Darn near every moment is a “teaching moment” for me and my kids. In fact, my boys will tell you that I’m pretty much teaching them something all day long, except they call it “yelling.” Seriously though, the first time Junior says, “#$@!” and everyone giggles and looks at Dad, we all realize that behavioral modeling is a huge factor in shaping our children’s lives. My sons watch me, and they listen closer when I’m not even talking to them. The see how I work, how I play, how I dress, how I interact with my friends and my wife, how I maintain our household, what my priorities are, and yes—even how I eat.
In a recently published interview on Nourish, Cook for America co-founder, Kate Adamick, suggests we view school cafeteria staff as Lunch Teachers, reminding everyone that “what students are fed at school teaches them how to think about food, what to think of as food, and how to behave while consuming it—all lessons that they will carry with them for the remainder of their lives.”
While not exactly a revelation, Adamick’s statement is still, for many, a necessary prompt. Each meal is an opportunity to show our children how to live. Proper nutrition is a fundamental skill that is essential for enduring health and well-being. The kitchen and the school-cafeteria are classrooms where kids learn (or don’t learn) how to select, prepare and eat the right kinds of food. And yet, as Adamick notes, “frequently, school administrators appear to have forgotten that students don’t stop learning just because it’s lunchtime.”
While a good school-lunch program is imperative and can make a difference for many poorly nourished kids, I believe that I’m in the best position to teach my children the importance of proper eating. Parents are overwhelmed much of the time and can make a habit of depending on schools to cover the gaps and keep their kids well-directed. For the most part, given their limited resources, public educators do a wonderful job, but considering the litany of concerns regarding most school-lunch programs (in the U.S.) this is one subject where Father/Mother probably knows best.
Eating, cooking and even shopping together provides wonderful opportunities for shoulder-to-shoulder activities that can positively shape a child’s development. Health, creativity, earth-consciousness and self-assuredness are just a few of the traits that can be nurtured by sharing good eats.
Preparing home-packed lunches for my boys ensures that they’ll be taking a piece of me along with them to school. It enables me to influence them at a critical (under-supervised) point in their day without even being there. It’s this type of unobtrusive, indirect instruction (modeling really) that makes the biggest impact on my kids, and there’s no “yelling.”
If you’re looking to home-school the “lunch” portion of your kids’ curriculum, Lunchsense provides the perfect platform—pack a lesson plan in every box:
I wish I could show you her big smile too, but alas! I would rather protect her privacy.
I brought Lunchsense to a marvelous trade show in San Francisco a few Novembers ago. Lovely bunch of people there, and I think half the population stopped by to check out the lunchbox wares. This was the first show I had ever done solo, though, so I didn’t get many opportunities to take a break. This was fine, since everyone was just great…but I did get hungry.
Is this enough?”
I’m really hungry, but I can’t break away from the booth. Bring me something for dinner and the lunchbox is yours.”
What do you want? Here’s what I could find, and how much everything cost.”
Do want something to drink with that?”
I ordered up a beverage and she dashed off one more time through the crowd.
I scored big on the lunch-making front today.
I was prepping bits and pieces of lunch for my nine year old as I passed through the kitchen – mixing leftover turkey soup from last night with the last half cup of noodles from a few days back, getting it started in the microwave, locating the wide mouth thermos in the cabinet, that sort of thing. I checked with Evan about the rest of the lunch as we passed in the hall:
“Do you want watermelon?”
“Nah. Do we have any peaches?”
“I don’t think so, but I’ll check. Plums…and yes! A peach.”
“Yay! I’ll have peach. And carrots too.”
In the medium (and large) lunchbox, the thermos fits nicely to one side, which leaves room for three side-dish-sized containers, or two containers and a drink. I don’t put the ice pack in the lunchbox when I use the thermos – they sort of compete with each other, leaving us with cool-ish soup and warm-ish milk by lunchtime – so I don’t pack milk on thermos days either, and I let Evan either buy milk at school or carry water.
I chopped up a carrot (Insider’s tip: the most nutritional value is in the peel, so cut the carrot into many thin slivers and they won’t notice you didn’t peel it)(better yet, for boys chop them into arrowheads – they love that) and put it and half a peach into two little containers. I popped these into the lunchbox next to the thermos, and tossed in one of the unmatched spoons from the silverware drawer that I really hope he loses at school someday.
Evan noticed the empty spot and said, “hey, there’s room for one more thing.”
I never pack a treat in my kids’ lunches. Have you ever emptied out a lunchbox at the end of the day to find that your child didn’t eat anything…except the cookie? And you wondered why that kid was cranky and whiny after school? Our house rule is this: eat your lunch, and you can have a treat when you get home.
So I was surprised and a little horrified to hear these words coming out of my mouth: “How ’bout a cookie?”
I guess I figured that homemade turkey soup, a peach and carrots was certainly a good enough meal to justify a cookie, but I was breaking my own house rule which every parent knows is a sure-fire way to lose all pretense of authority forever and ever. I waited for Evan’s response.
No surprise there. But then the kicker:
“Oh, but wait, there’s no water.”
Trying really hard to mask my shock, I said as casually as I could muster, “You want water instead of a cookie???”
MAMA’S BIG WIN FOR THE DAY: “Yeah, water.”
And he trotted out the door to get his bike out of the garage.
HALLELUJAH! AND AMEN!
Do tell, oh neighbors-to-the- north: does the new program Portlandia change the way you refer to yourselves? Are you now Portlandians, or do you remain Portlanders?
My husband and I lived in Portland for about 7 years. Our daughter was born in there (okay, Milwaukie, technically). We moved to Bend for a lovely 18 month period, where our first son was born. We moved to Eugene thereafter, where our second son was born.
We’re not moving anymore.
I will be making the trek at the end of this month to the Expo Center in Portland for the Better Living Show, which (if the last couple years is any measure) is bound to be a great time.
Many good reasons to go….
Admission is free, and here’s why: the Better Living Show organizers want to counter the impression that “green = expensive.”
A wonderful kid’s pavilion!
The weather will not improve, so while you’re waiting for a break in the rain to mess about in the garden, you can pick up some new gardening tips and ideas.
1,001 ways to green your home!
I’ll be having my annual drawing for a free lunchbox in any size and any color, but you have to stop by the booth to enter.
Enjoy a 20% discount on every Lunchsense lunchbox set purchased at the Better Living Show!
You can train, bus or bike to the show, but if you must drive you get a buck off parking if you carpool (3 or more).
If you don’t make it to the show but do “like” us on Facebook, you will help your friends who order later – if we reach our goal on Facebook we will offer $5 flat rate shipping for all of April!
Lots of other presentations!
Did I mention food samples?
Last but not least, a fabulous lineup of lunchboxes!
Check here for a slideshow of last year’s event, stop by booth 529 and say hello, and maybe even walk away with a marvelous new lunchbox while you’re at it.
‘Hope to see you there!
The bustling staff at Lunchsense world headquarters is a proud, yet mostly humble group. The truth is, we get a little squeamish about blowing our own horn, so—it’s always nice when someone else decides to tell more folks how helpful our lunchboxes can be.
HouseSmartsTV.com is primarily a home-improvement site run by Chicagoland’s “Mr. Fix-It,” Lou Manfredini. They also occasionally produce cooking or lifestyle pieces, and they recently featured Lunchsense in a video about healthy, environmentally-conscious, noontime-meal solutions. Hooray!
Check it out, pass it on and above all else—enjoy your lunch!
Every once in a while, we here at Lunchsense like to do, yeah, you guessed it—lunch. Many adults hurry through, or dismiss it altogether; but, for our children, this noontime meal remains a treasured respite from the rigors of reading, writing and ‘rithmetic.
Most will tell you they really look forward to it. Visit your school’s cafeteria sometime—you’ll likely be greeted by a swirling jangle of sliding, metal chair-legs, eager, chirping voices and a heart-quickening buzz of unleashed energy. You’ll also find a ton of wasted food. This is often the result of over-packing, but it’s just as frequently caused by fickle tastes or “bor-ing” options.
Many kids love lunch-time, but the food—not so much. “Come on, Dad—ham and cheese again?”
In an effort to make sure my kids are properly refueled for their afternoon lessons, I try to mix-up the menu a little bit, and I enlist their help in deciding what’s sure to get eaten. Here are a few of their (somewhat) surprising favorites:
It’s easy to take a less involved approach to your kids’ lunches. The creative energy isn’t always there, and neither is the time. But, letting younglings fend entirely for themselves in the lunch-room can be nutritionally dangerous, and it misses a great opportunity to model healthier living. They really need the midday nourishment, so put your heads together—find out what they like, teach them what’s good for them, and make sure their lunches are about more than just socializing. The quicker you can get your kids eating right, the sooner they’ll start developing healthy habits that will last their whole (long) lives. And, that’s just using your Lunchsense.
Actually, I'm really not that into southern rock.
We’ve all had bad weeks. This one is no exception.
Lunchsense is my “full time” job, which means I attend to it every weekday after my two boys get to school (8:15) and before they get out of school (2:35). This isn’t nearly enough time to keep all the plates spinnin’, so I often return to work in the evening after dinner. Since I work at my house, to keep it – work, house, kids, laundry, groceries, dinner, whatever – all together I try and keep to a pretty tight schedule.
With the start of the school year I’ve tried to get a steady supply of playdates to keep my kids busy (and happy) so I can avoid having to shlep over to the grade school at 2:30 and lose an otherwise very productive hour (or more). Ideally (so the plan goes) at least half those gigs would be at someone else’s house, and the perfect storm would find both my boys going somewhere other than our house so I don’t have to kill that hour going to the school only to say that yes, they can go to their friends’ houses.
I’m Oh-for-five this week, though. Ouch.
I’ve had a houseful of “spares” (as in kids – also known as “strays”) all week long, which would be fine (we call it “subtraction by addition”, this bringing-in of kids to keep mine out of my hair) except several have been the recalcitrant types who don’t WANT to be here, and to prevent them from breaking out and trying to walk home I’ve had to keep a weather eye on them. I actually did have to chase one four blocks and carry him back. It is, sadly, not a great way to work.
We’ve also had houseguests. I really like houseguests, and as members of couchsurfing.com we have a steady stream of fascinating, generous, kind, complete strangers staying overnight here. Of course we have complete control over who stays and who doesn’t, but when we agree to host a couchsurfer we have no idea what life will have served up in the interim. Our most recent guests were delightful – among the favorites of everyone we’ve ever hosted, in fact – but haven’t we all had that night of “I am having an absolutely wonderful time with these people, which is only slightly ruined by the recall of the huge pile of work I should otherwise be doing”??
I’ve also had evening meetings. Again, they are for groups I absolutely love and wouldn’t dream of giving up, but the end result is that I haven’t been able to carve out even an hour or two for work most nights this week.
Did I mention that one of my boys misplaced, in a record-setting 48 hours’ time, his glasses, his shoes, two sweatshirts, the family camera, and his school binder? All were eventually found, but you know how it is. Just one more thing.
Same boy, different day: he brought to me (to his credit, sheepishly) three food containers for his Lunchsense lunchbox that had been waylaid under his desk for…weeks? I have no idea. And I had just ‘bought’ (from company inventory) three more of the exact same containers that very same day.
So here it is, Friday afternoon, and my to-do list for the week is not only NOT shorter, it’s way, way longer. Simple things – what the &^# do I do when a printer has “print skew”?? – have completely shut down my productivity. THE WHOLE WEEK has been a testimonial to bad customer service: technical issues that should take 5 minutes to fix have taken 30; Thirty minute problems have taken 90. To top it all, I’ve spent over an hour on customer service hold lines every day this week, and every day has been for a different problem.
Speaking of “customer service,” I’ve created my very own disaster, all by myself, by shipping an order meant for Malta…to Malaysia. Seriously. (Therein lies the great downside of autofill. Type M-A-L and hit return, yeah? Um, no, Nancy.) Another hour went down the rabbit hole trying to un-disaster that beauty.
So, to all who care to hear, I’ve dug down deep and found a refuge from this week’s frustrations. Here it is (Forgive me, in advance, for showing my age. Note, though, I highly recommend this to them of any age):
Lynryd Sykynryd. Freebird. Really, really, really ear-bleedin’ loud. (I have to acknowlege – painfully – that it’s not loud enough. Have I finally wasted my hearing?) Nine minutes and nine seconds of escapist bliss. I’m on about my seventh time ’round and it’s exhilarating, liberating, and exactly what I need to scrub out the memory of this wretched week, and I highly recommend it to anyone with ears and a bad day in the rear view mirror.
Next up: Inagaddadavida (Iron Butterfly). Frankenstein (Edgar Winter Group). Hold Your Head Up (Argent. First line: “And if it’s baaaad, don’t let it hold you down, you can take it” Aaahhh, pearls of wisdom). Sunshine of your Love (Cream). Hocus Pocus (Focus). Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress (the Hollies). Bungle in the Jungle (Jethro Tull). And, of course, Stairway to Heaven (Led Zep).
And I’m not even going to try and fix iTunes, which seems to unable to find over half the music in my library. That’ll be Monday’s problem.
My daughter (she’s 11) and her friend begged me to let them use my laptop a few weeks ago to watch a movie in her room, since my boys were watching some movie with stuff blowing up. I relented, but requested that they use earphones so the boys wouldn’t know. My gal pulled out the pair she’d just bought with allowance money and lent her original pair to the friend, then they turned to me and asked,
“Do you have a splitter?”
I said no, my laptop has two headphone jacks so we wouldn’t need one.
Then it occurred to me: “how come my 11 year old knows what a splitter IS and what it’s FOR?” I certainly didn’t when I was her age. So I asked, “how the heck do you know what a splitter is?”
Her friend turned to me and said, very gently,
“Nancy, we’ve grown up with this technology. WE (gesturing to herself and my girl) are natives.”
“YOU are an immigrant.”
But so very true.
On that note, I’m introducing a new face, a new name, and a new voice to the Lunchsense blog. Meet Chris Naugle: Born on the East Coast and raised and educated in the Midwest (Uof Missouri) and Northwest (U of Oregon), Chris now resides quite happily on the West Coast as married father of two elementary age boys. Chris says he is living the Great American Novel before hoping to someday commit it to paper or at least the internet. And this is what I get for asking for a bio at 10 pm and receiving it around midnight: He is mostly exhausted.
He also happens to be a dynamic, opinionated writer who can not only complete a sentence, he can even turn a phrase.
Perhaps you assume,
“Oh, Nancy (being an immigrant) needed a tour guide to navigate this online, technology-infused world, so Chris is the go-to guy.”
Um, no, that’s not it. Chris is also an immigrant. He’s joining me on this undertaking because as a small biz owner there’s just not enough of me to get everything done, and he’s a fine writer to boot. We immigrants to ANYTHING just need a little extra help now and then to “keep all the plates spinning,” as the old saw goes.
So then, say hello to Chris, and wish him well (and a little sleep).
Here’s that pesky postscript: after my daughter, her friend and I had that above exchange, my girl said, “Mama, don’t put that on Facebook.” This has become her stock statement after anything funny, embarrassing, or even mildly insightful and interesting comes forth. As always, I agreed to respect her wishes and keep it off Facebook.
But she never mentioned the blog.
I spend many waking hours and more sleeping hours than I care to admit working on the lunchbox biz.
This blog is meant to reflect that which I’m passionate about, including (but not limited to) good food, waste reduction and running a small biz. I’ll readily admit I’m passionate about at least a few other things (starting with my family), but I’m inclined to keep them clear of my ramblings. However, I had a day last year that definitely involves my family, and has absolutely nothing to do with the biz, but was so…noteworthy…that it warranted a posting. It happened on a no-school day – President’s Day, maybe? – and involved not only my crew but a handful of local families.
Me, home for the day. I have three kids: Delainey (10), at Kayla’s house; Noah (8) and Evan (6), both who are at home with me.
Lisa, also home for the day; she’s mom to Hannah (10), at Kayla’s house, and Mason (8), Roscoe (7), and Alex (6), all at home
Kayla (10) and her little brother Kai (5), both at Kayla’s house with Delainey and Hannah
Fisher, Noah’s friend, at his own home
Alexandra (10), friend to all the girls, and her mom Joan, also at their own home
My husband Mike, at the high school where he teaches, overseeing a chess tournament
Yesterday: Lisa suggests that we take a bunch of kids to the dollar theater to see “Bolt”. They don’t get many opportunities to go to a movie in a theater, and we’re happy that it’s something ALL the kids might enjoy AND it’s at a very attractive price.
Today, 9:30am: Noah complains of general malaise; I give him a dose of Tylenol, figuring he’s just tapped out from a long weekend and will rally with the extra attention anyway, but the Tylenol won’t hurt.
11am: Lisa calls me – Mason is on task to complete his homework, but has two pages to go and will not be allowed to see the movie until he finishes. He’s digging in his heels, and Lisa wants to know if I’m going to the movie and could take Roscoe and Alex so they don’t get punished for Mason’s transgressions. I agree to this; I have no interest in seeing Bolt but (as most parents would know) that doesn’t really have any bearing on the day. Since I first have to deliver Evan and pizzas to the chess tournament around noon, I can make it to Lisa’s in time to scoop up Roscoe and Alex for a 2:10 movie.
But what about the girls? Delainey wants to get together with Alexandra, and they may want to see the movie, and Hannah and Kayla might also want to see the movie, so I add it up: me+Noah+Roscoe +Alex+3 girls will fit in my van, but only if Evan agrees to stay at the chess tournament, and he’s undecided; I can’t manage a 4th girl, and since Lisa can’t go anywhere until Mason finishes his homework, we’ll have to see if Joan can drive.
11:15: I try to call Joan, but that call is interrupted when my cell phone rings. It’s Delainey calling from Kayla’s: she wants to know if I reached Joan to confirm her get-together with Alexandra. I tell her I haven’t yet, but there’s a possibility we’d all be able to go to see Bolt, but it hinges on having another driver, which could be Lisa if Mason comes through or Joan if she and Alexandra are interested. I agree to call her back when I know more; she has to check with Kayla and Hannah to see if they’re interested in the movie too.
I call Joan back: Alexandra’s itching to get together with Delainey, and any other friends would be just great, and yes, she might be interested in the movie, and yes, Joan thinks she might be able to drive. I count again: me+Noah+Roscoe+Alex±Evan (pending chess) leaves me room to spare, if Joan could drive all the girls.
11:25: I call Delainey back, and she says they’re all interested in going to the movie. I agree to stop by Kayla’s house and scoop up all three girls, deliver Kayla and Hannah to Lisa’s house and Delainey to Alexandra’s, do the pizza run to the chess tournament, return to Lisa’s and get the boys at 1:45, then take them to the movie. Kayla and Hannah, meanwhile, will walk up to Alexandra’s when it’s close to movie time and Joan will drive all four girls.
Easy, easy, easy.
11:35: I call Lisa back, and she says Mason’s definitely NOT going to the movie because three other friends just arrived and Mason is playing with them and she is certain he will not get his homework done in time (and probably won’t care either). I tell her the plan with the girls, and she figures it will work.
11:40: Fisher calls, wants to play with Noah. I count again: me+Noah+Fisher+Roscoe+Alex±Evan (pending chess) would still fit, so I offer to take Noah to Fisher’s now, then to swing back to Fisher’s house at 1:30 to get them before I go to Lisa’s to get the other boys to go to the movie.
11:40: I load up the van with the trail-a-bike (so Evan can get home from chess with Mike), and Noah and Evan, and go to Kayla’s house. I go in to get the girls, and there stands Kai, who also wants to go to the movie. I count up again: me+Noah+Fisher+Roscoe+Alex+Kai±Evan (pending chess) will still fit in the van, so I say sure, he can play at the Lisa’s while I go deliver pizza to the chess tournament, then I’ll pick him up and take him with everyone else to the movie. Besides, he’s altogether too cute and good-natured to refuse. So Noah, Evan, Kayla, Hannah, Delainey, Kai and I pile into the van and we go to Lisa’s house.
11:45: I drop Noah at Fisher’s house with instructions that I’ll return for them at 1:30.
11:50: Joan calls, tells me that she doesn’t think she’ll be able to drive after all because she’ll need to be around for her son’s activities later that afternoon. I tell her that the girls will probably understand, and perhaps even Lisa will be able to drive if Mason gets his act together.
11:55: I drop off Kayla, Hannah and Kai at Lisa’s house with the promise to return for them at 1:45 and instructions for Lisa and Joan to work out the girls’ transportation to the movie.
12:00: I drop Delainey at Alexandra’s.
12:25: Now with only Evan in tow, I get pizza, go to the high school, and join Mike and the chess team for lunch.
1:15: Evan has decided he wants to go to the movie, so we load up and head to Fisher’s.
1:20: I call Joan to confirm the movie transportation plan. She doesn’t think it will happen as Delainey and Alexandra have now made other plans.
1:25: I call Lisa to tell her that those girls will not be going to the movie after all.
1:35: I pick up Noah and Fisher, and (after doubling back to get Noah’s glasses) we head for Lisa’s.
1:40: Lisa tells me Kayla and Hannah were so disappointed that they wouldn’t get to go to the movie after all that she has agreed to throw Mason and the two remaining friends of his in HER van and she will deliver Kayla and Hannah to the theater if I will keep tabs on them. I agree to this.
1:45: I reach Lisa’s house, where Roscoe, Alex and Kai pile into the van with Noah, Fisher and Evan, and we head to the theater, following Lisa’s van with Hannah, Kayla, Mason and his two friends. After half a morning of scheduling and rescheduling, we are FINALLY ON OUR WAY TO THE MOVIE.
1:55: Noah (in the front seat) announces to me he feels awful and thinks he might throw up. I check, he looks ashen. I hand him the trash bag and figure that two hours sitting in a dark movie theater won’t kill him or anybody else. Ultimately, he does not throw up.
2:05: We arrive at the mall and hike over to the theater ticket window, where we meet Hannah and Kayla, whom Lisa has just dropped off.
2:08: the 2:10 showing of Bolt is sold out.
The two ten showing of Bolt is sold out.
THE TWO TEN SHOWING OF BOLT IS SOLD OUT.
2:09: I call Lisa and tell her the news, and she cracks up.
2:10: Lisa doubles back to the mall, picks up Roscoe, Alex, and Kai.
2:11: I return to the van with Noah, Fisher, Evan, Kayla and Hannah, then on the drive back I try and call Fisher’s house (as I don’t want Fisher to be at our house with Noah in his condition), but as I can’t reach Fisher’s parents I call Lisa and ask to leave Fisher there.
2:25: I drop Fisher off at Lisa’s.
2:35: I drop Kayla and Hannah at Kayla’s.
2:40: Noah, Evan and I return home. Noah immediately heads for bed.
The necessary postscripts: I’m usually not this cavalier with a sick kid. Noah was low in the morning, but rallied; he was low on the way to the movie, but the prospect of FINALLY getting to the theater had just too strong a pull on him.
Lastly, these are all wonderful kids and I’m happy to take them to the dollar theater when the opportunity arises. Most of the time the outing does NOT turn out like this one did.
My newly minted middle school gal came home from her first trip to the school library last week toting a beauty of a book: “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” by Julia Child et al. She even admitted she whooped for joy when she stumbled across it on the shelves.
She’s already agreed to cook dinner one night a week.
Perhaps she’s finding in food what I found (at her age) in fabrics, patterns, and clothing construction: a marvelous creative outlet, not without rules but with plenty of opportunity to improvise along the way. Follow the rules, and get very satisfactory results; take the rules and bend them, and get creations with your own personal mark.
Stay tuned, I’ll let you know what she comes up with!