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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Menu Plan: Because I need to write!



I’m gonna level with you all…


I sat down this morning to write. I’m actually not teaching today, because my oldest child has been fighting fevers on and off for a week and it hit just under 104 yesterday. Long enough and high enough that even I– the notoriously uber calm mama of sickies– am taking him in to get checked out.


Anyhow, I have some time. And I miss writing! But, wouldn’t you know it, once I sat down? My brain went blank. Figures. Still, my fingers itch to get some words on the screen so, until my thoughts return to me, I decided, why not share what we’re eating?


This is the last full week of February and, if you know anything at all about me, you know that that means we’re in our “desperation mode” where I make random things out of whatever is left around here. Oddly, this is my husband’s favorite time of the month.


I do not do any major shopping during this phase, but I did run to ALDI yesterday to buy a few things. I grabbed six pounds of gala apples, three pounds of clementines, a gallon of milk, a dozen eggs, and some laundry detergent. I spent $12.06.


So, with that said, here’s the plan!



menu plan




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

Brunch– Ham, Egg, and Cheese Sandwiches on Maple Cinnamon Bread, Clementines

Mid-afternoon Snack– Granola Bars (I’ll admit these weren’t homemade. We found granola bars on clearance at Big Lots one day for ten cents a box. What’s more? We had a 20% off coupon! So, yeah. We bought the eight cent boxes of pre-made granola bars.)

D– Herb Marinated Chicken, Broccoli, and Carrots over Jasmine Rice


B–Cinnamon Maple Toast, Apples, Milk

D–Hot & Sour Peanut Noodles


B–Oatmeal, Apples, Milk

D–Hot Dogs on Whole Wheat Buns, Carrot Sticks, Pickles


B–PB Toast w/ dried berries, Milk

D–Cheesy Beans & Rice


B–Fried Potatoes and Eggs, Apples

D–Pizza – ***Pizza Night is usually Friday around here. HOWEVER. We are in Lent and, well, I live with some carnivores. So, just for this week, I swapped pizza night to Thursday, so they could have a meaty pizza. I’m nice like that. ;)


B–PB Toast, Apples, 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 English Muffin sandwiches, clementines

D–Mac & Cheese w/ mixed veggies

And that should do it!  

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Delayed Joy



It’s been four years since I miscarried our fourth baby.


Holy cow, that sounds like a long time!


Honestly, even though they tell you that women will never, ever forget how old their child would be and all that, I actually sometimes do. It’s not that I don’t still mourn the loss of that precious life. I do! But I don’t necessarily DWELL and I believe I’ve subconsciously released some details from my memory just for my own sanity. Does that even make sense? I don’t know…


Anyway, I know it’s been four years because I was admitted into the hospital for a D & C on Leap Day and, well, that only comes around every four years.


At this point in February of that year, I was still blissfully unaware that anything was going wrong. But, because I lived through it, I’m realizing what a temporary period of elation that turned out to be.


So, it’s been four years.


And here’s what I’ll tell you.


I still have a hard time getting excited about pregnancy announcements– at first.


I no longer feel sucker-punched or devastated, but there’s a weird little ache that keeps my fingers from typing, “Congratulations!!!!! SOOOO excited for you!!!!!” at first sight of a cutesy little pregnancy announcement.


And that makes me feel like a real jacka$$, to be honest.


Nonetheless, it’s the truth.


However, and this is important, I do, indeed, feel very real joy for people. I look forward to the births of babies and I really don’t take it personally in any way, shape, or form. I expect others to be expecting and I consider that very happy news!


It just takes me a little bit.


Sometimes a couple days, sometimes just a couple hours, but I need to give my brain and heart that space in order to both acknowledge my own lingering pain, while opening myself to this couple’s beautiful news.


It is delayed joy, true.


But it is no less sincere.


And, so, if ever you’ve been on the receiving end of my belated congrats, please know that I’m doing my best. I’m truly, truly happy for you. I will wait with baited breath for news of gender and names and bump pics.


I just sometimes take a day or two to get there.

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Being an Ally in an “Us vs. Them” World



One day last Spring, I substitute taught in kindergarten. The class was, let’s say, energetic and, let’s be honest, I was fairly unseasoned in the world of kindergarten at that point. Nonetheless, I did my best and most of them followed suit. A couple children struggled to cooperate and I asked them to sit at their tables, rather than the carpet, until they were ready to be calm with the group.




I kept glancing at them periodically, because I was eager to invite them back. During one such glance, I happened to notice one little boy using his tool kit scissors to snip at his hair.


I put an end to that, got things back on track, and the day went on. At the end, while writing my note to the teacher, I mentioned that this child had had a tough day, was often defiant, and had cut his hair while at his table.


Now, unsurprisingly, this particular student was not known for being an angel. The teacher was in daily communications with his mother regarding how he was doing. In her email the following day, she (the teacher) mentioned the hair incident.


She was caught off-guard by the reply:


“I asked E. if he cut his hair. He insists he did not. Your substitute is a liar.”


Now, the classroom teacher knew I hadn’t lied. Let’s be honest here– what would I possibly stand to gain from claiming some child cut his hair? There is nothing about this that makes me look good or plays to my advantage.


On the other hand, let’s consider why a little five year old might perhaps not want to tell his mom the truth about cutting his hair.


Which seems more likely?


But, rather than consider that her son might want to avoid getting in trouble, the mother immediately jumped to calling me a liar.


I’d love to say that this is a very rare occurrence, but the truth is that it’s not. We’re living in a day and age when it is absolutely common for parents to believe their children over the teachers without exception.


And that’s a problem.


Listen, I GET that we need to be advocates for our kids. Trust me– I’m very familiar with having to speak up, call meetings, and make things happen in order to ensure that my children are getting the educations to which they’re entitled.




Teachers, in almost every case, are on the same side as parents.


They are not the enemy. They are not “liars.” They are not out to get our kids.


Are there sometimes missteps or miscommunications? Sure. We’re all human. But those things are easily resolved by calm-minded, allied people. I often point out that I have an incredible success rate with getting problems solved at the school– and it’s not because I go in there all ready to fight. I go in assuming we all want what’s best and will work together to get it fixed.


We need to draw the line between advocacy and blind support to the point of ignorance.


Stand up for your kids, yes.


But understand that that isn’t a synonym for standing against the teacher.

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Marital Goals for 2016



My Personal Goals for 2016 got eaten up into the abyss of the interwebz, and, honestly, I haven’t been able to bear the thought of rewriting and typing the whole thing with my still-hurt hand. But that doesn’t mean I can’t write! I’ve decided to move on to my Marital Goals post because, frankly, that’s more interesting than exercise, flossing, and regular check-ups, anyway. ;)


Here’s what I’ve come up with. I thought long and hard about what sorts of things really help my marriage sing. I mean, our marriage is fine. We’re happy and committed and all that good stuff. But… are we regularly DELIGHTED by one another? Do we have time to just enjoy each other? Are we nurturing the communication and joy and discovery in our relationship? These things matter!


Marital Goals for 2016



1. Weekly Date Nights — reversed, whenever possible.


“Date Night” around here does not typically involve babysitters or restaurants. More often, it’s take-out after taking the older two kids to karate. I feed the kids Cheesy Beans & Rice (one of their FAVORITE meals), head out to karate, and my husband takes our youngest with him to go pick up grown-up food. I know that doesn’t sound exciting. But we look forward to it! Knowing we’ll have that time to eat together, just the two of us, and talk about and do what WE want is wonderful. Making it a “Reverse Date Night” is even better, in my opinion, because I needn’t worry that exhausted mommy will show up, yawning, and passing out before we can even spend time together.



2. Banner Year Getaway 


At some point last year, I realized that during this year, 2016, my husband I would both turn 40 AND celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary. Those are all big things! I decided we should do something special and I used part of my substitute teaching income last year to fund a “getaway” column in the budget. The money is already there. What’s left is to find a fantastic little getaway that will allow us to celebrate and relish our time some place fabulous, while not being gone too long, since I’m asking my parents to watch our kiddos in our absence. (They know this already. Don’t worry– this blog post isn’t going to be their first notice! ;) )



The two of us, after our dinner out in Boston.



3. City Visit-- perhaps an overnight?


Early in December, my husband I made a trip into Boston for a surprise party in honor of my best friend’s 40th birthday. We arrived in the city earlier than we needed to be there and decided to just walk around and explore. Honestly, the whole visit was wonderful– we had a fabulous meal in a great restaurant, lots of fun conversation, and it was so great to celebrate with the woman who’s been my friend for 30 years! During the drive home, I recalled how nice it had been and remarked, “I even loved when we just walked around the city, holding hands, when we were early.” My husband smiled at me and said, quietly, “That was my favorite part.”


It was a really special time together! We had a blast walking the city blocks, checking out the holiday decorations, and just exploring together. We had tons of opportunities to meander through woods and mountains here, but, city streets? Not so much. We want to do it again. And, honestly? We’ve got quite a few major cities in easy proximity.




This set of goals makes me smile. These are all wonderfully fun things to look forward to, but they’re also important. We’ve learned that investing in time and travel together is important to us. We care more about visiting places than redecorating. I’d rather go on a getaway than get a new stove! :)







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