With the passing of Thanksgiving it feels like a sprint into Christmas. All that thankfulness we’re supposed to feel doesn’t even last through dinner anymore as people line up to get the best deals on gifts for Christmas, all before the turkey coma threatens to take us out. Not me though.  My days of bargain hunting with body armor is over. I’m too old and worn out for dueling over toys or electronics.

The older I get, the more I realize that I don’t actually like the holidays all that much. It’s supposed to be this time of pure happiness, but the truth is that the holidays are a hard time for many people. I guess it’s the assumption that you are supposed to be happy that irritates me.

The holidays stress me out to no end and if I didn’t have kids I might not bother with them at all. So I will suck it up and do it all over again for them because their smiles are the reason I go through the many pains of Christmas. Here are my top 12 Christmas pains EVERY. SINGLE. YEAR.

1. The Christmas Cry – This is how I refer to the annual wave of sadness that knocks me on my butt every year. When you experience the loss of a loved one and I have many times over, the holidays offer that one-two punch of nostalgia and grief that yet another year has passed without that person or people. While I may feel sad at other times of the year, the Christmas Cry hits abruptly usually in the few weeks leading up to Christmas and it’s a  tradition I don’t look forward to.

2. Traveling – Nope, I just don’t love traveling for the holidays. If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile you know just how much I love packing EVERY LITTLE THING my kids may or may not need while staying out of town (eyeroll). I also never sleep well in any bed but my own so a tired me is a crabby me.

3. Shopping – So I think I need to give up my “woman card” because I truly HATE shopping. Being given a deadline to shop for all the kids in my family and friends is just about as big of a nightmare as it gets. Just the thought of going to the mall at Christmas time makes me break out in hives from looking for an empty parking space, all the people crowding around me, stressing about which item to get each person to wondering if they will like it. Thank God for online shopping or I don’t know if I’d survive this part of the holidays.

4. Cooking – I’m not big on cooking on a week night so please don’t make me cook on the Super Bowl of holidays. Thank God for my husband who usually cooks for Christmas! Even if I do most of the cooking every other day of the year, I’ll happily call it an even trade.

5. Cleaning – There is nothing more futile than the stress of cleaning for gatherings that will ultimately end with cookie crumbs and wrapping paper EVERYWHERE.

6. Wrapping – As if wrestling with what to buy wasn’t enough, now I gotta spend twenty minutes wrapping some damn irregular sized toy box for two seconds of delayed excitement as my work is torn to shreds. Seriously, if it weren’t for my husband, everyone would be getting gift bags.

7. Overeating – Let’s just say that since my gallbladder surgery my body just won’t let me overindulge like it once did. If I overeat I get sick, but it’s so hard not to overdo it with all the delicious holiday treats. I’m going to have to kill it at the gym this week just to make up for Thanksgiving.

8. Comparing– We put soooooo much pressure on ourselves to provide a “good” Christmas for our kids, but it seriously seems like the stakes get higher every year. Thanks to social media we can all be voyeurs and try to live up to all the traditions of everyone else. I love to see those cute Elf on a Shelf pictures, but I just don’t have the time or patience to pose little dolls as yet another means of bribing my kids to be good. Who else remembers when the fear of the naughty list was enough?

The stakes with the presents gets higher when we know people will be posting pictures of their presents on social media the second the paper comes off. Let’s all agree to define our holidays for ourselves and know that it’s more about this time with our families than all the activities we do and all the stuff we buy. That’s probably all we’ll really remember years from now anyway.

9. Failed Expectations – There comes a tiny moment after the presents have been opened and the food has been eaten in which you look around and your house is messy once again, the anticipation of presents is now over and toys are scattered across the floor. You feel overly full and there are dirty dishes in the sink and you think, “That’s it? It’s over?” All the work and excitement is over. I know we should feel grateful and yet there is just a little twinge of sadness. Now comes the putting away of the toys and expectations until next year.

toy catelog

10. Ginormous Toy Catalogs – You can call it the great big book of awesome or whatever you want, but I’ll always think of these insane gimmicks as great big books of greed. The idea that I should give my kids a book and tell them to circle what they want is obnoxious. I don’t want to create greedy children for whom Christmas is all about getting instead of giving. This year, I’m working on a new “wish less” list of ways we can wish less for ourselves and give more to other people. My kids had some great ideas to add to our list.

11. The Tree – I’ll admit that I do like the smell of a fresh Christmas tree, but beyond that I really am not a big fan of this whole tradition. I don’t love going to a farm and picking it out, decorating it and spending the next few weeks vacuuming up the needles. I didn’t love putting together the fake trees we had in the past either. I’m not one who loves decorating so I honestly do the tree, some stockings and not much else. It looks pretty when it’s up, but then you get the fun job of taking it all down again.

12. Busting The Budget – We try to be good and we’ve gotten better about not putting presents on credit cards, but sticking to a budget any other time of the year is hard, but around the holidays it’s nearly impossible. Every time I think we’re done, my husband is sure to find just one more thing for the kids. I know better than to assess the damage until Christmas is over.

As much as the holidays annoy me, I do it for my kids because it makes them happy and that's all I really want in the end.

As much as the holidays annoy me, I do it for my kids because it makes them happy and that’s all I really want in the end.

So while you might look at this list and think, “What a Scrooge! Why does she even bother?” I’ll tell you that I don’t love the holidays, but I love what the holidays give my children. It gives them an opportunity to honor God, believe in a little bit of magic, give to others, and find wonder in a simple string of lights. Like almost everything in my life, I recognize that it’s not about me anymore. It’s about them and I hope they read this post one day and know I go through all this stress and struggle for them and because I had amazing parents who did it for me.

If you’re looking for a special morning treat to serve guests or bring to a holiday gathering, this one promises not to disappoint.  We had family visiting for Thanksgiving morning and made this Danish.  Alongside some scrambled eggs, it was a sweet way to make breakfast extra special. It’s easy to prepare both the filling and crust in advance, leaving you more time to enjoy your morning.


Berry Danish

Ball of pie crust (enough for one 9 in. pie)


Sugar for garnish

1 egg white

Filling Ingredients

2 c strawberries

2 c blueberries (any combination of berries would work here; even frozen)

2  T* butter (dairy free is fine)

1/2 c sugar

1/2 t lemon rind

1/2 t cinnamon

1/4 t salt

*Note: “T stands for tablespoon; “t” stands for teaspoon


In a small saucepan, heat the sugar and butter over low heat until melted. Mix in the berries and cook on medium-low for 10 minutes, until thickened.  Remove from heat and stir in the remaining ingredients.  Cool to room temperature or overnight, if preparing in advance.


Next, begin with a chilled ball of pie crust.  Ours was gluten-free, but that’s up to you.  I had made extra when preparing pie for Thanksgiving day, but you could easily begin with purchased dough if desired.  Lay out a sheet of parchment paper and sprinkle very well with flour.  Using a rolling pin, work the ball gently into a flattened rectangle, about 18 inches x 16 inches, and 1/2 inch thick.


Spoon the filling down the middle of the rectangle, leaving about two inches on the top and bottom, and four inches on either side.  (There was about 1/3 cup of extra filling, which I saved to mix into oatmeal for another morning).  Fold the top and bottom dough over the filling.  Take a butter knife and make horizontal slits on either side of the filling.  Gently lift each piece of dough onto and across the filling, alternating sides.  Don’t worry about making it exact; the middle of  the filling may still be exposed, and this is fine.  Continue until the Danish is complete.   Brush with egg white and sprinkle with sugar.


Carefully transfer parchment paper to baking sheet.  Bake 20 min at 375, until top is browned and inside is bubbly.  The filling will retain heat for quite a while, so let cool slightly before serving.  This is a decadent treat, but one enjoyed with guests on a special occasion. Enjoy!


Share your special breakfast recipes with our readers.  To see what’s happening in our kitchen, or to share what’s going on in yours, stop by, or become a fan on Facebook.  Enjoy the holiday season!

Keeping the Kids

Whether you are traveling or staying home, keep this list handy! Thanksgiving day can be a long day for little ones. Adults have so much to do to prepare for that kids can feel left out. Watching TV is a great way to keep the kids corralled in another room and away from the kitchen, but really little ones can often get bored by TV, or other electronics. If you are looking for ways to keep your cuties entertained through out the day and at dinner time I’ve assembled a list of our favorite funtastic activities and free printables:

Preschool kids will love this fun little Thanksgiving activities pack from RoyalBaloo.com.  We love it so much we bring it out every year! Print out before traveling and bring it along, or if you are hosting be sure to have several printed copies on hand. Leave them out at the kids table with some crayons and extra paper and let the kids play!

Print out a game of Turkey Bingo for the kids table! This is great for all ages! Maybe it will even buy you enough time to drink a full glass of wine! Here is a cute Bingo game download from Crazy Little Projects blog.

Print out a free Thanksgiving place mat the kids can color! This is a cute one from Sister’s Suitcase.

Kids will LOVE making these adorable turkey thumb print place cards and setting them at everyone’s seat! Get the step by step instructions from The Charmed Mom.

Let the kids help make a dessert. Set up your own cookie or cupcake bar where kids can frost and sprinkle their own treats. They can make their own festive creations and feel like part of the big celebration. These acorn cookies are simple and sweet!

For the toddlers bring out the bubbles, the play dough, the blocks and the cardboard boxes! They really want nothing more than to spend time playing! Whatever age group you have to entertain- I hope these suggestions help!

I hope you enjoy all of the festivities today! I am so thankful to all of you for following along each week! Happy Thanksgiving and wishing you always have enough!


The Whatever Mom

As the holidays quickly approach , I’m feeling nostalgic for toys that don’t completely suck. You know what I’m talking about. You buy a toy for your child hoping to make their holidays super special only for your child to play with it once, it breaks easily, drains batteries quickly, or takes so long to put together you get frustrated and your child gives up and moves on to another toy.

So I polled the women in my Facebook moms group to share with me the toys they loved and hated so that we could all avoid spending money on toys that aren’t worth it. So in no particular order, these are the toys that made the naughty or nice list. It’s not my intention to tell you what to buy. I’m simply letting you know what other parents thought about these particular toys.

The Naughty List

Flutterbye Fairies – Moms complained about them breaking super easily and not holding a charge for very long.

Juggle Bubbles – Even this mom agreed, these just don’t work.

Zoomer Puppy

Zoomer Puppy just doesn’t hold the kids’ attention for long.

Zoomer Puppy – Beyond being expensive, several moms said their kids lost interest in it as early as the day after Christmas.


Ferbys may look sweet, but they can have a bad attitude.

Ferbys – Although some moms said their kids loved them, several moms complained they took on a mean personality and because this mom would never pay good money for a toy with a bad attitude it makes the naughty list.

Remote Control Helicopters Of Any Brand – Apparently these toys make even grown men cry when they ultimately lose control and go crashing to the ground. So save the money and tears and just skip this one.

Wubble Bubble – I was told this toy popped in a day. Honestly, it’s probably a good idea to skip any toys of the “As Seen On TV” variety.

Ice Cream Magic (As Seen On TV) – Kids need to do a whole lot of shaking for the two spoonfuls of ice cream it makes.

Disney Train Tracks  – Moms complained about the numerous tiny pieces and the fact that the trains never stayed on the tracks and that’s sort of the whole point of buying your kid a train.

Thomas the Train Take & Play sets – Moms said they were hard for the kids to put together and the trains fell off the tracks. Try going with a wooden set, moms seem to agree this is the better bet.

Moon Dough & Moon Sand – Picture play dough that is way harder to clean up and you’ll understand why most moms suggest passing on these.

Mega Blocks In The Smaller Brick Styles – While parents liked the bigger sized blocks for young kids, they said the smaller ones get stuck easily and are hard to pull apart.

Expensive Air Hog Set – I’m not sure of which exact set it is, but according to one mom the $80 set broke in one day.

Bunchems – You could find yourself or your child in need of a crew cut if you have the misfortune of getting these in your hair.

Any Kids Tablet

Easy Bake Oven – Though I loved this toy as a kid, I can honestly say we bought this for my daughter a few years ago and it was broken roughly the third time it was used. I guess they just don’t make them like they used to.

Rock ‘N Roll Elmo – One mom said it broke within a week.

Carrera Go Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles X-Loop Race Set – It’s reported to be so flimsy it falls apart with the slightest touch.

Fischer-Price Imaginext Supernova Battle Space Rover – One mom said that it’s GIGANTIC and was used by her child as a plastic battering ram.

Sofia the First Princess Sofia & Walking Minimus- It completely eats batteries.

Doc McStuffins Get Better Talking Mobile Cart – It reportedly falls apart.

Disney Frozen Elsa Doll Castle Playset

Disney/Pixar’s Brave Castle & Forest Playset


Make sure your child doesn't hug him too hard, he might break after the first one.

Make sure your child doesn’t hug Big Hugs Elmo too hard, he might just break after the first one.

Big Hugs Elmo – From what I hear his arms break after one hug, so he’s more like Cold Shoulder Elmo.

The Nice List

Fischer Price Doctor Set or any Doctor Set – These provide hours of entertainment for the kiddos.

Dolls that make NO noise – Suffice it to say, no annoying voices to listen to.

Wooden Train Sets – Trains seem to stay on these tracks better than their plastic counter parts.

Light Up Cars With Race Track from QVC – Moms said these really stand the test of time. They are still entertaining and running strong years after they were purchased.

Big Mega Blocks and Lego Duplos – Parents said they were easy for toddlers to use and didn’t have the ability to hide on the floor and attack your feet like the smaller versions.

Legos – Despite the high probability of stepping on them, they are still a fan favorite for parent’s whose kids will spend hours playing with them. I’m guessing that’s why Leggo is coming out with slippers now.

Melissa & Doug Toys – They are wooden and durable.

Journey Girl Dolls are a much more affordable alternative to American Girl Dolls.

These dolls are a much more affordable alternative to American Girl Dolls.

Toys R Us Journey Girls Dolls – They have the appeal of American Girl dolls without the hefty price tag.

Step 2 Kitchen Sets

Loving Family Dollhouse
Fisher Price Loving Family Dollhouse & Accessories

Hess trucks – These old favorites can still be found online.

Metal Tonka Trucks

Any Little People Toys

Hot wheels/Matchbox cars – Just be prepared to put the big track sets together yourself.

Wooden Blocks

Shopkins – I’ve been informed these are quite annoying, but kids love them so I guess it depends on your tolerance level.


Lil Woodzeez – If your kid likes Calico Critters these are a cheaper version. They can be found at Target and on Amazon. Moms described them as being good quality for the price.

Bikes, Roller Skates or Skateboards

Sporting Equipment/Gear – My oldest two are both doing basketball this year so as a combined gift we’re getting them a basketball hoop so they can practice at home.

Indoor or Outdoor Trampolines

Keyboard/Musical Instruments
Magna Tiles



vtech Go! Go! Smart Wheels Cars and Playsets

Tinker Toys

Lincoln Logs

Playmobil Toys

Foam Building Blocks – I’ve been informed these are excellent gifts for toddlers.

Vtech Go! Go! Smart Animals Zoo Explorers

So there you have it folks, the nice and not so nice list of toys. And while it’s tempting to obsess about what toys to get our kids, I know like me, most of you have kids with tons of toys already. One mom really put things in perspective when she said that her kids’ (ages 12 and 14) toy collections have now dwindled down to a single little box per child consisting of mostly Happy Meal Toys. After all the money spent on toys, isn’t that a kick in the teeth? So  I say, forget what’s hot now and go instead for classic toys that are built to last and check out my list of non-toy gifts for kids. Happy Shopping!


Thanksgiving is a great time to be gluten-free.  Or not.  Most of the stars of the day (turkey, vegetables, potatoes) are naturally gluten free and require little to no alterations in their purest state.  Trickier are the baked goods– stuffing, rolls, gravy, pies.  Whether you’re hosting or bringing along a side dish to share, it’s important to have a recipe you trust so you can enjoy the favorites of the day.  I’ll share some of our family recipes; feel free to share yours as well!


We make cornbread and turn it into stuffing with a chicken apple sausage.  I shared my cornbread recipe last year, and you can find it here.

Stuffing II


My mom started the tradition years ago of a carrot herb biscuit that everyone  loves, and I was fortunate to find a similar gluten free recipe so that I could continue the tradition.  The basic recipe begins here, then I substitute four ounces of shredded carrots for the cheese, and add one teaspoon each of dried basil and parsley flakes to the flour.  For a simpler, more traditional roll, we have enjoyed this very easy recipe.



Fortunately, the filling for our favorite pies (pumpkin, apple, and pecan) were gluten-free, but needed a special crust.  I regularly thank Gluten Free on a Shoestring for her pie crust recipe and video tutorial, as it gave me the courage to attempt not just pie crust, but gluten-free pie crust.  It’s perfect for both sweet and savory pies, simply by adding, or omitting, sugar as directed.

Pumpkin pie


For a delicious, creamy mashed potato, you’ll find a great recipe here, with tips on how to achieve potatoey perfection here.


Share your family favorites with our readers.  To see what’s happening in our kitchen, or to share what’s going on in yours, stop by, or become a fan on Facebook.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Birthday Swag Party

This week the girls and I set aside the crafts to work on a unique service project! We are collecting birthday swag to deliver to the People’s Place Thrift Store & Food Pantry in Kingston. The Birthday Booth started in May 2015 when participants began asking for help providing birthday cakes for their children. Since then Christine Hein and her amazing staff have collected unwrapped toys, party supplies and cake donations for local families. I met with Christine hoping to get more details about how I can donate some birthday swag, but I walked away with a greater understanding of the People’s Place mission. (More about that below!).

What is birthday swag? Well to many of us it might look like goody bags, big bright decorations, balloons and favors, etc. We don’t think too much about giving our kids a big party with their friends. But, to families who are struggling to put food on the table it may be difficult to even provide the simple birthday essentials like a coordinated set of napkins, plates and birthday candles. It may even be a challenge to pay for a birthday cake to celebrate the day.

How to Host a Birthday Swag Party:

Birthday swag bags

  1. Announce your party! Send an Evite, or create an event page on Facebook asking friends and family to donate at least one party supply item. Example: mom can donate one package of blue napkins, cousin Sarah can donate one package of blue plates and uncle John can donate a package of blue cups. Everyone can donate one item until you have a full set, or ask for complete coordinated character sets from each participant.
  2. Schedule pick up! Round up all the items by having everyone drop off to you, or you can travel to them. Collecting during your Thanksgiving, or holiday get together is a great way to gather everything in one place, and do something good as a family.
  3. Drop off! No need to sort the items, but do put them neatly in a box or bag to drop off to People’s Place in Kingston Monday – Friday 9:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. or Wednesday 5:30-7:30 p.m.
  4. YOU’RE DONE!! How easy is that?

Birthday Swag items can include, cake plates, napkins, cups, table cloth, crepe paper, birthday sign, birthday candles, balloons. All the simple elements a family can use to celebrate together at home. You can also donate cash, or gift cards to cover the cost of a birthday cake ($12-$15).

Birthday Swag Items

Collecting birthday party supplies may not seem like an essential need, but to a kid living with food insecurity facing a birthday without a celebration can be devastating- and to a parent heart breaking. If you would like to contribute to the Birthday Booth, volunteer or donate your good quality clothing and home goods; or if you live in Ulster County and need help providing essentials please call (845) 338-4030, or email director@peoplesplacekingston.org.

People's Place Kingston

Since 1972 the mission of People’s Place has been to feed and clothe the unemployed, the physically and mentally challenged, working poor, youth, and elderly in Ulster County. Please visit their website or follow them on Facebook to learn more.  The 4,500 square foot thrift store financially supports the food pantry and other programs provided by this valuable organization. In 2014 they provided over 190,000 meals, over 8,000 articles of clothing and over 50,000 household items- all FREE to Ulster County residents in need. It is non-denominational and non-government funded. They are completely not-for-profit and serve the most essential needs of the community.  They are always looking for volunteers!

Other programs offered through People’s Place: Summer Bookworm Program, Back to School Smart Starts, It’s a Thanksgiving Feast, Warm Coats from Warm Hearts, Jolly Holiday Toy Give-A-Way, Your Choice Food Pantry, The Personal Care Closet, Dress for Dignity, Farm Stand, Bag Summer Hunger. www.peoplesplacekingston.org 



The Whatever Mom is a full time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here.


The End of A Chapter

Yesterday I packed the mini-van with a lot of Sydney’s baby gear she no longer uses like her co-sleeper, jumperoo, swing, and walker and I drove it to a local pregnancy support center to donate it. On the outside it may just look like we’re decluttering and we are, but it’s also much more than that. What it really means is an end to our baby years. What it really means is an end of a chapter in our lives.

Perhaps some people go into parenthood with a number in mind. Perhaps they want to replicate the number of siblings they had or create a family they wished they had had growing up. I swore up and down that I was done having babies after my second child was born. I’ve been here before. I’ve given all the gear away. I’ve told myself I wouldn’t ever need the maternity clothes again, but this time it feels different.

Are We Complete?

I’ve asked other women before if they just knew when they were done having babies. Some said they felt a sense that their family was complete. I think others just sit on the bench running out their biological clock till the option isn’t on the table anymore. I suppose until someone gets “fixed” the option is never totally off the table. I can’t say that will ever happen, but the days of us ever trying for another baby are over.

It’s bittersweet. The baby years are something so special and so rare and they go by in the blink of your bleary sleep deprived eyes. We went away for my son Jayden’s birthday this weekend and Sydney slept horribly in our shared hotel room. It took five attempts just to get her to sleep in her pack n play and then she woke up at 2 am wanting to play and we had no other choice but to put her in bed with us so she wouldn’t cry and wake up the other kids. Though we had already decided to pack away the baby years, the next morning solidified our decision. I was wrecked. It’s surprisingly fast, how quickly you forget the sleep deprivation once the veil finally lifts and you can see clearly again. It’s hard to willingly want to go back to that state.

Saying Goodbye To New Beginnings

Don’t get me wrong, the baby years are also some of the best in your life. The pure excitement of a positive pregnancy test, hearing your baby’s heartbeat for the first time or seeing him or her on an ultrasound for the first time are incredible. I will miss those moments, standing on the precipice of a new beginning.  Falling in love at first sight has only ever happened when meeting my babies for the first time; feeling the delicious weight of them in my arms and smelling their perfect newness radiating from their heads and faces. I will miss those beginnings, especially before the work really begins.

I’m not terribly sad to never get pregnant again, just because my pregnancies are full of vomiting, aches and pains, sometimes rashes that are so bad you’d like to rip your skin off, and Braxton Hicks contractions so painful you can’t move. Whoever said they were painless was full of it. The idea of never visiting the labor room again or enduring between 12-20 hours of labor seems like a relief. But I know I’m feeling all this now because my youngest is only 15 months old and while we’re knee deep into toddler town, she’s still a baby. It’s hard to make the call when you have a baby in the house. There is no “baby void” to fill. But I know I can’t afford to wait years for that void to grow. While I’m not physically old, 35 is now the new “advanced maternal age” when it comes to birthing babies. I know I don’t have two or three years to decide to have another child.

Beyond that my older children are beginning to take on more activities. They both do scouting and now basketball. There seriously NEEDS to be a support group for sports parents. All the running around, cooking dinner at 4 in the afternoon and trying to cover who is going to pick them up at 8 pm is enough to drive you to drink. It’s only made more complicated when you have a baby that goes to bed at 7 pm. I don’t know how much juggling is truly in me.

The Last of The Firsts

The only real regret I have is not knowing at the time, that it would be my last positive pregnancy test or heartbeat to be heard or sonogram picture to hold tight. I didn’t know that it would be the last time I swaddled a newborn and brought them home from the hospital. I didn’t know that her first birthday would be the last first birthday I would see. I wish I had known so I could have held tighter to those moments instead of them passing by in a haze. Even though I strongly suspected she would be my last, there’s a big difference between suspecting and knowing.

At what point after you make the decision, do you feel completely at ease with it instead of feeling the bittersweetness of it all? Do years need to pass? Does it ever go away? A part of me is relieved I won’t have to endure the challenges of the baby years. A part of me is glad to see the big clunky baby gear find it’s way to a new baby in a different household. It feels good to clear out my house, but it also feels sad to clear out the hope in my heart. I am simultaneously glad and sad. It’s sort of strange to close a door in your life and say this chapter is definitely over.

Yes, it’s hard to say goodbye to the baby years. There are things I will miss like the weight of an infant napping on my chest. I may miss nursing or rocking a baby. I probably won’t miss diaper explosions and three-a-day outfit changes. I won’t miss being so tired that my fuse is super short and EVERY LITTLE THING feels like a mountain I can’t climb. I won’t miss the miseries of pregnancy or the pain of labor. I will probably always miss the reward at the end though.

Writing New Chapters

I know I need to just keep looking forward. I need to write new chapters with my husband, Hannah, Jayden, and Sydney. I need to seek out new moments to look forward too. I know before I know it there will be middle school, then high school, proms and graduations. I know there will be MANY more firsts to come, but there will also be a lot of “lasts” as well. The last time I will potty train a child. Ok, that one is probably a good thing. But it takes a “last time” to FINALLY come to see those “first times” clearly. There is good and there is bad to everything. The baby years are amazing and special, but they’re also super hard, frustrating and draining.

Surprisingly I didn't cry when I packed up the baby gear to donate, but I know there will be a day in the future where I do.

Surprisingly I didn’t cry when I packed up the baby gear to donate, but I know there will be a day in the future when I will.

So to all the other moms who’ve decided to close up shop and say the days of making babies is over, I’m with you. I feel how bittersweet this goodbye is. I think it’s why most of us avoid making this decision. Sometimes I wonder if it would be better to say nothing out loud and just run out the clock, but I realize that if you really love the game you gotta leave on your own terms. Ultimately, I would want it to be a choice my husband and I make together, just like we did when we decided to start a family. So I will say my goodbyes to the baby years and maybe once Sydney is 3 or 4 I will sit down and have a good cry about it.

I’m not unhappy with three great kids. I wonder if four would push me into insanity, but the truth is that any more than one child will do that anyway. When you make it through the baby years and decide to go back, that’s the insane part. Love will do that to you. It’ll make you forget how hard it all was. So on that day when I’m having my good cry, I’ll try and remind myself how tired I was, how scared, how fragile it all seemed and I hope I’ll remember why we decided it was time to close this chapter in our lives.

A few years ago, we ate dinner at a BBQ restaurant that featured barbecued chicken with a baked potato.  I thought it seemed kind of unusual, but decided to give it a try.  My daughter and I shared and loved it, and it stuck in my head as a future dinner idea.  The restaurant has since closed and I’d forgotten about it, until it popped into my head today.  We had yet another busy afternoon ahead and I was staring at chicken breasts in the fridge and potatoes in the pantry.  A quick dinner was born.

BBQ Chicken Baked Potato

Barbecued Chicken Baked Potatoes

Recreating this quick dinner is quite simple.  I trimmed the fat off two pounds of chicken breasts, put them into the crockpot whole, added about 3/4 of a cup of barbecue sauce, and coated them well.  Homemade sauce would be great, but as a last minute meal, I used what we already had.  It cooked for seven hours on low, then I shredded the chicken with two large forks and let it sit in the barbecue sauce on warm while I heated up the potatoes.  I intended to serve dinner with shredded cheese and steamed broccoli, but found we were out of broccoli and ended up cooking some carrots instead.  It still worked.  Sour cream would be a great addition as well.  My kids gobbled this up and I had to make sure they left some for my husband who was working late, or it would’ve all been gone within minutes.  It was gluten-free without any substitutions, which is always a bonus in our house.  This was a delicious and really quick meal to prepare, and very kid friendly.  Try it out in your weeknight rotation!

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Teaching Gratitude 5 Thankful Tradtions

Growing up I really didn’t have many Thanksgiving traditions. My mother was a single mom and often had to work most Thanksgiving holidays, so we were just thankful when we could all be home together for dinner. However, my siblings and I kind of set our own tradition for how we spent our day. We woke up early to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade and binged on TV movies until dinner, traditionally served at 2:00 p.m. This timeline was perfect for maximizing our teenage catnapping and snacking routine. Dinner always concluded with turkey coma. We woke around 5 p.m. to feast on our bevy of desserts and retire for one more cat catnap. Then it was time for turkey dinner round 2 and a movie. That was our recipe for a perfect holiday.

Shortly after I got married, my husband and I started to blend our childhood traditions and picked out our favorite parts. We actually negotiated which foods made the menu and it has remained the same for the last decade. That’s one tradition we don’t mess with.

Now that we have kids we have started traditions that incorporate our gratitude and help all of us appreciate the good things we have in our lives. No matter how big, or small. As we enter the season where generosity abounds here are a few of our traditions for teaching gratitude:

  1. Crafts with gratitude– Last year, we made a thankful tree. I cut out a tree trunk from brown craft paper and hung it on the wall. Then, we cut out hand prints as leaves and wrote on each one something we are thankful for. This year we created a gratitude chain. I gave my girls a marker and strips of paper to write what they are thankful for (kids who aren’t writing yet can decorate with stickers, etc.). We linked them all together in a paper chain to hang near our table.
  2. Give thanks out loud– before we dig into dinner, each one of us takes a turn saying aloud one thing we are grateful for. This tradition started in my childhood and I have kept it alive with my own kids. There are no right or wrong answers to the question, “What are you thankful for?”
  3. Make a Gratitude Bucket List– we set aside time after our turkey dinner to make a list of ways we plan to give thanks during the holiday season. We make a check list of places we plan to donate to, or we can give back to and then make a schedule. Whether it’s baking cookies for community members, or volunteering our time together there are plenty of ways to share our gratitude.
  4. Take a hike- at some point in our Thanksgiving day we like to hit a local trail or simply take a walk through our neighborhood. We say hello to our neighbors and passersby and talk to our kids about how lucky we are to live in such a beautiful place surrounded by really good people.
  5. Share the feast- we like to share our feast with the little woodland creatures in our yard. Crafting a bird feeder, or rolling a pine cone in animal friendly edibles is a fun hands on project for the kids. We hang them from trees in our back yard.

How do you help your kids give thanks?

The Whatever Mom is a full time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here.

Playing Nicely 1

This morning I reached my last straw. I LOST it on my kids. I yelled at them and told them to go wait for the school bus 10 minutes early because I just had enough of listening to them fight. I cried and told them it’s not supposed to be like this. And it’s not just the listening to it, it’s the breaking up physical altercations. My son is one to take revenge for even minor offenses like his older sister drawing on top of his drawing. I couldn’t let them go off to school like that though, wondering if I would be mad when they got home or worse questioning my love for them so I called them back and tried desperately to explain why I’m so upset with all their fighting.

My Kids Are The Reason

I read another blogger jokingly describe her blog as giving her children a reason to hate her one post at a time. While I always hope to provide support for other moms, I write about my kids to leave them breadcrumbs to follow one day after I’m gone. My days of further understanding why my parents did anything are over. The trail is cold and the breadcrumbs were devoured by birds long ago. I hope this blog will give my children a better understanding of who I am as a person and as their mom. I don’t want to leave any questions unanswered or my intentions unclear. So here it is. Hannah and Jayden here is my advice to you.

A Letter On Sibling Love

I hate it when you fight, not just because it forces me to listen to a never-ending list of crimes perpetrated by the other, or even because it forces me into impossible refereeing situations where I’m forced to pick sides. I hate it when you fight because it’s you standing there telling me that you HATE the gift I gave you; that you wish I had never given it and could forever take it back.

My Gift To You

I know you don’t see each other as a gift now. There is a day coming where I hope you will. It’s the day I pass from this world and you have only each other and Sydney of course. There’s no fighting with her yet since she’s just a baby, but I’m sure it will come. I WISH with every fiber of my being that I could be there for you FOREVER and ALWAYS and while I’ll always be in your hearts and a part of you through and through, one day you’ll say your last goodbye to me. It is my heart’s desire that amidst your grief, you turn to each other. Know that you are my gifts to each other; someone who understands the love and loss you feel. You will understand each other in ways no one else in the world will because you share the same parents who love you. You share childhood memories and it is my hope that you will share a friendship that will last for the rest of your lives.

My Answered Prayers

Each of you were created because your father and I wanted you so very much. I planned, dreamed, and prayed for each of you. You bring different and beautiful things to my life and I’m so glad God gave me three precious children. I do my best to honor that gift. So while I’m thanking God, your fighting is the worst type of rejection of my gift and His. And it’s not just the gift of sacrifices and physical pain I endured during pregnancy or labor, it’s the sacrifices I make every day that you never know about. It’s like I told you on the front porch this morning, things don’t matter; people do. Once I’m gone, I know I can’t force you to be friends or even be in each other’s lives at all, but on this day I can.

Remember The Good

From this day forward you will each write one thing (just one) that you love or are grateful for about each other. If I have to force you to remember, I will. Jayden, you forget when you’re angry that Hannah lets you snuggle in her bed when you’re scared at night. Hannah, you forget how much Jayden looks up to you because you were so young when he was born, but you have been his companion since birth. I think a big part of why he learned to crawl and walk so early was to keep up with you.

Despite all their fighting, they snuggle at night when Jayden is lonely.

Despite all their fighting, they snuggle at night when Jayden is lonely.

I’m recommissioning our family’s Love Bank, but instead of just notes from mommy telling you why I love you, you will be writing notes to each other. You will recognize and remember all the positive ways you contribute to each others lives. You will see the gift you are to each other. I know it won’t completely stop the fighting. Families disagree, but not on how much they need and love each other. So quit your fighting because if I have another epic meltdown like this morning, I will feel like a giant failure as your mom. I love you. I love so many things about you. But I’m so over refereeing fights.

My sibling home work - write something you like about each other and share it with the other person.

My sibling home work – write something you like about each other and share it with the other person.

You will learn to remember even if it’s my voice in your head urging you years from now, reminding you that you are my gift to each other because you are each a little piece of mommy and daddy and our love for you.

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