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.

 

How to survive bath time with these fun ideas!

Hard to believe August is here already! Everyone seems to be gearing up for back-to-school and lining up their routines. I’m still enjoying the longer days of sunshine and the slower pace of summer. Some days seem longer than others, like the days when kinds are cranky and do not want to get into the bath. Raise your hand if you’ve ever scrubbed down a screaming kid just to get the bath time routine over with.  Some nights the kids are not cooperative (some nights I’m not cooperative). I decided to try a new tactic. Make bath time the final activity of the day rather than the last chore of the day.

Add food coloring to ice cube trays, small animals, gems or toys for fun surprise.
Add food coloring to ice cube trays, small animals, gems or toys for fun surprise.

On really hot days we started throwing frozen ice cubes into the bath water to get a giggle. Then I froze some ice cubes with food coloring. Then as a goofy surprise I added some gems and small zoo animals to the ice cubes. The kids thought this was hilarious. The food coloring will turn the water all kinds of colors as the ice melts and colors mix. To be sure none of the color sticks to the tub or the kids, I add a little soap to the water when filling the bath. Some time ago, my friend Erin shared her recipe for bathtub paints. What a fun idea! Plus, the mess is contained in the tub and washes away completely. The girls LOVED it and beg to do this at least once or twice a week. I love this one too because it’s so easy, it cleans up quick and it buys me a good 30 minutes of quiet.

Add food coloring to shaving cream for fun bath tub paint.
Add food coloring to shaving cream for fun bath tub paint.

Simply dispense shaving cream into a small bowl, add a few drops of food coloring and mix. Hand it to your kid with a paint brush and let them go. We chose blue and green for an under-the-sea paint party- complete with ocean blue water and seaweed on the walls. I’m not a tile expert, but so far this has not left any stains on our tile walls. I rinse immediately and spray with a homemade peroxide-based cleaner to keep color from setting into grout. (Tip- you can use this activity while on vacation to get kids into the bath after a fun filled day. Use the blue shaving gel for easy color and zero stains on grout!).

Under the sea tub water.
Under the sea tub water.

Some other fun we’ve had in the tub:

Good ol’ glow sticks! We discovered this awesomeness while on our first family vacation. We were worried our kids would not take a bath in a strange tub. The first night of our trip we dimmed the lights and threw some glow sticks in the bottom of the clear water and they got right in.

 

Ring toss! Let a few rubber ducks float on the water and give kids a glow bracelet or necklace to toss around the ducks.

 

Grow a pet found at most dollar stores.
Grow a pet found at most dollar stores.

Grow a pet in the tub. You can find a package of grow-a-pet shaped sponges at almost any dollar store. These little fun-shaped sponges are encapsulated and once introduced to water they grow into fun little sea creatures, bugs, or safari animals.

You can never go wrong with a good old-fashioned bubble bath. We like to add in some fun colored shower puffs and blow bubbles to fill the air with. My girls have even enjoyed candle light with their bubble bath. (Ahem…a luxury mom doesn’t even get anymore).

So, if you’re just trying to push through bath time, or are looking for ways to make it a more quiet part of your day try any one of these fun ideas to make it the last activity of your day! (Works great any time of year, not just the long days of summer).

 

What’s your best bath time survival tip?

 

 

 

Why Mom’s Night Out is Important – GIVEAWAY!!

The other day I cracked under the pressure of potty training the twins alone while my husband was away for FIVE days. I took to social media to share my plight. I described my fantasy of checking into a hotel for three days to shower for 8 hours alone, eat some chocolate cake and watch hours upon hours of mindless TV. Judging by some of the comments not everyone shared my enthusiasm for moms taking alone time.

For the record, I don’t want to spend time away from my kids. I just want to unplug from the demands of my day job.  Being home with kids 24/7 is hard work. I would love a break now and then. That’s why I look forward to Mom’s Night Out (MNO)! Whether it’s going out for drinks or dinner or my new favorite, Vine Van Gogh paint night, moms *NEED* a time out!

Vine Gogh Paint Night
Vine Gogh Paint Night

Here is why I love a night out once in a while:

Spending all my time tuned into the demands of 3-year-olds obscures my link to other humans. I could go days without chatting to another adult. Sometimes I long to be connected to the rest of the world. I don’t mean the dramas of Facebook, but an honest connection with friends. When I spend time with other people it feels like I have more people in my circle than just princesses and Strawberry Shortcake. (FYI: totally a snooty bunch).

Not a snooty one in the bunch!
My circle of peeps.

When I leave hubby in charge for a night it makes him more aware of the amount of work it takes to get our kids from the breakfast table to bedtime. It’s a bonus if he has to handle the bedtime shenanigans all by himself. Plus, it’s great daddy-daughter bonding time, right?

Sharing war stories with other moms gives me perspective. My kids do stupid things all the time. In the moment of cleaning it all up I’m not laughing… until I hear about how it happened to some other mom. Stuff is just way funnier when its not happening to you!  It reminds me that I am not living in a bubble and that all of the stress of parenting is temporary. Yes. Even 18 years is temporary. One day soon I’ll be sending them off on the school bus to spend 6 hours of their day with other people. Then like a week later they’ll start college!

When I talk to other adults and use big words like “legalization” and “perfunctory,” it reminds me I am smart and stuff. It makes me feel like those few remaining brain cells clustered way in the back haven’t failed me!

When I spend too much time with poop it makes me ‘hatey.’ Five days alone with twins who are potty training is insanity … no it’s twinsanity! No one should ever have to clean up that much poop. Ever.

Back when I was a ‘working girl’ I’d count down the week till Friday at 5 o’clock! Then I could check out of my work week and head out for nom-noms and beer. Now my 5 o’clock countdown is for bedtime with no promise of nom-noms or beer. Except on Mom’s Night!

I like to paint... and I like to drink wine.
I like to paint… and I like to drink wine.

Thank you Vine Van Gogh for another great night out!

If you haven’t been to a Vine Van Gogh paint night yet you’re in luck! Enter for your chance to win a 2 pack of tickets to the Brews and Brushes event at Keegan Ales on Aug. 20th! Click here to enter

No skills required! Just you, some friends and some fun!

Vine_Van_Gogh-Logo-website

Actual Facebook fantasy status update: After this week alone (that’s 5 days in a row) while hubby was away for work (eating steak for dinner, talking to humans and sleeping in a cushy hotel) I realize something:
All I want for my birthday is to check into a hotel for 2 maybe 3 days, take a 8 hour hot shower alone, order some fresh hot food and sit down while I eat it….maybe even lie in bed and eat it… yeah, totally lie in bed and eat it. Might binge on a little (or a lot of) chocolate cake. Watch actual live TV and sleep. I’m not even going to get dressed, just wear a robe. Then I’m going to wake up and take a nap before my lunch of chocolate cake and champagne. I might text a few mom friends while I’m at it and tell them to make up an excuse to get out of the house. Say you need to run to Target for ‘lady supplies’ and drive over here to hang out for a few hours. I’ll put on clothes and we’ll just laugh and eat and watch TV. It will be great!

Where do you go for a fun Mom’s Night out?

*THIS GIVEAWAY IS CLOSED*

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!

How to Jazz up Your Summertime Hydration and A GIVEAWAY!

Help me welcome my friend and very talented Registered Dietictian, Liz Malgieri as today’s guest blogger! She shares with us how to keep ourselves hydrated through the summer heat. If you want to keep your “Whatever” cool about you  pay attention to Liz’s advice! Read through to the end for a fun giveaway courtesy of Village Apothecary!

Liz

Summertime…sigh. We wait all year for this weather and now we’re right in the thick of it. Long, warm relaxing days lead to cool, breezy nights. Except…wait, we’re moms! Our days are often more frenzied than relaxing. We run from activity to activity well into the night. Playground visits, backyard sandcastles, chasing after toddlers, keeping our kids afloat in the pool; both kids and moms are always sweating. Amid the fun chaos that is a summer with kids lies one big problem…most of us, adults and kids alike are subject to dehydration. Making sure that you and your family stay hydrated should be of utmost importance, especially in the summer.

photo 1

We lose about ten cups of water per day between breathing, perspiring and other bodily functions. This increases even more in the summertime. As a busy mom, I know I can barely make sure that I eat lunch, let alone make sure that I drink over ten cups of water per day! Dehydration can drain more than your water levels. It can drain your energy levels and lead to fatigue, increased blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, constipation and even weight gain. Yes, weight gain. Some common signs of dehydration are dark yellow or orange colored urine – light yellow to clear is a great sign that you’re hydrated. A headache and light cramps in legs can also be signs of dehydration.

photo 2

Here are some tips to help you and your family stay happily hydrated this summer:

1. Drink water!

  • Our bodies will use the fluids in many common drinks and foods to aid in hydration, but nothing is better than water!
  • Only water and herbal teas are considered hydrating fluids. Milk and juices, not as much.

2. Avoid caffeinated and alcoholic beverages.

  • Caffeine and alcohol have a diuretic effect on the body. This means that not only will you excrete the fluids that you drank, but water will also be drawn from cells to be excreted! For every 8oz. of a caffeinated or serving of alcohol that you drink, consume 12oz. of water to make up for it.

3. Avoid sports drinks.

  • Unless you are a hardcore marathon runner or athlete, these are not necessary for electrolyte replenishment. They are basically sugary salt water. Hello calories!
  • If you are worried that you or your child is dehydrated with electrolyte loss, drink water with a banana with peanut butter OR if on the go, try coconut water. Even more portable is coconut water powder that you can add to a water bottle to replenish electrolytes without the added food dyes, flavors and sugar.

photo 3

If you find plain water boring here are a few ways to make drinking water more fun:

Fill a water bottle or pitcher with cold water and ice and add your favorite fruit for flavoring! The water will slowly infuse with the flavors of the fruit and when the water is gone, you get a sweet, healthy treat! Some ideas include: Cucumber and ginger slices, strawberry slices and mint leaves, pineapple and mango chunks, or your favorite citrus slices. The combinations are limitless!

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Herbal tea is another easy way to flavor plain water. I love taking a favorite herbal tea bag and infusing  in a water bottle. You don’t need boiling water to make tea. It may take longer to infuse, but it can be delicious and refreshing. My favorite tea for this is a hibiscus tea. The color turns a deep pink and it is fruity and delicious without added sugar or caffeine.

photo 5

Make fruity ice cubes! This is a fun way for your kids to get involved! Fill ice cube trays with a chunk or slice of your favorite fruit or herbs and then top with water and freeze. Add to your glass of water for flavor and it looks pretty too!

photo 6

OR Puree your favorite fruits or veggies and fill ice cube trays with puree. When frozen, add to drinking water!

photo 7

This summer, and throughout the year, make sure you and your little ones always have water on hand to stay hydrated.

Bottoms up!

NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAY: One lucky reader will win a 22oz. LifeFactory Flip Cap water bottle, courtesy of Village Apothecary to help stay happily and easily hydrated this summer! Click HERE to enter!

photo 8

Picture to show color selection. Giveaway includes one water bottle for one lucky winner.

Liz Malgieri is a Registered Dietitian and Director of Nutrition at Village Apothecary, a new breed of pharmacy offering free nutritional services and professional level vitamins and supplements. She is a true Whatever Mom and lives in Saugerties with her five year old daughter, Lily.

*This giveaway is CLOSED*

The Whatever Mom Wants You to Join the Whatever Army!

We’ve all heard the term “Mommy Wars.” It just doesn’t sound right. Moms are supposed to be peaceful role models for their children. We teach our kids not to fight, to think of other people’s feelings, and to be kind to others. I have struggled the last few months to find just the right words to sum up my thoughts on the “Mommy Wars.” Turns out I don’t need to find the right words; one picture has a thousand of them! So, why not include a whole bunch of pictures? I was inspired to create my own photo montage with local Hudson Valley moms after I read the CT Working Moms Group blog a year ago. I sent out the call to arms to all my Whatever mom friends. They eagerly jumped on board!

SAHM

DSC_4900

tatoo

As the project unfolded, I realized I know most of the moms pictured here personally. We all met through a Hudson Valley Moms’ Facebook group. We’ve celebrated birthdays together, brought each other meals, and have encouraged and supported each other through the trials of motherhood. There we were standing next to each other smiling and holding signs reflecting our “opposing” mom choices. This just goes to show that even though we make different choices for our families, we can still be friends and even respect each other’s personal choices. Without the different opinions and choices presented by other moms in my circle I wouldn’t know I have options in my parenting.

CSC_4937

Twin moms

Hudson moms

Crunchy mom

I admit I am still a little confused as to why we even have a war going on. My mom world does not come to a screeching halt when a mom decides to feed her kid formula or non-organic potatoes or even McDonald’s for dinner. I don’t even feel a slight shift in the wind when a mom uses 409 to clean her floors. And, I’m quite sure that if a mom falls at the playground and no one is around to hear her she still swears like a trucker (oh wait, that’s probably just me).

Tech rox edit

Formula fed

birth edit

Gay edit

Food edit

Most people hear Mommy wars and picture this:

Mom life edit

I hear Mommy wars and picture this:

Glasco3

I am convinced that not once has a Harvard grad mentioned in their acceptance speech their gratitude for their mother keeping a meticulous house; making perfect dinners and throwing over the top birthday parties; nor cited those exact reasons for all their success. I am also convinced that if at the end of the day you have kept your kid safe and alive, you’ve pretty much done your job. We all bear the same burden of motherhood. By burden I mean the labels (fun mom, mean mom, Pintrest mom) and the judgments (spoils her child, doesn’t discipline, too strict). No matter what our style of mothering is, we have all run the same course: stomach bugs, sleepless nights and feelings of self-doubt. All of these quintessential mom moments level the battlefield on which we fight our “Mommy war.”  None of us is free from flaws, and certainly none of us makes perfect decisions. We all have the same end goal- to raise healthy, happy and productive humans. Does it really matter what path we follow to get them there?

So here’s your call to arms Whatever Moms: do whatever it takes to let go of your fears and worries that you are not enough. Take up the charge to own your mom choices. Decide right now to be confident in your decisions because any decision we make in the best interest of our children is the best decision we can make for them. The question isn’t “which side are you on?” The question is, “can we all stand together?”

 

 

SPECIAL THANK YOU TO: Danielle Sidarous for lending your excellent photography skills. Your time and talent is very much appreciated! All the moms who participated in creating this montage. Thank you for your commitment to helping me complete this project! And my husband, Keith for racing home to help twin wrangle while I got to do something besides wipe butts all day!

Important note: republication of these photos is expressly prohibited without consent from Danielle Sidarous. 

What To Do on This Rainy July 4th

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

 

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

Check list

 

 

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

Final maps
Final maps

 

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

Final product
Final product

 

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

Step 1

 

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

fireworks

 

 

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

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

 

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

Christmas in July My $150 Shopping Plan

Here it is right smack in the middle of Summer and I am going to talk to you about Christmas. I know it’s 6 months away but as I mentioned last week, Christmas is one of my favorite holidays. It isn’t long after the smoke from the fireworks clears that my mind starts making Christmas plans. This week I am going to share with you how I made Christmas happen for $150. That’s not a typo. I only spent $150 on two kids for Christmas. We didn’t need to take cash from our household budget either. Find out how I make extra income without leaving for work.

Our Christmas haul
Our Christmas haul

First, start planning early (like July) and hit up the garage sales. Yes, I said garage sales. I was inspired by a friend of mine who shops garage sales for toys for Christmas gifts. At first it didn’t sound right to me, but then I realized I buy toys from garage sales all year long. My kids don’t seem to notice, or care where they come from. What makes Christmas different? And really isn’t it the same as re-gifting?

Now, let me clarify here  my kids did not get used junk for Christmas (leaky Jell-O mold anyone?). I was very selective about items I purchased.  The toys I picked out for them were either brand new in package  or were very gently used. My biggest score was two copy paper boxes filled with pristine condition children’s books  for only $8.00. That was more than enough to give each girl a wrapped book every night as part our Advent countdown.

A good book, cookies & milk makes a good countdown to Christmas
A good book, cookies & milk makes a good countdown to Christmas

Second, set your budget and stick to it. I thought $150 sounded reasonable, but you may want or need to go a little higher. once I reached $100 I felt like I had enough big stuff. I then set aside $20 for stocking stuffers and spent the remaining $30 on new pajamas and one new outfit for each kid. Of course shopping online for these items and avoiding any holiday traffic is what worked for me!

Alphie our talking robot has to be the kids' favorite gift
Alphie our talking robot is the kids’ favorite gift

Third, plan for a better tomorrow: buying second hand helps save the planet (you’re welcome); buying from local families helps them afford to buy for their little ones and by planning for savings you can afford to be generous with your favorite charity.

It might sound crazy to start planning this early since most of us can’t even think about what we are having for breakfast tomorrow. But the time I saved by getting things done early really paid off. I had all my shopping, gift wrapping and stockings stuffed before the Thanksgiving turkey hit the oven. My weekends in December were free for creating a fun old-fashioned family Christmas. We baked cookies for our local firemen; we watched Santa jump from a plane (our new favorite tradition); had our picture taken with Santa; decorated the tree; crafted a whole bunch of stuff; drove around to check out the Christmas lights and spent plenty a snowy day snuggling in our jammies.

Less time shopping = more time to bake!
Less time shopping = more time to bake!

By not focusing on what went under the tree, we were able to truly enjoy the season. My kids won’t remember what their favorite Christmas gift was when they were 3, or that mom only spent $150 on used gifts. But, my hope is that having the extra time to focus on the feeling of Christmas will instill a lifetime of warm memories for us. There is no price tag on memories.

When do you start planning for Christmas? Are you an early shopper, or are you just sliding in under the tree Christmas morning?

 

Watermelon Cupcakes Are a Great Summer Birthday Surprise!

Help me welcome Pamela from Creating Barefoot! Pamela is a busy mom, Barefoot Books Rep, Blogger, Painter and an all around super mom! She is sharing with us how to make watermelon cupcakes. Curious? Read on! Oh and there’s a giveaway too! Read through to the end for details!

Pamela from Creating Barefoot
Pamela from Creating Barefoot

I am beyond thrilled to be a guest blogger for The Whatever Mom! I have followed her blog since day one; and I have loved and related to each and every post. Before kids I was a complete planner, over-achiever and detailed person. Now that I have 2 very different boys constantly running in different directions, with different wants, and likes and tastes I have certainly come to take on the “whatever” mantra myself.

My older son, completely unlike his mother, will not put a piece of chocolate to his mouth. No ice cream, no cake, no frosting, no candy bars. But put a bowl of fruit in front of him and he will devour it and ask for more. Of course not something I mind, though hard to lure him with bribes of sweet treats when I need to give him a little extra incentive.

Like any new, over- achiever mom I slaved over his first birthday cake. A beautiful sesame street chocolate cake covered in yummy butter cream and sweet fondant Elmo faces. He wouldn’t touch it, let alone try a piece. I thought great, I won’t have to worry about the sugar high later.

By his second birthday I felt bad he wouldn’t eat his own birthday cake. I knew I had to come up with something different and carved his cake out of a watermelon instead. He ate a great big juicy slice and loved every last bite of it.

Watermelon carved cake
Watermelon carved cake

The first “cake” went over so well, the following year I made this for his Mickey Mouse Train Party. (We had a joint party so the cake on the bottom was for his cake- loving little brother).

Watermelon Mickey Train
Watermelon Mickey Train

And that brings us to this year and my dilemma with sending in a healthy, child friendly snack for his birthday celebration at school. I wanted to make sure it was something he would eat and per the school guidelines it had to be healthy. Following my watermelon cake tradition I figured I could pretty easily make them into cupcakes!

Watermelon cupcakes with banana frosting and blueberry topper
Watermelon cupcakes with banana frosting and blueberry topper

Here is what you need:

  • 1 Watermelon sliced into 1 inch slices
  • 3-4 Bananas
  • A Circle shaped cookie cutter (be sure it is small enough to fit inside your cupcake liners)
  • Blueberries for topping
  • Decorative sprinkles

STEP 1: Cut watermelon into 1 inch slices.

STEP 2: Use cookie cutter to cut out each circle and place inside cupcake liners.

STEP 3:  Cut two small slices of banana per watermelon slice. Mash them up a little to look more like frosting and place on top.

STEP 4: Top with blueberry as the “cherry topper” and add a generous amount of sprinkles.

melon cakes edit

The teachers raved about the “cupcakes” and the kids ate them all up! It is a super healthy and adorable summer birthday treat!

And now for the Giveaway! ONE lucky reader will win a FREE book from Barefoot Books!

This giveaway is only open for 24 HOURS! Click the link below and follow directions in the box! Don’t forget to share!

Enter to win THIS book!
Enter to win THIS book!

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/e032391/

*This giveaway is now CLOSED*