Modeling + Expectations




There’s been a story floating around for the past couple weeks that’s– once again– got people cheering or ranting from either side of the fence.


This time it involves a woman who posted on social media about how, disappointed in her children’s lack of manners, she promptly threw their ice cream in the trash to teach a lesson.


I’m gonna be honest with you– I read the story the first time through and my only thought was, “Okay, lady, if that works for you– go for it.”


This is largely because I lean toward the NMKNMP (not my kid, not my problem) philosophy on such matters.


I wasn’t ready to give her a parenting medal, nor did I think she was somehow scarring her poor, innocent children. I also wasn’t in the camp of those horrified by the wasted ice cream. I was just– I don’t know… fine with it, I guess.


Turns out people had lots to say on this matter.


There were those lauding her for making a statement, seizing a “teachable moment”, and proving to her children that she means business when it comes to showing manners and gratitude.


There were those who felt there were much better ways– to lead by example, correct in private, and avoid public shaming (both at the ice cream shop AND on social media.)


Here’s what I’m gonna say–


While my kids are far from perfect little angels, I am totally confident in saying they are incredibly polite. In fact, after our recent vacation, I actually remarked to my husband about how pleasant it is to go places with them. They are kind and grateful and their pleases and thank yous are 100% automatic at this point.


But how did they get that way?


Luck? Example? Expectations?


I’ve spent awhile thinking about this and here’s where I’ve landed:


It’s a combination of leading by example AND setting expectations.


Modeling + Expectations


It’s not one or the other. It has to be both.


I could tell my children to “mind their manners” ’til I’m blue in the face, but if they don’t see my husband and me modeling that behavior, it’s unlikely to strike them as all that important. They might learn to do it most of the time, in front of us, but it’s unlikely to become something they view as natural and integral.


At the same time, my kids need to know, clearly, what my expectations for them are. The reality is that there are times I won’t be there and I still expect them to do the right thing. Furthermore, expectations for children and adults are NOT always the same. (In the case of basic manners, they should be, but in other areas of life, there are distinctions.) I need to know that my kids know exactly how we expect them to treat others and to respond during interactions. This, too, is critical. I don’t need them to simply mimic me– I want them to understand both the WHAT and the WHY of expected behavior.


So, at the end of the day, would I toss my kids’ ice cream? Probably not. But, to be totally honest, I have an incredibly hard time imagining my kids’ treating a service worker poorly. And that’s not because I’d throw away their treats. And it’s not because I’d guide them through a quiet, calm, edifying private lesson later on.


No, it’s because for 11, 10, and 6 years, respectively, we’ve put in the groundwork of both modeling and setting expectations.


And, if you’re willing to do that?


It’s unlikely you’ll ever be faced with the decision of whether or not to toss your kids’ dessert.




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Triple Chocolate Drop Cookies



Triple Chocolate Drop Cookies




Triple Chocolate Drop Cookies
Recipe type: dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 30
An easy drop cookie filled with the rich flavor of three levels of chocolate-- perfect with a glass of icy cold milk or a steaming mug of coffee.
  • ½ cup butter (straight out of the fridge is fine)
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ⅓ cup cocoa powder
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup milk chocolate chips
  • ½ cup semisweet chips (I used the "minis" for some texture variety)
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Cream butter and sugar for one minute.
  3. Mix in egg and vanilla.
  4. Add baking soda, salt, and cocoa. Mix to combine.
  5. Add in flour a little at a time until fully incorporated.
  6. Fold in both varieties of chocolate chips.
  7. (Optional: chill dough for one hour. Chilling the dough creates "rounder" cookies and the dough will be less sticky. It is not required, however.)
  8. Drop by rounded teaspoons onto cookie sheets. (I lined mine with a silpat, but the butter content should keep them from sticking, anyhow.)
  9. Bake 4 minutes on lower rack, then move to upper rack and bake for an additional 4 minutes.
  10. Let sit for a few minutes before removing cookies from cookie sheet onto cooling racks or brown paper.




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When Sick Gets Real




One thing I’ve learned from my experience with the app “TimeHop” is that I do not enjoy reliving episodes involving sick children. As a result, you will find no pathetic shots of sickly children documented on social media from our last run-in with the flu. I know I’m not going to want to revisit it down the road!


Such things are learned over time, however, and I wasn’t always so wise. ;)  In the way-back, I did indeed share some shots of my resting, feverish little ones. One such shot assaulted me this morning:






Aw, poor little G!



I read through my posts of that day and this one jumped out at me:


Nothing else was touching the 104 fever, so we finally gave her ibuprofen. It was the right call– she’s drinking and taking in fluids much better now.


That, my friends, was the moment when Sick just got real.™ 


If you know me at all, you know I’m not the panicky type. I trust my gut a lot and I don’t jump to conclusions. I’ve been known to shrug off lots of little fevers and minor aches and pains. But, from time to time, a mama’s gotta have a little help and, when the fever starts interfering with fluid-intake? I take action.





In those moments, I’m always grateful to have the right tools in my arsenal, such as those in the Pfizer Pediatric Platform,  available at Target. Children’s Advil® comes in several flavors, including: Sugar-free Dye-free Berry, Bubble Gum, Grape, Blue Raspberry, Fruit, and Dye-Free White Grape flavors. I appreciate the variety of flavors because, let’s be real– some kids are particular about such things and illness is not the time you want to be arguing about it. I also like the dye-free options, particulary important for those little ones who are sensitive to artificial dyes and coloring.


So, when asked what I rely on to stay and get well? You’ll hear a lot about fruits, veggies, fresh air, and exercise from me– I still believe these things contribute to our overall health and resilience around here!


But you’ll also hear me readily admit that I’m grateful to have some support and relief for when sick gets real.




The Pfizer Pediatric Platform products,information, and additional gift pack have been provided by Pfizer Consumer Healthcare. All thoughts and reviews are, as always, completely my own.




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Bruised and Scratched




“I have a bruise here, Mrs. S. See? On my leg?”


“Good,” I replied.


And they all just laughed.



They’re used to me, that second grade class. If you put it together, I’ve taught them 15% of their second grade year. That’s a pretty sizable chunk!


Frequently in a hurry and flitting here and there, I’ve been known to be a bit klutzy. Add that to having fair skin and I frequently sport vivid green and purple splotches here and there. Those aren’t really the most productive of marks to bear– they’re more a sign of my impatient nature and determination to accomplish more than is humanly possible.


Bruises and scratches on the arms and legs of children, however… they usually make me grin.


[Obviously, I'm not speaking of serious injury or signs of abuse or neglect-- such things are entirely different and deserve very sober attention and intervention.]


No, I’m referring to the bumps and scrapes that come from having an active childhood.


Bramble snags. Gravel burns. Skinned knees. Bruised elbows and shins.


When I see children bearing the evidence of adventure and exploration, it makes me happy. Bruises and scratches earned from active discovery are nothing to worry or fret over. On the contrary, I view them as badges of accomplishment. I’d much rather see hands scraped raw from climbing a tree than calloused from holding a game controller.


And, so, the children have learned to show off their little scrapes and bruises to me.


“Look, Mrs. S! I got this hiking through some blackberry bushes!”


Because they know that, rather than, “Oh, you poor thing!”, they’ll hear, “Good for you! Tell me what you discovered.”


I’m a big fan of the bruised and scratched childhood.




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Menu Plan: The Pre-Easter Crazy




Like the rest of the world, I feel like Easter is creeping up super early this year. I keep glancing at the calendar and getting a little jolt because… really??? So soon???


These weeks leading up have been busy and, honestly, at times overwhelming. We’ve had some health issues within my family. I’ve been covering a second grade classroom for weeks now, which brings with it some extra tasks I don’t usually take on as a substitute. I’ve loved it, but it’s busy. My husband’s work has been demanding. The children’s activities always seem to pick up some steam again in Spring. My son had training to become an incense-bearer for the solemnities at our church– an honor and responsibility not typically bestowed on someone so young. So, you know… a lot going on.


To avoid losing my mind, I planned a simple week and did lots of veggie prep on the weekend.


So here’s the plan!



menu plan




B–Cereal, Apples, Milk (for the kiddos, before 7:30AM Mass)

Brunch– Pancakes, Bananas

Mid-afternoon Snack– Leftover Pizza & leftovers from our restaurant meal the day before

D– Chicken & Potato Soup, Homemade Rustic White bread


B–PB English Muffins, Apples, Milk

D–Sweet & Sour Chicken and Veggies over Jasmine Rice


B–Jellied English muffins, apples, milk

D–Hot Dogs, carrot sticks


B–Grainless Cinnamon Blueberry Bread, Clementines, Milk (<– I did NOT make this bread. I found it at our local grocery bakery. It’s normally $7 a loaf, but I got it for 80% off, so we gave it a try.)

D–Cheesy Beans & Rice


B–Cinnamon Blueberry Bread, Eggs, Apples

D–Crab & Broccoli Alfredo with Penne


B–Eggs, Apples w/ PB, Milk

L– Mac & Cheese

D–Fish Tacos– I use tilapia in these, because it’s really affordable and just picks up the flavors of the spices


B–Eggs, Hash Browns, Mixed Fruit


Does it seem like fish tacos are showing up every week? They pretty much are. There are a few reasons for that. One, they’re a “meatless” meal that fits in with our Lenten tradition. Also, everyone likes them and tilapia is super affordable. Finally, it’s a tasty, reasonably healthy meal that fits well into my husband’s fitness and eating plan.

(May I brag on my husband? He’s recently dropped twenty-some pounds, meaning the 32 slim-fit jeans I bought him are just way too baggy. He’s healthy, though! I don’t know why so many people think a man is ill when he gets into a healthy BMI range. It’s odd. Anyway, he and I both strive really hard to set good examples for our kids. For him, that means demonstrating how controlled snacking and regular exercise play into a healthy life. For me, it’s more about demonstrating self-care and -love and fighting against my disordered eating tendencies.

I share all that simply because, from the outside, my husband and I just appear to be two healthy, slim-ish individuals. Without careful work, however, he’d be not-so-slim and I’d be way past slim. I think it’s important to be honest about just how hard it is sometimes to make good choices in hopes that our children can learn from them.)

And that should do it!   What’s your favorite thing on your menu plan this week?

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One bad apple…




“You’re doing a really wonderful job.”


“I am so, so glad you’re the one they put in to sub.”


“My daughter LOVES having you in the classroom.”


“Please let me know how I can help you– you’re doing great.”


“You’re a doll!”


“They love you. You captivate them.”


And then…


“They NEVER act like this normally. They’re just so disrespectful to you. Isn’t there someone who can help you manage them?”



I go home, dejected.


I had thought it was a good day. We practiced counting coins. They were engaged in our measuring lesson. They sat on the edge of their seats as I began Gooseberry Park as our read-aloud. We practiced planning, list-making, and division of labor as they plotted out their leprechaun traps.


Did I need help managing them? Were they so out of control and I didn’t even see it? Was I possibly sabotaging this big chunk of their second grade year by not having a handle on things?


I fixated on that one remark for hours. I felt incompetent. Like a failure.


Never mind the dozens of complimentary, encouraging comments I’d received from teachers, parents, and administration. Never mind the utter confidence the regular teacher has in me. All that flew by the wayside as I fretted over one woman’s offhand words.


And why is that? Why is it so easy for us to overlook all the positive and focus on the one dark spot?


Is it really true that one bad apple spoils the bunch?


I feel like my emotions are one of those old strings of Christmas lights– they can be all gleamy and bright but then, when one goes dark, the whole lot fades.


I need to work on that. Chances are, you could work on it, too.


Let’s strive to simply glance at the bad bulb, see if we did anything to cause its lack of light. If so, we can tweak our actions. Otherwise? Remove it and move on.


Gleam on, friends.

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Menu Plan: Marching Along




It’s a dark, rainy, gloomy start of a Monday. I’m covering a leave of absence in second grade, so I’ve been kept hopping with that! Still, no matter how busy life gets, we still need to eat, right?


So here’s the plan!



menu plan




B–Cereal, Apples, Milk (for the kiddos, before 7:30AM Mass)

Brunch– Egg & Cheese Sandwiches on English Muffins, Bananas

Mid-afternoon Snack– Leftover Pizza

D– Burgers, Green Beans (kinda late! It was a busy day.)


B–Blueberry Toast, Apples, Milk

D–Chicken & Rice Soup, Wheat Dinner Rolls


B–Smoothies, leftover rolls

D–Angelhair with broccoli and chicken


B–Oatmeal, Apples, Milk

D–Cheesy Beans & Rice


B–Blueberry Toast, Clementines, Milk

D–Pizza – ***Pizza Night is usually Friday around here. HOWEVER. We are in Lent and, well, I live with some carnivores. So, about every third week, I’ve swapped Thursday and Friday. They very much appreciate this. Me? I just like veggie pizza, so it makes no diff for me.

(ALSO– I realize this is St. Patrick’s Day. Can I be honest? Green food hasn’t historically amused my children. And 4 out of 5 of us don’t like corned beef and cabbage. Alas… pizza night. ;) )


B–Eggs, Apples w/ PB, Milk

D–Fish Tacos– I use tilapia in these, because it’s really affordable and just picks up the flavors of the spices


B–Ham, Egg, and Cheese skillets, clementines

D–Beef & Cabbage Rolls

And that should do it!   What’s your favorite thing on your menu plan this week?

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Please Don’t Just Click the Sad Face




A few days ago, Facebook rolled out their new “reactions.” Now, rather than just “liking” something, you can choose between “like”, “love”, “wow”, “ha ha”, “sad” and “mad.”




Some people were excited about this. Genius! Now we have options to better match our response! Awesome!


I was not so thrilled.


While I get the convenience of being able to click “sad” on a friend’s post about a sick child, I’m just not sure if that’s a great thing.


If I post a cute pic or a funny story or a weather update? “Likes” are great. I’m happy to see them. I really don’t want or expect anything more.


But, if I’m honest, there ARE times I hope for more from my friends.


I’ll give you a very real, very timely example.


This coming Monday, Leap Day, will mark the four year anniversary since we lost our fourth baby. I’ve honestly been dreading another Leap Day coming around for the past few years. One of the small comforts of such an anniversary is that it doesn’t come around all that often, but, on the flip side, it’s not exactly an easy one to ignore or overlook.


Anyhow, I’m predicting it will be a bit of a hard day for me. Being the sort of person I am, the odds are good that I might mention that on social media. And you know what?


Sad faces aren’t much comfort.


I know it’s more work. I know it’s not fun. But, what I need, are WORDS.


  • “I’m so sorry.”
  • “Praying for your peace.”
  • “Sending virtual hugs.”
  • “That sucks. I’m sorry.”
  • “Thinking of you.”


Those aren’t particularly long or difficult sentiments, but they MATTER. Those words? They make me feel not so alone. They make me feel like people feel I’m worthy of the time it takes to type out an actual thought.


When the only option was to click “like” or leave a comment, it was kind of a no-brainer– people knew that this was a time to take a second and type something.


But… now?


Click the sad face and run.


I know some people are tickled pink by these new options.


I’m not so convinced they’re a blessing yet.



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No Physics, No Problem




In the Spring of my sophomore year of high school, I completed what I would from then on refer to as one of my greatest coups.


I was actually really good at science–(only girl at the New England Chem-a-thon 1992–represent!)– so it was no surprise when, on course selection day, my Chem Study teacher checked off the box recommending I continue into Honors Physics.


Now, I liked science well enough. I had particularly enjoyed chemistry, actually. But I did not like the necessary lab periods that precluded me from taking other classes about which I was much more passionate. Still, I was a front-runner in terms of class rank and, well, such things were affected by weighted classes: honors and AP classes counted for more than regular ol’ college prep.


But, glancing through the course offerings, I had an idea…


I petitioned to take Astronomy as an honors course.


Astronomy actually sounded interesting to me! I loved the idea of studying the stars and space. Further, it didn’t have a lab period to go with it, so I was free to pursue adding a second foreign language. Languages were something I absolutely loved and I was gifted with them– they came to me quickly and fascinated me.


I pleaded my case and it was approved. While everyone else in the class received the standard “college prep” credit in terms of class rank, I received honors credit. I was graded slightly differently for this privilege, but I didn’t mind– after all, I really was quite good at science.



astronomy (1)


There were those who thought I really got away with something that year– after all, I spent my days sketching solar systems, studying dwarf nebulas, and lying back in the planetarium, while my fellow top-ranking peers sweated it out in Honors Physics. I added Spanish II to my schedule, along with French V, and delighted in my days, free to do so now that I didn’t have that pesky lab period taking up time.


I guess it could be argued that I took the easy way out or slacked off. After all, I’m pretty sure I could have handled physics just fine. I don’t know that I would have been awesome at it, but I highly doubt it would have had a real negative impact on my GPA. But I didn’t. I took Astronomy.


And, looking back, I am so proud of that 15 year-old girl for going against the grain and pursuing her passions. 


Why was that such an odd thing to do? Why was I such an anomaly? Why hadn’t anyone else done it?


We have this idea that the best and brightest students should take all of the best and brightest classes. Trust me– I fell into this, too. By the time I graduated high school, I had taken six AP courses. My senior year in high school was actually far more intense and challenging than my freshman year of college.


But when I look back at my junior year, at the year when I managed to fulfill my science requirement, maintain my class rank, add a subject I adored, and learn about a fascinating science, I really want to give my younger self a high five for getting it right that time.


It’s not the top-notch students’ faults. Our system is set up so that, if you want to rank highly and be impressive, you’ve pretty much GOT to take all the top classes. And there’s logic in that. It makes total sense that a 92 in AP Calc should count for more than a 92 in Basic Algebra. One is much more challenging than the other.


However, wouldn’t it be lovely if our kids could focus all that drive and intelligence on the areas they truly love… without fear of seeing a dip in GPA? I wasn’t afraid of challenges– heck, I wouldn’t have added another language if I were. I just wanted to pursue subjects that lit that fire in me. And I found a way to do it.


I pray I’m able to help my own kids find a way to do the same.

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Five Faves from February



I know the month isn’t over yet, but it’s already been full of lots of good stuff! I thought it’d be fun to share a few, well, FIVE, of my favorites with you all. In no particular order, here are five faves from February:



1. Hiking with the Cat


cat on a hike


Sounds crazy, right? Well, the thing is, every time we hike, we see so many people out with their dogs. We don’t have a dog. But we DO have a rather dog-like cat. Concerned about his safety on a harness and leash, however, I wondered aloud about the possibility of a hiking backpack and, wouldn’t you know it, you really CAN find anything on Amazon. ;)


Apollo loved his time out in nature with “his people” and the kids thought it was awesome to have their buddy along. People along the way were fascinated by our hiking cat and thought it was pretty cool! I look forward to many more adventures with our orange tabby companion.



2. Seeing Human Compassion Alive and Well




Concord, New Hampshire was a small, lovely capital city. The residents were warm and welcoming and I was charmed by their perpetually good manners and resilience in the snow and ice. It was basically a quintessential New England city, but without the hustle and bustle we associate with our big cities. (Northeasterners are known for always being in a hurry!)


Right by the capitol building, I saw these trees, wrapped in scarves, vests, and jackets, with hats and gloves stuck on bare branches. “Take if you are cold!” the signs read. And, frankly, Concord IS cold. I was cozy in my down jacket, but I can only imagine facing those bitter winters without adequate gear. This simple gesture helped renew my faith in human goodness and compassion.


3. Subbing Second Grade




We were off from school on the 15th and 16th for our February Break/Presidents Day. I was asked to sub in a second grade classroom for that Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Obviously, this meant I was the only teacher those kids would see that whole week.


I loved my time with those seven- and eight-year-olds! I had so many great experiences with them and I truly looked forward both to seeing their faces in the mornings and receiving their hugs on their way out the door. They made me smile and laugh and think on my feet and it was awesome.


I had already considered it a wonderful three days, but the above text from the classroom teacher made my whole WEEK. Seriously. I can’t even tell you. For a girl who has Words of Affirmation as my top love language– by FAR– there was no greater gift.



4. Big Strings


big strings 2016 (1)


There’s my A, flanked by high schoolers, playing the double bass at the String Festival (my favorite concert of the whole year.) He looked like death warmed over, to be honest. He was exhausted and fighting what I thought was a cold, but turned out to be influenza, AKA THE FLU. My apologies right now for exposing others– we truly didn’t know!


Anyway, he looked awful and I feared he’d fall over at any point, but, despite that, his playing was SPOT ON. His tone and rhythm were fantastic and I was super proud. That said, I realize I’m his mom, so I must own the possibility of bias. ;)


A couple days after the concert, I received an email from his orchestra director, remarking on A’s playing– “He has a great ear and a solid sense of rhythm. His bass playing on Thursday was spot-on! It makes such a difference to have a solid bass player in any group.” So, hey, I’m not just a crazy mama. Seriously, though, I’m so thrilled that he has found a love for both cello and bass. Not only are they simply lovely to listen to, I’m also just over the moon happy that he’s enjoying music. Coming from a musical family, that just warms my heart.



5. Plans on the Horizon!


beach morn



In less than two months, we’ll be at the beach. For a girl with salt-water in her veins, this is breathtakingly wonderful news. I cannot WAIT to feel the sand between my toes and fall asleep to the crashing waves. I also can’t wait to have my morning coffee down on the shore, watching the sun rise and reading a good book. The countdown has begun!!! :)



What are YOU loving this month?

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