Not So Big Magic

Being a parent on the internet usually requires you to fall into one of two categories.

You can be the person who sees beauty everywhere in your children, who writes them long letters, who basks in the wonder of their faces and their voices.

Or you can be the person who uses humor as an escape from the mundane drudgery of parenting, the cleaning, the whining, the repetition.

I am not really either of these parents, though I tend to lean towards the latter instead of the former. But as my circles expand and I see more of the former in my internet circles, it can lead to some soul searching, for better and for worse.

Why don’t I find that kind of beauty in my children everyday? Why don’t I want to write a long post about the magical moments in one of their childish traits like curiosity? Why don’t we have the kind of relationship where my children are overcome with joy and hugs when they see me after time away?

I struggled with these questions a lot early in my parenting life, but then those questions got all swept aside when I found out my child had Autism. That seemed to explain it.

I’m not sure it explains it anymore. My children are children, and despite their differences, they are social and emotional beings. They are beautiful and sensitive and just as worthy of spare essays celebrating their uniqueness.

It’s me. I’m the difference. And I think I’ve always known that but it was nice to believe it wasn’t when I was at some of my lowest points as a parent. 

When the kids came to my house after a few days at their dad’s, I thought to myself, Try to see the magic in them, try to see it just a few times each day

It’s a nice mantra, but it didn’t really change anything. Maybe some of my smiles or my hugs were a few seconds longer? It didn’t change my outlook or open up any new meaning. 

Usually as a parent, the best I can manage is trying to be optimistic and positive. “Trying” is the important word, because it usually only takes a day or two for me to lose that outlook completely. Many weeks, by the time I get them ready on their last morning with me, it feels like a relief that I will have a little time to myself.

You may be thinking that it’s single parenting that’s part of the issue. And who knows? Maybe it is. I can’t really say. I’ve never had a real parenting partner, but plenty of people who are married are in that situation. When you’re both working and things are crazy or when one of you is working and division of labor is uneven. It’s just part of it. No, it’s me. And it would be me even if I was in a beatific marriage with a perfect co-parenting partner. The other stuff just affects where my mood falls on the scale from “This is pretty nice,” to “I am ready to be done.” 

I wish I found parenting more inspiring and magical and joyful. I really do. And I know that even the people who write long, beautiful stories about wonder in their child’s eyes also experience the drudgery and annoyance and all that. But I only get to hang out on their end of the spectrum in small, short moments. 

I worry that my kids miss out. Would their lives be better if I was more excited about who they are right now and what’s happening in their minds? Maybe? I try to make up for my lack of whimsy by making sure we have our fair share of memory-making activities. But I admit this is also to help me keep order and break up the day. 

But then again, my children aren’t whimsical by nature. I get the feeling that kind of person would be frustrated by my kids a lot more than I am. Honestly, I usually feel like my kids and I are pretty well-suited to each other. They tend to be independent, which was my preference as a kid and is definitely my preference as a parent. When they seek out play and magic, they usually seek out each other and I’m happy not to stand in the way of that. 


I just stopped writing because Tessa walked over and asked to sit in my lap. I saved my draft, hoisted her up, and sat with her for a while. I didn’t feel any great sense of joy or peace or wonder. But it was nice. And there’s no reason why that can’t be enough.

Season of Dread

It is fall. Which means we must have the argument we have every year about whether fall is the best or worst season. Second worst is the actual answer. Worst is winter, of course. Fall and spring are both bad, especially here in Boston where they are both cold and wet and windy and dismal. But fall is worse. At least in spring, while you’ve been beaten down for months and you’re hardly able to imagine that summer will ever come, you know it’s on its way. In fall, the weather is pretty similar except you know it’s only going to get worse.

This is why I detest fall. And this year I find myself moving into a new realm of feelings. I am full of dread.

Last winter was awful. Beyond awful. Horrible, horrendous, whatever other word Thesaurus can come up with. Pile them all up and we start to get kinda close to the actual level of hell it was. 

Spring wasn’t much better, since the cold weather lasted for a looooong time and we were still having horrible weather well into June. We had a short little summer, just a couple months. I’d spent so long thinking about summer, imagining what it would be like, that I tried hard to appreciate it while it was here. But it was too short. It was gone too fast. And I didn’t get a chance to exorcise the remaining ghosts of last winter.

I do not want to be that person who tries to use mental illness to make their point. The person who says, “I’m so ADD,” when they know nothing about ADD, they’re just feeling super bored and antsy. But when I think of what I want to say the only comparison I come back to is mental illness. Sigh.

I think many of us here have something akin to PTSD. It’s not *really* PTSD. But we’re getting ready to get back into the thing that ripped us all to pieces not too long ago. 

My usual fall dread where I have trouble enjoying the colorful leaves (which aren’t all that colorful this year) because once they fall off the trees everything will look so stark and sad. It will be months before we see them again. Last year there were still no signs of green even in April. I went on a trip to Salt Lake City in April and saw their trees with plenty of new leaves and wanted to weep from jealousy. It could be well over 6 months before it looks nice outside again. 

I just pulled my coats out of the winter clothes bin. They small musty. Apparently I can wash my short coat at home but I need 3 tennis balls to go with it in the dryer. These specific directions are strange to me. Even worse, my long coat has no care instructions. NO CARE INSTRUCTIONS. I don’t know if I can take it to the dry cleaner, my other coat insists it cannot under any conditions be taken to the dry cleaner. What if I do it wrong? How can I get my coat ready?

I have already started wearing sweaters and can remember how often I wore each of them last winter. 

Yesterday I actually wanted to eat soup to warm up. Except I have forgotten what kinds of soup I make. I’m not even kidding with this, this is not any exaggeration to be funny. I literally cannot remember what kinds of soup I make. I know there’s chili. I know last year we made a few vegetable soups with the immersion blender. But what about regular soup? The soup where there’s broth and stuff in the broth? What on earth do I make? I’ve made soup for years and yet I seem to have forgotten them all. 

I’m already starting to cringe when I open the door and there’s cold air on the other side. 

I am in no way ready for what’s coming. I feel like we didn’t get the summer we deserved after the winter we suffered through. And I feel absolutely and completely unprepared to face that kind of winter again. It’s unlikely that will happen. But we had such a mild summer (everyone who insists we had such a nice hot summer is just thrown off by the relativity of their thermometers, I never once slept with the a/c on, NOT ONCE) that I fear it’s another cold winter ahead and I am not ready. 

I am entertaining fantasies of moving back to where it’s warm. (Fantasies because we’re stuck here for the next few years.) Fantasies of being among all those people who complain about how they have no seasons and who whine about how frigid it is when it’s 45 degrees outside. I long to be one of those people, except I will never complain because I will be haunted by my winters past and I will love every second of it. 

(And while we are talking about fantasies, I am also entertaining fantasies of suddenly finding a rich new love interest who says, “Yes, of course I will buy these $800 Hamilton tickets and we will take the first class car on the train down to New York and we will stay in a nice hotel, won’t that be so much fun for our 1-month anniversary?”)

Now I’m going to finish my rant and figure out what the most appropriate clothing is to go pick apples in 50 degree rain. Because I’m trying to enjoy fall a tiny bit at least. 

Fall Books!

I keep procrastinating this post because I am still not done reading many of the big Fall Releases. But September is almost over and I really can’t put it off forever. They’re coming out right and left and best to have it done.

Fall is basically the season of heavy hitters in the book world, with most of the big guys coming out in September. It’s kind of like how all the big Oscar movies tend to come out in December. There are still light, fun books in Fall and there are plenty of big, literary books the rest of the year, but there’s definitely a concentration. Here’s a roundup of some of my favorites of the Fall Releases for 2015, links are to Amazon and all are affiliate links. 

Literary Fiction

These are the books I get asked about the most because they get a lot of press, a lot of attention, and the gap between the critical reception and the real-world reception can be pretty wide. I tend to take a common-sense approach to literary fiction, when possible.

 Fall Books! Fall Books!Fates and Furies seems to be getting the most buzz, if we focus on the book instead of the author. It’s not a surprise once you’ve read the book. This is a book that has a lot to say about the novel. It’s an exercise in structure. The first half of the book can even be read as satire in retrospect. Yeah, all this sounds really dull, doesn’t it? I admit, I was halfway through thinking, “Do I really want to finish this?” and I only pushed forward because I had so many friends who enjoyed it so much. I’m glad I did, turns out I enjoyed the second half like crazy. All that said, having to commit to over 200 pages before you know if you really like a book is a tall order. But if you’re looking for something that’s basically a fancy, cerebral Gone Girl, you should consider it. 

 Fall Books! If we’re talking about author buzz, then the award clearly goes to Franzen. His new novel, Purity, is interesting, a fast read, a page-turner, a domestic drama with an international lens. A book that manages to be about the East German underground, a Julian-Assange-like internet lord, and a rather dull twenty-something girl with a crazy mother who lives in a co-op in San Francisco at a dead-end job. This is Franzen, so it bounces between overly-brainy descriptions and genre-worthy plot twists. But if you’ve enjoyed either of his previous novels it’s worth a look. And I’m just going to leave it there.

 Fall Books! Fall Books!There’s a new Margaret Atwood out this month! And it is… well it’s not normal. Atwood has been doing her own thing for several years now, experimenting and mashing genres and doing whatever it is she feels like. Respect. And this book perhaps expresses that better than any of her previous ones. The Heart Goes Last is just plain weird, a book that almost feels like someone dared her to mix 5 different Cards Against Humanity cards into her plot. But it works. It’s dystopian and has plenty to say about marriage, adultery, planned community, sex, obsession, and a lot more. There are sex dolls, Elvis impersonators, prisons, roving gangs, a huge financial crisis, and plenty more. Personally, I dig novels where I have absolutely no idea what’s going to happen next. But if you don’t like it when a book colors outside the lines, this one probably won’t be right for you.

There’s a new story collection by Adam Johnson, the recent Pulitzer winner for The Orphan-Master’s Son. It’s called Fortune Smiles and the title is used ironically. It’s depressing and heavy and really interesting. He’s got particularly interesting things to say about marriage and relationships that really stuck in my brain. There’s a new novel by Salman Rushdie, Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights, which includes a few thousand years of history, a jinn who marries a human, and a gardener who looks down one day to find he’s floating a few inches above the ground all the time. Like many of Rushdie’s recent novels, this isn’t one you can read in a fury, but it’s constantly smart. David Mitchell has a new novella that’s set in the universe of The Bone Clocks called Slade House which I didn’t love, but then again I’ve liked The Bone Clocks less and less as time passes. And there’s a debut novel from essayist Sloane Crosley which I also didn’t love, but I fully acknowledge that this book hit several of my totally subjective personal pet peeves (books about young rich people, 20-somethings struggling to find their place in the world, people making ridiculous choices that would destroy them if they weren’t in a novel, etc.) but I know many others who enjoyed it. 

Genre Novels

Genre = mystery, romance, sci-fi, etc. All those books that get grouped in some category based on their plot. There’s a bunch of great ones so I’d hate to focus too heavily on the literary stuff.

 Fall Books! Fall Books!Sorcerer to the Crown is a fantasy novel and I am not a fantasy reader. But a fellow non-fantasy reader recommended it and I figured I’d try and holy cats, it is amazing. A kickass novel that reminded me more of J. K. Rowling’s light and agile wit than any other book I’ve read. Set in an alternate-universe 1800’s Britain where magic exists but most “magicians” are just rich dudes who use it as an excuse to make their own club. The Sorcerer Royal, whom no one cares for much, is Zacharias, a freed slave whose birth and skin color separate him from everyone around him. Then there’s Prunella, the orphaned girl whose parentage is unknown except that there’s clearly something “not British” in there, who’s been taken in by the proprietress of a girls’ magical boarding school and finds herself suddenly ousted upon reaching adulthood. Prunella and Zacharias cross paths, of course, and there’s a quest to save England from its quickly depleting supply of magic, and that’s just the beginning of this delightful book. I honestly can’t recommend it enough. 

 Fall Books! Fall Books!Getting into more of my usual stuff, my favorite thriller of the fall is Idyll Threats by Stephanie Gayle. Set about 10 years ago in a small Connecticut town, it’s about Thomas Lynch, a former NYPD cop who’s left the big city for a job as a small town sheriff after his partner dies. Oh, and he’s gay and closeted. Lynch lives a secret life on his own and then goes to work every day to a police force that eyes him with suspicion and disdain. A quick tryst one night seems uneventful, until he realizes that he was one of the last people to see a murder victim alive… and he can’t tell anyone. It’s a well-plotted book, heavy on character, and the first in a series. I am 100% on board, one of my favorite mysteries of the year.

 Fall Books! Fall Books!There’s a new Karin Slaughter novel, and if you know Slaughter you know her books aren’t for the faint of heart. She has no problems finding plots from the darkest places in people’s lives. Pretty Girls starts out pretty normal: well-off woman’s husband is murdered in a robbery gone wrong, woman finds that husband was keeping secrets. But it gets pretty heavy pretty fast. I don’t want to spoil it, so if you’re considering it but are wondering if it’s too icky for you, you can see the spoiler in my Goodreads review (you have to click to open, the rest of you are safe). It is fast fast fast, Slaughter is getting better and better, in my humble opinion, and her recent standalone novels have all been incredibly strong and worthy of the title “thriller.”

Young Adult

 Fall Books! Fall Books!Two of my favorite YA’s of the year are both September releases. First there’s Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy, which has had a pretty joyous and enthusiastic reception, and it deserves every bit of it. This is a joyous and enthusiastic book that is so full of feel-good that I’d happily put it in the hands of every teenage girl out there. Willowdean is fat. There’s no tiptoeing around it. And pretty much everything in Will’s life is going kind of crazy. She has a new secret boyfriend who won’t be seen with her in public. Her best friend, the beautiful and skinny Ellen, seems to be moving farther away from her. Her mom, who’s run the city beauty pageant since she won it decades earlier, just can’t understand how Will can be fat and happy with herself at the same time. Will is strong and full of sass, a girl who pulls her inspiration from Dolly Parton. It’s a fun read, an inspiring and funny book, one that gets you thinking about body image and just plain bodies. 

 Fall Books! Fall Books!I was kind of done with all the Sherlock knockoffs, but I picked up Lock & Mori by Heather W. Perry because this time Moriarty is a girl and I thought I’d be interested to see where the book took that. It took it to a very, very good place. Lock & Mori are teenagers in modern-day London, kids from very different backgrounds, who are drawn to each other due in large part to their shared brilliance. There is a murder, of course. But this is not a book where Sherlock gets to be the big hero. Mori is the narrator and she knows more about what happened than she’s willing to tell Lock, even when things start getting serious between the two of them. I tend not to really dig YA mystery, but this novel totally delivered. The will-they-won’t-they-will-they-stay-together of the teenage romance plus a serious mystery plus a heroine with some serious baggage = Jess is very happy.

There’s a few more YA that I’m saving for my upcoming horror post in October, so hold tight on those.


Yes, I have been reading nonfiction, as hard as it is to believe.

 Fall Books! Fall Books!I am a sucker for a medical memoir, so reading Black Man in a White Coat was a no-brainer. Damon Tweedy’s book isn’t just a reflection on his life in training and practice, but a look at how different racial issues play out in medicine. A black doctor-in-training surrounded almost entirely by white trainees and doctors, attending Duke where much of the population is black and poor, Tweedy finds racism in expected and unexpected places. Then there’s issues that go beyond blatant racism, like the treatment gap between the poor blacks and the well-off whites; and the medical issues that disproportionately affect the black community (including Tweedy and his relatives). Tweedy has no agenda. He doesn’t get political. He also borrows freely from other memoirs by doctors of color (yes, including Ben Carson) to show that a problem can be systemic or isolated. It’s a book with heart but that is determined to stay scientific. If there’s someone you’d like to talk about race with but you think they’re not ready for Ta-Nehisi Coates, Tweedy’s memoir is a great, thought-provoking choice.

 Fall Books!I started reading Symphony for the City of the Dead by M. T. Anderson not actually realizing it was nonfiction. Anderson wrote several novels I love, including the Octavian Nothing books which I find positively swoon-worthy, if those books were a person I would consider marrying them. The new book is about the composer Dmitri Shostakovich and the siege of Leningrad. I won’t lie, I am not done with this book yet. I’ve been reading it for a month now. Because the siege of Leningrad is DEPRESSING, YO, and I have to take breaks from the horrors of it. I’ve read my fair share of depressing holocaust books, both fiction and nonfiction, but this book is right up there with them in terms of horrors and crimes against humanity. This is technically a nonfiction book for young adults, but honestly I can’t tell. It is easy to read, but it’s no cake walk. It will be a challenging read for a teen, but I don’t see why a teen couldn’t read it. And I see no reason why adults can’t read it. 

 Fall Books! Fall Books!I’m also in the middle of a book of essays right now: Me, My Hair, and I: Twenty-seven Women Untangle an Obsession, edited by Elizabeth Benedict. There are some truly amazing essays in here, and if you are a curly girl like me, or someone who hasn’t quite made peace with her hair yet, you need to read this book. I just finished an essay by Deborah Tannen about why mothers are always so interested in their daughters’ hair that was insanely good and everyone should read right now. (Teaser: here’s another essay she wrote about how a woman’s appearance is “marked” in a way a man’s isn’t.) A lot of the essays share a theme of accepting your hair after fighting against it and if you need to hear that, you should probably read it. But anyone will find a lot to ponder, man we all have stories about our hair, it’s fascinating to pick that apart.

There’s more I haven’t gotten to yet, Anne-Marie Slaughter’s new book, Unfinished Business, is sitting next to my bed. (Updated to add I started this last night and OMG I think this may be the best book on work-life balance ever. I’m only through Part I but I am just full of praise-hands-emoji for everything Slaughter says.) But pretty soon it’ll be time to move on to 2016 reads and 2015 reading wrap-ups and holy cow, how did we get here?

How’s your fall reading going? Any big new books on your hold list or on your bedside table?

Break the Rules. Burn It Down. Build Your Own.

Last week for work I was at a blogger conference that was well outside my niche. I was happy to help out and take on whatever was needed, running an education session and volunteering as a mentor. That mentor thing seemed like a good idea when I did it, but as the time to meet with my assigned mentee drew closer, impostor syndrome started to creep in.

What if this person can’t learn anything from me?

What if I don’t have anything to offer?

I kept a cool head and figured I’d make the best of it, at least I’d be able to offer guidance in some of my areas of expertise if nothing else.

The meeting itself was fantastic. My mentee and I connected quickly, we found parallel stories in our lives, and I had real, concrete advice I could offer her to move forward. She needed someone to say, “You are good enough to do this,” and I was happy to be that person. It ended up being one of those to-the-brim, sloppy with love moments where I remembered why I do what I do and how much it means to me.

As we talked about moving forward and setting goals and all that stuff, I shared some of the best advice I could give anyone who’s living the internet life. 

Anyone who says, “You must do X,” is wrong.

Anyone who says, “This is how you succeed,” is wrong.

Anyone who says, “These are the rules,” is wrong.

Anyone who says these things hasn’t been paying very close attention to the internet. We are succeeding everywhere and no two of us are doing the same things. We are experimenting and finding different meanings of what it actually means to succeed. 

Anyone who says these things is not talking about you, they’re talking about themselves. And they’re too shortsighted to understand that what worked for them isn’t a universal formula for success.

I try very hard to avoid this. When I give talks on SEO, I try not to say that it’s required or necessary. I try to recognize that it is one way to build traffic that works really well for some people. I give my talks knowing that a lot of people won’t take my advice and that’s okay

I started blogging in 2001. In a different place with a different name. It was a different world back then and there was no one telling us what to do so we just did.

When I started this blog in 2007, I began that way, but soon realized that in the years I’d been stuck in my own site that blogging had become a thing and people were using it to make money and this could now be my thing. I spent a couple of years taking notes, following advice, doing what I was told to do. I broke rules sometimes, but I tried to follow that model.

The funny thing is that model was already coming apart at the seams by the time I jumped on. The bloggers who’d come up and made it big were big fish in a small pond, but now the pond was so large that it was almost impossible to differentiate yourself from others. And with everyone trying to follow the same model and build the same numbers it became a slog.

So I quit that model. I stopped feeling like the only way my blog mattered was if someone agreed to pay me to write sponsored content on it. I stopped caring about whether I’d ever get to steady 6-figure monthly traffic. I was lucky because I already knew how to blog in a way that felt true to myself, I hadn’t wandered too far from it, and I just went right back to it.

Among the rules I’ve broken? 

Oh, so many.

Post consistently! You should have the same number of posts every week! 

Share regularly on Facebook! Engage your audience there! Give them content they want to see!

Promote on Twitter! Share links of your own and share links from your friends!

Pin every single day on Pinterest! 

Comments are the thing that really matters to measure engagement!

Build your email list! That’s the most important thing!

Your posts should never be more than 500 words!

Find your niche! Define your personal brand! 

Use your byline to build your brand! Share your writing as much as possible!

Personal blogs are over! 

No one cares what you ate for lunch on Instagram!

I could go on. Almost every rule I’ve ever heard I’ve broken. And it’s actually worked out really well for me. A few years ago I thought I would only be successful as a blogger if I got bigger. Turns out I did get bigger, but not by a lot. And I’ve still been wildly successful beyond what I could have imagined, just not in the ways everyone else defined success.

A few years ago I was just another blogger who was dipping their toe in monetization.

Now I write for other sites, I get to write things I care about and work with people I enjoy.

I speak at conferences and teach bloggers new skills and I’m pretty damn good at it, if I may say so myself.

I blog about what I want to blog about and no one has yet stomped their feet and stormed off.

I started a brand new career path at a time when I needed it desperately, solely because of the effort I put into my blog.

I’m an expert now. I feel comfortable using the term. I have to use the term if I want people to take me seriously and if I’m going to remind myself that my experience and insight is valuable.

And none of this would have happened if I’d stuck with the rules I was told to follow. 

I did what felt right to me. I did what I was good at. I did what made sense for my life. And that is the only rule that I really believe in.

Every few months there’s another round of bloggers writing about burnout and how their hearts aren’t in it anymore. The only way you can avoid that is to do this because you love it. Because the way you do it makes you love it more. Because you’ve made your own rules to protect your heart and your brain and keep them where you need them to be. If you don’t do that, there will inevitably come a point where you no longer love it and you wonder why you’re doing it. 

So here I am. A tiny little blogger who doesn’t have crazy numbers, who doesn’t have name recognition, who doesn’t have hordes of followers. And I’m telling you that all those things don’t matter. What matters is what you do with what you’ve got and how you use your expertise and what you want to accomplish and what you’re doing to get there.

So thanks to Candice for that mentoring session, which reminded me of exactly what matters to me and reminded me of just how far I’ve come in a pretty short time. Parts of my life may get pretty messy and tough, but this blog? Has been my joy and my community and my success. And I couldn’t be happier with it.

School Lunch Trial and Error

sponsored post image School Lunch Trial and ErrorI missed the first day of school due to a particularly crazy custody schedule this month. You learn to let go of that stuff. I didn’t cry or feel terrible. Instead I figured I’d just wait until they came to my house and take pictures a few days later. Turns out the pictures come out just the same.

first day edited School Lunch Trial and Error

I still have trouble getting a decent smile out of the two of them. Especially not simultaneously. It just wasn’t happening. We may have just started school, but the lunch battle is ongoing. I’m lucky in a lot of ways. My kids eat a lot of healthy foods. They willingly eat vegetables! (Well, Graham does, anyway.) But lunch has always been a struggle.

I don’t have all the answers, but I do know that there’s plenty of time to try something new. I’ve partnered with Stop ‘n Shop for this post to talk about packing a healthy school lunch. We’ve tried a lot of things in the 3 years that Graham’s been bringing his lunch to school. And we’ll try plenty more things before he’ll actually eat the school-provided lunch. The battle goes on, and I’m willing to bet a lot of you are in the same spot.

We were in a decent place with lunch at the end of last year, but there was definitely room for improvement. One step forward is a new lunch box handed down from a friend. I’m so over the sad insulated lunch bags we’ve been using thus far. They may be cheap, but it’s an instance of getting what you pay for. The new Yumbox School Lunch Trial and Error (Amazon affiliate link!) is washable and locks nice and tight. No more smelly gross insulated lunch bags for us. (Although the Yumbox does fit nicely inside one if you want to insulate it.)

Next up is trying out some new foods. The lunch box got Graham excited enough to try some new things. So we brainstormed at the grocery store and came home with some new options.

supplies edited School Lunch Trial and Error

We kept plenty of old standards and added in some new things to try.

What’s worked for us in the past:

Pick a veggie for the week. You can certainly do two, but Graham doesn’t mind the repetition most days. Graham’s veggies of choice are pictured: broccoli and peppers. Usually he gets red or green peppers, but orange and yellow were on sale (!!) so I mixed it up. Graham always gets to pick his veggie himself. Other picks have included celery and cucumber.

Sandwiches as staple. It took Graham a few years to even consider eating sandwiches so I’m happy to take advantage of them now that he eats them. He doesn’t get a lot of whole grains, so the sandwich is an excuse for that. I always make his sandwich with soy butter since he can’t take nut products to camp over the summer and this way he doesn’t have a transition. Occasionally I replace the sandwich with leftover cheese tortellini. (The kids will only eat one kind of tortellini. It’s only carried at one store. Guess which one! We can’t go more than a week or two without a Stop ‘n Shop visit, I am completely serious.)

Blueberry bonanza. As long as blueberries are in season (and they’ve been on sale for months, it’s been amazing) I get them. Eventually we’ll transition to another fruit, apple season is practically upon us. (If anyone has good tricks for keeping your apples from getting brown in the lunch box I’d love to hear them.)

String cheese twists. I spent ages being the mean mom for not buying the special twist string cheese. But now Stop ‘n Shop has a generic version and I am ALL about store brand. 90% of my cart is store brand and produce when I grocery shop.

Then came time to talk about some NEW foods. The new food conversation doesn’t usually go all that well in our house. We’re working on it, and I’m regularly encouraging Graham to try new things. As he gets older he’s more willing to take at least one or two bites and I take what I can get.

If you plan to try a new lunchbox, I highly recommend using that time to discuss new foods. The enthusiasm for his lunchbox definitely trickled down and made new options a lot easier.

As for the new options, over the weekend we tried out some new ones.

Hard-Boiled Eggs. Graham had never had them before but he likes scrambled eggs and it seemed worth a shot. He’s practically a vegetarian so I’m always looking for protein.

Roasted Chickpeas. To replace crackers or chips, a healthier choice with a simple olive oil drizzle and a sprinkle of salt.

Both were declared delicious. 

lunch box edited School Lunch Trial and Error
This is as close to a Pinterest lunch as my kids will ever get.

And then both were complained about when given for lunch.

I expect this, honestly. It takes a few times. That initial enthusiasm wears down. I’ll try at least a couple more batches of roasted chickpeas, this one is on the chewy side and I think he’ll do better if they’re crunchier.

He found the egg too cold, so I’m going to be more aware of the insulated case next time and maybe just leave the cold pack in the refrigerator instead of the freezer. Plus add a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

To fill in the gaps in his lunchbox where there’s extra space I’ve thrown in squares of cheese and whole black olives, always a favorite. 

I have more plans to try. More proteins, more fruits, more whatever else comes to mind. And we’ll keep rotating through our standards. It’s a long school year ahead, and I’m ready to get in a rhythm.

Thanks, Stop ‘n Shop, for sponsoring this post. As you’ve probably noticed I take on very few sponsored partners and when I do it’s usually something I want to talk about and am lucky enough to get to bring a brand into that I enjoy. This compensation helps keep the blog going, thanks for your support.