Post-Vacay Cooking Plan!




Last week found me lazing around the Massachusetts shore with my extended in-law family.


My sisters-in-law and their families, plus my mother-in-law, all traveled out from Indiana and we convened at a beach house my husband’s cousin was renting. While we were there, all sorts of other Massachusetts relatives came and went, none of whom we’d seen since our wedding, and that was just a whole lot of fun.


(Random tidbit: I have a special place in my heart for my husband’s Massachusetts relatives. Way, back when he and I were dating, I attended my now-sister-in-law’s wedding. Over and over and OVER again, the Indiana relatives would ask him– right in front of me– “What, you couldn’t find a nice Midwestern girl???” It was maddening! And also pretty hurtful. But the Mass relatives? Why, they thought is was just peachy that their Indiana boy had fallen for a New England girl. ;) I haven’t forgotten them for that.)


Anyway, we had a really amazing time and the reality is… I didn’t cook a thing while we were there. I ate super well, but I wasn’t doing the food prep.


Alas, we are back home and back to reality and, if I’m honest? I’m kind of happy to be back in the kitchen. I missed having my hands in the cooking!


Of course, as is always the case when we return from weeklong trip, the fridge is nearly bare upon our return, so a quick ALDI run was required. With that in place, here’s what’s been hittin’ the table this week:



menu plan




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

Brunch– Omelets, Clementines

Mid-afternoon Snack– Cookies and milk

D– Fettucine Alfredo with California Veggies


B–Cereal, Mixed Fruit, Milk

D–Crunchy Beef Tacos with all the fixings


B–Cinnamon toast, yogurt, fruit, milk

D–Fusilli with Meat Sauce & Ricotta, Green Beans


B–Oatmeal, Grapes, Milk

D–Shepherd’s Pie


B–Baked Oatmeal, Clementines, Milk

D–Homemade Chicken & Rice Soup


B–Eggs, Apples w/ PB, Milk

D–Cheesy Beans & Rice (<– This is our usual Wednesday fare, but my husband and I are planning to go out this night, so it’ll be an easy, and popular, meal for the kidlets.)


B–Pancakes, Bacon, Fruit

D–Pizza (<– usually a Friday thing, but, again, date nights merit some shifting!)

And that’ll do it!

I’d love to know…

What’s your favorite thing you’re cooking this week?

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Kind & Brave



Last week, my children participated in Summer Spirit, which is our church’s version of VBS. This year, they had a “service” theme and they, literally, spent their days weeding, harvesting, sewing, cooking, and otherwise working to help support various organizations in our community. They honestly loved it so much.


Anyway, as is the tradition with this program, on the last day, they handed out what I like to call “The Superlative Awards.” Some of you might recall a couple years ago when A. was given the “Smartest” award and I wrote a post about it. These always make me giggle just because they seem so counter-cultural these days, but it’s still fun to see what the counselors saw in my kids over the week they spent with them.


This year, A. came home with “Most Helpful.” Can’t say that didn’t make me happy. I hope very much to be raising helpful children who contribute to society.


C. earned herself “Best Singer.” (I may have to delete this post when C. gets older, but I’ll confess to you all that this made me giggle a LOT because, of my three children, C. is the least musical.) She is a happy, enthusiastic participant and, as one of the “older” grades of campers, I think that really makes her stand out.


And then there was my G. (whom we call by a nickname that starts with “E”, just to confuse things around here.)


G. came home with a shy, but proud, smile.


“My counselors said they couldn’t pick just one for me.”






Kindest and bravest.


Friends… if the past few weeks of horrible violence and political spats have taught me nothing else, it’s that this world dearly needs more kindness and bravery.


Be kind. Yes. Always and abundantly. Throw kindness around like confetti, as they say. Let it land everywhere and don’t worry if it gets swept aside– you did your part just by throwing it out there.


Be brave. Do hard things. Speak up when silence is so much easier. Bravery isn’t standing tall when you’re feeling large and in charge– it’s reaching down to help when others feel small and unheard.






“I think I can do more, Mommy,” she murmured to me when I kissed her sleepy cheek before bed. “It’s not so hard to be brave once you realize it really has nothing to do with you.”






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When Places Become Wishes




Way back, in the first month of 2005, I gave birth to a bouncing baby boy.


He was healthy. He was joyful. And his birth marked a whole new chapter in my life.


For the first time since I’d reached adulthood, I was not working outside of the home.


The bank I’d worked at was generous with their paid leave, by U.S. standards, and provided eight weeks paid maternity leave.


I knew I wanted more.


As our bond with our precious son grew ever stronger, my husband and I also realized something else– we craved family. Extended family. Though we had lived many, many states away from our parents and siblings from the time we’d turned 18, we suddenly felt compelled to be nearer to them. There was something about having a baby of our own that made us want to realign those branches of the family tree.


We had a choice to make–


  • We could stay where we were in our pretty Virginia home. I could stay home with him, but we were far from family.
  • We could move back to my home state of Connecticut. It was beautiful and my parents and sister were there, but it was super pricey and I’d have to go back to work.
  • Or, we could move to Indiana. We’d be near his sisters and parents and we could easily make it on just his salary.


When we learned his dad was battling stage 4 lung cancer, the best choice became readily apparent.





And moving to Indiana became the dream. It became my fondest wish. 


When our son was four months old, we packed up and moved halfway across the country.


Two months later, we learned we were expecting our second child and said goodbye to my father-in-law, all in the space of a couple days.



When people ask me how I liked Indiana, my emotional response is so strong. If I’m honest, I’ll tell you that those were lonely years for me. I lived out in the country in an old farmhouse, pregnant, while caring for an infant. Being land-locked challenged me. I never did take to 4-wheeling or mudding or even camping, for that matter.


But those years are precious to me. There, I had my last sweet weeks with my beloved father-in-law. I learned to garden. I birthed two daughters. I found my voice and shared it with the world over a dial-up internet connection.


Sometimes, places become wishes.


And, if we’re some of the lucky ones… those wishes come true. And leave memories in our hearts forever.






Do you have a place that holds a special place in your heart? Is it where you grew up, somewhere you love to visit, a dream vacation? Well, guess what?


Cents of Style has the perfect necklace to keep those places close to your heart!!




And, just for today’s Fashion Friday special, you can choose your favorite State Necklace for just $11.99 + FREE SHIPPING.


This necklace is a lovely, easy-to-wear length and layers beautifully, making it a super on-trend accessory. If you decide to add it to your jewelry wardrobe, I’d love to know which state you chose and why! Tell me your stories in the comments, friends…

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Protecting Those Peepers


The Aces information, product and additional gift pack have been provided by Aces.




When I think back to my own childhood, I don’t really remember ever wearing sunglasses. There are probably three big reasons for that:


  1. Sunglasses weren’t much of a “thing” for kids back in the early 80s; let’s face it– the SPF 8 was considered the “strong stuff” reserved for only the palest among us.
  2. By the time I was in first grade, I wore prescription glasses and, honestly, it would have been wildly wasteful to invest in prescription sunglasses for an unpredictable six-year-old.
  3. And, finally, once I started wearing contacts, in 7th grade, I tried out sunglasses and was dissatisfied with how I looked in them because they– surprise, surprise– hid my eyes, which have arguably always been my best feature. Yes, my friends, vanity kept me from protecting my eyes.



Anywho, these days, I wear my sunnies on the regular and I’m just tickled with all the options available to me. I’ve long ago gotten over that particular vanity and I’ve learned that, no matter what the trend-setters are saying, for me the sunglasses will always be BIG in order to actually protect my rather large peepers.




So, I’ve gotten better at protecting my eyes– yay, me! I should get an adulting badge for that one.


My kids, however? Aren’t much better than I was as a child.


In their cases, it’s not so much the vanity problem, but I do have one who wears prescription glasses and, frankly, the other two just don’t think about it, either. Honestly? I’ve been known to forget about it myself.


But did you know that UV damage is cumulative and irreversible? That’s scary enough, but it’s also important to know that kids receive three times more annual UV exposure than adults. However, as is the case in my family, the parents are much more likely to actually wear sunglasses than the children.


Because of their larger pupils and clearer lenses, children are more susceptible to sun damage. To help protect from this, their sunglasses should offer 100%UVA/UVB protection.


Of course, all the protection in the world is useless if they won’t wear the things! Finding high-quality durable frames and a comfortable fit are essential to actually getting– and keeping!– the sunglasses on their faces.


About a month ago, I was told about Babiators and their Aces line, designed for the 7-14 crowd. This appealed to me since all three of my kiddos happen to fall in that age range! Here are a few of the key deets that make these glasses stand out:


  • Accessorized: Each pair comes with an awesome sunglasses silhouette bag and a lens cloth.
  • Safe: UV400 lenses offer 100% UVA and UVB protection and undergo rigorous testing to ensure they’re safe for your child.
  • Durable: Flexible rubber frames, and impact and shatter-resistant lenses won’t break when you bend or twist them. Trust us, we’ve tried!
  • Awesome: Mirrored lenses amp up the cool factor on the classic aviator frame and new navigator frame to help kids express their rad personal styles.
  • Guaranteed: The best part? Aces are backed by the Lost & Found Guarantee™ – if you lose or break your shades in the first year, Babiators will replace them for free. All you pay is shipping.


I figured we’d give it a go.


My oldest spends a ton of time outdoors, tossing a football, playing with his sisters, and running miles upon miles. I let him put them to the test.






The verdict?


While A. found them comfortable and effective, he still needed to be reminded to put them on. That’s a habit that will take some time to form, of course, He was surprised how much more comfortable they were than the glasses we’ve snagged at convenience or drug stores in the past. That’s a lesson it took me a long time to learn, actually– not all frames are created equally!


In his own words, “These actually feel flexible and comfortable on my ears. The lenses make me look awesome. I’m glad they’re easy to care for and don’t get easily scratched, ’cause I don’t feel like I have time to be babying my sunglasses.”


So there you go! File that under high praise from an eleven-year-old boy. ;)



Want to win a pair of black Aces for your own little outdoorsy one? Great, because I’ve got one to give away! To be entered, simply leave me a comment telling me what your favorite thing to do in the sun is– with your little one or without! Anything goes.


(giveaway ends 7/2/16)


For more information on sun safety:

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Lordy, Lordy…



Welp, it was bound to happen.




And, to that I say…




Because you know what the alternative to getting older is? – - – Yep. And I am SO very grateful to be right here, living this wild, tough, amazing, beautiful life with those who love me best.


Just a couple of weeks after I turned 32, I started this blog. At the time, I had a two-year-old, a three-year-old, and a farmhouse in Indiana. Now, I have an eleven-year-old, a ten-year-old, a seven-year-old, a raised ranch in Connecticut, and a job OUTSIDE the home that brings me the perfect sort of delight to balance my work within the home.


I’ve loved having this space throughout all these years. While the frequency of my posting has waxed and waned– did you know that, way back in the day, I posted TWICE a day???– my joy of interacting with you all has never faded. And I don’t see that changing!


Thanks so much to all of you who have been here for the long haul. I am blessed beyond measure to have readers who go way, way, WAY back with me. I’m also so fortunate to have newer readers who somehow found me over the years and decided to stick around– THANK YOU!!


Now that I’m 40, I’m just all kinds of wise. ;) I’m kidding, of course, but I’m perfectly happy on this cusp of a new decade. It’s exciting to stand on the threshold of something brand new and survey all the options.


As far as the blog here goes, I’m not closing shop. My writing will likely still be sporadic because, unfortunately, I can’t promise to change that. I do hope to return to my story-telling roots over this next year; it is my very favorite kind of writing.


In case you were wondering, 40 feels fantastic. No complaints from me! I was well-celebrated by the (much quieter ;) ) other half of the Parenting Miracles duo.


I woke to coffee and a big birthday banner. While there are those who are very demure and subtle about their birthdays, I am NOT one of them. I love the banners, the FB wishes, the whole nine yards. Can’t help it!


The Summer Solstice fell right on my birthday this year and I can’t think of a better gift than abundant light! A close second, though, would be my husband’s informing me that we were going to the beach to celebrate my day.




I was a wee bit excited. (^^ That shirt says “Mermaid at <3″ and my 11yo claims it suits me perfectly!)


We drove to the Rhode Island shore, stopping at a deli along the way to grab sandwiches and change into our swimsuits.




We picnicked on the sand, played in the waves, and relished the sunshine on our skins. It was delightful.


After all that, we checked into our hotel and then headed out to walk around the nearby village and explore the little shops. I lovity love love walking around village-y type places, so this brought me great joy.


Once we’d finally walked off our sandwiches and hunger came back, my husband asked me to choose a restaurant for dinner. In a popular seaside town like that one, there were tons of popular, well-advertised options. I, however, recalled seeing a ramshackle old building called Antonio’s Ristorante and decided I’d like to go there. My other half was skeptical of my choice, especially when we drove up and it seemed nearly abandoned compared to the glitzier places.




As you can see, we enjoyed every bit of our supper there and he was forced to admit that my intuition didn’t fail us!


After that, there was ice cream and sleep and then coffee and swimming. It was a perfect balance of busy and relaxing and it suited me perfectly.


It is summer, which I adore, and I’m home more now, so I’m optimistic that my posting frequency will increase. If you feel compelled, please leave me a comment or drop me a quick email if there’s any sort of post or particular topic you’d like to see addressed!


Cheers, lovelies! Thanks for being here with me!

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“Playdates” vs. Coming Over



When I was a little girl, I never had a “playdate.”


Honestly, I probably spent as much or more time as my own kids at other people’s homes, but they weren’t arranged playdates.


I did not grow up in the era where we all just ran free through the neighborhood, willy nilly, without a care in the world. Growing up in the country in the 80s meant that, sure, we had a few neighborhood buddies with whom we’d play kickball or frisbee golf, but we also had school friends who lived further away.


Here’s how that went–


A friend would call:

“Hey, can you come over Friday afternoon?”
“Let me check with my mom.” ((“MOOOOMMMM! Can I go over to Tara’s house on Friday?”))

…”Yeah, sure. Mom says that’s fine. What time should she drop me off?”


After that, it was literally a matter of getting dropped off at the friend’s house.


That, alone, separates our get-togethers from the current method of mothers having in-depth text conversations about times, activities, and dietary requirements.


But, anyway, what was even MORE different is what we actually *did* at these times.


We played, sure. We played outside. We played games. We looked at magazines together. We coordinated dance routines. We built forts. We might ride bikes.


You know what we DIDN’T do? . . . Go places. I’m absolutely staggered by the “playdate” invites my kids receive. They really ARE more like dates! “I was thinking I could take them mini-golfing and then swing by for some pizza on the way home. They can play some Wii and then we’ll have an ice cream bar.”


It’s all a heck of a lot of work, to be honest.


I remember– vividly– a time I went to play at the aforementioned Tara’s house. I don’t honestly remember a ton about her, beyond her feathered dark hair and the fact that her little sister was named Aimee and I thought that was the most GLAMOROUS spelling of “Amy” ever.


Anyway, I had gone over to play and have supper. We were outside, throwing a ball onto the roof, letting it roll back down, then attempting to catch it. Lest this sound hopelessly boring to you, let me assure you that it was SO fun that a few neighbor kids had wandered over to play with us. Anyhow, I digress…


We were outside playing this “game” and Tara’s mom called us in. Tara and Aimee needed to put their laundry away before supper.


So, they did. They gathered their piles and went upstairs.


I was left in the kitchen where Tara’s mom was tossing iceberg in a mustard yellow bowl. She turned to me and said, “Jessie, why don’t you go ahead and set the table? Plates are on the counter, there.”


And so I did. I laid out the fiesta ware and carefully set a fork to the left and a spoon to the right.


This wasn’t an odd request. I mean, I was there to eat with them– part of the family. Didn’t it make sense that I could help with this small task?


I wasn’t put out by this. It didn’t in any way ruin our good time. Tara and Aimee finished their chore, came back down, we all washed up, and we sat around the table eating chicken and rice baked in cream of mushroom soup.


When did everything change? When did “playdates” become, I don’t know, EVENTS? When did we decide that we needed to be sure to have lots of fun, planned activities, along with snacks and food sure to please any palate?


When my kids get invited to others’ houses, I get floods of FB messages and texts, “Does G. like kiwi? What about cantaloupe? Does she prefer drinkable or spoonable yogurt?” “What kind of milk does C. drink? Is 2% okay? Is she allowed to have cookies?” “Will A. eat anything on his pizza or does he like just cheese? What about parsley? Does that bother him?”

And, honestly, it takes all my power to not just say, “Give them whatever! They’ll be fine! I seriously don’t CARE if she likes it– she’ll survive!”


I don’t. Because, you know, that’s kind of rude and yell-y to people who are obviously trying to be really considerate. But, seriously? Why all the hoops?


I’m not sure I have the answer to this and I don’t really expect the culture to shift overnight.


But, what I can tell you is this–


When I recall my memory of that long-ago day tossing a ball at Tara’s house until it was time to set the table… it is with great fondness. I had an AWESOME time.


And I’m convinced that it’s not today’s KIDS that are the difference.


It’s the choices we make as adults.



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When the going gets HOT…




… the hot stops cooking! (Well, baking. Really just baking. ;) )


It’s 90 degrees out there, people– whew! This is not typical May weather around here, but it’s not exactly unheard of, either. And, to be honest, it’s kind of fun having a nice, hot Memorial Day weekend. Some people consider this the “unofficial start of summer”, after all! (I, the purist, won’t call it summer until June 20th, but that’s just me. ;) )


Still, when it gets this hot this early, we don’t have window A/C units in yet. The heat is totally manageable via open windows at night, closed windows during the day, and ceiling fans. But, really… I don’t feel like baking when it’s this toasty. I did bake the pizzas last night and, man, that heated that kitchen right up. I’m trying to avoid my oven for awhile now!


So here’s the plan!



menu plan




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

Brunch– Egg Sandwiches, Honeydew

Mid-afternoon Snack– Popcorn

D– Sunday Supper at Bama & Papa’s!


B–Oatmeal, Apples, Milk

D–Grilled Hot Dogs, Pickles, Chips, etc. etc. <– easy Memorial Day fare


B–Jelly toast, apples, milk

D–Penne w/ Feta and Broccoli


B–PB Toast, Melon, Milk

D–Cheesy Beans & Rice


B–Cinnamon Blueberry Bread, Eggs, Apples

D–Meatball Sandwiches, Broccoli


B–Eggs, Apples w/ PB, Milk

D–Pizza (it should be cooler by now– if not? I’ll make tacos!)


B–Pancakes, Bacon, Fruit

D–Angelhair Parm w/ Crab and Mushrooms

And that should get me in and out of the kitchen lickety-split, without too much heat generated! :)

What’s your favorite thing on your menu plan this week?

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Modeling + Expectations




There’s been a story floating around for the past couple weeks that’s– once again– got people cheering or ranting from either side of the fence.


This time it involves a woman who posted on social media about how, disappointed in her children’s lack of manners, she promptly threw their ice cream in the trash to teach a lesson.


I’m gonna be honest with you– I read the story the first time through and my only thought was, “Okay, lady, if that works for you– go for it.”


This is largely because I lean toward the NMKNMP (not my kid, not my problem) philosophy on such matters.


I wasn’t ready to give her a parenting medal, nor did I think she was somehow scarring her poor, innocent children. I also wasn’t in the camp of those horrified by the wasted ice cream. I was just– I don’t know… fine with it, I guess.


Turns out people had lots to say on this matter.


There were those lauding her for making a statement, seizing a “teachable moment”, and proving to her children that she means business when it comes to showing manners and gratitude.


There were those who felt there were much better ways– to lead by example, correct in private, and avoid public shaming (both at the ice cream shop AND on social media.)


Here’s what I’m gonna say–


While my kids are far from perfect little angels, I am totally confident in saying they are incredibly polite. In fact, after our recent vacation, I actually remarked to my husband about how pleasant it is to go places with them. They are kind and grateful and their pleases and thank yous are 100% automatic at this point.


But how did they get that way?


Luck? Example? Expectations?


I’ve spent awhile thinking about this and here’s where I’ve landed:


It’s a combination of leading by example AND setting expectations.


Modeling + Expectations


It’s not one or the other. It has to be both.


I could tell my children to “mind their manners” ’til I’m blue in the face, but if they don’t see my husband and me modeling that behavior, it’s unlikely to strike them as all that important. They might learn to do it most of the time, in front of us, but it’s unlikely to become something they view as natural and integral.


At the same time, my kids need to know, clearly, what my expectations for them are. The reality is that there are times I won’t be there and I still expect them to do the right thing. Furthermore, expectations for children and adults are NOT always the same. (In the case of basic manners, they should be, but in other areas of life, there are distinctions.) I need to know that my kids know exactly how we expect them to treat others and to respond during interactions. This, too, is critical. I don’t need them to simply mimic me– I want them to understand both the WHAT and the WHY of expected behavior.


So, at the end of the day, would I toss my kids’ ice cream? Probably not. But, to be totally honest, I have an incredibly hard time imagining my kids’ treating a service worker poorly. And that’s not because I’d throw away their treats. And it’s not because I’d guide them through a quiet, calm, edifying private lesson later on.


No, it’s because for 11, 10, and 6 years, respectively, we’ve put in the groundwork of both modeling and setting expectations.


And, if you’re willing to do that?


It’s unlikely you’ll ever be faced with the decision of whether or not to toss your kids’ dessert.




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Triple Chocolate Drop Cookies



Triple Chocolate Drop Cookies




Triple Chocolate Drop Cookies
Recipe type: dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 30
An easy drop cookie filled with the rich flavor of three levels of chocolate-- perfect with a glass of icy cold milk or a steaming mug of coffee.
  • ½ cup butter (straight out of the fridge is fine)
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ⅓ cup cocoa powder
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup milk chocolate chips
  • ½ cup semisweet chips (I used the "minis" for some texture variety)
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Cream butter and sugar for one minute.
  3. Mix in egg and vanilla.
  4. Add baking soda, salt, and cocoa. Mix to combine.
  5. Add in flour a little at a time until fully incorporated.
  6. Fold in both varieties of chocolate chips.
  7. (Optional: chill dough for one hour. Chilling the dough creates "rounder" cookies and the dough will be less sticky. It is not required, however.)
  8. Drop by rounded teaspoons onto cookie sheets. (I lined mine with a silpat, but the butter content should keep them from sticking, anyhow.)
  9. Bake 4 minutes on lower rack, then move to upper rack and bake for an additional 4 minutes.
  10. Let sit for a few minutes before removing cookies from cookie sheet onto cooling racks or brown paper.




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When Sick Gets Real




One thing I’ve learned from my experience with the app “TimeHop” is that I do not enjoy reliving episodes involving sick children. As a result, you will find no pathetic shots of sickly children documented on social media from our last run-in with the flu. I know I’m not going to want to revisit it down the road!


Such things are learned over time, however, and I wasn’t always so wise. ;)  In the way-back, I did indeed share some shots of my resting, feverish little ones. One such shot assaulted me this morning:






Aw, poor little G!



I read through my posts of that day and this one jumped out at me:


Nothing else was touching the 104 fever, so we finally gave her ibuprofen. It was the right call– she’s drinking and taking in fluids much better now.


That, my friends, was the moment when Sick just got real.™ 


If you know me at all, you know I’m not the panicky type. I trust my gut a lot and I don’t jump to conclusions. I’ve been known to shrug off lots of little fevers and minor aches and pains. But, from time to time, a mama’s gotta have a little help and, when the fever starts interfering with fluid-intake? I take action.





In those moments, I’m always grateful to have the right tools in my arsenal, such as those in the Pfizer Pediatric Platform,  available at Target. Children’s Advil® comes in several flavors, including: Sugar-free Dye-free Berry, Bubble Gum, Grape, Blue Raspberry, Fruit, and Dye-Free White Grape flavors. I appreciate the variety of flavors because, let’s be real– some kids are particular about such things and illness is not the time you want to be arguing about it. I also like the dye-free options, particulary important for those little ones who are sensitive to artificial dyes and coloring.


So, when asked what I rely on to stay and get well? You’ll hear a lot about fruits, veggies, fresh air, and exercise from me– I still believe these things contribute to our overall health and resilience around here!


But you’ll also hear me readily admit that I’m grateful to have some support and relief for when sick gets real.




The Pfizer Pediatric Platform products,information, and additional gift pack have been provided by Pfizer Consumer Healthcare. All thoughts and reviews are, as always, completely my own.




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