The Chew Doesn’t Taste Very Good

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To watch or not to watch?  I struggled with this one.  When ABC cancelled “my” soap – All My Children – I thought I’d never watch anything they replaced it with.  Ironic, really, since my schedule had made watching anything in that time slot impossible a long time ago.  But still – nostalgic loyalty made me want to not like The Chew, so I wasn’t going to watch.

As irony would have it, however, I had nothing at all to do today at 1 PM except sit waiting to get an x-ray done in an office that had The Chew on the television.  So I watched. 

Blech.  If this had been real food put in my mouth to chew, I would have spit it out.  It’s just not good.

First of all, the show bills Mario Batali as one of the hosts of the show.  Mario couldn’t even be bothered to show up for the premiere episode – that might be an indication of how seriously Mario is taking this show.  If I was going to tune in, I’d would have wanted to see Mario.  Good thing I’m not tuning in.

Then, can you say obnoxious?  Good, because Daphne Oz (daughter of Dr. Oz) could not have been (did I mention she’s Dr. Oz’s daughter?) any more obnoxious (did you know she’s Dr. Oz’s daughter?) about being Dr. Oz’s daughter (I may have forgotten to tell you she’s Dr. Oz’s daughter).  If she wasn’t Dr. Oz’s daughter (have you heard of Dr. Oz?  She’s his daughter), she may not have had anything else to talk about (thank goodness Dr. Oz showed up today, or we might not have known he was her father!). 

I love Michael Symon and I adore Carla Hall, but I think they competed too much with each other for the down home, good old boy/girl spot on the panel.  They both oozed homespun goodness.  And the spot Michael Symon did – a five minute meal?  C’mon Michael – let’s be honest.  Pretty much everything was ready to go – peeling, chopping, slicing and dicing – all done.  Hell, I can cook a meal in 5 minutes when Swanson’s does all the prep work for me!

The rest of the show – meh (and I don’t mean meh as in Mehmet Oz – who, by the way, is the father to Daphne Oz on The Chew!).  It seemed a little forced, maybe a bit rushed.  I don’t think I’d tune in again – not even if Mario can drag himself off of the golf course to show up.  If I find myself with an hour to kill around this time of the day, I’ll probably grab a sandwich and watch The View.

Halloween Treats That Won’t Make the Kids Play Tricks On You

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It’s an excuse for our children to eat all the stuff we warn them not to eat 11 months out of the year.  In my house, I’m usually tossing out the Halloween loot at Christmas, when all the Christmas loot comes into the house.  No one needs this much candy!

When I was a kid, we had a couple of houses that used to toss pennies in our trick or treat bags.  We hated those houses.  I mean, as kids, you don’t realize that if every house you went to tossed a few pennies in your bag, you could buy yourself a record (round, black vinyl, made musical sounds, predated CDs and MP3s) or a pair of sneakers (without a basketball player’s name etched into them).  We just knew that it wasn’t candy, and because it was usually only a couple of house that threw us the change, we couldn’t even get a decent comic book.

But now, the options are virtually endless if you want to give kids something a little less cavity inducing.  And the things you’ll find won’t break the bank – even if you are the most popular house on the block!

1 – Fast Food gift certificates – I hear you already – a groan just went up, and half of you said something nasty about me under your breath.  Is she crazy?  Let’s worry about our kids’ weight and teeth and not give them candy.  Let’s give them fat and calories instead!  I’m not crazy.  Alright, I am crazy, but hear me out on this one.  The gift certificates (which you can get 10 for $1 from places like Wendy’s) are good for a kid sized Frosty or a small pack of french fries, depending where you go.  There’s nothing wrong with a small treat now and again, and the fact that your kids will have their own “money” to pay for it with their gift certificates will make them feel important.  It’s much better to splurge on a small bag of fries as an afternoon snack than to gorge on choclates and sugar for a month after Halloween.

2 – Mini PlayDoh – My kids love PlayDoh, and the youngest at age 6 can easily get an hour out of a single color in one sitting.  You’ll find mini PlayDoh packs at party stores, warehouse club stores, and even at places like Target.  No fat, no calories, tons of fun.

3 – Snack size bags of, well, Snacks – Practically every store you go into that has a Halloween display will have some sort of non-candy snack alternative.  You’ll find small packages of gold fish crackers, pretzels, fruit rolls, popcorn, and granola bars.  I love to get these treats as much as the kids do, because I throw them into lunch boxes in the days after Halloween – like an extension of the day itself!  I also don’t mind having this kind of treat left over at the end of Halloween night.  These are healthier options that kids love and eat every day anyway – just in fun shapes or cool Halloween packages!

4 – Halloween goodie bags – Who doesn’t love a goodie bag?  Yeah, I know, the moms who have to clean up the little toys and wrappers from the goodie bag – but we’re talking kids here!  You’ll find loads of tiny treats at the dollar stores or at Target that you can put into a treat bag for just a few cents.  There are pencils, Halloween shaped erasers, spider rings, temporary tattoos, stickers, vampire teeth and eye ball super balls.  You might even find small Halloween themed note pads, post-its, and the popular vampire teeth.  Toss them all into cellophane bags, and you’ll have an awesome treat!

5 – Bubbles!  Gotta love bubbles.  Have you been to weddings, where in an effort to save the planet the bride and groom give little bottles of bubbles to blow instead of throwing rice?  Well, you can find those little bottles of bubbles in Halloween colors!  Sure to be the hit of the treat bag, these are usually sold in cartons of about 24 pieces.

6 – Sugar Free Gum – This is about as close to actual candy as you can get without treating with actual candy.  There are plenty of options for sugar free bubble gum, which is a sweet treat without the sugar and calories.

Think twice before you give treats that might cause allergies – like those with peanuts in them; and if you are going to do the tiny treats, have something on hand that you can give to your younger trick or treaters.  Some of the small things can be a choking hazard.

All of this is stuff that your own kids will use if you have left overs, and you won’t really mind if they do.  I’m confident that if your kids bring home a bag of this kind of Halloween treat, you won’t have anything left to throw away at Christmas!

It costs an awful lot of money to ALMOST die!

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The picture below is not for the faint of heart.  If you are prone to heart palpitations, seizures or fainting spells, and have not taken your medication today, I warn you not to go any further.  If you are easily frightened at the movie theater, you may not want to read any more.  Go ahead, avert your eyes.  I warn you, this isn’t pretty.

This is my hospital bill from my recent experience with almost dying.  It leaves me wondering how many people they actually knock off when they see this kind of bill coming at them.  It certainly must not do much for repeat hospital business, but the undertakers must love it!

So, nearly $100,000 later, I’m still here, thank God, but now is the perfect time to rant on health insurance.  Because if this had happened just a few days later, I might not have had health insurance, and I’d be looking at selling these kidneys that failed me on the black market to pay for medical treatment.

Not that long ago, I probably would not have even looked at this bill.  When Jim was with Microsoft, we had what I will call The World’s Best Health Insurance Coverage EVER.  In 14 years, we’ve had no copays, no deductibles, no costs for prescriptions, reimbursement for eye glasses, no referrals – nada.  It’s been healthcare bliss.

When Jim went out on disability, we had our COBRA premiums covered for a while.  But now those premiums are all ours.  And they’re scary.

That World’s Best Health Insurance Coverage EVER now costs us just shy of $2000 a month.

Oh my, I should have put a warning there, too, huh?  Are you up off of the floor yet?  Dusted yourself off, rubbed the “are you freaking kidding me” out of your eyes?

That’s right – monthly health insurance for my family is almost $2000 a month.  And it’s great, awesome, amazing coverage.

But because we can’t afford to continue to pay $2000 a month, plus afford those luxuries we’ve become accustom to like eating, clothing, and a place to live, we’re going to be dropping the World’s Best Health Insurance Coverage EVER and replacing it with something way less adequate.

For that reason, we’ve been looking at how much health care has been costing us.  For the girls, knock on wood, it’s minimal.  Other than well visits, the girls have rarely been to see the pediatrician.  For Jim, most of the bills are eye related, and we’ve been very fortunate that the VA Hospital will become his primary medical care at no cost to us.  But for me, the past year has been my unhealthiest.  I’ve been in the hospital four times – and of those four times, once was a week for a really serious infection, and another was my recent stay in ICU with that nearly dying thing.  And for that, we’ve been really lucky to have the World’s Best Health Insurance Coverage EVER.

But now we won’t.  And while our monthly health insurance bill is still looking like it might be in the range of almost $800, the coverage is going to be dramatically less.  I’d be looking at this $100,000 bill, and know that about 20% of it would be our responsibility.  And then there would have been a copayment for the emergency room.  And then there would have been a maximum put on the radiology services, so I’d owe some more there.  And then I’d have to pay my deductible for the year.

And then I’d be so grateful to have these kidneys returned to good health, so I could sell them on the black market and pay the hospital bills to get them healthy.

I won’t tell you there’s something wrong with the healthcare system in the United States.  You already know that.  But in case you see me selling pencils on the street corners, you’ll know I’m not trying to pay for another trip to Walt Disney World.  I probably just need an aspirin.

 

 

The Best Things I’ve Ever Eaten

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Food is one of my favorite things.  Turns out, I can’t live without it.  But as much as I love food, there will always be some foods that stand out as some of the best things I’ve ever had to eat. 

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to some of my favorites:

Cafe Tu Tu Tango, Orlando

Pears on Pecan Crisps – My mouth waters when I think about eating this. 

My favorite part of Cafe Tu Tu Tango is that it’s a funky tapas style restaurant, where you order a bunch of stuff and everyone shares.  My least favorite part of Cafe Tu Tu Tango is that my family expects me to share this dish.

Imagine oven roasted pears, done to a juicy perfection, just long enough to bring out the incredible sweetness.  Place the pears on top of a crisp, wafer thin type of cracker made from pecans, add a fresh arugula and bleu cheese salad, then drizzle the whole thing with a balsamic glaze.  I know – you’re drooling now too, right? 

There are so many flavors in the dish, that you wonder how it’s all going to come together, but the harmony of sweet, tangy, crispy and creamy is music in your mouth. 

Elements Cafe, Haddon Heights, NJ

Cinnamon Ice Cream – You know that phrase “To Die For”?  It was invented after tasting this ice cream!

Chef Fred at Elements Cafe is a tapas genius.  We’ve eaten at Elements five or six times, and every meal is more memorable than the last.  The fact that this is another tapas style restaurant would have you believe that with the appetizer sized portions that I’m sharing with my family, there would be plenty of room for dessert, but there almost never is.  But whatever else you eat, leave room for the cinnamon ice cream.

The ice cream conjures up memories of fall, and family, and home.  Sweet, with the spice of the cinnamon, cold and creamy – it’s like a grown up version of your favorite treat from childhood.  The ice cream is usually paired with some other spectacular dessert, but this stands alone.  I wish I had some right now.

Bruno’s Restaurant and Pizza, Haddonfield, NJ

Roasted Red Pepper Gnocchi with Seafood

There should be a picture of this dish here, but every time we’ve gotten it, it’s been gone before I remember that I don’t have a picture of this work of art!

Bruno’s was our favorite local pizza shop for years before we ventured in to sit down for dinner.  We’ve always listened intently to the list of specials, and each time we’ve gone, we order from the specials list.

That’s where we first met roasted red pepper gnocchi.  I have to tell you, Jim has never been a fan of gnocchi, and now we know why.  What we were used to were heavy, gummy, and flavorless lumps of pasta.  What you’ll find at Bruno’s are flavorful, delicious, and topped with the freshest shrimp and the meatiest pieces of crabmeat.  I could never eat the entire dinner by myself, but even with Jim and I sharing, we always have some left over for lunch the next day – how could this not be a favorite? 

Adding to the whole experience, you’ll often see the man himself, shaking hands as patrons walk into his restaurant, and the waitstaff are friendly and fun, and they make you feel like you’re part of the family.  What could be better than having one of your favorite meals in one of your favorite family restaurants?

Let me know what some of your food favorites are.  I have a whole list – and I’m sure I’ll be sharing again soon!

Wedding Bliss – Keeping the Planning Stress Free

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The boyfriend has popped the question, and you’ve have said yes.  But a few weeks in, you’re wondering if you said yes to a lifetime with the man of your dreams or a lifetime of stomach ulcers, headaches, and wedding nightmares.

My sister is currently planning her wedding, which is just under a year away; my friends Amy and Anthony are planning a multi-part wedding; and my friend Sandi got engaged this past week, and has decided to get married in two months!!  But it doesn’t matter how much time you have or how many places you need to be – there’s always so little time and so much to do!  So let’s make this easier….

1 – Ask, and ye shall receive.

Everyone loves planning weddings!  Learn to delegate some responsibility to other people.  You don’t have to be in charge of everything.  So what if your Mother-in-Law makes a typo in your wedding program, and instead of spelling your name correctly, she accidentally spells it using all the same letters of your husband-to-be’s ex-girlfriend?  You’ll laugh about it later!  Let your grandmother assemble the gift bags for the out of towners – they might all end up with a hand crocheted tea-cozy!  But honestly, the more you can give to other people to do, the fewer headaches you’ll have.

2 – Tackle one task at a time.

Caterers, Flowers, and Limos – OH MY!  I like to cross one thing off the list at a time.  Catering – check.  Photography – check.  Flowers – check.  Try to cram in too many appointments for too many different things, and you may end up telling the caterer you’re allergic to “Flower” instead of peanuts, and you’ll tell the photographer you need pictures taken at Sunset Valley Catering Hall instead of Valley Sunset Catering Hall.  Make a list, try to keep appointments for the same type of vendor on the same day, and bring your cell phone!  Most phones allow you to make notes so you remember what you like or don’t like about each vendor, and you can snap pictures to help jog your memory later!

3 – Date night?  What’s a date night?

Remember him?  He’s the guy in the car next to you on the way to all those appointments.  He’s the one sitting quietly while you complain about the dress shop fittings, petit four frosting, dyeable shoes, and a particular shade of pink that doesn’t quite match the flowers you’ve chosen.  He hasn’t once moaned about his favorite ball player being traded, the price increase in his favorite beer, or the lack of sex he’s had since you’ve been in wedding planning mode.  Do the dude that you love a solid – take him out on a date.  It’s so hard to be romantic with all this love and marriage stuff swirling around – seriously, it is.  You’re stressed, he’s silent, and neither of you are doing the stuff that got you here in the first place.  Stop the wedding stuff for an evening, enjoy a nice dinner out, catch a movie, and just snuggle!  You might remember why you’re marrying him in the first place!

4 – Respect My Authori-tay!

You’re not on this earth alone – although planning a wedding can cause some brides to retreat into a bubble clouded with tulle and rose petals.  You probably have a boss to answer to, a priest or minister demanding time and attention, and possibly children or parents who want a piece of you, too.  The LAST thing you need on top of the stress of a wedding is stress from the other people you have to answer to.  Don’t let your boss catch you writing invitations while you’re on the clock, and if your minister says you need to come in for pre-marital counseling, don’t blow him off until the week before the wedding and find out he cancelled your whole day because you didn’t call him back.  Make time for the other things that are just as important as the wedding planning to avoid a whole other set of headaches you don’t need.

5 – Bridal Bath Time

Never underestimate the healing powers of a long, hot bath.  Fill the tub with some scented bubble bath, grab a cup of tea or a glass of wine, pull your hair up, and relax.  Get that hubby in practice and ask him if he’ll come rub lotion on your feet when you’re done, and turn in early.  Brides can be prone to getting sick, because you’re running around like a mad woman!  Hot bath, Sleep Time tea, and an early bedtime now and again will keep you healthy and feeling well.

You’ll get through this – we all do!  Know that your day will be happy because you’re marrying the guy of your dreams, not because you’ve chosen the perfect centerpieces for the tables.  Enjoy the moment, because it goes by so quickly – unless, of course, your wedding ends up on Funniest Home Videos – and even that’s not such a bad thing!

Yeah, That’s the Ticket – the Lunch Ticket

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A long time ago, in a land far, far away, a kindergarten teacher told me that it makes no sense to have children younger than about third grade buy their lunches at school.  Lunch time is but a fleeting moment, a mere glimmer in the middle of the school day.  Because younger children tend to eat more slowly, by the time they get in line, purchase a lunch, and find their tables, they barely have a moment to eat before the period is over.

It was with that somewhat cautionary tale in my mind that I made the decision to pack lunches for my kids.  All of them.  Even Brighid, through high school, preferred taking a packed lunch than buying lunch at school.

So yesterday, I was a bit surprised to hear that Granuaile had tacos for lunch.  Tacos?  I distinctly remember the child requesting peanut butter and jelly, and I vaguely recall myself honoring that request by making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  I also packed fruit, cold water, some panda cookies, and a bag of Sun Chips.  But no, I definitely don’t remember packing tacos.

So how did the child get tacos for lunch?

Why, because the teacher gave her a ticket.  A ticket?  Yes.  It’s a ticket.  The teacher gives it to you for free, and then you take it to the cafeteria, and the lunch lady gives you tacos.  For free.

Do I need to be more diligent in reading the information the school sent home regarding the lunch program?  Free, you say?  I’m certain I read “$2.75 a day”.  What is this “free” ticket the child obtained?

The young one continues.

“Yeah, so, I ate tacos.”

And I say to the small scam artist, “And what is the stain on your shirt?”

“Oh, that’s chocolate milk.”

“But I didn’t pack you chocolate milk.”

“No, but when I got my tacos, they had them in the line, so I took one.  Oh, and they had French toast sticks, so I took one of them, too.”

Hmmm.  And what about the full lunch box?

“Oh, when I went up to get my free lunch ticket, the teacher asked me what was in my lunch box.  I told her you don’t pack me any lunch.  So she gave me a free ticket.  And I had tacos.  And chocolate milk.  And French toast sticks.  One.”

So, yeah, I do look like the crappy mom who on the second day of first grade opts to starve her child to within inches of death?  Or do I send a note into the teacher to ask her to be more diligent in checking Granuaile’s lunch box so that I look like the mother of a budding con artist?

Oh the choices we must make…

What I Want My Kids to Know about 9/11

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You know exactly where you were.  It is our generation’s day that will live in infamy.

I sat on my sofa, watching Good Morning America, folding socks.  I save sorting socks for those days when I can find NOTHING else to do.  My seven month old Eilis was in her gym-thingy.  Brighid was in school.  Jim was at work, just across the water from New York City.  Granuaile was nothing more than wishful thinking.

I called Jim immediately when the first plane hit.  He was a small plane pilot, and I thought not only would he be intrigued, but I thought he’d explain to me how a plane could be that wrong in it’s directions.  Minutes later, we knew what we know now.

But two of my children do not.

I left Brighid in school that day, although other moms were running to pick their kids up.  I wanted her day to be normal, because honestly, I feared it would never be normal again.  Visions of war torn countries played in my head, where children play among the rubble of bombed out buildings.  I wanted her to have one more normal day.

It’s 10 years later.   We’ve all grown into a new normal and learned how to live life with terror threats over our heads, but really, we’ve remained – at least on US soil – relatively unscathed.  We learned about the rainbow system used for alerting us of the potential of a terror attack; we know to wear socks when we go to the airport; and most of us recognize the importance of scrutinizing our carry on bags.

But what do we tell the children who don’t remember? 

They’re going to see it on the news and in magazines.  They’ll probably hear something in school or in the community.  So I want my girls to know something.  This is what I want them to know:

Not everyone learned what they should have learned in kindergarten – that we should all be nice to each other and try to get along.  Some people never learn.

We are as safe as we can possibly be, thanks to thousands of soldiers and sailors who protect us, even when we’re sleeping; even when we’re at school; even when we’re at Dram’s; and even when we’re at the playground. 

Be grateful – always – for the sacrifice these men and women make for us.  Be grateful – always – for the sacrifice their families make so that they can protect us. 

Know that sometimes, these soldiers and sailors don’t get to go home to their little girls and little boys.  They get a new job – guardian angel.  Remember in your prayers their little boys and girls.

You want heroes?  You won’t find them on the football field, the basketball court, in concert, or on television.  You’ll find them right in our neighborhood, protecting us and keeping us safe.  We call them policemen and fire fighters.

Most of all, I want them to know that 2,998 angels were born on September 11, 2001 – including Nanny’s cousin Andrew – and as a result, we became a better country.  We were proud, we stood strong in the face of danger, we linked arms and promised each other we would never forget.

Let’s hope we never do.

Getting Back To School Over a Mountain of Paperwork

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Remember the good old days?  We were all out to save the planet – remember that?  We were recycling, conserving energy, having our bills and bank statements sent electronically to save paper, and stopping the junk mail to save trees.  Remember back then?

I have just printed out nearly 50 sheets of back to school paperwork – between Eilis, Granuaile, and myself.  My printer has waved a white flag, and the guy selling toner down at the office supply store just ordered a brand new BMW.  Oh, and there’s a group of conservation enthusiasts chained to my dogwood tree out front with signs that say, “You Won’t Take This One Without a Fight”.

Let’s not even talk about the writer’s cramp I’m about to get while I fill out all this paperwork!

Is there no way to order a Seat Sack online for Granuaile?  She goes to Catholic school, for pete’s sake, they have my bank account number on file in case I skip out on the $11 bucks because the school doesn’t take PayPal or credit cards for this particular item.  And while I’m at it, what IS this particular item?

There are lunch order forms, emergency contact forms, parent volunteer forms, school supplies which can only be purchased from school order forms (Really?  Just tack that extra $10 on my tuition and give my kid the supplies on the first day.  You already know they need them – you typed it out on a form to tell me!), and even a form from the PE teacher that I have to sign that says my child will be exercising in PE class.

Where is the Ben and Jerry’s ice cream flavor in support of fewer back to school forms?  They could call it “Mom’s Gone Nutty” – vanilla ice cream, sprinkled with nuts, spiked with tequila.  That should keep me unconscious until next year’s school forms have to be filled out.

The OTHER Problem with the Catholic Church

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In recent years, there has been a lot said about what the scandal involving a handful of Catholic priests has done to congregations everywhere.  Fewer and fewer people attend Mass, and Catholic schools are closing left and right due to declining enrollment. 

But can we really put the blame on a few pervert priests?  Can we blame everything that’s wrong with the Catholic Church on the existence of some lecherous leaders?  Because if we’re honest, you’ll find that everywhere.  The Catholics don’t have the market cornered on creeps.

When we moved to New Jersey 10 years ago, we lived diagonally across from a defunct church.  Blissful were the days when we could park in front of our own home, pulling right up to the front door like we owned the place.  But soon after we moved here, another non-denominational congregation took up residence in the vacant building.  And a transformation occurred in our tranquil neighborhood.

There are people here practically every damn day!  They take up all the parking spaces, line the streets with cars and motorcycles, and spend all weekend and all kinds of time during the week just hanging out.

That’s right – they have become a real community. 

You know how us Catholics go to Church on Sunday, hope we get the priest that gives the three minute homily instead of the 10 minute one, and try to sneak out after we go up to Communion so we can get home in time for kick off?  Guess what the congregation across the street from me does?  They stay for a whole sermon, enjoy Sunday school, and then they gather to watch the game together.  They throw some hot dogs on the grill, have kids playing in the yard, and they sit down, talk, and have fun together.

Not a week goes past when some member of the church doesn’t come by and invite myself or a member of my family to a pasta dinner, a fish fry, some event for the kids to enjoy, or they simply come by to let us know they’re running a car wash, a bake sale, a flower sale.  They have a youth group, a women’s group, a men’s group.  And they are welcoming and inviting.

I’ve been a member of a variety of Catholic churches through the years, as we’ve moved with Jim’s job.  Yeah, there’s been the occasional bake sale, or a fund raising dinner now and again.  But the congregation across the street from me doesn’t charge for their pasta dinners.  Everyone pitches in, everyone enjoys, everyone cleans up.  They enjoy getting together, being together, and doing things as a community.  They aren’t there because they have an obligation to be there. 

I’ve had conversations with Catholic priests – pastors at their parishes – to ask about hosting an event on a Saturday.  I’ve been told that they don’t want the inconvenience of having to open the Church or watching over the parking lot.  They don’t want to be responsible for the bonding or camraderie that might take place on church property – especially if there is no financial windfall coming their way.

The best priest I have ever met?  The priest who performed my sister’s wedding ceremony.  He was from Africa, and very much into the whole community thing.  He said the one thing he missed about being here was how different we celebrated our Catholic faith here.  In Africa, it was all about community – everyone came out to celebrate weddings, baptisms, Sunday Mass.  There was a spirit of sharing – food was brought, wine was opened, people sang, children played.  During my sister’s wedding, he tried to get us all to sing as they were married.  We did not.

So yeah, there are people who left the Church because of the pervert priests.  But I think even those that left because of the priests who messed up probably left because they weren’t in a community strong enough to weather such a terrible tragedy.  That’s a sad fact in many Catholic communities.  Or should I say congregations.

Maybe we should try to get together for more than a 45 minute Mass where we don’t interact except to offer each other the sign of peace.  Well, unless it’s cold and flu season, in which case many parishes have opted out of the whole handshaking thing.  Let’s see each other more often than once a month at the Knights of Columbus pancake breakfast. 

 The family that prays – and plays – together, stays together.

Care Packages for your College Kid

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You’ve just brought your college student to school either for the first time or as a return student.  The tears have finally dried on Mom’s face, as she leaves her baby behind; and the tears are nearly dried on Dad’s face, as the sting of the tuition bill becomes a fading memory. 

Especially if your child is away for the first time, they’re going to want to know that they’re loved, thought about and missed. Plus, they’re going to be hungry and homesick at least part of the time.  Care packages are a great way to remedy both of those things!

When our oldest daughter, Brighid, went to college for the first time, we tried to send monthly packages.  As soon as we dropped her off, we went home and put together a package of things we thought she’d miss from home.  We’re just outside of Philadelphia, so Brighid’s package included things like Tastykakes, Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews, some Termini’s bakery Italian cookies, and a fuzzy warm Flyers sweatshirt. You can send your child a bedtime kiss – a care package containing a pair of comfy pajamas, the latest on the best seller list, and a box of hot chocolate.  If your child loves your homemade cookies (my kids don’t have a mom that bakes or cooks, so my kids will never miss home cooked stuff!), bake a batch and send them. 

Holidays were great opportunities for care packages.  For each holiday my daughter was away from home, we filled a box with holiday themed paper plates, napkins, cups, and a few decorations for her room.  We’d throw in holiday boxed cake mixes and frosting, holiday themed candies or snacks, and a holiday coffee mug or candy dish.  It not only helped her get a taste of home, but it allowed her to invite friends over to celebrate with her.  Don’t forget to include a gift card for Domino’s to complete the party!

Seasonal care packages were always welcome. When the summer breezes finally give way to a fall chill, pack a box with some Ginger Snap cookies and a selection of tea bags.  Winter can be a great time to send your college student some new gloves, a hat, and a scarf – maybe in school colors.  When the spring thaw comes, send a bouquet of beautiful spring flowers.

Care packages are a great place to put gift cards your college kid might need.  WalMart gift cards allow them to pick up toiletries, some groceries, or cleaning supplies (stop laughing).  Also appreciated are gift cards for special treats – Starbucks, Applebee’s (or other chain restaurants), or the movie theater.  Oh, and don’t forget those cram for exam care packages – fill those with coffee, chocolate, snacks, and maybe some energy drinks!

We found that care packages eased the pain of separation anxiety – for both us and our college kid.  It makes Mom and Dad feel like they’re still needed, and it makes your college kid feel like they are still part of the family (even though their younger sisters have redecorated their room in Sponge Bob posters and claimed it as their own).  It’s like getting a big hug from home.  And who doesn’t  need a big hug now and then?