No Shame in Being Real



Over the last couple of months, I’ve shared my grocery shopping trips a few times. I enjoy doing those posts, even though it always amazes me what a pain it is to actually unload bags onto a table instead of right where they go. You’d think that’d be no big deal, right? But, for whatever reason, it slows me down immensely. Anyway, inconvenience of that aside, the posts are fun to write and share and I always love reading your comments, questions, and responses.


Aldi 4-28 1


Without fail, I receive quite a few remarks on my site, the Facebook page, and via message or email. They cover a wide variety of topics but, undoubtedly, there is a common thread among most of them–


gratitude for authenticity



  • “Thank you for showing us some of the junky things you buy– it’s good to know other people like chips, too.”
  • “Thank you for revealing some of your cheats or conveniences– it makes me feel better.”
  • “Thank you for admitting you like spaghettios.”
  • “Thank you for _____.”


I read these comments and emails again and again and I have such mixed feelings.


Don’t get me wrong– I am SO appreciative of your kind words and I’m thrilled that you weighed in. The only way I know what you want to read and see is if you tell me– so THANK YOU!! Truly.


Also, I am so encouraged that you’re on board with authenticity and that you still embrace the “real me.” Make no mistake– I am, indeed, a real person. I buy kale and apples and oodles of broccoli. I also overindulge every single time I cook ravioli to the point I feel sick. I snack on raspberries and almonds, but also cheese puffs that I enjoy at the time, but often regret later. That fact doesn’t stop me from eating them again. I kicked the Diet Coke habit years ago, but I still like the taste of the stuff. I hear all about the bad stuff in lunch meat, but I still buy it every single month– I do love a good ham and cheese sandwich.


I am, well, real. Mult-faceted. I do some things right and some things wrong and I have long decided that I’m unwilling to swing the pendulum all the way in one direction or the other. Like so many of you, probably, my groceries and diet and what I feed my children are all admirably healthy compared to the vast majority of my “IRL” peers. Meanwhile, the online real food community could poke holes all day long in my attempts to feed my crew. It is what it is.


I am so, so very happy that seeing what I buy allows some of you to breathe a little easier– to perhaps give yourself a little more grace. If that happens because I share a pic of my groceries? It is more than worth the effort.


But, at the same time, I have to admit it makes me kind sad. What kind of crazy world do we live in that there are moms out there who feel bad for spending an extra quarter to get their cheese pre-sliced? Why should anyone feel like a failure for picking up a package of sandwich cookies now and again? And, really, since when is one’s worth, intelligence, or intention all wrapped up in a decision to use Velveeta?


Sure, it’s good to make healthy choices. Whole foods, organic foods, real foods, et al? All wonderful. It still doesn’t mean you need to apologize for your chicken nuggets.


I’m going to keep right on sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly with you because, at the end of the day, it’s who I am. And, happily, I have enough faith in all of you that you’re not gonna go running to the hills if you see a can of Chef Boyardee among my haul. (Thank you for that!)


It just makes me sad to know that we need to even think about that. It breaks my heart that we are forced to self-judge and self-critique to the point that knowing someone else is buying something junky now and again brings such tremendous relief.


What you buy at the grocery store does not reflect your compassion, your brilliance, or how much you love your kids. It really doesn’t.


Your Doritos, your Cool Whip, your lunch meat, your jarred gravy– whatever it is, it’s safe with me.


Because you’re real. And so am I. And, truly, there’s no shame in that.

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I’m Afraid You’ll Let Go



There are some children with whom you have to kind of “rip off the bandaid.”


These are the little ones who might be used to you holding on to the bicycle and, let’s say, you just remove your hand one day and let them go so they can see what all they can accomplish on their own. All of a sudden, the child realizes what she can do all by herself and is just so very proud.


These are the children who you hold in the water and then, just to show them how easy and fun it is, you bob under a wave and emerge, totally unscathed, revealing how much joy can come from being willing to get your heads wet. It is an achievement and the little one learns that safe water play can be a whole bunch of fun.


I’ve seen this method work, with both my own children and those of others. It’s amazing to see their eyes light up as, all of a sudden, they realize what all they can accomplish.


But, sometimes, that just doesn’t work.




My youngest child was working on back floats. Her swim teacher stood behind her, his strong forearm stretched the length of her spine, supporting her as she stretched little limbs and took deep, lung-filling breaths according to his instructions.


And then he moved his arm.


She panicked. Her arms flew forward and her legs kicked up and, of course, she sank down. Now, he didn’t let her really sink– he was right there! He quickly righted her and gave her a big, bright smile, “Look at what you did! All on your own!”


And her green eyes were huge, stunned, and, well, livid.


For the rest of the week, any time he would try to help her do a back float, her little arms would reach behind her head and grab him. She’d grasp and flail until her fingers found purchase somewhere on his arms.


He’d gently pry them away and remind her she needed to relax and open up her arms so she could float. “You need to let go,” he’d tell her.


But, over and over again, I’d see her arms snake back to hold him. I could see her struggle against it, but, in the end, she couldn’t stop herself– she’d cling, desperate for the security.


Finally, one day, her teacher knelt before her, looked in her eyes and just asked, “G… why won’t you just relax and let go? It’s the only way you’re going to get this.”


She looked back at him solemnly, twisted a tiny piece of lacy seaweed around her wrist like a bracelet, and said:

“I can’t let go because I’m so afraid you’ll let go.”


He looked shocked. “But, G, I have to let go in order for you to do a back float. You can do this! I know you can.”


She turned away, blew some nose bubbles, and I thought she was dismissing him.


But she flicked a long, wet braid and said, “It’s okay if you let go. But I trusted you. You told me you wouldn’t let go and then you let go anyway. I don’t know what you’re going to do now.”


Her teacher, whom I had watched effectively teach child after child to back float in this same method, looked like he’d been kicked in the stomach. He opened his mouth to say something, then simply closed it.


The lesson went on.


The next day, Mr. Andrew called G. over to practice a back float with him. He stood behind her. Lowered down to kneeling. Rested her head on his shoulder. And said, softly, “I’m right here. I’m going to help you get into position and, when I’m sure you’ve got it right, I’m going to let go. I will NOT let you sink, but I’m not going to hold you. Okay?”


G. nodded.


And did her first ever successful back float.


It took a strong foundation of honesty and trust for her to lose her fear of letting go…


I can’t say I blame her.

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I love these mixes. Yep, I said it. #spon



I bake a lot. A whole heck of a lot. I love it and, if I’m honest with you, I’ll tell you that my family has come to pretty much expect it. We have a lot of baked goods around here.


I’m a “scratch baker” for a multitude of reasons. I’m a capable baker who typically has all necessary ingredients on hand. That’s one reason. I’m also kind of a “wildcat” in the kitchen who rarely looks at a recipe. Finally, I question some of the things that get added into some mixes. I get some of the chemistry and I understand food preservatives, components added to improve texture, and, well, the bottom line– the cost to produce.


And, so, ordinarily, it’s the ingredient list that would have to be put into my “compromise” category if I’m telling you about some baking mixes. But, amazingly, the very first thing I want to talk to you all about with regards to Immaculate Baking Company is… ingredients.

Continue reading I love these mixes. Yep, I said it. #spon

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A Little August Shopping with JL




It’s been awhile since I shared my grocery shopping! I did another “medium” shop this week, so I thought we’d take a look at that together. Sound like a plan? Here we go!



So, the first place I shopped this week was our tiny local market. You know, the kind of place where there’s one cashier, local produce, and every other person you run into is someone from church? Yep, that place. Along with all those nifty features, there are also crazy high prices. For this reason, I don’t shop there a lot. However, from time to time, I catch the good sales and sometimes match some coupons and it winds up being a smart place to shop.


Here’s what I got:



.86# green peppers

1.85# broccoli crowns

1.05# Virginia deli ham

2 boxes granola bars

2 8-packs Honest Kids organic juice pouches

8# white sugar


Total: $15.47



Everything else I picked up this week came from ALDI. I was kicking myself for forgetting to grab unbleached flour at the market, because that is one item I regularly lament being unable to find at my beloved ALDI. Alas, I snagged the regular bleached variety to get us through, but it’s definitely not my preference.


Here’s the rundown!




  • 3 dozen eggs
  • 2 gallons milk (<– this has gone up 70 cents a gallon over the last month… yikes!)
  • 64 oz. OJ (<– can we talk about why orange juice is always in the dairy case??)
  • 8 oz. sliced colby jack (<– buying pre-sliced real cheese helps me resist buying those super easy-to-use, but bad-for-you processed slices ;) )
  • 8 oz. jalapeno yogurt cheese
  • spreadable herbed cheese wedges
  • 8 oz. sharp cheddar
  • 1 quart vanilla yogurt




  • 2# popcorn
  • 2 loaves bread
  • 5# flour
  • 1 10-pk soft taco size tortillas (<– I use these for burritos. Easier for the kids.)
  • 1# organic linguine




  • 2.5# bananas
  • 1 bag frozen broccoli florets (<– I use these in my eggs nearly every day.)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 2# grapes
  • 2 packages organic baby spinach
  • 1 package organic baby kale






  • 3 jars natural peanut butter (<– still sweetened, just a slightly better ingredient list)
  • 2# dry great Northern beans
  • 2 cans great Northern beans (because soaking/cooking takes awhile– ha!)
  • 8 oz. imitation crab meat
  • 3# frozen chicken breasts
  • box of individual almond packs (<– these are convenient and, well, they were clearanced!)




  • ibuprofen
  • salt
  • seltzer
  • ranch dressing
  • French dressing
  • 4-cheese vinaigrette
  • sandwich bags
  • laundry detergent
  • 3 bags of chips (<– of course!!! There’s a reason I’m happily married! ;) )


Total spent at ALDI: $72.27



So that’s where we’re at. I’m in very good shape to feed us through this week and I’m stashing some things aside for when school starts at the end of this month. I want G’s first lunch away from me (at kindergarten) to be a fun one! :)

How’s grocery shopping been going for you? Any price increases cramping your style?


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A New School



Yesterday was my brother’s birthday and that reminded me of how, ten years before, I’d been four months pregnant with A. and had wound up hospitalized with hyperemesis gravidarum. I was released on my big bro’s bday and I can still remember weakly laying sprawled out on my kitchen floor in Virginia, calling to wish him a happy day.


Though it hardly seems possible, that first little baby of mine is about to head off to fourth grade. And in our town? That means he’s going to a new school.


Headin off to 4th Grade


I’m scared.


You’ve undoubtedly heard me sing the praises of our school over and over and over again around here. And I’m really not one of those, “I was born here and will die here and this is the best place on earth” kind of people. If things aren’t great, I’ll tell you! (Feel free to ask me about how left out I frequently feel at kids’ parties– it’s not all sunshine and roses.) Anywho…


Our school is wonderful. I know the principal. I know many of the teachers. I’m a familiar face as a volunteer. I know the nurse. I’m well-liked and well-respected, I do believe, and the feeling is mutual. Our little C. has special needs and, whenever we’ve had a concern or situation, it has been dealt with– ASAP. Our A. is incredibly gifted and the school makes sure to meet his needs, too– including paying for a very expensive math program through a university.


I’ve loved our primary school here on the north end of town. It has truly met all of our needs. Also? It’s two minutes away.


But, now, as a fourth grader, A. will have to venture “across the bridge.” Literally– there’s a bridge over a the river that runs through our town. His bus ride will be longer and he’ll be further away. For the first time in forever, he won’t be in the same school as C.


Our town actually has THREE primary schools, each accomodating grades kindergarten through third. Once the children reach fourth grade, they all come together in our intermediate school (which houses grades four through six.) That’s a lot of fourth graders. Over fifteen classroom’s worth, at last count.


And, so, my little-big guy will be venturing further away, into a bigger school, with tons of new peers, and will now be the “baby” rather than the “big dog” of the bunch.


I’ve heard very good things about this school, too, to be honest. A. is really not all that nervous. He will still have the same gifted coordinator working with him. And, well, it’s the same district, so that should be encouraging, right?


Walk me through this, parents who’ve done this before– what are your best suggestions for handling transitions up to a new school?



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Homemade Chocolate Frosting (using chocolate chips)



I love frosting. 


I am one of those people who truly considers most cakes to be merely vehicles for getting the frosting to my mouth. My mom would tell you I come by it naturally– my dad loves frosting so much, he individually frosts each bite of a cinnamon roll.


If you’re going to eat lots of frosting, though, I believe it needs to be GOOD frosting, i.e. you won’t find me scooping up big globs of the canned variety. (Please note: I am not above buying the can of frosting. I’ve done it in the past– notably, when I wanted a super vivid green for a preschooler’s cake. But, for real, don’t eat it out of the can. It’s just not worth it.)


Frosting is crazy easy to make, which is a perk. Typically, I make my chocolate frosting using cocoa powder. It’s good. It is reliable and tasty and everyone likes it just fine.


But you know what’s even better? Frosting made from actual chocolate. Here’s how you do that:


Homemade Chocolate Frosting (using chocolate chips)


Homemade Chocolate Frosting (using chocolate chips)
Recipe type: dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 12
  • ½ cup (1 stick) butter
  • 6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • ¼ cup (approx.) milk
  1. Melt butter and chocolate chips in small saucepan over low-med heat. When smooth, remove from heat and transfer to mixing bowl.
  2. Stir in vanilla extract.
  3. Begin beating in powdered sugar and milk, alternating as you add them, until the frosting reaches a rich, but spreadable, consistency. Add more powdered sugar or mix, as needed, to thicken or thin, respectively.


This recipe will frosting a 9″ layer cake. If you’re frosting a 9″x13″ cake (like I did above), you’ll have leftovers. Oh, the tragedy! ;) Store these in the fridge until you need them. A spoonful of this stuff, right out of the fridge, tastes just like fudge. You’re welcome.

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Bistro Cup Oatmeal (#spon review)



So, in case you didn’t know, I know a thing or two about oatmeal. I mean, after all, I kind of wrote a book on the topic. Okay, okay, free ebook. But, still! I am no stranger to the ways of the oat. I have lots of ways of making it special and, well, it takes quite a lot to impress me in this department.


Still, even though I might cook oatmeal eighty different ways ’til sundown, I am well aware that not everyone does. In fact, I’d venture there’s a larger portion of our population relying on oatmeal packets or coffee shop oatmeal cups than cooking it up in a pot each day. And that’s okay! I get it– traditional oatmeal, though not difficult, does require dirtying a pot and spending at least a few minutes over the stove. It’s not “grab and go.”


The inarguable popularity of the Keurig® is evidence of our love of “quick gourmet.” People delight in being able to brew a perfect single cup of coffee at the touch of a button. Knowing this, and being a bit of an oatmeal connossieur, I was really intrigued to try Nature Valley Bistro Cups™ Oatmeal– the first-ever premium food product designed specifically for use in Keurig®  Home Brewing Systems.*


oatmeal box

Continue reading Bistro Cup Oatmeal (#spon review)

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Making School Notes Quick & Easy




Between laying out clothes, packing lunches, checking backpacks, serving breakfast, and all the other myriad tasks to complete before school, it’s no wonder school mornings can feel jam-packed and stressful.

Do you know what always seemed to throw a wrinkle in my plan? Suddenly remembering that I needed to send in a note with my child. Now, this might seem like a super simple task, but, honestly, it would take me way too long to track down the proper writing supplies, craft a brief but polite note, and make sure it had all pertinent info.

A couple years ago, however, I decided to create a fill-in-the-blank note and make my life easier. While it might seem like a little thing, keeping a stack of these babies handy has saved me many minutes and much stress.

Today, I’m sharing it with all of you in hopes that it might prove to be a bit of a hassle-saver for you, too. Print out a dozen or so and pop ‘em in a file or folder. Your writing hand will thank you!

Click on over to get the free printable at Life as MOM!

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Menu Plan: Simple Summer



I’m taking a little break while the bread dough rises to share this week’s menu plan with you all!


Despite the fact that I keep seeing “back to school” shots and stories showing up in my feed (say it isn’t so!), the fact is that we still have half of summer ahead of us. You know me– stickler for the “real” seasons. ;) Summer lasts until the 21st(-ish) of September, so I’m not craving pumpkin and nutmeg anytime soon, thankyouverymuch.


We’ve had a mild, gorgeous summer here in New England and you won’t hear me complain one bit! In fact, we’ve breezed through the last week of July and the first week of August with absolutely no need of air conditioning of any kind. Fantastique! Nonetheless, since it is summer and warm and sometimes erratically busy, I often crave a simple, kind of light, menu plan. This week’s fits that bill perfectly!


Light on the meat and maintenance, these dishes are easy on me and easy on the budget– and the whole family likes them. So! Here’s the plan for what we’re eating:

you gotta eat





B–Cheerios, Apples, Milk ( before 7:30AM Mass)

L–Blueberry Pancakes, Sausage, OJ

D–Chicken Breast Stuffed w/ Goat Cheese, Lemon Balsamic Broccoli, Rice (YUM, right? Having friends who write cookbooks has its perks! ;) )



B–Pancakes, Oranges, Milk

Thai Peanut Noodles with Pork from Parenting Miracles

D–Hot & Sour Peanut Noodles with “California mix” veggies (no pork this time)



B–Cheerios, Apples, Milk

D–Tomato Soup (in the slow cooker), Dill Bread



Simple Egg Wrap

B–Egg Wraps, Oranges

D–One Pot Wonder Chicken Parm, Peas



Dandelion Scones

B–Dandelion Scones, Apples (sub lemon for lime and dandelion jam for the blackberry part ;) )

D–Cheesy Beans & Rice



B–Banana Wineberry Smoothies, Toast

D–Lg. Cheese Pizza, Med. Mushroom Pizza



B–Scr. Eggs w/ Broccoli & Cheese, Toast

D–Hot Dogs, Beans, Pickles, Carrot Sticks



And, that’ll do it!

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If it feels bad, that’s bad enough to matter.




“Someone has it worse.”


“Someone would love to have what you’ve got.”


“It could always be worse.”


“Count your blessings.”







All true. Because– newsflash!!– you’re blessed.


You’re blessed, I’m blessed, we’re all so very, very blessed.


feelings matter


And, so, you’re a lousy person if you complain that you don’t like the looks of your meager pantry. You’re really rather UNGRATEFUL if you sigh over the confines of your tiny, tiny house. You’re essentially thumbing your nose in the face of true poverty if you worry you can’t pay your cable bill this month.


Honestly? I’m weary of it. It’s not that I encourage self-indulgence or failing to see how fortunate we may be. There is simply no denying that, if you’re reading this post on a computer, tablet, or mobile device right now, you’re way wealthier than a large portion of the world’s population.


But what kind of messsage are we sending those we love if we tell them, essentially, someone else has it worse, so you should hush your d@mn fussing already?


There’s nothing wrong with gently revealing the good to someone. There’s great love in helping a friend realize that, truly, it’s not all bad and here’s why. It is a sign of compassion to lift up a loved one rather than let them wallow in self-defeating depression.




I believe that if it feels bad, it’s bad enough to matter.


If something is truly hurting/worrying/stressing my friend, then it matters. It doesn’t matter that said friend has a cute house, loving husband, healthy children, and food on the table. Her blessings should not be held against her when evaluating her pain. Her worry should not be dismissed just because “it could be worse.”


Perhaps the way to help someone “count her blessings” isn’t to flaunt them in her face when you determine her concerns are shallow or insignificant or overstated, but rather to firmly establish yourself as ONE of those said blessings when you wrap your arm around her and simply murmur,


“I know it feels bad. And I’m sorry. Your feelings matter to me.”

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