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Now that cold temps and snow have finally arrived, soups, stews, and chili call like sirens from the kitchen.  I’ve shared my turkey chili recipe before, and it’s one that we always enjoy. I typically make a double batch, freeze half for the future, and all’s well.  I came across a different recipe this week that looked delicious, and decided to try it.  My family was surprised when they heard what I was making, “Chicken chili?  Why chicken?”  Yet afterwards, we were all glad I tried something new.

Southwest Chicken Chili

Crockpot cooking offers a great opportunity for kids to help with meal preparation. Especially in a recipe as simple as this one, ingredients are measured, poured, and mixed. Kids can help with every step, and other than using a can opener, there’s nothing sharp or tricky involved.  As always, the beauty of slow cooking becomes evident when you return home from a busy day to find dinner waiting, without the mess of last minute prep.

Creamy Chicken Chili

The biggest difference between this recipe and the one I usually make (other than the chicken) was the addition of the ranch powder and cream cheese.  We make our own ranch powder and keep a jar of it in the refrigerator (using this great recipe), and it worked beautifully.  The only change I made to the chili was to use salsa in place of the diced tomatoes, and I omitted the chili powder as a result.  I used two frozen chicken breasts, and cooked it on low for eight hours.  We ate it with shredded cheese, a dollop of sour cream, and some crumbled tortilla chips, and it was delicious.  Really, really good. I will most definitely make this again.

Share your favorite crockpot recipe with our readers, especially ones suitable for kids in the kitchen.  Keep warm! Snow’s on its way.

Diabetes is directly related to weight gain.

Milky Way, Mounds Bar and Snickers are my favorite comfort food

We see all the studies that report about the rise of diabetes in our communities. Kids and adults alike. According to the American Diabetes Association over 29 million children and adults have diabetes. I am one of them.

Several years ago, I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes.  Not the end of the world, but it did require attention. Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in the United States.  In 2016, I experienced a year of good health and better blood results, but I wonder if I can continue on this path. The jury is still out.

Follow me on this journey and share your thoughts on what helps you lead a better, healthier life.

Sugar was my comfort food

As a child I always loved sugar. My mom would buy a six-pack of Milky Ways, Mounds Bars or Snickers for my brother and I to have as snacks. Within a day, or maybe two, all six of the chocolate bars would be gone.

“Did you eat them?” my mom asked. “Not me! Must have been my brother,” I insisted.  It was the same script week after week. I love most foods but especially cookies, candy, cake and ice cream. The more the better.

When I was in college, my diet consisted of the “wonderful” choices in the college dining hall: pasta and more pasta,  sandwiches and tuna casseroles. You get the picture.  (This was back in the 60s before food vendors were required to provide healthy options.) I attended SUNY at Albany which was in downtown Albany at the time. And they did not serve dinners on Sunday night. The kitchen staff were off, and we were on our own. With little money to spend my roommate and I would head over to Stewarts. They served ice cream sundaes with all you can eat toppings. Dinner ended up being 3 scoops of ice cream and heaps of hot fudge, marshmallow sauce and sprinkles.

But all this crazy eating style never daunted me. When I choose to wear a fitted dress or tight pants for an upcoming date, I would begin an exercise regimen . You’d be surprised how sit-ups and side bends tighten your waist as well as your stomach muscles…and in a short period of time.

Then I got married and at 24 and 27 I became pregnant. Who worried about anything other than getting through those nine months. I was sick most of the time and actually lost weight while continuing to satisfy my sugar cravings. After all, I was pregnant and felt I was entitled to give in to every food urge you could imagine.

Running gave me a false sense of security

Now I’m in my 30s and my kids are growing up. I became a running nut. Six days a week you could find me out on the roads.  That lasted about eight years, until my knees gave out. During those eight years I could eat anything and everything and still maintain a slim figure. That was a period of pure delight because I could give in to my sugar cravings and not feel the weight gain consequences.

Why the emphasis on weight? According to my endocrinologist, there is a direct correlation between weight and Type 2 Diabetes.

40 pounds later I am a diabetic

It is now 40 years later and I have permanently added 20 pounds, hence the diabetes. At the beginning of the year it was 40 pounds but I lost 30 pounds over the last 12 months.

You may wonder what I think the problem is.

The problem is simple. In five months I gained back 10 of the 30 pounds I lost. So the real question is, ‘what does it take for a Sugarholic to change her spots?’ After all, I could just take medication to “cure” the effects of diabetes. Or could I?

Follow me on this journey and let’s see where it leads.

A day of homeschooling is like a box of chocolates- you never know what you’re gonna get.  Not only do our activities vary from day to day and week to week, but the children offer more surprises than the schedule.  As their personalities develop and knowledge broadens, we engage in on-going discussions of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  I kept track of a recent Monday, marveling at the variety of moments that made up a “typical” day.

Late Wake-Ups

After a busy weekend, my sleepyheads slept later than usual.  My younger daughter woke up around 8, grabbed the laptop, and began her math.  (Math done willingly and independently, you ask?  Follow the link, you’ll understand).  My older daughter woke up an hour later, which meant she needed to get straight to work since we had a class in the afternoon.  Even though my kids are no longer little, I still maintain “never wake a sleeping baby.”  My older daughter began her math test, and the morning was underway.

The Sewing Box

I’m not sure how working on vocabulary in the dining room led to my little one finding herself in the closet downstairs, but suddenly, there she was.  She came upstairs with my grandmother’s sewing case, and sat on the floor to comb through it.  My grandma passed away a few months ago at age 94, and embodied values and skills that are no longer the norm.  Her sewing box was a perfect example of this- full of zippers, claps, snaps, antique buttons, and all kinds of sundries used for making one’s own clothing.  Even though the sewing box distracted us from school, what a neat historical lesson on then vs. now resulted.  We all agreed that Great-Grandma lived in the “Olden Days,” and I was relieved when my kids generously decided that my age qualified me as “from now.”

Lunch

Meal prep frequently serves as an educational activity.  Today’s lunch was brown rice wraps filled with rice, beans, and cheese, steamed mixed vegetables, and clementines.  As a quick interlude to seat work, my kids took turns heating their wraps on the stove, shredding cheese, and spooning the rice and beans onto their plates.  We discussed nutrition and the importance of including protein, fruits, and vegetables in our meal.  Then they cleaned up after themselves and emptied the dishwasher.  Life skills, hooray!

Science

We’re in the middle of a lesson on plant reproduction and life cycle.  Did you know that on a rainy day, the sperm cells of a fern plant swim down the stem to the egg?  I didn’t either, and frankly, would not have believed this if I had not read it with my own two eyes.  A few days ago a cable guy was repairing wires at our house while we were discussing how the sperm and egg of plants work similarly to humans.  I can only imagine what this poor guy must’ve been thinking as he overheard my kids asking questions about this process.

Stereotypes and the Portrayal of Women in the Media

What?  Yes, this came up today.  Over the weekend, my girls and their friend watched Clueless, the 1995 coming-of-age film about California-bred Cher and her gal pals.  After watching the movie, the girls had a realization- girls and boys are often portrayed in stereotypical ways.  In a nutshell, they wondered why girls are shown with messy hair and sweatpants, sadly eating ice cream out of the carton just because “a boy broke up with them.”  They couldn’t figure out– why don’t girls in media utilize social support?  Why should a girl feel devastated just because a boy broke up with her, and why can’t the girl be the one who ends things?  Why wouldn’t girls derive their worth from other aspects of their life?  They also noticed the girl trifecta- the smart girl, the pretty-but-dumb friend, and the follower.  They wondered why the athletic boys always coveted the “popular” girl, but that in the end, the shy, geeky guy often won her over.  Every time we watch a movie, I capitalize on the themes present, jumping on teachable moments.  Imagine my surprise when this time it was my kids initiating the discussion.

The Afternoon

After lunch, we attended a STEAM class at a local library.  In the car on the way there, my girls read geography lessons aloud, then we listened to a book on CD.  At the library, they built marble runs and interacted with other kids.  Back at home, they finished up school (practicing piano, working on a project due for a homeschool class on Wednesday, reviewed spelling words) then did their chores and helped me start dinner.  All in all, a successful day.

What is fine motor skills anyway? Basically fine motor functions include the muscle groups needed for handwriting and hand eye coordination. Focusing on crafts and art activities that require kids to use small and coordinated movements helps build on those skills and develop those muscles.

My kids are still young and working hard on those fine motor skills. So we tend to focus on projects that help us work those small muscle groups and flex those fingers. When I found this project I thought it looks fun and like a great way for us to work some skills without it feeling like work.

heart-collage

Materials:

Paper plates

Hole punch

String or yarn

Scissors

Exacto knife

First you will need to cut out a heart shaped template. You can cheat (like I did) and print a heart shape to cut out, or simply fold a paper in half and cut out a heart. Next you trace around the heart shape, and last use the exacto knife to score (or cut depending on how thick your plates are) the shape. I did this part for the kids, but they used the scissors to cut out. If your knife does not cut all the way through use the scissors to cut the shape out of the plate.

heart-template

heart cut out.png

After you cut the shape, use the hole punch to punch individual holes around the outside of the heart (go through the inside of the heart).

heart holes.png

We taped one edge of the string to the back of the plate so we could push the other end through the holes. Zig-zag your stitches to allow for a more unique design. If the ends fray a bit, just wrap in tape to give it a sturdier end, or if you have a kid friendly sewing needle you can use that to guide the string through.

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When you are complete this will make a really unique Valentines’ day decoration, or a fun piece of art to hang in your window to admire. How easy is this? You are done in ten minutes, no mess and your kids just worked on hand eye coordination.

My kids discovered this bonus craft. Punch holes around the outside of the heart shape you cut out of the plate. Attach a piece of string to the back and use it to lace around the outside edge. Viola! A homemade lacing card! It’s amazing what your kids will think of when you get them creating!

heart lace card.jpg

 

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. 

I receive the gamut of responses when sharing that I homeschool my kids.  Everything from, “Wow, that’s amazing, I could never do that,” to “My kids would never listen to me, yours must be saints,” to “You think you’re better than the teachers?  Do you even have a teaching degree?”  Many people ask questions, which I think is great, but others seem to think I’m either judging them for not homeschooling, or they judge me for whatever kind of freak I must be.

We’ve been homeschooling for almost five years, and you know what, perhaps I am a freak.  Day after day I’m living a Jekyll and Hyde kind of experience.  Some days represent our ideal learning—peaceful, passionate, excited, efficient.  Other days end in a chaotic jumble of disorganization and frustration.  I view homeschooling as an extension of parenting.  It has always been my mission to choose the best foods,  activities, and experiences for my kids, and as a homeschooler, their education falls under this umbrella as well.

As for the “I could never do it” response I often hear, the truth is, you don’t know until you’ve tried.  Homeschooling is not for everyone, and I’m not implying otherwise.  Many parents find themselves successful despite initial doubts and insecurities.  I look at the ability to homeschool as a muscle.  At first, it’s weak.  It’s easy to doubt yourself, and hard to believe you will do a good job.  As the homeschooling journey begins, there are lots of opportunities to practice and strengthen this “muscle.”  Eventually, you become a homeschooling athlete, completing a triathlon with confidence and skill.

So who is the homeschooling mom?  She’s kind of like the mom of little kids, but years later.  Moms of infants and toddlers rarely get a break- the intensity and needs of young children tend not to let up.  Homeschooling shares similarities.  While the children mature and their needs change, at the end of the day, you’re still meeting needs all day long. Homeschooling and parenting become blurred.  Sometimes mom serves as the teacher and other times, the teacher also has to be the mom.

The homeschooling mom cannot imagine what parents whose kids go to school do all.day.long.  (I know, you guys are busy, just a different kind of busy).  When she enrolls her kids in a two hour class, she fantasizes about the many, many things she will do in that time.  Grocery shopping!  Clean the house!  Nap!  Read!  Exercise!  Catch up on emails, phone calls, and paperwork!  Coffee with a friend!  Lunch date with the husband! Somehow, though, those two hours fly by and it ends up not being enough time. Exercising will have to wait for later (um, tomorrow), texting can suffice instead of calls, and we’ll see the husband during dinner, which will be made from what was already in the house, thank you very much.  The homeschooling mom won’t have her hair or nails done, because, when? She’ll be wearing yoga pants or jeans, because, why not?  She may stay in her pajamas on the rare day when no one has anywhere to be, and she’ll probably consent to reading and snuggles on the couch on a rainy afternoon.  She’ll have the kids cook lunch and count it as “culinary arts,” and realize that playing outside can count toward P.E.  She doesn’t get snow days, or sick days, or days off, but she also doesn’t have to say goodbye every morning, or make her hair presentable for afternoon pick-up.  She forgets to start dinner, leaves the laundry in the dryer (whoops), and brings the kids rollerblading at 10 am for “recess” because everyone needs a break.

In other words, she’s a mom.  Whether homeschooling or not, she parents the best that she can, makes mistakes, tries harder, reaches out for support, and hugs her babies tight. She may look a little more harried since she’s with the kids from morning to bedtime, but we’re all working in one way or another, whether we get paid or not.  No, homeschooling parents don’t have teaching degrees, but may have teaching backgrounds.  Their kids are not saints, but they know how to make all kinds of learning work.  They might just be amazing, but aren’t all moms?

When I was a mom of just one, I devoted tons of energy to fun projects.  I kept a water table in the kitchen, and filled it with rice, oats, shaving cream, or soapy water and toys. We did crafts with feathers and toilet paper tubes, walked through paint to create footprints on paper tapped to the floor, and made sparkly Gak.  After the birth of my second child, I kept this up for another few years.  I look back at pictures of my girls with paint in their hair, and who can forget the crunchy feeling of rice beneath our feet on the kitchen floor (ouch). What happened to that mom? The one who had the time to sit down and play, who didn’t mind a little extra mess, and possessed the energy find innovative ways to keep little hands happily occupied?

My food blog also documents a time that looks too good to be true.  I was cooking, from scratch, all the time.  Bread, yogurt, granola, muffins, trays of pureed vegetables, even bagels.  I still cook often, but rather than three times a day, I’m making batches of foods that can be stretched for a few meals, and loosely defining breakfast and lunch (sure, a cheese stick, an orange, and a muffin on our way out the door count!)  My love of cooking hasn’t changed, but my availability has, and also my willingness to dedicate so much time to the prep, cooking, and clean-up.

I worked full-time until my older daughter was two.  I nursed her all the way through that time, carrying a pump until she was… I’m not even sure how old. More than twelve months. She was tiny and didn’t eat much, and refused solid foods any time she had a cold, so nursing was essential.  When I look back at that time, my primary memories are of my husband, daughter, and I being silly and carefree.  Dancing around the living room in the evening, cuddles in bed, chasing one another around our tiny apartment.  I decided to stay home full time because I wanted to be the primary parent.  I had June Cleaver visions of perfectly running our lives with ease.  The house would be organized and spotless, every meal would be hot and organic, and there would be leisure time left over for playing, resting, and socialization.

I’m pretty sure if I came upon my former self, the young(er) and energetic version, I wouldn’t recognize her one bit.  I know now that June Cleaver moments only exist on television. I’m still running things as smoothly as possible- cooking, cleaning, laundry, homeschooling, errands, extracurricular activities, and socialization.  The main difference is that while my memories of the earlier days of motherhood felt leisurely, now time is flying by.  Sure, the baby days were challenging.  I had Post-Partum Anxiety, and was in the haze of sleepless nights and days filled with La Leche League meetings and changing one diaper after another.  Yet, I remember the toddler days as… relaxing? Have I edited my memories to only remember the best parts?  Does nature allow us to block out the darker times so that we continue to populate the planet?  Or, have I changed?  What has changed, exactly?  One child to two children.  A mom who is twelve years older, and approaching 40 instead of being in her late 20s.  A mom who has given her all, every moment of every day, and forgets to recharge. A mom who homeschools, and parents, and lives at her job 24-7 (and yet doesn’t get paid for any of it).  A mom who juggles life… and everything that goes with it.

I’m not alone.  We’re all the mom who gives her all.  Or the dad who gives his all.  The single parent, the widowed parent, the aunt/uncle or grandparent raising little ones. We’re all trying our best, but tired, and yet we keep going. We have to. Sometimes, looking ahead feels overwhelming, especially knowing the teen years are rapidly approaching.  We feel burnt out, stretched too thin, and just plain tired.  Yet other times, we can look back fondly on those energetic, young-parent moments.  We flip through photo albums, watch home movies, and feel that surge.  Of love, of peace, of being so very thankful.  So when we’re tired, a bone-weary, I-just-don’t-want-to tired, we can tap into those cherished memories as an elixir to get through another dreary January day.  We can allow ourselves to feel energized by the knowledge that we were young, energetic, and creative, and maybe, just maybe, there’s more of that energy left than we realized.  Tomorrow, I’ll get out the paint, unroll the paper across the kitchen floor, and we’ll leave behind our footprints. We’ll do a goofy dance around to the living room.  We’ll snuggle on the couch with a book.  The younger me didn’t care if things got a little messy, or if every chore wasn’t done, and somewhere deep down, she’s still there.  In me, and in you. So join me, tired mom, dad, or grandparent, and let’s find our old selves together.  Share your successes, challenges, and memories with our readers, below.

7-locations-you-can-plan-on-for-fun-in-2017

Last week I shared the Top 5 Fun Activities my kids enjoyed in 2016. This week I am sharing with you our most favorite places to visit. We did a lot more traveling this year than what I’ve shared on the blog. I just haven’t had time to update you all on the details yet. We tend to stick to local places of interest and make a few day trips through the year. But in 2016 we took a bonafide vacation and squeezed in some amazing museums and art! Keep an eye out for those future posts.

As I was digging through my posts to share with you today, I was reminded of my life with two very energetic toddlers who had two speeds: nap and full throttle. I spent a lot of time scouting safe places we could go and let them roam. Of course it also had to be educational, fun, and help them burn off some energy.  So, I’ll start by sharing our favorite fun local places to go with little ones. We often look for free things to do, but sometimes fun comes with a price tag. With any luck it’s a small price tag. If you click on the name of the place it will take you to my original post about our experience at each location and you can find additional info links there.

LOCAL PLACES

Storm King– has to be our most favorite local place for sculptural art. Not only are the sculptures larger than life, but there is plenty of room for the kids to roam and run free. The paved walk ways make it easy to get strollers and wagons through. There are bathrooms and a café. It is very family friendly for all age groups and mobility. During the summer months they have one free admission day per month!

storm-king-art-center

Trevor Zoo– this little local zoo is the perfect size for little people to enjoy. The paved path lends plenty of space and traction for little feet, and the exhibits are interesting. There are animals beyond our usual backyard habitats. Plenty of photo ops and room to burn off some energy!

trevor-zoo

Mohonk Visitor Center– this adorable area is perfect for moms who need a break from chasing kids. If your kids really need to stretch their legs, you can take them outside to the paved trail. Open all year and free to explore. If you want to check out other trails you can get a free one week pass offered once a year to Ulster County Residents. Or, you can sign up for the annual park membership and use any trail at any time.

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Michael’s Farm– this private little farm located in Saugerties has a nice array of animals. There are farm animals, lamas, deer, ponies, emus and chickens. There are a lot of experiences to have in just one visit. They also offer camp sessions during the summer and school breaks. It is located off the beaten path and is very family friendly. We’ve enjoyed many visits and it is always a lot of fun!

chicks-on-michaels-farm

DAY TRIPS

Animal Land– this one is our absolute favorite! The park is so clean, the animals are well taken care of and there are so many play areas for kids to enjoy. It is very stroller friendly, and is mostly covered by trees making it cooler on really sunny days. We traveled just over an hour from home, but spent half a day there playing and interacting with the animals.

animal-land

Lake George – before this summer I had only ever spent an hour or two in Lake George. I was stopping through on my way home from another trip so, I had absolutely no idea how much this area has to offer. Returning with my little family was wonderful experience! We enjoyed local beaches, games on the main strip and found a little hideaway park that is perfect for little ones to burn off some energy.

carousel-lake-george

Howe’s Caverns– this is a special place for me. I grew up visiting the caves during school trips and just for fun with friends. Before you go you have to read this guide for the inside scoop. There is a lot you should know before going down below. I was excited to see how many new activities they have besides the caves. Plenty for us to go back to experience!

howes-cave

I hope this helps with planning out some fun trips in the new year, or maybe ideas for when you are feeling spontaneous. These are tried and true family favorites. We hope you enjoy them too!

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. 

Somehow, we always end up with too many over-ripe bananas. In the summer, they’re easy to toss into smoothies, yet this time of year, they pile up. Eventually, I peel and store them in a Ziploc bag in the freezer, but who needs 100 bananas in the freezer?

I’m a recent Instagram convert (don’t ask what took me so long, but now I love it) and discovered the videos on there.  The time lapse videos, to be exact.  In one minute or less, you can learn how to glam up your eyeshadow, upcycle random household stuff into crafts, and cook.  I scrolled across a video that started with two bananas, and had to learn more. Forty-three seconds later, I was copying down the recipe and excited to try it out.

Banana Oat Muffins

Banana Oat Muffins

These muffins came together so quickly (my daughter did most of it herself) and we had fun deciding what toppings to try out.  We settled on blueberries, chocolate chips, and diced apple.  The recipe yielded 18 muffins rather than the dozen shown in the video, so we made six of each kind.  Since oats are used instead of flour, these muffins can easily be made gluten free by using gluten free oats.  With a short ingredient list and no need for even a butter knife, this recipe can be made entirely by kids.  Leftovers warmed up nicely in the toaster oven, making them perfect for a busy school morning.

Now that I’ve discovered the wonder that is time-lapse cooking, I’m excited to see what is out there.  It’s fascinating to watch new dishes come together right before your eyes, and copying down the ingredients as they flash across the screen offers a fun challenge.  What are your favorite video recipes?  Share with our readers, below.

smart phone

I know what you’re thinking. How did you survive for FIVE long years without a cell phone? Surprisingly well.

This year I asked my husband for a cell phone for Christmas. I felt like I was finally ready to take on an additional expense now that my blog is growing. After my site was temporarily shut down for being over my monthly usage allowance on Christmas Eve, I knew I had to have a way to stay up to date on any changes. It was a wake up call, but ultimately a very good problem to have.

Still, some part of me will be sad to say goodbye to the old me, the one that didn’t have a smart phone permanently in my hand.

I can already feel myself being sucked in by smart phone addiction. The last time I had a cell phone it was a simple tracfone that I used mostly to keep in touch with my husband while I was at work. That was before I started working from home.

I still want to hold onto the pre-smart phone me. She learned some very important lessons that I want desperately to remember.

1. Pay Attention To Who You’re With – I am a people watcher. Whether at restaurants, kids’ play places, the mall, the playground or the library I’m always watching how people interact with each other. Over the last five years I’ve had plenty of time to see how people interact with their  friends and family in public and I’ve been a little disturbed.

Smart phones are awesome, but I noticed that nobody seemed to be paying much attention to the people they were with. Couples sat silently across from each other at restaurants. Parents sat silently on a park bench while their kids played almost exclusively by themselves without more than a quick passing glance. People spent a lot of time looking at their phones.

I get it. I feel my potential to be sucked in, especially by social media. It’s exciting to be able to connect with people on so many platforms ALL THE TIME, but I’m so glad for these five years during which I focused exclusively on my friends and family.

I was able to give them my undivided attention. I got up and played with my kids at the park. I chatted with my husband at dinner. I was able to be fully present and I think that’s something I want to be aware of now that I’ve got a new toy. No matter where I am or what I’m doing, I’m glad these five years were all about the people that love me and whom I love more than anyone in this world.

2. Privacy Is A Premium – Now that I’ve got a smart phone and I can be reached at any time, I’m a little sad. It was sort of liberating not worrying about my phone ringing or dinging to let me know someone needs me. I’m a mom, I already feel needed EVERY SINGLE SECOND of the day and it is exhausting.I can’t tell you how many times over the course of five years I’ve overheard someone on the phone in a public restroom and thought, “What on EARTH could be so important that it can’t wait till you’re out of the bathroom?” It’s bad enough I don’t get privacy in my bathroom at home.Plus the ick factor is really high for me. To me, nothing you press against your face should be out where it’s exposed to urine and fecal matter. But hey, that’s just me.

3. Remember To Have Actual Conversations – Being without a smart phone these past five years, has made me nostalgic for actual conversations. Now it’s all text messages, Facebook messenger and emoticons (most of which I’m still struggling to understand the circumstance that would actually warrant its use). Being able to connect all the time, has actually made the quality of conversation decline in my opinion.We’d rather send one liners to each other than really connect.

I get it, we’re a busy society. We’re always moving, always working, and always parenting on the fly.But I hope I don’t forget that what we say to each other will always be more important than how we choose to do it. During my phone free years, I may have chatted less with people, but I definitely feel like I gave them more of myself and the conversations actually strengthened relationships.

One day my kids will ask me for a cell phone. I know it’s going to be a LONG time before I say yes. I want them to make their words count. I want them to actually connect with people. I want my kids to see me when I’m talking to them, instead of a cell phone screen. I’m glad that I went such a long time without one, because I can always say that if I survived, they can too.

4. Learn Not To Panic Over Potential Emergencies – The question I was constantly asked when I didn’t have a cell phone was, “What happens if there is an emergency?” In five years, I can honestly say that I never had an emergency happen while I was out. I work from home so it definitely helps that I’m home a lot of the time.Maybe it’s just luck, or maybe we just tend to anticipate emergencies more than we used to.We envision our kids getting sick or hurt at school, the car breaking down or our spouse needing to reach us urgently.

I’m not saying emergencies don’t happen. I just happened to be able to live with the uncertainty better than most. The one time my tire got a flat was when we were driving to the local lake this summer and since my husband had his car packed with our inflatable boat and life jackets he was driving behind me at the time. I had the van packed with kids and snacks and it was absolutely the best case scenario. The kids and I found a grassy spot on the side of the road and ate some snacks while my husband changed my tire and then we were on our way.

There were plenty of times my husband wished I had a cell phone over the last five years. But honestly he did what we all did pre-cell phone era; he waited till I got home. Since I work at home, I’m here the majority of the time. I think some “emergencies” are really just small panic attacks that come from having to wait a little longer to talk to someone. By faith or by luck I survived without any permanent psychological scarring. Five years without a cell phone has taught me to be more aware of my surroundings, pay better attention to the condition of my car, and anticipate whether or not my child’s cold will land them in the nurse’s office.

It also taught me to be more patient and reminded me of the immense capacity people have to be kind to one another. There was the time my car’s battery died in the parking lot of the post office and a man cleaned my connectors and got it started back up. Nobody wants to rely on others anymore. I get it, I really do. We’re too busy. We’re too distrustful. We want assurances that we can’t always have in an unsure world.

I want my kids to be able to call for help should they need it when they get older. But I also want them to have the skills to assess situations, the mindfulness to anticipate potential problems, and the courage to wait if necessary without panicking because the worst thing you can do in an emergency is panic.

Your brain will always be your best asset. Perhaps the smart phone comes in second place.

I’m excited by the prospect of all the things my new smart phone can do for me, but I want to hold on for dear life to the lessons I’ve learned from my five years without one.

How long could you survive without your smart phone?

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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I heard it again the other day, “Oh, you have your hands full!” I was pushing two kids in my shopping cart, while my oldest daughter walked beside us as we navigated the aisles of Walmart. None of my kids were acting up. Nobody was yelling, pushing or annoying each other. There was nothing to warrant the comment from this stranger except the number of children with me.

I’m not sure when it was that three children was officially declared the tipping point that pushes you from mom to mental case. How could I possibly handle three with only two hands? I’ve seen better mothers than me handle far more than three kids. I have a good friend who has six. I bet she hears the phrase far more frequently than I do.

I suppressed an eye roll and kept on shopping, because with three kids the goal is always to get in, get what you need and get the heck outta there as quickly as possible. It bugs me sometimes. The implication that I must be burdened by having more than the “ideal” two kids.

Here is what I want to tell everyone who’s ever made the comment to a Mom that has three or more kids that she has her hands full.

Yes, my hands are full. About a hundred times a day my hands are picking up small toys off the floor. At least twice a day I’m picking up someone’s discarded clothing and throwing it in the hamper or folding little tee-shirts or balling up socks.

My hands are holding little hands tight as we cross roads. My hands are brushing hair and weaving braids. They’re probing for imaginary boo boos on arms and legs, scouring for ticks in the summer, and giving reassuring pats on backs as my arms encircle my little ones. They’re feeling foreheads for signs of fever, pulling up covers, administering medicine and providing comfort in a million little ways.

These hands are often wet with sudsy dish water or being washed because I’ve touched all manner of disgusting bodily fluids. They are changing diapers, zipping coats, pulling on snow pants, and searching coat sleeves for wayward shirt sleeves.

These hands of mine are cooking endless meals, baking cookies, making hot cocoa, and filling sippy cups and water glasses. They are searching for lost toys and games, replacing batteries in toys I wish made no noise and decorating Christmas trees.

They’re pulling sleds up the hill for children too tired to do it themselves. They’re shuffling decks of cards to games I don’t always feel like playing or building Lego towers, assembling puzzles and turning the pages of countless books. They are in the air as I dance crazily around the living room with three little squealing kids who are getting down right along with me.

My hands are also typing, always typing because I’m a writer and there’s nothing I love to write about more than my kids. It’s because I want them to know that even though mommy doesn’t always have it all together, they are the best of me.

Yes, my hands are busy. They are always full. There is almost no point during each day where they are empty.

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And you know what? I’m so incredibly grateful for full hands. Children aren’t a burden. They are a blessing; one not everyone gets.

I read an article the other day about a writer who regretted having children and urged other people to reconsider having kids. My first thought was, “I hope her kids don’t read her article one day.” Not everyone wants to have kids and that’s fine. But they deserve to be treasured once they’re here.

The argument was that you would have far more money, could advance your career, travel and have more “me-time” if you didn’t have kids. While all of that is true, children give so much joy to your life.

If it weren’t for my three, I would never have learned how to love someone more than myself. Sure, you can love a spouse, but there are still strings attached. If they hurt you badly enough, you walk away. Not with kids; that love surpasses all limitations.

Hannah is a result of my stubborn will to become a mother after my first pregnancy ended in miscarriage. I desperately wanted my son Jayden after falling in love with motherhood and my daughter Sydney was the happy ending to a year-long heartache for the child I knew would complete our family.

When you tell me, “Your hands are full!” I want to tell you, “If you think my hands are full, you should see my heart!”

And I would tell you except I don’t have time to stop. As you can see, I have three little ones to hold tight. My hands are never empty.

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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