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I sit at my table profoundly humbled and heartbroken. We tell ourselves that we aren’t rich, but that’s a lie. It’s a first world problem to always be told by the media that we aren’t rich because we are bombarded with images of the super rich. Yet, in a global context, most Americans are rich, even if we don’t see it that way. I won’t lie, this week every month money gets super tight and we have to watch EVERY penny. I count how many meats I have in the freezer to make it till pay day, but the truth is I have NEVER wondered where my next meal was coming from. The epidemic of hunger is closer than you think. In fact, it’s knocking on your door asking if your daughter can come out to play.

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You know that there are people who struggle with hunger, but you don’t expect it to be the girl at your front door, asking your daughter to play.


When Finding Friends Is A Matter of Survival

I’m blessed to live in a neighborhood full of kids in school with my own, but I didn’t feel blessed when one particular girl started coming around SO often that I had to send her away during home work time or meal times. I tried to set boundaries, but she kept coming back and now that I know why it makes me sick to my stomach. Last night, she came over very close to dinner time and when I asked her if she had to get home to have dinner with her family she confessed that she doesn’t have dinner at home most nights. Her mother tells her to find a family to invite her to dinner. I can’t EVEN fathom being a ten-year-old girl forced to figure out how she would eat dinner EVERY single day.

Desperation For Dinner

After having a conversation with another family in the neighborhood, my husband and I found out that this is a known problem and other families pitch in to feed this child. At dinner last night, my husband and I both wanted another helping of chicken, but when I asked her what her mom and dad would eat tonight and she said, “probably nothing” my husband and I decided to wrap up our leftovers and take them over. Her mom was thankful and I’m glad, but I also wanted to shake this woman and scream at her. I want to know WHY she would let it get to this point. My motherly instincts CAN’T reconcile waiting till there is literally NOTHING in the house to feed your child. I CAN’T understand how you aren’t on the phone with food banks before the cupboard and fridge are ENTIRELY empty. I CAN’T understand how you send a child alone at night to figure out how to get their own dinner. I’m APPALLED and SICKENED, but I TRY TO REMEMBER that I HAVE NEVER felt that kind of desperation.

Hunger Is NOT A Concept; It’s A Person

When my kids tell me they’re hungry, I get frustrated because I know they just had a snack 15 minutes ago. When they throw out half eaten apples I tell them there are kids in the world who are REALLY hungry who would NOT be wasting their food. I know they don’t really get it. I silently tell myself when they are old enough I’ll take them to a food pantry or soup kitchen to show them. But instead, hunger came to my door. This little girl lit up, “REALLY?” she smiled when we asked her if she wanted to stay for dinner. I have no reference for hunger except the small pangs that come between meals. I don’t feel that desperation gnawing at my insides, scratching at my belly, clouding my thoughts and crowding out any sounds outside that growl. It’s NOT enough to be saddened by a sad story.

 

Rich People Problems

My husband and I are Christians and we are called to be God’s hands and feet. We are called to be the hope and blessing for others. I realize that I often say I am blessed, but inside I feel sorrow during our meager times of the month. I feel desperate and selfish because I CHOSE to give up an income so I could stay home with our kids, effectively putting all the financial burden on my husband’s shoulders. We do without new clothes from the mall in favor of consignment shops. We shop at Aldi, or with coupons to keep our grocery budget down. We pray fervently that our used cars will pass inspection and give us at least one more year before we need to buy new used ones. I realize NOW, these are ACTUALLY rich people problems.

We have not one, but two cars. We have clothes, food and a roof over our heads. We also NEVER wonder when the next paycheck is coming in so that we might afford food for our kids. I’m BLESSED enough to have been ENTIRELY sheltered from the epidemic of hunger. It’s not something you think about just at Thanksgiving, right before you dive into a table laden with goodies. It’s the every day struggle for some families and they aren’t just in some third world country; it’s around the corner in YOUR neighborhood.

My husband and I collected a few items from our pantry and bought some food at Wal-Mart for our neighbors in need.

My husband and I collected a few items from our pantry and bought some food at Wal-Mart for our neighbors in need. We also printed out a list of local food pantries for them.

Be The Blessing

Last night, I thought we were struggling because there was only a hundred dollars in our bank account till Friday. Some months it’s a lot less than that we squeak by on. BUT by broke I mean I have to borrow from our savings or in ABSOLUTE emergencies use a credit card to bridge the gap. BUT then I REALIZED that there are those who LIVE in that GAP. I REALIZED just what it means to be BLESSED; it means having ENOUGH to be focused only on ourselves. So I packed a few things from our poorly stocked cabinets and my husband drove to Wal-Mart to buy groceries for this girl’s family. He dropped them off with her grateful mother this morning. It’s NOT ENOUGH to simply say or know you are BLESSED, you NEED to prove that you know it by being the blessing for someone else.

Some people have advised us to look away. Some have warned us that we will be taken advantage of. BUT here’s what I know – we SHOULD LOVE a child enough to want to help her, MORE than we want to PUNISH parents that maybe aren’t being responsible. I should mention here that we have heard rumors of drug abuse in the home as well. We AREN’T SAINTS for feeding a child one meal, or delivering a meal or groceries to her family. I don’t think we DESERVE praise or recognition simply for doing what’s RIGHT. They are RIGHT; it’s NOT my PROBLEM to solve, but I’ll be DAMNED if I don’t see it as my profound PRIVILEGE to help.

You can help people struggling with hunger too. Find out how your workplace, neighborhood, church or service organization can host a food drive for the Food Bank of The Hudson Valley. If you know a church or nonprofit organization that feeds the hungry, I encourage you to support them as well.

I used to cook and bake all.the.time.  Looking back at the early days of my blog, I was churning out homecooked meals and freshly baked bread and rolls three meals a day.  How did I do it?  I’m not really sure… I had a preschooler and toddler… where was I finding the time to both cook and document it?

Fast forward to five years later… I’m still cooking as often as possible, trying to keep our diet full of fresh, whole foods, but between full days of homeschooling and afterschool/evening activities an average of five days a week, I’m lucky my socks match.  I still blog, but my time to do so is always short and infrequent.  As I pick out our meals, I look for quicker, streamlined recipes with fewer steps and ingredients than I used to.  It’s just how life is right now.

On the flip side… relying on store bought shortcuts gets expensive, and processed ingredients can creep onto your plate.  I was making pulled chicken the other night and wanted to serve it with rolls.  At $5 for four rolls, buying them seemed like a waste, so I googled a few recipes. For less than the price of one package, I knew I could make almost two dozen rolls.  But which recipe?  There were some great ones but they required making starters first, rolling out dough, and other steps for which I knew I wouldn’t have time during our busy afternoon.  Finally, I stumbled upon one that looked simple but appealing.  I decided to give it a go, and by the end of the evening, we’d fallen in love.  Score!

Rolls-1

Easy Gluten Free Dinner Rolls

I found the recipe on My Gluten Free Kitchen’s blog.  Instructions were pretty clear cut, requiring a quick whisk of ingredients in the mixer, three minutes of mixing after adding wet ingredients, scooping and shaping them right into a round pan, an hour rise, and a 30 min bake.  No rolling and cutting dough, a short list of ingredients, and minimal shaping.  I did two consecutive batches, wanting to make enough tor lunch, dinner, and a few leftover for the next day’s breakfast.  I was delighted that they shaped easily, rose beautifully, and filled the kitchen with a fresh-baked bread smell. They were heavenly right out of the oven, and I warmed them again before serving them for dinner.  My husband asked if I could make them again for the next night, so I considered that a very good sign.  These are highly recommended!

Rolls-2

Share your favorite quick recipes below.  To see what’s happening in our kitchen, or to share what’s going on in yours, please stop by, or become a fan on Facebook.  Happy baking!

The Fall weather is finally upon us and I couldn’t be happier! The mild temperature makes it easier to enjoy the outdoors. Each day we find something new and fun to do after preschool- from lunch at the park, to play dates and even painting and drawing outside.

Painting pumpkins

A very generous neighbor invited us over to pick pumpkins from her garden. The girls were excited to see pumpkins small enough for their tiny hands to carry. Since it is too early to carve pumpkins we agree painting is the next best option. We also added some glitter and sequins because when you are four everything needs a sprinkle of fabulous!

We live in a rather quiet neighborhood so sitting in our back yard is peaceful. We can hear the birds chirping and the breeze rustling through the trees. Plus, the tall oaks lend themselves to a relaxing shady back drop. We used our non-toxic water soluble paints and I just let the kids go to town. I love to move our paint sessions outside because: 1. less mess inside my house and 2. painting outdoors feels more inspiring!

We were so inspired by our outdoor art session that the next day we gathered up our pastels and craypas (a crayon pastel mix) with our sketch books and hit the outdoors once more. This time we sat under our favorite mighty oak and just drew what we saw, or imagined. These are my favorite artsy moments- when the kids can create their own projects. I love creating projects for us to do together, but when the girls are inspired to completely create from their own imagination- well, nothing is better than that!

Kids using pastels

Using pastels outside

Getting our kids outside to draw or paint not  only allows them to enjoy each season, but it helps make a connection to nature and to find beauty in their own back yard.

If you are worried about the kids making a mess with paint, glitter, glue or other crafty materials take it outside! Use non-toxic, water soluble art supplies and let Mother Nature take care of the rest!

Darla Neugebauer, owner of Marcy’s Diner in Portland, Maine made headlines after yelling at a two year old who was crying in her establishment.

Image found at http://www.sourcefed.com                                                                                   Darla Neugebauer, owner of Marcy’s Diner in Portland, Maine made headlines after yelling at a two-year-old who was crying in her establishment.

 

Marcy’s Diner in Main became famous in July of this year, not for its amazing food, but for its owner who unapologetically yelled at a two-year-old for excessively crying. The owner claimed the parents didn’t do enough to calm the child and the parents claim that the food took an extraordinary amount of time to get to the table. The owner claimed that as a local dining establishment, it’s known to the community that she has a small grill and full pancakes take a long time to prepare and the parents shouldn’t have ordered so much food for a small child. I remember discussing the incident with women in my mom’s group on Facebook. The absolute best part of that conversation was one woman’s remark – “You NEVER go FULL pancakes. Everyone knows that!” I think I may have peed myself just a little when I read that.

Some took the side of the Diner owner and some agreed with the parents, but I happen to think that dining out with kids takes an effort from both parents and restaurant owners. I’ve been taking my kids out to eat since they were babies. I’ve had other patrons stop by my table on their way out and exclaim, “When we saw you come in with that baby, we were a bit worried, but she never made a peep.” Do I have super kids with supernatural powers to calm themselves and behave in public places? Um, that would be a big HECK NO.” Here are 4 tips I figured out along the way to make dining out a SANE experience for my family, as well as other patrons.

1. Start Young – Don’t wait till your child is four and then expect them to understand the concept of dining out, i.e. that more manners and an inside voice are required and that people must remain at their tables till they’re ready to leave. If you teach them at a young age what the expectations are when they dine out with the family, it’ll be easier to reinforce them. Of course you also need to keep the next tip in mind too.

2. Know Your Kid’s Limits – If your baby has colic, it’s probably best to keep them home till it’s passed lest their crying jag occur during dinner. If your toddler has a really hard time sitting still for long periods of time it might be best to hit a buffet instead of a fancy sit down restaurant. Buffets are awesome because there is no waiting, which leads to a LOT less boredom. Bored and hungry kids make for a REALLY unpleasant dining experience. I would also recommend taking them out a bit before their typical dinner time so they aren’t starving and so it won’t be passed their bedtime by the time the meal is over because dining out is a much more lengthy process then eating at home.

child at restaurant

I’ve always found it helpful to take my child out of restaurants to calm down if they are misbehaving and reinforce what behavior is expected while dining out. Once they are calmer, I bring them back inside.

3. Bring Them Outside During A Meltdown – It’s going to happen, just as surely as puke, poop and trips to the ER. Having kids means learning how to deal with very public meltdowns. When Hannah was a baby, we didn’t follow tip 2 and took her out to the Melting Pot. If you’ve ever been to this fondue place, you know you’re looking at a three-hour experience MINIMUM. We were on vacation and I just figured she’d fall asleep, which she did BUT not before a tired tantrum. I took her outside to nurse her without all the distractions of the restaurant. My husband kept coming out to see if I was done because I was missing dinner. I shooed him away till he got the point that I would return only when she was asleep. It took maybe 15 minutes max. I much preferred to wait outside rather than deal with the stress of trying to calm an overly tired baby with people around us getting annoyed. I’ve also taken her out of restaurants as a toddler during tantrums. When she calmed down, we went back inside. If you teach them early that it’s NOT OK to scream and carry on in a restaurant, it’ll be much easier when they get older.

I’ve seen parents get so worked up at their kids’ behavior at the table that they are actually louder and more distracting trying to correct their kids’ behavior than their kids were. So don’t stress parents; take a breather instead. Get some fresh air with your kids until they settle down. It’s not the end of the world if you miss some time at the table. The parents of the toddler at the diner in Maine claimed it was raining so they couldn’t take her outside. Well, there’s always the car. Should the world be understanding about normal kid behavior? ABSOLUTELY. Should the world be forced to listen to your kid carrying on in public for an excessive amount of time? No.

4. Feed Them First
– I always have the waiter/waitress bring the kids’ food out first. Sure, there’s more fidgeting at the end of the meal when they’re done, but that’s when it’s easiest to bribe them with dessert for good behavior (even if dessert is at home). Again I say, buffets are great for families with small kids because there is no wait time and everyone can eat together.

It’s great to find kid-friendly restaurants with changing tables in the restrooms, play areas or crayons and activity books, and a more relaxed atmosphere where other patrons know it’s a family restaurant, but we as parents still need to teach our kids that dining out is a privilege, not a right. With the exception of my toddler throwing her food on the floor during dinnertime at home, my kids are expected to sit and eat without toys on the table, without throwing food, yelling, and they are expected to make a good effort at eating what’s on their plate, whether it’s their favorite meal or not. If you have similar rules for dinning at home, it’ll make dinning out so much easier. Now if I could just get my older kids to consistently use their utensils instead of their fingers that would be something, but that’s for a different post.

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Wedding

When Your Love Tank Is Low

This morning started with a fight about money, but to be fair it started brewing yesterday. It’s probably the thing my husband and I fight most about, though to be perfectly honest we don’t fight all that often. I think there are resentments, fears and misunderstandings you need to voice in order to move forward. In a marriage, you have two people who have agreed to create a life together and it’s our individuality that sometimes gets in the way. When our love tank is nearing empty or completely dry, we get caught in the prison of our own feelings. “You made me feel this way.” “You are doing this wrong and I can’t tolerate it.” We tend to forget completely about the “we” created when you said, “I Do.” There are so many blessings that can quickly turn to pitfalls if you fail to put your marriage first. Marriage isn’t a sprint to get down the alter, it’s a Spartan race and you need to train every day or you won’t be prepared to go the distance.

It Could ALWAYS Be You

I’ll never forget talking to a woman whose husband was unfaithful and wanted to leave her and their family. It was heartbreaking. I told her, “If you still love him, you fight for him.” We’re taught that if someone hurts you, it’s the “right thing” to walk away and not to forgive and rebuild. Let’s face it, we live in a disposable world and some people view marriage the same way. I’m not judging anyone who is or has gone through a divorce, I’m simply suggesting that it should be the very last card you have to play. I prayed for her and her family for months and it bothered me so much more than it probably should have. It wasn’t my marriage after all, but I think it bothered me because I knew it could have been. No this is not a confession. My husband NEVER cheated on me, but every marriage goes through trials you think will break you and you come to the question of fighting for it or not. With my background, I knew trials were just part of life.

This Ain’t No Cake Walk

When my mother-in-law passed away just two months before our wedding, I just knew that marriage wasn’t going to be a cake walk, especially when you have to decide from the very beginning whether to go through with a celebration while still nursing your grief. I can say after going through the death of three parents together, a miscarriage, loss of a business and financial strain that I can see how easy it is to want to give up. The key is to use those times to pull you together instead of push you apart. Our natural tendency, at least mine, is to isolate. BUT the BEST part of marriage is that you are NEVER alone. I married my best friend and the WORST part about fighting with him is that I can’t talk to him about it. We do our best never to let it linger too long and we move forward together. If you want to go the distance avoid these are four common pitfalls.

1.Putting The Kids First – Ever since the day they were born it seems only natural to make sure they have every single thing they need. While your kids should be a priority, I’m saying they shouldn’t be your first one and I’ll tell you why. So many end up sending their kids out into the world at the age of 18 only to discover that they’ve spent all their energy on being parents and they don’t even know how to be married anymore. Your kids are always watching you and they are building their love map based on how they see you and your spouse treat each other. If you don’t make your marriage a priority they won’t have a clear understanding of how to work together with their spouse to overcome obstacles, and going the distance means they can expect many of them.

2. Not Having Sex – You might protest that you don’t have time, are too tired, too busy, don’t feel attractive right now and it’s just not that important anyway. Just imagine going months without hearing, “I love you.” I think that would be awful. You might laugh, but I think sex is marriage superglue. It forms an instant connection to your spouse. I can always tell if my husband and I are getting on each others nerves it’s time to do the deed ASAP. We get caught up in the utilitarian aspects of marriage; what the other person brings to the table. Did they take out the trash, pay the electric bill, or take the car in for repairs? Marriage isn’t a service industry though. It’s not about you each pulling your weight. It’s about making a choice to live life together. It’s also making sure your partner’s love tank isn’t empty. When it is, unfortunately that’s when people start looking for unpleasant ways to get a fill up.

 

3. Being A Fair Weather Fan – We all know someone who roots passionately for “their team” when they’re doing good, but the second they lose a game or they’re out of the playoffs it’s “that team sucks!” You need to be your spouse’s biggest fan at their WORST. I’m talking, “I wracked up some serious credit card debt, lost my job, kissed a co-worker” kind of WORST. People will let you down sometimes and you and your spouse are not immune. This is where choice comes in. You may not WANT to love them at their worst, but this is where you must CHOOSE to love them. Love is not this wishy washy hallmark card; it’s a Spartan race with hazard warnings. I will tell you this- there will come a day for all of us where you will find yourself thinking, “Should I stay or should I go?” If you dig deep, grit your teeth and get in the race, you will find your marriage stronger at the other end and more prepared to deal with anything life throws at you. Forgiveness is also a choice; not an easy one, but one necessary for a long and happy marriage. It should come with repentance though; trust needs to be restored in order to move forward.

4. Not Fighting Fair – I will admit that I don’t always fight fair. I get completely wrapped up in my own emotions and say things like, “Well, you don’t care about us because you did this.” I know I need to stop seeing my spouse’s choices as some grand if then statement. If you do this then you love me and if you don’t do that then you don’t. I forget that although I know him so well, that doesn’t mean I can speak for him in these one sided pre-arguments in my head. There is no completely right or completely wrong in any situation. You’ve gotta be willing to listen (really listen not just waiting for your turn to defend your point). The goal is not to WIN the battle only to LOSE the war. You should never use tactics like name calling or bringing up things that have previously been forgiven. If forgiving is hard, then the leaving the past in the past is even harder.

There are some days when the stress of life gets so bad and you vent on your spouse because they are your safe place. It happens. This is where sincere apology comes in. There will also be fights where you could repeat them verbatim from the last time. BUT here’s what I KNOW. I have loved my husband EVERY SINGLE SECOND from the moment we met 16 years ago. I have LOVED him EVEN WHEN I HATED HIM. When there is LOVE, true knock down and get back up, LOVE you fight for it. At the end of the day, there is no fairy tale just the story of your lives and you have to REMEMBER that you’re writing it together.

My kids (all kids) are snack monsters.  If left to their own devices, I think they’d eat snack every seven minutes.  Even before we were gluten free, I was never one to rely on packaged snacks.  It was always more rewarding to put together a little something special that would give the kids energy for the morning.  It took all of my older daughter’s Kindergarten year for me to decipher her request for “fire chips” that she saw in the classroom (turned out to be the individually-sized bags of Doritos with a picture of a flame on the front).

However… even in the face of best intentions, we don’t always have the time for extensive homemade snacks.  Making slices of banana bread and a batch of granola bars has been on my to-do list for weeks now, but I have yet to get to it. Sometimes, you need a quick but healthy snack.

Decorated Bananas

Decorated Bananas

A sliced banana, sprinkled with cinnamon (or cinnamon-sugar), unsweetened coconut flakes, and raisins or craisins is a snack that often satisfies my kids.  This can be prepared completely by your child- even one as young as two years old can use a butter knife with supervision, and be instructed to make slices.  You could even send it to school with your child, to be assembled so it’s fresh… a small paper plate and plastic knife, banana, and little container of cinnamon, coconut, and raisins.  Put together in mere seconds, it beats a snack filled with preservatives and food dye.

As my kids said after eating snack earlier this morning… “Delicious, filling, good for you, and healthy! A guilt-free snack.”  Can’t argue with that.

Share your favorite quick, kid-friendly snacks.  To see what’s happening in our kitchen, or to share what’s going on in yours, please stop by, or become a fan on Facebook.  I hope your family has settled into their back-to-school routine and enjoying the approach of Fall.

Reader Question

So excited to get a reader question! “Where do you find inspiration for your kid’s activities? Do you homeschool?”

To answer, no I do not officially homeschool. We do find a lot of enriching and educational activities to do in our home (and beyond). I began introducing these types of activities to my girls as a way to fill our day. They are almost five now and enjoy guiding the planning process. They definitely have some firm opinions on how things should go around here. I think kids are naturally curious, so I like to find things to get curious about with them.

Where do I find my inspiration? I think Pinterest has a lot to offer.  However, I don’t always have time to pin projects and then shop for supplies. (I usually forget about all those pins once I log out). I sometimes get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of choices. I often find inspiration for projects at our library, or in books we already have at home. I try to notice what my kids like about each book we read, which ones are they gravitating toward and what are some of the themes they enjoy. Then I try to connect those themes with another activity like a craft, or a cooking project, an experiment or drawing from imagination.

Grandpa and Me Pizza

Around the time the girls were two and a half they discovered a book at the library about making pizza with grandpa. I thought, “why not make our own?!” That is how our Friday night pizza tradition began! I have such warm memories of being in the kitchen with my mother, I thought this would be a great way for us to connect and make memories too. (It is also a great way to sneak in some extra veggies under the radar. The secret is in the sauce!). Now our pizza nights include a family movie night, or girls spa night when hubby is working late. Who knew one little book could inspire so much!?

So, that’s my secret formula for finding our activities. My kids interests are my inspiration! I add in a touch of creativity and sometimes something more structured from Pinterest. But, most of all I am inspired by fun!

Where do you find inspiration for fun crafts and activities to do with the kids?

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

While having a conversation with a friend this week we had a random discussion about “baby arm.” Baby arm is when moms have one arm that is clearly stronger from constantly holding a baby/toddler. It launched a mini-discussion about all the things I had no idea I could do one-handed before I had kids. I asked other moms, “What things have you done with a baby in your arm?” Moms are amazing multi-taskers and this list proves it. In no particular order here are the top 15 answers.

Sydney loves when I do squats with her on my shoulders, especially when I do it in front of my hall mirror, which creates a game of Peek-a-boo with herself.

Sydney loves when I do squats with her on my shoulders, especially when I do it in front of my hall mirror, which creates a game of Peek-a-boo with herself.

 

1. Cooked – Ok, don’t call CPS and don’t tell me you haven’t done it. It’s either hold the baby or have cold cereal for dinner some nights, especially when they hit that fun separation anxiety phase. I always thrust the hip with the baby away from the stove and stir away. I’ve also used the baby carrier as well to get dinner made when I need both hands.

2 Used The Bathroom – Ok this one is just as awkward as you can imagine, but it can be done. It requires even the slightest movement to be super calculated. Put baby on hip, unzip pants with one hand, scoot pants down a little, shift baby to other side and so on till pants and underwear are down, holding baby awkwardly to the side while you go to the bathroom and then repeat process in reverse for pulling pants up. There was a weird situation where I didn’t have shoes on the baby’s feet and no stroller while at the doctor’s office and when you gotta go, you gotta go. They say necessity is the mother of invention. I say Motherhood creates the necessity to invent.

3. Wash Your Hands – This one involves a similarly awkward process of shifting baby from one hip to other while you wash each hand separately. I think there’s a semi-squat position involved when soaping up hands together, then balancing baby on hip holding the baby with one arm around them and then moving to the other side.

4. Cart Luggage Through An Airport – When Hannah was almost two we went to South Carolina by plane. As if carting luggage through the airport without kids doesn’t suck enough, try it with kids. As a toddler she wanted to walk but could only go at a snail’s pace which isn’t conducive to the hustle and bustle of a busy airport. So I sat Hannah on top of my rolling luggage, holding her on with my free hand and rolled her to our gate. I got two kinds of looks from people – “You Are CRAZY!” and “YOU GO GIRL! Why didn’t I think of that?”. I think I had her straddling the handle, holding her back while she was facing forward.

5. Help Your Other Kids – Having a baby doesn’t mean your other kids will stop needing you to do things for them. So moms learn to improvise and do a lot of things while holding the baby like brush your child’s hair, help them find clothes, read them a story, made them a sandwich, etc.

6. Eat – With the exception of cutting meat, eating while holding a baby isn’t that hard. Getting everything on the plate and not the floor while the baby tries to steal from your plate is another story.

Doing squats while holding your baby is good for you and fun for them.

Doing squats while holding your baby is good for you and fun for them.

7. Exercise – Sometimes exercise is only possible while holding the baby and let’s be real it can be quite fun too. Baby squats anyone? I also like putting the baby on my legs to do crunches. Sometimes I put her on my shoulders and do squats and she thinks it’s hysterical, especially when I do it in front of my hall mirror so she dips below the mirror and then pops up to see herself once again.

8. Feed/Walk A Dog – I don’t have a dog, so I thanks to the ladies in my mom’s group on Facebook for suggesting this one. I can imagine the struggle of getting the dog to go one way while balancing a squirmy baby on your hip. I’m sure a baby carrier is the way to go on this one.

9 Blow Dry Hair – I can imagine this gets quite tricky, especially if your baby is like mine and hates loud sounds like hand dryers in public restrooms and the vacuum.

10. Open A Bottle Of Soda – I’m not even sure how you twist a cap off of anything while holding a baby, unless you’re using a baby carrier. I’ve been assured it can be done, but the degree of difficulty puts this one in the Mom-Olympian category.

11. Laundry – Laundry stops for no one. In my house it’s a daily battle and so is getting anything done without Sydney crying to be held. Don’t you just love the separation anxiety phase?

12. Grocery Shop – Pushing the cart with one hand is no easy feat, yet I think we’ve all done it at least once. I had all three kids with me and no baby carrier when Sydney held a melt down that could only be calmed by holding her. Needless to say, it took about three times longer to get through the store that day.

13. Clip Coupons – I haven’t personally done this one, but I can totally picture doing it (with some safety scissors of course).

14. Check Messages/Surf  The Internet – Who hasn’t done this one? Do we even get time to check our e-mail or surf the web without a child absolutely NEEDING something at that moment? Sure, there are nap times and bedtimes during which you sprint through the house trying to get everything else done that you can’t while the baby/toddler is awake. Trying to type with a baby in between your arms is especially tough, because the keyboard seems like the perfect thing to mash with their little hands.

15. Cleaning The House – Mopping, sweeping, and unloading the dishwasher are just some of the things moms learn how to do with our one free hand. The next time your husband looks at you and says, “You want me to cook AND watch the kids?” forward him this post so he can see all the things you quite literally balance all at once.

Moms are some of the most talented multi-taskers I’ve ever seen. We can do it all, though sometimes I feel like I have a serious case of dementia when I’m doing SO MANY things at once. Where did I put that item? There’s laundry half folded when I remember I have to take meat out of the freezer for dinner, unload the dishwasher and check my e-mail simultaneously. So Moms let me just say, “You Seriously Rock!” You put that baby on your hip and carry on like the soldiers you are. Just remember to switch sides once in a while or you’ll end up with a serious case of baby arm.

I shared this recipe years ago, but it’s time to share it again given early weekday mornings, or busy evenings.  A crockpot pancake cooks itself with minimal preparation, and is the perfect opportunity to sneak in some fruit to start your day.  With the ability to use either a pancake mix or your own recipe, you can customize this exactly how your family likes it. This is even one that’s easy for kids to assemble.

Crockpot Pancake

Crockpot Pancake

The recipe comes from Make it Fast, Cook it Slow, the first cookbook of the crockpot genius behind the site A Year of Slow Cooking.   The crockpot directions state you can use a 18 oz. pancake mix (and the corresponding ingredients it would require, such as eggs, oil, milk) or your own ingredients.  I had a recipe for gluten-free pancakes, so I doubled it, assuming that would be about the right amount.  I’ll share the recipe here, or feel free to use a mix or your favorite recipe.  Of course, this can be gluten-free, dairy-free, or neither, depending on your needs.  The beauty of this one was that it literally cooked itself, and I was free to go on my merry way.  I found a similar recipe online, for the non-gluten free folks.

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 ½ c. flour or pancake mix (brown rice flour works if you’re gluten-free)
  • 2 T. baking powder
  • ½ c. oil
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 4 T. sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp, xanthan gum (omit if using regular flour)
  • 1 tsp, vanilla
  • 2 c. milk (dairy-free, if you desire)
  • 1 c. blueberries (I added this; you can swap in another fruit for sure)

This is the doubled recipe- halve it if you’re just using it to make pancakes.  Combine, mixing well.  Pour into greased crockpot.  Cook on high for two hours.  Edges will be slightly browned, and middle will be firm. Do not overcook.

To see what’s happening in our kitchen, or to share what’s going on in yours, please stop by, or become a fan on Facebook.  Happy (gluten-free) cooking!

One of my fondest childhood memories is taking a Sunday drive with my family. Our drives usually took us a few towns over and we could experience the sights and sounds of what was happening there. It wasn’t worldly travel, but it was a great way for me as a kid to see that life existed outside of my small rural community; and we could choose our own adventures!

After a crazy busy summer we wanted a low key family day. While everyone was heading off to the Hooley on the Hudson my family and I hopped in the car to take a Sunday drive! We found ourselves heading toward Rhinebeck in Dutchess County. The leaves are still bright green against a background of crisp blue sky with white wispy clouds. It’s the stuff day dreams are made of.

Our leisurely scenic route lead us to Papa’s Big Batch Smoke House, a roadside food truck in Red Hook. I have heard from friends about this tiny Air Stream trailer next to a barn serving really amazing BBQ.  It is the perfect place to stop for lunch!

Papas Best Batch Smoke House

Papas Best Batch Smoke House

No lines. No search for parking. No big loud TVs and crowded decor to distract my kids. We ate our lunch seated at a picnic table under a weeping willow tree surrounded by stunning landscape.

Our view!

Our view!

Here’s what we ate:

An appetizer of Smoked Deviled eggs. I was hesitant at first, but so glad I tried!

Smoked Deviled eggs $4.00

Smoked Deviled eggs $4.00

Brisket Sandwich with coleslaw $9.00. Worth every penny!

Brisket Sandwich with coleslaw $9.00. Worth every penny!

Pesto chicken salad with coleslaw $8.00. Homemade iced tea $2.00 with free refills.

Pesto chicken salad with coleslaw $8.00. Homemade iced tea $2.00 with free refills.

My kids loved their sandwiches. Although a little confused as to why there are raisins on a sandwich they did eat it all!

Organic peanut butter and honey with golden raisins. $4.00

Organic peanut butter and honey with golden raisins. $4.00 (add juice pouch for $2.00 each).

We could not pass up dessert! Butter scotch coconut magic bars (family fave) and banana cocoa balls. $2.00 each and the portions are pretty big!

Banana cocoa balls. Oats, pecans, chocolate chips and bananas!

Banana cocoa balls. Oats, pecans, chocolate chips and bananas!

The folks at Papas Best Batch put a lot of love into their food and give back a lot of love to Mother Earth. Their garbage station is divided into sections for recycling, composting (all their utensils and plates are compostable) and trash. A great roadside local business to support with your local, hard earned family dollars! They are open Wednesday thru Sunday 12-5 p.m. A perfect place for play dates, a lunch date with your mate, or dinner with another family. The wide open space allows room for kids to roam and run while parents relax and finish their meal. It’s quiet enough for babies to nap in their stroller. Make sure you bring your bubbles, hula hoops and art supplies!

After lunch we made our way to a nearby school with several different play grounds. The kids enjoyed running and climbing and we enjoyed sitting under a shady tree. It was a low key day off the beaten path! We are so happy to find this hidden little gem!

What are some of your favorite road side food stands in the Hudson Valley?

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.

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