It’s All Good



Last night, I heard the wind whipping. I compulsively checked the temp on my phone to confirm that, yes, it was still above freezing.


Rattling and howling and creaking surrounded us as we snuggled under blankets and got a chuckle over how we had just gone out for fro-yo and our son’s cheeks still bore a trace of sunburn from the day before.


I knew it was getting colder and I knew the rain had swept in. I even knew that there had been murmurings about a “wintry mix” that I had chosen to ignore.


I did not know that this was going to happen.


snowy April


Like much of the country, I’ve the rug pulled out from under me. Don’t get me wrong– those in the midwest and plains states had to know that 80s weren’t typical April weather, just as we knew that 70s weren’t typical April temps here.


That didn’t stop us from loving it, though.


I sighed as I pulled out long sleeves, long pants, and socks for my girls. I frowned out the window and declared, “I could just cry, seeing this snow in mid-April.”


And, clearly inspired by Pete the Cat (as we ALL should be, quite frankly), my youngest’s silvery voice rang out:


“Not me! Snow comes and snow goes. It’s all good.”


And you know what?


G.– and Pete– are right.



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Menu Plan: The Due Date



It’s that time of week! The Tuesday menu plan is back again this week… :)


We’re on Spring Break– woo hoo!


So, today is April 15th, AKA “Tax Day.”



It was also my due date with my second baby.



That’s right, sweet C. was due to arrive on Tax Day, which, in 2006, was the day before Easter.
Instead, she arrived the day before Christmas, back in 2005.


It honestly blows my mind every single year when April 15th arrives and I think about just how long ago Christmas Eve really was. I mean, that’s crazy! God is so very, very good.




In totally unrelated news, here’s the whole plan for the week!


Breakfast– Pretzels, Bananas, Milk (for A., before 7:30AM Palm Sunday Mass)– Weird? Yes. But also a good way to up his salt and electrolytes before he had to stand and serve for an extended period. Gotta prevent that syncope!

Boston Cream Donuts

Lunch– Sandwiches, Crackers, Fruit, Boston Cream Donuts

D– Rotelle, Ham, and Broccoli w/ Cheese Sauce




B–Wineberry Scones, Applesauce, Milk

D–Tomato Soup, Grilled Pepperjack Sandwiches on homemade Honey Wheat Bread



B–Cereal, Greek Yogurt, Grapefruit

Carnitas & Spanish Rice Soft Tacos

D–Carnitas Soft Tacos w/ Spanish Rice



B–Blueberry Muffins, Eggs, Milk

D–Salmon, Rice, Peas (date night!)



B–Toast, Greek Yogurt, Strawberries

D–Chicken & Broccoli White Lasagna


Friday: (NO MEAT)

B–Cantaloupe Slush, Toast

Pizza Dough (1)

D- Large Cheese Pizza, Medium Mushroom & Onion Pizza



B–Ham, Egg, & Cheese Biscuit Sandwiches

L–Leftovers, Salads

D–…something with ground beef, but I haven’t nailed it down yet. :)


And that’s the plan! This is Holy Week, so we have a lot of preparation and celebration taking place around here. I am truly looking forward to our Faith Walk on Friday and I’m praying for cooperative weather!


What are you eating this week?

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Boston Cream Donuts



Boston Cream Donuts

Boston Cream Donuts
Recipe type: Breakfast, Bread, Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 

Serves: 8

A light, fried dough donut bursting with vanilla cream filling and finished with a buttery chocolate ganache.
  • (for the donut portion)
  • 1 tube (8) refrigerated biscuits– the larger size (“Grands” or equivalent)
  • 2 cups oil, for frying (coconut, olive, canola, sunflower, your choice)
  • (for the cream filling)
  • 1 3.4 oz box instant vanilla pudding
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup heavy/whipping cream
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • (for chocolate frosting)
  • 2 tablespoons heavy/whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon corn syrup
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1½ – 1¾ cups powdered sugar

  1. Pour oil into large skillet and heat over med-high heat until shimmering.
  2. While that heats, prepare the filling. Whisk the pudding mix and 1 cup of milk together. In a separate bowl, use an electric mixer on high to beat the cup of heavy cream and ½ cup of powdered sugar until stiff peaks form– my Kitchenaid took about a minute and a half. Fold in the pudding mixture. Set aside in the refrigerator until ready to use.
  3. Set each biscuit into the hot oil. Fry each side for about 3 minutes. Remove to cool and drain a bit on paper towels.
  4. To make the ganache (frosting), add the cream, butter, milk, vanilla, and corn syrup to a small sauce pan. Heat over medium heat until the butter melts, then reduce to low. Stir in chocolate chips and whisk until smooth. Remove from heat. Add powdered sugar gradually until a thick, rich chocolate frosting consistency is reached.
  5. To make the donuts, transfer the cream filling into a pastry bag (or heavy duty zip-top plastic bag with a corner snipped.) Push the tip into the side of the donut and squeeze. You’ll feel the donut “fill.” Once you’ve reached desired fullness, move on to the next donut. You’ll have plenty of filling– the leftovers can be eaten plain, like a mousse, used in a trifle, or reserved for another batch of donuts!
  6. Spoon the ganache/frosting over the tops of the donuts. This is easiest when the ganache is still fairly warm.


*note: 2 cups is a LOT of oil. You’ll still have pretty much all of that oil left when you’re done frying. I save mine in a jar in the fridge for all “dough frying .” Just be sure to let it cool to room temp before pouring it in the jar.

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Conversations on Being Vulnerable



“I’m trying to get tougher. I NEED to get tougher.”


“Why?” he asked, opening his eyes and looking at me with genuine curiosity.


“Well,” I stammered, “because I’m too horribly sensitive. I overthink and overreact and get hurt so very easily.”


He nodded.


I took that as confirmation, “So I need to get over it. I need to just stop caring so darn much about what everything means and how everyone feels and why careless remarks just sting so very much.”


“Mmmm…” he said.


Mmmm? What did “mmmm” mean?


He leaned forward.


“Maybe you need to stop seeing your vulnerability as being the same as weakness. Maybe you need to realize that, as hard as it is sometimes, your very real vulnerability is who you are, authentically. And, while it means that you might get hurt easily and might spend a lot of time analyzing things, it also gives you this amazing empathy and capacity to love…


Maybe your vulnerability isn’t a sign that you’re broken, but a sign that you were perfectly designed.


Just keep loving your neighbor. Love your neighbor, as yourself, Jessica. As your uniquely, perfectly vulnerable self.”



. . .




What if he’s right? What if I’m not actually flawed and broken and a hot mess because I’m sensitive? What if I’m just wired this way and — gasp! — that’s okay?


The thought is both freeing and terrifying.


What a blessing to not feel like I have to change myself. What a burden to carry these intense, emotional responses around all the time.


But I’m working on it. And I’m thinking about it. And I’m being very, very challenged by the idea that maybe I don’t have to get tougher… maybe I just need to find a way to make my vulnerability a gift and not a curse.



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Gentler Lent, revisited



Do you remember about thirty days ago? When people all over were sharing what they were giving up, what they were adding, and how they were observing Lent this year? I was one of them, though my plans certainly looked pretty modest and insignificant compared to many.


No sooner had people shared their ideas and sacrifices than others scoffed in response. “How bold and pretentious! TRUE Christians wouldn’t feel the need to BROADCAST what all they were giving up for Lent. That’s just tacky.”


Because, you know, it’s not tacky at all to snap-judge someone’s motivation and intent.


Anywho, I digress.


Gentle Lent 2


I set out this Lent with the sole intention of handling it all quietly and mindfully. I did nothing– absolutely NOTHING– particularly grand or wonderful.


I’ve been reading and following a Lenten devotional.


I say the rosary at least once a week.


My kids asked to add at least one weekday morning Mass each week and I’ve made sure to get us all there.


My kids also asked if they could do chores to earn some coins to buy food for Loaves & Fishes.


We’ve made plans and commitments for observing Holy Week, as well.


But it’s nothing overwhelming or intense, to be honest. Not one thing we’ve added has been a true test of willpower. Not one thing has been all-consuming.


And I’m so glad.


Because, in the midst of Lent, illness struck. First, a minor stomach bug that swept the family. Next, a run-in with pink eye. Most recently, a horrific stomach virus that brought with it a 104+ degree fever.


All of a sudden, our “Gentle Lent” became not just pleasant, but also instrumental. We really didn’t need to miss a beat in our plan, because our plan was designed to add depth and richness without a whole lot of obligations.


Would anyone have blamed me if I’d needed to abandon a Lenten promise in order to care for a very ill four-year-old? Likely not. But I would have crumbled from the weight of failure. I don’t do failure well. Few of us do.


Instead, I turned to my increased prayer and devotionals. I fit in some extra Mass whenever time allowed. I gave our older children little tasks that helped them feel productive while they worried over their little sister.




This Gentle Lent is just exactly as it should be for us.


Are you doing anything special for Lent this year? How’s it working for you?

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Orange Ginger Granola

Orange Ginger Granola

Orange Ginger Granola
Recipe type: Breakfast, Snack
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 

Serves: 8

This bright, zingy granola has the perfect blend of flavor and crunch. We love it with yogurt for breakfast or as a quick snack.
  • 5 cups old-fashioned oats
  • ½ cup oil (I use olive or coconut)
  • ¾ cup sugar (white or brown is fine)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 drops orange essential oil OR 1 teaspoon orange extract
  • ½ — 1 teaspoon ground ginger, depending on taste preference

  1. Preheat oven to 325.
  2. Pour oats in a large cake pan or rimmed cookie sheet.
  3. Bring remaining ingredients to a boil in a saucepan over med-med/high heat.
  4. Reduce heat to simmer and cook, stirring constantly, for another minute or two.
  5. Pour the resulting “syrup” over oats and stir well to coat.
  6. Bake coated oats for 30 minutes, stirring well after each 10 minute increment.
  7. Allow to cool before serving or packaging.



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Menu Plan: In need of Spring Break!



It’s that time of week! The Tuesday menu plan is back again this week… :)


Spring Break, Spring Break… wherefore are thou, Spring Break???


We’re not going away for Spring Break, and I’m not actually burned out, nor are my kids. That said, we NEED time away from that school! Some horrific germs are taking over and some classes have had 50%+ absent as a result. Yikes! Time to head home and air out the building, says I!


We don’t have our break until NEXT week, right before Easter, though, so we need to get through this one first.


So, in the meantime, here’s the whole plan for the week!


Breakfast– Cereal, Apples, Milk (for the littles, before 7:30AM Mass)

Brunch– Wild Blueberry Oven Pancake, Sausage Links, more apples

D– We were supposed to be at my nephew’s birthday party, but, alas, G. got very, very sick so we all stayed home. I made pizza paninis for the non-sick people.



B–Eggs, Yogurt, Grapefruit

D–Chicken Cacciatore over Rigatoni 



sourdough english muffins


B–English Muffins, Pears, Milk

D–Apricot Ginger Pork & Broccoli w/ Rice (Pretty much THIS, but with pork instead of turkey.)



B–Orange Ginger Granola, Greek Yogurt, Juice


D–Cheesy Beans & Rice (date night!)



B–English Muffins, Apples, Milk

D–BBQ Hot Dogs, Carrots


Friday: (NO MEAT)

B–Granola, Greek Yogurt, Juice

Pizza Dough (1)

D- Large Cheese Pizza, Medium Green Pepper Pizza



B–Breakfast Burritos

L–Leftovers, Salads

D–Baked Chicken Ravioli, Green Beans


And that’s the plan! Last Friday’s night out (and the kids’ sleepover at Bama and Papa’s) were just what we all needed. We wound up going out to a little local Italian place and eating mounds of pasta piled with mushrooms and shrimp. After, he found room for tiramisu, but I stuck to the lemon sorbet served right out of the lemon skin. So fun!


What are you eating this week?

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Deciding What to Call Your In-Laws



So, for the most part, I’m a big fan of meeting your “intended” at a relatively young age, while he or she is still living with parents and all of that jazz. We were in college when we met– and far from home– so we didn’t have any family members actually around us, but we still went “home” to them.


One of the problems with dating/courting/whatever in that situation, however, is that, at least if you were brought up like me, the odds are very good you will start out calling his parents “Mr. and Mrs. _____.”


And that’s great. That works fine. It’s easy enough to do and it shows respect. It all works fine and dandy.




Until what? Until you get married.


Once you marry their child, Mr. and Mrs. ____ probably don’t want to be called that anymore. And who can blame them? It’s awfully formal for family.


What to Call the In-Laws


You’re left with two big options:


1. You start calling them by their first names.

2. You start calling them Mom and Dad.


Both choices are popular and both have their merits and problems.


First names are casual and friendly and establish that you’re fairly close. They sound more intimate than last names, but not quite so much as “Mom and Dad.” It can be hard, however, to get used to calling your elders by first names if it’s not how you were raised. (*waves hand enthusiastically*)


Using “Mom and Dad” lends a feeling of true family to the relationship, but might feel awkward as these people are not REALLY your parents in the same way as the people who birthed and/or raised you. You might not feel comfortable affording them the same label as those you’ve called Mom and Dad for 20+ years.


You need to take into account how you personally feel about the various options and also how they’ll feel about whatever you choose.


Sometimes, it’s even more complicated. I had a very close relationship with my father-in-law and a (disappointingly, to me) strained one with my mother-in-law. Though it may have been the most appropriate and comfortable for me, calling them “Dad and Pat” was not an option.


My solution? Well, my solution stinks. I basically avoided calling them anything, if possible. Now that it’s just my mother-in-law, I write “Mom” in cards from the two of us, but call her Pat if I’m forced to use SOMETHING for a name. Honestly, I can’t see calling her Mom. While I owe her a great deal for raising this wonderful man I married and I will always pay her due respect, I cannot compare her role in my life to my own mother.


My sibs-in-law? Well, they call my parents Mom and Dad. And that’s cool. It seems to work for everyone. My siblings themselves use first names for their in-laws, I’m pretty sure. So… yeah.


It’s a hard one, isn’t it? I have no genius suggestions, since, as I already admitted, I’ve totally tried to cop out of this one.


But I’m curious–


What do you call YOUR in-laws? 

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Dear Southerners






Dear Southerners,


It’s about to warm up. We’re headed out of Winter and into Summer because, let’s be honest, both Spring and Fall always feel woefully short, do they not?


It’ll be awhile before it’s too hot around here in the North, but we know it’s coming, too. We might not be known for our sweltering heat or steamy nights, but we have plenty of hot humidity in these parts, too.


And here’s the thing–


Pretty soon? You get to laugh at us.


It happens every year. We get a rogue stretch of 90+ degree days and the news lights up. “New York City paralyzed by heat wave.” “Three more die in the sweltering heat blanketing Boston.” “New England struggles to endure another day of record-breaking heat.”


And I see your Facebook statuses. Oh, how you laugh! We’re ridiculous, aren’t we? Ninety-five degrees??? Ha! Try 110! Northerners are such wimps. 


And we get all defensive and mad.


“You don’t understand! It’s not the same! We’re not equipped for this heat! We don’t have air conditioning. Our schools are downright unsafe. People are DYING because they can’t adequately cool their homes!”


And you roll your eyes, much like we roll our eyes when you’re all paralyzed by an inch and a half of snow.


Here’s the thing–


We’re both right.


Different parts of the country are better equipped to handle different conditions. That only makes sense. Our “heat wave” sounds ridiculous to you, but it’s a very significant problem up here. Your “snow storm” cracks us up, but it causes very real problems down there.


Let me let you in on a little secret–


((Most of us? Don’t really expect you to know how to drive in the snow.))


That’s the God’s honest truth. Because, really… why would you know? That’s like expecting me to know how to handle a scorpion in my house. I have no clue! There’s no reason for me to learn!


I would never judge someone for not knowing how to drive in the snow– what I find maddening is when people insist that they DO know how to drive in the snow perfectly well, but that their 1 1/2 inches of snow was just the WORST SNOW FALL EVER and, without plows and snow tires, it was not navigable.


Because that’s just silly.


That’s like our claiming that our 3+ days of 90 degree highs is the WORST HEAT WAVE EVER and no one could endure it.




Let’s just all admit our limitations. Let’s be kind to one another and never insult someone for not knowing to do or manage something that, frankly, they’d have no reason needing to.


But let’s also not overstate the challenge.


I will definitely fuss when the heat index pushes 95. Fair warning of that.


But I hereby promise to never claim that, somehow, our heat is “different” and couldn’t be better managed by someone else.


You got me, Southerners. When it comes to summer? You are WAY better equipped. You’re also more experienced. There’s no shame in my admitting that.


But, just remember… I can drive in two inches of snow WITHOUT snow tires and WITHOUT them plowing, sanding, or salting the road.


We’re just different. We have different skills due to our different experiences.




I love you, Southerners. I loved you when I lived down there and I love you now.


But, man. We need to all just chill out and stop being so dang defensive.




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Fitting In



Fitting In


“Nobody usually sits with me on the bus.”

I hear the softly spoken words laced with so very much sadness, and my heart beats hard in my chest, pounding with indignation over the hurt feelings of this tender-spirited child.


Out loud, I say, “Well, that doesn’t matter, right? Your company is fantastic! If they don’t get to enjoy it, that’s their loss.”


“No one else does this the same way, Mom.”


I hear the frustration and self-criticism seep into the syllables and my pride rears up, ready to defend.


“That’s nothing for you to worry about– don’t ever try to hide your abilities just to make others more comfortable. Embrace theirs and always, always show kindness, but don’t hide who you are.


“He called me ugly.”


And my heart crashes to the floor. Never mind that, on all that is good and holy, I swear this child stops people in their tracks, not from being ugly but from being, well, visually appealing. Never mind that there is not even a sliver of a possibility that there is any truth to the statement, I feel simply broken that the words were ever uttered.


I say firmly, “Well, you are NOT. Not only are you bright and kind and fun, you are also lovely. There’s a reason people tell you that all the livelong day. If he can’t see that, work harder to make him see how strong and loving and determined you are.”




My children are happy kids.


They’re pretty well-liked, honestly. We haven’t had to deal with any devastating bullying or any of that.


But, sometimes, they feel left out. Ignored. Criticized. Not ENOUGH.


So I say the words. I wrap them up, hold them close, build them back up. Over and over, I remind them to rise up, ignore the naysayers, be encouraged.


And then I read a critical comment. 


Or open a carelessly construed email.


Or realize that I’ve been kept “out of the loop.”


I curl within myself, convinced I am less, convinced that I lack, convinced I’m not worthy.


Because, really…


I’m not sure we ever truly stop wanting to fit in.



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