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NYE

 

The elves have all packed up and returned to the North Pole. Santa has retired to the Caribbean for a much deserved vacation. So, what’s left for the New Year holiday? As a parent with really little ones you may be wondering the same. Here are some really fun ways to usher in the New Year with your kiddos.

First let me note that if your little one cannot stay up until til midnight because they will turn into Gremlins, that’s OK. You can celebrate the countdown to bed time! (Which isn’t that how most of us get through each day)?

Annual Interview– I love this one! You can find an interview on Pinterest, by searching Google, or make up your own. I like to use the same questions each year to see how the answers change. Include things like who are your favorite friends, favorite foods, colors, activities, etc. Have them sign their names and pack away to read next year.

Family Game Night– put out the snacks, turn off the TV and pull out those board games. Play the hours away until bedtime! Wish each other a happy new year as you tuck in your little ones.

Scavenger Hunt– using index cards, number them 1-10. Hide the cards throughout the house and let the kids find them. Help them count backward from 10 and end the countdown with hugs and kisses.

Count Down with Kisses– when my girls were just babies, I’d give them a countdown of kisses on their chubby little cheeks as I tucked them in at night. They were too little to understand the whole concept of the year change. But, they could understand how much I love them and my affection is free.

Family Movie Night– pull out the videos you’ve taken through the years, or just in 2015. If you can, play them on the TV and relive the highlights of the year. Snuggle in with blankets and popcorn! Create your own list of best family moments in 2015.

Create a Memory Book– pull out your favorite photos from the year and create a fun scrap book. If all your photos are digital create a fun file of your favorites so you can upload to a site to print out, or create a year book using online sites like Shutterfly, Snapfish, etc.

Write a Wish List– your kids have spent the whole year wishing for new things to arrive on Christmas. Why not have them write wishes for the New Year, not for themselves, but for each other? Everyone in the family can write out their wishes on paper and take turns reading them allowed. Seal them in an envelope and mark “Do Not Open Until December 31st 2016.” It will be fun to read everyone’s wishes at the end of the year.

Having little ones to celebrate the New Year holiday with has definitely changed the way we celebrate as a couple. We no longer go out to dinners, and parties, but I wouldn’t change that. Celebrating the count down before bed time and putting the kids to bed at their regular hour gives hubby and me time to be alone and ring in the New Year together. It’s a very low key (and cheap) way for us to spend time together and celebrate as a family.

How do you ring in the New Year with your little ones?

 

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.

Why Do The “Mommy Wars” Exist?

I’ll tell you why. A simple lack of grace. Because of my faith, I’m VERY familiar with this term. I’ll spare you a dictionary definition, but here’s what it means to me. It means trading in our knee jerk reaction of offense for understanding even when it’s believed to be unwarranted.

grace for moms

Grace Online?

I recently read this article on Scary Mommy and found it shared in my Moms group on Facebook as well. Here’s the article. The gist of the post is that the author calls another mom on her Facebook Moms group an A-hole for making a comment she didn’t like. I know a lot of mothers probably read this article, bobbing their heads along to the familiar song of offense. We get so mad at what others say to us, especially when we perceive it as an attack on our parenting.

Check The Temperature

We tend to jump to offense without first checking the temperature of the water. We just dive to the worst case scenario and believe the commentator had the WORST possible motives for what they said. It’s simply because grace is NOT a knee jerk reaction like offense is. It requires practice.

It requires that we take a second or longer to really think about what is being said and why and if we’re unsure it requires us to take it a step further and ask the question. Why do we assume that if someone makes a comment we don’t agree with, it means that person is out to attack us?

Change The Highlight Reel

It’s because we don’t have grace for ourselves. Instead of seeing the best in our own parenting abilities, we sometimes play the bad highlight reel in our heads, replaying all our mistakes over and over again. My friend posted this article to my wall on Facebook. It was much more positive than the post I mentioned earlier. It’s called, “When You Just Want to Quit Being A Mom.” It talks about finding grace for yourself in those REALLY hard moments of parenting. Sometimes it’s not so much forgiveness we need from others, it’s the forgiveness we need to have for ourselves.

Finding The Win In Your Next Parenting Fail

Last week, I had an epic meltdown when my son and I had a battle of wills. It was over a sandwich if you can believe that. My son only ate half his sandwich at lunch and we made a deal that he could save it for later if he understood that he wouldn’t get any other snacks until he finished his sandwich first.

He agreed and then predictably asked for another snack not too much later. When I said, “No” it kicked off at least an hour long tirade in which he told me repeatedly, “You’re so mean. You’re a bad mommy.”

The Internal Struggle

We’ve all been here. When you hear this from your kid it both breaks your heart and makes you mad. They don’t understand that it’s not your job to give them everything they want. It’s not your job just to do what is easiest. Sure, it wouldn’t have been hard to let it go and just give him something else to eat, but here’s the struggle of parenting. I realize that the decisions I make, even the small ones will shape the people my children will become.

I know my husband would look at the same situation and say just give him what he wants. But I know that’s not something that’s going to serve him well later in life. I don’t want him to be a man for whom his word means nothing. I don’t want him to believe he’s privileged and we can afford to throw food in the trash because there is always a steady supply. I want him to grow up to be a good man, an honorable and humble man. I know what you’re thinking, how do all those goals hinge on a sandwich?

These are the minute details of parenting. Seeing how all the little choices we make add up to the people our children will become. It’s REALLY hard not to do what is easiest and sometimes we give in like I did that day. And when he screamed it for probably the tenth time that I was a bad mother I yelled back, “I’m ALWAYS a bad mother.” I gave in. I made him something else to eat. I was not nice about it. I was frustrated and angry, but I was still a good mother. He doesn’t know the internal struggle going on inside me. Neither does anyone else.

When we take offense to something someone tells us, it’s often because we forget that nobody gets to see this internal struggle if we don’t show them. Showing someone else, especially our kids that we are flawed and weak is not something we willingly do.

Listen Closely For Victory

One of my Erinisms (my philosophies) is that failure is loud. We have to be willing to listen for the quiet voice of victory. If we listen closely it’s usually right after we hush the loud voice of failure. When the sandwich debacle was over, my son came downstairs where I was still stewing and threw his arms around me and said, “I forgive you.”

Grace Begets More Grace

I’m not going to lie. I was partly annoyed because it was his refusal to do what he said he would do that kicked off this whole thing. But when he said those words to me, grace kicked in and I hugged him right back and said, “I forgive you too buddy.” His coming to me with forgiveness showed me I was in fact a good mother. I taught him well the power of forgiveness and so I gave it back freely.

The harder part was forgiving myself for my own meltdown. I’m not a perfect mom, not by any stretch of the imagination. I will fail them sometimes. But I have to force myself to listen for those moments of victory. I have to remind myself that they all add up to one “good mom.”

Moms, the reason we need to show each other grace is because we need to practice it with ourselves. Lashing out at those you don’t agree with doesn’t make them the A-hole. Just because they said something that hurt your feelings doesn’t mean they are the enemy. Instead it’s merely a reflection of what we feel inside. The mom from the negative article was at her wits end. She was tired and frustrated and probably already felt like a bad mom for not being able to get her baby to sleep.

When someone said something that seemed to “confirm” her fear she narrowed in and went so far as to try and publicly shame her as she felt this person was doing to her. What does that get her though? Perhaps a little bit of sympathy from strangers? More than likely it will not change how she feels about herself to call another mom an A-hole.

Hurt People Hurt People

When we try to hurt others for hurting us, we do two things. First, we validate our decision to let their words have a power over us that supersedes our own feelings of self-worth. Second, it deprives us of the ability to find grace that would give us peace within ourselves.

Until we can trade offense for grace, we’ll never really know that we’re good moms. The kind of moms who don’t need to be told we’re great by strangers in online forums.

The solution to the “Mommy Wars” my friends is simply finding the grace to not see those mothers in the parenting trenches beside us as enemies, but comrades. The only battle we’re really fighting is the one with ourselves.

Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama can be found blogging at Hudson Valley Parent Magazine and thenodramamama.com when she’s not wiping poop or snot off her otherwise three adorable kiddos. This frugal, “tell it like it is” mama has NO time for drama, so forget your perfect parenting techniques and follow me on Facebook or Twitter for my delightfully imperfect parenting wins and fails.

Whatever you celebrate, it’s a memorable tradition to wake up to a special breakfast, especially one that doesn’t require mom or dad to be stuck in the kitchen.  A few years back, we chose a meal that can be made in advance and enjoyed without fuss on a special morning.  Whether your special morning is Christmas, New Year’s, your little one’s birthday, or just a Sunday, this one is sure to delight.  It’s also easy to tailor to your food needs– whether you need to avoid gluten, dairy, soy, nuts, or you can enjoy it all, there’s a version of this recipe for everyone.

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Monkey Bread

Being gluten free, we turn to this recipe.  It can easily be adapted to be dairy-free, and if you’re not gluten free, there’s a plethora of recipe choices out there. Sometime during the afternoon of Christmas eve, I make a batch of the dough and leave it to rise.  Shortly before dinner, we cut out dough balls, roll them in cinnamon and sugar, and place them in the baking pan to rise. This is the fun part, as what kid doesn’t love dipping sweet dough in sugar?  When it’s risen sufficiently, we pop it into the refrigerator and leave it overnight.  On Christmas morning, I take out the pan soon as we wake up, and preheat the oven.  It cooks while the kids open their presents, and is about ready the time we’re done.  It pairs well with a fruit salad, scrambled eggs or bacon, and is out-of-the-ordinary enough to start the day on a sweet note.

What’re your special holiday morning traditions?  Share them with our readers below.  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 holidays!

 

The Eve Before Christmas

Here it is, the eve of Christmas. Are you all ready? Did you make all your Pinterest crafts and wrap all the gifts? Or, will it be a marathon night of wrapping? Did you send out the perfect holiday cards, or make sure you at least had the perfect family holiday pics taken? If not, then don’t worry. None of these things makes it Christmas.

Every year we worry about ticking off every tradition from our holiday to-do list. There are just certain things that make it feel like Christmas for each of us. For some it’s eating the same foods on Christmas Eve, or attending the same church services with family. To others it’s putting out the same stocking you put out when you were a kid and using the same cookie recipe your mother’s mother did generations ago. Skipping a year of those traditions can make it feel like we’ve missed something. But, in reality open a window to new possibilities.

Growing up we rarely had the same tradition twice. Holidays were hectic because my mom (a single mom) more often than not had to work on Christmas. I always thought when I grow up I’ll have a set list of traditions every year so that we won’t miss a single thing! But, now that I am a parent it’s more fun to make the holidays our own. We do not do the Elf on the Shelf, or create elaborate traditions that require tremendous upkeep. We like things simple and celebrate the gift of being together. It’s too stressful to keep up with what other people have.

Besides, I like the offbeat traditions we have. We like to hang a pickle ornament for each kid to find after all the other gifts are open. It’s the same gift every year, a tall chocolate Santa.

 pickle gift

We like to give joke gifts too, or wrap them in a silly way. This year my girls picked out a box of Star Wars cereal to give their dad. We wrapped the box, then stuffed it inside another box and wrapped that. We continued this for three more boxes! The giant box will be waiting under the tree on Christmas morning, but hubby really has to work hard to get to his marshmallow Yodas.

yoda gift

I can’t wait to hear my girls laughing and watching them make silly memories. To us that’s what Christmas is about. Not having all the perfect decorations, beautiful bows and everything we want under the tree.

So, if you’re feeling like there is something missing this year because you don’t have ______ [fill in the blank], or you didn’t get to do ___________ this year. Maybe it is a good time to introduce something new to the lineup. It’s OK if your holiday doesn’t look like those pictures on Facebook. So, what if you didn’t get to see Santa 13 times this year? You are making your holiday your own, that’s what everyone remembers.

Here it is, the eve of Christmas and your day looks different than everyone else’s. You may not have reindeer food, or an Elf on the Shelf, but you have each other. If you wake up warm in the morning ready to hug your loved ones gathered under one roof, then that is the best tradition of all.

 

Merry Christmas! 

(And Happy Hanukkah! Happy Kwanzaa! Happy Festivus! Happy Holiday!).

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.

Don’t Do As I Do

Sometimes parenting doesn’t work the way you think it will. For instance, sometimes you learn that what your parents did just didn’t work and you have to do the opposite for yourself when you grow up. The lesson is still received, just not in the way you expected.

Hiking

This was me, 20 pounds heavier in June when I first started my weight loss journey.

Weight Is The Symptom

It’s like this when it comes to my mother’s example of health. My mom was an amazing woman and she took really good care of me, but unfortunately she didn’t take such great care of herself. Being overweight was her symptom, but the real problem was that she just didn’t care enough about her health. She always put others before herself.

About six months ago I realized that I was heading down her path and found myself about twenty pounds heavier and totally complacent about it. I knew I would have to do something that was out of character for me if I was going to turn things around. I was going to have to put myself and my health first.

The Things Diabetes Will Steal

My mother spent the better part of my life overweight, but it was the diabetes she acquired because of her poor eating habits that really limited her life. She woke up one day and could barely see. I got a call at work saying the doctor was rushing to get her in to test for a brain tumor. I thought my heart was broken that day. It wasn’t a tumor, but her diabetes that robbed her of 90 percent of her vision.

The last several years of her life were plagued with health problems from wounds on her hands and feet that wouldn’t heal to ultimately kidney failure that took her from me. I spent much of my adult life trying to persuade her to eat better, cut out soda, and get some exercise, but she was also plagued by something – the idea that she could not change. I knew if I didn’t want to follow down her path I was not just going to have to know I could change, I would have to get up and make it happen.

Making It Work Out

The day I joined Planet Fitness was also the day of my family portraits and I felt like someone else in my clothes. I signed up and went that night. That was back in June. I’ve been working out three to four days a week ever since. I also started making better food choices, watching portion sizes or rather figuring out for the first time in my life what they actually are.

What Does Your 60 Year-Old Self Say?

When I started losing weight, people wanted to know my secret. Even now twenty pounds down, people seem to lean in as I tell them how I did it, wanting me to tout a specific diet pill or drink. Unfortunately I’m here to tell you that there is no magic pill. Only the hard truth that you must put your health first.

You must make time to work out. It’s not about being a certain size or weight, it’s about being healthy for years to come. It’s about making sure your 60 year-old self is not only still alive, but healthy enough to play with your grandchildren.

Not Being Ruled By The Scale

My weight still fluctuates by a couple of pounds and Lord knows the holidays aren’t helping much, but tonight I’ll head out to the gym when the baby goes down for the night and my husband will get my older two to bed. It’s the only time that is really just mine. I’m not going to lie. I love getting in the car all alone. I love putting on my music and sweating out the stress for awhile. It wasn’t always easy.

Beyond seeing the numbers on the scale go down, I had to learn to love watching the numbers on the weights go up, as well as the number of minutes of cardio I could endure. I’m watching my strength grow and that has to be more important than the scale.

Be Prepared To Run The Race

I’m running an invisible race against the future of sickness I watched my mother endure. Maybe for you it’s heart disease or some other ailment. I’m running from my nature to put others first and myself last. It’s easy to fall back into old eating habits. It’s easy to skip the gym when I’m tired or it’s raining and I just don’t feel like it. But that’s when 60 year-old Erin yells at me to get off my butt and go. If she is going to exist at all, 35 year old Erin NEEDS to get to the gym and to eat better.

I lost 20 pounds between June and October by watching what I eat and going to the gym at night 3-4 times a week.

I lost 20 pounds between June and October by watching what I eat and going to the gym 3-4 times a week.

Weight Loss is a Byproduct of Change

Here’s the secret to my 20 pound weight loss. I believed I could change and I worked my butt off to make it happen. I didn’t drink a magic potion. I tracked calories on loseit.com and in the process learned to check serving sizes and learned to swap out ingredients for healthier choices. I asked for help finding healthy recipes and was referred to skinnytaste.com which has been awesome.

I don’t let slip ups freak me out, I just hit the gym or do better tomorrow. Being healthy is not just something you are, it’s something you continually strive for. It’s the marathon of life and you’ve gotta keep going no matter what your pace happens to be. The secret to being healthy is simply wanting to be in it and not watching from the sidelines.

The Endgame Isn’t A Number; It’s A Future

The real trick is to understand that you can’t do it for a dress size or a number on a scale. You have to do it because you know that today is not the end game, tomorrow is and you want to be there to see it.

Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama can be found blogging at Hudson Valley Parent Magazine and thenodramamama.com when she’s not wiping poop or snot off her otherwise three adorable kiddos. This frugal, “tell it like it is” mama has NO time for drama, so forget your perfect parenting techniques and follow me on Facebook or Twitter for my delightfully imperfect parenting wins and fails.

 

 

 

 

 

Cookie time is a fun time of year.  Most cookie bakers have their collections of recipes and anxiously anticipate baking season.  Some people make their tried-and-true recipes each year, while others enjoy mixing in a new variety.  If you’re gluten free or baking for someone who is, here are a few recipes to add to your collection.

The Chocolate Chip

In recipe sharing, I always start with the classic chocolate chip.  While it’s not a traditional holiday cookie in my opinion, every gluten free baker needs this recipe in the box. I promise, no one will know it’s not made with regular flour.  Replace some of the chocolate chips with red and green M&Ms and these cookies will brighten up your cookie platter.

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The Peanut Butter Blossom

I have a feeling that Santa would not come without the presence of these cookies; that’s how synonymous they are with Christmas in our house. Chocolate and peanut butter speak for themselves, and everyone will be glad to see them among your cookies!

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 The Man (Gingerbread, that is)

Here’s a traditional (and quite tasty) cookie recipe.  We always have fun rolling out and munching on little Gingerbread men during the holiday season.  Pair him up with some hot cocoa, sit and gaze at the tree, and winter break will be delightful.

The Pretty Sugar Cookie

I’ll admit, I was always intimidated by cookies that required use of cookie cutters.  It takes a certain level of skill to roll them out to just the right thickness, transfer them without them breaking, and decorate them just right.  Gluten free dough can be even trickier to work with, and really requires just the right recipe.  Fortunately, this one is great. The two most important tips- keep the dough refrigerated, and (rice) flour your parchment paper well before rolling out and cutting dough.

The Pignoli

As a child, I remember eating (and loving) pignoli cookies from an Italian bakery in the Bronx.  I’d always been curious about making this cookie, but never liked the idea of starting with canned almond paste.  This recipe is from one of my favorite cookbooks, and begins simply with turning almond flour into a homemade almond paste.  We  made a batch, and they were an instant hit. They’re a classic Italian Christmas cookie, sure to delight the crowd.

The Candy Cane

This one will be new to our repertoire this year, and my kids can’t wait to make them.  It comes from my other favorite recipe site, and looks pretty easy.  I think the splash of color will be a fun addition to our cookie platter.

The Spritz

I grew up looking forward to my Grandma’s spritz cookies in her many tins each Christmas.  They’re hands-down one of my all-time favorites. However, I stopped making them once we were gluten free since the dough can be kind of tricky.  I saw this recipe from a trusted source, and the photo of the cookies had me sold. I’m even investing in a cookie press. Can you tell I’m excited?

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We begin our baking this weekend, and I’m excited for recipes both old and new. If you have some family favorites, please share them 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 baking!

DIY Magic Reindeer Food

Have you ever heard of magic reindeer food? Last year we were given a packet from Santa during one of the Christmas events we attended. My kids couldn’t wait to sprinkle it outside for the reindeer on Christmas Eve! Just like that a new tradition was born! Now, we let the girls sneak outside in their pajamas to sprinkle the magic reindeer food on our lawn. This is supposed to help Santa and his reindeer find our home.

This is so super easy to make that anyone can make it! Get your toddlers in there to help mix it up! All you need is a few simple ingredients you probably already have a bowl and a spoon (or mix in a jar and shake). 

Ingredients:

1 Canister of Rolled oats

1 canister of your favorite color glitter

1 canister of “star dust” or translucent glitter

Packaging materials (glass mason jar, plastic baggies, or other clear container)

how to make reindeer food

First, we added silver glitter to the bottom of the jar.

DIY Magic Reindeer Food

Next, we scooped in our rolled oats. (Use the dollar store kind. Save the non-GMO, organic, gluten free, EXPENSIVE oats for breakfast!).

DIY Magic Reindeer Food

Then we topped the oats with our next layer of glitter AND our dash of star dust! The translucent or “clear” glitter really adds an extra sparkle. And calling it star dust makes it sound more magical. Let your children pour in as much glitter as they think this recipe needs. You can never have too much glitter! If anyone tells you differently, well… you just don’t need that kind of negativity in your life.

DIY Magic Reindeer Food

Put the top on and shake! You can decorate your jar and tie a bow at the top!

DIY Magic Reindeer Food in jar

After we made a jar for ourselves the girls decided we needed to make some little packets to hand out to their friends at school. So, we mixed our next batch in a big bowl and scooped 2 TBSP of the magic food into our clear treat bags. I used tape to seal them (not a fan of staples for little kids). Then we added a festive little poem instructing how to use. I found these free labels at Always The Holidays.

DIY Magic Reindeer Food

How easy is that?! If you want to make a more animal friendly recipe you can use colored sugar crystals and Christmas shaped mini candies. The glitter really creates a sparkling effect and it washes away in the rain. It gives kids a feeling of magic!

Have you ever made Magic Reindeer Food with your kiddos before?

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.

Right before I got married my aunt and grandmother (both notorious neat freaks) were coming for a visit. I took the day off of work to scrub the house from top to bottom. Two years later I went down to South Carolina to visit them with my eight month old daughter. My aunt asked if there was any way I could keep the baby from throwing food on the floor at dinner. I just looked at her and said, “you got a tarp?”

Excuse The Mess

I won’t be one of those bloggers who posts pictures of my perfect house. Nope, this is pretty much the state of my living room all the time. Did I mention I no longer like the idea of throw pillows. Why did it never occur to me my kids would LOVE throwing them on the floor EVERY SINGLE Day.

Repetitive Stress Disorder

The moral of the story is our ideas about cleanliness before kids and after kids can be vastly different. If you stop by my house on any given day it will probably be a mess. I have three kids and repetitive stress disorder from picking up the same toys and clothes off the floor all day EVERY SINGLE DAY. It’s like I’m caught in the movie Groundhog Day, forced to relive the same drudgery of cleaning up after little people hell bent on putting it back into their own chaotic “order” mere seconds after my cleaning marathon is over.

No Cleaning OCD For Me

This is real life people. Living is messy. Children are messy. I’m not one of those bloggers that’s going to tell you how to clean and organize any room in five minutes per day. Half the time I want to throw up my hands and say, “Ok, I give up. This is what the house is going to look like till all three have left the nest.” Save a few days per year, I do not have cleaning OCD. I know some people do and if you’re one asking for forgiveness for a mess when it’s hospital grade clean I’ll totally give you a pass.

Cereal Confetti

For every other mom with small kids, and even teens let’s just agree to put away the phrase, “Excuse the mess.” If someone is showing up to my house unannounced chances are they are a friend that already knows I have three kids and hence it should be assumed the house is not going to be pristine. There will in all likelihood be a fresh layer of cereal on the floor because my toddler just loves to “eat” it all over which is code for throwing it like confetti.

Scavenger Hunt Anyone?

She also likes to pick things up all over the house and deposit them in unexpected places like a scavenger hunt no one agreed to play. My older two simply think all communal space like the kitchen island is the appropriate place to deposit all school work, miscellaneous toys they are “cleaning up,” random candy and other bits unidentifiable junk.

So Moms, if you’re in the housecleaning trenches with kids I get you. You don’t have to say, “Excuse the mess” EVER again. I know the frustration and futility of trying to keep the chaos manageable. I know that a hundred times a day one or more family member will ask you where something is and you’ll want to scream.

Company’s Coming Tornado

Oh sure, if we know company is coming we clean like a tornado and God help any spouse or child that gets caught in our path. But why do we try so hard to impress each other? Why are we embarrassed by our reality? We have kids. It should be universally understood and forgiveness for the state of chaos in our households is unnecessary. If you’ve got toys on the floor, that’s to be expected, clothes near but not in the hamper I join you in a solidarity eye roll.

Lego Landmines

The truth is, when your house looks AMAZING and you say this phrase, it makes the rest of us feel lousy and if you’re me you may even question the sanity of the person saying it. And if your house is a mess, there’s no need to say it. You’ve got kids. If I’m coming to your house I already know. I’ve already decided that I’m going for the company and not the cleanliness. Don’t worry about that toy landmine, I’ve learned to spot a Lego or spiky warrior toy from a hundred paces away.

8 Tips To Win The Unwinnable War

If someone is coming to your house that would make you feel bad about the state of life going on at any given moment under your roof, it’s time to rethink inviting them over. I’ll give you my tips for keeping your house clean.

1. Don’t buy anything in cream color or white. Yeah, I’ve made this mistake in about a half-dozen ways in my house.

2. Don’t buy new furniture until your kids leave for college and then you can send those worn out couches with them.

3. Don’t keep ANY pens, pencils or markers in your house.

4. Keep all toys safely at the toy store where they can’t clutter up your house.

5. Place laundry baskets and garbage cans at intervals of every six inches of square living space.

6. Get rolls of that paper they use at kid-friendly restaurants and cover your tables and dining room/kitchen floors with it to catch ALL the food that doesn’t make it into mouths or into the garbage cans you so carefully placed at 6 inch intervals throughout the house.

7. Invest in good non-spill cups and bowls, then go ahead and chuck your child’s beverage and food of choice directly on the floor because they don’t seem to do the only job they were created for.

8. Last, but most importantly, don’t have kids cause no matter what steps you take they’re going to mess up your house. Oh, it’s too late for that?

Well just embrace them then. You can fight the good fight against the mess, but love your kids in the messy, fun chaos of their lives. They won’t remember that your house was perfect. One day your house will be clean and quiet, but you’ll be nostalgic for the laughter and the mess. Be honest, how often do you say, “Please excuse the mess” when someone comes over? I hope one day in Mom solidarity we’ll never have to say it again.

Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama can be found blogging at Hudson Valley Parent Magazine when she’s not wiping poop or snot off her otherwise three adorable kiddos. This frugal, “tell it like it is” mama has NO time for drama, so forget your perfect parenting techniques and follow me on Facebook or Twitter for my delightfully imperfect parenting wins and fails.

As someone who has to follow a special diet, I can tell you that attending get-togethers this time of a year is a challenge.  Yes, I’m absolutely happy to see each and every friend and family, and it’s about the company, not the food. That said, most gatherings focus heavily on food, and usually fall during meal time.  We’re a culture that gathers around food.  It’s what we do, it’s what we’ve always done.  So, now what?

If you’re hosting a holiday get together, the kindest thing to do is offer some neutral and safe foods.  It’s not your responsibility to cater to each and every food allergy and need, but it’s easy to include everyone with a little planning.  How?

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Fruits and vegetables

These are typically a safe go-to for everyone, whether your crowd is trying to eat healthy or needing to avoid gluten, dairy, nuts, dairy, or soy.  If you include any kind of dip, keep it far enough from the crudité that it doesn’t travel around, and know what it contains in case your guests inquire.  A green salad is another good choice, and many salad dressings are clearly marked for allergens.

Cheese and crackers

Cheese!  Yum.  Sadly, though, it’s often served on a platter with crackers.  If your guests can’t eat the crackers, they may not be able to eat cheese off the same plate.   A separate plate is always appreciated.  And if you want to go the extra mile, allergen friendly crackers are sold everywhere these days.

Chip and Dip

A few options here- hummus, guacamole, vegetable dips (if making from a mix, check ingredients so that you can advise your guests), bean dips.  Some people love the layered cheese, bean, and vegetable dips; these are often safe unless you have a guest avoiding dairy.  Many mainstream chips and tortilla chips are marked gluten free, just keep track of which bowl is which.

Main and Side Dishes

These are usually tricky to navigate, second only to dessert.  Pasta and anything breaded is off-limits to gluten free guests.  If you’re looking to provide something safe, a grilled meat or vegetable is great, as well as rice or potatoes.  Be careful for marinades such as soy sauce and teriyaki, which often contain wheat or soy.  If you want to include a neutral dish, there an unending number of recipes online.  If you want to go so far as a gluten free pasta dish, for example, make sure you clean your strainer well before using.

Dessert

Quite honestly, this is when your friend with allergies is most likely to be sitting out. Most every dessert involves some kind of dairy or wheat.  A fruit platter is again a great option.  If you’re wanting to accommodate your friends with allergies, you have many ways to go.  The simplest is to pick up a package of safe cookies or muffins.  Brands such as Udi’s and Enjoy Life are free of most allergens.  If you feel like venturing further, there are mixes and even fairly easy recipes out there.  If you are going to bake, a few things to keep in mind… pans and utensils must be well-cleaned before using so that flour residue doesn’t remain.  Cover cookie sheets with parchment paper.  Don’t cool allergen-free cookies on the same cooling racks as your regular cookies.  Don’t flour pans (this sounds obvious, but people forget!).  While missing dessert isn’t going to make or break your guest, being included in the festivities means more than you can imagine.

With a little forethought, each of your guests will go home feeling special and included.  You don’t have to add stress to your to-do list in order to do so.

Share your allergen friendly entertaining ideas 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!

DIY COOKIE PLATE FOR SANTA

I don’t know about you, but every year around Christmas I experience delusions of grandeur. I think, “THIS is the year everything will sparkle, and glisten and drip with Christmas cheer!!” But, then I run out of time and I realize if we want clean clothes and food to eat I need to scale back a bit on the expectations. I always end up with a pared down version of what I originally want. And, that’s OK. Sparkle and tinsel aren’t what make our holiday’s shine bright.

What makes everything bright is our excitement for our special traditions. I didn’t have many Christmas traditions growing up. But, the one thing I love to do is set out a plate of cookies and milk for Santa. I don’t know which is more exciting to leave the cookies out, or to see he has actually taken a bite! (Yes, I know I’m the one taking a bite of the cookies don’t ruin the magic for the kids!).

I found this mug and sectioned platter on clearance for less than $10

I found this mug and sectioned platter on clearance for less than $10

I have this really grand idea of turning a plain white plate into a spectacular looking cookie tray with a matching mug personalized just for my kids. I get excited just thinking about their joy using this plate year after year! Turns out I don’t need to start from scratch. I can simply buy a cute plate and personalize it! Let me introduce you to the Sharpie oil paint marker. If you haven’t tried these yet- YOU WILL WANT TO! You can write on glossy ceramic finishes and glass.

This ceramic dish already has a hand painted look to it.

This ceramic dish already has a hand painted look to it.

Thank you Michael’s for your 60% clearance sale and coupons!! I went into Michael’s quickly to just pick up the Sharpie paint markers, but then I found plates and mugs just waiting for someone to embellish them. That someone is ME!!

I thought this mug coordinated well with the plate!

I thought this mug coordinated well with the plate!

Here’s the end product! I painted snow flakes and dots to coordinate the mug with the cup. I added my kids names so every year Santa will know his cookies and carrot sticks are from them. *wink*

With just a few small embellishments you have a very personalized and coordinated look!

With just a few small embellishments you have a very personalized and coordinated look!

For around $20 and five minutes of time I checked off one of my holiday craft projects! Creating something my kids can look forward to unpacking year after year is priceless!

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.

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