How Moms Feel at Back-to-School

Back-to-school is right around the corner!!!

school-shopping

Notebooks– 4 for $1!
Glue Sticks… only 10 cents!
Free backpack with $20 back-to-school purchase!

If we hadn’t already known it, the fliers are quick to remind us– back-to-school is just over the horizon.

End of Summer: How Moms Feel

Back-to-school time brings with it a wide array of emotions. You’ve likely heard a few different examples of this among your social circle. See if any of these sound familiar: . . .

Go check out the rest of my post on the myriad emotions we moms feel at back-to-school time and let me know which camp you’re in!

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Menu Plan: Long, Hot Days

 

 

It’s been awhile since I shared a menu plan with you all!

 

As in many homes, the routine changes a bit over the summertime. Somehow, it feels like we both spend more time at home and spend more time flitting to gatherings. This just means the planning is different. I wind up making larger portions of supper for planned leftover for lunch. I plan to make pasta salads, desserts, and sides ahead of time for cookouts and parties and then I often schlep leftovers home and repurpose them into some other meal. It’s just the rhythm of the days!

 

It’s definitely been warm around here. Actually, it’s been about as hot and miserable as it gets in Connecticut and that looks a little something like this:

 

Connecticut Summer

 

 

If you’re thinking to yourself, “Seriously, JL? THAT’S what you complain about?”, the answer is: yes. This is what hot and steamy looks like in Connecticut, though it’s downright balmy compared to many states. Summer is our time, people. In winter? Life often sucks. But summer in New England is glorious! Let’s just say I’m looking forward to Wednesday… :)

 

In the meantime! Here’s what we’re eating this week…

you gotta eat

 

 

Sunday: 

B–Cereal, Applesauce, Milk (before 7:30AM Mass)

Brunch– Scrambled Eggs, Bagels w/ PB, Fruit

Mid-afternoon Snack– Cheese & Cinnamon Roll Bread

Pepperjack Pasta

D–A new “One Pot Wonder” version of Pepper Jack Pasta!

 

Monday: 

B–Chocolate Chip Muffins, Bananas, Milk

D–Chicken Lombardy

 

Tuesday: 

B–Cereal, Yogurt, Juice

D–Taking BLT Pasta Salad and Pizza to the lake to visit some friends at their campsite! Yay!

 

 

Wednesday: 

B–Egg Sandwiches, Apples, Milk

D–Cheesy Beans & Rice (date night!)

 

 

Thursday:

B–Bagels, Apples, Milk

D–Burgers, Corn, Pickles

 

 

Friday:

B–Cereal, Greek Yogurt, Bananas

D–Pizza – Large Sausage, Medium Mushroom

 

 

Saturday:

B–Migas w/ Guac, Fruit

D–Sweet & Sour Chicken Legs, Mixed Veggies, Rice

 

 

 

And that should do it!  

 

 

 

 

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Only one is the fastest… and that’s okay.

 

 

So, A. got this award certificate at VBS. And the very first thing I thought was, “There is no way– NO WAY– this would ever fly in the public school.”

<thesmartest

 

 

People often refuse to acknowledge varying abilities and heaven forbid you throw a superlative like “smartest” out there– people would gasp! The horror!

 

 

But here’s the thing… the kids in A’s group? Weren’t the least bit bothered. At least not that I could detect. They also weren’t bothered by the “most athletic” or “funniest” awards that were given.

 

 

Do we think children are so ignorant or unaware that they don’t realize they have varying talents? Do we think they truly have such fragile egos that they can’t endure hearing another child called “the best” at something? And, if so, who do we think made them that way?

 

 

The kids aren’t the problem. We need to stop pretending they are. Their egos and esteem remain perfectly intact while giving a peer a pat on the back for excelling at something. If anything, they realize the value in a balanced team with different skills and talents. And they feel proud when they’re rewarded for something they’re actually good at.

 

 

I’ll end my little rant now, and keep this short and sweet. But it’s something I really, truly believe.

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Devotion, Devoutness, & Devastation

 

 

There are hundreds of children in the program, at least a dozen altar servers among them. Still, A. was the first asked to serve. His commitment and responsibility are well-known within the church, so it was natural that they’d ask him. It was also natural that he’d say yes.

 

IMG_20150705_072246

 

There were four servers and, though A. was not the oldest or largest among them, he was clearly placed into the leadership role as the book-bearer and bell ringer. Ringing bells surely doesn’t sound hard, but, with the arrival of two new priests, routines have changed rather dramatically at our church and there are now two additional, and somewhat hidden, times the server is asked to chime the bells. In addition, there is a whole new, complicated candle procession that surrounds the gospel reading. It is beautiful, but it’s new and complex and, well, it confuses a lot of people.

 

As the pastoral team prepared for the gospel, I watched A. up behind the altar, trying subtly to get the attention of two servers beside him. He tried a side-eye. A nudge. Finally a leaning whisper.

 

At that point, they realized they had completely missed the cue for getting the candles and they laughingly went and grabbed them from their stands and just met the deacon at the podium.

 

A. surveyed the scene, gave a tiny nod, clearly determining that, well, at least they were where they needed to be now.

 

He is ever-vigilant, my boy, and so determined to do what is right. When he served at a Confirmation Mass back in May, the bishop tracked me down to tell me that he’d never met such a devout ten-year-old and that the Holy Spirit was clearly on fire in my son’s heart.

 

It was chaos, though. With hundreds of little ones, many of whom aren’t all that accustomed to Mass, there was major noise. People didn’t know the routine and things were a bit haphazard.

 

Despite his prayerful focus, A. totally missed the first ringing of the bells.

 

My gaze flew to him, mainly because it surprised me, and his blue eyes grew wide.

 

Then filled with tears.

 

He got through the consecration, ringing the bells appropriately and bowing his head with each blessing.

 

But I could see, even from my row so far back in the church, the crystalline drops fall to splash on the kneeler.

 

I desperately tried to catch his eye again, to give him a thumbs up, to smile encouragingly, to mouth, “It’s okay!”

 

But, while the servers beside him, who had completely forgotten to even DO their job, carried on, grinning and non-chalant, A. was crushed.

 

And this, this is the downside of raising a child who is both incredibly devout and perfectionistic… he feels the weight and sting of that miss so very strongly. He can’t let it go. He can’t accept that no one else noticed or cared or judged him for it.

 

To him, that’s not the point.

 

“Mom, when I step up to serve, I want to do it for the glory of God. I want to give Him my all. It’s not like dropping a fork at supper. I’m serving before the Lord. And I messed up.”

 

It breaks my heart.

 

And so I pray that he may hear the truth. That he might hear his Father whisper that it’s not about getting man-made routines perfect– it’s about the heart with which he does it.

 

God hears the devotion ring in his heart, even when the bells stay silent.

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I’ve got that rage, rage, rage, rage down in my heart…

 

 

 

Summer Spirit is in session. That’s pretty much just “VBS”, but at our Catholic Church. The program has been in place for 35 years and it’s always been called Summer Spirit.

 

IMG_20150708_082735

 

There are about a gazillion things I love about it. It’s fun, affordable, full of enthusiastic teens, and just two minutes from my house. The activities themselves are wonderful and have stood the test of time.

 

Most importantly, my kids all love it. So that’s great.

 

So well-done and affordable is our program that people send their children in droves. At least half of our campers are not Catholic, but their parents are drawn to the rock bottom prices and good reputation. Summer Spirit is known for encouraging joy and gratitude without being overtly connected to Catholic doctrine.

 

There are also a ton of kids who attend regular Faith Formation (church school) classes, but whose families never really go to church, who come to Summer Spirit.

 

Now listen.

 

In theory, this is awesome. The idealist in me loves to think that it’s just spectacular to have SO many children take part in it. It doesn’t matter what their family background– we’re just so happy to have them! It shouldn’t matter if they regularly attend the church or are familiar with the lay-out or any of that… right?

 

And that’s true. It really is. I am THRILLED the kids are there.

 

Buuutttttt…

 

I pull into the parking lot and immediately have to slam on the brakes. The woman in the car in front of me throws on her right blinker and I realize she must be planning to back into the one open parallel parking spot right next to the church.

 

Fine.

 

I stop.

 

Wait.

 

Wait some more.

 

At this point, I know full-well that I am holding up traffic behind me and that the road is now blocked because only about two cars could even fit in the lot behind this woman whose plans were starting to elude me.

 

She didn’t make any move to back in, so I pulled forward, feeling just awful for the people stuck behind me.

 

Then she backed up.

 

Fortunately, she DID see me and stopped before crunching my fender, but she obviously couldn’t get into the spot anymore. I couldn’t back up. Traffic, as it was, was crunched in behind me and getting more impatient with every passing second.

 

She threw her hands in the air in obvious annoyance and gunned it forward in the lot, narrowly missing a teen counselor who was trying to cross.

 

I proceeded to drive into the parking lot, to the rear spots, not 30 feet from the front door, where I park every single Sunday. There were no fewer than 45 spots available there.

 

I took a deep breath and dropped my kids off.

 

Returning home, I stormed in the house (kid-free), red hair flying.

 

I told my husband the whole story, eyes flashing, hands gesturing, finally ending with a breathless,

 

“Seriously, what is WRONG with people???”

 

He looked at me, laughter in his eyes, and I narrowed mine back at him.

 

“What?” I demanded.

 

“Nothing. There’s just nothing to quench your usual faith in people like a trip to the church parking lot during VBS.”

 

I threw a towel at him.

 

But he’s not wrong.

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Just… be you.

 

 

just...

 

Last week, my Facebook feed BLEW UP with people sharing some article about how we should– scratch that– we NEED to eliminate the word “just” from our emails and writing.

 

Another post flittered my way that lamented the overuse (and misuse) of ellipses.

 

These pieces are really nothing new. It seems there’s constantly someone out there telling us what we’re doing or saying wrong. Not long ago, I learned that a paragraph that contains more than three sentences is too long by today’s standards. Really?

 

The word “that” is something at which we should sneer. Modifiers and “soft” punctuation are merely superfluous and signs of a weak writer.

 

Over and over and OVER again, I saw comments on Facebook reading “guilty.” Person after person shamefully revealed that, yes, she used the word “just” in her writing.

 

And I just sat there thinking to myself… “and, so?”

 

I don’t know… maybe I’m just crazy. (<– Do you see what I did there?) I just don’t think that people need to feel like they must cater their writing to fit one specific audience.

 

It doesn’t matter how many times I read suggestions and assertions to, “Stop with the soft language! Be direct!” The reality is this– when *I* read emails lacking softness and gentle transitions? My back goes up.

 

Here’s a real life example for you–

 

Our middle child takes horseback riding lessons. From time to time, I receive an email from their, I don’t know, marketing coordinator or what-not. And here’s what I will tell you with no hesitation: every time– EVERY TIME– I get one of these emails? I get annoyed. I read it to my husband and ask, “can you BELIEVE her abrasive tone? There’s a much nicer way to say that!!!”

 

And, because he has a different personality type from mine, he just shrugs and says, “It doesn’t bother me. It’s brief and to-the-point.”

 

He’s right. It IS brief and to-the-point. And perhaps that’s super appealing for some people. I get that.

 

But here’s the flip-side–

 

It is NOT super appealing to all people. Some of us like the sweetly delivered, “Just wondering if you might be able to join us, say, Monday? Or even Tuesday… just let me know!” over the straight up, “Let me know if you can join us on Monday or Tuesday.”

 

There’s nothing wrong with the second. I’m not claiming there is.

 

But you know what?

 

There’s also nothing wrong with the first.

 

Be you.

 

That’s really what I want to say.

 

Just be you and know that there really are some of us out here who enjoy your words… just the way they are.

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How We Eat on Vacation

 

 

So, we got back from vacation just a couple days ago. It’s hard coming back to reality. I just thrive in that salty air!

 

For me, the most important part of a vacation is that it’s RELAXING. I am not much of a run-around jet-setter who needs to visit a thousand landmarks. I also don’t need to dine out for every meal. Honestly? I don’t want to have to do a whole lot of planning on a vacation. I just want to be able to breathe deep and enjoy a beautiful environment.

 

beach morning

 

I would say that I toe the line between wanting a vacation to feel a little special and indulgent but also wanting to adhere to the budget. I am most certainly not one who avoids restaurants at all costs. I am also not one who feels comfortable going out and buying whatever we want just because “it’s a special occasion.”

 

So, with all that said, I’d like to share what the plan looked like for our most recent trip:

 

[Note: Any time I post things like this, I receive comments about how I could have done better-- why some of our choices aren't the healthiest and, in a nutshell, why I suck. I'd love to tell you these didn't bother me. The reality, however, is that I get very hurt. Please know, upfront, that I am well aware that this is in NO way a "real food" plan. This is not how we eat all the time, nor is it a diet that would meet everyone's needs. If it makes you cringe? I apologize for that, but please feel free to move on without telling me what a horrible, pathetic excuse of a mother I am... 'k? Now, for the rest of you... :) ]

 

Sunday: TRAVEL DAY– We spent this whole day in the car, from 5:30AM until 6:00PM, so I wanted to keep things simple. Here’s how we handled it.

B– Cookie Crisp cereal (in individual ziploc bags), clementines, sliced cheese (co-jack, swiss, cheddar, and pepperjack), coffee (grown-ups) & juice (kids) **I bought a case of Welch’s juice in 8 oz. resealable bottles. It cost more than Capri Sun 100% juice would have, but was SO much handier on the road.

L– It was Father’s Day and I told my husband he could pick whatever he wanted “on the road” for lunch. We wound up grabbing KFC and it was a lousy meal. Really none of us enjoyed it and it was kind of pricey (around $25 to feed our family of 5.)

D– Carnitas and Spanish Rice burritos. I had made these ahead and frozen them, then transported them in a small cooler. They were still super cold upon our arrival and I just warmed them up.

 

Monday through Saturday– Six days on the beach. The name of the game here was to come up with extremely simple, well-liked meals. Lunches were, for the most part, packable and portable. Many ingredients were purchased at ALDI before we even went on vacation, making my destination shopping list very short and sweet– fruit, milk, butter, eggs, bacon, hot dogs, lunch meat, ground beef, ice cream, and cheese.

 

Breakfasts:

cereal, fruit, milk

granola bars, cheese, juice

bacon, egg, & cheese bagel sandwiches

bacon breakfast burritos

pop-tarts, fruit, milk

ice cream & fruit on the beach

 

Lunches:

cheese quesadillas, fruit

sandwiches, fruit, pretzels

sandwiches, fruit, corn chips

sandwiches, fruit, penguin crackers

hot dogs, carrot sticks, pickles

carne asada burritos with all the fixins (leftover)

 

crawdads

 

Dinners:

burgers, pickles, chips

carne asada burritos (our friends brought this to us– SO good)

OUT x 2 (One meal was AWESOME. One was meh. If I could do it again, I would have just gone to that first restaurant a second time– it was fantastic!)

beef tacos, corn, spanish rice

crackers, cheese, meat, fruit– easy light stuff

 

Sunday– THE TRIP HOME– Again, it was important to me to keep it simple.

B– bags of cereal, clementines, cheese, juice, coffee

L– McDonald’s. Healthy? No. Way better than that KFC we’d had, though. At least everyone ate well and we came out over $10 cheaper. So that’s something, right?

D– Home!

 

So there you have it.

 

On vacation, we eat a lot of things that are atypical for us– pop-tarts, McDonald’s, ice cream for breakfast, etc.

 

We also go out to dinner more often than usual.

 

Overall, though, we keep it really simple and fun and try to make mealtime so easy that it’s not something we even need to think much about.

 

And that’s how we do meals on vacation.

 

How about you? Do you pack stuff? Eat out? Cook in a hotel room? Look for a place with a full kitchen? I’d love to hear about what makes vacation most relaxing for YOU!

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Not Giving, Just Stretching

 

 

Come July, I will have been blogging for seven years.

 

IMG_20140625_065301

 

While there are certainly many bloggers who’ve been in the game for longer than I, that still makes me something of a dinosaur in the blogosphere. I can never remember the numbers, but I know that the percentage of blogs that fade out within the first year is HUGE.

 

That makes sense, to be honest. The beginning is rough– it’s kind of like standing there, talking to an empty room, just praying that people will eventually show up and want to hear what you have to say.

 

Anyway, through luck and grit and some fabulous forged friendships, I stuck it out and here I am, still standing. Still writing.

 

And then, this past fall, I made a huge life change– I decided to go back to work outside the home, part-time.

 

The initial plan was to substitute teach a couple days a week, maybe.

 

The reality was that I wound up working an average of four full days per school week, with a fair number of full weeks thrown in there.

 

I’ve discovered that I both really love it and am actually rather good at it. I don’t have any trouble getting work and I truly LOVE being in the classroom. I enjoy being with the kids and I am THRILLED to have all that adult conversation peppered throughout my day.

 

But… guess what happened?

 

I didn’t write so much.

 

The blog stayed quiet for longer stretches.

 

In the end– I started to feel that old adage… Something Has to Give.

 

I’m not going to give up working in the school. Frankly, I just love it too much now.

 

But… you know what?

 

I love writing, too.

 

I love this community. I love those of you who hang with me on Facebook. I love those of you who share your worlds with me on Instagram. I love seeing your emails and messages and comments and being able to interact in so many ways.

 

Soooo…

 

I’m not giving up the blog, either.

 

But I do need to stretch. You’ve already seen a bit of what that looks like– more time between posts. Longer breathers. Less play-by-play, perhaps.

 

But I’m hangin’ around. Who knows? Maybe the summer will see a resurgence in writing! (We’re still in school right now.)

 

Either way, thanks for sticking with me. It would make me all kinds of sad to not have you all in my life.

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Remarking on the Good

“No, we do NOT swing our bags around like that.”

“Aren’t you READY yet? C’mon!”

“Why haven’t you finished that?”

“Would you just EAT your food already?”

“I told you to turn that video game OFF!”

“What do you say?”

 

The list of behaviors requiring guidance and correction can be huge, can it not? It can be exhausting to constantly remind our children of what sort of behavior is required and expected of them.

 

Frankly? Sometimes, I get tired of saying it. Lord knows, I get weary of the words “no”, “not”, and “stop.”

 

More to the point, I honestly believe that our indignant cries and pleas to cease frequently fall on deaf ears. Many times, children hear our angry responses to their behavior and basically decide they’re already “bad” and, well, so be it.

 

Catch them doing something good

 

So, while I’m sure it doesn’t work for every single child and every single situation, I’d like to share with you my very best tip for seeing improved behavior:

 

Remark on the ones doing the right thing.

 

What does that sound like? Well, something like this…

 

“I just love the way Ginny has all her things together and is ready to go. Nice job, Ginny.”

“Jonathan looks ready for soccer. He’s off to a great start.”

“You know? It makes me so happy, Sue, how you got right up and got yourself dressed and ready to go for the day. Thank you.”

“Oh! Thank you for those good manners, Jack. I appreciate that.”

“I love how you’re making good choices today, Olivia. Good job.”

 

I know. Some of you are rolling your eyes. I mean… seriously? These should all be expected behaviors, not things worthy of praise… right? I mean, there’s certainly nothing EXCEPTIONAL about getting ready for the day.

 

But bear with me.

 

Most children truly do want to please. Most want your approval.

 

Some of those little ones making poor choices? Just need reminders and concrete examples of what better choices look like. When they hear you praise another child for doing the right thing? They both know what the right thing looks like and that you truly appreciate it. Those are simple, but important, concepts.

 

Try it.

 

Catch someone doing good and see if others don’t try to get your (good) attention, too.

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Menu Plan: Let there be light!

 

 

It is no secret at all around here that I LOVE the light. I’m perfectly content to have endless hours of sunshine. Meanwhile, the long, dark days of winter make me want to curl into a ball. These days? The sun shines high in the sky late into the day and that is JUST the way I like it.

 

This time of year is also notoriously wildly busy and this year is certainly no exception. Still, with a bit of planning and prep, we’re managing to eat supper together most nights and we’re still eating well.

 

Here’s what’s been happening on that front:

you gotta eat

 

 

Sunday: 

B–Cereal, Grapes, Milk ( before 7:30AM Mass… with our new pastor!)

Brunch– Migas, English Muffins, Melon (I made these migas with nacho chips and they were FUN!)

Mid-afternoon Snack– Cheese & Chocolate (just keeping it real)

D–Sunday Supper at Bama & Papa’s (Chicken and Broccoli Alfredo plus sides)

 

Monday: 

B–English Muffin Sandwiches, Apples, Milk

D–Taco Beef & Rice Casserole

 

Tuesday: 

B–Cereal, Yogurt, Juice

 

D–Cajun Turkey Burgers, Pasta Salad

 

 

Wednesday: 

B–Popcorn, Apples, Milk (Fun mid-week surprise!)

D–Cheesy Beans & Rice (date night!)

 

 

Thursday:

B–Bagels, Apples, Milk

D–Chicken & Spanish Rice Burritos

 

 

Friday:

B–Cereal, Greek Yogurt, Bananas

D–Pizza – Large Ham, Medium Mushroom

 

 

Saturday:

B–Cinnamon Sugar Oven Pancake, Eggs, Fruit

D–Hot & Sour Peanut Noodles w/ Shrimp & Broccoli

 

 

 

And that should do it!  

 

 

 

 

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