Category: Parenting

How To Embrace Your Sensory Friendly Halloween

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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 Understood.org, 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.”

MOM TIPS

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.

PRO TIPS

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.

HOW TO EMBRACE

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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How Printables Saved My Sanity – Guest Post

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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5 Self-Care Strategies for First Time Moms

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

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

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

Ahhh. It’s almost nirvana.

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

I FOUND SOME FRIENDS

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

I HOSTED PLAY DATES

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

I ACCEPTED OTHER PEOPLE’S GENEROSITY

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

I ASKED FOR HELP

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

I DELAYED WASHING DISHES

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

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

The Whatever Mom is a twin mom learning to let go of perfection. She shares her real life struggles with parenting through her blog and contributes her time and talents as a writer to Hudson Valley Parent and Masshole Mommy. When she isn’t writing you can find her chugging coffee, folding laundry and not judging other parents. Don’t forget to subscribe via email so you never miss a blog post again! You can also find her work featured on Mamapedia 

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What to do with all this “Me Time?”

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

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

“Now you can finally have some ME TIME.”

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

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

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

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

WORK TIME

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

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

ALONE TIME

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

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FINISH ERRANDS IN RECORD TIME

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

SELF CARE

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

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CONNECT WITH OTHER MOMS

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

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

The Whatever Mom is a twin mom learning to let go of perfection. She shares her real life struggles with parenting through her blog and contributes her time and talents as a writer to Hudson Valley Parent and Masshole Mommy. When she isn’t writing you can find her chugging coffee, folding laundry and not judging other parents. Don’t forget to subscribe via email so you never miss a blog post again! You can also find her work featured on Mamapedia and The Novice Mommy.

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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. 

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I Surrender the War on Meal Time

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

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

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

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

F A I L

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

Child: “I can’t eat that.”

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

Child: “I don’t eat round foods.”

Me: “You don’t eat round foods?”

Child: “No.”

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

Child: “Since right now.”

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

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

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

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

I CAN’T WIN.

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

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

LET THEM WIN.

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

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

The Whatever Mom is a twin mom learning to let go of perfection. She shares her real life struggles with parenting through her blog and contributes her time and talents as a writer to Hudson Valley Parent and Masshole Mommy. When she isn’t writing you can find her chugging coffee, folding laundry and not judging other parents. Don’t forget to subscribe via email so you never miss a blog post again! You can also find her work featured on Mamapedia and The Novice Mommy.

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Back to School Prep: Homeschool vs. Traditional School

Back To School Prep

When our oldest daughter was wrestling with some emotional struggles half way through third grade, my husband and I decided that homeschooling might be a better fit for her. We finished out the year at home and happily witnessed a jump in her self-confidence and enjoyment in learning. Yes! We knew we made the right choice for her.

But what about her little sister? Kids’ personalities and needs at different stages are so unique, and choices about their education have to be unique, too. We’ve found that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for any family. As a social butterfly with a teacher she adores and a need to have some space from her overshadowing big sister, public school is where our middle kid is headed for first grade.

This untypical situation leaves us with a back-to-school prep season unlike any we’ve experienced before. Some things have stayed the same: the thrill of starting something new, an eagerness to get back to routine, wanting to pull my hair out from nonstop sibling bickering and “I’m bored” complaints. But the school year preparations – those are very different.

Where The Dough Goes

We’ve spent more money on books than clothes for our homeschooler. We’re just not as concerned about switching out her faded, well-loved summer grubs for a shiny new look. Instead, most of the back-to-school budget goes towards carefully chosen curriculum that fits our daughter’s interests, subject level and learning style. We’ll fill in the wardrobe gaps as needed with the changing seasons (and probably pay less doing it), but for now, her grass-stained knees are welcomed in class.  Our younger daughter, however, will look a little more polished come September.

Home school curriculum  sara hm school4

It should be noted that there’s a wide variety of teaching methods and philosophies when it comes to homeschooling. Many parents choose to piece together their own unit studies or lessons using mostly free resources (libraries and the internet are godsends), field trips, projects and more.  That has been my own approach in the past, but this year I’m hoping to scale back my lesson-planning time and embrace a little more structure. So while our family’s back-to-school budget needs to accommodate curriculum supplies, many homeschooling parents spend next to nothing this time of year.

Supply Checklists

Pencils and erasers can be found on both of our kids’ lists this year, but that’s about where the similarity ends.  Instead of traditional items like crayons, folders and tissues, our homeschooled fourth grader will get a re-stash of craft and science experiment supplies, along with copy paper for the printer.  No need for a new backpack and lunchbox, but a magnifying glass and some graduated cylinders? Yes, please!

Planning and Organizing

This is where the biggest difference lies. There’s not much to it with a traditional student: make sure their hair is neat, fill their backpacks and then get them to the bus stop on time (although that is admittedly a challenge in itself). But as part of the legal requirements of homeschooling, every student needs a plan of instruction for the year. That means that the bulk of my back to school prep isn’t revolved around spending, but planning. What does my kid need and want to learn this year? How will I teach each subject? Should we join local classes or meet-ups? What field trips should we plan? All of these questions and more run are on my mind while I piece together a yearly plan and a daily/weekly routine that works for everyone.

 sara hm school sara hm school1

I also look back on the past year to make note of what worked and what didn’t, and then make changes accordingly. For example, this year we’re setting up a dedicated workspace for those times when my daughter needs a retreat from her two-year-old, wanna-be-rockstar brother to give an assignment her full focus. We’re also going to try a four-day schedule, leaving a full weekday open for field trips, projects, cooking and other hands-on fun.

sarah hm school3 sara hm school2

Just like a teacher spends time setting up their classroom in the days before their students walk in, I’ll be working on getting everything organized to make the transition out of summer vacation as smooth as possible. A little effort now will make a big difference in our daily routines. As a work-at-home mom and teach-at-home mom, organization is essential.

Despite the work involved, I’m excited to get the ball rolling! Homeschooling is just one of those things in life that isn’t always a walk in the park, but ultimately worth every bit of time and effort it takes. I’m looking forward to a fun year of learning for all of my kids!

 

Sara HVM EditSarah Coppola is a wife, mom of three, Hudson Valley native and adventure-seeker. She founded Family Friendly Hudson Valley to discover and share all the great stuff for families found in our own backyard.

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9 Truths I Learned Baby’s First Year

9 Truths I Learned My Daughter's First Year

I thought I knew what I was getting into when I became a mom. I felt pretty prepared because I have always had kids in my home. I have fostered children and I have watched and loved kids as my own for years. I was not ready for the realism of being a full time parent of two. Let me share with you some of the things I have learned from my baby’s first year.

DON’T BUY EXPENSIVE TOYS

Yes new is great and in your new parent excitement you will buy that ridiculously priced contraption. Then once it is setup at home, you will find out the hard way that your baby hates it! Oh, and baby will only use it for three months. There are usually floor displays so you can try it before you buy it. Put your baby in it. Let them explore it. Take the time to examine it. My husband and I realized this after oohing and ahhing over a Jumperoo. We put our daughter in it and she freaked out as if she was going to seriously have a heart attack if we left her in it. We found out she prefers to wander freely. Her favorite toys are the walk behind and ride on toys we were given by family and friends.

Baby's 1st Birthday

THE RULES ARE ALWAYS CHANGING

What works the first few nights to soothe your baby will not work three nights later, nor will it work in another week. Babies are the rule makers. No matter how much you think you are going to set the rules and they are going to be on your schedule it very rarely works that way. Surrender right now! The moment that little bundle of frustrating joy is born it owns you! You will no longer have control over what time you wake up or go to sleep. You will no longer be out of the door on time and you most certainly will never be able to think the same again.

I CAN TUNE ANYTHING OUT

First time parents are typically on high alert for any little sound baby makes. During those early months my husband could hear the rustle of our baby’s crib sheets two rooms away. But as our baby grows we are learning to filter out the unnecessary noise. While on a call with a business associate, I was able to tune out an episode of Dinosaur Train playing on the TV, my baby screaming at her brother, her brother screaming back, and my husband getting the dog to bark on command while the washer and dryer were doing their jobs. My associate actually asked me to call her back because she was getting a headache from all the “background noise” in my home. When on the phone with non-parents go to a room as far away from the noise as possible. Folks without kids cannot tune out the commotion of your daily life the same way you can.

Skylers 1st fam

MY MARRIAGE CAN WITHSTAND ANYTHING

Just before the birth of my daughter, my family endured a lot of big changes. The week before she was born, my husband was seriously injured when a drunk driver hit him. Then within a month, we unexpectedly gained full custody of my stepson. Together we were struggling to adjust to full time parenthood with a newborn and a four year old. Neither of us were able to work. He was trying to heal from his injuries, and I was still healing from pregnancy on bed rest and child birth. I started to feel like a single parent of two while my husband was limited physically in what he could do to help. This all took a huge toll on us as a couple. Somehow, we made it through. Talk, Talk, Talk especially during the times you do not want to. Becoming a new parent is life changing in its self and when life adds those extra struggles, the situation feels almost impossible.

I AM INVINCIBLE

After becoming a mom, I completely fell apart. I struggled with the lack of sleep, the lack of help and lack of knowledge. However, I found an inner strength I never knew I had. Suddenly, I was able to feed a newborn with one arm while making a bowl of cereal for a toddler. I learned to multitask like a boss. I was able to keep a floundering family together and I was able to become me again.

On those really tough days, give yourself credit for even the small things you accomplish each day. Eventually you will start to see the bigger things you accomplish. When feeling like you cannot possibly take one more thing thrown at you, look in the mirror and tell yourself “you got this.” Be your own cheerleader because there will be times when others just do not understand what you are dealing with. You will overcome!

skylers 1st moments

I TREASURE EVEN THE TINY MOMENTS

During the struggles of this first year as a mom,  it has been the tiny moments that kept me going. A simple brush of my husband’s hand across mine reminds me that the man I married is still in there somewhere. Seeing my baby sleeping on her daddy’s chest reminds me of why I fell in love with him. Hearing my baby’s first giggle refreshes my weary soul. Watching my two children play together reminds me how blessed I truly am. When life is at its toughest keep looking for those tiny moments until you find a glimpse of joy. The tiniest moment can be the glue you need to mend that broken heart or those frayed emotions.

HUGS ARE SOOTHING

When children are hurt,  or scared, unsure or happy they look for a hug. We can do the same! Hugs can be comforting and assure us we are safe. I personally have always enjoyed a good hug from a special cousin. I’ve even driven to her job just to get a hug. This last year I learned to accept hugs from others who could see me struggling but had no words to console me. HUG! It is that simple. Sometimes we just need to feel a little human connection. A hug is the simplest way to connect. Did I mention HUG!?

IT IS OK TO CRY

We are born with the natural ability to cry and yet we are taught that it is not OK to do it as we grow up. During some of my toughest moments the only thing that made me feel better was crying. Sometimes tears would just roll down my face without me realizing it. There is no shame in crying. It is like cleaning our emotional chalkboard of stress. Crying can lead to sleeping and sleeping equals silence. I am not just talking about babies. Sometimes all we really need is a good cry and a nap.

skylers 1st

I AM NEVER ALONE

It is strange but when you become a new mom it feels like you are suddenly alone and nobody understands what you are going through. The reality is once you have children you will never be alone again! Even though I wasn’t really alone, there were still times I felt like I was drowning in loneliness. Don’t be afraid to invite friends and family to visit. Get out of the house and find community events to enjoy.

In this past year, I had to find what worked for me and my family to survive the curve balls thrown at us. We made it! Our struggles have given us a new understanding of our relationships with each other and our friends. If you are struggling too, just know that you will overcome the first year, and the second year, and the third year and so on!

deb editDebra is a first time mom to her beautiful rainbow baby Skyler, a wife, a blogger and an ordained minister. She enjoys crafting and creating educational fun for her step sons and decorating her home. Find Debra at Crossing New Bridges on Facebook and on Twitter.

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When There Is No Space For Mom

No Space for a Mom

Before I dive right into my blog topic for today, I just want to say a big THANK YOU to my contributors that have helped me get through summer this far! Thank you Jennifer, Debbie, Amber, Gloria and Diedre! Without each of you I wouldn’t have had the extra time to spend with my kids and work on my blog. I am taking some workshops and training courses to learn how to convert this blog into a business! As exciting as that sounds it isn’t easy to fit it all into my day of being a mom. It is especially difficult when there is no space for me.

I thought working from home is  a dream come true. Until I started actually working from home… and the kids are here. Having the kids home while I’m trying to works is even harder than actually going to work. Yes, it saves me in day care. Yes, it saves me from schlepping and we can keep our own schedule. But at what price? My sanity. My sanity is the price.

Without a break from the care taking and the constant demands of sandwiches and laundry a mom could go insane. I am literally one person taking care of three other humans. I am all there is. I don’t have a mom close by that can help me take the kids to the park, or a sister two towns over who can take my kids to the movies one day. I have a husband who works a lot and two kids who demand a lot. That’s it. We see extended family once a year when I pack up the kids and drive home by myself. My life as a mom is so overwhelming.

I try to find space for myself in the small parts of the day not occupied by my kids and husband. I get up earlier than everyone else so I can sit outside and listen to the birds and drink my coffee. But I am usually interrupted with a screeching howl of, “MAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHM.”

I try to exercise to get the good energy flowing. But then I have to stop short because the kids are fighting over the TV.

I try to get to the gym so the kids can be the daycare providers problem and I can zone out on the treadmill and watch TV. But no one wants to cooperate to get out the door.

I try to read a book while the kids are quiet. But then I have to stop every other paragraph to make a snack, or change a channel, or end a dispute.

I try to enjoy a good home cooked meal. I miss connecting with my kitchen. I used to pour a glass of wine, light some candles, turn on the music and whip up a meal with fresh ingredients. Now I am tied to the toaster oven reheating frozen chicken nuggets.

I wake up early to get some blog writing done in those “fringe hours.” But suddenly one child is awake and crying. It is like I have an alarm button on the bottom of my feet that alerts I am upright and ready to accept their commands.

I attempt a moms night out and get a text from hubby we are out of over night underwear. I have to leave my friends early to go to the store and bring them home.

Nearly every day it is a struggle to find a space for just me. I can’t finish a sentence, a phone call a blog post or even check Facebook from my phone without a constant barrage of noise. My kids are almost six years old and I still don’t get to take a shower every day. It feels like every moment in my day is interrupted.

But then, in the moment just before I crack. Just as my tears start to well a little arm goes around my shoulders and a tiny voice says, “I love you mama.” The tension eases away. My jaw starts to release and the tears calm. “I love you too sweet heart.” This is the space where I belong. Right here in the comfort of little arms snuggling me tight. I belong right here in the little hearts who think I am the safest place on earth.

There is no space for me to exist any more without my beautiful, wonderful children. I am learning to let that space be big enough.

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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The Hilarious Things My Kids Say

Kids can be the most unintentionally hilarious people. They might make an observation that is 100% true, but no adult would ever say out loud. Or, they mispronounce a word that alters what they’re trying to say. Or, it could just be a word they cannot completely remember how to say, and the version that comes out is off just enough to be adorable.

kids

One of my older girls is five and doesn’t pronounce the word ‘pattern’ correctly. She pronounces it ‘patter-in.’ She is starting Kindergarten and  I should correct her, but I love that little reminder that she’s still so young and not just my grown up girl going off to school on her own.

Both of my older girls still routinely say ‘lellow’ instead of ‘yellow’ as well. I feel like it doesn’t hurt anything, and most words they’ve learned I make sure they can say correctly, but yellow and pattern I just can’t bring myself to correct. I’m sure in no time they will have grown out of mispronouncing those words and my sweet, little girls will talk to me like older girls; with no reminders of the toddlers they used to be.

My husband was singing ‘Mambo #5’ the other day and the girls wanted to learn it. My oldest was trying to sing back the words and kept saying ‘everyone in the clubhouse go ride’ instead of ‘everybody in the club say come on let’s ride’ because of the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse show. I mean, that’s adorable, and even though we corrected her a few times, I still think it’s hilarious and awesome that she’s putting Mickey’s Clubhouse in the song.

Just like my girls my son has his hilarious moments too. He has the best mispronunciation. He’s turning 3 this summer and has an amazing vocabulary, but struggles with fire truck. In fact, for a few months he couldn’t say ‘truck’ at all without it coming out as ‘f*ck’.

fire truck 1

‘Mommy! Fire F*ck!’

Now, I know it’s a bad word, and I shouldn’t encourage him to say it, but I can’t correct it. It’s hilarious! He’s already started to grow out of it and says fire engine about half the time now.  Usually he says the ‘tr’ in truck, but for those months he mispronounced it I would simply smile when were out.

Sometimes I can get too caught up in being busy and getting things done and I forget my kids are just little. They don’t have the same patience as me, or view of time, or ability to wait when they ask for something. So when my older kids say they ‘have a loose toothes’ or ‘their teeths came out’ it helps remind me that they’re not adults yet, They are still kids and I need to enjoy them now, before they totally grow up on me. I will never get these moments back.

When my son is being crazy and literally bouncing off the walls because he’s a 2 year old boy, and then he says ‘Look! A big f*ck!’ when we drive by a semi-truck, it makes me laugh when I might not have otherwise. Eventually these will just be stories that I tell about my kids when they were little, but for right now they are my everyday life. I’m going to enjoy it and if I happen to take the back road by the fire station instead of the main road to go to the grocery store, that’s just my wanting to share a laugh with my kids.

Comment below to share some of the hilarious things your kids say. 

Jennifer at Sweet DiscordJennifer is a stay at home mom with two sets of twins. She copes with having four kids ages 5 and 3 with wine, desserts and cooking. But at the end of the day she wouldn’t trade her crazy life for anything. You can read more from Jennifer at Sweet Discord.

 

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