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40 Days of Change

The Internet is abuzz with different challenges you can do with your family during the 40 Days of Lent. There is the de-cluttering challenge to eliminate 40 bags of stuff in 40 days. The 40 Acts challenge to do 40 random acts of kindness in 40 days. And the challenge to just give up something you love for 40 days straight- whether it is chocolate, or wine, or even social media. The point is people are preparing to give up something for 40 days as a way to honor their traditions.

But what if you do not celebrate Lent? How can you participate in the giving part without participating in the religious aspect? Well, all it takes is 40 days and a plan!  I am introducing 40 Days of Change in our house this week.  We are literally using our spare change to help make a change. My kids get paid a quarter for certain chores each day and we will let them decide how much of their earnings they would like to contribute to our cause.

Here is what you’ll need:

A jar or box

Spare change


A charity to donate to

Start by selecting a clean jar, or box to collect your spare change in. Keep it in a location you pass every day when you come home. You simply empty your pocket change (or change from the bottom of your purse, or the few coins in your wallet) into this container. Random single dollar bills count too, and so does the quarter in the couch or the pile of pennies in your car console.

Next, open your calendar. Mark the day you start collecting your spare change and count out 40 days. That will be your official end date. Take whatever you collect in that 40 day time period to your bank or local Coin Star machine. Once you have counted and cashed in all your loose change you are ready to make your donation. It doesn’t matter how big, or small your contribution is. Every single penny counts!

Last, pick your charity of choice. My family’s passions are pediatric cancer, and feeding programs in our local community. Here are some suggestions if you need them:

St. Baldrick’s Foundation

St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital

A Moment of Magic

Make a Wish

Give Kids the World

Ronald McDonald’s House

Angel Food East

People’s Place Kingston

Caring Hands Soup Kitchen

The SPCA (You can search for your local shelter, or for local animal rescues).

Hudson Valley Hero Project

You can get a little creative and use the money you collect to pay off lunches at your kid’s school, or prepay someone’s coffee at your local coffee house. Perhaps you prefer purchasing gift cards from a local grocery store and handing them out to families standing in line at check out. Earlier this year my girls and I were on the receiving end of a random act of kindness. A lovely woman realized she had a handful of gift cards for the movie concession stand she wasn’t going to use. So, she stood by the ticket booth and handed them out to families that were on their way in. She selected us and it was truly touching to be on the receiving end of such generosity. It also allowed me to splurge on treats for my kids.

There are no rules to 40 Days of Change. We can pick a charity every 40 days if we like, or just stick to doing it once a year. I hope my family will enjoy a new 40 day challenge at least three times a year. Even if we only raise a few dollars each time, the value lies in giving back routinely. Helping my kids connect the entire process of planning, and saving to giveaway, will help them recognize a need and find a way to fill it. They can see that every action matters and through action we can make a difference in our own community.

Related post: Family Savings Jar: Dimes for Disney Charity Starts at Home 7 Ways to Give Back With Little Ones in Tow Give a Kid the Gift of Swag Charitable Giving is A Christmas Tradition

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. 

Every March thousands of brave souls around the country come out to do something crazy. They shave their long locks of hair for money. That may sound a little weird to you if you haven’t heard of the St. Baldrick’s Foundation before.


If you have not yet had the chance to be a part of a St. Baldrick’s event, you are in luck! St. Baldrick’s of Ulster County is returning with their super family friendly event on Sunday March 5th 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. at the Saugerties Senior Center 207 Market St. Saugerites, NY. Nearly 150 people will shave their heads in solidarity with kids fighting cancer in our local community and around the world. The original event hosted in 2015, raised over $88,000.


What began as a modest fundraising goal of $17,000 in 1999, has grown to a record breaking $27.2 actual dollars given to research grants in 2014. In 2015 research backed by St. Baldrick’s pushes the FDA to approve a new drug to treat kids with neuroblastoma. It is only the third drug approved specifically for pediatric cancer in twenty years.


My family and I began raising money for St. Baldrick’s as a way to honor the battle my niece Ashley fought when she was just 3-years-old. Thankfully, she is a healthy teenager and high school graduate today, but in 2001 we didn’t know what her future would hold. Ashley has been a long time supporter of St. Badlrick’s and last year was the first time she braved the shave since losing her hair to cancer as a child.

Oh, and there is no actual St. Baldrick.


There are hundreds of different organizations raising money for kids with cancer, but what makes the St. Baldrick’s charity unique is that nearly every dollar is donated directly to research. There is no overhead cost of an executive team, a CEO salary, or administrative costs. The events are coordinated by volunteers in small towns and big cities. Most often it is a family affair honoring young heroes who have lost and won their battles.


Since the government only spends less than 4% on pediatric cancer research, St. Baldrick’s helps fill the funding gap and is the largest private funder of childhood cancer research grants.


So now that you have a little history about why people start their own team and ask for money to shave their heads, you should know what you can expect at this event. There is a little something for everyone to enjoy! The bake sale is provided courtesy of some serious local bakers like Banana Moon Baking Company, The Cup Takes The Cake, Sugar Me Sweet Bakers, Amy’s Sweet Tooth, Hudson Valley Dessert Company and many more! There will be face painting, dance performances, a DJ, raffles and a whole lot of energy! It will be a big party celebrating the shavees for their bravery, honoring local families who brave the fight and remembering the ones who will be forever young.


The event is only 12 days away, but you can still register to brave the shave and raise donations, or you can make a donation to the Saugerties event, or you can show up and be a part of the action. I guarantee the first time you experience this amazing event your life will never be the same, and even the biggest heart will find enough room to grow three sizes!

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. 


How crazy is it that we had snow four days before Halloween? Then, the very next day it’s a typical fall day? I expected a nice dusting of snow that we could simply leave a few foot prints in on our way to school, and then it would all melt away. But noooo. I had to break out the shovels!  While my kids were helping me clear the driveway they began singing Christmas carols and asking me when Santa is coming. They forgot entirely that we didn’t even get through trick or treat yet!

But all that caroling had me thinking about Christmas and our Christmas list. In the past I have shared my $150 Christmas spending plan with tips on how to spend less to get more. This year I am going for no plastic toys and all the crap that comes along with it. We have so much stuff in our house it is almost impossible to keep up with. No more toys with tiny parts. No more Lego sets that are eventually dumped all over the floor. No more extra pieces. This is the year we say no more crappy toys for Christmas!

It isn’t just the overkill of toys that I am looking to change; I’m looking to add more thoughtfulness to our holiday.  When I was growing up there wasn’t enough money to go around, so we put a lot of thought into what we did buy and dressed it up really pretty. Or we made it a funny experience by wrapping small gifts inside of a box, wrapped inside of a box, wrapped inside of another box. Sometimes we’d have to hunt for a gift somewhere on the tree.  And sometimes we even made gifts for each other.

Today it is just too easy to lavish our families with flashy electronics, or a brand new ride on toy, or toys with lots of lights and sounds. But what happens to those toys in the long run? You can hand them off to another child eventually, but plastic things never truly go away. Once they’ve outlived their use they get tossed directly into the trash. My husband and I decided to keep eco-friendly in mind when making our purchases this year.

As I put together my shopping plan this year, here are the questions I am asking myself:

  1. WHAT DO MY KIDS PLAY WITH? My kids really enjoy special characters like the Octonauts, Strawberry Shortcake and My Little Pony. Instead of buying them the plastic characters and accessories (which we already have a ton of), I am keeping an eye out for plushy toys, puzzles and books and clothing sets with those characters. These are all more eco-friendly and still fun.
  2. WHAT DO WE DO FOR FUN? My kids love going to places like Fun-e-farm, Mid-Hudson Children’s Museum and eating at their favorite restaurants. Those places ALL offer gift certificates. Buying them tickets, or gift certificates for an experience to enjoy together means no toys cluttering up my house.
  3. WHAT DO MY KIDS NEED? Do they have enough warm shirts? Enough pants? Do they need shoes, or sneakers? Yes, it is the cliche mom thing to slide packages of wrapped socks under the tree in stealth like fashion. But why mess with tradition? And again, no tiny pieces to step on here!
  4. WHAT ARE MY KIDS LACKING? In our house it can be difficult to get enough time one on one with each kid. With busy work schedules, school routines and all the “adulting” we do as parents we often fall short on spending time together with just a parent and one child. I’m thinking those gift certificates will pair nicely with a calendar filled with special date days.
  5. HOW ARE MY KIDS SPENDING THEIR TIME? Right now we aren’t participating in any extra curricular activities. But my girls do like to take swim lessons during the winter to learn water safety skills as well as get some good exercise. Swim lessons or a membership to a Karate school or gymnastics school take up zero space in the home!

This year we plan to go with the less is more concept with a smaller quantity of better quality gifts. There may be a few toys in there to enjoy along side of the prepaid experiences we are putting under the tree. But with enough thoughtful planning we won’t find any plastic, cookie cutter toys among the gifts.

Stay tuned for my post next week where I share our actual gift giving list!

Do you plan your gift giving, or just wing it?

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’m not a big fan of politics. I don’t like watching the debates on TV, unlike my CNN addicted husband. I guess I’m not unlike the majority of people who wonder if their voice even matters to candidates once the elections are over. Despite my misgivings, I was pleasantly surprised by a visit from Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther at my daughter’s Girl Scout troop meeting this week.

Aileen Gunther with Girl Scout Troop 767

Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther spoke with Girl Scouts Heart of the Hudson Troop #767 about her job and what it means to make your mark on the world.
Top row from left to right: Morgan Degraw, Hayden Marie Herrera, Alexia Clark, Lilly Betancourt, Angelina Alvarado, Hannah Johnson, Sara Gagnon, Alyssa Velazquez, Dalila Dixon. Bottom row left to right: Adryana Kozachuk, Brin Degraw, Carissa Ciorciari, Sierra Velazquez, Addison Alvarado, Jordyn Wall-Carty, Maya Ballard

I Work For YOU

She was so friendly and open with the girls. She answered their questions, said she would put up their posters in her office in Albany, and spoke to them on their level about what it is that she does as an assemblywoman. My hands down favorite quote of hers:

“I work for you! Did you know that?” she asked the girls. Imagine being a six or eight year old girl listening to an adult in power saying that to you. It was incredible.

I think it’s a sentiment I often forget when mired in the political rhetoric on TV. It’s true though. We tend to forget, that while they have the power to make laws, we (the voters) are in fact the ones who gave them that power.

When the girls asked if people thought she was amazing, Assemblywoman Gunther smiled warmly and said, “I don’t know if people think I’m amazing, except perhaps my grand-kids, especially during the holidays.”

International Dot Day

In addition to telling the girls how she helps people, much like she always did in her position as a nurse, she told them about International Dot Day. Based on the wildly popular children’s book The Dot, by Peter H. Reynolds.

According to

“The Dot is the story of a caring teacher who dares a doubting student to trust in her own abilities by being brave enough to ‘make her mark’. What begins with a small dot on a piece of paper becomes a breakthrough in confidence and courage, igniting a journey of self-discovery and sharing, which has gone on to inspire countless children and adults around the globe.”

Make Your Mark

All children should be inspired to “make their mark” in this world. In honor of that lesson, I gave my daughter Hannah the opportunity to write about what she learned from Assemblywoman Gunther. Hannah is my mini-me, always a nose in a book or writing furiously some new work of fiction. I wanted to give her a little taste of what it means to be a writer and also let her know that what she thinks matters to me and the world.

Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther

Assemblywoman Gunther and Hannah Johnson of Girl Scouts Heart of the Hudson Troop #767

Hannah Writes

Hannah writes: “At Girl Scouts I learned a lot of stuff. Some of the stuff I learned Is: Aileen Gunther is an Assemblywoman. Her co-worker is really nice and shares a lot, and invited our troop to go visit her office in Albany. I had an awesome time and it was really fun. She also answered a lot of questions we had. The questions we had were usually about her job and lifestyle. It was a lot of fun at Girl Scouts with Aileen Gunther. She is nice and kind and sweet!”

Assemblywoman Gunther talked about doing what she calls “The Diner Tours,” stopping to speak to seniors at local diners to hear their suggestions and frustrations with government. She said that since they can’t come to her, she goes to them. She spoke with the humility and gratitude of a true public servant; one who just “loves helping people,” as she said.

So perhaps now I’ll pay a little closer attention to politics, especially when it concerns the County I live in. Maybe our voices do matter after all. If nothing else, I hope my daughter has learned both by this visit and through her guest appearance on this post that her voice does matter.

Is there really any better lesson we can teach our children?

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





In case you don’t know or didn’t read my first post, I am a sports-a-holic.  I’ve been playing sports since I was 6 and following shortly after when I came in possession of my first baseball card, which if I remember correctly was a 1977 Bucky Dent Topps card which was part of a Burger King set. I have since given up both fast food and the NY Yankees. (Anyone can root for the Yankees, being a Mets fan builds character. Remember that kids.)

When it came to my son Luke, I don’t think it was so much the seizures that blocked him from competing with the other kids, but the Hypotonia along with his learning disability that was the problem. When he was 4, we signed him up for soccer here in Warwick. He ran out on to the field with no issue, but once he got there, he kind of just stood around and stared. He was more interested in why the referee was wearing such a bright green shirt than the game itself. Realizing this sports venture was going to be short-lived, I started to go into panic mode. How could my son not play sports?

This is where living in a small town actually worked in our favor. We had seen a flier about an organization called Beautiful People, but didn’t act on it right away. I was coaching my son Shane’s tee-ball team and one of his teammates was the daughter of Peter Ladka.

Peter founded Beautiful People in 2006 and based the organization out of Warwick. The vision of Beautiful People is for it to be a “community sports organization that would enable joy, inspire hope, and fulfill dreams among children with disabilities and their families.” Beautiful People’s mission is “to build bridges between children with disabilities and their families and the broader community of Orange County by providing adaptive sports for children and young adults, age 5 and up.” (Beautiful people)


Baseball was the first sport we signed Luke up to play and he loved it from the first time he took the field. We have since had him participate in their Soccer & Basketball programs. Everyone involved gives so much to keep the machine going, but ultimately, it’s the kids that make the magic happen. There’s not enough space here to mention everyone, but if you see Morgan’s excitement when she makes a basket or Hannah’s smile that lights up whatever venue we are in, you would know what I mean.

Christopher steps to the plate like Ichiro, while others look to be overwhelmed with excitement of something they can call their own. It is also where I met Daniel Fratto. Daniel was “the voice” of Beautiful People baseball just like Bob Sheppard was the voice of Yankee Stadium. He was also the most inspirational, most positive person I have ever met and someone I think about constantly and pull strength from when dealing with Luke’s issues.


Thanks to Beautiful People, Luke has his thing which in turn is our thing. He has something to look forward to and something we can do together. He doesn’t communicate well verbally, but I’ve known him long enough to read his body language and see it can make him sad sometimes that I spend so much time playing basketball with Shane. Heck, it makes me sad. It’s not a good feeling when as a parent you look at your own child and think “why can’t he do this?” Well, he can do this. He can do anything he puts his mind to; it just requires a little more time and effort on all our parts.


I think I speak for most parents of Beautiful People players when I say we are very grateful for not only finding this organization, but for all those who keep things going. Courtney Dolce, a friend of Beautiful People once said “Playing sports should not be that difficult”. I couldn’t agree more. Beautiful People makes it that much easier.

For more on Beautiful People and how to join, volunteer or donate, go to

I will leave you with a quote from one of my favorite bands, the Gaslight Anthem “And I’ll be with you through the dark, so that you do not go through the dark alone” – Brian Fallon

Stay tuned…

This is a craft recommended for parent and child ages 4 and up.

Sure it’s easy to make a sock puppet, but have you ever made one with a perfect hand insert?

I came up with this neat little trick when I was a young teen and have used it ever since when making a sock puppet.

Things you will need…

Socks – Buttons or Googly Eyes – Yarn – Hot Glue – Scissors – Cardboard – Any other face or hair makings of your choice

The first thing you will want to do is cut a piece of cardboard ( I used the wings off a box) into 6 by 3 inch rectangles. Bend in half creating a mouth shape.

Cut small strips of cardboard. Have your child hold the pre-cut rectangle in their hand as they would hold their puppet and bend strip over their finger as shown to make the needed size… do the same for thumb. Mark on either side of the finger so you can remember where the bend goes.

Inside out your sock – This is very important – You want it inside out. This is a parent step so feel free to have your child watch 🙂

Hot Glue Finger slots onto the top and bottom of your mouth piece close the the fold where your child’s fingers will sit. I recommend not only hot gluing it on, but also reinforcing around each side so it seals a nice strong bond as seen below.

Now, squeeze hot glue onto the inside of one side of the mouth and place sock inside making sure it’s smooth. Pull extra sockage out the sides. Repeat on top. What you should have is a mouth piece hot glued on the outside of your sock.

Inside out and pull at corners of mouth a little to form a smile 🙂

Decorate puppet as wanted and have fun doing it! be creative and silly!

To create a wig for your puppet wrap yarn around your fingers until nice and thick. Tie a small strand around the center and pull tight with a knot. Cut yarn off underside of your hand and then trim as wanted. Leave long, or cut short… your child is the beautician.

A fun and inspiring craft for you and your little one. Enjoy creating this tissue paper jar… tissue paper will become bright and colorful with blinking fireflies inside and behind the colors.  Children will enjoy being hands on with this project. Encourages fine motor skills and as always solidifies the bond between parent and child. The kind of bond that forms from working one on one.

Recommended for ages 4 and up 🙂

{{Supply List }}

* Jars from your recyclables * Modge Podge * Left over tissue paper

* Hammer and Nail * Left over spray paint * Pipe Cleaners * Glow in the dark Pony Beads *

{{ Step #1 }} Parent Step – Hammer 6-8 holes in the lid of your jar, spray paint and set aside to dry.

{{ Step #2 }}  Apply a thin layer of Modge Podge on your jar in small sections at a time so that your glue doesn’t dry while you are working. Let your child rip, tear, and apply tissue paper to the section that has been modge podged. Help your child smooth out their tissue paper if needed by applying another layer of modge podge over top. Repeat until entire jar is covered.

{{ Step #3 }} Let your child thread a pipe cleaner with your glow in the dark pony beads, making sure to leave 2 inches on each side free of beads. You will need this area to twist handle onto jar. While your child is doing this, take two pipe cleaners and twist the ends together creating one large pipe cleaner…

{{ Step #4 }}  Bend your child’s beaded handle into a “U” shape and with one hand hold it onto the lip of the jar.

{{ Step #5 }}  Take the pipe cleaner your lengthened and while holding beaded pipe cleaner with one hand… take your other hand and wrap the longer piece around the entire jar 2xs and weave in. Be sure to leave the area your child did not bead out so that you can fold it up and twist around itself.

{{ Step #6 }}  Fold up un-beaded ends and twist around itself, this secures your handle to the jar.

{{ Step #7 }} Enjoy! let the little one stay up a little later and enjoy going into the yard on an adventure. I have seen fireflies early this year, so keep your peepers open. When there are no fireflies, place an electric votive candle inside and take a dark adventure walk with your child through the yard. Point out all the differences between the things you see in the dark with those that you see in the day.

Electric votives can be purchased in the candle section of your local craft store. These items are flameless and safe for little ones. Just turn them on, place them inside, and enjoy!


Create patriotic windsock!!



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