We’ve been working on the noodle jar…


We did it.

We had promised the boys a trip to the Strasburg Railroad once our jar was full of noodles.


And last week it became clear that—as long as the boys continued to demonstrate moments of helpful, polite, kind, and considerate behavior—we were going to reach the top of the jar. And Leo insisted that we get those noodles up to the very tippy top.

We’ve celebrated a lot of good behavior as we’ve gone through rigatoni, farfalle, rotini, and whatever other noodles we could find in the cupboard.

When Daniel tried to say grace with us, he got a noodle.

When Leo used words to show his anger rather than hitting, he got three noodles.

When the boys worked together to help clean the living room one night, they each collected a handful.

And you can bet that when Daniel sat quietly while getting his blood drawn at the doctor’s office, he got a few, too.

I can hardly believe we’ve managed to fill what seemed like an enormous jar—and without resorting to manicotti or lasagna. But we have. So we decided to use a planned day off of work yesterday to head up to Strasburg with two excited boys.

The weather was perfect.

That part of Pennsylvania is always lovely—but especially as the corn is starting to grow. Of course, our boys were more focused on the beauty of the vehicles.

They had been looking forward to that train ride for weeks.


We watched the steam engine pull in, bell ringing, steam streaming from its funnel, and enormous wheels rolling steadily over the rails.


Then, from inside the train, we spotted cows and horses and train cars and the makings of a corn maze.

We even saw a full-sized, steaming Thomas the Tank Engine, visiting for the Day out with Thomas event, which we managed to miss by coming in ahead of time. That was a bonus. We weren’t sorry to miss the crowds, and we got to see Thomas without actually having to pay a premium price for those tickets. The boys were quite content.

I don’t remember exactly when we started the noodle jar—maybe about six weeks ago—but noodles have quickly become a family currency. It has been fun to hear, “Mama, you should get a noodle for that.” Mostly, though, the noodles have been rewards for the boys. There’s something innately fun about giving someone a noodle or—even better—letting that someone drop it into the jar himself. And I do feel it has helped us focus on the positive achievements and contributions our sons are making.

On the way home from our fantastic adventure, I asked the boys whether earning noodles to make a trip to Strasburg had been worth it.

“Yes,” Leo said. But he had a bigger question. “Mama, can we eat the noodles for dinner tonight?”

That was an easy yes—though we barely made a dent in them. There are quite a few noodles in the jar.

Over dinner we discussed whether we should start earning noodles for another family treat. At first Leo suggested going to Washington, D.C., but then he decided he didn’t want to fill a jar with noodles again. That’s fine with me. Noodles are just something we always have on hand. They’re inexpensive and they’re edible. But I can be open-minded. Maybe there’s a better idea.

“What else could we use?” I asked, thinking how wonderful this was that Leo was so invested that he wanted to help design the next version of the noodle jar.

“Milk!” said Leo. As we started considering how that would—or wouldn’t—work, he changed his mind. His eyes lit up with a better idea.

“We can use pizza!” he said. Then he started laughing.

The pizza jar? I’m not sure how that would work. Guess I’ll have to use my noodle.

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.