Lifestyle

Our favorite recipes that take less than 35 minutes to cook

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We know you already do so much, mama. From errands to laundry and answering emails from your boss—or just answering to that tiny boss in your house—preparing home-cooked meals can be hard to fit into an already packed schedule. (Not to mention finding healthy choices that your toddler won't throw across the kitchen!) But getting a nutritious, tasty home-cooked meal, snack, or dessert on the table shouldn't be such a chore.

That's why we've rounded up some of our favorite, easy-to-whip-together meal ideas—and they all take less than 35 minutes to make.

Even better, they're guaranteed to please even the choosiest family member.

​Garlic Roasted Tomato, Corn + Spinach Flatbread

By Patricia Bannan, MS, RDN

Serves: 5

Time to cook: 20 mins

Ingredients

Sauce

Pizza

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 500-degrees. If using a store-bought crust preheat oven to suggested temperature on package directions.
  2. Make the sauce: In a medium bowl, stir to combine the tomato sauce, olive oil and salt. Set aside.
  3. Make the pizza: Using the back of your hands, stretch the dough into a 10 x 14-inch rectangle and transfer to a large parchment lined baking sheet. If using a store-bought crust, place on parchment paper.
  4. Spread the sauce evenly across the dough, leaving a 1-inch border. Scatter the corn, cherry tomatoes, sliced garlic, and remaining red onion slices. Arrange chicken slices over top, if desired, and season with salt and pepper. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes until the rim is golden brown and the bottom of the pizza is crisp.
  5. Transfer the pizza to a cutting board, top with baby spinach, remaining slices of red onion, crumbled feta, and drizzle with olive oil. Cut into 10 square slices and enjoy.

Pro tip: Flatbread can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Chocolate, Banana, Raspberry Quinoa Bowl

By Andrea Marcellus

Serves: 1 Serving, One-Hand Portion

Time to cook: 10 mins

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup quinoa (cooked)
  • 1/2 cup banana (sliced)
  • 1/4 cup raspberries
  • 1 tablespoon almonds (sliced)
  • 2 tablespoon dark chocolate chips
  • 2 tablespoon milk (or milk alternative)
  • 1/2 teaspoon maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Instructions:

    1. Place cooked quinoa in pot and add milk, chocolate, vanilla, maple syrup and salt. Heat over medium-low heat until everything is combined and quinoa is thick, about 5 minutes.
    2. Place in bowl and top with bananas, raspberries, almonds... let your imagination go bananas!

    Lemon Garlic Chicken Zoodles

    By Andrea Marcellus

    Serves: 1 Serving, Two-Hand Portion

    Time to cook: 12 mins

    Ingredients

    • 1 zucchini (spiralized or julienned)
    • 1 chicken breast (cubed)
    • 1/4 cup cherry tomatoes (halved)
    • 1 tablespoon garlic (minced)
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
    • 1 pinch salt and pepper
    • 1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

    Instructions:

    1. In a skillet over medium heat add olive oil and garlic. Once garlic is fragrant, add cubed chicken.
    2. Once chicken is mostly cooked, add cherry tomatoes and allow those to cook until they blister, about 5 minutes.
    3. Next, add the zoodles, lemon juice, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper and mix together.
    4. Eat while contemplating the word "zoodles."

    Mixed Veggie Fritter

    By Andrea Marcellus

    Serves: 4 Servings, One-Hand Portion

    Time to cook: 10 mins

    Ingredients

    • 3 tablespoon zucchini (shredded)
    • 3 tablespoon cauliflower (finely chopped)
    • 3 tablespoon butternut squash (shredded)
    • 3 tablespoon broccoli (finely chopped)
    • 3 tablespoon carrot (shredded)
    • 3 tablespoon spinach (shredded)
    • 1 egg
    • 1 teaspoon onion powder
    • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
    • 3 tablespoon almond flour
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 1 teaspoon yogurt (whole milk or plant-based // Optional)
    • 1 Pinch salt and pepper

    Instructions:

    1. In a large bowl, combine the veggies—and any other veggies you want to add—with egg, flour, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper.
    2. In a skillet over medium heat add olive oil. Form patties with hands and add to skillet.
    3. Allow fritters to brown about 3 minutes each side. Remove from pan and top with Greek yogurt (if using).
    4. Divide any fritters you're not enjoying right now into a serving container for later in the week.

    Creamy Tomato Soup

    By KidStir

    Serves: 4

    Time to cook: 25 mins

    Ingredients

    • 1 cup chopped onion
    • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes
    • 1/2 to 3/4 cup cream
    • Small bunch fresh basil, chopped
    • Salt and pepper to taste
    • 1 cup cheddar cheese cubes, optional

    Instructions:

    1. A grown-up should heat the olive oil over medium heat in a soup pot. Once hot, add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Turn off the heat.
    2. Blend the whole tomatoes and all the juices in a blender. Add the cooked onion and garlic, and blend until smooth.
    3. Carefully pour the pureed tomatoes into the soup pot. Turn the heat to medium-high.
    4. Stir in the cream and cook for about 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste and extra cream, if you'd like.
    5. Ladle the soup into bowls. Stir in cubes of cheese, if you'd like. Top with chopped fresh basil and pass the salt and pepper!

    Orange Quinoa Salad with Pomegranate + Tangy Turmeric Dressing

    By Patricia Bannan, MS, RDN

    Serves: 8

    Time to cook: 30 mins

    Ingredients

    Dressing

    • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed juice, from 2 mandarin oranges
    • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
    • 2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
    • 1 clove garlic, smashed
    • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
    • 1 tablespoon honey
    • 1 teaspoon ground oregano
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
    • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
    • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

    Salad

    • 2 cups dry Sun Harvest Organic Whole Grain Red and White Quinoa*
    • 1, 15-ounce can Sun Harvest Organic Garbanzo Beans*, drained and rinsed
    • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
    • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
    • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
    • 3 medjool dates, pitted and chopped
    • 1 cup pomegranate arils
    • 1/2 cup chopped pistachios
    • 8 mandarin oranges, peeled and sliced
    • *Available at Smart & Final grocery stores

    Instructions:

    1. Make the dressing: Combine all ingredients for dressing in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside and discard the smashed garlic clove before serving.
    2. Cook the quinoa: Place the quinoa in a large saucepan with 5 cups water over medium high heat. Bring to a boil and drop down to a simmer for 15 to 20 minutes and cook until tender. There will be some water leftover. Drain, rinse with cold water, and drain again. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.
    3. Make the salad: To the mixing bowl, add the chickpeas, chopped green onions, parsley, cilantro, dates and half of the pomegranate arils and pistachios. Pour over the dressing and toss to coat. Transfer to a large serving plate and top with the sliced oranges. Top with the remaining pomegranate arils and pistachios and enjoy immediately.

    Pro tip: Salad will keep well covered in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

    Grilled Chicken Sandwiches with Slaw + Spicy Mayo

    By Patricia Bannan, MS, RDN

    Serves: 4

    Time to cook: 30 mins

    Spicy Mayo + Slaw

    • 1/4 cup First Street Premium Real Mayonnaise
    • 1/4 cup low-fat plain Greek yogurt
    • 4 teaspoons cayenne pepper style hot sauce
    • 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
    • 1/4 teaspoon First Street Garlic Powder
    • 5 cups Sun Harvest Coleslaw
    • 1/4 small red onion, thinly sliced

    Grilled Chicken and Assembly

    • 2, 8-ounce Sun Harvest skinless, boneless chicken breasts
    • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
    • Freshly ground black pepper
    • 1 tablespoon Sun Harvest Avocado Oil, for grilling
    • 4 seeded buns or ciabatta rolls
    • 1/4 cup First Street Sliced Hamburger Dill Pickle Chips
    • 1 jalepeño, thinly sliced

    Instructions:

      1. Make the Slaw: In a small bowl, whisk the mayo, yogurt, hot sauce, lemon juice, and garlic powder until combined. Add the coleslaw and red onions to a large bowl and pour over half of the spicy mayo mixture, reserving the other half of the mayo for serving. Toss the slaw until coated and place in the fridge until ready to serve.
      2. Grill the Chicken: Prepare a grill. Place the chicken breasts in a plastic bag and lightly pound out until ¾-inch thick in size. Slice each breast in half, pat to dry, brush with oil, and season with salt and black pepper. Grill the chicken over moderate heat, turning once, until just cooked through, about 14 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. Let rest for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, halve the sandwich rolls, add to the grill, and heat for 2 to 3 minutes.
      3. Assemble the Sandwiches: Spread the reserved spicy mayo evenly over the cut-sides of each roll. Layer the bottom half of each roll with a piece of grilled chicken and top with slaw. Place a few pickle chips and jalapeño slices over the slaw and top each with the remaining half of roll. Enjoy!

      Pro tip: The best part about these sandwiches is that you want to keep piling on more slaw to top your sandwich, so make extra and keep crunching!

      Marshmallow Stars

      By KidStir

      Serves: 1 pan of marshmallows

      Time to cook: 30 mins

      Ingredients

      • 2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
      • 1/3 cup cold water
      • 1 1/2 cups sugar
      • 1/4 cup water
      • 1/4 cup corn syrup
      • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
      • Cooking spray
      • Confectioners' sugar

      Instructions:

      1. Put 1/3 cup of water into the bowl of an electric mixer. Sprinkle the gelatin over the water.
      2. Whisk the sugar, 1/4 cup of water, and corn syrup in the saucepan over medium heat. Once the sugar is dissolved, stop whisking and heat the mixture until it boils. Place a candy thermometer into the saucepan and turn off the stove when the mixture reaches 240 degrees. This is a job for grown-ups only because the liquid gets very hot.
      3. Carefully pour the hot liquid over the gelatin. Beat on high speed for 10 to 12 minutes or until nice and fluffy. Mix in the vanilla extract.
      4. Lightly spray the baking pan with cooking spray. Then use a rubber spatula to transfer the gooey marshmallow mixture into the pan.
      5. Allow the marshmallows to set overnight on the countertop. This can take 12 to 15 hours.
      6. Lift the marshmallow block out of the pan with a spatula and place on a cutting board dusted with confectioners' sugar. Then use a star cookie cutter to cut out the marshmallow stars.

      Cajun Shrimp

      By Andrea Marcellus

      Serves: 1 Serving, Two-Hand Portion

      Time to cook: 25 mins

      Ingredients

      • 1/2 cup shrimp (peeled and deveined)
      • 1/4 red bell pepper (chopped)
      • 1/4 zucchini (chopped)
      • 1/4 cup corn (frozen)
      • 2 basil leafs (julienned)
      • 1 tablespoon dry white wine
      • 1 tablespoon parsley
      • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
      • 1 tablespoon cajun seasoning
      • 1 pinch salt and pepper

      Instructions:

        1. In a medium bowl combine together shrimp, Cajun seasoning, salt and pepper
        2. Place veggies on one half of a foil sheet and add shrimp on top. Sprinkle parsley and basil leaves over top.
        3. Add olive oil, white wine, salt and pepper. Fold other half of foil over and fold in sides to seal packet. Place in oven at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until shrimp are cooked through.
        4. It's like camping food, but way cooler, and no bears.

        Speed Crepe with Nut Butter, Berries + Coconut

        By Andrea Marcellus

        Serves: 6-8 servings, One-Hand Portion

        Time to cook: 5 mins

        Ingredients

        • 2 tablespoon coconut flour (Can sub or combine with oat, almond, whole wheat, or other favorite flour!)
        • 1 tablespoon nut butter
        • 1/4 cup mixed berries
        • 1 tablespoon shredded coconut (unsweetened)
        • 3 eggs
        • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
        • 1 pinch salt

        Instructions:

          1. Beat eggs with a fork and then blend in the rest of the ingredients. (You can also use a blender or food processor if you don't mind the cleanup.)
          2. Place a piece of parchment paper in the microwave and a TBSP of the mixture in the center of the paper. Spread the mixture with the back of the spoon until fairly thin.
          3. Microwave on high for 1 minute. Continue in increments of 30-seconds until crepe is fully cooked. Time will depend on your microwave.
          4. Remove parchment paper from microwave and allow crepe to cool.
          5. Repeat until all the batter is gone. Save remaining crepes for later in the week.
          6. Once crepe is cooled to touch add berries and shredded coconut to crepe.

          Tiny Pies

          By KidStir

          Serves: 12 mini pies

          Time to cook: 35 mins

          Ingredients

          • 1 apple, peeled, cored, and finely chopped
          • 2 tablespoons sugar
          • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
          • 2 teaspoons orange juice
          • 1 tablespoon butter
          • 1 pie crust (we used a store-bought organic pie crust)
          • Milk and egg (for brushing on pie tops)

          Instructions:

          1. Mix the chopped apples, sugar, cinnamon, and orange juice in a bowl. Set it aside to get nice and juicy.
          2. Unroll the pie crust and place it on a piece of waxed paper or plastic wrap on your countertop. Cut out twelve 2 1/2 inch circles with a round cookie cutter or rim of a glass. Press each one into a muffin cup.
          3. Gather the dough scraps and roll them out. Use tiny cookie cutters to make decorative shapes or cut thin strips for lattice toppings.
          4. Add 1 rounded tablespoon of filling to each cup. Dot with a tiny piece of butter. Add a top crust with slits, a pie crust star, or a lattice top. Pinch the edges with the tines of a fork to seal.
          5. Brush the mini pies with a beaten egg mixed with a little milk. Bake in a preheated oven at 375° for 15 to 17 minutes or until the filling bubbles and the crusts turn golden brown. Let the pies cool for just a few minutes in the pan, then carefully remove each one by running a sharp knife around the edges and popping it out of the pan.

          Pearl Brownies

          pearl brownies

          By Twenty-Five Eight

          Time to cook: 30 mins

          Ingredients

          • 2 cup organic almond flour
          • 1/2 cup arrow root powder
          • 2 tsp aluminum free organic baking powder
          • 1/2 tsp Himalayan salt
          • 1 Tbsp freshwater pearl powder (we use Sun Potion)
          • 3 eggs
          • 1/2 cup organic avocado oil
          • 1 1/2 cup organic maple syrup
          • 3/4 cup organic cacao powder
          • Optional:
          • 1/2 cup organic. chocolate chips
          • 1/2 cup organic chopped almonds, toasted
          Instructions:
          1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
          2. In a large bowl mix dry ingredients together, set aside.
          3. In a second bowl whisk wet ingredients together.
          4. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and fold gently until combined. (Optional: Fold in chocolate chops and/or almonds)
          5. Pour batter into a prepared baking dish.
          6. 6. Bake 20-25 min.
          7. 7. Remove and let cool.

          **Always check with a physician before ingesting.

          Creamy Asparagus-Artichoke Soup

          Creamy Asparagus-Artichoke Soup

          By Catherine Jones and Rose Ann Hudson, RD, LD for Eating for Pregnancy

          Serves: 4

          Time to cook: 15 mins

          Ingredients

          • 3 tablespoons olive oil
          • 1 medium-size onion, chopped
          • 1/2 cup canned white beans, drained and rinsed
          • 4 cups stock or water
          • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
          • 16 ounces green asparagus, tough ends trimmed, stalks cut into 1-inch pieces (4 cups)
          • 1 (13.75-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained
          • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried tarragon (optional)
          • Freshly ground black pepper
          • Squeeze of lemon juice (optional)

          Instructions:

          1. Heat the olive oil in a 6-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté for 3 minutes. Add the beans, stock, and salt and bring to a boil. Add the asparagus, artichoke hearts, and tarragon, if using, and return to a boil.
          2. Lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes.
          3. Remove from the heat.
          4. Allow the soup to cool slightly, then puree it.
          5. Adjust the seasoning and consistency, add the lemon juice, if desired, and serve.

          Pro tip: You can replace the asparagus with an equal amount of broccoli or zucchini. Garnish with nuts and seeds for extra nutrition.

          Gingery Cran-Bran Muffins

          Gingery Cran-Bran Muffins

          By Catherine Jones and Rose Ann Hudson, RD, LD for Eating for Pregnancy

          Serves: 15 regular muffins or 52 mini muffins

          Time to cook: 35 mins

          Ingredients

          • Cooking spray (optional)
          • Bran or similar cereal
          • 1 cup boiling water
          • 1/4 cup canola oil or melted unsalted butter
          • 3/4 cup sugar
          • 1 cup buttermilk
          • 1 large egg
          • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
          • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
          • 1/4 teaspoon salt
          • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
          • 1/2 cup dried cranberries or chopped dried apricots (optional)
          • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
          • 1/3 cup chopped candied ginger (optional)

          Instructions:

          1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Spray the muffin wells with cooking spray or line with muffin liners.
          2. Place the cereal in a small bowl and pour the boiling water over it—do not stir. Set aside.
          3. Combine the canola oil and sugar in a large bowl and whisk together. Add the buttermilk and egg and whisk again. Add the flour, baking soda, salt, and ground ginger and whisk just until well combined. Add the cereal mixture and mix with a spoon, then add the dried cranberries, walnuts, and/or candied ginger, if using, and mix just until combined. (The batter will be quite thick.) Let the batter sit at room temperature for 10 minutes.
          4. Stir the batter, then divide evenly among the prepared muffin wells. Bake until a tester inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean: about 20 minutes for regular muffins, about 12 minutes for mini muffins. Transfer the muffins to a wire rack to cool.

          Pro tip: No buttermilk in the fridge? Make your own by adding 1 tablespoon of cider vinegar to 1 cup of milk. Vegan? Use your favorite nondairy milk made into buttermilk and omit the egg.

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          I am burned out. My house is a mess. My hair is dirty. My kids are napping, and I know I need to take a shower, but instead, I'm going to clean the kitchen so that the piled-up dishes stop frowning at me from the sink. I'll feel better starting the afternoon with a clean kitchen and state of mind that actually brings me peace. And this is okay. For me.

          I see those beautifully written and curated posts about self-care that are meant to encourage me to set aside other's needs and tend to my own. Sometimes these posts do their job and I make a plan to "do something" to recharge. But I recharge by doing things for others and feeling satisfied in having met their needs as only I can.

          FEATURED VIDEO

          The way we are conditioned to think about self-care affects what we do and how we feel about it. For me, it's not a choice between sacrificing enough to validate myself as a 'good enough' mom, or believing that self-care is integral to my wellbeing. It is a matter of knowing I deserve it—in my way—and that should be okay.

          Our culture values and glorifies self-sacrifice. "We promote the employee who works 80-plus hours a week; we idolize the mom who never seems to need a break," according to clinical psychologist, Dr. Jessica Michaelson. "This belief that self-sacrifice is best creates a great deal of shame when we feel like we need something different."

          And too often there are barriers that prevent us from practicing self-care. In a recent study published in Midwifery, researchers examined mothers' perceptions regarding the role of self-care, their ways of self-care, and the barriers to doing it. The findings? Whether the mothers thought self-care was essential or not, barriers like time and other limited resources—money, social support, and difficulty accepting help and setting boundaries—prevented them from actually practicing it.

          But worrying that needing self-care makes you selfish or weak should not be the barrier that prevents you from obtaining it. "Self-care absolutely is not the same as selfishness. Selfishness is lacking any consideration about others and profiting by this. Self-care is about making sure that we are well and healthy so that we are more available to help others," explained author, therapist and Silicon Valley health coach, Drew Coster.

          Self-care can be as simple as a shift in perspective that leads to a better quality of life.

          Self-care can mean many different things, but knowing what self-care is *not* might be even more important. Self-care is not something you force yourself to do or something you don't enjoy doing, either. Clinical psychologist, Agnes Wainman, explains that caring for yourself is doing "something that refuels us, rather than takes from us." That means whatever works for you, works for you. Even if that means letting others do something for you.

          So if a spa day or binging on Netflix aren't your thing, that's okay, because self-care actually might not be what you add, but what you take away. You can give yourself permission *not* to do something, or eliminate tasks that are draining.

          One tiny bit of self-care can make all the difference.

          "In a perfect world, most of us would love to get an hour-long massage every day, take a bubble bath every night, and enjoy a relaxing gourmet meal each day. Is that possible for most of us? No," says Jacqueline Getchius, MA, LPCC, licensed professional clinical counselor and owner of Wellspring Women's Counseling based in Minnesota. "Instead, we need to take a good look at what actually is possible. Start small."

          Some examples of small acts of self-care that can refuel you just as much as that hour-long massage:

          • Allow yourself to worry about something tomorrow
          • Sit down and put up your feet instead of sorting the socks
          • Let your partner do an extra chore
          • Go for a short walk without the dog
          • Skip a workout for once and have a cup of tea
          • Instead of doing a whole meditation, take five deep breaths
          • Turn your phone off for 30 minutes
          • Throw something out
          • Don't stay up late—let all the things wait
          • Unfollow someone on social media who brings you down
          Bottom line: Self-care is as unique as you, mama. However you identify it, the key is that it refuels you in *your* way, however that looks.
          Life

          I love being a mother...and sometimes it swallows me up whole. There is no "but" in my love of motherhood—it is 100% the most incredible thing I've ever done and my most favorite job in the world. And it is the hardest work in the world, the most suffocating at times and it can break me down like no other.

          Motherhood is all and, which can make it all the harder.

          So when my youngest was 14 months—and we had officially ended our breastfeeding journey—and I was offered a press trip to Steamboat Springs, CO to go on a snowmobiling trip no less, I jumped at the chance.

          FEATURED VIDEO

          It would be my first trip away from both my girls—my first trip away from my youngest ever. It would also be my first time to Steamboat, my first time snowmobiling (or doing any kind of extreme snow activity. It would be a bonafide adventure.

          But when I first read the snowmobiling itinerary, a tiny, niggling voice whispered at the back of my brain: I can't do that. I will be too scared.

          I ignored the voice as I packed my bags, kissed my babies goodbye and made my way west. I reveled in the simplest things—the single carry-on suitcase, with room left around my clothes that would normally be stuffed to the gills with blankets, tiny rolled socks tucked between miniature pairs of pants and extra diapers. I basked in the decadence of a light handbag, packed with only my own things instead of extra snacks and sippy cups and extra diapers (always extra diapers). I delighted in the breezy way I moved through the airport, the only thing disturbing my peace was the thought that I must be forgetting something. I can't possibly be holding enough things right now.

          I love motherhood, and it is a constant weight in my life. Sometimes born lightly, tiring me to a deep satisfaction. But sometimes a heavier burden, threatening to pull me under. In either case, there is always so much to hold and carry.

          Ironically, I missed my girls already. Found myself sneaking peeks at photos on my phone, wondering when the next time they would call or send me a Marco Polo. After all, I love being a mother.

          But there were also near constant reminders of how much I had needed a break. When my flights were boarded and then delayed, I breathed a sigh of relief that they weren't here, imagining my anxiety levels rising at the thought of entertaining a whiny toddler and a super mobile baby for any extra time in this tiny space. I watched two movies (one of which I had wanted to see for over a year). I read one and a half books. (For context, in the last year since my second daughter was born, I had probably read...zero.) Enjoying these things I rarely had time for anymore felt like catching up with old friends, people who knew me way back when.

          Later, after settling into my room (with my own bed! And my own bathroom! And no one asking me to wipe their butt in it!), I met my fellow travelers at the house next door for dinner. I ate appetizers without anyone asking me for a bite. I drank a glass of wine and sat in a chair for 20 minutes before I stood up—of my own volition—to sit at the dinner table. No one commented that the food looked "yucky!" or asked how many bites they had to take to get dessert.

          Irony alive and well, it was me who kept bringing my girls back to the table, telling stories of the funny things my 4-year-old says. The way my 1-year-old squishes her face and snorts to look "tough."

          I love motherhood, and it is the constant thread of my life. It affects everything, tints everything, changes everything—and I wouldn't change that for the world.

          The next morning, I woke before the sun for the excursion, drank a cup of coffee (that I finished before it got cold, thank you very much), and boarded a shuttle to the meeting site. I again had to shake that feeling that I was forgetting something, but there was relief in knowing that anything forgotten was mine alone. I could deal with a forgotten hat (my toddler would throw a tantrum). I could shake off a cold wind on my neck (my baby would scream, and we would have to go home).

          The other riders and me shivered slightly in our snowsuits while the guides demonstrated the ignition and the kill switch and the proper way to whap whap whap the gas. They told us we would start on trails and then go off the trail if we were comfortable. The old voice resurrected in my brain and whispered again: I can't do that. I will be too scared.

          After our (incredibly short, to me) training, the guides broke us into groups of five and started to lead us out of the lot where we had met onto the trail. Just like that—here's how to turn it on and away we go!

          I should have felt more nervous, but strangely, motherhood had prepared me for steep learning curves. Just four years ago, hadn't I been wheeled to the doors of the hospital, tiny baby wrapped in my arms, sent home and told to have at it?

          I could handle motherhood—I could handle this.

          I was pleasantly surprised to find snowmobiling was much easier than I thought. Flying down the trail, I felt myself relaxing into the ride, able to take in the stunning surroundings and hearing only the roar of my motor and the whistle of the wind under my helmet. I felt brave and strong and exciting—things that maybe I had forgotten I could be. That I already was.

          At lunch, perched on the edge of an alcove of trees and overlooking a snow covered meadow, our guides told us we could "play around" as soon as we were done eating. They pointed to the wide open stretch below us, off-trail and unmarked by anything. I stared at the expanse of white and mountain and heard the voice say again (though perhaps a bit quieter): I can't do that. I will be too scared.

          I lingered by the fire a few minutes after I finished eating, my eyes not leaving that meadow. I couldn't do it. But then...what if I could? I pushed myself up from the drift, grabbed my helmet and hopped on my sled.

          "I can just go?" I asked one of the guides.

          He grinned at me. "Just go!"

          In seconds, I was flying down the hill, the waist-deep powder cascading behind me. I crested a hill and paused for a second. It was so cold, the mountains were so beautiful and I was so alone. More alone than I had felt in years. I took a long, deep breath, realizing for the first time how much I had really needed this.

          Once you are a mother, you are a mother forever. It's as sure as your bones—and as wholly part of you. You can't lose the part of you that is a mother. But you can lose the rest.

          I had thrown myself into motherhood willingly, like so many other endeavors in my life, wanting—needing—to give my children my very best. My all. But somewhere along the way, I had forgotten to reserve a little bit for myself. This trip was a reminder: It was okay to prioritize myself now and then. It was necessary.

          I missed my babies, but I felt now how much I missed this part of myself.

          When you choose to make your first post-baby vacation an adventure, you pay homage to the woman you were before. The one who did things for the first time, who had a world of opportunity before her. But you honor something else too, something perhaps even better: the woman you are now.

          Because, truthfully, I never want to go back to who I was before. It would be disingenuous, and it would devalue all the work I had put in since then. The woman I am now is so much more empathetic, so much stronger, so much more confident—she's the woman the old me would go to for advice and counsel and to be built up when she needed it.

          By choosing an adventure, it was a permanent reminder to me—and to that tiny, doubting voice—that I have no idea what I can't do. But I knew now that I can do so much more than I ever thought.

          As I started to turn back from the meadow to head toward the group, I took a turn too sharply and tipped my sled, wedging it firmly in a deep bank. I was totally fine—the snow was so deep, it was exactly like landing in a fluffy pillow—but I couldn't right the sled myself. I radioed the guides for help, and one of them came speeding up within minutes. In a second, he had the sled dislodged and I climbed back aboard.

          "You good?" he asked. And I grinned.

          "Never been better."

          Life

          Like so many women of my generation, I didn't have a built-in village when I became a mom. My folks were 3,000 miles away on the opposite coast. My friends were out of sync with me, either parenting much older kids or child-free. And my husband was at work 10 hours a day, leaving me home alone with a helpless newborn who came with no instruction manual.

          When are her real parents coming back to get her? I remember thinking. How could I possibly be solely responsible for the health and well-being of this adorable but terrifying little person?

          I had many new-mom questions and precious few answers.

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          Was it strange that my baby seemed to get hungry every 45 minutes?

          Why couldn't my baby fall asleep unless she was on top of me?

          Would I ever feel normal again?

          Between baby blues, sleep deprivation and loneliness, normal felt very far away.

          Then one day, I bumped into a neighbor—let's call her "Neighbor Mom"—pushing a stroller. She was new to our building, but not new to parenting, ably balancing an 18-month-old toddler and an 8-year-old school kid. She must have sensed my neediness, because she invited me, a fragile stranger, into her apartment. It was cozy and inviting, strewn with kid stuff and safely baby-proofed. I lay my little one on a blanket on the floor and took a deep breath in, relaxing for the first time in ages.

          Neighbor Mom and I developed an easy friendship, casual and convenient. We kept our doors open and could drop by any time the other was home. I tagged along on walks to her older daughter's elementary school, just to have someplace to go and someone to talk to. We introduced our husbands and made simple family dinners together, arriving not with wine and flowers but with a highchair wheeled from next door.

          As I got more comfortable with my new friend, I confided in her about my mom worries. At the top of my list: my baby wouldn't sleep without being in my arms. If I tried to put her in the crib, she woke hourly, screaming. I was a walking zombie. Everyone from the pediatrician to my college roommate was imploring me to sleep train. I knew they meant well, but I felt pushed around, and I resisted.

          Unlike, say, my own mother, this kind, gentle mama next door never criticized me or made me feel like I was doing it wrong. Instead, she talked about what worked for her. She shared her dog-eared copy of Dr. Sears' Attachment Parenting book. I didn't become an attachment parenting convert, but I took up baby-wearing and it helped so much.

          I also learned a ton just by watching Neighbor Mom in action. She was masterful at setting limits without flying off the handle. If her toddler misbehaved, she crouched down, made eye contact and offered a firm "no" before redirecting to safer activities. It's one thing to read about these techniques in books. Seeing them in action was much more helpful. I swear, my kids owe the fact that I'm not a screamer to Neighbor Mom.

          Another important habit Neighbor Mom modeled for me was self-care. Here was a totally hands-on, devoted and present stay-at-home mom, yet I'd see her jogging out the door every morning before her husband left for work, getting her cardio while she could. She did yoga on a mat next to her toddler. She took a night class at the college. I saw that it was not just possible but smart to take care of yourself so that you'll have the energy and enthusiasm needed for your children.

          About a year after moving into my building, Neighbor Mom and her family relocated up north. I keep tabs on them through social media and loved seeing their family expand to include a third child. Although I was sad when they moved, I keep Neighbor Mom in my heart. Her example has helped me remember to be patient with the baby mamas I meet—to listen to them, support them and not judge them. New moms have enough busybodies telling them their baby ought to be wearing socks. I try instead to be the cheerleader who says, "All your baby needs is love and you're doing a great job."

          Some time after Neighbor Mom left, a very pregnant woman walked past my building and paused so her dog could watch the squirrels. We got to talking and I learned she was expecting her first, and she had lots of questions. It felt good to be the one who had answers, or at least experience, to share. I wound up telling her about the wonderful preschool I'd found for my daughter, and a few years later I bumped into there. We're still friends today.

          I can never thank Neighbor Mom enough for all she gave me, but I can pay it forward—every chance I get.

          [This was originally published on Apparently]

          Love + Village

          "Spring forward, lose sleep." That's how parents tend to think about the start of Daylight Saving Time, when the clocks spring forward one hour at midnight, and we all lose an hour of sleep. (Sadly, there are no exemptions for the already-sleep-deprived.)

          With the start of this year's Daylight Saving Time around the corner on Sunday, March 8, 2020, most of us are preparing to set our clocks one hour ahead as we “spring forward." Thankfully, this means the days will start to feel longer with more sunlight, but it also means another shift in your child's sleep schedule.

          The good news is, there are ways to minimize the effects of the time shift and help make the forward leap into spring a smooth transition for the entire family.

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          Try these 5 "spring forward" tips to help kids adjust to Daylight Saving Time without losing sleep.

          1. Prepare by going to bed earlier the night before

          Truthfully, the concept of shifting bedtimes can feel a bit like rocket science. So, to keep it simple I recommend going to sleep earlier the night before—that way the household still wakes up feeling rested.

          Some people recommend doing this for several nights before, moving bedtime earlier and earlier, but honestly I have seen this cause more confusion than good. If you focus on the night before, they still get the same amount of sleep as they normally would on the night the time change happens since our bodies naturally will wake at our normal time.

          Much like traveling to a different time zone, it is going to take some time for your internal sleep clocks to adjust regardless of how prepared you are. Going to bed earlier to avoid overtired little ones is a good idea in general.

          2. Encourage light during the day and darkness for sleep

          Our body's internal sleep cycles (also called our circadian rhythms) are regulated by lightness and darkness, and heavily influenced by our environment. This is why many of us wake up when the sun rises and start to feel sleepy shortly after the sun sets (although many of us go to bed way past sunset).

          You can help your child's 24-hour sleep cycle by exposing her to light first thing in the morning and making sure that her room is dark during naps and for bedtime. If your child's bedtime is on the earlier side, it may get harder to put her down as the days get longer, so blackout shades might be a good option in this case.

          3. Keep routines consistent

          As we enter a new season, schedules and activities can tend to feel a bit chaotic, and your children often experience the impacts of this the most. Even with the time shift, it is still important to stick closely to your current routine, only making minor changes if possible.

          4. Try to be patient with your kids

          As we all know, the effects of sleep deprivation impact the entire family. Children are just as confused about the time change as we are, and although our bodies will eventually adjust naturally, some have a harder time than others. If you notice meltdowns become a bit more frequent after the time change, try to remember that lack of sleep could be the culprit. I encourage you to set aside more quiet time and maybe even an extra nap while you all try to adjust to this new season.

          5. Invest in an Ok-to-Wake! clock or another device that can help keep sleep on track

          This is a great option for eager toddlers who are used to getting up and running into your room in the morning. Having a child-friendly alarm clock that turns green to indicate it is time to get up can make a big difference to a child trying to adjust.

          The great thing is, if you already have an early morning riser, the time change will actually help to shift those early morning wakings to a more manageable time!

          Your children are more resilient than you might think so try not to worry too much about the impact daylight saving time will have. Our bodies know what to do, and sometimes the best thing is to just go with it and hope for the best! You've got this.

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          Learn + Play
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