. I spent 5 months alone on bed rest. Once the babies were born and my husband went back to work, I felt so lonely and empty. I just wanted a friend. Honestly, finding a close relationship as a mom can be super hard. But when you do it is so wonderful! I met a lot of moms early on in play groups, at the park and at the library, but not everyone has become my friend. I realized quickly not everyone is looking for a new bestie. Sometimes just seeing the same smiling face each week at story time is enough to ease a stressful morning.

I HOSTED PLAY DATES

Bundling up two kids and getting them to the car is no easy feat when you are worn out and exhausted. Thankfully, my mom friends took mercy on me and would travel to my house. Talking with other moms makes me realize I am not alone in my struggles. We are all struggling to find balance. I did a quick tidy, put out some toys and turned on the coffee. (In those early days my house wasn’t the colossal wreck that it is today). As much work as it was to finish a sentence while chasing kids, the conversations we shared are invaluable.

I ACCEPTED OTHER PEOPLE’S GENEROSITY

I have to remind myself often that I am one person taking care of many.  It can be draining. But when I started accepting offers of help, it really alleviated some stress. When someone brought me a meal, it didn’t make me a charity case. It meant I got to eat a hot meal. When neighbors shoveled my drive it didn’t mean I was irresponsible, it meant I didn’t have to leave my babies alone. When a friend washed my dishes it didn’t mean I wasn’t capable, it meant I could hold my two sleeping babies in my arms a little longer. If you are lucky enough to find someone to volunteer to help in anyway, it is OK to accept the offer!

I ASKED FOR HELP

You can’t always rely on people offering help. You could be drowning for weeks before that happens. So, don’t be afraid to ask for help! I was afraid to ask friends for help because I didn’t want to burden them. I didn’t want to admit I couldn’t handle everything by myself. But when I found myself on bed rest and needed help getting our house ready for babies, I asked for help. Surprisingly, a lot of our friends came out to wash windows, put together furniture, organize our nursery, rake our leaves, and help finish up some household projects we knew we couldn’t get to as parents. It was humbling and eased our worry. Ask family and friends to contribute a meal to stash in your freezer. Ask for gift certificates for a cleaning service as your baby shower/newborn gift. Cute clothes are wonderful, but not having to clean your toilets is even better! But most of all, if you find yourself struggling with overwhelming sadness, or feelings of inadequacy don’t be afraid to reach out right away. Struggling alone is worse than what anyone else is thinking about you.

I DELAYED WASHING DISHES

I often think if I don’t do the dishes right now then I will be so far behind and everything will pile up. One day it hit me, “since when is there a deadline on dirty dishes?” I don’t have a dishwasher (I know it’s like roughing it in my own home) so the panic to find an empty sink is real. But when I let myself rest while the twins took a nap- even just 10 minutes- I felt ready to tackle the tower of slop. In that 10 minutes I put my feet up, focused on breathing and thought of the beach. Taking just 10 minutes was recharging. And to be honest some days I took 20 minutes. Turns out the dishes were still waiting for me even when I took a few minutes for myself.

As a new mom you have a lot on your plate already just taking care of a baby and learning how to be a mom. I think it is very rare for any mom to take to motherhood like a duck takes to water. There are learning curves we need to adjust for and that’s OK. It takes time to learn the basics of taking care of our babies, our bodies, our new financial picture and household demands. If we try to balance it all at once we can become so overwhelmed and feel like we are drowning. That’s when self care becomes critical. But we want to make sure we recharge before we get to that critical point. Mothering with depleted resources isn’t healthy for you, or your baby. Self care doesn’t mean just meeting your basic needs, it means making sure you have enough for yourself too.

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 

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Friday Favorites- Hike it Baby & Oakiwear for Kids

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One of the best things to happen to me this year is discovering Hike it Baby. An ad popped up in my Facebook news feed and it is one of those things that I didn’t even know I was missing until I experienced it. Hike it Baby (HIB) is a non-profit organization dedicated to getting families together and into nature with their newborns and children. It was founded in 2013 by new mom Shanti who didn’t want to hide inside her house with her newborn, but was weary of going out alone. She asked some of her friends from her local mom group if they wanted to go out for a walk, and so it began. What started with five hikers in one city turned into 115,567 hikers in over 250 cities in 2016.

I barely like to walk to get the mail let alone take a hike. Even though the outdoors was never my thing (unless you count sipping a daiquiri on the beach), I knew I had to give this a shot. With three young boys I needed to learn to love the outdoors. It’s only fair to them that I get them out there and let them explore.

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I became hooked at our very first meet up! We went on 3 more hikes that very first week and a dozen more since then. There are numerous different hikes that you can attend, or lead, from a fast paced hike to kid-led wander. Each hike is detailed by the hike leader and they will note things such as ‘baby carry only” or “stroller friendly.” To find a local HIB group simply enter your zip code in the search bar at hikeitbaby.com. Along with the website, you can follow local HIB chapters closest to you on their Facebook group pages. This will help you keep up to date on hikes being offered and meet some people you will be hiking with. You may start off the hike as strangers, but by the end you realize everyone is ready to help each other out. From borrowing carriers to suntan lotion to making sure that nobody gets left behind.

Since starting our hikes, I am more confident with physical activities overall. I’m going to places that I didn’t even know existed in my own area, and I find the spectacular views rewarding. It has been an inspiring way for my family to stay active, develop life skills, respect nature, and form new friendships in a judgement free zone.

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Hike It Baby has a great line up of sponsors like our favorite, Oakiwear! It only makes sense that HIB would partner up with other companies who believe in the power of spending time outdoors as a family. Not only am I a #boymom but I’m also outnumbered by my three sons (1, 3 and 5-year-old). Regardless if we are going on a hike, playing in our own back yard or running errands – it’s bound to be an adventure.

The designers at Oakiwear understand the planning and after care of being outside with children. From the amount of extra clothes used in jumping in puddles or streams, to the possibility of knee scrapes along the way. They want to make life with kids easier by providing the best possible gear for our little ones.  It is no surprise that the folks at Oakiwear understand what’s important to kids and parents, because it was founded by a mother of twin toddlers. If anyone understands the need for affordable yet well-made gear, it is a parent!

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One of their most popular items is their rain/snow boots. We have a few pairs of boots between all of us and nothing comes close to Oakiwear. They are completely lined with neoprene, the tread is thick and durable, and the high cut keeps the weather elements out. My favorite feature is the built in handles which make it a cinch for a child to put on by themselves. When you are trying to get out the door with several little ones anything that they can do themselves is a lifesaver! Oakiwear offers a great variety of colors for the snow/rain boots and super cute patterns for the rain boots. We went the always classic, bright red!

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Both Hike It Baby and Oakiwear websites have some informative and relatable blog posts. My personal favorites are how to make vacation fun for children and Learning from a “Hike Fail.”

Do you take your kids hiking? 

#oakiwear @oakiwear Facebook Instagram: oakiwear

 

Gloria DarmaninGloria Darmanin is a three time boy mom and completely outnumbered. She works hard to spread awareness for childhood cancer, authentic inclusion for persons with disabilities and gender equality. When she isn’t hiding from the kids she is off planning her annual St. Baldrick’s event and dreaming of ways to make money for charity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What to do with all this “Me Time?”

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For months now people have been asking me what am I going to do with all “my time” once the girls go to school. Close friends, neighbors and even family have all asked me what my plans are now that my kids are in Kindergarten.

“It will be nice for you to get some time to yourself.”

“Now you can finally have some ME TIME.”

“So, what are you going to do with all of your time now?”

I know they all mean well and some are just making conversation, but it is quite dismissive of what fills up my time already. Guess what? I have worked from home for the last two years. Guess what I’ve been doing? Writing! Yep. This blog as well as contributing to a few other blogs AND freelance articles for local publications. So that means I have deadlines. I have a fledgling career (albeit a very low paying career). I have goals and *gasp* I am productive beyond motherhood!

A friend of mine (also a mom) told me once, “you need to do more than JUST be a mom.” Why is it once you become a stay at home mom all anyone can see is the stay at home part? Just a mom. Some days I wish I could be “just a mom.” Not that being a mom is without challenges, but then I’d at least be doing one job. Writing from home while simultaneously providing my own childcare is the most stressful gig I’ve ever had. How many moms have to make sandwiches while conducting a phone interview? Or potty train while on a conference call? I’m not talking taking a phone call while kids run amok. I’m talking sounding like an intelligent and focused professional while taking care of another human being. Nothing says I am capable and trustworthy quite like, “I’m sorry can you hold for a moment?” [addressing child] “didn’t I just say to stop smacking your sister with that? No, I’m not a stupid head, you are.”

So to all the curious folks who need to know more about how I spend my day, well here ya go:

WORK TIME

The part everyone forgets that I do outside of my mom responsibilities. I work. Even though I have a home office and that is where I schedule myself for 4-5 hours each day, folks just see me at home. They think I am cooking and cleaning, not actually working. How else are you going to get top notch blog posts like this one? Hint: not while I’m folding socks! *wink*

This is how I spend the majority of my “me time.” Running my own blog is work. I am the head writer, marketer, tech support, photographer, idea creator and editor. I have meetings and conversations with advertisers. I have to design the website and promote it. I have all the behind the scenes things happening on a daily basis. I write three 800-1,000 word blog posts a week. If you think that sounds easy think back to high school English class. Remember how hard it was to just write one essay a month? Yeah, I do that three times a week for “me time.”

ALONE TIME

Once you become a parent, you are never alone. Just ask any parent who has ever tried to pee in silence. When you have to take the kids along to every appointment, errand or meeting you have to take the shit-show on the road. So the day after my kids went to school I scheduled my self for an eye exam. I sat alone with an iced coffee while I waited for the doctor. I moved freely and at near lightning speed from room to room. And I finished every single sentence I started because I didn’t need to instruct someone to sit on their bottom. It was glorious.

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FINISH ERRANDS IN RECORD TIME

There are days I schedule myself in my office to, ya know, work. But when I need to run a quick errand it’s quick. I can get into the car alone, zip up to the corner store and zip back home faster than any Olympic track star. I don’t need to wrestle the kids into their car seats and then spend half an hour begging them to just get out of the car so I can go inside where they can interrupt me while I pee.

SELF CARE

Self care is hard for anyone taking care of other human beings. But the more responsibilities you pile into one day the less time there is for self care. I often go without lunch, or shovel in kid left overs because there isn’t enough time for me to make meals for myself. Once I get the kids lunches on their plates I spend the next half hour dealing with their complaints and arguments about the quality of their lunch. By the time I realize I didn’t eat lunch it is 3:00 p.m. and I eat whatever I can grab. Now that the kids eat lunch at school, this allows me time sit down and enjoy a full meal. If you want to know what my life has been like for the last 5 years try eating a meal in a room full of chimpanzees throwing things at you.

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CONNECT WITH OTHER MOMS

Before my career as a mom I worked a 9-5 job. I often scheduled lunch dates with friends during my work day. Now, I make sure to schedule some time to see a friend. Working from home alone can be isolating and lonely. I miss having co-workers to talk to. I miss eating cake three times a week to celebrate birthdays. Now my co-workers are other moms living and working miles away in their own homes. We need time to connect and commiserate about our demanding little bosses. I need to know I’m not the only one trying to balance work and mom life.

There ya have it. This is how I have spent my time the last two weeks since school started. My house is still a mess. My laundry is still in piles and I still haven’t had a good mani pedi. I have typed several thousand words into my computer and I am no longer hangry. My kids are at school and I still don’t get “me time.” But I am getting time to recoup a little sanity after years of chaos.

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.

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Friday Favorites – KAZOO Magazine for Girls

I have to confess my tardiness in getting this post up. I had it on my calendar to post two weeks ago, but life just kept getting in the way. The girls started Kindergarten, and I was trying to meet deadlines for my freelance projects and I got lost trying to balance everything. It turns out time was on my side because while I was working on this in my head, someone posted this:

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This side by side comparison just confirms that most magazines targeting young girls focus on how a girl can make herself pretty on the outside by changing her hair and makeup, instead of focusing on what she already has that makes her beautiful. My young girls are beautiful just the way they are. I want them to know there is more to life than waking up pretty. Quick fact: six in 10 girls will stop doing what they love, because they feel bad about their looks.” Where do you think that message is coming from?

That post really lit a flame under me to share my review of KAZOO magazine. And here’s why:

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GOES BEYOND PINK

KAZOO magazine is so girl forward. It opens up a world for girls where they are invited and encouraged to think of things bigger than fluffy pink dresses and how to behave with sweetness. There is nothing wrong with pink things and fluffiness, but they aren’t for every girl. My girls love digging in the dirt, building things with sticks and talking like a pirate. They are loud and question EVERYTHING. I have yet to find a magazine that recognizes these behaviors as universal- not just #forboys.

KAZOO’s Founder and Editor-in-Chief, Erin Bried, selected KAZOO for the title because, “The beauty of the kazoo is that everybody already has what it takes to play one. Just breathe, and its loud, happy sound comes automatically. I want girls to feel the same way about their own voice- they already have everything it takes to use it.”

A NEW STANDARD FOR CONTENT

The girls in the stories and articles show bravery, empathy and courage. No one is talking about their hair, or their flaws or how to change any part of them to make someone else happy. If my girls can read about young women taking risks to succeed at their own passions, then that becomes the standard by which my girls measure themselves. Are they compassionate? Are they following their dreams? This encourages my girls to think about what their dreams really are.

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Every story is either developed or inspired by successful female artists, scientists, chefs, athletes, or writers at the top of their professions. The founder herself has worked as an editor for major publications such as Conde Nast, SELF magazine, Glamour, and has appeared on national TV and radio shows. Erin Bried is also the mother of two girls who inspire her to bring our girls age appropriate, powerful tools to create, dream, build and explore.

ENCOURAGES EMOTIONS

In the middle of the magazine is a feelings road map. It exclaims EVERYBODY has big emotions. This so normalizes human emotions vs. marginalizing girls into categories of “moody” and “dramatic.”  This particular segment offers solutions for dealing with those big emotions. This is very different than the message most of us get to “just smile” and show the world our best, even when we aren’t feeling our best.  Starting in childhood, girls are especially vulnerable to receiving the message their feelings don’t matter because they are “just overreacting.” They learn to stuff down their emotions very early. This can carry over into adolescence where girls are nearly three times as likely to suffer from depression as compared to boys. Helping our young girls honor their own emotions will have long term positive benefits.

PROMOTES DEEP THINKING

Inside the covers of KAZOO magazine you will find recipes for seed bombs, creative writing projects, science exploration, ways to create beauty (not BE beauty) and facts about the world around us. My girls loved testing out the “Will It Float experiment,” building their own boats out of twigs and getting an art lesson from Artist Mickalene Thomas. Our whole family enjoyed reading about the Perseid meteor shower and we made sure to schedule time outside to view it. My kids have a deep interest in art and science and KAZOO encourages them to see things in a new way and engage with the world outside of doll houses and dress up.

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There is so much more to share about this magazine. I honestly love it so much that I kept it from my kids until I got to read it first. I spent three days flipping through the covers and hugging it tight. You truly have to hold it in your hands and flip through its pages to get the full magical effect. It is the perfect alternative to other girl magazines on the market today. The subscription cost is $50.00 per year for four publications. I know that sounds steep for a magazine subscription, but hear me out:  1. You are getting high quality content written by some of the most successful women in their trade. 2. You are getting a well-crafted publication and it is the only one of its kind. 3. Until we start demanding this new standard from the media in targeting our daughters, we can expect to pay more in the way of their self-esteem.

Thank you Erin Bried and the entire team at KAZOO for raising the bar and delivering such a phenomenal magazine!

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.

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I’ll Never Forget September 11, 2001

On this day fifteen years ago I remember how blue the sky was. I was driving to work with my boyfriend Keith (now husband) and I remember looking out the window thinking, “Never in my life have I ever seen a sky so crisp and clear.” I noticed the jeweled tones of autumn sprouting among the sea of green trees and it took my breath away. The morning of Tuesday September 11, 2001 was the most beautiful morning I can remember.

I remember our car passing under the canopy of trees and the sky moving from my view. The details of the last few minutes of our commute escape me. I assume Keith and I began discussing our plans for the day as we waited in line for our turn to make the left toward my office. As he did every day for the last year he delivered me safely at the door and continued the rest of his commute.

The work day began with the usual chit chat about how we spent our evening, and how we will have to spend another gorgeous day inside the office. I barely had enough time to power up my computer before the phone rang. It was Keith.

“You’re not going to believe this but a plane just flew into the World Trade Center! We’re under terrorist attack!” I could feel the panic in his words.

“What? How did you hear this? Where are you?”

“I am driving to work and I heard it over the radio on the morning show.”

“Are you sure? Those guys are notorious for pulling off some tasteless pranks.”

“No. These guys cut through the song and sounded scared.”

There wasn’t a clock tick between the end of his sentence and my co-worker shouting, “Oh my God!! We’re under terrorist attack! The World Trade Center just got hit!” Her husband, a NYC cop on duty at the time, called with the news and assured her he would be OK.

It wasn’t long after that, that our Internet went down and our land lines were a constant busy signal and the cell coverage was sparse. Everyone became frantic to connect with their loved ones working in the city that day. Someone noticed AOL messenger was still working. We were frantically sending Instant Messages to everyone we could think of near the Trade Center.

“Where are they?”

“I can’t remember if this is their day off.” 

“Oh my God my uncle works on Wall Street!”

For the next several hours we remained in our offices desperate for info, desperate to know our loved ones and our co-workers in the industry were safe.  I was living hundreds of miles away from my own family and I wanted them to know I was OK, but I would not get to talk to them until hours after I returned to my small apartment where I waited for Keith to make the long, chaotic commute back home.

It was 3:00 p.m. before I finally found myself in front of the television and saw for the first time the horrific explosions. The fireballs billowing out of control before the first tower toppled like paper dominoes. I was frozen. I didn’t even know which emotion I should feel first. I was grateful I was safe. I was grateful all of my future in-laws were accounted for, but I was scared. I was horrified. For the first time in my life I felt gutted. I fell limp against my couch and I just sobbed.

The next few days were difficult to get communications out to family, but as soon as I connected with my mother it became her job to spread the word that I was OK. I was only 38 miles away from ground zero and I was safe. But there was no going home as travel on and off the Island was prohibited. I was so thankful that all of my local friends and co-workers and Keith’s family were all OK, I never gave it a thought I might still know someone personally who was lost in the devastation.

“I heard Michelle and Jennifer were working down there in the towers. Everyone is saying the twins were working in the twin towers,” my sister said.

“No, I just saw Jennifer a few months ago when I was home and I remember she said they both just moved back from Manhattan. I think they are OK.” I replied. But my sister was sure she heard they were both there. News, and gossip, travels fast in my small hometown. I immediately sent off an email to my friend Amy who is Michelle’s best friend.

“Yes, Michelle was working there that day. Her family is in NYC right now searching for her.”

Even though the words were right there in front of me and from a pure source, I couldn’t believe them. She wrote, searching for her. I couldn’t begin to let my mind think about what that might even mean.

I don’t know how long the search went on for Michelle. I don’t remember when they declared she was among the missing. I kept holding onto hope that she had amnesia and was just sitting in a hospital somewhere waiting for her family to find her. But they never did.

Michelle and I grew up together in the same small town and saw each other mostly at school. We didn’t spend the night at each other’s houses, or spend much time together outside of school. Nonetheless she was a constant player in my childhood. We lived through embarrassing fashion trends and cheered each other on in gym class. We shared homeroom and friends and made fun of our teachers together. When we graduated in 1993 we shared our freshman year of college at the same school.

“My roommate is pissed because I got pen on her new comforter,” Michelle quipped with a laugh. 
“I don’t really care; there are bigger things to worry about.”

“Michelle what is that thing in your closet?” I asked. “Oh that’s a hookah,” she said with her casual matter of fact tone. I was too embarrassed to even ask her what a hookah was. So I just nodded like I knew.

I transferred to another college at the end of my freshman year. I didn’t see her much after that, unless we ran into each other at the grocery store during one of my visits home. Even then it was just a quick, “Hey girl!! How are you?”

In 1997 Michelle and I were bridesmaids in our friend Amy’s wedding. Amy and Michelle were super close in high school and even shared an apartment for a time after graduation. They knew everything about each other. In a small town where everyone knows your business Amy became synonymous with Michelle. It was expected Michelle would be her maid of honor.

Michelle and I were part of the biggest bridal party I have ever seen.  The day of the wedding there were eleven girls dressed in matching burgundy, hand sewn dresses running in all different directions. Michelle somehow got us all in line and gave us our cues and wished each of us luck before we made our way down the aisle. I remember feeling so nervous that I thought my legs were going to melt into the carpet when I tried to walk.  I walked as slowly as I could and took my place in the front of the church. Michelle was the last one in line, just before the bride. As she took her turn down the aisle and made her way toward us, she looked each one of us in the eye and smiled. We couldn’t help but smile back. It was like she was sending each of us a tiny beam of her confidence.

“My absolute favorite part was when I looked down the line at each of you and every one of you smiled back at me. It was just awesome,” Michelle told us at the reception. Her face widened with a warm smile.

We danced the rest of the night. We drank and got silly. We watched our friend Amy throw her bouquet and her new husband toss the garter. We commented on how great the cake was and how beautiful everything turned out and how Amy and her mother are so amazingly crafty. It is the last time I remember seeing Michelle. After that night, our lives went in separate ways again.

I always remember her as lighthearted and always kind. In the weeks following the discovery that Michelle was gone forever it felt surreal. How would I never again run into her on the street? I thought of her family day and night. I thought about her twin sister. And I realized I could never let another day go by and not say I love you to anyone. I could never go another day without giving kindness away, or giving a smile to someone who just needed a little steadiness in their day. I could never take simple moments and coincidences for granted again.

To this day I still see Michelle laughing, smiling and upbeat. I am so grateful for the moments our lives intermingled. I am so grateful that I got to witness her spirit. Michelle has a twin sister, Jennifer. I grew up alongside them. Now I have twin daughters. I sometimes wonder what my conversation with Michelle would have been like when I ran into her on a trip back home. I would tell her,

“Can you believe it? I’m a twin mom now- two beautiful girls!” I’d say with joy.

“Make sure you let them know girls can do anything boys can do! And don’t be afraid to let them get dirty!” she would say while laughing.

I’d laugh too and get lost in the warmth of her smile. Then we might catch up a bit on how life has been since we are older and wiser and we understand the value in taking the time to connect. I imagine we’d end our conversation with a hug and say, “See you on Facebook!” before parting ways again.

Instead, I’ve spent the last fifteen years sharing her photo and looking toward the heavens and thinking, “the sky has never seemed as crisp as it did on September 11, 2001.”

Michelle Reed

 

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.

Why Going Bald Matters in My Family

My life after St. Baldrick's

It was just after Christmas of 2002 that we discovered my niece was very ill. Her parents thought it was just a stomach bug that kept her couched for a week. But when Ashley appeared gray and limp and refusing to eat her chocolate treats that Santa left her, we knew something was wrong. After taking her to the emergency room my brother and his wife were told Ashley has Leukemia. She was immediately taken to a medical center for treatment.

Ashley was only three years old, but she lived several months of her life in the hospital. She endured three surgeries and still wears the scars along her abdomen. The first surgery, which nearly every kid with cancer endures, implanted a Picc IV line that administers chemotherapy directly to her heart. We thought that would be the worst. The second surgery was to remove her appendix as it became inflamed from the amount of chemicals coursing through her body. The third and last was the most invasive and the most difficult to watch her heal from. She was surgically cut straight down the middle of her abdomen so doctors could open her up to repair a hole that had worn through her colon- a side effect of the chemo.  The medical center treating Ashley is also a teaching hospital which means the surgical area has a viewing bay. My brother stood over his baby girl, helplessly watching afar as doctors work to repair her from the inside. Did I mention she was only a toddler?

I get this is totally graphic. I get that some of you may stop reading right here. Please don’t. On the eve of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, it is important for you to know the truth of what life looks like for kids with cancer. From newborns to teenagers a child is diagnosed with Cancer every two minutes. Every single one of them will have a different experience. Maybe they won’t need extra surgeries, or need to learn how to walk again, or fall behind their classmates at school. Maybe their journey will be easier, or maybe it will be worse. The one thing they will all have in common is that the powerful chemo killing their cancer will also cause them to lose their hair.

Before we even knew about St. Baldrick’s my brother decided to shave his head when Ashley lost all of her hair. It was an act of loving solidarity. She wouldn’t have to be the only one bald, they could be bald together. Today, my family fully supports the brave ones who shave their heads to raise money, awareness and support for kids with cancer.

The U.S. government designates less than 4% of funds toward researching a cure for childhood cancer. And pharmaceutical companies designate even less, because childhood cancer drugs are not profitable. As a result seven children a day die from cancer. It happens every single day you wake up. St. Baldrick’s is one of the few Pediatric Cancer fundraising organizations where proceeds are streamlined directly to research teams. They raise millions of dollars each year to help find a cure for pediatric cancer, and less invasive treatment options.

How do they raise millions? Their unique platform is simply signing people up to “Brave the Shave.” People create a team, and ask donors to sponsor them at a head shaving event. They show up in firehouses, gymnasiums, rec centers, schools and VFW halls across the country to brave the shave together with other shavees. It takes a lot of courage to choose to lose your hair. Kids with cancer don’t get a choice.

How do they spend those millions? St. Baldrick’s provides grants to fund every stage of research, from ideas in the lab, to clinical trials to fellowships. Eighty percent of children treated for cancer stand a greater chance of side effects that follow them for life. While much of the research is focused on a cure, it is also focused on preventing lifelong damage caused by chemotherapy, surgeries and radiation.  Through collaborative efforts, St. Baldrick’s supports the next generation of oncologists, helps children not just survive, but thrive; and funds necessary research.

How can you help? Find a local event near you. Just go and be inspired. If you are not ready to brave the shave donate to someone who is. Create a shave event in your hometown, volunteer your time and talents as a barber, or just help spread the word. St. Baldrick’s makes it super easy to get started and provides you with all the marketing an organizational materials needed for success.

Why is St. Baldrick’s so important to my family? Because in the 1950’s every child diagnosed with cancer died. Today 90% of children diagnosed with the most common cancers, like Ashley’s Leukemia, will survive. St. Baldrick’s is leading the way in researching cures for childhood cancer. In 2016, St. Baldrick’s funded research that developed the third (in existence) FDA approved drug treatment for pediatric cancer. It is the first drug treatment breakthrough in twenty years and it will help treat children with high-risk neuroblastoma. Every time someone donates a dollar to St. Baldrick’s, or braves the shave in support, we are confident the money is being spent wisely and with finding a cure is at the forefront.

Brave the Shave at St. Baldrick's

My niece Ashley is now a 14 year cancer survivor. She has worked hard to overcome the lingering effects of her cancer treatments. Most impressively, she has raised thousands of dollars in her young life to provide comfort and care, and to fund a cure for other kids living with cancer. In March 2016, Ashley braved the shave herself, just before her prom and graduation. She willingly gave up what most girls struggle to, her golden curly locks of hair. Her boyfriend, friends and family shaved right alongside of her in solidarity and together contributed over $2,000 to pediatric cancer research.

St. Baldrick’s will forever be a part of our lives. We believe in giving other cancer kids a fighting chance and a chance to survive.

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.

This is not a sponsored post and no financial compensation was received. I wholeheartedly believe in the mission of the St. Baldrick’s Foundation and would love for you to share this post with as many friends and family as you can! Use #gogold to help kick off Childhood Cancer Awareness month and spread awareness about Childhood Cancer. 

Friday Favorites – Basic Invite

Friday Favorites Basic Invite

If you are like me you spend a lot of time designing just the right holiday card, birth announcement, or thank you card in your head only to find most sites don’t have what you are looking for. When the folks at Basic Invite offered me a select number of custom cards it was hard to choose exactly which card to design. I no longer need baby shower invites, or to send out personalized birth announcements. Those years are behind me now, but I know there are so many of you who need a great design site to find just the perfect stationary for those exact occasions. That’s why I am so excited to share this find with you!

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I thought about what I should create since I am not getting married and we aren’t having a birthday party for the girls this year. (Don’t worry we are doing something special, just not a party). I wasn’t sure what kind of stationary I really need. I thought about designing my Christmas cards, but I’m not ready to unveil those to anyone just yet. Those are top secret until they show up in mail boxes! So I designed some thank you cards to match The Whatever Mom web site. These will be great to include when shipping prizes, or thanking partners.

I have not yet found, or used, a site with so many options to personalize my design. After I select my card design I perused the gallery of over 160 different color options. I also have the option to change up the textures and patterns. For example, I start with a a polka dot background and a peacock in front. I have fun changing up the colors of the feathers, the polka dots and the background. Having the ability to change all of these essential elements makes it easy to match a party theme, baby nursery or wedding colors. Basic Invite offers truly customizable cards for every life event, from weddings to birth announcements to bah mitzvahs and graduations.

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It is so hard to choose a final design because I love every thing. I love the instant preview option so I can see my changes within seconds. I am so excited that Basic Invite is one of the few companies that offers free samples of actual invite/card choices. Having a physical sample in hand before ordering hundreds of wedding invites saves so much worry! This way you can see the texture and the colors before placing your final order.

Even the envelop is customizable. You can choose from 40 different color options and include an address. The envelops come free with most orders and include a peal and seal closure. There’s no licking! This will be a huge time saver when sending out Holiday cards!

The most difficult part of the design process is selecting just one option. I narrow down my final choice from over 22 pages of card designs. I enjoy the list of recommended matching items and related items. This way I won’t forget to include special inserts and I can see what other stationary will look like with my design.

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Once I select the card I like best and change the colors from what is pictured to what I want the rest is easy. I see my design choices in the instant preview, and once I select the envelop color it is available for side by side preview.

The check out process is very simple. I was a little distracted by the fun of creating my design that I did not realize I forgot to create an account. I confess I have done this on other sites too. I typically lose my fun little design and have to start over again. This time my choices are saved and waiting for me after I create my account. It may sound like a small thing, but as a busy mom doing a few too many things at once, it is such a convenience to not have to start a project all over again.

During the check out, I agree to the final edits and that all the information is correct. I can do this for free or assign the task to the design team at Basic Invite for just $10. You probably won’t select this option on just a handful of thank you cards, or announcements. But if you are ordering over 100 wedding invites this is an important service to have available.

Basic Invite Thank You Card

Overall I am really impressed by Basic Invite’s services. The website is user friendly, the design process is easy and fun, the paper quality is excellent and the customer service post order is spectacular. I received prompt emails asking if I am satisfied with my products. I highly recommend Basic Invite to design your next round of one of a kind cards!

Financial compensation was given in exchange for honest review of Basic Invite online design service. All opinions belong solely to The Whatever Mom. No affiliate links are included in this post. I only review products and services that readers can truly use and feel good about using.

 

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.

I Surrender the War on Meal Time

I was struggling with what to share today when the topic just naturally appeared to me in the form of a cheese quesadilla. I know I’ve shared a lot about the insanity of having two picky eaters. But none of my words can articulate the drama that comes along with our meal times. One has to experience the hour-long fits of rage from my children to get the full effect of the mealtime madness at my house.

This picky “phase” began just before age three (my kids are almost six). It isn’t just the food choices they complain about, they also complain about the size and the shape of their food. They let me know their disdain for the color plate touching their food, or which side of the table they are served on. I simply cannot win.

I have done everything you are not supposed to do, and I’ve done everything by the book. I have consulted our doctor, and more than one Registered Dietitian. I have spent many mornings adding organic fresh berries and fruits to a smoothie just for one sip to send my kid into hysterics. They help me cook meals and snacks in the kitchen all the time and they still won’t eat any of it. I have tried everything to end the pickiness. Given all my hard work it stings when people make comments about my kids food choices, or posts those #proudmom moments on Facebook because their kid ate a new vegetable. My kids ate all of their organic veggies once too.

So what about the quesadilla? Well, last night I was pretty proud of myself for making enchiladas. I had no idea how easy these are to make. Thinking ahead I knew my kids would not even consider a bite of an enchilada, so I gave into making cheese quesadillas. If you have never had a cheese quesadilla, it is simply shredded cheese sandwiched between two tortillas and heated up to create a melty, gooey cheesy sensation. You can add things like chicken or veggies, but not in my house. My children are purists when it comes to their cheese quesadillas.

F A I L

I call the kids to the table expecting them to recognize one of their favorite foods and begin eating without complaint. Instead: (actual conversation in the Whatever household):

Child: “I can’t eat that.”

Me: “What do you mean you can’t eat that? You asked me to make it for you.”

Child: “I don’t eat round foods.”

Me: “You don’t eat round foods?”

Child: “No.”

Me: “Since when?” (Knowing she has eaten plain cheese quesadillas most of her life).

Child: “Since right now.”

Me: “So, mommy just made you a cheese quesadilla that you asked for and now you won’t eat it it because it is round?”

Child: “Yes. I can only eat triangles.”

Me: {blink} {blink} {blink} Stare. “Are you asking me to cut this into triangles?”

Child: “Yes. But only if they are small triangles.”

I CAN’T WIN.

Now this is the point where other parents suggest I not give into the demands, she either eats or she doesn’t. But other parents do not live my struggle. I could refuse to cut the triangles and spend the next 30-60 minutes listening to my kid scream about how awful her life is, or I can just give her triangles and move on peacefully. I can’t count of the number of meals I miss because I spend so much time disciplining my kids through theirs. It is a complicated tango we dance at least three times a day, every day.

My daughter accepts the quesadilla in triangles. Then opens each triangle and peels out the cheese. I leave the table to wash the dishes already resenting the bedtime snack she is going to beg me for later. I feel like I have tragically failed this part of parenting. Then I realize I need to dig deep and listen to my own advice, “Do whatever it takes to make it through this, Rox. You have fought a good long fight. You have hung in there longer than most folks would. You still feed them the good stuff and allow just the right amount of treats. You have remained faithful in your belief in good food. So what’s going to work to make your meal times less stressful?”

LET THEM WIN.

After nearly 4 years of battling against two strong wills, arguing, threatening, bargaining, yelling and digging my heals in, I give up. I GIVE UP! I raise the white flag and concede the war. I am no longer going to spend extra time in the kitchen crafting meals with hidden veggies, just for them to be rejected over and over. I am no longer going to worry about buying up the organic chicken nuggets when my kids won’t even come to the table if those are on the plate. I am no longer going to recreate healthier versions of Alfredo sauce just for my kid to splatter across my kitchen cupboards.

My kids are healthy and they are strong. So I will let them eat fish sticks and chicken nuggets every single night. I will let them eat their cheesy topped cheese with a side of cheese. I will let them have a small bedtime snack even when they skip refuse dinner. Most of all, I won’t let it bother me anymore when people say things like, “I would never let my kid get away with that.” OR “I guess I’m lucky my kids just eat everything.” OR “I better train my kids now so they don’t act like that later.” From now on, I will accept that this is what our “whatever” looks like. And this is what works for me. #proudmom

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.

Friday Favorites: Three Sisters Herbals

3 sisters collage

This week I am introducing you all to one of my family’s favorites, Three Sisters Herbals. These handcrafted organic products are made right here in the USA (Hyde Park, NY), are eco-friendly and can be customized to accommodate particular sensitivities. There are vegan and animal friendly products too. Yep, you can even use most of these products on the family pet. High quality organic products, handcrafted in small batches, at an affordable price is the trifecta of sustainability.

Kim Mule created Three Sisters Herbals salves and tinctures for family use and with family budgets in mind. Many of her products are multi-use and can easily extend to the family pet. Talk about economical! It all began with a DIY salve kit and Kim’s passions were lit. After the birth of her third child she knew her next “baby” would arrive at the birth of her business. Kim combines her passions for herbal remedies and a natural lifestyle with her degree in Graphic Design to make life as a mom work for her. She works from her home studio so she can be available when her kids get off the bus. And, she provides great products that work for other families.

Here are my family’s personal favorites:

Three Sisters Herbal Magic Salve

You can never ever, ever have too much Magic Salve! In fact, here are 25 different ways to use it! We have used it for diaper rash treatment, and to prevent diaper rash when our girls were babies. Now we use it for cuts, scrapes and minor burns. Use this to treat under eye puffiness and you might agree that there is literally magic in this container! You can even use it on dry cracked lips. If you happen to be a pet owner you can apply this to your furry loves little feet too! The salve moisturizes, heals and soothes skin without chemicals, perfumes or petroleum. It is also handcrafted with organic herbs and safe to use on all skin types. Through the month of August get an extra 20% off with the Magic Salve stock up sale!

Three Sisters Herbal Hand Sanitizer

Kim gave me a bottle of Hand Sanitizer to sample for this review. It is crafted with a natural base of Aloe Vera Gel, and the Four Thieves blend has been proven to ward off germs, flues and viruses.  I have tried mixing my own hand sanitizer and it doesn’t feel like enough. This non-sticky formula isn’t overpowering to the senses and you only need a few drops.  I carry this in our car to apply to our hands after a day at the park, the library, a trip to the store or other places kids climb all over and sneeze on. This is my new favorite!

Three Sisters Herbal Bug Away

Bug Away is an absolute summer must have. Actually we use it spring through fall to ward off the ticks. We live in an area overrun with ticks and Lyme disease. We recently had a couple of tick invasions in our own yard. This natural hand crafted organic blend of essential oils is effective on ticks, mosquitoes and flies. It is safe enough to use on babies, children and even dogs and farm animals. I like that it is Deet free and it is does not irritate my kids skin. We spray directly on our skin and clothes when we are playing in the yard or at the park; and on our back packs and shoes before going on a hike. This is also available in a lotion stick which is great to use on toddlers.

I love Kim’s mission to provide healthy, family safe products, and I also love the meaning behind the name. Kim chose the name Three Sisters Herbal in honor of the bond her mother had with her two sisters. It represents the power to uplift through love and respect. As a mom advocating for love and respect among the mom community, this philosophy epitomizes my own mission. Three Sisters Herbals products are healthy and effective too, which seems like a perfect fit for my family.

Stop by threesistersherbals.com to order, or check out the other products Kim offers. You can also find Three Sisters on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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.

No financial compensation was received for this review. Promotional products provided by Three Sisters Herbals for testing in exchange for review. All opinions are genuine and solely belong to The Whatever Mom.