Friday Favorites- Mail Order Mystery

Mail Order Mystery

My kids have always enjoyed a good book, and now I am so excited they love a good mystery! Getting to piece together clues and connecting characters and plot twists is something they really enjoy. So when I heard about Mail Order Mystery I needed to know more! I contacted them directly for a chance to review and try out a subscription and they very generously said yes.

You can select a theme for your mystery experience and we selected The Enchanted Slumber. For six weeks we were excited to run out to our mail box to see if a new package arrived. Inside were letters, documents, mysterious objects and clues. My kids became so engaged with the story before the final story was ever revealed!

The very first letter included an official document notarizing the authenticity of the sender, a Knight. Our knight in shining armor encouraged us to practice our knightly skills, which my kids took very seriously every night before bed. They also loved the wax seal on the letter. This small detail blew their minds and really drew them to find out more about how wax seals are made. This took us on a new fact finding mission and sparked a new discussion about knights, castles and medieval life.

Mail Order Mystery Letter

As the weeks progressed we received puzzle pieces engraved with “ancient” symbols we had to decode. My kids could not wait to gather around the kitchen table after dinner so we could help them solve the riddle! We wondered how these clues would all add up in the end!

Mail Order Mystery Sample

I won’t share much more about what we received because I don’t want to spoil the fun. But I will share that my kids were so pleased by the entire experience! They truly enjoyed the final installment where everything was revealed and all the clues were laid out in the story.

Here is how it works:

Visit Mail Order Mystery website, sign up for your mystery and pick your start date. There is also a treasure hunt I can’t wait to sign us up for! You can preview what items will arrive each week, but that might take away the fun of the mystery.

An email will arrive sharing with you when the first package is shipping, and again when the last package is shipping. This way you know when to expect the mystery to begin and end.

Enjoy checking your mail!

That’s it! Brilliant right?

The mysteries are geared for kids ages 8 and up, or for kids ages 6-7 with help. My girls are just shy of turning six, but really enjoyed making this a family activity. None of the stories are scary, or limited to a specific gender audience. That means boys and girls alike will enjoy these stories.

I think this is an amazing gift idea for your niece or nephew, grand kids or the kid who already has everything to play with. A fantastical experience of the imagination that lives on well after the last sentence is complete! This was such a great experience for my family!! We truly LOVED it!

Financial compensation was not received for this post. All honest opinions shared, and spell binding adventures taken, belong solely to The Whatever Mom. This post does not contain affiliate links. 


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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How To Embrace Your Sensory Friendly Halloween


If you have never heard of sensory processing disorder you are not the only one. Most parents do not know what this is until their child is diagnosed with the disorder. The difficulty is that even with a diagnosis, you as a parent may have no clear and final definition of what makes your kid tick. Every kid is different and it can take time to identify your child’s sensory triggers.

According to the website, children with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) “may be oversensitive or undersensitive to the world around them. When the brain receives information, it gives meaning to even the smallest bits of information. Keeping all that information organized and responding appropriately is challenging for them.”

As unique as your child is, so is the way their brain processes things like smell, taste and touch. Some kids never notice the feeling of a tag on their shirt, or the seam in their socks. But there are kids who are so distracted by this sensation that they can cry or scream, or even become aggressive. If you have a kid with sensory issues you are not alone! One in twenty children live with some varying degree of sensory processing disorder. Navigating daily life can be a struggle, let alone having to wear an itchy costume in a crowded, loud setting.

Both of my children have mild sensory issues which mostly involves volume levels and large crowds. When they were little I didn’t take them very far on Halloween. The year we let them choose on their own which houses to stop at was the year they decided they liked trick or treating. Now we let them take us as far as they want to go, we carry extra snacks and we call it quits when they get overwhelmed. We begin our evening slow and head home in time to hand out treats.

I polled some of my mom friends who are in the know about sensory processing and the sensory demands of Halloween. The best piece of advice: is to not force your child beyond their limits. Halloween activities are for their enjoyment and it is OK to let them enjoy activities in their own way. If your child can only handle wearing a small piece of their costume, or no costume at all, let that be enough. My friend Erin shares that one year she let her son go as himself at his request. “Thankfully the people around us accepted that. And he had a great Halloween because he could do his own thing.”


Select a costume that is mask free, or does not require face paint. Let your kids use their own familiar clothing as part of their costume to help them enjoy dressing up. For kids with auditory sensory issues, using noise cancelling headphones works great. For kids who are sensitive to bright lights, start your trick or treat night as early as possible and take advantage of the day light. If your child tires easily map out a short route, or bring along a wagon to let them take a break. And again, it’s OK if you cut your time short and head back home early.


Being a parent of a child with sensory issues can feel overwhelming, but imagine being the child who is struggling to process so much sensory information at once. It can provoke a lot of anxiety not knowing what is happening next. Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant Gina Bergdall suggests allowing your child to carry a fidget toy. This will allow them a constructive “place to focus their anxiety on.” Bergdall also shares these tips provided by the American Occupational Therapy Association. 

It may also be helpful to pick only a few places to trick or treat and review that plan with your child before hand. If they know they are only going to 5 or 6 houses nearby, they can feel a sense of control ticking the number of houses off the list. Seeing familiar faces can also make them feel more at ease.


If your child is overly sensitive to crowds or noises there is no rule that mandates they go trick or treating. You can make some really amazing traditions right at home. Bake some great treats, make a fun meal together, or if they want to, let them help with handing out candy. Invite the grandparents or family over for pizza and a movie. There is no wrong way to participate in Halloween! Staying at home where it is familiar may be just what your child needs to celebrate comfortably.

I get it moms! Having to make these kinds of accommodations often feels like our children are missing out on experiences other kids get to have, or the experiences we had as kids. But really, the holiday is about our kid’s enjoyment. If that looks different than the way other families celebrate, that’s OK. Embrace your unique traditions! If your child is comfortable at home watching Halloween specials and eating popcorn, join them! Deciding to follow their lead helps them feel capable! Plus, sharing a special night in together as your Halloween tradition is way more relaxing than walking around in the cold wearing a cookie cutter costume.

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 – My Office Beauty Supplies


This week I have spent a lot of time in my office. I am trying to clean up my blog posts and make some technical updates where needed. My office is also the hub of our household organizing so I tend to spend a lot of time in here! Sitting in one place for too long isn’t easy for me. I get easily distracted and sometimes I even get a little bored. I get up and take walks, or run up the stairs often to try to break up the monotony. But having a few simple beauty supplies on hand makes for a really nice mental break and I can check off a few self-care tasks too!

Here are my favorite office beauty supplies:

My new favorite is ellovi butter. This 6 ingredient body butter is simply amazing! I am in love with the chocolate mint! It’s calorie free chocolate and the mint gives me a little mental recharge. I apply to my hands, cuticles and elbows. It is such a great pick me up!

ellovi butter

It is no secret I LOVE lip balm. I am a lip balm junkie always on the hunt for my next fix. I have balms stashed all over the place and all different brands. But this one, Lasting Smiles Organic Lip Balm is DELICIOUS! I am usually not a fan of peach flavored anything, but this isn’t overly “peachy.” It glides on smooth and the flavor fades quickly so I am not tempted to constantly “eat” it. I love that it is certified organic and made in the U.S.A. Plus every purchase supports cleft lip and palate surgeries for kids in need. You know how I love a product that includes charitable giving!

lasting butter

I may have mentioned this one before, but I love it. Staring at the screen too long causes eye fatigue. It’s a real thing- especially now that I am …ehem… older. So I keep a Caffeinator Skin Stick at my desk from Perfectly Posh. The lemon scent is uplifting while the caffeine in it fights off purple rings and puffiness under my eyes. It’s a win-win product for me!

caffeinator skin stick

I am so in love with using lemon for a mood lifter! Sometimes working from home can feel a little isolating. So to keep my mood up to write all these perky posts I rely on scents that help set the mood. Perfectly posh Honey Honey Lemon body cream is so silky and refreshing! It is truly my newest addiction right now!

Honey Honey body cream

There ya have it! The real deal products that I use every day to check off that self care/beauty routine, and help keep me energized through my time in the office!

What are some of your favorite beautiful office supplies?

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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How Printables Saved My Sanity – Guest Post


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.


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.


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.


* 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


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 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.


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 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!


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 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


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.

Hike it Baby

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 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.


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!


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!


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?”


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:


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.”


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.



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 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.



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:


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:



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.”


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.