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Whether you’ve been sitting as a desk or picking up toys, laundry and children off the floor all day, your back is probably screaming by 5pm. This one move is sure to soothe your tight, overworked back muscles. As a bonus, you’ll strengthen your abs, which helps you avoid serious back problems in the future. Here are some of the many benefits of cat/cow yoga flow:

  • Improves mobility in a stiff spine
  • Strengthens core
  • Relieves lower back pain
  • Lessens hip pain
  • Strengthens the abdominals
  • Encourages baby to move into ideal birth position (for pregnant woman)
  • Strengthens shoulders and arms

Try adding cat/cow sounds to encourage your little ones to join you!


It’s been four years since we’ve gone away for vacation. That’s how many years I’ve been a SAHM. Coincidence? Nope. Dropping down to one-income meant making sacrifices and our annual trip to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina was one of the first things to go. We’ve had fun camping every year, but I’m looking forward to this week when my family and I go to Wildwood Crest, New Jersey. Stay-cations and camping are great alternatives to an expensive vacation, but there are many ways you can cut the cost of going away.

1. Go Off Season – Since we’re headed down to the Jersey Shore at the very end of the season we were able to get a great discount on our hotel. Most hotels have more affordable rates during off peak times.

2. Prepay – We also got a 20% discount on our hotel stay for prepaying before June 1st. Thanks to our tax refund, we were able to send one payment, but we also could have sent installments if we wanted to just as long as our payment was received in full by June 1st.

3. Groupon Shop Your Outings Before You Go – Always check groupon for deals on excursions and resorts. We found a great deal on a water park we want to visit while on vacation just by doing a simple search.

4. Sign Up For Newsletters – Have a hotel or resort you love to stay at? Sign up for their newsletters and get notified of special deals.

5. Bring Your Own Car – If your car or van is in good shape, skip the car rental and bring your own. The car rental is usually the second largest expense after the hotel if you’re driving to your destination. If you have to bring your own vehicle I recommend getting any work done before you hit the road. A few years ago, my family was stuck on the side of the road on our way to Lake George when my husband’s car overheated.

We just finished a TON of work on my mini-van that needed to be done, as well as some routine maintenance like changing the oil, tires, and brake pads. We needed to do the work anyway, but doing it before vacation gives me more confidence in taking my vehicle. We would have spent $500 minimum to rent a mini-van.

6. BYOF (Bring Your Own Food) – Eating out is always expensive on vacation, especially in tourist areas. One thing I’ve learned the hard way is that grocery store prices also vary widely from one area to another so I’ll be hitting up my local Aldi for cheap and easy breakfast items, snacks (which my kids will go through a ton of), and ingredients for easy dinners we can make in our hotel room which has a microwave and stove top. I’m also packing my crock-pot for ready to eat dinners like lasagna after a long tiring day at the beach. Loading the car up with drinks, sandwiches and snacks is also a must for a road trip with small kids. Stopping at rest stops for food is a budget killer.

7. Skip The Souvenirs –  I have a pretty firm rule on not buying souvenirs. I’d rather take lots of photos or have the kids collect shells to remember our family vacation by.

8. Find Low Cost Entertainment – My family and I plan to spend most of our time on the beach, in the hotel pool, or walking along the boardwalk. Beyond our one planned trip to a water park, which is mostly a birthday present for my daughter who turns nine while we’re away, we plan to just play and relax. Limiting paid entertainment is a great way to save money on vacation. Also check your hotel lobby for coupon booklets for local restaurants and attractions.

family, beach

9. Go Away, But Not Far Away – With three small kids and a limited budget we wanted to pick a place that was “away,” but not “far away.” My kids get really antsy on long drives so we decided to head to the Jersey Shore five hours away instead of trying to drive to Myrtle Beach and renting an extra hotel room on the way down and on the way back.

This year there was a gap of three weeks between the end of camp and the start of the new school year. Usually we go on vacation before camp starts and then by the end of the summer we’re all anxious for school to start. I’m so glad that we still have a great week of vacation to look forward to so we can savor these last days of summer with our kids.

What are your favorite ways to save on vacation?

Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama is the author of “So, You’re Broke? 18 Drama-Free Steps To A Richer Life.” She can be found writing for The No Drama Mama and Hudson Valley Parent when she’s not busy caring for her three adorable kiddos. Her work can also be found on The Huffington Post, Money Saving Mom, Mamapedia and Worshipful Living.

Did you ever notice how little kids are like human sponges, taking in the world around them?  Even as infants, they watch us so closely, mirroring our vocal inflections, facial expressions, and moods.  As they get older, kids become little mini mes, taking on the language and persona of parents, grandparents, and siblings. Especially siblings.  I still chuckle when I watch home movies of my kids, and see my younger daughter acting like a little copycat of her big sister.

In essence, we’re our children’s role models.  That’s a huge and exhausting responsibility.  The good news is, whenever you mess up, you can use that as a learning experience (we’re all human!)  As a parent and a homeschool mom, I look for ways to inspire learning in daily life.  It’s not enough just to tell my kids they need to learn; I really believe in the power of enthusiastic learning right along with them.  Whether your kids attend school or are homeschooled, they are so many ways to learn through life.


In my opinion, this is one of the biggest ones.  A love of reading develops when children are surrounded by books from birth.  Read to kids in utero, read to them as babies, snuggle and read to toddlers, read to older kids while in the car, and have family reading time whether kids are young enough to be read to, or old enough to read silently alongside you.  It’s one thing to tell a kid, “Go do your reading,” but another all together to demonstrate a sincere love of reading by sitting and enjoying a book.  Having a book that you read aloud as a family is another awesome activity, and can be made easier by listening to it on CD as you take a trip in the car.

Day Trips

Plan fun, educational trips that involve surrounding the family with new experiences.  Museums, live theater, cool spots in nature like caves and bodies of water, the zoo, concerts in the park, a factory tour, wherever.  Take turns choosing an activity, or even better, create a day trip jar.  Have everyone contribute to a wish list of interesting places they’d like to visit, and write them on little pieces of paper.  Toss them in a jar, and when you’re looking for something to do, pick out a few, and vote.

Tackle Something New

Do a project as a family.  Plant a garden, build a bookshelf, learn a foreign language, take up a new sport, try out knitting, or figure out how to make sushi.  Broaden the learning experience by doing research together- demonstrate how to find useful information online, hit the library, or tap into a knowledgeable friend or relative.  Your local school district or community college may offer continuing education or non-credit courses, which can be fun to take with older kids.

Start a Family Contest

Whether it be getting in shape, who can read the most books, build the highest block tower, hold a yoga position the longest, or memorize song lyrics, any kind of wacky activity can be made into a good-natured contest that encourages bonding as well as learning.

Community Service

Choose a cause, such as a soup kitchen, animal shelter, adopt a Troop, or clothing drive, and find ways to help others as a family.  Amazing people skills and problem solving will develop while figuring out how to gather resources and motivate others to join in, and you’ll be making your community a better place.

Family Game Night

Monopoly, Go Fish, Connect Four, Guess Who, or Life… the actual game doesn’t matter as much as the fun and memories you’ll have from a family game night.  This is a laid-back way to build some mad skills (math, and reading, and memory, oh my!) without leaving home.  Sportsmanship, strategizing, and all kinds of learning will be woven into a simple, low stress activity, and adding new games to the rotation will keep it fresh.


What can I even say here?  More than just the day trip, this is the opportunity to learn about EVERYTHING.  Food, culture, nature, religion, everything.  I’ll admit that I’m not the first to plan an out-of-town trip because I like the comforts of home, but once I’m out in the world with my kids, I relish the fantastic exposure we get to the road not (often) traveled.

Teaching kids to be curious, helpful, adventurous, and open to new experiences becomes second nature once you live that way yourself.  It can require a some planning and courage to embrace such a lifestyle, and energy to make it happen, but it’s well worth it.  It doesn’t have to be costly, or even time consuming, to broaden your child’s experiences.  Share your stories, ideas, and tips with our readers, below.  Happy learning!

At the end of every summer I am left with a big pile of ticket stubs, mini golf score cards, park maps and parking passes from all of our adventures. I hate to throw them away because they make a fun touchstone to all the fun we’ve had. I love to look back at them and remember the stories of each adventure or activity. So how do I preserve our summer mementos and keep things tidy? Here’s how:


photo book 2

At the end of each month I upload our photos to a website with photo storage such as Shutterfly or Snapfish. My photos are stored until I am ready to sit down and order prints, or organize into photo books. I try to create a photo book at the end of every season, or big event. We already have a collection of photo books from my kids’ first birthday, our first family vacation and so on. We love to make a night of looking back when the final book arrives.  If you are not someone who likes to keep your ticket stubs, or park passes you can easily take a photo of them to include in a photo book before tossing.



I like to feel like I have a backup system to our digital memories. I did not grow up with the instant gratification of digital pics and digital storage. We had to wait a week before we could see every blurry shot, or thumb print we captured. Even then we had a negative to hold onto in case we lost any of those printed images. If the Internet crashes tomorrow and my computer melts down, I still have all our memories in hard copy. This also works for a SANS Disk or USB drive.



I have not yet tried this, but there are several apps available that allow you to send photos from your phone to print. For a small monthly fee, the service mails the prints to you and you can then put them into albums or other storage.  GrooveBook sends 100 bound photos in a small book and Recently sends magazine style books to you each month. Prices vary per service. Order your prints before you head home from vacation and have them waiting for you when you arrive.


smash book

This is one I can get behind. I absolutely love the informal and imperfect way to stash our little pieces of summer. It reminds me of the scrap book I kept through high school. I would just tape my ticket stubs, birthday cards, photos and newspaper clippings to a page. And that’s exactly how you make a smash book.

Start by selecting a notebook. It can be as fancy as you’d like, or simple.  Then when you return home from each adventure you tape all your mementos to a page. You can come back later to add photos, doodles, drawings and stories. There is no right or wrong way to do it! Every member of the family can take a turn adding in their own pieces and writing their own memories on the page.

This process is less fussy than creating an intricate scrap book page. Although I think those are super cute, I personally don’t have the time to scrapbook, or shop for supplies.  A smash book is like a journal meets photo album. So easy!

How do you store your summer memories?

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. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest. 

We all have day when we feel overwhelmed before we even get out bed. Work deadlines, school assignments, kids’ schedules, grocery shopping, cleaning–we juggle so many tasks daily, and sometimes the pressure builds up and we blow up, lose our temper, say things we regret, and feel awful afterwards.
To avoid losing your cool, consider listening to this three-minute meditation to set a peaceful, positive intention for your day. Just the act of intending to stay calm and patient goes a long way to help us do that. Combine that with deep, mindful breathing and a withdrawal from the stresses of the world, and you are ready to tackle your day with ease of body and mind.
You can take these three minutes out of your day at any time you need to give yourself a time-out. You will thank yourself later for things you did not say and do out of anger. And your body will reap the benefits of deep breathing and calming thoughts.


It’s that time of year again, well according to the stores it was that time in June. It’s back to school shopping time. It seems like every year the list of supplies gets longer and longer. It can feel like you’re buying enough pencils and notebooks for the entire school. Add backpacks, clothes, and sneakers to the list and you could easily spend several hundred dollars per child. Being the frugal person I am, that’s simply unacceptable to me.

Here are five strategies I use to keep our back to school costs under control.

1. Do A Thorough Inventory – The first order of business to keep clutter at bay and money in our bank account is to take a thorough inventory of what we already have before even thinking of shopping.

This means going through everything in my kids’ closets and dressers. I have them try each item on and inspect for fit and any stains or rips. Anything that doesn’t fit I donate or throw away depending on its condition. Anything ripped or stained gets set aside for play clothes. Now that you can plainly see what usable clothes your kids have, you can start your list of what items your children truly need. This way you don’t waste money on shirts for a child that’s fully stocked on shirts, but needs pants or buy pants for the child that has plenty.

If you’re especially frugal like me, you might already have a stockpile of school supplies as well from sales the previous year. I also go through the items that came back from school with them at the end of the year like scissors and folders that aren’t damaged and cross those off the list. I often stock up on tissues when they are on are sale and I have coupons and put them in the closet for back to school when each child in my district is required to provide three boxes.

2. Don’t Shop All At Once – I know this might sound counter-intuitive. I mean who wants to go to multiple stores when you can just go to one place and be done with it. Well, if you want to take full advantage of the amazing loss leaders (items reduced to a great price to get you in the store to buy more expensive items) from each store I’d suggest doing a little at a time. It also feels more comfortable to spend small amounts over the course of a month than to drop several hundred dollars in a few days. Shopping over time means being more strategic with your time and money.

School Supplies

So far I’ve found some pretty great deals at ShopRite like composition notebooks and 12 packs of pencils for .50 each. My fantastic finds at Staples include three packs of erasers for .25 each and single subject notebooks for .17 each. Since both stores happen to be next to each other, it was easy enough to walk between the two and get only the items with the best prices from each store.

3. Shop Online – I really hate driving to the mall and searching through a dozen stores to find what I’m looking for at a great price. Instead I save some of my shopping for the comfort of my home. I get my kids book bags and shoes online. No worries, they can be returned if there is a problem. You can start your shopping with a free $10 gift card by signing up at Ebates and get a percentage of cash back depending on the store you choose to shop at.

Do a quick search for promotional coupons and use them at check out to save more money. You can also qualify for free shipping if you meet a certain dollar amount or are willing to wait a little longer for your items. Many sites like Amazon and K-mart also have memberships where you get free shipping. Just remember to cancel your trial membership after you use it or you could get charged the yearly fee. K-mart also has Shop Your Way points you can earn on each purchase and they also have coupons on their site you can choose from and apply at checkout.

Sign up for the newsletters of stores you love. Because of special e-mails I’ve been able to take advantage of one-day online sales that save me 15% or more on things I would already need to buy for my kids. Both last year and this year I was able to get two pairs of shoes for my daughter (sneakers and dress shoes) and sneakers for my son for about $40 total thanks to these special e-mails.

4. Buy Used – I’ve been frugal for so long now I actually hate buying new clothes, especially for kids who are bound to outgrow, stain, or rip them fairly quickly. I love to shop at consignment shops and sales. They have a children’s Be Green sale twice a year in Fishkill where I do almost all my clothing shopping for the kids. They have clothes and shoes in great condition, as well as Halloween costumes, coats and snow pants, boots, and special occasion dresses and suits. Between the two sales I can usually get most of my kids’ clothes for $100 per child for the entire year.

You can also take those clothes that are in good condition but don’t fit, which you inventoried already and get store credit at most consignment shops. You can also check for special bag sales and discount days to stretch your clothing budget even further. The Salvation Army in Middletown has family day on Wednesdays and most items are half off. Check for local children’s consignment stores in your area. Like them on Facebook and sign up for their newsletters so you don’t miss their sale days.

5. Buy Off Season – We do buy our kids three new outfits for the first week of school, which always starts on a Wednesday in my district. To make sure we don’t spend too much we check for end of summer clearance sales. Since early September is still pretty hot you can get dresses, shorts and short sleeve shirts for good prices.

I typically buy my kids’ backpacks for the following year in November or Early December and they get them for Christmas. They are usually a great deal. I’ve gotten them as low as $5.

With these strategies in place, you save money on all the supplies and clothes your kids need to start the school year. What are your favorite money-saving strategies?

Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama is the author of “So, You’re Broke? 18 Drama-Free Steps To A Richer Life.” She can be found writing for The No Drama Mama and Hudson Valley Parent when she’s not busy caring for her three adorable kiddos. Her work can also be found on The Huffington Post, Money Saving Mom, Mamapedia and Worshipful Living.

As we’ve gotten into mid-August, it’s kind of hard to deny that planning mode has begun. Even though I could live the summer life forever, school resumes and fall shows up whether I like it or not.   It’s hard to embrace September knowing that the easy, breezy days are done, but I haven’t found a way around that yet.  So, we plan.  As I continue to document our journey, I’ll share a glimpse into what we have in store.  In no particular order:


My little one wants desperately to sew and create, and my older one is going into 7th, which is a time for learning such skills.  After sifting through lots of opportunities, I found that Sew N Vac in Poughkeepsie offers classes for kids.  I found a lot of interest in the homeschool community—kids who are excited to start making projects, and we can’t wait.


We all need it!  We’ll be doing Math Mammoth Algebra for my older daughter, and my little one will use Khan Academy.  It’ll be the first time we’ll use a fully online curriculum, so I’m looking forward to seeing how it goes.  If it ends up not being a great fit, we have Beast Academy in our back pocket as plan B.


Our booklist is my longer than arm, and it’s been fun to put together.  I’m a big fan of perusing the internet for ideas.  For pleasure, my kids read voraciously, and I let them chose whatever they desire.  So that we don’t miss anything, I also assemble a list books from various sources—Newbury medal winners, Library Association, Amazon recommendations, and what school districts put on their reading lists.  They read some independently, others are read aloud, and we always have a book on CD to make car time enjoyable.


Try Googling, “spelling word lists,” and you’ll find more than you could ever use.  I compile a weekly stash of grade-appropriate words from various sources.  In addition, I have a section in my planning notebook for jotting down a word anytime my kids ask me to spell it, or I notice they’ve misspelled it in their writing.  I keep a similar list on my phone, in case I’m away from my notebook.  We review the words throughout the week, using them in our writing and practicing them on a whiteboard, and I find they’ve become great spellers.


We’ve used the Word a Day books every year, and I really love these.  I was sad that they end at 6th grade.  For my 7th grader, we’re using Vocabulary Power.  We also keep a Word a Day calendar in our school area, which is a fun way to acquire new words.  Vocab words go on a white board, and my kids laugh and sometimes roll their eyes as I find a way to weave their weekly words into daily conversation. We might be chatting along and suddenly one of them will catch on and say, “Hey, that’s my vocab word, I know what you’re doing!”  Ha.


Wanting to follow the 7th/8th grade science curriculum in the event that my kids return to public school for high school, I chose Life Science for the year.  CPO has some amazing online materials, and I’ve assembled more than we’ll ever get through—investigation worksheets, a colorful text, spotlight on influential scientists, and lots of experiments.  Science in particular is a subject that can be exponentially enhanced via the internet- there are videos, lessons plans, and activities for any subject, and I tap into these resources frequently.  We also get together with other homeschool families and work on science experiments together, which is lots of fun.

Social Studies

US History II, baby!  Last year we immersed ourselves in learning about the exploration and establishment of the United States.  This year, we’ll pick up just before the Revolutionary War and travel to present time.  Joy Hakim has a great textbook series we’ve enjoyed.  History is another subject that can be bolstered with books and videos found online and at the library, as well as amazing local field trips to visit everywhere from Washington’s Headquarters to historical mansions that feature hands-on Colonial activities.  We are also completing the second half of Road Trip, which covers US geography, to accompany our history studies.

Foreign Language

My older and younger girls wanted to learn Italian and French, respectively.  Our library system offers Mango, and online learning program, and we’ll also be using another, Rocket.  We’ll round that out with many library and online resources to work on pronunciation and exposure.


So much can be acquired online. Typing practice, coding, proficiency in internet research, word processing, working with data, and more.  We do a medley of activities to promote their technological fluency.


Our favorite program, Write Shop, is a hands-on program that takes students through genres of writing, grammar, skill building, and creativity.  We love, love, loved it, and are going into our second year with this program.  I also teach a monthly creative writing class to our homeschool co-op, in which the kids study a variety of topics, work in groups and independently on projects, and present them to the class.

Physical Education

Each of my girls take four hours of dance classes a week, but we also ride bikes, roller blade, walk/hike, play tennis, swim, and play outside with friends.  Over the winter, we’ll try snow-shoeing, and like to spend time outside exploring.


Cooking is a mainstay in our house, and both girls have developed confidence and skills.  We cover food safety, kitchen tool safety, meal planning, nutrition, and healthy eating.  It’s a lot of fun, and when I get to eat a warm chocolate chip muffin made entirely by my eight-year-old, it’s both impressive and delicious!


It’s important to me that art not get forgotten in the busy life of academia.  We keep lots of supplies on hand- paint and  brushes, charcoals, markers, crayons, all kinds of paper, stamps and ink, ribbons, glue, colored duct tape, and craft kits.  In addition, we read about influential artists, view their work online and in books, visit museums to see works in person, and complete projects inspired by the artists or periods of time.  We also work on art together in our co-op class, and the girls take art camps and classes over the summer.


Weekly piano lessons and daily practice make up the bulk of our music lessons, so that the girls learn to read and play music.  We also study influential composers, listen to their work, learn about music theory, history, different types of instruments, and surround ourselves with music even while we study.


Learning about our bodies, keeping healthy, safety (fire/bicycle/environmental), drugs/alcohol, puberty/sex ed, and so many other topics come up every day.  These lessons are continuous, inspired by what is going on in the world around us, and always enhanced with books/videos/field trips.

Library Skills

Sometimes I feel like live at the library.  At our local branch, the staff grab our books off the hold shelf as soon as they see us walk in the door.  We learn about how to use the library system, reference books, the Dewey Decimal system, and so much more.  My older daughter has reached the age where she can begin to help with their Teen planning and do volunteer work for the library.

Shop Class

I’m not sure what it’s called in schools anymore, but around our house, working on home improvement projects is part of our lifestyle.  With supervision, my kids have learned how to use various tools and have helped complete many projects.  They can change batteries, paint, put things together, and are developing some basic skills upon which I hope they’ll build in the future.  No pun intended.

The school year is always filled with field trips, fun times with other kids, and all kinds of unexpected surprises. Both good and bad.  We learn to adapt and adjust, and build resiliency.  Life lessons– hard to quantify on paper, but no less worthwhile than anything I could ever plan.  Share your schooling experiences, ask questions, or comment below. Happy (almost) school year!

Back To SchoolTraditions

The new school year is officially twenty days away from today. I am ready with all of our school supplies, back up supplies, lunch menus and first day of school outfits. Every year I print out a fun little photo prop for my girls to hold while I take their picture in front of their new school. This year they begin elementary school and it feels more official, like I should do something a little bigger. This is after all the beginning of a greater adventure.

I asked around in some of my local moms groups for ideas on back to school, or first day of school traditions. It turns out everyone has something special they repeat every September to celebrate the start of a new school year, including homeschooling families. Here is my round up of back to school traditions.


Start off the day on a hearty note by serving a special breakfast. Maybe save the cereal for day two and serve pancake sundaes, or fruit and scrambled eggs arranged as a smiley face on the plate. It’s a fun way to start off the day and adds a little extra love to your morning before everyone heads out the door.


I leave the kids a special note in their lunch boxes all year, but they only had lunch at preschool two days a week. Perhaps a note a day for the first week will give the kids a little extra boost of confidence during the transition back to the school day demands.


It sounds so cliché to have fresh baked cookies and milk waiting for your child when they get off the bus. But it turns out it’s a very popular practice, at least on the first day of school. Several moms share they make a special cake shaped like a school bus, or cupcakes shaped like apples. In general the popular choice is to celebrate with a special after school treat.


Let the kiddos pick the spot for a special picnic, or a favorite restaurant for dinner. One friend of mine allows her kids to eat ice cream for dinner on the first and last day of the school year.  If serving dessert for dinner is not your thing, perhaps an upside down dinner works. That’s eating dessert first, then dinner.


Some families take a photo every year in the same spot in front of the house, or a special tree. Something they can mark year after year to show how much their child has grown or changed. Maybe take a picture of your child holding a sign with the date, their age and name of school. You could take a last day of school picture in the same outfit to compare the changes.


The night before starting school can make kids feel anxious and maybe a little excited. Reading a special book before bedtime might help ease those feelings. One mom recommends, “The Kissing Hand” which portrays a young raccoon too afraid to go to school because he will miss his mom too much. My kids enjoy this story so much we give Kissing Hands on the regular. Another couple of our favorites: “Are You Ready for Kindergarten Stinky Face?” and “Mrs. Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten.”


For families choosing to homeschool, the hoopla of the back to school rush may feel a bit empty for them. Each family is different and may choose to create traditions of their own, or they may not celebrate it at all. Here is what some local mama’s who homeschool shared:


Several moms shared they celebrate with a special activity, or picnic to mark the transition from the summer routine to the academic routine. They may gather together with several other families for a community picnic or a special party to celebrate.


Spending the day eating their favorite foods, or making a special meal together helps some families observe the new school year.


Since most homeschool families are not locked into a hard start date on the calendar, some families have the chance to take late summer trip to ease into the change of season. One mom says it’s nice to take advantage of the shortage of crowds with school aged children back at school.

Some moms don’t celebrate the new school year at all. They actually miss their kids leaving them each day. I for one am willing to see what all the fuss is about by missing my kids. *wink* I love my girls and I know I will miss them, but they are so excited to start school and begin their journey as big kids. It is my joy in watching their excitement that makes this next milestone one to celebrate.

How do you celebrate the new school year?

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. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest. 

Summer is the time to enjoy the beautiful Hudson Valley with our families. Unfortunately, when we’re camping, hiking, swimming or just hanging out in the backyard, we have to contend with ticks and other insects. If you’re reluctant to use commercial insect-repellent sprays with their harsh chemicals, try this healthy alternative:

  • 4 oz. distilled water
  • 1/2 tsp vegetable glycerin
  • 30 drops geranium or rose geranium essential oil
  • 10 drops tea tree essential oil

Shake vigorously and apply often.

Unlike many other essential oils, geranium oil can be applied directly to the skin (if a rash appears, stop use). Place a drop behind each ear and at the wrist pulse points for extra protection. If using on your dog, put a drop between the shoulder blades and one at the base of the tail.

Enjoy a healthy summer!

Toddlerhood is both a wonderful and somewhat frustrating phase as a parent. I look at my sweet little two-year-old and see the sweet curls and baby face and I’m sad this is the last of the littles. Soon enough all my children will be in school and I’ll miss these little hands in mine. But toddlerhood is also crazy challenging at times, partly because toddlers can’t always express their needs and emotions.

I often find myself saying, “What do you want Syd?” Sydney still resorts to pulling me places and pointing, sometimes ordering me with one word commands to “Sit,” or “Come.” I feel like a dog being trained at times. Sometimes there’s also a big difference between what a toddler says and what they mean. I’m not going to pretend I know what all toddlers want. But if I had a toddler translator, here’s how it would work for Sydney.

“Couch” – To the untrained listener, perhaps you’d think it means she simply wants to sit on the couch. What Sydney actually means is, “I really want to try out that great trampoline over there,” and “You better watch me or I’m going to jump off and land on my head.”

“Carry Baby” – This might sound like a simple request to be carried. What Sydney really means is, “Please carry me for the next sixty seconds at which point I will wiggle like crazy till you put me down.”

“Walk” – This one should be easy. This is what she says when she wants me to stop carrying her and let her walk. Again this only means, “put me down so I can walk for sixty seconds,” then I’m going to insist you “carry baby” again.

Whenever we go anywhere I alternate between carrying her and letting her walk every minute so even a trip out to the car in the driveway takes twice as long as if she picked one or the other.

“Snack” – This means “thanks for this tasty treat which I’m going to spill or spit out of my mouth onto the floor in a minute.” I forgot how much food gets spilled and dropped in the toddler phase.

“Thank You” – Sometimes it’s as sweet as it sounds and sometimes it means “Oh that’s mine, thanks!” as she snatches the treat out of your hand so that you can’t be mad at her.

“Fire” – No, nothing is on fire when she says this. While most kids use the beginning part of pacifier “Paci,” to indicate they want their soother, Syd likes use the ending of the word. When she can’t find it, she sometimes runs around in a slight state of panic saying, “Fire! Fire!” That should be interesting, if someone should hear her in public (hopefully, not in a crowded place).

“Come” – This is what she says while pulling me off my chair at the dinner table or off the couch. It actually means, “You must dance and play with me right now!”

One day soon she’s going to be speaking in full sentences and there will be no question what she wants. I think a part of me will miss these days of toddler speak. This phase isn’t always easy.

I love the commercials for sour patch kids. That’s how I think of toddlers. First they’re sour, then they’re sweet. When you lean in for a kiss from your little one, there’s an equal chance you might get a kiss or a bite. I’ve come to the conclusion that my floor is just going to be covered in crumbs and spills till she’s at least four. This is why my vacuum stays out all the time.

There’s always a toy or spill to clean up, but there are so many moments of pure joy. Even though this age can be difficult to navigate, what “toddler” really means is, “I’m not a baby anymore.” And that, fellow moms, is the hardest translation to grasp.

What are your favorite translations from your toddler?

Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama is the author of “So, You’re Broke? 18 Drama-Free Steps To A Richer Life.” She can be found writing for The No Drama Mama and Hudson Valley Parent when she’s not busy caring for her three adorable kiddos. Her work can also be found on The Huffington Post, Money Saving Mom, Mamapedia and Worshipful Living.

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