Sharing recipes, crafts and frugal living, the challenges and triumphs of parenting a neurotypical child and a child on the Autism Spectrum. Yoga Instructor said goodbye to her nightly glass of Chardonnay to give up habits that were not serving her purpose in life! The CocktailMom name remains, however with a new focus on healthy and authentic living.
My favorite spot on a nice day is tucked away in my hammock with my two favorite guys. You don't need a stand, just two trees and it is the most glorious experience to sway from side to side as you look up at the clouds and talk about dreams with your children. ENO DoubleNest Hammock sold at REI.
If you still need a gift for someone on your holiday list, consider creating a favorite spot for them.
My boys are now eight and ten years old and ever since they were babies we have had the nightly tradition of curling up in one of their beds and reading together. Even though they are both reading on their own, this tradition of me reading to them and snuggled all together is one tradition that I hope we keep for a few more years.
If you have boys you are very familiar with the Harry Potter and Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, but have you heard about Nathan Abercrombie? No it's not the store. It's a kid who turns into a zombie! But don't worry it's not scary, in fact it's funny and has us all excited to read the next chapter. Write up from the publisher: "Ten-year-old Nathan Abercrombie used to be an ordinary kid …until he got doused with an experimental serum that turne him into a half-dead zombie. But it turns out being half dead isn’t all bad. He doesn’t need any sleep, and he doesn’t feel pain. Still, Nathan would rather be human. Will he find a cure? Or will Nathan be half-dead forever?"
I highly suggest checking out the Nathan Abercrombie series at your local library, your boys will love these books!
A weekly staple in our house is burrito night. It's a quick, healthy dinner that takes hardly any time to prepare and most likely everything is in your fridge or cabinet. Normally we have black bean burritos sometimes with rice or a side salad. I wanted to switch it up this week and decided to add a sweet potato. It was delicious!
Cook the sweet potato in a skillet until slightly soft, add onions and cook until translucent. Finally add corn and black beans. Serve in a whole wheat tortilla wrap with shredded lettuce. Enjoy!
I was tired of constantly asking my children if they combed their hair, brushed their teeth or went to the bathroom before we headed out for school every morning. I felt like such a nag! Things needed to change. The boys are eight and ten years old, old enough to be a bit more responsible.
So I made a chart of all the things that they need to accomplish before school, I had it laminated at Staples and it lives on our fridge where everyone can see it and has access to it. I have also given them the choice to choose when they would like to have their 30 minutes of computer/video game "screen time", in the morning or evening. The catch is, if they don't check off their chart each morning they will then lose the much coveted screen time.
Our mornings have completed shifted and changed, and are a lot less stressful for me. Now the only words that come out of my mouth that fall in the "nag" category are "Have you checked your chart?" and I say it only once to both of my boys. That's it. When I check the chart if it's not filled in for the day the screen time box gets a big X. This was the motivating factor for my kids to complete the chart.
The new system has worked beautifully! I highly recommend that you try it for your family if your children are old enough to follow directions and do everything on their chart by themselves. The boys actually enjoy checking things off and they get really proud of themselves when they do it without me having to remind them to "check the chart".
We don't have a lot of options close by for eating out. There are two restaurants in our immediate neighborhood, which as you can imagine it's easy to get bored of them. Normally if we want something quick and easy we head to Hyattsville to enjoy Busboy and Poets or Franklins. But now College Park is popping up new restaurants and I can't resist sweet potato fries! If you need an inexpensive high-end burger check out Bobby's Burger Palace on Route 1 in College Park.
Whenever we find coins on the ground, in the parking lot of the grocery store or while walking the dogs we collect the coins in a large jar in our house. Once it reaches a certain height we put the coins in the coin machine in our bank and use the money for something FUN. An ice cream treat on a random Wednesday, movie tickets, admission to a jump house (If you know my wife then you know that moon bounces are more fun for her than the kids!).
Place an empty jar somewhere in your house that everyone can have access to and every time you randomly discover money on the ground collect it in the jar, see how fast it accumulates. Choose an activity for the entire family to enjoy together. Every person who lost that dime or nickel will be glad that you used it to connect with your family.
Take your child outside and go on a bug hunt. Get up close and personal with the bugs living in your backyard. When you get home ask your child to write a story with the bug being the main character or draw a picture of how you think the bug lives. Does she live with her siblings? Does she have to share a room? Does she go to a bug playground? Nature can naturally spark our children's imaginations, sometimes we just have to encourage it.
Teacher Appreciation Week will be here before you know it. If you are a sewer and you need to whip out several gifts in a short amount of time, quilted bookmarks are your answer! Sew several strips of fabric together and then cut into 1.5 inch wide by 6 inches long bookmarks. If you choose a heavier fabric as the backing you won't have to worry about any interfacing. Sew the two fabrics together, right sides facing each other and leaving an open end to turn the fabric inside out. Stitch around the whole bookmark and add a loop of ribbon to the top to finish it off.
This is a great project to use up any fabric that you have in your stash!
Often times as moms, we lose sight of our own nutrition. We are so busy making sure that our children eat a balanced, nutritional lunch and meanwhile we are filling up on bits of leftover food on our children's plates. Grabbing granola or energy bars and calling that a meal.
Lunch on the road doesn't have to be drive-thru, fast food. It also doesn't have to take a ton of time, time which I know as a mom you don't have a lot of. Here is a simple lunch on the road.
Berry yogurt smoothie, strawberries and microwavable edamame. Try making one healthy lunch on the road this week, change begins in making small steps towards a healthier life.
During the summer I like to have the boys try science experiments and other fun projects that keep them writing, reading and in the mindset of learning. This project is a lot of fun for the older elementary kids and doesn't take a lot of hands-on time for the parent. I prepped the supplies and then allowed my ten year old son, Logan, to measure, pour and read the directions on his own. Logan enjoyed the experiment and afterwards wanted to find other metal objects to clean!
Have the sterling silver polishing cloth ready- parents!
Fill the 3 cups as follows:
fill the 1st with plain water & add 10 pennies
fill the 2nd with water + dish soap & add 10 pennies
the 3rd with 1/2 cup vinegar + 2 teaspoons salt & add 10 pennies
cup you think will get the pennies clean.
Leave the pennies in their
cups for 5 minutes. Remove the pennies from the cups and place them
on a napkin (without rinsing or drying them). Let the pennies sit for an
additional 5 minutes.
do you think is going to happen?
down your observation.
Rinse the pennies that were in the
salt & vinegar cup with water. What happened?
We love being members of the Maryland Science Museum in Baltimore, MD. During a recent trip the boys enjoyed the bubble station outside that is free for anyone walking by. We talked with the man working the station and he told us how he made these fantastic bubble wands with a laundry basket purchased at the dollar store! On our way home we made a quick stop to the Dollar Tree and within minutes we were enjoying bubbles in our front yard. Each laundry basket made six wands. For your child's next birthday party make these bubble wands for the kids, it will be a huge hit!
It's so important to show our children's teachers that we care about them and appreciate all the work that they do throughout the year. Often times teachers are not compensated with bonuses or raises and when everyone you meet seems to be complaining about the school system it's important for you to take the time and tell your child's teacher that you think he or she is doing a great job.
I filled a simple bag with homemade cookies and printed out this label and stapled to the front, it just doesn't get easier than that!
This would make a great "end of the year" teacher gift but also a great New Years gift as well instead of doing holiday gifts.
Do you know someone who is going through a difficult time?
Maybe they are getting a divorce, or have fallen ill, had a recent surgery or are just overwhelmed with work and life. Let them know you are thinking of them by sending them a Box of Sunshine.
Head to Target, CVS, Walgreens, Dollar Tree or your local store that has a variety of items and fill a Flat Rate USPS box with items that are yellow. The box is more unique when the items are random, no other theme other than being yellow. Have your children be involved and walk around the store having them identify items that are yellow.
Ideas: yellow washcloth, small cutting board, bubblegum, mints, candle, notepad, post-it notes, pens, nail polish, peeps, movies, books, seeds for yellow flowers, coffee mug.
Enjoy the process of filling the box and be sure to write a note for the inside letting your friend know it's a BOX OF SUNSHINE!
My mother was talking to Logan about the
“super moon”. She knows that Logan went through a period of time when he was
obsessed with space, wanted to be an astronaut and would randomly tell you
facts about planets and stars when you least expected it. It’s pretty standard
behavior coming from a child on the Autism Spectrum. When they are interested
in something, they live and breathe it and consequently everyone in the family
does as well. It is as if nothing else matters.
I’ve seen the pictures on Facebook of the super moon and
some people have really gotten into it, documenting it everyday but honestly I
didn’t think much of it other than it looking like another full moon. My mother
is stressing to Logan, with good intentions, that it’s important for him to see
this super moon because the next time the moon will look like this he will be
twenty-three years old.
We went about our lives, I taught an evening yoga class, the
kids watched thirty minutes of a movie before the bedtime routine of teeth
brushing, showers etc. The super moon by bedtime had slipped all of our minds,
except Logan. Thirty minutes after putting him to bed I could hear him pacing
in his room. This wouldn’t be the first time he’s paced when he should be in
bed sleeping, typically when he’s anxious about something happening the next
day he can be found pacing while his little brother sleeps soundly in the bunk
bed above him. At 10 pm as I was walking upstairs to head to bed myself I saw
out of the corner of my eye this flash of pajamas leap into bed like Superman. It’s
the classic maneuver we have all tried to pull off, when you leap chest first,
eyes closed into bed to try and fool your parents that you’ve been asleep the
I go into his room and tucking him in under his sheets,
“Logan you need to be asleep. It’s too late to be up.” He opens his eyes and with a quiver in his voice, I notice
the tears starting to form. “But we didn’t see the super moon. And I’m going to
miss it!” That’s when I notice that the curtains have been pulled
back. He’s been up here in his room freaking out about not being about to see
the moon, pacing to the window. My heart instantly breaks for him.
“You are right! Well let’s go downstairs and see if we can
see it from the parking lot.”
My wife, Logan and I, all barefoot and in pajamas, head out
into our cul-de-sac parking lot and look for the moon. We can’t find it. My
wife does a pretty impressive job distracting Logan with the cool fireflies in
the trees to avoid him having a total meltdown in the middle of the parking lot
at 10pm. Once in the house I pull up pictures that friends have posted on
Facebook so that he can see what it looked like. He’s seems okay with that and
we all trudge up to bed. On the stairs my wife turns to me and says, “ You
should just take him. Get in the car and drive around till you find it. This is
something he’ll remember forever.”
She was right.
Shoes on, wallet, keys…. we are on a super moon hunt just my
son and me!
Driving through the neighborhood in search of the super moon
Logan says, “This reminds me of the time when you took me from the house but
forgot I was there.”
“Huh? I forgot you at the house?” Completely shocked that
this memory has anything to do with me. I’d never forget my kids.
“No! I was in the car but you forgot I was there. It was
nighttime like this and I had my pjs on…it was before you and Lauren were
married and before you and daddy got a divorce.”
“Oh. Where did we go?”
“Nowhere, you were just driving around. But you were
“Is that why you think I forgot you were there?”
“Yeah, you were crying.”
I don’t remember the actual night that Logan is referring
to. I trust his memory though. His autism “gift” is having an impeccable memory
and I have no doubt that this event occurred. When things were at the worst in
my first marriage there were a lot of tears. I’m not the type of person who has
breakdowns in front of others, crying is typically done in private. I save crying for driving, doing the dishes
and if I happen to be in public thank God for dark sunglasses. During the separation
and divorce I tried to have my breakdowns when I thought the kids wouldn’t
notice. Boy was I wrong! Kids notice everything.
“Oh my goodness I see it Logan! Look!”
As I point and try to wrangle the minivan into a parking
space we hop out of the car to get a better look at the super moon. I look at Logan
and we are both grinning ear to ear. This is the memory I want him to remember
and replace that old one.
“The night my mom put me in the car, late at night, we had
our pjs on and we went in search of the super moon- and we found it!”
I love the idea of a CSA but I can't commit to the schedule of boxes. I don't like the inability
to be able to schedule weeks off or to somewhat pick what you get in the box. A yoga student suggested Washington Green Grocer and I have fallen in love with this service. When I lived in New York City I used a similar service called Urban Organic.
I am able to choose whether I want organic vegetables or fruit or a mixed box. My vegetables are local and I can request that I never receive certain items. For example I don't like radish, so it's on my "don't send to me" list. I can also request to receive my box weekly, bi-weekly or monthly. And I can put my boxes on hold while I go on vacation.
First let me begin by saying I have such creative friends! Last year when I saw my dear friends dressed in these awesome Lorax costumes I had to snap a picture to then share with my CocktailMom readers. It is such a creative and low cost family costume.
For the parents; to make the pom pom tree tops from the Lorax, Sara told me she consulted Martha Stewart's Pom-Pom directions. Yellow construction paper adhered to a black t-shirt completed the look. Easy!
The little girl dressed as the Lorax is wearing all orange and Sara purchased the fleece hat on Etsy. A quick search on etsy and you can find crochet, fleece and all kinds of creative Lorax hats already made if you don't feel like making your own. I imagine that if you can sew a fleece hat you could use felt to make the Lorax eyes and mustache. The wee little one is wearing a bear one piece costume, which can be easily replicated by wearing all brown (top and pants) and a brown fleece hat with tiny ears.
What a creative way to go out trick or treating as a family. Thanks creative friends! Happy Halloween!
As I was shopping at the grocery store I saw that Dole is now making chocolate covered frozen banana bites. Which to me is the most ridiculous thing to purchase because it's so easy to just make your own. And the cost savings is HUGE!
All you need to do is:
slice a banana into bike sized pieces.
melt one cup of creamy peanut butter and one cup of chocolate chips (you choose the style of chocolate you prefer), mix together.
using a chopstick, put a banana piece on the chopstick and dip into the melted chocolate.
place each piece of dipped banana on a cookie sheet with wax paper.
place the cookie sheet in your freezer for several hours or overnight.
Once frozen the banas bites can be moved to a plastic storage container in your freezer. It's a delicious treat and the banana actually takes like ice cream. And by adding peanut butter you are getting some protein while enjoying a sweet treat.
Last year for Christmas I wanted to give everyone the same type of gift, no jealousy between the families or family members. Which can be a difficult task to find a craft item to make for both women and men. So I decided on embroidered pillowcases. Everyone has a pillow to sleep on and needs a pillowcase.
I pulled images of embroidery flowers off of Pinterest and copied them onto paper making my own patterns, mixing different flowers and using a combination of colors that I thought would compliment the recipients bedroom.
The cost of buying pillowcases for each person, turned my money saving, crafty gift in a different direction. When the crafty gift reaches a certain dollar amount I have to ask myself, "is this worth making or should I just buy something?".
So I decided to make each of the pillowcases as well. You do not need a lot of sewing machine skill to make pillowcases, this is an easy project for a beginner sewer. Most of the pillowcases were a solid white cotton and a select few had an additional color fabric added.
I loved how they turned out, each gift was unique and I was able to complete them all while watching TV or waiting for my child's extracurricular activity to finish.
I made these cute heating pads for all the kids in our family this past Christmas. I drew the pattern out on paper, I knew I wanted a simple animal that was also a bit gender neutral. Boys and girls can both love cats but give a boy a bunny and for whatever reason he deems it a "girl stuffed animal".
I used felt for the eyes and nose and holiday fabric that I had in my stash left over from the Christmas Tree Skirt and the Christmas Stockings. Each kitty was filled with rice, purchased in bulk at Costco, and culinary lavender. The lavender when heated smells fantastic and helps calm wee ones when they are feeling anxious before going to bed. I put the message below on a tag on each kitty so that the parents would know what to do with it.
Make a Hot Kitty for a special someone in your life!
The warmth of a heating pad can soothe a child's achy
muscles or ease the pain of a stomachache. It can keep you warm on a cold
night, and it can even be used to gently warm up your bed before you go to
I'm certain this rice filled heating pad is not nearly as
good as being held by a loving aunt, but hopefully having your very own "Hot
Kitty" will remind you that you are loved!
Have your mom or dad heat your kitty in the microwave in 20
seconds increments until it’s warm to the touch.
Love Lauren, Gretchen, Logan and Zane
Christmas will be here before you know it! Have you had a Christmas craft to-do list that gets bigger and bigger each year, like I do? I made this Christmas Tree Skirt last year and I've been saving the leftover fabric in order to make matching stockings. This year I am ready!
I simply traced the current store bought stockings that we had because I knew they were the perfect size and used fleece red fabric, mainly because it will hold heavy items and also because I wouldn't have to line the whole stocking!
Do the stockings match perfectly? No. Was that on purpose? I'd be lying if I said yes.
Embrace the simple! Let go of the expectation to live up to Martha Stewart standards and just cross the item off your to-do list. In the end they are your stockings, aren't they?
Several times a week I have to eat on the go, running to teach yoga at various locations. Drive thru windows are not on my diet. And neither are energy bars. I'm focusing on eating real food and making better choices in what I put in my mouth.
This year we purchased a grill. I've never owned one up until this point in my life, big surprise I know! And I have fallen in love with my grill. We don't eat meat a lot so I purchase salmon burgers at Costco, they grill up fast and taste delicious. While the salmon burgers are grilling I also put on whole peppers. Within 10 minutes dinner is ready! Salmon burger topped with hummus, roasted red peppers and sliced tomatoes from the garden.
I had no idea what I was getting into when I found out I was going to have sons. I'm the youngest of five girls and out of the eleven children combined that my sisters have given birth to, three are boys.
Years ago my "mom friends" and I would talk at length during playgroups, as our babies crawled at our feet about how we believe that boys can be raised to be sensitive and that it's the media that forces physicality and guns on boys. Boys can be painters and dancers, they will sit and draw just like girls and play with dolls. We were going to raise them differently.
Boy were we delusional!
I laugh to myself remembering those conversations. Don't get me wrong boys can be sensitive, and of course they can grow up to be anything that they desire. But in the meantime, the paintbrush becomes a sword and the dances tend to have farts and wrestling in the choreography. The dolls that once were used to teach the older child how to be gentle with the new baby entering your family, is now used to test the parachutes that they make and hang over the balcony. Most drawings involve evil villains or maps to treasure. Everything becomes a gun; sticks, toothbrushes, legos. And even though you swear that you'll never buy a toy gun because you don't believe in guns. Your son will beg every Christmas and birthday till eventually you'll cave and purchase a nerf gun or water gun.
Trust me. It will happen. And it's okay.
No one will think that you are a horrible mother because you allow your son to go to the grocery store in his halloween costume with a water gun tucked in his utility belt in June. People will just smile. Especially seasoned moms to sons. Because we know all too well that this is what life looks like when you give birth to a boy.
Today…I celebrate 11 months of sobriety. Yes friends I’m
still not drinking. It isn’t a phase I’m going through. It isn’t a new fad to
go with my yoga lifestyle. I’ve been working really hard at being sober.
11 months ago I woke up hung-over, feeling like complete
shit and I promised myself that I will never feel like this again. I never want
to waste an entire day of living because of drinking too much. I had gotten
together with friends the night before and we were kind of celebrating my ability
to drink again. At least I was. It had been 8 weeks since my breast (tumor) surgery and I was no longer on pain medication. I drank that night like I was making up
for lost time.
My mom asked me recently, “I know you aren’t drinking anymore…but
did you feel like you had a drinking problem?”
It has taken all the courage inside me to admit this.
Yes, I have a problem with alcohol. It took breast cancer to wake me up, it took meeting my wonderful wife to wake me up and it took time. I've had numerous moments in my life that should have shaken me awake to sobriety...but I wasn't ready to accept that I had a problem. Until now. Over the last 11 months
I’ve used yoga and food to fill the empty space inside me. I’m coming to terms
with the realization that I can’t do it alone anymore. I’ve reached out to two
friends who I know of that religiously go to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. Thankfully they
opened their hearts to me and have offered to help me navigate this new course
of my life.
So in a month it will be 1 year of sobriety, I feel like I
should have a party but I don’t quite know what a party looks and feels like
without alcohol. I’m still stumbling through this journey of being sober. I get uncomfortable when people offer me a
drink, not realizing that I’m no longer drinking. And I smile and say “no
thanks” and try not to notice that I’m the only person in the room without a beer in my
I’m still figuring things out.
I’m not quite comfortable yet calling myself an alcoholic. I
don’t wear labels well. I fully admit that alcohol and me shouldn’t be friends.
But like the first time someone referred to me as a “special needs mom” I was
horrified! I didn’t want to be in this club! Now, as you know dear readers, I
am a huge advocate for special needs. I even did a PSA for goodness sakes! But
there was a time in my life when I didn’t feel comfortable wearing that label
either and over time I embraced my son's diagnosis and now proudly wave that Autism flag. I’m proud to be
in that club.