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Wishing all my readers a very healthy and happy Thanksgiving! Safe travels and may your stuffing be perfect!

The girls have the entire Thanksgiving week off from school. We have been busy decorating, baking and making the house a giant mess. I am actually thankful for the toys scattered about the house. It means  I have two amazingly creative kids who get lost in their imaginations. It’s not fun cleaning it all up again, but one day those little messes won’t be there to organize. Before I know it both my kids will be off to college and ready to start life on their own. Every now and then it hits me that having twins means they both leave at the same time. Such a scary thought. Until then I’ll try to remain thankful for the messes, the chaos and the perfectly imperfect days we share.

Here’s a round up of our week:

We started off by making a Thankful Tree. I used brown craft paper for our tree, but you can easily use a brown paper grocery bag. I traced and cut out leaves to write our thankful things on. Then we it all taped to the wall. The girls decided to pick out pictures of things they are thankful for. We pulled out some family pics I had taken through out the year, but you can easily use pictures cut from a magazine. Both of the girls kept calling it the Giving Tree. That would be a great story to read along with this project if you have it! If not you can get animated versions on Youtube. I found a copy of the original 1973 movie version narrated by Shell Silverstein!

Our thankful tree!

I rolled out brown craft paper the entire length of the table so the girls could create their own pictures. We traced our hands to look like turkeys. The girls enjoyed making mama turkeys and baby turkeys. Again, you can easily recycle brown grocery bags for this project. Let the kids get creative!

DIY turkey table runner

I made these counting turkeys a few weeks ago which the girls really enjoy using. I just used materials we have on hand. Yes, I always have clothes pins and googly eyes on hand! Find instructions HERE.

Clothespins are great for working developing fine motor skills.

Thanksgiving Eve packets!! I set these activities out the night before to surprise the girls with in the morning. This will keep us busy for a while! If you are following The Whatever Mom on Facebook you already know where to find these turkey printables!

Our turkey table

We had our first winter storm yesterday. The snowy morning really put me in the mood for some good, warm comfort food. I made us some coconut, carrot french toast. It is inspired by the french toast I am in love with at one of my favorite restaurants (Love Bites). Not as good as theirs, but still a good way for me to sneak in some veggies and protein!

Coconut, carrot french toast.


4 slices of favorite bread

2 eggs

1 small carrot (finely grated)

3 Tablespoons coconut flakes

1/3 cup milk (any kind)

1/4 teaspoon of vanilla

1/8 teaspoon of cinnamon

2 Tablespoons butter

Melt butter in skillet on medium heat. Whisk the eggs and milk together. Then add in rest of ingredients and whisk until combined. Dip bread into mixture and be sure to cover both sides. Place in heated pan. Cook both sides until golden brown.

We didn’t have maple syrup so I sprinkled with powdered sugar. A snow breakfast for a snowy day!


Whatever you do today enjoy your time with family and friends. If you plan to celebrate the day alone, I hope you still have plenty to be thankful for!


Thank you for reading and sharing!!


In honor of Small Business Saturday this weekend I thought it would be a good opportunity to highlight some of the Hudson Valleys favorite local shops and give you 10 fabulous reasons you should shop local this holiday season. When you put your money into local business you are not only strengthening your local community economy but you are helping to change supply and demand, production, help the environment and grow non-profits. Plus, there are no better people and products to support than those right here in the Hudson Valley!


So many favorite business right here in the Hudson Valley! <- see the list!

Top 10 reasons to shop local

1. It strengthens the local economy and puts your tax dollars to good use.

When you spend your money in local shops the money will multiply within the community. Local businesses usually shop other local business recycling the money within the community and ultimately strengthening the local economy.

2. Help create local jobs and growth.

In a nation that is struggling to create jobs you might feel like there isn’t anything as a consumer you can do, but there is! Local shops tend to create higher paying jobs than bigger chain stores. When you shop local you are helping to create those jobs for your local servicemen and neighbors.

3. You will feel good and support your community.

If any of the other reasons here can’t convince you to shop local this year I promise you, you will feel good about your choices when you do. You will become friendly with local employees and business owners, support friends, families and embrace the true meaning of community.

4. It’s better for the environment.

Help reduce the global footprint by supporting businesses close to home. Not only will you be minimizing shipping factors but local businesses tend to buy from other local businesses further reducing transportation pollution.

5. You will most likely receive better customer service.

There is no doubt that the woman in the store down the street is going to provide better customer service than someone you will probably never meet somewhere on the other side of the county. Local businesses survive by reputation and repeat customers so it is usually in their best interest to provide better service.

6. Your money goes to support non- profit and community organizations.

Local businesses are two times more likely to support non- profit and community organizations than large corporations. Spending your money in the places that support non- profits will certainly help improve your community.

7. Local shops are for everyone.

In many cases local shops are more easily accessible than the larger chain stores and malls. This is especially beneficial for elderly, the young and those without transportation.

8. Shop what you want and not what buyers choose for you.

The power of choice is still ours when we shop small. While national chains have buyers who choose products for us, small businesses choose products based on what their customers want. With more local shops, more people are deciding on product, distribution and production thus increasing our choices in products.

9. Support entrepreneurship and increase prosperity.

Inventors, creators and entrepreneurs are the forward thinkers of tomorrow. Those forward thinkers create small business shops that accompany a uniqueness that people want to settle around and tourists are more likely to visit which increases growth and economy.

10. There is nothing better than products made or purchased in the Hudson Valley!

In my last post I expressed my thorough dissatisfaction with toys these days. With Christmas coming up quickly I knew I had to gather ideas for alternative presents for my kids. I know that they’ll inevitably get toys, but I wanted to come up with a good list of things I hope will be more useful or last longer than a toy. So while I know this post isn’t going to affect sales at Toys ‘R Us this holiday season I wanted to share ideas with parents that hopefully might leave more lasting impressions on their kids. I want to thank the Hudson Valley Moms group on Facebook for some great ideas. Here they are in no particular order:


1.Coats, hats, scarves, snow suits, school clothes, dress up outfits, boots, snuggly pajamas or socks. I think I’m going to stuff some socks in my kids stockings this year as they are super hard on their socks and could use some extra pairs. Maybe some Christmas themed ones or just colorful or snuggly ones.

Financial Security

2. I truly love the idea of using the holidays as an incentive to open 529 college savings accounts for your kids and asking family and friends for contributions. You can do this with an IRA or existing savings account as well. This is perfect for babies and toddlers as they aren’t going to miss extra toys and starting an account early means that the account will yield more in interest by the time they are ready for college. If family insists on buying toys, you might want to suggest that they buy a small gift and make a small financial gift as well. So if they were going to spend $20 on a toy, ask them to buy a $10 toy instead and contribute $10 for their college fund. Guess which one is going to be more valuable in the long run?

Special Interests/Hobbies

3. Nurture a child’s special interests this holiday season. What does the child like to do? Cook – try their own apron and a cookbook to use together. Photography – camera and photo album. Science – microscope. Star gazing – telescope. The sky’s the limit, just let the child be your guide.

Hannah and Jay meet a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle at the Hudson Valley Renegades Game

Hannah and Jay meet a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle at the Hudson Valley Renegades Game


4. I love, love, love the idea of taking the kids to see a play, visit a children’s museum or go on a special vacation in lieu of toys under the tree. Some moms suggested season passes to kid friendly destinations both in and outside the Hudson Valley. Anything from local museums to water parks like Splash Down to big theme parks like Disney Land, Great Escape, etc. There are endless possibilities and the quality time spent with your kids will live forever in their memories. Still want them to unwrap something? How about hiding clues in envelopes and opening a last box or envelope with a photo of the destination with the words “we’re going” with a date or just the year 2015? You could also have a family member get your child a suitcase or sleeping bag with the promise of an upcoming sleepover. Now there’s a present moms and dads can appreciate too!

Mommy helping Jay skate

Mommy helping Jay skate

Learning Rocks

5. The holidays are a perfect excuse to fire up a kid’s love of learning. Books and e-books are awesome. I also love to get my kids book bags for the following school year as they’re often half price this time of year. How about new pencil cases and stickers to decorate them, school supplies, globes, maps, dry erase boards, etc.?


6. It’s often cost prohibitive for parents to put their kids in lessons or classes so the holidays give friends and family a chance to help fund them. Whether it’s ice skating, piano, karate, gymnastics or dance, your child is sure to be thrilled with this gift that will keep on giving with each new class.

Practicality Rules!

7. Ok you know the Discount Diva values practicality. How abut rechargeable batteries to literally give new life to the numerous toys they already have? What about storage bins, toy boxes and book shelves to provide better access and storage for existing items? I scored some great deals on books at my local consignment shop – easy readers for my 5 year-old and chapter books for my 7 year-old so they could really use book shelves. I also like to stuff their stockings with new tooth brushes and toothpaste, along with candy of course. Young babies don’t often play with toys anyway so why not get them diapers and wipes, toiletries, hooded towels, spoons, dishes, convertible car seats or umbrella strollers, or my latest life-saver a paci clip which keeps parents from having to pick up and clean pacis repeatedly. Also formula or jars of baby food, or a baby food maker for parents to make their own baby food. Little girls love cute hair accessories like headbands and ponytail holders so why not put together a set?

Music & Art

8. I only recommend buying a child a musical instrument under the following conditions – you are the parent, the other parent has signed off, and you have a room with a door to shut for practicing. If those conditions have been met then go for it. Music can be one of the healthiest ways for children to express themselves. Art is another great way so think easels, drawing pads, markers, paints, stencils, modeling clay and even specialty items like origami sets.

Daddy and Jay Fishing

The Great Outdoors

9. I know kids love electronics, but since I consider them really expensive toys, I’ll talk about an alternative I love. I love anything that gets kids to play outside. Not everyone can afford big trampolines and swingsets, but you might be amazed at the deals you can find online for used sets. My sister-in-law recently moved to a different state and ended up having to sell her giant swing set for $500 when it cost her $1,000 more than that when she purchased it a year before. There are also bikes, scooters, kites, roller skates and sporting equipment. My husband recently taught my kids how to fish and I know they’d be tickled pink to get their own fishing poles, especially because it means more special time with daddy. Sleds and snow tubes are awesome gifts this time of year.

Snow tubing

Celebrate Coming Of Age

10. Perhaps you have a child on the verge of starting or finishing potty training? Then big boy/girl underwear would make some mighty fine motivation. Do you have a teenager about to get her permit? Then driving lessons might be just the ticket (hopefully so they can avoid tickets). I’m not a big fan of giving kids cell phones, but if you have a tween or early teen this might be the perfect gift to show them that you recognize that they are growing up. You can always do a pre-paid phone to keep costs down. Perhaps your child is ready for a more “grown up” room with new décor and bedding set. I got my daughter a big girl comforter when we were about to transition her to a big girl bed to get her excited about the idea. As much as we hate to see them getting bigger, celebrating their coming of age moments with a special gift is truly meaningful. Last year I got my daughter’s ears pierced and got her earrings and she was thrilled. It showed her that I thought she was old enough to make the decision for herself and she took the piercing like a champ – not even crying once.

A big thank you to all the ladies who contributed ideas for this list. Feel free to share more ideas as well. I wish you all a meaningful gift giving season to come. If you’re like me, with piles of toys cluttering up your house you may want to share this post with friends and family to help spark some new ideas.

Thanksgiving is upon us and I couldn’t be happier. I tend to be a bit Grinchy once December rolls around, but I end November on a high note with all of my favorite foods, people, and holiday. Special occasions can be tricky when you’re gluten-free, but over the years we’ve put together a menu that is allergen-friendly yet not missing any old favorites or traditional dishes. Many Thanksgiving staples are naturally gluten-free—turkey, potatoes, roasted vegetables are all safe. Here are a few sides that will make your day easier, whether you’re bringing a dish to someone else’s home or hosting in your own.

Gluten-free Cornbread

Whether your cornbread stands alone or is turned into stuffing as in our kitchen, a slightly sweet, moist and light cornbread is a great place to begin.

2 large eggs

¼ c milk

¼ c applesauce

2 T* oil

¼ c brown sugar

½ c corn kernels, mashed slightly for texture

½ c coarsely ground cornmeal

½ c. gluten free all-purpose flour

½ t xanthan gum

2 t baking powder

½ t baking soda

½ t salt

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

Preheat oven to 350 and grease a 9 x 13 pan. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, applesauce, oil, brown sugar, and corn. In another bowl, whisk together flour, xanthan gum, baking powder and soda, and salt. Form a well in the dry ingredients and stir in wet ingredients. Pour into prepared pan, bake 20-22 minutes, or until just firm in center and slightly browned.


Gluten-free Cornmeal Herb Biscuits

For as long as I can remember, my mom made these special biscuits on Thanksgiving, and Thanksgiving only. We looked forward to them all year-long. They were the first holiday recipe to get converted when we became gluten-free. Our first year’s attempt didn’t come out quite right, but I kept trying recipes and tweaking till I found the one. Two very important steps are chilling the uncooked biscuits and baking sheet in the freezer, and dusting the biscuits with flour before baking. Gluten free dough doesn’t act quite the same as traditional dough, and these extra additions to the process made the difference in the outcome. The recipe begins here; to make them into Thanksgiving biscuits, make the following adjustments: Substitute four ounces of shredded carrots for the cheese. Into the flour mix, add one teaspoon each of dried basil and parsley flakes.


Gluten-free Pies

Pie is another part of the menu needing some special attention. Very fortunately, an excellent pie crust recipe and even how-to-video for rolling it out await you. Once you have this lovely crust prepared (one recipe makes two balls of dough, so you can go all out with two pies! We always do) you can use it for any of your old favorites. Pumpkin, apple crumb, and pecan always grace our table.


To find out what’s new in our kitchen, stop by, or become a fan on Facebook. Happy Turkey Day!

Ok, I’m not a horrible friend. But, I am definitely not as good a friend as I used to be. Before motherhood I was the girl you’d call at 2 a.m. and sob about your broken heart. I was the first to remember your birthday and get everyone together for cake. I’d join you at the gym any night of the week; and if your car broke down in the ghetto I’d leave work early to come get you. Now, that I have kids I am completely unreliable to be there in a crisis and my friends may get a birthday card a month later. I know people are disappointed by this. What they don’t realize is that it is just as painful to me to not be available.

When my kids were just about 2 years old a friend’s apartment was hit by the flood waters of a hurricane. It pained me to see pictures and status updates on Facebook showing the ruins of her home. I wanted to be able to rush to help and sift through the remains with her. At the time I had two babies in tow and had to put their safety first (as well as their nap time and feeding schedule). I couldn’t afford to pay someone to sit with my kids to drive 3 hours one way to help and then return home. I didn’t have family that could just stay at my house until I could return. Recognizing my limitations, I did my best to send emotional support from where I was in life. But, it wasn’t enough. She stopped returning my phone calls, emails, private messages, etc. I could tell there was a shift and when I called her out and asked what’s up? I got the cold shoulder. A “nothing” response. Eventually, it came out a year later she was angry that my husband and I did nothing to help her. At the time my husband was working two jobs seven days a week. If we were lucky we saw him for 1 hour a day.

So, what happens when we become parents? Why such a change in our friendships? Here are my thoughts:

1. Everyone has different expectations. It took a really long time for me to adjust to the new normal of parenting. The demands of being the sole caretaker to twins commanded my attention first. I had my own expectations of life as a parent and had to learn to change them all in a second while everyone else continued living at the same pace. My friend’s expectations were I’d still be the same and be able to give as much as I had before. Impossible when you become a mom.

2. Mommy Brain. There is scientific evidence this condition exists! How it works is I walk to the fridge completely set on getting a glass of milk and what I walk away with is the empty coffee pot from the counter. I have zero recollection of how I got to the living room with an empty coffee pot or why I was even in the kitchen in the first place. I wake up Monday morning and I think, “So-and-so’s birthday is next week I should send a card.” Then I wake up in October and think, “I did send her a card right?”

3. Routines and Schedules change. Once you are a parent you live and die by the almighty schedule. There is a schedule for diaper changing, for feeding, for naps and for all the activities you would like to accomplish while nap time takes place. You remember to call your friend to congratulate her on her engagement, or new job just as your head hits the pillow at night. You think, I’ll definitely remember to call tomorrow!

4. Limited Funds. This one doesn’t require much explanation. Once you are paying a mortgage payment for diapers, wipes and formula you get it. Some of us have to live and die by the almighty budget.

5. I used to have conversation skills. I didn’t always talk about the different sizes of bottle nipples and the controversy over vaccines (what childless person even cares?). I also could finish a sentence without stopping abruptly to shout over the chaos you hear happening in the background of our phone conversation. I also miss eye contact while talking to people. Having two kids means I need both eyes on them- one for each kid.

6. Leaving the house has never been such a chore. Before having kids I could get a call and be out the door in 30 seconds or less. Now, I have to analyse if it is worth the risk of a 30 minute screaming meltdown over socks to meet you there. See you there in, oh… 6 hours when my husband gets home.

7. My needs have changed. I have never been a needy person until I became a mom. Now I am so tired and exhausted, frustrated and emotional. If you ask me how is everything I’ll either just fake a smile and say good, or completely crumble and unload. Depends on the day. It isn’t fun riding this roller coaster and asking my friends to take care of me. I’ve always been the strong one taking care of them.

I’m sure there are a few more offenses to add to the list. But, this covers the big ones. Oh and by the way potential new friend, if I seem like I’m just not that into you please don’t take offense. I only appear socially awkward the first time we meet (maybe second). I’m trying hard to look like a put together human who can form sentences and keep my kids from melting down in front of you. But, if you can look past all that and keep your expectations of our relationship  low (really low)  I’m happy to get to know you!


We are just about a week away from the big Thanksgiving Day feast! In my home, my children are diligently working on their centerpiece creations, place cards and anything else they can turn into a turkey. The menus are being printed and the shopping lists created. While food and crafting seems like the main focus around here these days, I am trying everything I can to instill a spirit of gratitude in my boys this year. (not so easy with a 4 & 2 year old!) We have been choosing books about sharing and thanksgiving, talking about what we are thankful for and this weekend we will make these adorable Thankful Turkeys! I am loving the gratitude posts from Discount Diva; Operation Grateful Child and The Whatever Mom; 7 ways to give back with little ones in tow and after talking about it last night, my boys are thrilled to head out this weekend and fill up their shoe boxes for children in need over seas.

This week’s top 10 is all about reducing the stress on the big day.I have rounded up 10 Thanksgiving Day hacks and tricks that might even let you get a quick nap in on Thanksgiving this year.

  1. menusMake a menu! It helps to visualize all of the dishes so you don’t over or under do it. Every year my dad lists every dish posts it right on the kitchen cabinet. The other thing my he does is make a simple schedule in excel that lists how long each dish needs to be cooked, the oven temps, times for prep, cooking, etc. Having it all laid out makes the cooking go much more smoothly and there is never a question of timing or juggling dishes and ovens.
  2. turkey craftLet the Kids play before the big day. Having everyone under foot and in the kitchen Thanksgiving Day can certainly add to the stress of getting everything done on schedule. Stock the kids up on Wednesday with lots of Thanksgiving themed crafts and activities like pumpkin play doh. Start a new tradition with this adorable handprint turkey table runner or let the kids make the decorations like these Thankful Turkeys that create the perfect centerpieces for your Thanksgiving table.
  3. chopped veggiesDid you know that chopped veggies will last days in the fridge? With a great big Thanksgiving feast comes a lot ofthe tedious prep work. Peeling, chopping it doesn’t seem to end on Thanksgiving. Break up some of that work by peeling and chopping the veggies ahead of time. If you put them into zip lock bags labeled with what dishes they go into you are sure to cut your Thanksgiving prep work at least in half!
  4. Wash-Potatoes-in-the-DishwasherHere is another genius time saver! Save a lot of time scrubbing all those potatoes by putting them right in the dishwasher. Just make sure you leave out the soap and run it on a quick rinse only cycle. (another tip: boil the potatoes with the skin on, dunk them into an ice bath and gently rub and the skin will fall right off!)
  5. wine glassesMake perfect biscuits every time by using a wine glass to cut out the dough! Quick, easy and perfect circles. But the best part is, when you are done flip that glass over and fill it up. You deserve it!
  6. cornMaybe I’m the last person to know this, but I thought it was too good not to share here. Is corn on the cob onyour Thanksgiving menu? You can cook a ton of corn at a time by pouring boiling water over the corn in a cooler.
  7. pieEven if you want to keep your pies easy and simple you can fool people into thinking you slaved over yourpiesbypretty-ing up your pie crust edges using a few things you have right in the kitchen. A fork pressed into the dough at an angel creates a neat criss-cross pattern, the edge of a spoon dents in a scalloped edge to the dough or use the edge of the tongs to create a pretty design along the edge. Look around your house and see what you have that will make a neat pattern pressed into the dough. Some cool ideas here!
  8. stuffingDoes everyone in at your table fight over the crispy top of the stuffing? You can create perfectly crisp, individual servings of stuffing by baking it right in muffin tins. Everyone has their own proportioned serving!
  9. turkeyThere is nothing worse than serving a dry turkey on Thanksgiving Day. Don’t letit happen to you with this easy tip! Sticking an opened can of beer into the bird will steam the meat from the inside out creating the most delicious and moist turkey you have ever tried. Drink or pour out about half the beer, fill the can with herbs and garlic and stick it right into the bird!
  10. leftoversOne of my favorite things about Thanksgiving dinner is the leftovers but there are only so many turkey sandwichesIcan eat. Thanks to the internet, it is easy to find a list of recipes to use up those Thanksgiving leftovers! My mouth was watering looking at these photos!

What are your best Thanksgiving Day time saving tips?

I had a totally different topic in mind this week. I really wanted to write about my nostalgia for toys that don’t suck. It’s true that toys these days are just not made to last, most don’t work well to begin with and barely get played with before they are forgotten. BUT then I remembered that this is my problem. If I don’t like the toy, I don’t have to buy it. Am I really doing my kids a favor by buying them all these toys to begin with?

I don’t consider my kids spoiled, but they certainly have a lion’s share of stuff. They get new toys for Christmas and their birthdays and that’s it. Yet they have so much stuff it’s taking over my house. Too often the thrill of opening the present outweighs the desire to possess and play with the toy. I realized that a post complaining about toys designed by manufacturers almost exclusively to piss parents off, while it would be hilarious it wouldn’t be helpful. What I want to teach my kids is gratitude, but it’s not a quick lesson, it’s a lifelong one and it all begins with me. It begins with MY attitude.

It doesn't take more than a simple shoebox filled with little treasures to change a child's life with Operation Christmas Child.

It doesn’t take more than a simple shoebox filled with little treasures to change a child’s life with Operation Christmas Child.

So I decided that along with our church, we would participate in Operation Christmas Child through Samaritan’s Purse. The idea is that you pack a shoebox with small toys and personal hygiene items for needy kids around the world. For some children these will be their very first presents. Can you imagine that? Never having once had the thrill of opening something that was just for you. I cannot imagine my children would be thrilled with soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, socks, and small toys from the dollar store, but there are children for whom these gifts are the very best treasures they could ask for. I took my kids to the dollar store and Hannah picked out items for a little girl – aged 5- 9 and Jay picked out items for a boy aged 5-9. They were told all about the program ahead of time and they were happy to help me. They knew going into the store that we were NOT shopping for ourselves. When we got home they helped pack the boxes.


It’s a small step I think. They are very young and gratitude doesn’t come so easily at 5 and 7. We also took clothing and food donations to our school for their holiday drives. I’m all for lightening the load of my household for others. I know getting my kids involved in charity work is one of the best ways to cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Every small step is one in a lifetime that they’ll take toward the people they will become. I want for my children to be kind, compassionate, grateful and humble. I want them to remember how truly blessed they are, but I realize now that it’s not enough to know you’re blessed, you have to be someone else’s blessing. I am far from a perfect mother, but I hope that one day my children will understand that they are my blessings.


If you’re looking for more ideas on how you can volunteer with your children, check out The Whatever Mom’s Post – Charity Starts At Home- 7 Ways To Give Back With Little Ones In Tow.

Being an aunt is so awesome. I never feel pressure to dress my nieces and nephews perfectly, or feed them organic stuff. Everything I say seems so wise. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve gotten angry or impatient. When they were little it was so easy picking up my little cherubs to play pretend parent for an afternoon. Then, I’d hand them back and go home to sleep for the next 20 hours brainwashed into thinking THIS is why I should have kids!

Some days I feel my upgrade to Mom is a scam. Sleep deprivation. Bodily functions gone awry. The yelling. The screaming. None of it could be real. Could it? What happened to all the cute baby coos and the fun toddler trips to the pumpkin farm? What happened to those doe eyed little pudgy faced kids following me around telling me they want to be my best friend forever?

Ohhhhhh. Those moments only happen in between the butt wiping, disciplining, no sleeping roller coaster ride called parenting. Can you tell this was a rough week at the casa de Whatever Mom? After doling out my millionth time out and reminding my child for the one hundredth time why we DO NOT open the toilet seat with our mouth, I wondered where did this all go wrong? I miss the days I can just hang with a kid and listen to their laugh vs. breaking up their sibling discord. I miss just getting into the car without a one hour go-round about socks. I miss how easy it is being the aunt. The fun one.

So here are my top 10 reasons why being an aunt is easier than being a mom:

Dear Ryan, Jeremy, Ashley, Lillian and Nathan,

Almost the whole gang out for a hike

10. I was always happy to change the one wet diaper you made in our four hours together, because I didn’t just change the last 3,654 wet diapers you made. I’d even squish your cute little tush and giggle over the “toot” you just made.

9. I don’t have to keep track of what foods you eat. You want 10 cheese sticks, 4 donuts and a gallon of blue juice. Sure! I won’t be there to watch your mom huddled in the fetal position pulling her hair out and cursing my name while you ride the “blue demon” back to being her precious little baby.

8. You never ruined any of my stuff with markers or crayons. Ever. Thank you!

My niece Ashley today. We had some good times getting girly!

7. I never had to wash any of your poop off my hands. Again, thank you!

6. It was the 90’s.  Organic wasn’t even a thing yet.

5. Yes was our favorite word! “Can I have a balloon?” YES! “Can I have two chocolate bars?” YES! “Can you buy me that toy with really loud bells and whistles?” YES!

4. You made me look like mom of the year! People used to think you were my kid since we look so much alike and get along so well (possibly because I never said no). Other parents would ask me for tips on how to get their kids to “behave so well?!” There were even parents who wanted to give me money to treat you to a toy because you were the epitome of angelic existence.

My niece Lilly. Oh we've had some serious laughs!

3. I didn’t need coffee to keep up with you. I was a young, spry woman with boundless energy. I carried 3 of you at a time on my back and could still breath after walking several feet.

Me as a first time aunt at the tender age of 20

2. You never spit food at me. Thankfully, you always directed that toward your dad.

1. Any time you publicly drop an F-bomb it is automatically not my fault. It is totally feasible the kids parents said it first.

My nephew Ryan way too cool for me now.


Being a parent is dirty, messy hard work. It is a roller coaster ride with crazy twists and turns you can’t see. It’s more than just see you on the weekends and at birthday parties. It’s deeper. It’s sharing the best and the worst of myself. My lovely nieces and nephews only got the best of me. The cleaned up, well rested and patient part of me. My kids see the whole me. The un-showered, emotional chaotic mess of me. They see my passions and watch me live out my dreams. We are on this journey through life together. Every day.

I don’t love my nieces and nephews any more or any less than my own kids. They were my first kids who showed me how much fun life is. They were the ones that let me believe I could do this parenting thing. Some days I miss how easy it was to have someone else do the dirty work of parenting while I enjoy the best parts of childhood.

As much as I miss the ease of being an aunt, I still wouldn’t trade it for the difficult journey of parenthood. I had to share my nieces and nephews, my kids I can call my own.

Me as an aunt at nearly 40

You are preparing for a big Thanksgiving feast while saving your pennies for holiday shopping this month. When your to-do list each day seems like it is growing before your eyes, dinner is sometimes the furthest thing from your mind. If you are anything like me, dinner is still frozen anyway since my capacity to remember the simple things seem to disappear this time of year. With a little weekly planning, your family can enjoy a fun dinner out without breaking the bank! For this weeks Top 10 Tuesday, I have rounded up the top 10 places that offer free or cheap kids meals in the Hudson Valley. Happy eating!

Click to see a full list of Great Kid- friendly restaurants with kid perks and pricing in the Hudson Valley!

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1. Double O Grill- $2 Tuesdays! Kids meals are only $2 on Tuesdays. Located in Wappingers Falls.

2. Billy Joe’s Ribworks in Newburgh is serving kids meals for only $1.99 on Sundays!

3. Amore Pizzeria- Kids eat Free on Sundays with purchase of adult entree. Pleasant Valley

4. Hurricane Grill and wings. kids eat free Tuesdays, located in Poughkeepsie


5. Perkins. Cupcake the clown comes in to entertain the kids with balloons and face painting on Wednesday nights, from 5-8 kids also eat free. Wappingers Falls

6. Denny’s Restaurants. Kids eat free on Tuesdays from 4-10. Locations in Newburgh & Middletown


7. Bugaboo Creek Steakhouse. Kids eat free Tuesdays in Poughkeepsie

8. IHop, kids eat free Tuesday nights from 4-8 with each paying adult. Locations in Poughkeepsie, Newburgh, Middletown and Mohegan Lake

9. Uno’s Chicago Pizzaria and Grill in Central Valley, kids get a goodie bag full of fun and eat free on Tuesdays.

10. Fireside BBQ & Grill in Salt Point, Tuesdays after 4, kids 12 & under eat free with adult meal purchase

I have done my best to verify with each restaurant but please call ahead to confirm as the promotions may change.

Hudson Valley Parent Dining Out Reviews

We’ve all heard the phrase, “Boys will be boys,” but moms of boys have this knowing look and head nod that goes along with it. That’s because we know what that really means. Boys are a unique breed and trying to raise one or more presents unique challenges to moms because we often can’t understand the boy brain. We’re often stumped and on more than one occasion I’ve asked my husband, “What on Earth makes him act that way?” My son Jayden turns 5 on Sunday and so I dedicate this post to the boy who changed my life. He forced me to see parenting through the boy lens. Since I had a daughter first, I can say that there were many things that caught me off guard about raising a boy and it started in utero.

I met my son on November 9, 2009 and he's kept me on my toes ever since.

Jayden was born on November 9, 2009 and he’s kept me on my toes ever since.

When I first learned I was having a boy, I was terrified. Since I had a girl first I didn’t know just how different it would be to raise a son. Now I’ll be the first to admit that I NEVER had a gender preference. Chalk it up to losing my first pregnancy, but I had only one thought – please let me carry to term and let him or her be healthy. I was unprepared for my husband’s reaction to the news. When we found out Hannah was a girl he shed a single tear and said he was “going to jail one day.” When we found out we were having a boy, he didn’t react at all. This from the man who has been dreaming of having a boy since he was in high school  (I have the 9th grade essay to prove it). I didn’t understand and was mad by his lack of enthusiasm, but this is the very example of the way boy brains work that I can never understand.

Will was so elated he was afraid to even put it into words. Maybe he thought he’d jinx it and my son’s penis would magically transform into a vagina in the womb. Boys just process emotions so differently from girls and this will be the very thing women will read hundreds of articles on later in life because we want to understand how their minds work. I can say with 90 percent certainty that the only way we ever come close to understanding men is to raise one and even then there are plenty of head scratching moments to endure. So here are the top eight ways boys are so very different from girls and why that is totally awesome.

Jay crawled at 4 months and walked at 8. Nothing can stop Jay from moving when he gets going.

Jay crawled at 4 months and walked at 8 months. Nothing can stop Jay from moving when he gets going.

1. Boys Are Injury Magnets – From the time my son started walking which was early at 8 months he was constantly bonking into counter corners or any hard surface really. He taught himself to scoot down the stairs backwards, which terrified onlookers. I can safely say that my son has no fear. Women sometimes see this as a reckless trait in grown men and sometimes it is, but boys see the world through the lens of challenges that they are desperate to overcome. There is no playpen that can hold a boy who is ready to explore the world. My son had stitches before he was two after trying to climb the bathtub wall like Spider Man. He split his chin and never made a peep as the doctor stitched him up. Nobody told him he couldn’t cry, but this brings me to..

2. Boys Guard Their Emotions – My daughter is my mini-me. She will cry when she’s upset, but I have watched my son since toddlerhood blink rapidly and pretend the tears welling up in his eyes are caused by any other reason than he got his feelings hurt. There seems to be something in their brain chemistry that tells boys to keep their feelings under wraps. This may be the reason that moms are the keepers of their sons’ hearts. We can tell by a look on their little faces that they need to expel some trapped emotion. When my father died my brother was 19 and my mother looked into his anguished face and said “it’s ok Matt, just cry.” A mom gives her son the permission to be vulnerable that he desperately needs sometimes.

3. Boys Don’t Get Hung Up On Mistakes – The other night I told my daughter she got something wrong on her homework and she cried hysterically. My son looks at her and says, “It’s ok. Sometimes I make a mistake, but I just try again.” I think this is in large part why men tend to excel in certain areas because they aren’t afraid to be wrong, though they may never admit to actually being wrong (can I get a woot woot ladies?).

Boys like Jay love castles and fortes to protect, mostly from their older siblings.

Boys like Jay love castles and fortes to protect, mostly from their siblings.

4. Boys Feel The Need To Fight ALL The Time – Boys can and will turn any object into a weapon. I’ve watched a group of toddler girls play with a toy ketchup bottle and use it to cook with and I’ve seen boys take the same bottle and pretend to spray hot sauce in each others eyes. I chalk it up to evolution. Boys seem to come equipped with a protector gene. My son constantly reassures me he will protect me from monsters and bears. See number 2 for the other reason they fight all the time. My son has less ability to verbalize his emotions and will often exact his own brand of violent justice on his big sister.

He can be rough at times, but his cuddles are like no other.

He can be rough at times, but he cuddles like no other.

5. Boys LOVE Hard – If you’re the mom of a boy, you may have found yourself saying something like, “hugs shouldn’t hurt.” My son’s hugs are often bone crushing. His capacity for love is just immense. I often have to watch so he doesn’t accidentally hurt his baby sister in his effort to love on her. I am mentally preparing myself for his first breakup. While my daughters will probably cry over their first heartbreaks and move on, I know I need to be vigilant that it doesn’t permanently alter the way my son views love and relationships.

6. Boys Are Preoccupied With The Body – All bodily functions are a source for endless amusement from farts to poop. Just saying the words butt or booty spark laughter. My son was amazed when he learned boobs actually served the purpose of feeding a baby. Maybe it has something to do with their genitals being on the outside. They are constantly readjusting it. Jay often complains, “my pee pee came out of my underwear.” It’s a problem I just can’t relate to. So I simply resign myself to think that maybe I would be preoccupied with my body and it’s functions if I had to worry about my ovaries swinging every which way.

Boys will often put gross things in their mouths. For Jay that means tasting slugs and worms.

Boys will often put gross things in their mouths. For Jay that means tasting slugs and worms.

7. Boys Turn Gross Into An Art Form – If you have a boy, you’ve probably heard some strange things come out of your mouth. Things like, “You CAN’T eat slugs!” or “Poop is NOT for finger-painting.” I have no idea why, but boys think that all things gross are fun. If it grosses someone else out in the process that’s just a bonus. Cleaning up or looking after a boy certainly never gets boring and sharpens your parenting skills, but at least you’ll have a good laugh about it, later like much later after you’ve cleaned the poop off the wall.

Daddy and Jay are two peas in a pod. Having my son made me appreciate my husbands finer qualities all the more because my son shares them.

Daddy and Jay are two peas in a pod. Having my son made me appreciate my husband’s finer qualities all the more because my son shares them.

8. Boys Make You Appreciate Your Husband – I look at my son and I can easily see the boy my husband must have been. They are peas in a pod; easy going, class clowns, brave, funny, and loving. Jayden’s excitement is contagious and when my son and husband get together it’s sure to be a good time. You also appreciate it when you can defer to your husband when it comes time for certain male rites of passage, like learning to pee standing up.

So while I’m a mom of two amazing little girls, having a son has forced me to rethink parenting. Strategies that work for my daughter don’t work for my son. It was harder to teach him as he never wants to sit still and he is a light switch just like my husband, either off or on, but never in between. He’s ready in his own time and nothing can make him budge.

So happy 5th birthday to my amazing son Jayden. Even though I may never fully understand why you do some of the things you do, I will love you forever and a day. And if you happen to see my son doing something crazy, you’ll just have to understand when I smile in a slightly embarrassed but loving way and say, “it’s a boy thing.”

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