Christmas and Minimalism

For decades Christmas was a time when I would decorate almost every square inch of my house. In the kitchen there would be holiday towels, bowls filled with red and green baubles, and pine branches tucked into every nook and cranny. In the bathrooms you would find holiday scented candles with more decorative towels and Santa figurines on the sink. The living room would look like Santa’s elves had taken hold of the space and put red, green, and gold positively everywhere. Every surface had a red table runner, music boxes, snow globes, my collection of Santa dolls and assorted greenery spread over it to the point that you couldn’t see the table anymore.

It would take me a couple of days to put all this out for display. It was exhausting but I thought it was necessary for my family to be able to enjoy the holiday and get into the holiday spirit. My two sons did love all the decor, but truthfully my husband couldn’t stand it. He didn’t appreciate all the clutter that came with the holiday. Furthermore, because it took so much work to put the decor up I wanted to make sure it was worth it, so the decorating would begin the day after Thanksgiving and stay up until New Year’s Day, when we would then spend hours taking it all down and organizing it for storage until the following year.

Year after year I noticed that I always loved the way the house looked once it was all put away. The overly cluttered and busy rooms were suddenly spartan in their appearance. Tabletops were empty, bathrooms were cleared and fresh looking. The whole house had a feeling of spaciousness that would result in my breathing a sigh of relief. If Christmas was the happiest time of the year, why was I always so happy to be done with it come January?

Several years ago I really began to get into minimalism. I spent a spring and summer clearing, donating, and tossing anything and everything that wasn’t needed or useful. As the summer dwindled and fall approached I began to examine all of the holiday decor. It wasn’t just the big one, Christmas. I had Autumnal decor, Halloween decor, and Thanksgiving decor as well. I assume you’re starting to see the big picture here. I had spent a lifetime collecting more and more decor for the holidays. I had bins upon bins of the stuff.

Suddenly I was faced with a dilemma, do I put all that stuff out, or do I act like Scrooge and say “Bah humbug,” to it all. I sat down and really thought about what I truly loved most about the holidays and change of seasons. I loved the family time, I loved those magical moments like apple picking and watching Hallmark movies by a cozy fire next to the tree. I started to realize that I could celebrate the magic of the season but on a much smaller scale.

I selected areas of the main room that would get decor, but the rest of the house would continue to be free and clear. I decided that the mantle would always be decorated. I did love how the mantle looked once it was draped in pine and red berries mingled with white lights. I also would put an arrangement of some kind on the kitchen table and the buffet table.

A simple lantern stacked on top of a wooden pedestal with two candle sticks.

One of the best strategies I learned was to contain the decor items to a tray or pedestal. This would limit the amount that was put out, and yet by placing all the items together as one unit it made for a very impressive display. I also made a point to focus on natural items as opposed to tons of holiday trinkets, figurines, and the like. My Santa collection gave way to pine branches, pinecones, and faux berries. The stuffed snowmen that used to be stacked next to the fireplace was replaced with stacked birch logs and more pine cones.

As much as I would have liked to decorate with real berries, I have a dog and a cat and couldn’t risk them possibly ingesting something harmful. For the same reason I use tons of battery operated candles with one or two scented candles in safe locations. Even though my natural elements weren’t all truly natural, it still made for a very serene feel.

One of the biggest changes of all was the tree. In years past the tree would have so many items on it that you couldn’t see hardly any of the pine branches. Ribbon, faux poinsettias, glass balls, and all sorts or ornaments adorned every square inch of the tree. I decided the entire tree needed a makeover. We would only use white lights to provide a cohesive look with the mantle. There would be no ribbon all over, no giant bunches of flowers, and as for ornaments, we would only use about a third of what we had. I went through the ornaments and selected the ones that had a memory attached, or that sparked joy as I held them. I found myself drawn to the red and white ornaments the most, and suddenly a color pallet for the tree had be born naturally.

In the end, the main room still looks very festive, and while the main room probably wouldn’t be described as minimal right now by die hard minimalists, it makes me incredibly happy as well as my husband. He appreciates the rest of the house being free of decor as much as I do.

After the holiday I will collect the items that we did not use this Christmas and they will make their way to a charitable donation center or get rehoused to relatives who might want them.

Hope you are having the merriest of holiday seasons.


Entertainment to Spark Your Child’s Imagination, and Hopefully Get Them Out of Your Hair

SAHM Quarantine Scedule DITL e (1)

As a stay at home mom life under quarantine isn’t all that different for me than a normal day would be, but I was a working mom for over eighteen years and know full well the challenges of trying to get it all done. Some working moms probably thought the option of working from home was wonderful, until they realized that their children and even a spouse was suddenly going to be home all day too.

I am pretty lucky in that my boys are older. They are capable of doing their online homework without a great deal of attention from me, which frees me up to work on a video, edit, or write a new blog post like I am doing right now. I am also very fortunate that we have a home office in the basement which is where my husband is working, making phone calls and Skyping.

For those of you with younger children, your 9 to 5 is going to be more hectic. The truth is you are teaching ABC’s and multiplication facts during this time instead of doing your own job. The good news is that homeschooling should only take about two hours since you won’t have the distractions and interruptions that normal teachers have to deal with. So how do you get your children to leave you alone long enough to do your job and clean the house and cook breakfast, lunch, and dinner?

Art and Creative Play

Cut a trash bag down the side to make a protective barrier on your table top and pull out the art supplies. Play dough, water colors, scissors, glue, construction paper, yarn, and crayons are wonderful for imaginative play. Yes, you will have a mess to clean up later, but this should buy you a good 45 minutes to an hour of uninterrupted time. Also, when the children are done being creative just pick up the trash bag like a sack and boom, mess is gone and deposited in the trash. Be sure to hang any masterpieces on the fridge.

PS-Actually take a moment and have your child describe their art work to you. This helps with their imagination. If you truly want to have your munchkins make Pinterest Projects you can, just know you will need to be by their side for the duration of the project. If you want to have time to get stuff done, then just stand back and let them do their own thing.

Pop in a Movie

I know what some of you are going to say, oh no, not screens! How can you even suggest such a thing? I can suggest it because I am a real mom who has been there. Sometimes you just need a two hour window to shower, shave your legs, and figure out what you are going to make for dinner that day. Also, not all movies are created equal. Here are some suggestions for helping to improve your child’s imagination and even learning a bit of right from wrong. I also highly recommend after watching the movie you tell your daughter that, “Yes, she is a princess, all girls are,” and that if you are fortunate enough to have a small stream or river near your house you should go and play Pooh Sticks. Using your living room, some pillows and blankets, and creating Neverland can also be tons of fun!

A Little Priness  Adventures of Tintin    Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh  Matilda     BFG     Peter Pan   Secret Garden   Winnie the Pooh

Growing up my boys watched these movies again and again, even the ones that had girl leads. A good story is a good story, and can be enjoyed by all.


If your child has their own Kindle Fire you will be happy to know they can do so much more than just watch goofy YouTube videos on it. Search the Apps in the App Store for:

Reading Grade 1
Math Grade 3
Phonics Kindergarten

A wide variety of Apps will appear and you will have you choice of easy to use learning tools at your disposal. Now your child can play a game and learn at the same time, which is always a win.

Board Games

Everyone knows Candyland and Connect Four, but here are a few new games you might not have heard of, and they are loads of fun.

Blokus    Blokus b

Shadows  Shadows b

suspend  suspend b

Blokus Duo is great for two players and is really good at helping children learn spatial relationships. Shadows in the Forest is great because how many game can you play in the dark! Plus it is an easy game that you can play right away after reading a couple directions. Suspend and Suspend Jr. is a great game because it is all about balance and again, thinking mathematically, but all kids know is they are having fun.

If you know more great movies and games for children please share them in the comments! Us moms need to stick together and find ways to have fun with our kiddos, now more than ever in this scary time.

Sending lots of love,





Coronavirus & the New Stay at Home Moms

by Tina Bietler

Throughout my life I have been a stay at home mom, a working mom, and even a single mom for four years. My thoughts are not a judgement against any woman or the choices she makes for herself. We need to lift each other up, not knock each other down.

I am a stay at home mom. Admittedly I used to be an elementary teacher and working mother for many years, but several autoimmune illnesses lead to an early retirement from a job I loved. When I first quit teaching I was at a loss. I had been a teacher for over twenty years. I loved being a teacher so much that I was even one of the very first Teacher YouTubers on the platform. If I wasn’t a teacher anymore then who was I?

Thanksgiving Week 1Here is a secret though about my working days. I suffered terrible anxiety. I had panic attacks so bad that on occasion my husband had to leave his job to come pick me up from mine. I also suffered terrible pain from rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia which led to debilitating chronic fatigue. Once I even fainted at work and left the building in an ambulance.

While trying to cling to this career under less than perfect health, I was also mom to two young boys, a wife and homemaker. My husband is a rock star. He works an average of 55-65 hours a week as a robotics engineer and project leader, and did his own laundry and all the home maintenance. However, I was the one who put dinner on the table seven nights a week, got the children ready for school in the morning since he was already gone to the office, and did easily 90% of the housework.

cute boys 3

My normal day started at 4:45 am and didn’t end until about 8:00 pm, where I would crash on the sofa, watch an hour of television, only to go to bed and repeat the whole process all over the next day. I was well known to be in the middle of something and just bust out in tears. When my husband would ask me what was wrong I often replied, “I don’t know.” I was too exhausted to put into words the myriad of thoughts and to do’s swirling about in my head. I was never caught up. If I was on top of work then I was behind at the house. If I was on top of the house then I was suddenly way behind at work. If I was miraculously on top of both I inevitably came down sick because my immune system gave in to stress and the many germs in an elementary classroom.

This changed a little over two years ago when my illnesses forced me to quit teaching. As I said, initially I was lost. Not only did my career come to an abrupt end, but even my YouTube channel stopped. It’s pretty hard to be a Teacher YouTuber when you no longer have a cute classroom to decorate or awesome lesson plans to write. But as the weeks and then months went by I began to realize something.

boys cute 2My house was clean; cleaner than it had been in a long time. With my oldest son’s help sofa’s were moved and the floor vacuumed, and years worth of junk in the basement was sorted through and loaded into the SUV where it was then taken for donation. We were all eating healthier because I had time to cook from scratch as opposed to the semi home cooking I had been doing when I was working.

With time my anxiety and stress began to lessen, and I even went an entire year without catching a cold, flu bug, sinus infection, or bronchitis. When I was a teacher I would have on average 3-4 colds a year, two sinus infections, and at least one bronchial infection. Antibiotic resistance was a real worry for me as I seemed to always be on them. True, I still suffered pain from my illnesses, and even chronic fatigue, but honestly, by my definition of healthy, it was the healthiest I had been in forever.

boys cute

Best of all, I found I truly enjoyed being a stay at home mom. Even though my boys were older, they still needed me, especially my teenager who was struggling terribly in school. I was there for them. I had patience! Instead of getting flustered and losing my temper I was able to listen to them, talk about silly stuff, play games, and help with homework. My youngest even told me one night that I was less crabby now that I stayed home all the time. As for my husband, I was now free to take more tasks off his to-do list and try to free up some of his time at home.

On my good days I enjoyed researching new recipes on Pinterest and actually prepared them after I pinned it. I meal planned and made a loose cleaning schedule. If I had a bad day or two and was bed ridden, so be it. I would get back to the schedule when a good day came round again. In the end, I love being a stay at home mom much more than a working mom. I was a better mom, and a better wife, because of it.

Today, thanks to Covid-19, many moms around the world are finding themselves forced back into their homes with their children. Even more, they are having to home school on top of it. Most definitely there will be many moms eager to get back to their jobs and hand their children back over to their teachers, glad to be free of quarantine and of the mundane tasks that come with being a housewife. On the other hand, how many women are going to realize over the next two, or three, or possibly even four weeks that being home, cooking healthy food, raising their children themselves, and having quality time with their spouse is wonderful. How many women will realize that even though they work all day taking care of their children and home, they’re not exhausted and run down like they would usually be? Just because a woman can do it all doesn’t mean doing it all brings happiness or good mental health.

Research shows that women who stay home are happier than those who go out to work. A survey for the insurance group LV asked 3,000 women whether they were satisfied with their lives. The ones that were categorized as homemakers with children scored the highest for happiness at 87.2%, higher than all other categories for work.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics News Release,  stay-at-home motherhood is on the rise with 29% of mothers now staying home with children (a sharp increase from 23% in 1999). When taken in context of children, there are many reports and studies that show having a permanent parent at home is better for children. No one disputes the fact that small children need their parents, but many overlook the pressure and stress today’s teens are dealing with.

When this global pandemic is finally over, I am curious to see if more women will chose to walk away from their jobs to become stay at home moms. Even more curious will be the reaction from feminists if some women actually make this choice. About the only thing more distasteful to most feminists than men, are women who actively choose to be a traditional homemaker. Even worse yet are women who are well educated and give up a career to stay home.

In the past year I have made online friendships with many stay at home moms here in the US and Great Britain. Many of us share happy thoughts or moments, recipes, and old fashioned skills that are dying out, and thanks to Covid-19, many of us have talked about how we were prepared for such an event because we shop sales, use coupons, and stockpile when our favorite goods go on sale. It is totally normal for us to have huge pantries with rotated foods so none are lost to spoilage, a second or even third freezer filled with ready made freezer meals and dump and go bags stored for the slow cooker or Instapot.

Our social media posts are public because it makes it easy to be found by others looking for such advice or camaraderie. Some are modern homemakers, some are non-denominational, some are Catholic, some are Muslim, some are subservient to their spouse, some say they are equal to their spouse yet acknowledge they follow gender roles and that the two roles complement each other. The one thing we all have in common is we all truly love being home with our families and taking care of our homes.

Over the past few months the stay at home moms on Twitter seem to have drawn a lot of attention. The hashtag #tradwife or #tradwives became a thing, especially once Alena Kate Pettitt, author of Ladies Like Us, English Etiquette, and Founder of The Darling Academy, was interviewed on several news networks. Since then the pushback and insults have been vicious at times. After all, in 2020, how on earth can an intelligent woman choose to be something as worthless as a housewife? Only a lazy, or stupid woman would make such a choice. Only a woman who enjoys being abused or controlled by an overbearing man would make such a choice. No sane woman in this day and age would chose femininity over feminism. To do so is to turn your back on all the women who came before us who fought so hard for a woman to have the same choices and opportunities as men.

I do appreciate all the hard work and glass ceilings women broke though. They were brave and daring and bold. They put up with harassment and sexism and showed the world that they could earn a paycheck and raise children at the same time. They were so effective in their argument that now the option of being a stay at home mom isn’t really an option for most women anymore. I’m not talking about single mothers. For obvious reasons a single mom, and yes, I was a single mom for four years before my second marriage, have to work to support their children.

I am actually talking about men. Many men today take for granted that their wife will maintain a full time job. Sure, she might take a few months off right after having a baby, but then the baby goes to daycare and she goes back to work. The notion that being a homemaker and mother is itself a full time job is considered obsolete by many men and women alike.

Women who actually want to be housewives and mothers are viewed with scorn and disdain by the feminists movement. They believe our desire to be old fashioned only hurts the cause of equality and the right to have a choice. Never mind the fact that a stay at home mom has made a choice, and even found a husband who agrees with their choice. After all, a real woman doesn’t need a man to take care of her, or hold doors open for her, or to pay for her dinner. In fact, why bother getting married or having kids at all.

In the end, all families will do what is best for them, whether that involves two working parents or one provider with a stay at home mom. How you choose to live your life is entirely up to you and all choices should be respected. We need to not pit working moms and stay at home moms abasing each other.

Written by Tina Bietler
A Happliy Ever After Blog


Chicken Noodle Casserole

Sometimes you need to cook a large bulk meal that will last at least two days and maybe even give you enough left over to freeze for a third day in the future. This is a tasty dish that everyone in my family loves! You can you fresh veggies if you have the time, or if you want to make this as fast as possible frozen will work just as well, but try to find a bag that has chunk potatoes in the mix.

Chicken Noodle Casserole


Fully cooked rotisserie chicken (I used the 3 pound Costco chicken)
4 large potatoes
4 to 5 large carrots
1/2 bag of frozen corn
1/2 bag of frozen peas
3 cans of Cream of Chicken Soup
1/2 bag of wide egg noodles
2 cans of hot pasta water (reserved from boiling the noodles)
Onion Powder to taste
Salt & Pepper to taste
3/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs

  1. Peel and cube potatoes into 1/2 chunks. Peel and slice carrots. In a pot boil potatoes and carrots until almost fork tender. Add frozen peas and corn to same pot and finish letting potatoes and carrots cook for a few minutes. Drain and put aside.Chicken Noodle Casserole a
  2. While vegetables are cooking cube the rotisserie chicken. Dispose of skin and bones.
  3.  Cook egg noodles following the direction on the bag. Don’t pour out the pasta water when draining the noodles.
  4. In the now empty vegetable pot bring to a simmer the three cans of cream of chicken soup, two cans of hot pasta water, several large dashes of onion powder, and salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Toss veggies back into the soup mixture along with chicken and noodles and blend all in the ingredients together.
  6. Pour into the largest baking dish you have and sprinkle your bread crumbs all over the top.Chicken Noodle Casserole
  7. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes on the center rack to brown and crisp up the bread crumbs.

If you want to skip all that chopping of veggies feel free to substitute 3 bags of frozen mixed vegetables. Fresh tastes best, but sometimes lazy can save the day! This easily feeds my family of four two dinners. Add in some buttered bread and a big glass of milk and dinner is served.

If you want to see me make this meal from scratch be sure to check out my Youtube video where I make this as well as frozen sausage, egg, and cheese, muffin sandwiches for the weeks breakfasts for my guys.

The Practical & Natural Medicine Cabinet

Practical medicine Cabinet

I have a compromised immune system. It is a major side effect of the medications use to treat my Rheumatoid Arthritis. As a result, I catch everything and then take 3-4 times as long as the normal person to recover. Colds almost always turn into bronchial infections or sinus infections. The flu will inevitably turn into walking pneumonia with me. So I am forever trying to boost my immune system with supplements, healthy teas, and plenty of sleep (though I often fail when it comes to the sleep).

Because I get serious infections so often, I end up on antibiotics once or twice a year. I have noticed that lately when I get sick I am getting prescribed stronger and stronger antibiotics because my body has started to build up a tolerance to your basic run of the mill amoxicillin. This means when the day comes that the proverbial super flu finally comes a knocking, I may be in serious trouble.

Because I don’t want my children to develop a resistance to antibiotics I always buy antibiotic free meats and dairy. There have also been some changes to our medicine cabinet that honestly really work for my kids.

kids_cough_syrup_product11Most cough syrups don’t work. Don’t believe me? Ask your pediatrician. Many of them are not safe for children under six. Plus, they are filled with dyes and artificial flavors. So what is a worried mom supposed to do? Not to mention that what ever I do needs to be simple, straight forward, and be effective. I don’t have time for bogus products that don’t deliver.childrens_nt

There are now several honey based cough syrups that actually work surprisingly well. I’ll admit I was skeptical. If actual medicine was proving ineffective how was honey going to do the trick? But the honey is thick and soothing on sore throats, and the nighttime version of Zarbees has melatonin in it, an all natural chemical that the body makes at bedtime, which helps little ones to fall asleep soundly so they don’t cough during the night. Genius! (Honey is not safe for children under a year old.)

For sore throats I keep a supply of Burt’s Bees Natural Throat Drops, free of dyes and artificial flavors. The honey pomegranate ones taste pretty good and just like Maty’s and Zarbee’s Cough Syrup, the honey really coats raw throats.

salineWhen it comes to drippy, stuffy noses, Saline Nose Spray is awesome. Small kids really haven’t mastered the art of blowing their noses. Saline helps to break up mucus and thin it out so it is easier and more effective when you blow. It also moisturizes raw and painful nasal passages.

Next is a treatment I bet many of you remember from your own childhood. When I was sick my mom used to slather my chest with Vicks Vapor Rub. Breathing those menthol and eucalyptus vapors really did amazing work in clearing up sinus passages.vapor_rub_product111

Maty’s Soothing Chest Rub works just like Vicks but is free of petroleum jelly or petrochemicals.

pedialyteAnother common illness this time of year is tummy bugs. Besides having a supply of Pedalyte for maintaining fluid and chemical balances, I have learned to keep a supply of Witch Hazel Wipes in the house as well. When an attack of diarrhea happens, children’s behinds get raw and painful really fast making it hard for them to wipe. These wipes sooth a rear end with the very first use.


The last important item in the medicine cabinet is children’s ibuprofen for fevers that go above 101. I have learned not to medicate a fever right away. The truth is a fever is your bodies immune system doing what it is supposed to do, which is fight off foreign invaders. So actually a mild fever is a good thing. So before you dose, check your child’s temperature to make sure it is really necessary.

***I am not a medical professional. I am not pretending to be a medical professional. My advice is not to be taken as treatment for your child’s illness. If your child is sick then consult with your own pediatrician about the products listed on this page. These are just suggestions I have learned from speaking with my children’s pediatrician and doing a little research of my own, as well as watching my own children’s progress while using the natural remedies mentioned in this post. I was not paid by anyone to review these products, I just really like them and they work for my kids.***

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Activities for the Best Snow Day Ever

Best Snow Day Ever

Snow days can be just as over whelming as they are wonderful. What starts off as, “Yay! We have the whole day off!” can quickly turn into, “Mom, I am so bored,” or, “Mom, he’s looking at me!”

What every busy mom needs is a plan of action. Or, put better, a plan of FUN! So below is an easy and very loose schedule with some fun activities using things you hopefully have in the house.



Start the day with a pancake breakfast.  I love to buy the big bag of Krusteez Pancake mix from Costco.  A trick I have learned to make them fluffier and thicker is to swap some of the water for milk. If the batch you are making calls for 2 cups of water I will swap ½ a cup of it for milk and add in one tablespoon of vanilla extract. Get the children involved in making the batter. One can be the scooper, one can be the mixer, and if you have fresh strawberries or bananas one can slice the berries with a plastic knife. Having pancakes on a snow day is great because pancakes on what should be a school day just doesn’t happen in my house. Top with butter and syrup or fresh fruit and whipped cream.

Peter PanNext, it is time for a morning movie. The children can pick the DVD of their choice (preferably a long one), and pajamas, teddy bears, and blankets are a necessity.

I love the $5 rack of DVD’s at Target. There are many great movies that have been made that children today don’t even know about. As a teacher I can honestly recommend some tried and true winners. All are available on Amazon and are a great alternative to watching Frozen for the hundredth time.

  • Matilda
  • A Little Princess
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (with Gene Wilder!)
  • Holes
  • The Secret Garden
  • The Sandlot
  • James and the Giant Peach
  • The Tale of Desperaux
  • Peter Pan (2003 edition staring Jason Isaacs as Captain Hook and Mr. Darling)
  • Nanny McPhee
  • The Wizard of Oz
  • Because of Winn Dixie (Dave Mathews is great eye candy for mom)
  • The Princess Bride
  • The Never Ending Story
  • Baby’s Day Out
  • And finally, Mary Poppins


resized 600After a quick lunch of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or Annie’s Mac & Cheese, (It’s a snow day. Easy is the rule of the day.) it’s time to go outside. Snowballs, snow angles, and forts are ready for the making. If you have a teenager send him or her out to snow blow the driveway or help dig out the car.

Things to keep in mind:

*Everyone MUST go to the bathroom before putting on snow suits.

*A tissue needs to be shoved into coat pockets. Cold air means runny noses.

*Snow piles created by snow plows are totally big enough for little ones to slide down on a sled.

*Absolutely, under no circumstances, are children allowed to dig a cave into a giant snow mound.

To make playing in the snow more fun fill a spray bottle with water colored with food dye. Little ones can paint the snow while you are shoveling. If you have two water bottles make a red and a blue so the children can double spray and make purple!

hot chocolate2After snow play is the mandatory cups of hot chocolate. Any brand of hot chocolate will do. I like to fill the cups ½ full with hot water to dissolve the chocolate and then add cold milk to cool the cups down so the kids don’t have to whine that it is too hot or risk burning their mouths. Of course, marshmallows, whipped cream, and a dusting of cocoa powder make the hot chocolate seem all the more magical.

Around this time the children are ready for some quiet time. This is when I send each child to their own room to read books for about an hour. It will also give me a chance to clean up the kitchen and have a cup of tea. The bribery to get the children to do this is the promise of video games after quiet time. When Casey was too young to read but too old for a nap I used to insist on quiet time. This was simply him, in his room, playing quietly with toys. He’d play with Legos or his action figures, look at his books, or more often, look at the new Lego catalogs of all the things he wanted to get. I am a huge believer in children knowing how to self entertain.

Since it is a snow day, I will let the kids play video games for about two hours. I know a lot of moms will say that is too long, but as long as they got exercise outside, did a little reading, and have eaten lunch, why not let them have fun.

Other Activities to Fill the Day:

Board Games ~ Uno, Spot It, Trouble, Chutes and Ladders, and Scrabble

Make a movie ~ Let the kids dress up and make their own movie so when Dad gets home from work he can see what they did. I suggest putting your camera on a tripod so the children aren’t picking it up and possibly dropping it. Or let them make their own music video that they can share with grandma and extended family.

Arts & Crafts ~ If you are brave enough, you can let them paint with water colors. I admit I am not a “painting” kind of mom. I prefer Play dough. Yes, it crumbles and falls on the floor, but it will dry rock hard in about an hour and then can be swept up easily. I am all about the easy.

Build a Fort in the Living Room ~ Pull out the sofa cushions for walls, grab blankets for the roof, and turn chairs around to add structural support. Draw the blinds, turn off the lights and add flashlights to make it even better. The only rule is that everyone has to help put the room back together when play is done.

Bake Cookies ~ Just like the pancakes, assign tasks to different children and make a batch of your favorite cookies.

Roast Marshmallows ~ If you are lucky enough to have a fire place then it is time to pull out the left over marshmallows, graham crackers and chocolate and toast them over the hearth. Even if the chocolate and graham crackers are long gone toasted marshmallows all by them selves are still yummy and fun to make.

Dinner Time:

This one is a no brainer! It is time to call the Pizza Deliver Guy and have him bring a hot pizza, bread sticks, and a big salad to your front door. It’s been a long day and it is time for mom to relax!


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How I Got Rid of My Migraines

How I got rid of migraines

For years I have had to avoid perfumes because they triggered debilitating migraines. I have gone to the ER several times because once the migraine began it refused to go away. The longest one I had was almost three weeks. I have had to actually send home students who came to school after playing in their parents perfume or, even worse, after shave cologne.

I clearly remember my mother scrubbing and cleaning every square inch of the house when I was a kid.  She loved Spic & Span for cleaning the floors and Formula 409 for washing the walls.  Next she would use Pledge furniture polish and make every wooden item in the house shine so that you could see your reflection on the surface.

In addition to that came several loads of towels and linens all washed with bleach and then hung outside to dry.  By the end of her spring or fall cleaning she would sit back and breathe a sigh of relief and enjoy her sanitized home.  I, on the other hand, would be in my bed in a pitch black room in agony from a headache so strong it would make me nauseous.

As I got older this reaction to strong smells never went away.  All those lovely smelling soaps and beauty products that women swoon over I can’t use.  The only scented candle I can tolerate is Macintosh Apple from the Yankee Candle Store.  Everything else will make me horribly sick.

When my youngest was born he often broke out in rashes.  I learned to use only Free & Clear Type detergents on his soft skin, but even then he would still break out, just to lesser degrees.

Then, about two years ago my oldest son started to have migraines too!  That really was the last straw for me.  I started to do a lot of research on fragrances, chemicals, and what the heck was really in the cleaning products, toothpaste, laundry detergent and body care products we were all using.

What I found out left me traumatized, and if you knew everything it would scare you too!  Suddenly, I understood why 1 out of every 6 couples is experiencing infertility issues.  Suddenly, I understood why ADHD seems to affect half of my class room every year.  Suddenly, I understood why every single adult I know takes a medication for some condition or illness.

I have since made a lot of changes in our house.  All kinds of new products showed up, some from Costco, some from the drug store, and some from The Honest Company.

Below are the new products that we have been using for almost two years now and they are all performing very well.

In the Laundry Room


I love ECOS laundry detergent.  It is free of all toxic ingredients and scented only with essential oils (think aroma therapy).  It really does get our clothes clean with a tiny little amount.  I love that this item is sold in bulk size at Costco.  If you have read my previous posts you know we are Costco lovers here.  So I can do 210 loads of clothes for $12.99.  That is an amazing price.

If I am doing an extremely dirty load (grass stains and car oil) then I will toss in an Honest Oxy Boost.  Bye-bye stains.  I also buy the Honest Laundry 4 in 1 pods, but I mostly use those for going up north.  I toss a few pods in a sandwich bag and we are good to go.  I don’t have to worry about spills in the trunk.

In the Kitchen

kitchen sink

I love the Honest Dish Soap.  It cleans the dishes and the Grapefruit Oil does not cause a migraine.  Apparently my brain can handle real smells, just not chemically concocted ones.  I have the Honest Hand Soap as well.  At first my husband was not a fan of this hand soap. It is a low suds soap and took a bit of time to get used to but now he likes it just fine.

In the Bathroom

In the bathroom

It will probably surprise you to learn that I use the exact same products my kids use for the most part.  (Casey uses Tom’s of Maine Strawberry Toothpaste, I use Peppermint)

When it comes to oral care I love Tom’s of Maine.  The toothpastes are flavored with real mint extract and nothing else.  No dyes or artificial chemicals.  The same is true for the mouth wash which is minty but without the burn.

The sunscreen I apply every day is Babyganics SPF50.  Yes, I use baby sunscreen and it works perfectly on my pasty white easily burning skin.  The stick version goes on nice and even on top of my makeup without wiping my makeup off.

I use Honest Shampoo & Body Wash and Honest Conditioner on my hair.  They do a lovely job and because they are so gentle they don’t strip my hair color away.  After a shower I add a few drops of Honest Body Oil to a little bit of Honest Face and Body Lotion and rub it all in.  It leaves my skin feeling soft and dewy but not slimy or sticky.

I used to use Olay Daily Facial Clothes but have since switched to Burt’s Bees Sensitive Facial Cleaning Clothes.  I can’t tell a difference.  I am make-up free when I am done.

Gross fact~Did you know women eat about 7 pounds of lipstick over the course of a lifetime?  Since I can’t give up lipstick I like to use Burt’s Bees 100% natural Lip Shimmers.  Great color and totally non-toxic.  Top it off with a little gloss and you are date night ready.

When it comes to Antiperspirant I had to make a compromise.  I tried Tom’s of Maine Aluminum Free version and after two hours I stunk.  I can’t walk around being smelly, it just isn’t going to happen.  So I switched to Tom’s of Maine Naturally Dry Unscented.  It is free of all toxins EXCEPT aluminum.  No more pit sweat and no more stinky.

I hope this review of these products motivates you to try some of them and remove a bunch of chemicals from your home and life.

Also, since we made the switch there has been no rashes on Casey and AJ has had only two migraines in the past two years.


If you have discovered great products please share below.  I love to learn about new products to try.

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How to Fake Clean Hair

How to Fake Clean Hair

Let’s face it, once you become a mom, your personal grooming takes a hit. I remember when I had my first baby I could not for the life of me figure out when I was supposed to take a shower.

If I am supposed to sleep when the baby slept, then I couldn’t take a shower. But then once the baby woke up it was feeding, diapering, burping, etc., so I still wasn’t showering. I finally figured out to put the baby in the bouncy and take a shower with the baby in the bathroom. Of course my mommy fatigued brain took a week or so to come to up with that idea. I was becoming rather ripe if I do say so myself.

Then comes baby two, and your job, and the housework, and after school activities. I have learned to take a speed shower once the boys are in bed for the night since I don’t have time in the morning. But my hair is another story. Because my hair is fine I can’t wash it daily because it will break and fall out. So I only have to wash it twice a week. How hard can that be? No, you don’t have to answer that question because you already know the answer.

My hair is good for three days, but by day four it gets flat. By day five it pretty much looks awful. So how does a working mommy go to work when her hair looks like a matted down birds nest? Through trial and error I have honestly figured this one out.

Because I can’t afford Botox I grew myself some bangs years ago. The first step to faking clean hair is to wash out JUST your bangs. This requires a rain drop sized amount of shampoo and you hunched over the sink and in about 15 seconds wet, suds, and rinse your bangs. Be very careful NOT to get the rest of your hair wet. Squeeze out the water with your fingers and then use a round brush and your dryer to blow them out so they are dry, clean and fluffy. This whole process is done in under a minute, seriously.

Rockaholic Dirty Secret 2

Since your bangs are front and center on your face it’s the first thing people see, and you can’t fake clean hair with greasy, stringy bangs.

Next I love Rockaholic Dirty Secret Dry Shampoo. I am allergic to most perfumes but the citrus fragrance of this one is subtle and fresh smelling. Shake the can a few times and then separate hair into big chunks and spray the dry shampoo right on the root area. A quick sprits here and there will do. Then use your fingers and gently massage scalp and hair and work it through.


To finish my fake “blowout” I love to use my 1 ½ inch curling iron.


I lift the top half of my hair up on to the top of my head and secure it with a clip. Then I curl the bottom layer under in four big chunks for about 5 second each.


Next I drop the sides and in two big rolls of the curling iron and five seconds each they are now straight and curled under at the ends. I still have the rest of my hair clipped to the crown of my head to keep it out of the way.

Once the sides are down all that’s left is the crown of my head.  I take out the clip and let it all fall forward. Then it gets rolled into three large sections going away from my face so the layers hang away from my face.  If you want your layers to frame your face roll your crown forward instead of back.

crown-curl-1crown-curls-2 crown-curls-3

That comes to nine curls in all each about 5 seconds. Run a brush through it all and you are ready to go!


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Breakfast Banana Split Sundaes

Breakfast Banana Split Sundeas

What child doesn’t want to have dessert for breakfast? With just a few simple ingredients and a little presentation they can!

DSC_7108aMy boys love the Fage Fruyo Vanilla Greek Yogurt. It is incredibly thick and rich and filled with vanilla bean. It makes a great base for all kinds of breakfast combinations and even night time treats.

Simply fill a sundae glass up with the yogurt.


Casey loves to help me in the kitchen so he was on banana slicing duty this morning.

DSC_7114aFor toppings we added the sliced bananas, fresh blueberries, and granola with flaxseeds. A tiny drizzle of chocolate syrup topped it all off and ramped up the fun factor. A drizzle of chocolate syrup will usually win over even the pickiest of eaters. Plus they never need to know that they are actually eating a breakfast filled with protein, potassium, calcium, anti-oxidants, and omega 3’s.


Breakfast was a hit!


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Taking Care of Mom: So Mom Can Take Care of Everyone Else

Taking Care of Mom

It is no secret we are all busy and tired.  If you are a mom with or without a forty hour a week job you are exhausted.  If you are like me, you are only getting about six hours of sleep a night…on a good night!  If you are like me, you are only getting about four of those so called good nights a week at most.  What can we do to cope with our sleep loss?  What can we do to keep up with the demands our busy lives? How do we take care of ourselves so we have the energy to take care of everyone else?

Here you will find a list of things that has helped me to make it through the day.  Hopefully some of these will help you too!

Get as Much Rest as Possible:

I know what you are thinking.  Duh!  If I were getting enough rest already I wouldn’t be wasting my time reading this blog.  But are you really getting the most rest that you can?

Stop drinking caffeine around noon.  I know this is a hard one, but I recently gave up all my caffeine drinks after lunch time and I have noticed a difference.  My brain seems to quiet down faster once I go to bed at night instead of replaying the day over and over or worrying about all the things I need to do the next day

Take a melatonin supplement with dinner.  Melatonin doesn’t work like a sleeping pill, and it is all natural so you don’t have to worry about dependency.  However, it does take several hours to kick in so if you take it at bedtime it will be too late.

Consider buying a white noise machine or downloading an App.  I have an actual white noise maker in my room but it is too loud for my husband.  Instead I use the App “Relax Melodies” which is free through the iTunes App Store.  I set it on my bedside table on a volume that is just loud enough for me and it works great.  The two sounds I use each night are Thunder and Oscillating Fan.  For me just the sound of my husband breathing is enough to keep me awake at night, not to mention every time one of my boys cough, sneeze, or talk in their sleep.  I just don’t need to hear all that.  So a white noise machine blocks those sounds out for me.  Now if I can just find a way to block his snoring.

Take Care of Yourself:

I know you hear this one all the time too, and trust me I have rolled my eyes more than once by some of the helpful articles I have read.  Here is the truth, I don’t have time to cook from scratch daily.  I don’t have time to buy fresh produce every couple of days.  I can’t afford to buy 100% organic all the time.  Sometimes I don’t feel like cooking AGAIN!  And exercise! Hah!  Screw that.  However…

Probiotics are our friends.  I love all those little active bugs.  They keep things on track.  I have been eating Greek yogurt for years, but recently I added Naked Juice to my morning breakfast and I buy the ones that are Boosted with Probiotics.  Both of my boys just had colds with fevers.  Usually I catch everything they get.  Not this time.  I was shocked.  My class has had some kind of bug running back and forth through it and I have yet to catch it.  I am giving full credit to my Boosted Naked Juice along with my Greek yogurt.

Turn on the music and turn it on loud.  It just happens.  Before you know it you are tapping your toes, shaking your rear, and bopping along.  As far as I am concerned any movement is good movement, even if it is just my bad dancing.  Plus loud music will help to drown out your children’s whining.

Take your vitamins.  Many vitamins actually make me sick because the doses are too strong for my system, but I love my Flintstones with Iron.  It is just enough to stop my anemia (which is a side effect of my Rheumatoid Arthritis) but not make me positively ill.  Even better, toss in a Krill Oil supplement.  All the benefits of fish oil but no yucky fish burps!!

Stick a banana or an apple or a Kind Bar in your purse when you leave the house.  It helps you to avoid a quick pop-in to the drive thru or shove a candy treat in your mouth.  If you are PMSing, though, just eat the chocolate and call it a day.

Drink lots of water.  I have learned from experience that it is really easy to confuse dehydration for exhaustion.  I keep a refillable water bottle on my desk at all times and I never leave the house without one.

Get Yourself the Right Tools:

Dry Shampoo!  Seriously, I don’t know how I ever lived without this stuff.  I used to use my Treseme all the time but recently I discovered Bed Head’s Rockaholic Dirty Secret Dry Shampoo.  OMG!  This stuff is amazing.  I use it on clean hair to add volume and texture as well as on three day old hair to keep it fresh and looking good.

Concealer.  I love the Maybelline Instant Age Rewind Eraser.  It is a great little product that is super cheap and super effective, and it fights fine lines.  I actually buy two shades of this.  I use the one called Brightener for highlighting and then Light Pale to cover any imperfections.  The little sponge applicators make using it a piece of cake.

A small emergency kit for your purse.  I used to carry my PAK with me where ever I went but there is no denying that the PAK is rather large since I had purchased the original version.  Then one day I found the perfect replacement.  Pinch Provisions make a tiny little bag that fits in the size of your palm filled with mini-emergency items for her.  I then took a couple of their items out that I don’t really use and swapped them for items I need all the time, like my eye drops and nail clippers. It’s perfect for the busy mom on the go!

Eye serum and face cream.  I use Olay Regenerist Serum and Roc Retinol for my day and night moisturizer.  Whether you have wrinkles or not that stuff works incredibly well and I am a big believer that it is never too early to start.  Life is rough.  Life is exhausting, and all those sleepless nights and times spent worrying over one problem or another will begin to show up on your face.

So there you are.  My attempt to share a little knowledge gathered from forty years of life experience and time spent being really, really tired and still having to go to work.  Let me know if any of this advice helps you.  It’s nice to know I am not just talking to myself.  Also, if you have any great suggestions please share!


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