Lunch Dessert

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Of all the benefits I receive from my kids returning to school, the one that ranks highest is the control I regain over what they eat since I can pack them whatever I want and they have to choose between eating it or going hungry. Every minute of every day, my kids and I are engaged in a delicate dance an exhausting tug-of-war over nutrition. On my side are lean proteins, complex carbohydrates derived from whole grains, and green leafy vegetables. On their side are sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and FD&C Blue No. 2.

I feel strongly that one of my most important jobs is to introduce, develop and reinforce healthy habits early so that my kids aren’t playing catch up in adulthood and have to attend Weight Watchers meetings in the stressful weeks leading up to their weddings. With more than a decade’s worth of parenting to back me up, I have found this to be completely impossible.

All of the cards are stacked against me. Kids are born hard-wired for candy, ice cream, chocolate cookies, and flavor-blasted triple X cheddar goldfish crackers, and are driven to obtain them by any means necessary. As a Mom, I get to be the one to fight this powerful innate desire on a daily basis, strangling it and depriving it of oxygen until it surrenders and admits that steamed lemon garlic broccoli is pretty darn good. Most of the time, though, I am the one lying on the ground listless and gasping for breath.

Over the summer, I joined our local pool so that my children could swim. Swimming is cardiovascular exercise disguised as fun, so I thought it would be a win-win. On most days, they would swim for a few minutes, hop out, dry off and promptly ask me for $3 so they could buy a soft serve chocolate ice cream from the snack bar. Being no witch and needing them to just leave me alone already, I would give them the $3 but would watch in disbelief as my last and youngest child – not five minutes after finishing his ice cream – would skip out the front entrance of the pool to the predatory ice cream truck waiting outside for his daily allotment of crybaby gumballs the man inside the truck gives away FOR FREE. How on earth am I to compete with that?

Last night, my kids wouldn’t eat their dinner advertised on Pinterest as child-friendly but did guzzle a half gallon of Gatorade and then rationalize that they are entitled to an ice-pop for dessert since they didn’t have “lunch dessert.” Lunch dessert, in case you are wondering, is the sweet treat you eat after lunch and differs from regular dessert, which is the sweet treat you eat after dinner. “Dessert dessert” is something my kids tried to get from me a few weeks ago, but I am smarter than that.

To be honest, I usually do have ice-pops, cookies, and chocolate of some sort on hand, because as I said before, I am no witch. And I have a husband. Who works from home all the time. But because my children are hard-wired and cannot control themselves, they will eat a month’s worth at one time if I don’t intervene. So, I have been forced to place these treats on shelves eight feet off the ground. This doesn’t really stop them but it does slow them down as they figure out how to get the ladder from the garage into the house.

I think that’s the key – to slow them down. By slowing them down, I give their blood sugar levels a chance to normalize and their brains a chance to comprehend that I only want what’s best for them. Only then will the steamed lemon garlic broccoli have a chance.

First Day Report

Lunch packing went smoothly this morning thank you very much, but we had some other hiccups: one kid forgot to put on underwear, one fished a dirty pair of shorts out of the hamper, and one had to scramble when her walking buddy decided to drive at the last minute. Oh, and the whole town smells like hot, rotting garbage. But even with these twists, their excitement was palpable. They were so ready, especially my last, and I’m so proud of them! Go get em guys!

As for me, the dog was scratching and barking at the bathroom door while I took a shower, someone (me) ate the yogurt I was supposed to put on my face, and I ran out of vegetable oil in the middle of making after school corn muffins. I was going to substitute olive oil but somehow that seemed wrong, so I melted some butter and said a prayer. Baking is not my thing. I once made cookies that never graduated from the batter stage; they looked exactly the same coming out of a 350 degree oven 30 minutes later as they did going in. And my daughter’s birthday cake would not come out of its pan no matter how much I begged and cried. I’ve decided it has something to do with my equipment, even though it’s all from Williams-Sonoma and collectively cost more than my husband’s 2006 Acura TL is currently worth.

Still planned for today is a pedicure and a quick trip to Party City, although what I really want to do is sneak into the Junior School and organize my daughter’s locker.

First Day of School Protocol

We just got an email from our school’s principal entitled First Day of School Protocol so I thought I would share my own personal First Day of School Protocol:

1. Drop the kids off and skip all the way home clicking my heels every few steps and singing the hills are alive with the sound of music.

2. Walk from room to room and soak in the silence. Explain to the confused and frightened dog what silence is.

3. Start cleaning the house with a fury not unlike that of a mental patient.

4. Give myself a yogurt, honey and turmeric facial.

5. Take a long hot shower without worrying about any loud bangs and/or screams coming from downstairs.

6. Get a pedicure. Tell everyone in the place that this is the first day of the rest of my life.

7. Forget I had to buy some things for my last kid’s birthday party at the bowling alley this weekend and fly to Party City, hoping I will make it home in time for pick-up.

8. Get to pick-up technically on-time but late because all the on-time parents have taken the good parking spots. Run the rest of the way, screwing up the pedicure big time.

9. Ward off the evil eye I am getting from my second child for being late even though I was technically on-time and start pressing him for details about his first day in third grade.

10. Drive home waving to everyone else who is walking. Allow my kids their after school snacks, realizing that I forgot to bake the muffins I really wanted to make to mark the beginning of a new school year. Oh well, there’s always tomorrow!

Packing Lunch

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School begins in just two days and while unmitigated joy is still the predominant emotion, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to a little bit of anxiety. I am worried about how well my kids will adjust to their new schedules, if anyone will be mean to them, and if I will have to deal with lice again. But these not-so-small issues pale in comparison to the anxiety I have over lunch packing. Holy mother of God, the thought of packing lunches and snacks for all three kids every single morning again is enough for me to keep them home all year long. And that is really saying something.

Here is what happens. I wake up, usually late. I know there are alarm clocks but for some reason I don’t think they apply to me. Sometimes I wake up on time, but then leisurely drink coffee until I am late. So with only 45 minutes until the first bell rings, I have to put away the pots and pans from the night before, snuggle on command with each kid, make them breakfast, get them dressed all the way down to their shoes tied and teeth brushed and THEN put together three well-balanced, carefully thought out lunches and two low-sugar, peanut-free, teacher-approved snacks. With drinks. It’s madness and sometimes most times I am still in my pajamas when I kiss the kids goodbye in the car at drop-off.

I’ve done a lot of thinking about this over the summer, and I’ve decided I need an entirely new lunch and snack packing system if I am to continue calling myself a good mother. Here is what I need to do:

1.  Get up earlier, which means I have to go to bed earlier. This is not going to happen.

2.  Make two bins: one for the pantry, one for the fridge. Everything in these bins will already be individually wrapped and disposable. Think “grab and go.” Pantry bin items will include chips, granola bars, and crackers while fridge bin items will include fruit, yogurt tubes, and the one veggie my kids will sort of eat — cucumbers, peeled and sliced. I give myself until November.

3.  Make sandwiches the night before. An epiphany, since I thought my only option was to pack the whole lunch the night before. I can’t pack three whole lunches after making and cleaning up an elaborate from scratch dinner no one ate, but I can slap some lunch meat on some bread. The only caveat here is that I will need to have some lunch meat and some bread.

3.  Limit beverages to only two types: water in reusable sippy cups (I like these Rubbermaid Litterless Juice Boxes) for snack and lemonade cans for lunch. Honestly, I wish I could just skip the beverages altogether. I mean, sippy cups, juice boxes and bottled water did not even exist when I was a kid and I survived just fine. Thrived, in fact. Can’t they just use the water fountain?

I am confident that this new system will deliver me from the chaos that took over my mornings last year, and the year before that, and the year before that. I am also pretty sure it will be a breeze to implement thanks to my new daily schedule that has me cooking while everyone is in school and not in the evenings when I clearly should be focused on the next day’s lunch. How do you tackle the monster that is lunch packing?