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Easy Easter Basket Ideas

It’s that time of year where everyone wants to know what’s in everyone else’s Easter basket. Moms wonder if they are giving enough, or too much, and what items are age appropriate. Some families celebrate with big gifts and some celebrate with just a few chocolate eggs. However you decide to celebrate is totally up to you!

When I was a little kid, my three siblings and I each received our own baskets. They were usually stocked with the same candies year after year. But that’s OK because we knew what to look forward to every year. We could count on each of us getting our own coveted Cadbury egg. By the time we were teenagers my mom focused on one family basket instead of four individual baskets. I think it was easier for her, but I also think she just wanted in on the candy haul without having to bargain with each of us for it. She filled one giant basket with all our favorite candies and no gifts. She also added in real eggs that had been dyed, and individual loaves of Italian Easter bread made from scratch. If you have not had Italian Easter bread Google it now and get to baking! Or find a bakery near you that makes them! So delicious!

For my kids, we have done something different every year. We usually include “gifts” in their baskets simply because kids never stop needing things. We use this as a great excuse to include whatever items they need at the moment, like a new pair of spring pajamas, swim gear, art supplies and rain gear. The kids think it’s the most amazing thing ever that the Easter Bunny knew they were running out of underwear. I didn’t say these were all extravagant gifts, but gifts none-the-less.

This year they have all the swim suits and underwear they need. So what’s next? Well, this Easter season has us smack dab in the middle of a new lifestyle challenge in our house. We are working hard to eliminate as much unnecessary plastic and packaging as we can. And let’s face it, every holiday comes prepackaged these days. I had to really think about this to find something new the girls will find exciting!

Here is what will be in our Easter baskets this year:

Rain boots- my kids are coincidentally in need of new rubber rain boots. These are something we need as we simply cannot pass up a good puddle to jump around in.

Chocolates- I know real original. But, we buy from a local store where we can get individual favorites packaged together in a recyclable paper box, and chocolate bunnies in a paper bag. Due to food allergies we can’t have Cadbury eggs in our house. But that means we get spoiled with some really good chocolate!

Gift Cards- This is my new favorite item to give for every holiday! So much less packaging and nothing left to clutter up my house! It’s also like prepaying for our fun! We are adding gift cards to the local ice cream shop, Target, museum passes, even our favorite salon. Yes, I said salon. Kids need hair cuts and it’s like a fun day out for us girls!

T-shirts- not just any t-shirts! We bought the T-shirts from their favorite bounce place which will give us $4 off every return trip. You bundle that with a gift card to the ice cream shop and you have a really fun day out!

Summer shoes- They have also outgrown their summer shoes. Even though it is practical and it’s something I would have bought them anyway, I am turning it into a gifting opportunity. Also, I got them on a really great clearance sale last year. Ha!

Other fun things we’ve included in the past:

  • New umbrella decorated with their favorite character
  • Art supplies
  • Garden tools with matching apron and gloves
  • Bubbles and sidewalk chalk
  • Beach towels
  • Bikes (only because we got them free with credit card points and they arrived two days before Easter)
  • Bike helmets
  • Beach toys
  • Books
  • Swim suit and goggles
  • Summer pajamas

Now I know, most people eschew actual gift giving at Easter. However, I’ve never been one to really care what other people do with their money or holidays. I just try to stay in my own lane. So, whether throwing some candy in a basket and leaving on the kitchen table is more your thing, or hand stitching bunny costumes for every member of your family, no one here will be judging. Or nosing around your basket sneaking Cadbury eggs.

What’s in your Easter basket?

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. 

 

 

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So far we have had a dreary couple of days of crazy winter weather. The temps have been up and down. We have had rain, snow, sleet and ice. It doesn’t feel like a really colorful time of year. Thankfully February brings some fun colorful activities into our world.  We do a lot to celebrate Valentine’s Day at home, like making gifts for our friends, but we often overlook President’s Day. It isn’t as sweet as Valentine’s Day so I am always stuck on fun things to do with my kids. This year I’m feeling (a little) more prepared.

My kids are in school and I am sure their teachers are doing a fantastic job teaching them about our country’s presidents and what it means to be the president of the United States of America. Maybe your kids aren’t in school just yet, or maybe you homeschool, or you simply want a few fun things to do on your extra day off with the kids. So here are some fun things to do!

5 fun activities to celebrate President’s Day:

Exercise your right to vote. Let your kids vote on breakfast. Pick two breakfast foods and hand out ballots to cast their votes.  Anyone who is eating breakfast gets a vote and the most popular vote wins. It is a quick and easy activity, but it gives young kids a taste of the election process. (Pun totally intended).

Help your child imagine a better world. Ask your kids to write down their answers to this question, “If I were President I would …” Not only will it be fun to hear their answers, but this can help kids imagine the good things they can do in this world.

Take a trip to the library. I know this is my go-to answer for everything. If we are bored we head to the library. But that’s because there is so much to learn and do there! If your child is old enough to read check out a couple of age appropriate books that describe the presidential process or a biography on a specific president. Check the library calendar there may even be some fun President’s Day themed activities happening right there.

Always stop for a snack. Anything you can think of that can represent the red, white and blue of the American flag is easiest. For example: a berry and yogurt parfait, or a bagel with cream cheese and fresh berries. If you are feeling ambitious make some cupcakes together, use white frosting with blue and red sprinkles. I like to use whatever we have on hand. Pull out some ingredients and let your kids get creative.

Show them the money. Take out any cash you have on hand and Google some facts about the president you see. My kids love when we get to ask the phone some questions. It is pretty amazing to me that we can speak a question into this little piece of technology and have answers in seconds. When I was the same age as my kids I’d have to walk across town, enter a building, pull open a drawer in the card catalog and find directions to a book hidden somewhere on a shelf. That was like half a day! Kids today … they don’t know how good they have it.

I like to keep things simple, yet celebratory. This isn’t one of those holidays you need to go completely elaborate with. Choosing any of these activities adds just a little fun and acknowledges the day.

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. 

This week my husband decided that we should do an impromptu trip to New York City to see the Christmas lights and the tree at Rockefeller Center before they are taken down for the season. Since we didn’t get a chance to see any lights this year and because a trip to the big city is always an adventure, I said, “Let’s do it!”

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Hannah and Jayden playing at the playground in Central Park in                     New York City.

New Yorkers Get A Bad Rap

First, let me start by saying that New Yorkers in general get a bad rap. It’s not that we’re rude; we’re just busy and the city is the prime example. I think the term “hustle and bustle” must have been coined by someone living in NYC. I’ve never seen little old ladies with walkers move faster than me before.

We met some pretty nice people too. Not one, but two people offered up their seats on a crowded subway for me and my toddler who was cranky from being confined to her stroller most of the day. One lady overheard my remark about “looking like we just walked in a big circle” and immediately offered to give us directions.

It was super crowded the day before New Year’s Eve. At one point while walking past some of the amazing light displays my family was caught in a human traffic jam.

Personal Space Panic Attack

I had to do breathing exercises to keep from panicking at all the people who were in my personal space. Then someone in a Mickey Mouse costume appeared in the crowd and I had to laugh, because this type of thing never happens in the Hudson Valley.

Our trips to NYC are always full of surprises and it is fun because you never know what will happen next, but here are five times I was reminded just how glad I am to be living in the Hudson Valley.

1. The Food Prices – Okay so we were in Manhattan and I get that it’s going to be expensive, but I almost choked when the lunch we got at a hot dog cart by Bryant Park almost required that we take out a second mortgage. I’m exaggerating, but not by much. Four hotdogs and what passes for chicken on a stick for $27, without drinks, was so crazy I almost left running for Grand Central.

hot-chocolate

The most expensive hot chocolate I’ve ever had at $4.50 a cup.

Other highlights include the $4.50 a piece cups of hot cocoa that left a lot of chocolate to be desired. We did luck out for dinner and found a $1 a slice pizza joint, which almost made up for our pricey lunch. But my aching feet would have killed for just a place to sit down and eat. Not only is NYC the city that never sleeps, it’s also the city that never sits.
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2. The Fresh Air – There were quite a few moments I had to literally hold my breath. I’m not sure if it was sewer, garbage or just the sheer volume of people, but I was gasping for fresh air. It was definitely a little shocking to this country girl. Unless you’re driving past a farm, you never have to think twice about breathing deep the fresh sweet air in the Hudson Valley.

3. Space – The buildings in Manhattan are positively breathtaking. They are works of art just sitting there disguised at normal buildings. Even without the beautiful light displays, I could spend an entire day just staring at these amazing feats of architecture.

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That being said, it was an adjustment for this country girl to get used to not having space. Space is something we have in spades in the Hudson Valley. We have our own yards and we always have plenty of space to pass someone on the street without feeling like a piece of cattle being herded through a stockyard.

4. The Heartbreaking Homeless Population – I’m sure it’s different in the boroughs, but in Manhattan we were surrounded by either the rich or the homeless. I saw people literally freezing in the name of fashion wearing little more than thin leggings and fur coats or vests or people freezing because they were living on the streets.

One lady had a baby with her and was asking for diapers so we took out all but one of Sydney’s diapers from our bag and gave them to her. I’ve encountered so many amazing non-profits while working in the Hudson Valley. It’s a tough pill to swallow that people are living on the streets. It’s not something we see every day up here.Most people I know in the Hudson Valley are super heroes who want to help everyone. We know our neighbors. We work for non-profits, volunteer in our communities and care for each other. It creates a feeling of hopelessness to be surrounded by so much wealth and poverty at the same time. It makes me want to go back with care packages for as many people as we can carry.

5. The Commute – We drove down to Tarrytown and took the train from there into Grand Central Station. It took just a little over two hours, which isn’t bad considering I live up here in Sullivan County and we drive 45 minutes just to go to the mall in Middletown. I can understand how people in Orange, Westchester and Rockland Counties commute regularly to the city. I don’t think I’d want to do it every day, but it definitely wasn’t bad.

New York City is truly spectacular. There are so many museums, restaurants, shops and sights to see. People travel from all over the world to visit. Everywhere we went there were tons of people snapping photos.

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This country girl did have a good chuckle when I saw people taking pictures of squirrels in Central Park. I wondered what they’d do at the sight of our wild life, say wild turkeys just randomly crossing the road or a bear that tips over your garbage at least twice a year or deer who nonchalantly walk through your yard like they own the place.

We are indeed lucky to live in the Hudson Valley because we have so many amazing things and people here, but we can also easily hop on a train and visit one of the most intriguing cities in the world. We can have the best of both worlds and not everyone can say that.

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.

5-ways-to

So this was a crazy week at my house. I had a lovely stomach bug that set me back an entire weekend and made for a crazy week of catching up. As a result I was busy rushing around, maybe a little too fast, and smashed my hand. I thought I broke my thumb, but thankfully it is just a wicked sprain. Five days later and it is still swollen and really hurts. As a crafty blogger that kind of limits what I can do with one hand. I thought about sharing five different ways to splint an injury using only a Popsicle stick, but realize that doesn’t really qualify as a craft.

I shared with you last week 7 fun things to do with bubble wrap, so I thought I’d share what to do with all those left over shipping boxes!

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We didn’t make anything this week due to the aforementioned hand injury. But, we did do a little research!

My kids and I are hooked on watching videos on Box Yourself YouTube channel. What this guy can make from a box or cardboard tube is amazing! You need extra supplies like paint and a box cutter, but if you are in a serious project mode, or have an older kid, these could be fun!

box-yourself-ostein

If you have really little kids you could literally give them a box to play with and they’ll magically turn it into something fun simply using their imagination. If you want to add some color without making a mess, just give them a box of crayons or washable markers and some stickers. Prepare for some quiet entertainment.

Here are 5 ways we’ve used left over shipping boxes:

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BOX TUNNEL – every kid loves to climb into a cardboard box. It feels like a little space just for them. Tape together several large boxes end to end and allow your kid to crawl through. If you are feeling really ambitious you can poke holes in the top and push through Christmas lights. This makes a fun starry effect inside the tunnel.

AUTOMOBILES– help your kiddo transform a plain box into a car or truck. Use paper plates for the wheels, duct tape to make lines for windows and doors (if you don’t want to deal with paint). You can make a steering wheel from a paper towel tube and another paper plate, or cardboard circle. Your kid will spend hours driving this car through their imagination. Throw in a pillow and blanket, park the car in front of the TV and you have an instant indoor drive in.

DIARAMA– building small scenes inside of a box can help kids really use their preplanning skills to imagine a small world inside an ordinary box. Once your child selects a theme they can draw a scene inside the box, or glue items inside to create a 3-D effect.

CITY SCAPES– set up a row of boxes and let your child paint a different store front on each. Again, if you don’t like paint hand them markers instead. Attach signs for Bakery, Grocery, and Barber etc. Your kid can pretend to run errands with their stuffed animals in tow.

TREASURE CHEST– let the kids decorate any way they like and use to store their favorite treasures in. My kids like to pretend they are pirates discovering hidden treasure. Super easy and super fun!

Hope you are enjoying the Christmas break with the kids and remember boxes are better than any toy at any age! But if your household has outgrown the magic of finding a good box, you can always use them to pack up donations in and send off to your local Good Will, OR other favorite charity. Here’s how.

Wishing you all a Happy New Year! Here’s to much healthy and happiness in 2017!! As always thanks for reading each week!!

Oh and p.s. if you are looking for a fun way to use those paper towel tubes, check out my post from last year, Pom-Poms and Cardboard, Expensive Toys Are Overrated.

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. 

No matter what holidays your family does (or doesn’t) celebrate,  sweet treats are everywhere this time of year.  If you or someone in your life happens to be gluten-free, most of those babies are off-limits.  Instead of feeling left out, decide on what you’ve been missing the most, and bake to your heart’s content.  With great flour blends and tried-and-true recipes, no one needs to miss out on the sweet fun of the holiday season.  Our family has accumulated many hours of baking over the years, and I’m happy to share our tips for success, along with links to some of our favorite holiday cookies.

Some tips for gluten-free baking success

  1. Bob’s Red Mill 1 to 1 Baking Mix: I’ve tried lots brands of all-purpose gluten-free flour mixes, and for years I mixed my own using recipes from a few trusted sources. Mixing your own yields great results but is a huge time commitment.  The original Bob’s Red Mill all-purpose mix contained bean flour, which in my opinion was not conducive for any sweet baked goods.  The 1 to 1 blend, however, rocks.  I’ve found it to work well in making breads, cookies, muffins, and just about everything.
  2. Parchment paper: Gluten-free baked goods respond well to parchment paper.  Use it to line the pan before baking brownies, to roll out dough for pies or cinnamon rolls, or on baking sheets so that nothing sticks.  Working with gluten-free dough is different than traditional gluten-full dough, and parchment paper truly helps you get similar results.
  3. Your digital scale: So many quality recipes give measurements for dry ingredients in grams or ounces rather than cups.  At first I didn’t understand, but the precision and ease of assembling ingredients speaks for itself.
  4. Shape before you bake: If you’ve baked with regular flour, you know that baked goods tend to round themselves out as they bake.  Muffins puff up, cookies spread, and loafs naturally take shape.  Not so with gluten-free!  If you leave your dough or batter oddly shaped as it goes into the oven, it will maintain that exact shape after baking. After much trial and error, I learned two tricks.  First, if you’re baking anything in a pan like bread or muffins, give the bottom of the pan a few taps on the counter to help even out the batter.  Keep a small bowl of water nearby, and occasionally dip a fingertip or two into the water and use it to smooth out the tops of baked goods, being careful to use the water sparingly.
  5. Don’t overbake: Gluten-free baked goods don’t mess around.  If you overbake them, they get hard and crumbly, more so than traditional baked goods.  Err on the side of caution, and set your timer for just a minute or two less than necessary.  Better to check on what’s baking and give it another minute rather than find it’s overcooked.

Peanut Butter Blossom

Cookie Favorites

I shared a number of our family favorites last year and the year prior.  Still at the top of the list are Peanut Butter Blossom, the red and green M&M chocolate chip, and sparkly sugar cookies.  Last year we tried candy cane cookies, which were delicious and will be back this year. Lemon sugar cookies have also been a staple.  We’ve always enjoyed this recipe, although for a cookie swap this year I tried a different recipe (with Bob’s 1:1 flour substituted) and we may have liked them even better!  More fluff, and fun to roll in powdered sugar before baking.

The M&M Chocolate Chip

 

In the end, it’s just about adding a little magic to your holiday season.  Sharing the love takes many forms, and a sparkly cookie platter is just one way. Spend some time with our family’s baking tips and favorite recipes, and make some memories.  Share your favorite recipes and baking tips with our readers, below. Happy baking!

When I was a kid New Year’s Eve was so exciting! My parents would let us stay up until Midnight to take us out to breakfast. We called it “First Breakfast” because it was literally the first breakfast of the New Year. One year we went to the diner with my parents and their friends, another year the local firehouse hosted a first breakfast event. I was just four years old when my parents started this tradition, but I still remember it today!

I knew I would make this a tradition for my little family one day. The only problem is, at age 6 my kids still “can’t hang.” If they do not go to bed at the same hour every night we have horrible, monstrous humans we can’t face the public with. So our solution is to celebrate a big first breakfast at our kitchen table every year. We make it special with colorful decorations and drink out of fancy glasses. It has become such a big hit at our house that I now keep a kit ready. I pull it out on New Year’s Eve after they fall asleep and set it up before I go to bed (hours before midnight).

The traditional colors for New Year celebrations are silver and gold, or black and white. However, we prefer the colors of Mardi Gras- green, gold and purple. These are all colors of royalty and represent prosperity and good fortune; all great things to hope for in the New Year and they make a pretty colorful back drop to our first breakfast.

Here is what I have in my first breakfast celebration kit:

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Champagne Flutes– We don’t actually serve champagne (to the children) for breakfast, but we do like feeling fancy. So we serve up their morning OJ (and our mimosas) in these colorful, reusable flutes. The kids really get a kick out of it!

Hats, Noise Makers and Beaded Necklaces – every year I set the table with these fun accessories for each person in the family. As soon as the kids come out in the morning we put on our fashions and march in a noisy parade through the house. Since mommy and daddy can no longer hang till midnight either, this noise isn’t so horrible after a full night’s sleep.

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Holiday Crackers- these are just fun! You pop them open and there is usually a paper crown inside along with some jokes and a little trinket. It keeps the kids busy while I am cooking up breakfast. They take turns cracking each other up and I get to enjoy hearing them laugh instead of argue for a minute. P.s. Holiday crackers usually go on sale for half price after the holiday season.

Tableware- I use disposable decorative paper plates with matching napkins. After cooking a big breakfast of omelets, bacon and fresh cinnamon buns, and drinking a few mimosas, I could use the break from washing dishes. P.p.s I hit up the dollar stores after the holiday and pick up festive prints for 50 cents each. I stock up to keep on hand for the next few years.

Masks- one of my kids wanted to start wearing masks for our parade one year and so the tradition has stuck around. We don’t wear them while eating breakfast because that would just be weird. Unless you are six then it’s just breakfast time. (I don’t even ask anymore).

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Clock– another kid created tradition. It makes a great centerpiece for our table.

Not included in the kit are colorful foiled chocolate coins I toss around the table to represent money and sweetness. I buy these every year because obviously chocolate is not going to survive more than a day in my house. And it could get pretty gross in storage for a year. I keep all our decorations in a reusable clear tote and put away until our next first breakfast.

Our version of First Breakfast may not have the same kind of thrill as when I was as a kid, but it is our own. Right now while the kids are still little and so dependent on routine, we are happy keeping the first breakfast tradition alive eight hours after the official start to the new year. It feels more manageable and sane for us. Maybe one day my children won’t turn into gremlins and we can move this tradition to a new location. Or, maybe we’ll return to this cozy tradition year after year. Either way I just hope they remember these first breakfasts as fondly as I remember mine.

What New Year traditions do you and your family celebrate?

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. 

 

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So this is a record breaking Christmas season here at the “casa de Whatever.” Not only did my husband and I put the tree up and decorate it without a complaint, but this is also the first time in a decade he has his Christmas shopping finished the first week of December. I know… give that man a round of applause. What’s his secret? Amazon, baby! Yep, he finally caught up with the times and shopped for everything online this year and had it shipped to the house.

This may have saved him a lot of time, but now my house is filled with boxes and left over shipping supplies. And now, we have extraordinary amounts of bubble wrap! This is free entertainment! Popping it is so much, but I started to wonder what other fun I was missing out on.

Here are 7 Fun Things to Do with Bubble Wrap:

PRINTS

The bubbles on the plastic wrap make such a cool texture once you paint and print with it. You simply, lay a piece of bubble wrap flat, paint it and then flip it over to print on paper. Nope, you’re not missing a step, it really is that easy!

SHAPES 

You can cut out different shapes to paint and print with. This works great for making animal shapes, especially animals with scales like a fish, or lizard. You can also just make shapes that your little one can recognize and let them pop away for a multi-sensory learning experience.

STOMP & PAINT

Wrap your kids’ feet in plastic wrap and let them stop around to make a popping sound. If you want to level up a parenting notch, let them walk through paint and step along a sheet of paper leaving behind tracks.

ROADWAY

Tape squares of bubble wrap, or a long piece of wrap to the floor. Use blue painters tape for easy removal and tape along the edges. Let your kid drive their cars over it until they pop every last bubble.

SENSORY FUN

If you have a small piece of bubble wrap, insert it into a Zip Lock baggie and pour in a little paint. Seal it up and let the kids (or you) squish it around. This has a really cool feel!

UNIQUE GIFTS

I found this on one Pinterest. Making a stress relief pack requires bubble wrap and a label that reads, “For maximum stress relief pop 3-4 capsules several times per day.” Super cute and fun! Give out to your kids teacher, the mail man, your office partners. Anyone who could use a good laugh for stress relief.

A few years ago when the girls were just toddlers, I took them to a Little Picasso art workshop at a local library where we painted bubble wrap. The kids absolutely loved it! It was messy and noisy fun for everyone!   If you don’t want to get messy with paint, bubble wrap is totally fun on its own. Lay it on the floor and stomp on it, roll on it, go slow and pop one bubble at a time, or even roll it up and twist it. There is no wrong way to play with bubble wrap!

he 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. 

 

Even though we may be happy about shopping for loved ones, it can still take a toll on your body. Standing in long lines, carrying heavy bags and navigating through crowds can result in tight shoulders, aching back and leg cramps. Grab a bench at the mall, and take one minute to unwind with these three stretches:

  • Shoulders: roll shoulders forward and up on an inhale, back and down on the exhale, then reverse.
  • Back: sit tall and bring one hand to the outside of the opposite knee. Inhale and lengthen the spine, exhale and twist. Repeat on the other side.
  • Hamstrings and Calves: Sit on the edge of the bench. Straighten one leg and flex the foot. On an exhale, come forward with a flat back. Tuck the chin as you inhale and roll back up. Repeat on the other leg.

Give these a try, and you might actually feel better after a shopping trip! (Sorry for the shaky video; Jenny got a little distracted while we were filming at the mall.)

a-giving-tradition

When I was growing up we didn’t have a lot of traditions. We actually mixed things up year to year. There are a few traditions I keep up with my own children, and we introduce a new one here and there. But one tradition that remains the same year after year is our tradition of charitable giving.

I began our first charitable efforts at my twins’ second birthday party. I asked friends to donate one non-perishable food item.  As we were collecting items I told the girls where our donations will go. They probably did not fully understand. But they did help me make our final donations. Charity starts at home and making it an activity during the holiday season helps lay a strong foundation of generosity for my children to build upon.

This year we continue our efforts to send Christmas cards to local kids staying in the hospital and writing letters to soldiers stationed overseas. It isn’t always money that has the greatest impact; sometimes it’s just a thoughtful act that sparks a feeling of being remembered. Every human being wants to feel like they matter.

Here are some simple ways to give back this year:

Leave cookies for your neighbors.

Clean out your closet and donate gently used clothing, books and toys.

Donate gently used household goods like dishes, linens and appliances to families in need.

Bring homemade cards and baked goods to your local fire house, or police station.

Have an ornament making party with friends and deliver to a local nursing home.

Shake hands with your mail carrier.

Greet your garbage collector with a hot cup of cocoa.

Hold the door open for an elderly shopper.

Let someone take your parking spot on a busy day.

Help your child write a personal letter to their teacher thanking them for their hard work.

We often think we need to buy gifts to show our appreciation, or show someone we care; when really it is the little things that add up to bigger moments. Someone may be having a bad day when they cut the line in front of you, or they may feel like no one appreciates their job collecting refuse. Offering kindness at Christmas and all year is the perfect gift!

If your children are older and want to help in bigger ways perhaps helping them earn money, or make a donation will fill their desire to give back. I shared this list with you last year, but I have found five more local charities to share this year!

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HUDSON VALLEY HERO PROJECT- A local non-profit providing aid and caring support to veteran’s right here in the Hudson Valley. 

CHRISTMAS WISHES ULSTER COUNTY– A local non-profit bringing gifts to families in need in Ulster County.  Accepting monetary donations through the year, and toy donations in November. 

GRANTING WISHES FOR CANCER KIDS ON CHRISTMAS – adopts families with children going through cancer treatment. Families paying health care coverage, premiums and co-pays for children with cancer often struggle at Christmas. 

ANGELS OF LIGHT HUDSON VALLEYA local non-profit whose mission is to provide Holiday Giving for Children and Families with life threatening illness in the Hudson Valley, NY.

HABITAT FOR HUMANITY RESTORE– located in Ulster and Dutchess counties. The mission is to provide stable home ownership for members of our own community. You can donate $20 to purchase a board that will be used in building a Habitat home; or you can shop at one of their Restore locations. These thrift shops include appliances, furniture, home goods and décor at the fraction of retail prices. Recycling these quality goods into your gift giving saves you money and the planet, and proceeds are cycled back to your neighbors in need.

You don’t have to give big to give back. You can do small, age appropriate acts of kindness, or charitable projects with your children. If we all do one small thing for our community this Christmas it will have a big impact on our neighbors through out the year.

Share some inspiration: what family traditions do you have that make it feel more like Christmas?

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. 

 

Related posts: Granting Christmas Wishes for Local Families Give a Kid The Gift of Swag Charity Starts at Home- 7 Ways to Give Back With Kids In Tow

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The Pressure of the Holidays

This time of year is filled with joy and excitement for the holidays. There is so much pressure on parents to give their kids a “good holiday” with lots of presents, big family meals and seven foot tall trees trimmed to perfection. The magic of the holidays seems to come at a high price between stress and money. I wonder how much of the pressure we put on ourselves is even worth it.

Remembering Sandy Hook

No matter what I do lately I feel haunted by the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. We’re coming up on the fourth anniversary on December 14th. I think of those small children who were looking forward to the holidays too. I wonder how many of them sat on Santa’s lap, played in the snow in oversized coats and snow pants, decorated trees or were crossing the days off on their calendars.

Ties That Bind

It wasn’t the first shooting I had ever seen unfold on live television. That would be the shooting at Columbine High School. That happened my freshman year of college and it was horrific, but something about this one at Sandy Hook has scarred my heart. Those kids were just babies. The difference was that by the time this tragedy occurred I was a parent myself. I could feel the universal love we all have for our kids. It’s perhaps the strongest tie that binds us together.

Tragedy can be found anywhere, on any day. I have to turn off the news so my empathetic heart doesn’t break all the time. But I owe those parents who lost children in the shooting at Sandy Hook a huge debt of gratitude. I owe it to them to remember that their children changed the way I appreciate my own.

Honoring the Children Lost

Those twenty little faces remind me to forgive just a little bit quicker when my kids are misbehaving. They remind me to hold a little tighter and not to get annoyed at the “one more kiss” goodnight, which is always more like six or seven. I might be tired and just want to finish my nightly routine so I can go to bed, but I remember that there are parents who would kill for one more kiss goodnight. So I open the door one more time when I hear my toddler’s sweet voice calling for “kisses, more kisses.”

The Magic of One More Kiss Goodnight

We get so wrapped up in holiday magic and giving our kids more than we had. We sometimes forget that our kids supply the magic. Every time they look at you like you are their sun and moon, they remind us that we already are everything they need and we already give them everything they could want.

So this holiday season forgive yourself if you fall short of holiday perfection. If you don’t pose an elf on a shelf (I know I sure as heck don’t), if you burn the Christmas cookies, if you can’t afford a dozen presents per child; it’s all okay. One day, if we’re really lucky they will remember us, our faces, around a tree or a table. What presents they opened or meals they ate, will have long been forgotten. Those are the details that blur on the edge of memory.

The best gift we can give them is just the best of us. A little more patience than we typically have, a smile big as life just because it’s been a couple of hours since we saw them last, and of course one more kiss goodnight.

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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