So, Meet the Teacher Was a Disappointment…



Let’s talk about Meet the Teacher, AKA Open House, Meet & Greet, etc. This is the event where you and your child go to the school, find the classroom, and meet the teacher. It typically happens some time in the week right before school starts, so the odds are very good you all have done this already this year. (Unless you homeschool– in which case, you probably don’t have to meet yourself.)


You show up at the school, find a parking spot, head inside, and track down the room. There are probably administrators and aides stationed along the way, bright smiles plastered on their faces, helping direct those who might need assistance. And now you’re there– inside is your little one’s teacher, the individual who will be spending hundreds upon hundreds of hours with your child this year.


Now, maybe that teacher approaches you with a warm, genuine grin. Maybe she bends down to your child and smiles up at you and is just brimming with exuberance and confidence. Perhaps her enthusiasm and joy simply abound and the whole room is aglow with her energy. You may feel an instant connection and immediately be put at ease. Maybe you look around the room and inwardly sigh with relief– oh, this is going to be an awesome year. We have hit the jackpot.


This is what happened to us this year with my daughter’s third grade teacher. It’s also what happened the two previous years with the second grade teacher both my son and older daughter had. And I won’t deny it– it feels great.


But maybe that’s not what happened for you. Maybe you met the teacher and the connection wasn’t there. Maybe you felt that she was distant or insincere. Maybe she seemed shy or detached. Perhaps you wondered if this person was really going to be able to show your little one the level of warmth and compassion you had hoped for.


Maybe “Meet the Teacher”… was a disappointment.


So what now? How do you cope with the realization that you didn’t get what you expected or hoped for? What’s the next step when you’re feeling at best ambivalent and at worst devastated?


The short answer? Don’t panic.


Let me tell you another quick story.


Photo on 8-21-12 at 5.28 PM #2


Last school year (as in 2013-2014), our son was in third grade. We didn’t know many of the third grade teachers, but we were anxious to meet the one he’d been assigned. Fresh off the heels of meeting C’s warm, bubbly, huggy second grade teacher, we headed in to the third grade classroom.


And there she stood.


A tall, slim, pretty brunette, she was about my age. She stood talking to a father, a tight-lipped smile on her face. We waited to introduce ourselves and, when we had an opening, did so.


She was polite, matter-of-fact, and brief.


And it threw me for a loop.


Now, it wasn’t anything awful– I realize this. I’m sure there are people who have true horror stories from their meet the teacher events, and this is totally not that.


Still, I was disappointed. My A. is a warm, affectionate, eager child. Her response to meeting him felt, well, lukewarm at best. We had just come off a year of having a wildly enthusiastic teacher and the thought of transitioning into someone with such a “meh” personality had me leery. It didn’t help that A’s two good friends were both assigned to a third grade class with one of those super-warm, exuberant types (<– that’s who C. has this year.)


Anyway, we headed home and that was that. I lived with my disappointment and tried to build up excitement in my son. I didn’t want him to feel my bummed out vibes emanating all around. I resigned myself to just getting through the year, figuring it’d be fine, if not fantastic.


That November, we had our first parent-teacher conference. She was nice, to-the-point, and obviously competent. We felt good about it, but I still missed those “warm-fuzzies” you sometimes get. Ah, well.


I volunteered that December to help with a holiday party, where they decorated wreaths, made snowman chains, and more. I honestly didn’t know what to expect. I knew they needed help, so I showed up. But, admittely, I wasn’t enthusiastic about it.


Imagine my surprise when I was greeted by a super relaxed, warm smile. I looked around at happy, calm, organized children. I say organized, but, to be honest, it was kind of orderly chaos. Somehow, there was a ton going on in that room all at once, but it was all controlled. The third grade teacher I had thought detached was actually incredibly engaged and at ease. She was a pure delight that afternoon and I had the chance to get to know her better.


By the end of the school year, I would tell you all that this educator was a fantastic fit for my son. She was an amazing combination of young(ish) but very old-school– those third graders did daily grammar, learned perfect cursive, and studied geography. More than that, she was fun and funny and flexible with the children. That “cold” impression I got? Was just a reflection of her own overwhelm with the hoard of parents filling her room. With a room full of third graders? She was in her element. Surrounded by pushy, chatty, demanding moms and dads? Well, she had to put her game face on.


It could be that this will be the year that you and your child’s teacher just don’t see eye-to-eye. It may be that you’ll be unhappy with the assignment and that displeasure will last the whole year through.


But, there’s as least as good a shot that you’ll discover that, though “Meet the Teacher” was a disappointment, the teacher herself is not.

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If I worry about anything when it comes to homeschooling, it is this…




I really don’t worry at all that home-schooled children will be “awkward” or “unsocialized.”  I don’t really think a school building is necessary to have lots of social interaction. But, even if the child does wind up a little awkward, heck, I am absolutely raising an awkward kiddo and I adore the tar out that amazing child.


I admit I do occasionally worry that their education might suffer if I see horrible grammar or glaring errors from the one doing the educating.  But, in fairness, I’ve seen some positively atrocious mistakes from public and private school teachers too.  So that one’s kind of a wash.


I don’t worry about mixing grade levels or the interruptions of life or that testing benchmarks won’t be met.


Quite frankly, it’s not really my place to worry about anything when it comes to homeschooling.




If I worry about anything, it’s not any of the things that homeschoolers seem to think.  At least, it’s not what they’re forever trying to defend.  If I worry about anything, it is this:


I worry that, through word and attitude, some people are teaching their children a terrible kind of intolerance.


It is scary, and heartbreaking, to me to read clever, pithy status updates on Facebook about how inferior public-schooled children are in every way.  I read lofty quotes from conservative leaders (not quoted Scripture, mind you) published and “liked” that proclaim it sinful (yes, sinful!) for parents to send their children “into the world” to be educated.  While to imply homeschooling is bad would be a travesty, it seems permissible to suggest that parents who choose a different form of education are, at BEST, unenlightened.


Tolerance & Kindness


Saying, “well, we can’t really BLAME you for being a lost, godless heathen since you didn’t know any better” is not tolerance.  It’s not kindness.  It’s not giving someone the benefit of the doubt.


Truth?  There are times when I may think a child would be better off NOT being educated at home.  I can’t help it.  I’m human and I have my opinions.  You do too.  And that’s great!  But there is a HUGE difference in thinking, “Hmm… I think I’d handle that differently” and saying, “You’re inferior and you’re unable to see the clear Truth as we have.”


It is MEAN and UNCALLED FOR when people suggest that homeschoolers are raising social misfits.  I believe this and you will never hear me say such a thing.  However, I must ask you… which is worse?  To be called awkward or to be called godless?


There’s just no reason for the judgment and intolerance… from either side.


I welcome your opinions!  I have some very good friends and readers who I know think, at the very least, that my firstborn (who is “severely gifted”) would benefit from being taught at home.  I respect what they have to say on the matter, even when I don’t agree.  Many of them have graciously put up with me as I’ve told the story of his development and, while they may still think I should homeschool, they’ve been pleasantly surprised by the programming that is happening at our public school.


When we get so defensive, we can become like that child on the playground, fingers in ears, yelling, “la la la la la… I can’t hear you!!!”  And, honestly, that helps no one.


How we choose to educate our children is a very important one.  It can be a reflection of our family’s priorities and values.  Let’s just make sure that one of those values doesn’t become an intolerance for those who might, in good faith and with a loving heart, make different choices.

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Menu Plan: Bathroom Reno



I hope you all had lovely, restful Labor Days!


It was nice to have a long, relaxing weekend wtih my people. Well, it wasn’t exactly relaxng for my husband. Have I mentioned that he’s redoing our master bath? He redid our main bath a year ago (with my beloved green accent tiles!!) and he’s reaching the finishing work in our master now. It took a LOT of work, but, between the two baths, it’s saving us well OVER FORTY THOUSAND DOLLARS to do it ourselves, so, you know… worth it.


(Side note: young/unmarried ladies– while it shouldn’t be your only deciding factor, do not underestimate the value in marrying someone who is handy!! ;) )


Anyway, I am completely happy to be in a new month and to have some new food stocked. I didn’t manage to get pics this time because it was HOT and I wanted to get that stuff put up ASAP. I do have receipts, if you’re really burning with curiosity…


So, here’s the plan!!

you gotta eat





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

Brunch–Pancakes, Sliced Sharp Cheddar, Juice (<– you don’t need “breakfast meat” to round out a meal– cheese is a fabulous, filling stand-in!)

D–Sunday Supper at Bama & Papa’s


Monday: (Labor Day– no school)

oatmeal in cup

B–Oatmeal, Yogurt, Milk

L–Bagel Pizzas


D–Nachos, Pigs in Blankets, Carrot Sticks– snacky type stuff while we had an epic game night!





B–Cheerios, Apple Slices, Milk

Slow Cooker Sesame Chicken

D–Sesame Chicken w/ Broccoli & Mushrooms over Rice




B–Pancakes, Grapes, Milk


D–Stufffed Turkey Meatballs over Rotini, Green Beans



B–Bagels w/ PB, Apples, Milk

D–Cheesy Beans & Rice, Corn



B–Cereal, Grapes, Milk

Chicken Fajita Pizza

D–Lg. Fajita Pizza, Med. Cheese Pizza



B–Eggs & Cheeese on English Muffins, Clementines, Milk

Homemade "SpaghettiOs" with Sliced Franks

D–Homemade SpaghettiOs w/ Franks




And that should do it! What are you eating as we make our way through these final weeks of summer?

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Why I’m Surrounded by the Crazies and the Inspirational



Though I definitely share recipes, reviews, and the occasional household tip around here, at the heart of it, I am a story-telling blogger. This is evidenced by the joy I get from writing the “My Story…” series and the incredible response I get. Even when I’m not in story-telling mode around here, I’m still sharing these tid-bits, tales, and memoirs. If you enjoy that sort of thing and you’re not already hanging out with me on Facebook, you really should head over there– I share a ton of stories and experiences over on that page and we have fun talking about them.


Anyway, as I already said, I share a lot of stories here on the blog and also on Facebook. (I’m sure I share other places, too, but those two get the lion’s share.) Several people have made remarks like the following:

  • “Man, you are surrounded by the crazies, JL!”
  • “What the heck is going on in CT? Where do you find these nutjobs?”
  • “You are a magnet to some weirdos!”
  • “Wow, I wish I would see more of that.”
  • “You live in such an inspirational place.”
  • “I wish more people here were like the people you see.”


Soooo… what’s up with that? How is it that I am surrounded by both the incredibly strange (e.g. the lady who gave me a look of near-disgust as she asked “Why is your son so TALL?”) and the wildly inspirational (e.g. the child who gave up his sweatshirt without a word when he saw a kindergartener shivering)? Is Connecticut really just a bizarre dumping ground of all that is great and all that is strange?



He IS tall. What of it? ;)



The obvious answer is– no. Connecticut is not some alternate realm with exceptionally good and bad things.


What then? Am I just a magnet for the weird? Do I attract the completely crazy comments? I don’t really think so, to be honest.


Why, then, am I the one who hears and witnesses all these things?


I’ve thought long and hard about this now and I’ve come up with a few explanations.



I have exceptionally good hearing.


That might sound funny, but it’s true. It could be because I’ve never been to a rock concert or mowed a lawn even once in my life. It could be genetic. It could be luck of the draw. Who knows? Whatever the cause, I can hear things that a lot of people can’t. While my vision isn’t quite what it used to be– I actually use very weak reading glasses to thread needles now– my hearing remains remarkably sharp. There’s a good chance that I hear some stuff that others simply do not.


I might be a wee bit nosy.


You know how some people just love “people-watching”? They have an absolute blast just watching others’ lives unfold, visually, before them. Well, I’m kind of in love with “people-hearing.” I wouldn’t go quite so far as to say I’m activitely eaves-dropping, and I really do try to avoid listening in on private, intimate exchanges, but I do love to hear the conversations in the world around me. I’m willing to bet that I pay more attention to what everyone around me is saying than the average person. Whether this is a positive or a negative trait could be up for debate, but it’s the truth for whatever that’s worth.


I’m not a big multi-tasker.


I will just admit to you now– you know those people who are taking notes on their phone, paying a bill, reading on a Kindle, and checking out their groceries all at the same time? I am not one of those people. The odds are good that I have my phone, yes. And it’s fairly likely that I’ll check for emails, texts, and Facebook updates once I get in the car in the parking lot. But it would be a rare event to see me with my phone in hand while shopping, eating, or carrying on some other task. I honestly don’t have any problem with people on their phones in lines (as long as they’re not ignoring a cashier, waitress, teller, etc.), but it’s just not something I do. As a result, I’m guessing it’s easier for me to notice all the craziness and inspiration around me. After all, I don’t have much else to look at or listen to!


I’m highly sensitive and an overthinker.


Finally, I am very sensitive to tone, intent, and implication. I have almost no coping skills in the “shrug it off” department and, so, I replay experiences in my mind approximately 863 times. I have lots of opportunity to mull things over. This deep recollection, fixation, and analysis means that I don’t miss much. It also means that I very likely overthink some things and waste valuable time fretting or feeling bad. Nonetheless, this inability to avoid replaying events and conversations in my head makes me able to share very nuanced things– sometimes the most inspirational stories are very subtle and easy to miss. I’m not likely to miss them.



So there you go. I am neither a “crazy magnet” nor in a den of inspiring people. I’m just a nosy, sensitive, keen-eared lady who doesn’t really multi-task.


And the result is a whole lot of stories about nutjobs and awesome everyday people. :)

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Easy Oven Nachos, featuring Progresso Chili




You know what makes me giddy and little-kid-excited? Getting packages in the mail. Fun mail is the best, isn’t it??? Kids adore getting mail too, but, especially when you’re a grown-up, it’s such a pleasure to receive something that’s not a bill or a solicitation!


Progresso Chili Set


So, as you can imagine, I was excited to see those goodies waiting for me.

Continue reading Easy Oven Nachos, featuring Progresso Chili

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Making the Decision to Pass in Arms



It’s not easy.


I guess that’s what I really want you all to know. It’s just not as simple as it sounds. But let me back up a bit…


When I tell C’s birth story, I can typically tell it in under two minutes. To be honest, as much as I adore hearing and reading birth stories, it always kind of amazes me just how wordy women usually get with them, even when everything goes smoothly. C’s story is wild and long and full of twists, but I still wrote it in under 800 words. Maybe it’s the fact that it WAS so intense that I’m able to dial it down and tell it in a pretty straight-forward way. I don’t really know.


Admittedly, though, I typically leave things out when I tell her tale. I don’t consider them to be major details and, truly, I don’t actually think most people are that interested in me that they need to know all the nitty gritty specifics.


One thing I mention to very few people?


That moment when they asked us if we’d rather let her pass in arms. (“Passing in arms” is the medical community’s polite way of referring to not employing– or discontinuing– most support and intervention, excluding comfort care. The baby is then allowed to naturally let go in as peaceful a manner as possible. This is how cases are usually handled when there is deemed no chance of survival or quality of life.)


When I do tell people about that decision, they usually have the same response– they glance at C., look at me, and widen their eyes with horror. “How could they even ask? I mean, who wouldn’t do just what you did? I can’t believe they even said that.”


And what I want you all to know is this– as hard as it may be to stomach, it’s not that easy.




When I tell the story now, you see a happy, healthy eight-year-old girl. You see a happy, healthy mother of three. You see a family that is intact and doing well.


That may not have been what you saw on Christmas Eve back in 2005.


The doctors saw a healthy, 29-year-old woman who had a ten-month-old to care for. They saw a woman who had had no health issues whatsoever in the pregnancy and would likely bounce back (physically) from a vaginal delivery of a one pound baby rather easily. They saw a young mother who could likely get pregnant again without much difficulty and whose body was, as yet, not traumatized by surgery.


They saw a woman who had lost three units of blood already and the prospect of cutting her open was incredibly dangerous.


They also saw a not-quite 24-week gestation baby whose chances of survival weren’t great. Were she to survive, the odds of evading long-term significant repercussions were slim to none. The road to discharge would be difficult, painful, and long, should she make it. She would endure spinal taps, heel sticks, blood draws, IVs through her scalp, and more on a daily basis.


“Would you rather let her peacefully pass in arms?” they ask.


They don’t ask to be cruel. They aren’t trying to be heartless. They are not saying this baby counts for nothing.


You have to see what they see to grasp it.


They see the risks of putting a healthy young mother through a surgery that carried major risks of complications– it was not a straight-forward, average c-section. Cutting someone open, both vertically and horizontally, following so much blood loss is dangerous. Administering anesthesia in those conditions without time to prepare is tricky. Trying to maximize a tiny baby’s chances of survival means placing more risk on the mother– and they couldn’t even guarantee she’d survive the birth.


So, yes, when you see me now, obviously here and obviously healed… when you see a smiling, bounding third grader… I understand that it’s easy to say, “How could they even ASK that?”


But I want you to know that they did the right thing in asking. And I will never hold that against them.


It’s not as easy a choice to make as you might think.

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Menu Plan: Back to School + Shopping with JL



School started back up yesterday!


As I said yesterday, I was not thrilled about this. Nonetheless, change happens whether we’re ready for it or not and, when all was said and done, we all had great days. I was so, so excited to see their smiling faces climbing off the buses! Today is our first FULL day, so I can’t promise I won’t sniffle a bit again. :)


Anyway, it’s also the end of the month and my refrigerator and freezer were already looking shockingly bare last Friday. The grocery budget was running on fumes and I was wringing my hands over HOW MUCH THESE LITTLE PEOPLE EAT. It’s crazy. They’re really not snackers– we don’t burn through crackers, yogurt cups, cheese sticks, etc. We burn through meat. Veggies. Pasta. Milk. Eggs. And, yes, cheese. But that’s in large part my fault. ;)


Anyway, I made a plan and ran to ALDI and I’m going to go ahead and combine my menu plan and my shopping trip in one for you here. First up, here’s what we’re eating:

you gotta eat





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


Brunch–Bacon & Egg Sandwiches, Bananas, OJ

D–Sunday Supper at Bama & Papa’s


Monday: (first day of school)

B–English Muffins w/ Heart Shaped Eggs & Cheese, Clementines, Milk


D–Penne w/ Red Sauce, Green Beans, Garlic Bread w/ Cheese


oatmeal in cup



B–Oatmeal, Yogurt, Milk


D–Ham & Cheese Pockets, Broccoli




B–Chocolate Cream Donuts, Eggs, Apples (I’m going to loosely follow this, but sub chocolate pudding.)


D–Cheesy Beans & Rice



B–Cereal, Apples, Milk

D–Rotini w/ Broccoli & Cheese Sauce



B–Egg Wraps, Clementines, Milk

D–Lg. Ham Pizza, Med. Garlic Pizza



B–Pancakes, Mixed Fruit

D–Roast Chicken, Carrots, Baked Brown Rice


End of the Month Desperation Trip


Now, to make that happen, I needed some reinforcements around here. Here’s what I bought at ALDI:


  • 4 rolls TP (.99)
  • 2 cans French cut green beans (.98)
  • 8 oz. mozzarella (1.99)
  • 8 oz. sharp cheddar (1.99)
  • 1 gallon milk (2.99)
  • 1 whole chicken (4.14)  <–I got a small one, but it’ll get us through!
  • 2# carrots (1.29)
  • 1 pack burger buns (.89)
  • 2 bags frozen broccoli florets (1.98)
  • 1 dozen eggs (1.85)
  • 1 can chicken soup (.59)


Total spent:   $19.74


I already had some pasta and rice in the pantry and some ham in the fridge. Just under twenty dollars spent, and we should be in decent shape for suppers this week– whew!

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So This Happened Today…







… and I won’t lie to you all.


I cried.


You should know that I cry a lot, though. I mean, I usually cry when they go back. I’m just not one of those, “Oh, HOORAY, it’s back to school!!!” sorts of moms. And that’s okay. I can’t change how I’m wired, even if I do find some of those videos you all share hysterical. I’m just not that lady dancing through Target because I’m finally without kids. Instead, I’m the lady whose red eyes were spotted by one of the regular cashiers at ALDI who gently asked me, “Did my little buddy start school?” and I cried anew, probably making this poor 20-something year old guy sorry he asked.


Anyway, despite my sniffles, I am forced to admit:


They were all READY for school today.


A. is heading off to the intermediate school and, I have to admit, the more I learn about it? The cooler I think this school is. They have a cross country club, a stellar band, a before-school chorus, an outdoor classroom, amazing technology, a trout-raising program that is phenomenal, and so much more. Arguably the most exciting thing to the fourth graders is that they have LOCKERS! :) (This is because the intermediate school used to be a high school– MY high school, as a matter of fact.)


C’s teacher is wonderful. She is a perfect fit for our precious middle child. On top of that, I am totally delighted with the class make-up and was thrilled to see her classmates’ names. This year, she’ll get to join chorus and learn to play recorder. She’ll continue to work with the same special ed teacher and that’s just all kinds of wonderful since she’s fantastic. I foresee a great last year in primary school for C.


And, finally, little G? Well, she’s all set. She is emotionally, academically, and socially ready for kindergarten. “I’ll MISS you, Mama, but you’ll have fun at home– I know you will!” she reassured me, as she boarded the bus. I will miss that little sparkler more than I can say, but I am so very, very happy for her. She is ready. Totally ready. And I literally jumped up and down when I saw her teacher assignment. This kindergarten teacher is calm, nurturing, and structured. She doesn’t buck the system in a rebellious way, but she continues to teach kindergarten the way she knows is best for the children– and that means lots of play, lots of exploration, lots of nurturing, and lots of encouragement. There is a time for first grade– and this isn’t it.


In short? They’re more ready than I am. But that’s okay. We’re ALL going to be okay.


p.s. They’re still little. Anyone who thinks a kindergartener isn’t still little is flat crazy. Even my fourth grader still needs him mama plenty. And I’m not rushing things. :)

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Lessons in Friendship from a Nine-Year-Old




Yesterday, I received a teary phone call from the mom of one of A’s classmates. 


“Is everything okay?” I asked, concerned.


“Do you know what A. wrote in E’s card?” she asked back.


My mind raced. No, no I did not know. Because, honestly? I’m to the point where I say things like, “You need to make a card for your friend and attach it to the gift.” And then I consider my job done.


“Um, no…” I replied. I heard her breatch catch on a little sob. “Um, is something wrong? Did he…?” I trailed off.


“Oh, no. Everything’s okay. I’m going to email you. I can’t even read what he wrote over the phone.” She hung up.


* * * * *


Vitamin C+


And, so, I waited for the email to arrive. It felt like forever, but it was probably less than five minutes. I opened it, and read…


“Nine Reasons You’re Awesome For Your Ninth Birthday


1. You’re tall, like me.

2. You’re good at soccer.

3. You’re good at, and like, math.

4. You go to the same church as me!

5. You’re smart, but you don’t make others feel bad if they don’t know the stuff you know.

6. You like different sports and games from me, but you’re good at compromising.

7. You like to talk, but you’re also good at listening.

8. You never, ever forget me.

9. You know the second four things up there are way more important than the first four and that’s what makes you such a great friend.”



I may have cried a little bit, too.

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Five Toys That Go the Distance



So, I’ve been doing this motherhood thing for coming up on ten years now. That does not make me an expert. It does, however, mean I’ve been around the block a few times and I’ve learned a thing or two.


One thing I have to say is that my children are rarely bored. Please know that this does not mean that they never nag, pester, or harrass me about playing a video game or watching TV. They do. Still, for the most part, I can just leave them to their own devices and they’ll concoct some sort of great imaginative play adventure.


Toys can and should help facilate wonderful play. That said, I don’t believe most people need even half as many toys as they have in their homes. (I speak for myself here, too.)



Watching my children’s adventures unfold over the summer, I really watched which toys got used over and over and over again. I came to some rather cool conclusions:


1. They are toys we’ve had for 5+ years, without exception.

2. Not a single one requires batteries.

3. Not a single one costs more than $20.



So, with that info gleaned, I’ve set out to make a list for the rest of you. Here are five toys that truly go the distance– these are toys that can be enjoyed by the tiny set, but that do not lose their appeal over the years.


Ready? Here we go:


5 Toys That Go the Distance




1. Building Blocks


watermarked building blocks


Building blocks come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and materials. My children are all old enough now to handle the smaller, “choking hazard”-sized blocks, but, I’ll be honest– these big chunky ones? Still get plenty of play. It doesn’t really matter what color or size you choose, so long as it allows for lots of open-ended building. Very structured sets have their place, but they won’t go the distance like a more general collection of pieces.



2. Musical Instruments


watermarked xylophone


What baby/toddler ISN’T given this toy xylophone to pound on? I swear I see these in just about every home I visit. They’re tried and true for a reason. The thing is, there’s really no need to retire it when your youngest heads off to preschool. Notice the numbers I’ve marked on it? Well, those correspond with “sheet music” I’ve made up, allowing the children to play actual, recognizable songs. They take great pride in playing “Twinkle, Twinkle”, “Jingle Bells”, “Amazing Grace”, and the like. Study after study shows that playing an instrument is wonderful for a child’s development– the simple xylophone can definitely be a starting point.



3. Toy Figures


watermarked toy figures


We have knights, we have princesses. We have animals, we have dinosaurs. These small figures run the gamut and you can easily grab a set for less than ten bucks. They take up precious little space and the options for play are seemingly endless. Water? Dirt? Play dough? Next to nothing will damage them, and that’s half the fun. These little figures do not talk, walk, or sing on their own… and that’s a good thing! Every once in a great while, we lose one to a broken arm, wing, or weapon, but the ones above have been rolling around our home for years and years. These are the sort of toy that might get ignored for a month, but then the children rediscover them and create elaborate scenes and adventures that fill their days. Since they take up very little real estate, they are more than worth keeping around.



4. Play Food


watermarked play food


That play food set? We’ve had it for almost nine years. We got it along with a play kitchen and, the reality is, the kitchen sees very little action these days. The food, however? My goodness, that play food gets pulled out several times a week. Sometimes they’re pretending to prepare fancy meals. Sometimes they’re feeding stuffed animals. Sometimes they’re imagining they’re on the Oregon Trail and their supplies are dwindling. Seriously– that food is worth its weight in gold. Our set is simple and plastic and it works fine. There are fancier wood and fabric ones that are lovely, too. Play food? Is a toy I wouldn’t want to live without.



5. Cardboard Blocks


watermarked cardboard blocks


My sister bought this set of cardboard blocks for my two older children when they were both young toddlers. They liked them. Mainly, they liked it when we would build structures for them to knock down. As they grew, they were able to do more independently. One might think that school-aged children would balk at these big, clunky blocks– au contraire! These blocks have been used to build entire rooms full of furniture. They’ve been stepped on, skied on, jumped over, and driven around. They have been instrumental in the building of obstacle courses and “cat-trapping walls.” They regularly have contests to see who can construct the tallest/strongest/sturdiest/wildest tower. They are bulky, yes. But, if I actually insist, they also all fit nice and neatly in that cardboard box. I don’t see us getting rid of these blocks any time soon!




I truly believe that toys should add joy to your home and open doors to imagination. Newer and flashier definitely doesn’t mean better. The five toys above have stood the test of time and are ones I whole-heartedly recommend for going the distance.

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