Planning a birthday party for your winter baby is hard enough when there isn’t a worldwide pandemic. But now with social distancing a must and sometimes mask wearing is mandated, it’s even harder to plan a party in the same way we did only a year ago.
My twins celebrated a double-digit birthday back in November and we made the choice to host a very small, all-masked, back yard party. The girls could invite just one friend each to make s’mores in our back yard. All kids and parents wore a mask, and all our snacks and beverages were prepackaged or prepared with gloves. It was different, but everyone was so happy to spend time together that the extra safety protocols didn’t even feel inconvenient.
Now that we are in the dead of winter in the North East with plummeting temperatures and most indoor places closed off for gatherings, birthday party ideas are running short. That’s why I created a virtual party planner to help you get creative and keep the details organized.
As a mom, I am always looking for easy solutions to the most common problems we all face and right now, we are all facing some tough choices for the safety of our kids. Indoor gatherings are not advised, and not everyone is feeling comfortable having people in their home. Last year drive-by birthday parades were a hit, this year virtual parties are taking over. But, creating a party through a screen is all new. If 2020 taught me anything, it is to embrace what we’ve got to work with. I hope this helps other moms embrace fun in a new way and makes kids feel celebrated!
I asked other moms to test this planner before I share it and one mom said, “I used this for their “virtual party” on Friday. And honestly it gave me ideas I didn’t even think of. I was able to organize who I wanted to join, sent out links and plan games (I didn’t even know this was a thing)! Your planner helped me get everything together and I really appreciate it. The kids had a great time!”
This planner is free when you sign up for my e-newsletter (which only arrives once a month). I send out mom hacks and simple solutions to the most common struggles like picky eating, self-care, meal planning and more. As a thank you for signing up to follow along, I will email you this easy-to-use party planner right away!
To the moms living with depression at Christmas, I see you. Maybe you’re grieving right now. Maybe you just aren’t feeling like yourself this year, or maybe you’ve had depression for as long as you can remember. Either way, I see you. I know what it feels like to grieve and feel depressed through the Christmas season.
I’ve had many, many horrible loses right around Christmas. We discovered my niece had cancer right around Christmas. I had one last Christmas with my dad two months before he died. I lost our first child just before Christmas. There was the year my brother-in-law was stationed in Iraq, and years later, I spent two consecutive Christmases decorating a hospital room and holding hands with my nephew praying through his mysterious illness that he was going to be OK. (Thankfully, he was).
Too often we believe we can’t feel anything other than joy and happiness through the Christmas season. As if our only job is to exude happiness through our fingertips and make magic for those around us. If you are a mom, you are the keeper of the magic and everyone looks to you for the fun, the joy, the perfect hot coca after the snow, the fresh new jammies on Christmas morning. Without those things it wouldn’t feel like Christmas to them. But to you, it all feels like work and exhaustion.
Full disclosure: I am not clinically depressed, but I have lived with depression during the holidays and I feel like I can closely relate. The year I lost our baby, was the absolute worst. I stuffed that depression down so deep that when it finally hit, I couldn’t get out of bed. I went to work in a fog and came home to get into my bed and stayed there all night. Life was a hazy blur as I raced through the motions so the day would just be over. One night my husband returned home from work to find me in my pajamas cooking dinner and asked, “are you finally getting out of bed now?” and I was so angry, I threw a raw chicken at him. That’s when I knew it was time to face the grief I felt and maybe learn to express it in more productive ways. (For the record, we laugh at that night now, 13 years later).
The brain fog and mental fatigue alone make it hard to really connect to anything else around you, including the sparkly lights and the kid’s enjoyment while baking cookies together. It all feels like too much and not enough all at the same time. And then we pile on the guilt for not enjoying it and not giving enough to our kids. (Believe me, you are enough).
There is so much pressure to make things perfect the entire month of December. But I want to normalize that it’s OK to have other feelings that aren’t festive or Merry. It is possible to feel pain in your heart and carry sadness around with you. It’s also OK to talk about those feelings. People will seem dismissive with their trite, “look on the bright side” “well at least you have other kids” or “it’s Christmas, everything is happy at Christmas.” Those are the words of someone who doesn’t know how to help. They may be afraid of your pain. They may be afraid of saying the wrong thing. Or they may be clueless what it feels like to be missing pieces of themselves. Running into those phrases can make someone with depression want to retreat and never mention it again, or feel ashamed of not being as happy as everyone else. But talking about it with someone who can relate, or has felt grief, is the best way to get through this. We can feel like talking about our sadness will make other people sad, but it won’t. Holding it in and denying that it exists makes it harder for other feelings to get in, including joy and happiness.
I see how hard you are working to keep it all bottled up inside like nothing is wrong, but believe me, you need to find your safe space before you find yourself hurling poultry during an out of body experience. Talking about your pain, your sadness, and the loved ones you miss should be completely acceptable even at Christmas.
This year the pandemic restrictions that keep us from being with people and parties that make us feel less alone, also makes it harder to reach out or use our regular coping mechanisms. It is elevating the level of pain we can normally feel in control of. I too am feeling the grief more deeply than in the past.
The other day, I was simply preparing our tree for decorating and listening to Christmas carols. I love caroling. In fact, for several years my friend coordinated a caroling event at a local nursing home and I looked forward to that tradition every year. As I was belting out “The First Noelle,” I suddenly burst in to tears when I realized that tradition is gone and so is my friend. She died almost two years ago. All I could remember was the last Christmas we caroled together. And as I began grieving for her, it opened the flood gates for all the grief I normally feel at Christmas, but keep myself too busy to feel. Crying did feel better. But talking to a friend who understands grief and heartache made it easier for me to process and make room for feelings of gratitude. Just knowing I wasn’t alone in feeling this way and hearing kind words, “I know how you feel” “I know this is so hard” “I am sending you hugs” felt like band aids to my broken heart. My friend’s compassion and understanding were the healing salve I needed to carry on. My grief will continue no matter what, but knowing I could express it without judgement makes it easier to cope with it.
I don’t need to be you or have suffered the same exact losses to know that grief any time of year is hard, but during the holidays when everyone else is stacking their happiness in colorful packages, depression can feel out of place. And I also know that grief and sadness, depression and loss can co-exist alongside feelings of joy. I hope you will reach out to those around you who can share in this with you. If you don’t have that kind of support in your home, I hope you can find it in a support group or a therapist’s office. More than anything, I hope you know you’re allowed to have more than one feeling during the holidays.
This post contains affiliate links where I make a small commission on qualified purchases at no cost to you. For full disclosure, read here.
A few years ago, a friend invited me to participate in a secret sister gift exchange. That’s where you sign up to send one gift to one other woman and you are supposed to receive 36 in return. Almost everyone worried it was a scam and backed out, but before that I received a couple of great gifts, not the intended 36 that the gift exchange boasts. Which if you do the math, it does not equal 36 gifts. But it is fun to send off (and receive) some good cheer!
This year I have been invited to at least a dozen of these secret sister gift exchanges. No one is worried it’s a scam anymore and it is pretty safe to do among friends and friends of friends on Facebook.
So, if you are wondering what to include in your gifting, I created list of affordable gift ideas for $10 or less. You can ship directly to your secret sister today!
These are all easy, allergy friendly ideas. You won’t have to worry about personal diets, food sensitivities, alcohol/coffee preferences. They are super cute and easy to pair with other embellishments. The best part of this gift exchange is how much fun it is! So, keep spreading the joy!
Roxanne Ferber is a twin mom, writer and owner of the The Whatever Mom. Her mission is to help other parents let go of perfection and embrace the messier parts of parenting.
Would you believe me if I told you that I used to work as a craft blogger? True story! Someone paid me to share the really lazy crafts I made each week with my kids. Turns out moms want easy crafts, preferably without glitter. And there are some moms who can’t resist a cute DIY.
I shared in my moms only group this week that I use these simple little DIY baggies to automate our tooth fairy giving. I made six at once and I keep 4 of the baggies pre-filled at all times so the tooth fairy never misses a stop! The other 2 bags I leave empty, one for each kiddo to collect their fallen teeth and leave under the pillow. Once they are asleep, I just swap out for the pre-filled baggie.
This system has worked for me for several years. It especially came in handy during the COVID quarantine when businesses closed. I couldn’t get the usual chocolate coins, or the gold dollar coin our tooth fairy traditionally leaves behind. Thankfully, I was already ahead of myself with this easy system. You can read my original post here, or scroll below for the step by step directions.
Here’s what you’ll need: (Makes 4 bags)
6 Medium organza gift bags (you can find at the dollar store)
1 Piece of white felt
Download a tooth shape to trace
12 Googly eyes
8 inches of string or yarn
*Optional pink paint for rosy cheeks
I found the tooth shape online and printed it out to trace and cut the felt shapes for all six bags.
To make the face, I cut the string into two inch pieces and glued to the felt, next I glued on the eyes. If you’d like cute little pink cheeks, dip a pencil eraser, small dowel, or the end of a round paint brush (whatever you have on hand) into the pink paint and apply at the ends of the smile. Allow time for the glue to dry before attaching the tooth shape to the bag.
Since you are working with an organza bag the glue will seep through and make a mess. If you cut a small square of wax paper to fit inside the bag it will keep the glue from sealing the bag closed.
Begin by inserting the wax paper into the bag before applying the felt shaped tooth. Once the tooth is on the baggie, wait a few minutes before removing the wax paper. Then, hang the open bag to dry. You can leave it at the end of a chopstick, a pencil or paint brush to keep the bag open while it dries. Allow the glue to dry overnight and before filling with treats.
We fill our bags with one gold dollar coin and five chocolate coins. Nothing fancy. I have heard of parents giving their kids $5 per tooth, or $20 for the first tooth and some parents put together an entire basket of gifts. Whatever works. I just know that having twins means double the magic and double the tooth fairy money. So keeping some pre-filled bags between payouts means I won’t be caught off guard the night a tooth falls out.
Do you go all out for the tooth fairy, or do you keep it simple?
Roxanne Ferber is a twin mom, blogger and freelance writer. She likes to keep expectations low by avoiding craft projects that involve any real crafting. Follow along with her daily posts on Facebook.
Yes, it’s another deconstructed pizza recipe from me! I can’t help it, my family loves pizza! You may have enjoyed our Easy Pizza Rolls for family pizza night or even our Pizza Cookie for dessert. But, this gluten free pizza pasta casserole is just for me because I can’t have gluten or (most) dairy. So, finding anything resembling a real pizza is near impossible. I am from New York, home of the best pizza and there is no substitute. However, this easy recipe brings the same flavors and makes me feel like I am not missing out entirely.
This whips together in under 30 minutes and FYI, it is a great recipe for school lunch boxes! Make it on a Sunday, reheat to put into a thermos and pack in a lunch box.
Pizza is simply crust (base carb), cheese, sauce and favorite toppings.
Our deconstructed pizza uses gluten free pasta as the base carb, mixed with sauce and favorite toppings like pepperoni, sausage or favorite veggies and of course cheese. We use a gluten free pasta from the grocery store that everyone in my family likes and suddenly we are all eating one meal! Since I can’t have most dairy, I use grated parmesan cheese, affectionately known in my house as “shaker cheese.” It isn’t the hot gooey mess of melted Mozzarella, but it still tastes so darn good!
Cook 1 pound of pasta according to directions on package.
Add in one jar of your favorite sauce.
Stir in favorite pizza toppings (I sliced up pepperoni, black olives, green pepper and red onion).
Sprinkle with grated parmesan, or add in shredded mozzarella. (The mozzarella will melt into the hot pasta and sauce, so no need to bake to melt).
Give it a good mix before serving! This goes great with a salad or a side of wings. Anything you’d normally eat with your pizza!
It’s a super easy meal to make on a week night when the kids are hungry and you need something fast, or as a quick side dish for your picky eater who only eats pasta, pizza and cheese.
Roxanne Ferber is a twin mom, freelance writer and wannabe foodie. Food tastes better when other people cook it, or when kids aren’t complaining about it, but she doesn’t have a lot of time to cook it fancy. If you have a recipe to share email it to [email protected] or share it over on The Whatever Mom Facebook page.
**Post contains affiliate links, which means I earn a small commission for orders placed using nthose links.
Summer is finally here, and it has been so hot! Of course, when it is hot outside, our minds drift right to ice cream and icy treats. Our pup always gives us the sad eyes while we enjoy our ice cream, so of course we have to spoil him too. Except dogs shouldn’t eat dairy and the puppy ice cream in the stores we purchased a few years ago was made entirely with chemicals. Not one drop of food. We really questioned what was in it when it didn’t even melt while sitting in the direct sun. Yikes!
After making some strawberry and banana ice cream cupcakes for ourselves, we set out to make some fun bite-sized frozen treats for our best friend (and sometimes the most well behaved child in my home).
My furry child knows when we are whirling up frozen bananas, he is going to get a treat too. In fact, we have a special bone shaped silicon mold just for this recipe. If you couldn’t tell, he is a bit spoiled by his #dogmom and family.
If you want to make these for your fur-baby you do not need a special mold, you can just fill a lined muffin baking tray and put in the freezer. Before you serve them, simply peel off the paper and put the cupcake into your pup’s bowl and I guarantee they will eat it up!
Here is what you need:
2-3 overripe bananas (you know the ones the rest of the family won’t touch) peeled, sliced and frozen.
1 TBSP peanut butter (make sure it is natural, made without Xylitol).
Splash of non-dairy milk.
Blender or food processor
Silicon mold, or paper lined muffin baking pan
Place the frozen bananas in the food processor and add a splash of milk to help break up the bananas. Once the bananas begin to break up (about 1-2 minutes in the processor) add in the peanut butter (or another nut butter you know your dog can have safely). The consistency should begin to look like soft serve ice cream.
Scoop the soft serve bananas into your silicon mold (we used mini dog bone shapes) or into a lined muffin tray and place in the freezer for one hour. Pop the shapes out of the mold and store in freezer safe container. Serve on a hot day or when you think your doggie could use a tasty treat.
If you want to make dairy free ice cream cupcakes for yourself, you literally make them the same way. Except maybe make the cupcake sized treats for the humans? Listen, I won’t judge you if you use the little tiny bone shapes. They are supper cute.
Our guy loves this easy ice cream recipe so much, we always make him his own batch to keep in the freezer. Just look at the excitement on his face!
Roxanne Ferber is a twin mom, writer and blogger. She enjoys the finer things in life like drinking coffee in total silence and driving alone in the car listening to her own play list on full blast. You can join her private Circle of Moms Facebook group if you need mom support (but there’s a strict no selling stuff policy) or follow along on The Whatever Mom Facebook page if you need some laughs. Thanks for reading along!
Several weeks ago, I asked the moms in my Whatever Mom Circle private group what is working for them during quarantine. What is something positive they are gaining from this time at home? Almost everyone said, slowing down has made a big difference in how they feel.
Normally, as moms, we are rushing from one drop off to another, running errands and racing through our day in a blur. Now that we are home more, that hectic pace has shifted. Yes, we are now handling more educational tasks than before, but there is less pressure to get everyone out of the door by a certain time. Most of us are letting the kids sleep in a little longer. It is sad our favorite activities are on hold, but it’s also nice to not have to crack the whip to get through dinner on time for soccer practice.
What else is going right?
Well, I for one feel less anxious about sending my kids off each day into the unknown. Will they be bullied today? Will they be afraid during a lockdown drill and I won’t be there to comfort them? Will they eat their full lunch today? Will they feel ill and sit in the nurses office? Now that we are home together all day, I don’t have to worry so much.
Then there is not having to pack lunches! Shout out to the gods above because I HATE packing two lunches every night. Lunch planning is the bane of my school year! I count down to every Friday because the cafeteria serves pizza. The one school food my kids willingly eat. God bless the lunch ladies! I haven’t met them, but I hold each of them in my heart.
My kids are connecting more with each other. The hectic pace of the school day, shuffling from one classroom to the next and using manners seems to wear them out entirely. This leaves very little patience for one another. As soon as they return home it is non-stop bickering and arguing. They still argue in quarantine, but they are a bit more patient and more accepting of each other in their respective spaces.
Overall, this pandemic at home thing is not ideal. It’s not my favorite experience. But, I am grateful my kids are home with me where I know they are safe. I like that we can slow down and we have less obligations on the calendar. I like that we are eating better. I like that we are using our local farms more, have more time to grow things and my kids are learning life skills.
Plus, there is a lot more wine in the house lately. Perhaps one silver lining to this pandemic.
My fondness and love for Rosie the Riveter began with one simple poster I hung on my wall in college. I hung that poster by my door, so it was the first thing I’d see before leaving, and the first thing I’d see upon arriving. The words, “Yes, We Can!” were written across top, her arm flexing with sleeves rolled up just below. She was ready to believe in me and now, so was I!
I have carried some form of that poster with me for over twenty years to remind myself that no matter how hard things get yes, I can do this. So, when I became a twin mom overcome by fear, confusion and exhaustion, I carried that image on my cellphone and would look at it on my hard days.
It only made sense to me while designing a logo that I incorporate Rosie’s inspiration from my life. She is one-part Rosie the Riveter, one-part me. Ultimately this little logo represents me cheering on every mom. Sloppy bun – check! A tasty cup of motivation – check! And the attitude that yes, we can do whatever it takes to get through the day with our crazy little human tornadoes – check!
Thing is, after I had the logo in hand and slapped it on every social media platform I own, it kind of sat there. Waiting for bigger things. Well that day has come. I am launching some exclusive The Whatever Mom gear this week and showcasing my logo! You can get all the details and pricing options here —-> https://forms.gle/RgmwijA4cLj28NHc7
I selected a sleek 30 oz insulated tumbler to keep your coffee warm no matter where you leave it and a wash and go V-neck t-shirt to kick off my selection of mom gear. It’s all about the lifestyle. I hope to create additional fun and useful pieces to add to my shop very soon. Right now both of these items are in *pre-sale* which means once I reach a minimum quantity of orders my friend Kelly at Olive & Elm Crafts can begin production! This sale will shape all future swag found in my shop, so no pressure! 🙂
My oath to you is that I will not promote anything that I do not use or want for myself. I ordered the tumbler and t-shirt for myself to test out how it fits into hectic mom life. My kind of hectic may not look the same as yours, but at the very least, owning one of my logo pieces will be like having a little Whatever Mom alongside you through the day reminding you that YES, YOU CAN do whatever the day demands from you.
To treat yourself to something JUST FOR YOU, click this link to grab your order form. This pre-sale closes on November 1st 11:59 p.m. EST. When minimums are met and forms complete, invoices will be sent between November 1st and November 4th, 2019. Invoices must be paid in full by November 6th 11:59 p.m. EST. (If for some reason the minimums are not met any paid invoices will be refunded and you will be notified accordingly).
I am deeply grateful and incredibly excited to show off our solidarity and connect our mutual mom philosophy – just do whatever works for YOU!
I was chatting with a friend and a seasoned mom about her grown kids, and how she’s moved on to grandma status. She was marveling over how big my kids are already. As we continued the conversation about my life with kids I commented, “I think it would be different if I had a mom, or a sister I could call to come over when I need help.” She replied, “oh so you do this alone, ALONE.” Yep.
I do have a husband, but he works outside of the home most days and the larger portion of the child rearing falls on me. Yes, I know single parents have it more difficult and I would never minimize their hard work. My own mother is a single mom. However, she was able to send us off to my grandparents on weekends and during the summer. My mom lives several hours away and is unable to drive. Growing up I loved when my aunts and uncles would drop in to spend time with us. It is rare my family makes the trip to visit us. I remember running around the yard and having sleep overs with my cousins. My kids are the youngest in our family.
My husband and I typically get one date night a year. We did not celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary two years ago, and we have never gone away on a vacation alone. I know my situation is not unique. There are thousands of other couples living like this. But, what I have a hard time with is when jealousy takes hold of me. It’s hard not to feel envious of friends whose parents go on vacations with them to make it easier. Or, how many of my friends get to go away with their husbands alone for birthdays or anniversaries. Or, how much fun my friend’s kids have celebrating “cousins day.”
I hate that I get jealous. It’s typically not in my nature. But, here I am. I just want my kids to have what other kids have, a big family to cherish them. I want my kids to have fun memories of jumping on beds at sleep overs with their cousins. Or, spending holidays surrounded by family. It would be really cool if they had an aunt or uncle to take them out to the movies or on picnics. It isn’t about having time for me, or getting a regular date night with my husband (although either would be appreciated). It’s about my kids having more than just mom and dad.
As twins I know they’ll always have each other, but that isn’t a relationship they can fully appreciate until much older. I worry they won’t get to have the closeness with their extended family like I did growing up. I worry one day they will be disappointed with their childhood.
Yes, I do this alone without the physical and emotional support an extended family can provide. It’s hard most days. It’s lonely and I get jealous of my friends. I have accepted it’s just the four of us. Thankfully, I am learning to move my bitterness to happiness for my friends. I don’t know why life worked out this way, but I know I can’t change it. So, we make the best of what we have together, even if it’s just me, a husband and two kids.
The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be foundhere.
This week has been incredibly eye opening. On Monday I had a lovely visit with a more seasoned mom who has raised three children, all three on their way out of the nest. I was a little on edge with two whirling littles, mostly because we are so noisy. I was worried they’d make a mess, break something or just completely melt down. Thankfully, they were complete angels! It was such a wonderful experience spending time with a mom whom I did not have to itemize my organic food choices with, or plead my case for having to formula feed babies instead of breast feeding. It was just nice to be accepted as a member of this mom community where we all work our hardest to provide the best for our kids.
Then Tuesday came and the shaming began. Articles started popping up in my Facebook news feed about the stigma of having a c-section. I was curious to know if anyone actually felt shamed for having a c-section. I had a c-section and people often ask if I did. Maybe that’s par for the twin parenting course? Maybe I am too busy to hear these kinds of reactions, or maybe I’ve just been really lucky I haven’t crossed paths with such ugliness. But, no one has ever commented on how I “took the easy way out,” or worse, “didn’t actually give birth.”
Dear Moms of the World,
What are we doing????! Are we really that insecure about our positions as mothers that we need someone else to feel superior to? Aren’t we better than that? Aren’t we in charge of role modeling loving, caring, productive behaviors so we can raise loving, caring and productive human beings? Why are we “mean girling” potential friends and judging moms whose stories we most likely don’t even know?! Why are we freely dumping our personal opinions onto the world wide web and not sorry when it hurts? Can we all agree that every decision we make for our kids is hard? Can we all just have a giant group hug and drink a hot cup of coffee til this whole me vs. you thing blows over? I know I’d really like that.