Found a Friend

 

 

 

We were invited to spend the day at the Connecticut shoreline. The family of one of A’s classmates had rented a cottage for a week and thought it would be nice for our boys to spend the day together. Not one to say no to the beach, I RSVPed in the affirmative. Her email came quickly, “Oh, we’re so excited you’ll be here! There will be a couple other families from the area. They’re all nice. :)”

 

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We arrived and the boys wandered off to check something out. Our hostess introduced me to the other adults there– some parents and kiddos from our town and some family members of the hosts.

 

One of the families was familiar to me. They have three boys and they live on our end of town. Of their children, I’ve really only met the middle one. He was in preschool with both my older kids, actually, and I can remember having him at our house for a birthday party at some point. I’m going to call him Beck.

 

Beck is severely autistic. (Is that how that’s worded? I so dearly do not want to offend. Feel free to correct me (gently) if I’ve used the wrong verbiage.) Anyway, I remember vividly when we attended the preschool open house. It was loud and chaotic and crowded and, honestly, it just about pushed me over the edge as I tried to navigate the space with a six-week-old in a stroller.

 

It was overwhelming for me. It was pretty much intolerable for Beck. He looked positively panicked as he remained in the hallway, refusing to enter the fray.

 

Parties throughout the schoolyear were difficult, too. They were just so loud. So crowded. There so much movement and they broke the routine. Unusual foods, smells, faces, and sounds filled the space. While many of the children beamed with joy through those parties, Beck averted his eyes and struggled fiercely not to break down. It was hard for him.

 

Anyway, Beck is going to fourth grade now. It was good to see him again! But, honestly, this beach house setting was challenging, too. Again, with the noise, the crowd, the odd smells, the different foods, the sudden comings and goings of various people. Everyone was kind and accomodating and it was all going fine, but you’d have to be pretty unobservant not to see that, well, it was hard for Beck.

 

A few of the boys (including Beck) decided to go into an inflatable rectangular pool on the sand behind the beach house. They all played together peacably but, if you really watched, the other two boys pretty much just played AROUND Beck. He was in his own world, watching water run through his fingers.

 

And then C. decided to get in the pool.

 

C. bopped on over, climbed in slowly– she’s not a huge water fan, and smiled widely, “Hey, Beck! How’ve you been?”

 

He looked up sideways at her. Raised his chin a little bit.

 

And smiled.

 

You see, C. and Beck were together in a special ed support room for periods of time each day. They worked on different things, sometimes at different times, but their paths crossed often.

 

C. knows him well. And, for lack of a better way to describe it, she just knows him as exactly who he is. His sensitivity to sounds, smells, changes in routine, and what-not? Well, that’s just who he is. It’s who he’s always been. It’s neither good nor bad in C’s opinion– it’s just who he is.

 

His mom saw this unfold and hurried over. She didn’t realize they’d known each other. She captured a beautiful photo of C. beaming with Beck’s arm around her, a crooked smile on his face as he avoided looking directly at the camera. She posted it on Facebook (with my permission) with the caption “Found a friend!” and tagged their special ed teacher.

 

It was beautiful.

 

I watched those two play their way through the afternoon. At one point, I called C. over by name and Beck spoke up clearly to correct me. Apparently they’d been playing a game and he was Mr. Bee and she was Mrs. Butterfly.

 

I quickly apologized for my oversight. :)

 

We went to the beach that day because we’d been invited by a friend of A’s.

 

But it was watching the beauty of C’s friendship with Beck that actually made the whole day.

 

Sometimes all it takes to feel more at home is to know you’ve found a friend.

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Cookies & Cream Rice Crispy Treats

 

 

Cookies & Cream Rice Crispy Treats

Cookies & Cream Rice Crispy Treats
Author: 
Recipe type: dessert
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 24
 
This no-bake, crowd-pleasing treat comes together in a jiffy with simple ingredients you can find just about anywhere.
Ingredients
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 4 cups miniature marshmallows
  • 6 cups crisp rice cereal
  • 10 oreo-type cookies, crushed
  • (for topping)
  • 1½ cups white chocolate chips
  • 6 oreo-type cookies, crushed
Instructions
  1. Grease 9"x13" pan.
  2. Melt butter. Stir in marshmallows and continue heating on low until entire mixture is smooth.
  3. Stir in cereal until evenly coated.
  4. Fold in crushed cookies.
  5. Press into prepared pan.
  6. Pour white chocolate chips in microwave-safe bowl and melt, using medium power and stirring every thirty seconds. Once smooth, pour over rice crispy treats and spread with spatula over surface.
  7. Sprinkle additional crushed cookies over the surface and press in gently with your fingers so they "stick" to the white chocolate.
  8. Allow to cool before cutting, about 15 minutes.

 

 

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Menu Plan: Summer Overload!

 

 

Every summer, there’s a week of chaos. It’s that week when a million things seem to be happening and, while they’re all fun, it can also seem pretty wild and crazy as we rush here, there, and everywhere.

 

This is that week.

 

It doesn’t feel as bad as years past, however, and I’m not sure if that’s because our schedule is lighter or I’m just getting a touch better at managing the crazy. Either way, I’m not feeling stressed, but I am embracing the beauty of a simple menu plan!

 

 

 

you gotta eat

Here’s what we’ve been eating and will be eating through the week–

 

 

Sunday: 

B–Cheerios, Apples, & Milk for the littles, before 7:30AM Mass

L–Leftovers before heading to the beach!

D–We seriously ate all day. Chips and salsa. Meatballs. Veggie tray. Some wine. Strawberries. More chips. Burgers. Cookies and cream rice crispy treats. That salt air must have stimulated our apetites!! (It also made our children crash like rocks that night. ;) )

 

Monday:

B– Blueberry Muffins, Bacon, Mixed Fruit, Milk

D–BBQ Hot Dogs, Honey Corn Bread, Oranges

 

Tuesday:

B–Honey Corn Bread, Apple Slices, Milk

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D–Chicken & Black Bean Burritos (Chicken & Rice for my bean-hating hubby.)

 

 

Wednesday: 

B–Cheerios, Yogurt with mixed berries

D–Cheesy Peas & Rice (date night)

 

Thursday:

B–PB Raisin Toast, Cranberry Juice

D–Tomato Soup, Cheese Bread

 

Friday:

B–Wild Black Raspberry Muffins, Scrambled Eggs

D–Lg. Cheese Pizza, Med. Onion Pizza

 

Saturday:

Vanilla Blackberry Oven Pancake

 

B–Black Raspberry Oven Pancake, Bacon, Fruit

D–Penne w/ Crab & Jack Sauce

 

 

And, that’ll do it! Nothing super exciting happening, but that’s okay. Sometimes simple just needs to be the name of the game. :)

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Let Freedom Ring

 

 

We have so very many freedoms in this country.

 

Many, we take for granted… like the freedom to worship how we choose, for example.

 

Others, I believe we sometimes misinterpret… like the second amendment, quite frankly.

 

Still, there is no doubt that we are permitted so very many liberties compared to millions of others in this world. We can believe and think and speak freely. We can buck the system or go against the grain and that’s okay. We can have strong, strong opinions and voice such and doing so will not likely result in any severe ramifications.

 

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As a child, I definitely took all of this for granted. I mean, how could I know differently?

 

As I grew, I was rather fascinated with all the freedoms we have. College was an eye-opener for me as wide, varying viewpoints spilled forth and vocal, determined people shared them with the world.

 

It’s been over fifteen years since I was in college, now.

 

I’ve had a lot of time to learn to appreciate the freedoms we have. I’ve pondered what it meant for our forefathers to risk it all so that we could have true liberty.

 

And I’ve also learned to appreciate a freedom that is far too easy to forget–

 

We are free to love.

 

In the midst of fighting for and over our gun rights and our faith and our parenting style and our school choice and our healthcare stance and the state of marriage and all the rest, we are free to simply step back and LOVE.

 

We don’t actually need to fight and yell and scoff and demand. We don’t need to judge and worry and fret over what others are doing. We don’t HAVE to decide what’s best or perfect or ideal for everyone around us.

 

And– and this is huge– we don’t have to hate or reject those whose views contradict or oppose our own.

 

We can love. And learn. Laugh. And love some more.

 

To me, there may be no greater freedom than that.

 

Happy Independence Day, sweet friends. Let freedom ring.

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Simple Egg Wrap

 

 

If you’ve been around here for any length of time, you’ve likely seen breakfast burritos make more than a few appearances on my menu plans. We love them! There’s something so tasty about all that eggy, meaty, veggie-packed goodness stuffed into a tortilla.

 

I do, however, have just a few beefs with the breakfast burritos:

 

1. They’re either really big (even when we use “soft taco” size tortillas) or there’s way too much tortilla and it tastes weird to me.

2. They tend to be pretty liquidy thanks to the ham and veggies and what-not and can drip on-the-go.

3. Too much grainy stuff (here: tortilla) in the morning tends to make me feel sluggish all day.

4. Since my girls can’t always eat a whole burrito, I have to cut one in half and that gets messy.

 

So, while breakfast burritos still make a regular weekend appearance around here, they’re not high on my list for quick weekday breakfasts.

 

That said, I LOVE the taste of egg and tortilla together. Throw on some cheese, and I’m a happy girl! I decided to go even SMALLER with the tortilla and these simple egg wraps have become a staple around here.

 

Simple Egg Wrap

 

Simple Egg Wrap
Author: 
Recipe type: breakfast, snack
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
This simple egg wrap is quick, portable, and more manageable than a breakfast burrito. The possibilities are endless!
Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon butter or bacon grease
  • 4 eggs
  • salt, pepper, preferred spices (I almost always add dill.)
  • 2 oz. sharp cheddar, finely shredded
  • 4 fajita size tortillas (these usually come in packs of about 20)
  • sauce of your choice, e.g. salsa, ketchup, taco sauce, mustard, guacamole, etc.
Instructions
  1. Heat small skillet over medium heat.
  2. Melt butter or bacon grease.
  3. Working one at a time-- it goes very quickly-- crack an egg into the pan and give it a quick scramble/swirl with the corner of your spatula. Sprinkle on salt, pepper, and/or spices. Cook for 30-60 seconds, flip and cook through.
  4. Meanwhile, place a tortilla on a plate. Top one half with about a tablespoon of finely shredded cheese. Heat in the microwave for 20-30 seconds, until warm and cheese is melted.
  5. Top tortilla with cooked egg, add sauce, and fold in half.

 

*These wraps are not huge or hearty– those with larger appetites may prefer two. I typically make 6 of them for our family of 5 and one of my guys eats the extra.

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Nine Years, Fifty Pounds, Three Feet

 

 

Eleven years ago, I was working as the teller manager in a Virginia banking center. A young man– younger than me, and I was only in my mid-20s– walked in and asked to go to his safe deposit box. I took him and we chatted. He told me that his fiancee worked for the same company, but that she was out in San Diego. She’d be moving to Virginia with him after the wedding.

 

“Well,” I remarked with a smile, “if she wants a job when she gets here, have her come in and see me. We could always use good tellers!”

 

A few months later, we hired her. Her name was Jessica. (She was the third Jessica we had at that office.)

 

At that time, we’d been married for a year. We were still fairly new to the Virginia Beach area and we didn’t have a lot of friends yet. Most of the people we met who were our age were either 1) single and living with their parents or 2) in the military and already had a couple of kids. There was nothing wrong with either of those scenarios and we were most certainly friends with people in both categories but the fact remained– we weren’t in the same season.

 

I got to know Jess better over the next couple weeks, but I wouldn’t say we spent a lot of time chatting, really. We were at work, after all, and it was a busy, busy center. Jess’s husband (whom I had actually met before her, if you recall) was named Scott. All I could really say at that point was that they both seemed like decent people. They were also newly married, new to the area, and didn’t yet have children.

 

On a whim, I told my husband I was going to invite them to dinner one Saturday night.

 

They accepted the invitation and I cooked a Mexican feast. In retrospect, cooking Mexican food for a couple of native San Diego folks was perhaps risky, but I didn’t realize that and I guess I didn’t offend them terribly– they wound up staying past two in the morning as we laughed and played a crazy card game called Flux.

 

They invited us to their apartment the next Saturday. And, from then on? Well, we were pretty much an inseparable group. So precious and rare is it to find couple friends where each person truly enjoys all the others. It brought me great joy to see our husbands connect and Jess and I got along smashingly.

 

We spent holidays together. Weekends. Ordered pizza and sat in a heap watching the premier of CSI. We went on home tours together. Saw The Nutcracker. Shared meal after meal after meal.

 

And then, one day, I told them I was expecting.

 

They were the first to buy a gift for our unborn baby. Jess hosted my shower. Scott agreed to share the weird pizza combos I was craving with me. I fell asleep on their couch more times than I can count as pregnancy exhaustion overtook me.

 

And, when A. was born, Jess was the first to visit us in the hospital. She brought Taco Bell for my husband because he hadn’t eaten for so very long and didn’t want to leave me.

 

When our baby boy was only four months old, we tearfully told our friends goodbye. I was devastated to leave them. Honestly, they were what we loved most about Virginia and they had already played a big role in A’s life, too.

 

Scott is tall and A. loved it when he would hold him. It’s like he got a whole new perspective up there. Plus, Scott is one of those naturally calm and fun men that babies and children seem to enjoy. Jess spoiled A. rotten by stocking their apartment with baby things the way a very doting aunt might.

 

Anyway, we moved to Indiana and things quickly spiraled out of control with my near-miscarriage, the loss of my father-in-law, unemployment, and a baby born four months too soon.

 

In short? Years passed.

 

It had been nine years.

 

We had had two more babies.

 

A. was fifty pounds heavier.

 

And three feet taller.

 

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Last week, while on vacation on the Carolina shore, Scott and Jess came to see us. 

 

They came on Wednesday and we wondered what it would be like. Would we still connect? So much time had passed.

 

It was just like it had always been. And you know what? They made the three hour drive again that Saturday.

 

We laughed. And laughed. And laughed some more.

 

Couple friends like that are true treasures, indeed.

 

We’re all determined not to let another nine years go by.

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Menu Plan: Back to reality.

 

 

So, vacation was amazing. Truly. I may or may not be guilty of already perusing the available weeks for next year. *blush* I can’t help it! It was just such a great getaway.

 

 

This week, however, it’s back to reality, and that means I need to follow a fairly regular menu plan. This is easier said than done with my husband still home for another week, though. He doesn’t always understand that our schedule doesn’t change just because he took off. ;)

 

 

 

you gotta eat

Here’s what we’ve been eating and will be eating through the week–

 

 

Sunday: 

B– Cereal, Water, & Juice Boxes in the car– we were already on our way home from North Carolina.

L–Taco Bell (on the road)

D–Should have been Penne Marinara & Green Beans, but we didn’t make it home in time. We had to settle for Burger King at almost 10PM. It was not fun. But, well, it got the job done, I guess.

 

Monday:

B– PB Toast, Mixed Fruit, Milk

D–Penne Marinara & Green Beans (which, for the record, was way better than BK’s spicky chicken sandwich)

 

Tuesday:

B–Eggs, Toast, Apples, Milk

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D–Carnitas over Spanish Rice

 

 

Wednesday: 

B–Cheerios, Blueberries, Milk

D–Cheesy Beans & Rice (date night)

 

Thursday:

B–Egg Wraps, Oranges

D–Large Ham Pizza and Medium Cheese Pizza

 

Friday:

B–Egg Sandwiches on English Muffins, Cherries

D–Cookout (burgers, dogs, beans, corn, pickles, salad, etc.)

 

Saturday:

cinnamonrollbread

B–Cinnamon Roll Bread, Eggs w/ Broccoli

D–Beef Soft Tacos, Salad

 

 

And, that’ll do it! What will you be enjoying this week?

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Cottage Getaway

 

 

From the time I was four-years-old, all the way up through high school, my family would rent a cottage in Newport, RI every summer. 

 

The cottage, unlike Newport, was not glamorous. We had no TV, no phone, no air conditioning. We traipsed sand in all the livelong day. We ate simply and, often, voraciously. There was no pool. No wet bar. No gym access. There was a tiny shower with an even tinier water heater and mismatched dishes that we washed by hand.

 

Those are my very favorite vacation memories.

 

We also spent Easters in Canada and summer weeks in the midwest. We ventured out to Arizona a few times and we explored Europe. Mine was definitely not a travel-deprived childhood. Still, those weeks at the beach cottage were arguably the most relaxing and soul-healing of any other trips we would take.

 

When A. was barely five months old, we packed up our little family from our Indiana home where we had just moved. We drove out to Newport and stayed in the tiny cottage we had rented right next to the one in which my parents were staying. My sister and her family were just a couple cottages down. Again, I relished this sandy getaway and watched in delight as my baby boy slept like a ROCK to the calming lull of crashing waves.

 

The next year they refurbished all the cottages into high-end fancy-pants accomodations and started charging around a grand a night to stay there. Instantly, it was totally out of our reach. Also? It was no longer the kind of vacation that I craved– the simple, soothing, not exactly “roughing it” sort of vacation that allowed me soft sheets and showers, but nothing truly luxurious.

 

It was sad.

 

**********

This past Spring, we realized that we’d be able to take a summer vacation. My husband asked us all questions about what we wanted to do, where we wanted to go, what we were looking for.

My answer was brief: “The Beach.”

I had no other requests. When pressed, I added, “Proximity matters more than accomodations to me.”

We explored coastal homes, hotels, cottages, and condos from Nova Scotia to South Carolina. He researched and researched and researched some more. Me? I scanned the pictures to determine how many steps it would take until my feet sank to the ankles in sand.

We ended up here:

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(The view ten steps beyond our stairs.)

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(Gorgeous crashing waves.)

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(A little sunrise with my cofffee, beach all mine.)

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(The contrast of stormy sky and turquoise sea was spellbinding– and the storm never hit us.)

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(The view from my seat at the kitchen table.)

I’ll share more about the trip and details very soon. But, for now, know this…

I was able to relax. To recharge. To find that complete and often elusive balance of peace and joy. I slept like a baby. I’d stare into the distance and just grin like a fully content puppy, lolling in the sun during a belly scratch. I was simply drunk on delight.

All because I rediscovered the beach cottage getaway. :)

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Menu Plan: The Cottage Vacation Plan

 

 

Well, greetings from the shore! By the time you all read this, we’ll be all settled into our cottage RIGHT on the sand and enjoying a much-anticipated week away from the daily grind. Hooray!

 

When planning this vacation, one thing became abundantly clear: my husband and I had vastly different ideas of what our meals away should look like. He had fully expected that we’d be eating just about all of our meals out. Meanwhile, one of the things I adore about renting a cottage is the ability to prepare quick things here and there right at “home.” Neither one of us could understand the other’s mindset, at first.

 

Once I assured him that, no, I would not feel burdened by preparing meals and, yes, I would absolutely make sure we ate a whole ton of “fun”, atypical things, he relaxed a little bit about my “eat at home” plan. I, in turn, readily agreed to two dinners out because, hey, I’m not crazy– going out is fun from time-to-time!

 

With all that said, here’s the run-down of what our super-fun and ultra easy and laidback vacation meal plan looks like:

 

you gotta eat

 

Breakfasts

Cereal & Fruit (x3)

Egg Sandwiches on English muffins

Bagels w/ PB, Fruit

Breakfast Burritos

Pop-Tarts

Ice Cream, Fruit, & Coffee ON THE BEACH

 

Lunches

Sandwiches

Ramen Noodles

Spaghettios/Soup

Macaroni & Cheese

Pasta & Sauce

Cheese Quesadillas

Pasta Salad

 

Dinners

Tacos

Burgers, Beans, & Corn

Penne Alfredo w/ Crab, Green Beans

Hot Dogs, Pickles, Corn

Burritos

OUT x 2

 

Snacks

Pudding

Nutty Bars

Chips

Pretzels

Fruit

Cookies

Purple Cows (<– vanilla ice cream, grape juice, 7-UP or seltzer)

 

 

And that’ll do it! I did a vast amount of shopping back home at ALDI and made my life oh-so-easy. Is this the way we eat normally? Not so much. But let me tell you– everyone is SO excited about these fun meals and snacks and I deliberately chose things that are totally flexible and easy. Me? I’ll rest a little easier knowing that our budget is in much better shape than it would be with a gazillion meals out. :)

 

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They Need to Help

 

 

I had sent them downstairs to fetch the laundry out of the dryer. I really don’t mind going down there. It’s not like our laundry is in a pit of a basement or anything. It’s a nice enough little room on the lower level of our raised ranch. It even has a window. Mostly, I just needed to give them a job before they decided they were — gasp! — bored.

 

My middle child headed down with enthusiasm, but bailed mid-task to use the bathroom or some such excuse. This did not surprise me overly much.

 

My oldest and youngest made quick work of the chore and headed back up the steps.

 

wpid-wp-1400524963718.jpeg

 

I heard their mumbled debate. Heard their shuffling feet. Made out some complaints and arguments. “I’ve got it.” “I’ll help!” “Watch out… just let…” “I’m right here!”

 

Finally, I heard A’s voice loud and clear, “G! I don’t need help!’

 

And then G’s sigh of sad frustration.

 

I asked what was going on and A. replied, again, “Mom, I don’t need G’s help. I’ve got this.”

 

And the words spilled out of me:

 

“A… sometimes it’s not about your needing help. It’s about the other person needing TO help.”

 

It was one of those parenting moments where the words leave your lips before your brain really even has a chance to review them but, as you process them, you are pleased to realize that your gut response didn’t fail you: the wisdom rings true.

 

Not surprisingly, A. gave it a few minutes to settle in, then asked me for clarification.

 

Honestly, despite the fact that I knew it was totally true, I struggled to explain it at first. Speaking in vague terms about general situations wasn’t really helping clear things up for him.

 

Finally, I likened it to the kids wanting to help me cook.

 

“The thing is, buddy… do I NEED all your help in the kitchen? No. I really don’t. I know how to do it by myself and, truth be told, I can often do it faster and more easily by myself. Having you all help me in the kitchen isn’t as much about me as it is about YOU. When I let you all help me, you gain confidence, learn about teamwork, and build new skillsets.”

 

He thought about that for a minute. Nodded…

 

…and wandered off to do some nine-year-old boy thing.

 

I sat there with my own words fresh in my mind.

 

Sometimes it’s not about your needing help. It’s about the other person needing TO help.

 

How often do I turn them down? How often do I brush them aside, knowing I can tackle the task so much faster on my own? How many times do I opt to shoulder the load independently because, if I’m honest, I consider the “help” I could get to be more inconvenience than assistance.

 

But it’s not about me, is it? Letting them help is critical and I need to do more of it.

 

Let’s call that a summer goal, shall we?

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