“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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Bruised and Scratched




“I have a bruise here, Mrs. S. See? On my leg?”


“Good,” I replied.


And they all just laughed.



They’re used to me, that second grade class. If you put it together, I’ve taught them 15% of their second grade year. That’s a pretty sizable chunk!


Frequently in a hurry and flitting here and there, I’ve been known to be a bit klutzy. Add that to having fair skin and I frequently sport vivid green and purple splotches here and there. Those aren’t really the most productive of marks to bear– they’re more a sign of my impatient nature and determination to accomplish more than is humanly possible.


Bruises and scratches on the arms and legs of children, however… they usually make me grin.


[Obviously, I'm not speaking of serious injury or signs of abuse or neglect-- such things are entirely different and deserve very sober attention and intervention.]


No, I’m referring to the bumps and scrapes that come from having an active childhood.


Bramble snags. Gravel burns. Skinned knees. Bruised elbows and shins.


When I see children bearing the evidence of adventure and exploration, it makes me happy. Bruises and scratches earned from active discovery are nothing to worry or fret over. On the contrary, I view them as badges of accomplishment. I’d much rather see hands scraped raw from climbing a tree than calloused from holding a game controller.


And, so, the children have learned to show off their little scrapes and bruises to me.


“Look, Mrs. S! I got this hiking through some blackberry bushes!”


Because they know that, rather than, “Oh, you poor thing!”, they’ll hear, “Good for you! Tell me what you discovered.”


I’m a big fan of the bruised and scratched childhood.




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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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