She was pale.
That was the first thing I noticed about her. Honestly, she was so thin and pale and drawn that she always looked just on the edge of being ill to me, but she wasn’t. It was just her natural build and coloring. That gaunt face was surrounded by pale brown curls and it felt like her emotions never really reached her eyes.
She was the only child in the second grade class I struggled to connect with.
I spent lots of time volunteering in my middle child’s classroom last year. Lots. I would go there at least two mornings a week to do book check-in with the kids and, honestly, I loved it. It was a wonderful chance to get to know all these little people and I found them endlessly amusing.
There was the little girl with a keen mind and an obsession with Greek mythology.
The boy who had just gotten a cocker spaniel puppy and loved to tell me stories about her.
The girl who was so bossy and so talkative and so rudely interuptive that she could drive you crazy, but, at the core, she had a kind heart and just needed affirmation.
There was the boy who was nearly silent, but, when I could crack him, had an ice-sharp wit that delighted me.
There was the boy who had a heartbreaking homelife and was so desperate for attention that he managed to annoy all his classmates but, though he never had his work done, I couldn’t help but want to stand up for him every chance I got.
Those kids? I just loved them. I loved their sweet seven-year-old innocence paired with a growing awareness about the world. I loved that they were incredibly competent, yet still cared what I thought.
All those little ones, with all their many facets, enchanted me. I can honestly say that, by the end of the year, I truly enjoyed them all…
The pale little girl I described above didn’t talk to me– not because she was shy, not because she had special needs, not even because she just had a quiet personality. No, she didn’t talk to me because she didn’t feel I was worth talking to. I would greet her, talk to her, ask her a question, and she would stare, vacant-eyed, over my left shoulder and blatantly ignore me.
It was maddening.
I went through a week or two of not talking to her much either, though that probably sounds petty. I just didn’t have the energy, really. But I got over myself and resumed my usual conversation, even if it was one-sided.
I could have tolerated her rudeness toward me, if that were the only unpleasant thing about her. But, you see, it wasnt.
This little girl liked to play games like this–
She would tell three or four other little girls in the class to all wear a certain article of clothing, say, a purple skirt. They would. Then, the next day, she’d toss her hair and eye the other (non-purple-skirt-wearing) girls with disdain and pick on them for not fitting in. The other girls who WERE wearing the “right thing” would all look uncomfortable and unsure what to do, but she would encourage them, too, to look down on their peers.
It infuriated me.
I’m coming to realize that I truly do enjoy a whole wide array of children–
I love the chatterbox, the genius, the dingbat, the lost cause. I love the flighty, the silly, the stoic, and even the naughty. I enjoy their antics, their jokes, their laughs, their stories, their struggles.
But I really, really struggled to love the bully.
There’s got to be more to her backstory, I’m sure. If I were able to really dig deep, I’d probably be able to untangle some of the dark roots that led to her mean-girl behavior.
But I couldn’t do it in two and a half hours a week.
And the bully is the hardest kid for me to love.
I? Am a purse minimalist. I have never been the kind of girl to schlep a giant shoulder-bag around. During the season of babies, I did carry a diaper bag, but even that was very, very pared down. Now that my youngest is five and I don’t need to carry much for the little set, I am back to my little pocketbooks and that suits me just fine.
Although you won’t find me carrying around the kitchen sink, I still manage to “save the day” a shocking number of times, it seems. Rest assured, there’s nothing at all amazing about me and I don’t have anything fancy in my bag. Nonetheless, I’ve managed to pick out the five little items I always carry that seem to come in super handy in all manner of situations.
Want to be a “hero on-the-go”? Here are five purse staples that will help save the day, for you or someone around you:
- A safety pin. Oh, the wondrous safety pin. These little saviors are tiny and easy to carry around– I keep a couple right on my keychain, actually. They’re cheap, simple to operate, and take up no space. But talk to someone who’s has a sudden wardrobe malfunction and they’ll tell you that a safety pin can be your best friend. I truly can’t count how many people have been so, so grateful when I had a safety pin to give.
- A tissue. I know, I know– everyone has tissues, right? Wrong. For whatever reason, many people will NOT have a tissue and, well, it’s highly unpleasant to need a tissue and not have one. Be the person who packs a few– your offer of a tissue is a simple act of kindness.
- Nail clippers. Have you ever cracked or broken a nail and then it snagged on everything in sight? Maybe you try to nibble it smooth. You might scrape it along a brick wall or some denim in an attempt to get rid of rough edges. These methods aren’t that effective. Nail clippers are small and perfect for the job, of course. They’re also awesome for snipping loose threads or cutting off tags. Trust me– nail clippers earn their real estate!
- A bandaid. You just never know when someone might need a bandaid. Tuck a few in your purse or wallet and you’re ready to help, should the need arise. It will. Trust me.
- Peppermint hard candy. Peppermint is awesome. It freshens breath. It soothes a queasy tummy. It comforts a dry, sore, scratchy throat. The smell is uplifting and can even help ease a stress headache. I have comforted many a fretful gradeschooler with a simple starlight peppermint.
Now go pack up that pocketbook and be a hero for someone!
Packing four lunches and making healthy breakfasts and suppers each night can wear a girl out! Through some simple, savvy prep, however, I can greatly ease my burden throughout the week and that makes for much smoother sailing. Here are my top eight prep tips that will save you time on those super busy days and nights:
- Assemble lunch components. I do not have room for four lunchboxes in my fridge. It just isn’t happening. I do, however, have enough space to toss a few sandwiches or small tupperware containers, along with water bottles, yogurt, cheese sticks, etc. I find that by grouping these items together, packing lunches in the morning is lightning fast and a no-brainer.
- Thaw in the fridge. Think ahead and get your meat into the fridge. I know this can be tricky, but it will save you headaches. Thawing on the counter is not considered safe (though I’ve done it, in a pinch) and thawing in the microwave usually leaves the meat a weird texture. Just get it in the fridge a day or two (or three, if it’s a ginormous hunk o’ meat) ahead and you’ll be all set.
- Do double-duty. Speaking of thawing, why not let your protein marinate while it thaws? Those shrimp up there are taking a nice soak in a spicy ginger soy bath as I type.
- Dice, slice, chop, and julienne. If you menu-plan, then you know what veggies you’re going to need for the next few days. I like to just dirty the knife and cutting board once and do a massive veggie prep session– this works for most true veggies (i.e. not the fruits we call veggies, like avocado or tomato). Broccoli, carrots, onions, peppers, cauliflower, and more can easily be prepped ahead of time.
- Prep the ‘pot. Got a slow cooker meal coming up on the plan? If you’ve got a space if your fridge, you may as well throw the ingredients in the pot and be all ready to go. Right now, I have all the components of tomato soup in mine, ready to go for tomorrow’s chaotic day. It’s a true blessing to just insert the crock and turn it on!
- Organize the freezer. You probably can’t pull EVERYTHING for the week out of the freezer right now. Some things will need to be thawed later on. What I like to do, though, is move the freezer items I’ll be needing later in the week to a very convenient spot– a shelf, side, or basket– so that I can easily get what I need when the time arrives. It doesn’t take long, but it saves many minutes down the road!
- Bake ahead and freeze. Know you’ll need muffins for Tuesday’s breakfast, bread for with Thursday’s soup, and kaisers for Saturday’s burgers? May as well bake them all at once! While you’ve got the flour out and the oven heated, just knock ‘em all out. It may not be a fast baking session, but I guarantee the total time spent will be significantly shorter than if you spread those things out.
- “Don’t count your chickens…”, but count your eggs! Check your staples– milk, butter, eggs, flour, etc. These are things we sometimes just assume we’ll have, as we make the menu plan. Make sure you do, indeed, have enough to make what you’ve listed. Nothing says “wasted time” like having to run to the store because you came up short on butter.
I’m the queen of cranking out two or three or six of those things while I’m also making Sunday brunch. It’s a bit of a tradition around here. What’s your favorite way to save time in the kitchen?
More activities join the pack this week! Church school for two kids, I’m teaching a class (to prepare for First Holy Eucharist– SO excited about that!), chorus, plus a curriculum night, and a new bible study. It is a busy, busy season, but it’s fun. We’ve got another couple weeks before cello and orchestra join the mix, so I’m appreciating the gradual “ease-in.”
I did a ton of prep on Monday morning for this week’s menu plan and I’m trying not to shop very much. I snagged a gallon of milk, a pound of butter, coffee, and some eggs (total: $11.50) on the way home from last night’s curriculum night and I’m really hoping to make that work, at least until the end of the week.
Here’s the plan!!
B–Rice Krispies, Apples, Milk ( before 7:30AM Mass)
Brunch–Bagel Sandwiches, Bananas
D–Baked Penne w/ Sausage, Mushrooms, Onion, and Provolone; Broccoli
B–Egg Wraps, Apples, Juice (I was out of milk by then!)
D–Beef Fajita Soft Tacos, Salad
B–PB Toast, Greek Yogurt, Juice
D–French-y Chicken Drumsticks, Cheesy Rice w/ Broccoli
B–Bagels, Apples, Milk
D–Ginger Soy Shrimp w/ Carrots & Broccoli over Rice
B–Egg Wraps, Oranges (on the road! Chorus starts EARLY…)
D–Tomato Soup, Cheese Bread
B–Cereal, Apples, Milk
D–Lg. Sausage Pizza, Med. Cheese Pizza
B–Breakfast Skillets (my family was thrilled to see potatoes on sale again, finally!)
D–Hot Dogs, Baked Beans, Pickles
And that should do it! What’s hittin’ YOUR table this week?
Yesterday morning, I headed to TJMaxx to find some tall socks for my boy. (We talked about this yesterday on Facebook, if you missed it.) I found some, just so you know, and they were about a third of the regular price so, if you have a boy sporting this trend, you should check it out.
Anyhow, while I was there, I headed over into the housewares section to see if they had any yummy flavored coffee in stock. Believe it or not, that store can be a goldmine for flavored gourmet coffee, but it’s hit or miss. Yesterday was a miss, but some pretty towels caught my eye. I ended up buying new hand towels for both bathrooms and new rugs for our main bath.
I was particularly excited about the hand towel I found for our master bath. Here’s why:
So, as the day went on, my people gradually flowed through the door.
I heard A. holler through the door, “Hey, Mom! Am I allowed to dry my hands on this thing?”
“Yep! Go ahead,” I answered.
That was that.
My husband went to see what I had bought for our master bath.
“Purple and white. Alright.” he said.
Purple and white? PURPLE AND WHITE? That towel is NOT just “purple and white”!!!! Sigh.
My girls walked in. C. set her backpack down in the hall and, out of the corner of her eye, spied the new rugs.
“Mommy! Where did these COME from? They’re so soft!! And they match the tile! G, come look at this!”
G, popped into the bathroom with her sister.
“Ooooh, Mommy, this towel is BEAUTIFUL. The colors are so pretty. Did you get one like it for your room, too?”
I showed them the one in our bathroom.
“Ohhhh,” they gushed in appreciation, “it matches your colors perfectly.”
And here’s what I have to say about all this–
Thank God for daughters.
Just over a month ago, we lost my husband’s cousin at a tragically young age.
About the same time, one of my best friends said goodbye to her forty-one year old brother-in-law, the father of three, who had always been incredibly healthy until, one day, the cancer showed up.
Today is the thirteenth anniversary of 9-11.
All of these things make us realize how unpredictable life can be. All of these things remind us that we need to treasure the days we are given, no matter how short they may be.
Thinking about all this made me think of bucket lists– it’s interesting to think about all the things we hope to do or accomplish before we leave this earth. From the mundane to the profound, there are a whole lot of options out there!
Today, both to honor those whose lives were cut short and to deliberately avoid bringing more “heaviness” to the writing community, I thought I’d share ten things I’d love to learn how to do before my days are done:
- Speak Italian– fluently. I took a few semesters of Italian in college. I was good at it! Given that I passed my French fluency test and also had some Spanish under my belt, this wasn’t a surprise. But you know what? I’ve lost it. I really can’t speak it at all anymore. I can understand everyday speech and read a little, but I would love to speak Italian with beautiful fluency.
- Play the harp. Oh, the harp! What a stunning instrument. I played the piano and the violon, and they’re both lovely. But, if I could learn any other instrument, I’d pick the harp.
- Drive a stick. I don’t really like driving much. I’ve been told that I’d enjoy it a lot more if I were driving a stick. I don’t know if that’s true, but, either way, I feel like this would be a valuable skill.
- Sew really well. I can mend. And do hand work. That’s about it. And I have a sewing machine! I’d like to learn how to sew really well, but I never seem to take the time to make it a priority.
- Make stellar pasta. I would really love to be able to knock out amazing pasta for dinner a couple times a week. This is one of those things that I can do, but it’s not fantastic enough for me to do often. I’d like to get better!
- Knit baby hats. Some day, I’d like to be able to basically knit hats in my sleep so I can crank out preemie hats for children’s hospitals. I want it to be memorized and second nature. Think that’s possible?
- Ballroom dance. I’m not a natural dancer. It’s so sad, but it’s true. I like dancing. And I’d love to glide around the floor. But, without a VERY strong lead, I’m not in great shape out there. It makes me so bummed that it doesn’t come naturally– I try to comfort myself with the fact that I have a good singing voice, but it’s really not the same.
- Apply eye liner properly. I have no idea what I’m doing, people. In reality, I don’t need much eye makeup, but I so enjoy playing with the stuff. And I have no idea what I’m doing. (YouTube has not helped me, lest you think that’s the solution.)
- Mountain climb. As a child, I clamored over the rocky cliffs of Newport, RI and loved every minute. I absolutely adored planning my hand- and foot-holds. Today, I’m an avid hiker and I still enjoy a challenge, but I’ve always loved the idea of truly scaling the side of a mountain. Bring it on!
- Read the skies. I took Astronomy my junior year in high school. Did I tell you all that story? I petititioned it up to an honors level and took it in place of Physics because, since it didn’t have a lab period, I could then add a second foreign language. All my (fellow nerd) friends took Physics and I teased them at the awards ceremony, knowing they’d be the ones getting the geeky science honors. First name called? Me. For Astronomy. Ha! Anyway, I loved studying the stars. I’d love to know more about it.
And that’s ten! That was fun. Truly. Are any of those things you’d like to learn? If not, what would YOU love to learn how to do?
You all probably know by now that I dearly love spending time in my kitchen. Cooking, baking, expermenting, and, of course, eating all bring me great joy. To be honest, I look forward to making a meal each evening and I’m not typically one to rely on “freezer meals”, though I think the concept is awesome.
You know what I don’t love doing, however? Prepping veggies. Don’t get me wrong, I’m more than capable of chopping, slicing, dicing, or julienning– and I do– but I also don’t object to taking a good shortcut when one is handed to me.
And that’s how I feel about Green Giant Valley Fresh Vegetables.
Disclosure: The information and prize pack have been provided by General Mills through Platefull Co-Op.
Our days are busy, with school, activities, church, volunteering, and all kinds of other meetings and obligations. I honestly just don’t feel like always washing, chopping, and prepping the steamer to have some decent broccoli. So I’m grateful to have the option of having fresh, tasty steamed veggies right out of the microwave!
Continue reading Saving Time & Eating Well
This is the week when all the extracurriculars kick into high gear. We are adding gymnastics, cross country, horseback riding, and a Shakespearean play this week with more starting next week. And so it begins!
This week’s menu plan isn’t terribly complicated. I’m well aware that I’m going to be running to all of the above, plus karate, curriculum nights, and more. This is not the time to try to create complicated dinners! Still, we’ll eat and eat well.
Here’s the plan!!
B–Rice Krispies, Apples, Milk ( before 7:30AM Mass)
Brunch–Ham, Swiss, & Eggs over Biscuits
Mid-Afternoon–Church Picnic! Four hours of fun and food. Oh, and some amazing homemade blackberry wine a very old Italian man made.
D–Sunday Supper at Bama & Papa’s
B–PB Toast, Apples, Milk
D–Tacos Fisher, Bean Salad (<– new to us recipes you’ll probably find out about later on! )
B–Cereal, Bananas, Milk
D–Fettucine Alfredo w/ Ham, Crab, and Peas
B–Blueberry Buckle, Cheese
D–Cheesy Beans & Rice
B–Egg Wraps, Juice
D–Crab Quesadillas with peppers and onions
B–Cereal, Apples, Milk
D–Lg. Shrimp & Tomato Pizza, Med. Cheese Pizza
B–Scr. Eggs & Sausage over Toast, Fruit
D–Chicken Marsala, Rice, Broccoli (I’m test-driving a new recipe, but this is my tried-and-true!)
And that should do it! What’s this week hold for you? Is it getting busy?
I’ve told you all about Dr. Y. before.
She was an absolutely horrible pediatrician whom we saw when we first moved to Indiana. I used to dread well-child check-ups because she was such a bad fit for us. Anyway, one of the “perks”, if you will, of having given birth four months early is that an excellent, high-demand doctor in our community opened up a spot on his patient list for our family– having a very special needs baby meant we were given preferential treatment and bypassed a massive wait-list.
Dr. Z. (and, yes, I realize it’s funny we went from Y to Z) was fantastic. I absolutely loved him. One of the things I’ve always said I loved most about him was how, when he first met C., he just shook his head in awe and said, “Twenty-four weeks, huh? This little girl must have had a whole lot of people praying for her.”
At the time, I absolutely loved how a DOCTOR gave glory to God and not just, well, science. Don’t get me wrong– he was very much a medical doctor who used science and medications on a daily basis. But I loved that he didn’t consider that the be all and end all.
Over the years, many more people have echoed those sentiments. “That’s the power of prayer!” “She’s an answered prayer!” “She had so many people praying for her!” And so forth…
Honestly, I’ve always nodded and smiled. “Yep,” I thought, “all true. She really DID have a lot of people praying for her and we believe whole-heartedly that God had and has a plan for our little C.”
But, lately, it’s started to bother me a bit.
My heart feels a little funny when I hear those remarks.
Because, you see, while there may not be anything at all wrong with what people say about C’s case, the implied flip-side is incredibly upsetting.
I think back to Nathaniel and I realize why it just doesn’t fit–
While the glory should, indeed, go to God, we can’t establish a direct correlation that states:
Lots of Prayer = Saved Baby
That’s just not how it works. It’s not that simple.
Would C. be here with us had she not had so many people lifting her in prayer? I’ll never know.
But I know for a fact that there are babies who don’t make it who had just as many prayers being said in their names.
There is a greater plan– this I know.
God doesn’t make mistakes– I know this, too.
But I’ve also learned that our words are important and we need to realize how, even when what we say isn’t hurtful–
what we imply could devastate another.
“I really need to figure out what I’m going to do with my life,” he says from the backseat.
I glance in the rearview mirror and smile. “What do you mean, kiddo?”
“I mean I have to decide what I want to be. What I’m good at, you know?”
I have to laugh to myself a bit at that one because, honestly, this child is good at a lot, so it’s not like his options are incredibly limited. But before I can even comment on that, he continues,
“And not just that, but also what I like, right?”
I nod as he goes on,
“Like how your high school chemistry teacher told you you’d make a great chemical engineer, but he knew you’d hate it. And then you nailed math and logic on the tests, but you majored in Literature. That took guts, Mom. But, anyway, I just need to figure out what I’m going to do.”
I take in his pensive expression, the genuine focus in his thoughtful blue eyes, and, finally, I can’t help it. I chuckle.
“Buddy, you’ve got LOTS of time to figure that out.”
“Not really,” comes his matter-0f-fact reply. “I mean, I have nine years. But I’ve already lived nine years! And I really haven’t thought about it at all so far. And you always say how time goes faster and faster as you get older and, obviously, it doesn’t, it’s just all relative and each day is a smaller percentage of your life, but my POINT is– if these nine years are already gone, the next will be gone before I blink.”
I still think he’s perhaps overthinking this and fretting about something that really shouldn’t be a concern. But, then, I’ve gone to college with all the kids who have no clue what they want to be. And I’ve watched those who were utterly certain of their occupation do a 180 in the middle of earning their degrees. I’ve seen a side he hasn’t yet.
And, so, rather than dismiss his concerns, or shrug off what seems pretty silly to me, I just smile.
“You really do have plenty of time, sweetheart. But it’s good that you’re thinking. Have fun thinking. Enjoy pondering all the options there are before you- it’s an amazing time in your life right now. You have so many possibilities.”
He grins back, all freckles and a crooked incisor. Looks out the window. Stretches a long leg which pokes me in the back as I drive. And I hear him murmur,
“Yep. But remember… more than five percent of this school year is already gone. Before I even blinked.”