February 13, 2013

I heart Valentine’s Day

If my husband is reading that post title, he is cringing. He hates Valentine’s Day. Over the weekend, he asked me, “When is Valentine’s Day again?” When I told him it’s Thursday, he let out a long, low growling sound. Maybe that sounds kind of sexy and romantic. It wasn’t.

Like many men, I suspect he dislikes the pressure and expectation to deliver some wonderfully romantic gesture on cue. Plus there’s the fact that flowers, cards, chocolate, etc. are all marked up at least 50%.

That’s fine with me (he does a pretty decent job of surprising me with nice little gestures on random days, so I’ll let it slide, though if he screws up my birthday cake again this year, I won’t be so forgiving!). No, I don’t love Valentine’s Day because I’m showered with romance and chocolate (I prefer Jelly Bellies). Actually, I just enjoy an excuse to do something special for my kids, decorate things with hearts, maybe bake something yummy, and if it’s a good year, possibly get a card from Mike.

I must admit I was lazy with my decorating this year, and didn’t do much. Or, anything really, unless you count displaying one glass jar filled with sparkly red hearts. But, I’m enormous, and preoccupied with counting days until I have a baby, so I get a free pass. I did, however, get my act together enough to put together something fun and creative for Garrett’s class valentines.

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Aren’t they cute? I can’t take credit for the idea, but the execution was aaalllll me, folks, and let me tell you, it was ridiculously easy. I got the idea, and the printable from a Pinterest pin for 12 No Candy Valentine’s. Are you surprised?

I have no problem with special occasions and sweet treats (see above mentioned Jelly Belly shower), but I don’t think that EVERYTHING about every holiday or event needs to be centered around candy. I’d like to be able to make my kids waffles for breakfast, or bake some of my dad’s famous chocolate chip bars (and cut them into heart shapes of course) with the knowledge that THAT is the treat they are getting for the day. Not waffles on top of 25 packets of lip-shaped suckers, chocolate kisses, conversation hearts, and whatever else they are bombarded with throughout the day.

It’s about choices. Choosing the things that are worth it, and saying “no” to the rest of it. Because you can’t have all of it and expect to still fit in your pants. And if you do have all of it, none of it is really all that special.

Besides, kids dig crazy straws and bouncy balls. And if they don’t, they’ll get over it. See, there I go, glowing with the Valentine’s spirit of love. Enjoy!

Update: Just checked out Young House Love and they have a great post on another cute class Valentine idea. Have a look-see.

February 5, 2013

We now return to (semi) regularly scheduled programming

Hi! Howdy! Long time no see! Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Holy Crap it’s 2013!

Yes, I sort of dropped off the face of the Earth. Or, at least I appeared to here. In reality, I am too heavily grounded to drop off the face of anything. See what I mean?

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This is from Thanksgiving, when I spent the hour before dinner in a cooking frenzy because Mike informed me the turkey was going to be ready an hour before I anticipated. Hence the rosy freak out flush in my cheeks.

Right around Thanksgiving is when I started to write this post, by the way. It’s been sitting in my “drafts” file for an embarassingly long time. I’m so much bigger now.

See

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Graham took these fuzzy iPhone photos last week. They’re not great, but I’m trying to remember to document this last baby. It seems like it will last forever (37 days to go!), but it’s going to be over so fast. Kind of like the last few months of 2012!

I’m not sure many (any???) of you care what’s been going on since I last posted, but it feels kind of strange to just start up posting without some kind of highlights post. So here goes. Feel free to skim.

First of all, just before Thanksgiving, the whole house came down with a nasty stomach bug, one by one, over three weeks. Week #1 kids (and kind of me), week #2 totally me, week #3 Mike. So awful, I was traumatized for weeks.

After barf-ageddon 2012, we enjoyed some really nice family time. We did some hiking in Boulder, traipsed around downtown Denver, relaxed over Thanksgiving, and had killer seats at a Denver Nuggets game where no child whined or complained or begged for food.

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Hiking in Boulder

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Graham on the train to downtown

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Boys playing football in the park

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Turkey Time!

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Caveman

I noticed on several occasions, that time seemed to slow down, and moments really resonated with me. (Read this great post by Glennon Melton at Momastery where she talks about Chronos and Kairos time). I felt content, and so grateful– we were getting out, exploring and enjoying life. I was also feeling a little better physically, and starting to get really excited about the baby.

I was also adjusting to some changes we made around here late last year. For various reasons I won’t bore you with, we decided to take Graham out of preschool (he was going three full days a week), and keep him at home for now. I was slightly panicked by this decision. I was afraid I would have no time to myself, that I would not be able to get any work done, and that I would go a little stir-crazy as a full-time mom. I know a lot of people love  or wish they could have that lifestyle, and I am thankful that I have the choice. But I have always wanted to balance my kid-time with work-time, as I feel passionately about my chosen profession. I also have concluded that I am a better mom when I work some hours outside the home. I appreciate my kid-time, have more patience, and feel more productive and upbeat. That’s just me. You do what works for you.

That’s why I’ve been pleasantly shocked to see that I’ve slid into full-time mom mode with ease and dare I say contentment. Maybe it’s because I know this time with Graham won’t last much longer–soon a new baby will be here, demanding so much time and energy, and Graham will be starting Kindergarten. Maybe it’s because I’m kind of in nesting mode, in the last weeks of my pregnancy. Or maybe, it’s just because I’m so damn tired, I can’t think about much else than taking care of the immediate needs of my family.

Whatever the reason, I just didn’t feel inspired or compelled to write for awhile. No big decision, just didn’t post. Oh yeah, I also had a few weeks of pre-term labor scares, where I was having a lot of contractions, and the threat of 3 months of bed rest loomed large. Obviously, it all worked out.

Once I was in the clear, I savored my ability to, you know, get up and walk around even more:

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FREEZING ocean play in Carlsbad, CA

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Big belly on the beach

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Remembering what sand feels like

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Christmas baking and silliness

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Good old Morgan

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Decorating the tree while photog Garrett snaps away. This is the most flattering of the bunch. Yikes!

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Maxy, always watching

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Christmas morning moments and a new mug handmade for Daddy by Garrett (yes, that’s a fish)

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Finally, snow, and a new sled to try out

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Can’t you just FEEL the cold?

After a wonderful few weeks of home, family, and holidays, 2012 went out with a whisper at our house. That is what happens when you are pregnant. I have high hopes for next New Year’s Eve!

The last few weeks have been spent preparing for the new baby: cooking and freezing red meat (it’s a weird thing I seem to do when faced with childbirth), agonizing over car seat patterns (hormones manifesting in strange ways), cleaning, organizing, and throwing things away. Oh how I love to throw things away!

I’ve also been thinking a lot about my goals for the upcoming year. Not resolutions, exactly, but more like the big picture of what I want to accomplish, where I want to direct my (likely limited) energy, and what feels important to me right now. I don’t have any concrete answers yet; I’ve learned that with a new baby, you never know exactly how things are going to shake out. But I have written some things down. There may even be a detailed list of pros and cons in a notebook somewhere. I’ll keep you posted as my plans start to take shape.

I do know, however, that this blog still means something to me. I plan to continue posting, though I can’t promise with any great regularity in the next couple of months. It’s also possible that the content may vary a little more than in the past.

The main focus will still be health, fitness, and wellness, but the lens through which I view those topics will be changing and evolving over the course of this year. For example, you can be certain that at some point after I get the all-clear to exercise (I’m having a scheduled c-section), I will be hitting it . . . HARD. Expect some major posts about diet, exercise, recovery, core muscles, etc. But the more I read, learn, and experience, the more I am certain that wellness is so much more than just checking off the diet and exercise boxes. It’s motivation, purpose, passion, and living a day-to-day life that you can be proud of. So yeah, I’ll probably talk about that stuff too.

I hope you’ll stick with me.

November 16, 2012

Celeb-fit shrinking stars

This has been a bumpy week. Last week, both boys had a quick and dirty stomach bug, and I thought I had it too, though not quite as dirty. Thought is the operative word there. Monday afternoon I discovered what it was like to wrestle with the real version of the virus. Yuck. Pregnant + life-draining illness = crap-tastic.

The next few days were spent, well, sleeping basically. Sleeping and shuffling around trying to find a fresh place to sleep. What I did not do much of was eat. In fact, for over 24 hours I didn’t eat anything, and for a couple of days after that it was not much more. It made me think about what it must be like to be Matthew McConaughey.

I’d guess he hasn’t eaten in months!

Now, compare that, to this photo, from the movie Magic Mike, where McConaughey said he was in the best shape of his life. I’ll say.

What an alarming transformation.

According to gossip news outlets (one of my favorite kinds!), McConaughey has dropped 30 lbs. in his quest to look ill and wasted for the movie The Dallas Buyer’s Club, about an 80s-era AIDS patient.

He’s just one of a long line of celebrities who have suffered through drastic diets to morph into a character. Recently, Anne Hathaway has had a lot of press for her role as starving prostitute Fantine in the upcoming Les Miserables.

In recent interviews, Hathaway has said she subsisted on two thin squares of dried oatmeal paste per day, losing 15 lbs. in two weeks. Miserables indeed.

Sure, this kind of extreme dieting produces results if you are dedicated crazy enough to stick with it. And if you’re a celebrity making millions for a dream role, then I guess you may decide the payoff outweighs the risks. But severely restricted eating takes a huge toll on your body, both mentally and physically. Can you imagine how it must feel to deprive you body, your brain, of food for that long? After just a couple of days (and I was sick!) I was desperate for a normal meal. These celebrities, and the normal people who do it too, have bodies that are crying out for food. You can’t think of anything else, you can’t function.

And, you can’t maintain it. You may think you’ll just hop on the cabbage soup diet or the Master Cleanse for a week or two and drop those last 15 lbs. And like I said, it might work . . . for a while. But listen to me now: IT. WILL. NOT. LAST.

You will gain the weight back, and then some, and you may have a more difficult time finding success with a healthy eating plan in the future.

As we move into the holiday season, often a time of excess, I know lots of folks have a vague idea of letting themselves go for a few weeks, and then “detoxing” in the New Year. To some extent, this can be a decent strategy, as the body balances between healthier foods and small indulgences. But a month’s worth of overeating and lack of exercise cannot be wiped away with a drastic quickie cleanse, no matter what celebrities or the latest best-selling diet book tells you.

So by all means, enjoy your holidays. I certainly intend to. I’ve got a few days of baby growth to catch up on! However, keep in mind that a New Years crash diet is not going to bail you out of your bad choices now. So make an eating and exercise plan, choose your special treats wisely, and keep up with exercise, even if your workouts are a little more rushed than usual.

And lets all hope that McConaughey’s new movie is a hit.

November 9, 2012

American Diabetes Month

November is American Diabetes Month. Why should you care? According to the American Diabetes Association:

  • Nearly 26 million children and adults in the United States have diabetes, including 7 million who don’t know it.
  • Another 79 million Americans have prediabetes and are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
  • Recent estimates project that as many as 1 in 3 American adults will have diabetes in 2050 unless we take steps to Stop Diabetes.

What puts you at risk for developing diabetes?

  • You are overweight.
  • A parent, brother or sister has diabetes.
  • You are African American, Hispanic/Latino, Native American, Asian American or Pacific Islander.
  • You had a baby weighing more than 9 pounds or had gestational diabetes.
  • You have high blood pressure.
  • You have low HDL (good cholesterol).
  • You have high triglycerides.

Parents, and even grandparents or other family members have a unique and essential role in building habits that will help keep families healthy for a lifetime. Diabetes prevention starts now. Whether your kids are in diapers or learning to drive, you can model and enforce good nutrition, exercise, and other lifestyle choices. Here are a few steps you can take today:

  • Choose water: during sports, on hot days, for lunch and snack-times, skip high-calorie sugary drinks and go for water instead.
  • Move more: take family walks after dinner, go for a bike ride, play sports, or enjoy all of the outdoor activities your area has to offer.
  • Involve kids in meal planning and food shopping and prep: the more invested they are in what they eat, the more likely they are to make healthy choices, now and as they grow.
  • Talk about why it’s important to eat nutritious foods most of the time: by explaining that nutritious food fuels a strong, smart, healthy body, and high-fat, sugary junk food makes a body feel tired, sluggish and sick, kids understand the impact of their choices, rather than just thinking you are a mean mom for saying no to their favorite treats.

Diabetes is a nasty disease–one that can attack multiple areas of the body, and make life challenging in many ways. Why not do what you can to prevent it now?

For more information on diabetes, including a free, online risk test, check out the American Diabetes Association.
November 6, 2012

Halloween is so over . . .

and yet, I haven’t gotten to it until today. I promised an update last week, and it just didn’t happen. My parents have been visiting, I had my 20-week ultrasound, we had a weekend full of Christmas shopping (!!), soccer, and some general putzing around. Then today, Graham got yucky sick. So, you know, just general life. But somehow, it was suddenly almost a week past Halloween, and I realized I never posted pictures.

Anyway, for those of you who still care, (hi, Terry) here are a few highlights from our super, duper, funtastic Halloween Eve.

Here’s a shot of my Pinterest-inspired pumpkin head fruit kabob. Isn’t he impressive? And heavy. I carried this bad boy into Garrett’s classroom for his Halloween party and let me tell you, between the weight of the un-scooped pumpkin, the fruit, and my baby belly, it was not a light load. Still, the kids liked it (oh yes, they really did), and I thought it was pretty cool. This idea is definitely a keeper.

My partners in crime, the robber and the cop. For a little while, Graham was convinced he wanted to be the cop. No, no, no, my little friend. That would just not fit. Garrett is definitely more the cop-type, and Graham, the perfect robber.

Me, I was Mother Nature. Forgive the fuzzy picture, but that’s as good as it gets when a four-year-old is in charge of the iPhone camera. Mike was out of town until late Halloween night, so he escaped the costume trap this year. I would have made him dress as Father Time.

So that’s the recap, and now, on to the next! Doesn’t it feel like time is just flying? I need to catch my breath.

Btw, don’t forget to vote today if you haven’t already. Now that I think of it, Election Day might turn out just as scary as Halloween! Yikes!

October 30, 2012

Halfway there

October 29, 2012

Halloween tricks and treats

If you were around wishfit for Halloween last year, you know we get pretty excited about the holiday. This year is no different; in fact the boys picked their costumes for this year, last year. What are they? A cop and a robber, and if you know them at all, you can probably guess who is what.

So, in the spirit of Halloween, I thought I’d share a few of my recent tricks and treats.

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Telling the kids we are going out to the pumpkin patch at the Denver Botanic Gardens at Chatfield,

and then discovering that they had no pumpkins left, forcing us to go to the local grocery store instead.

Oops. Guess we were a little late on the pumpkin patch visit, but the kids didn’t care one bit!

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Putting together these tasty little baggies of yum for Graham’s soccer team.

I wish I could take the credit for this snack, but I actually stole the idea from another mom on the team. It’s just fresh-popped (not microwave) popcorn, a dash of kosher salt, and a few candy corns. So tasty, filling, and just a tiny spike of sugar for after the game.

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Finding out after I had popped, salted, and assembled said popcorn treats, that the soccer game was cancelled and I’d have to do the whole thing over again next weekend. Oh well. We’ve been enjoying them at home!

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Fruit shake in a jack-o-lantern cup.

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I’ve run out of tricks, let’s do a few more treats, shall we?

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A few fun holiday decorations around the house.

And, finally, my contribution to Garrett’s classroom Halloween party.

I found this idea here, on Pinterest. What? Did you expect bags full of candy?

So there you have it, a small sample of our Halloween fun.

Check out this post from last year if you’re looking for a few ideas to keep your Halloween calorie count down.

Oh, and btw, I settled on my costume a few months ago, deciding to use the baby belly as inspiration. A hint:

Of course I’ll be back with some photo updates toward the end of the week. Have a happy and safe Halloween.

October 25, 2012

Winter-proof your workout

Winter hit us last night.

There’s my neighbor’s pumpkin. He looks like he’s been hit with a snowball!

Just last week we were playing in unseasonably warm weather.

Today it’s 27 degrees and more snow is forecast. By the weekend? Who knows.

What I do know, is that if you live in an area that gets cold, snowy, foggy, and/or rainy, keeping consistent with your workouts can be challenging. The ease of outdoor summer workouts disappears, and the short, dark days make staying on your couch, eating stew in front of a fire much more appealing than exercise. Add holiday stress, parties, and food to the wintery mix (see, there’s that term again–love it!) and it’s darn near impossible to keep up a consistent workout schedule.

I won’t lie; I didn’t walk Garrett to school this morning, and right now I’m baking pumpkin bread. I will go to the gym tonight though. Especially now that I’ve announced it.

Anyway, like I said, working out during the winter is hard, but it can be done. You don’t have to turn into a sloppy lump on the couch until New Year’s resolutions motivate you again. Nope, just keep a few things in mind and you can at least maintain your current level of fitness through the winter slump.

  1. Notice I said MAINTAIN: unless you are an elite athlete on a serious training schedule, be honest and admit that now probably isn’t the best time to set a 30 lb. weight loss goal. Strive to maintain your fitness level and keep from gaining any weight. Most people gain about 1 lb. each holiday season, which they never lose. Doesn’t seem like much, but after 20 years . . . you get my point.
  2. Embrace interval training: I won’t go into a lot of detail about this type of training today (read about it here, and here), except to say that when you are short on time, high intensity intervals are your friend. Not only can you get an effective workout in less time, this kind of workout is a great stress buster.
  3. Forget the “all or nothing” mentality: it’s easy to throw up your hands in defeat when a few days (weeks?) go by with nary a workout minute logged, but don’t. Just get right back on that treadmill (or bike or kickboxing class), and burn some calories. True, you will probably miss more workouts during the winter season, but it doesn’t have to be the end of your fitness world.
  4. Plan, plan, plan: some of you might not normally be the scheduling type, but if ever there was a time for a little planning, winter is it. A packed holiday schedule and those short, cold days I mentioned can put you in a real time crunch. Vague ideas of getting to the gym are often the first thing to get slashed from the mental to-do list. But if you look at your schedule ahead of time, you can pencil in slots of time dedicated to fitness, making you much more likely to stick to it.
  5. Get outside: yeah, I know, it’s cold out there. Get over it. Cold, yucky weather can actually be a key ingredient for a fun workout. Getting wet, muddy, snowy or slushy just makes it that much nicer to take a hot shower when you’re done. Plus, it makes you feel tough.

Hopefully these tips give you the kick in the snow pants you need to keep moving through the winter months. And if you live in, say, sunny Southern California, you have no excuses!

Happy winter workouts.

October 24, 2012

Ladies who lunch

Yesterday I took part in a luncheon/brainstorming session with a great group of Colorado women as part of LiveWell Colorado’s LiveWell Moms group. LiveWell is a non-profit dedicated to reducing obesity in Colorado, and LiveWell Moms is an off-shoot of moms (duh) who want to drive healthy change in the community.

As moms of young kids know, any excuse to get out of the house wearing “nice” clothes in order to spend time with other adults is welcome. This particular commitment was especially nice for me because I was in the company of like-minded women struggling to balance their desire for healthy kids with the constant challenges of a not-so-healthy mainstream. Sometimes I feel like a feel like a freak for not just going with the junk food flow that could easily engulf my boys. Other times I’m angry that in simply trying to teach my kids healthy habits, I may come across as freakish to others. With these other LiveWell moms, I felt normal. Well, as normal as I ever feel. Ha!

One of the main topics of conversation was frustration over how to handle what one mom dubbed our “cupcake culture.” You know, how every birthday party or celebration of any kind necessitates cupcakes. Not that I have anything against cupcakes. Actually, I think cupcakes are little chunks of heaven, sent down to make us all a little happier. I just don’t think anyone needs 36 of them during the course of a school year, which is about what it adds up to if every kid in class brings in cupcake birthday treats.

Frostingy fingers aside, it’s a sticky topic of conversation. Crack down on cupcakes and other classroom celebrations, and you come across as a fuddy duddy or worse. But the alternative isn’t much better, because if you think about it, it’s not just cupcakes. It’s cupcakes, other classroom celebrations, candy for good behavior, treats for winning a game, junk food in the lunchroom, candy sales for fundraisers, and kids sharing sweets they’ve brought from home. And that’s just the school day. Add on Pop Tarts for breakfast, sports drinks and juice boxes after soccer practice, and dessert after dinner, and you’ve got a day full of nutritionally void foods.

So, what’s the answer? What I learned yesterday, is that it’s different for every mom, every family. I believe in keeping the day-to-day meals and snacks as healthy as possible, so I feel no guilt whatsoever when we go out for pizza, bake a loaf of pumpkin bread, or drink steamy, marshmallowy hot chocolate after a winter night walk. That means I don’t want my kids eating junk at school. I don’t want them eating crap after sports games. I don’t want them getting soda at a friend’s house. I want to be able to treat them when I see fit. Seriously. And I want them to learn that sweets are just that–a treat. Not an anytime occurrence because you played a baseball game, or won a classroom bingo game, or celebrated the birthday of some kid in your class you barely know.

To some of the moms I met yesterday, I take too lax a view. To some of you, I might seem overly strict and unrealistic. To me and Mike, it feels just right. Even our kids feel we have the right idea, as they relish the special treats we allow, and start to make healthy choices on their own. Of course they don’t turn down a gorge fest when mom and dad are out of town (they’re not alien children), but then that’s a learning opportunity too, isn’t it?

So friendly readers, I’m curious–what’s your opinion about snacks and treats and such? Do you struggle with the amount of junk food your kids are exposed to, or do you, in fact, think I’m a crazy person for wanting to ban cupcakes in the classroom? Do you struggle with how to address these issues with other parents and caretakers? Or do you get angry with people like me, who take this health stuff way too seriously?

October 19, 2012

Take your parents to lunch day

Oh, how I wish this post was all about how Garrett dipped into his hard-nagged earned allowance money and treated me to lunch at saaaayyy, Linger in Denver. I’d start with the meze plate, then move on to a crispy lentil salad and a chicken b’stilla, and wash it all down by drinking water while pretending it was a ginger collins.

Instead, I’ll tell you about the lunch I shared with Garrett at school last week in honor of National Take Your Parents to Lunch Day. It was no five-star meal, but it wasn’t terrible either.

The official Take Your Parents to Lunch Day was Wednesday, October 17, however, Garrett didn’t have school that day, so I chose my own day for our lunch date. Did you know most schools welcome parents for lunch any time? Even if you have a good grasp on what the school lunch menu includes, I urge you to join your kid for the actual lunch experience. I found it very eye-opening.

The menu on the day of my visit included a choice of:

  • 100% beef hamburger or cheeseburger on a whole grain bun with baked fries and orange slices
  • veggie burger on a whole grain bun with baked fries and orange slices (all three burgers had an optional add-on of lettuce and tomato)
  • mandarin chicken salad with spinach and romaine lettuce, mandarin oranges, chicken, and apples
  • turkey and cheese sandwich on a whole grain Goldfish sandwich thin, with green beans and a cherry cup
  • salad bar with whole grain roll and chopped ham on the side

Garrett chose the salad bar with roll and chopped ham, and a carton of non-fat chocolate milk. I did not encourage or influence this decision in any way. Promise.

I chose a non-fat chocolate milk. Yum. Do you know how good non-fat chocolate milk is?

I had planned to eat a real meal, but I was having a bad baby belly day, and by the time I got to school my appetite was pretty much gone.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the food and the abundance of choices. A few things I noticed:

  • by the time Garrett stood in line, purchased his meal, and sat down at his table, he had about 15 minutes to eat before the signal to finish up and head out for recess. Some kids scarfed their food while others barely touched it. Garrett scarfed, and even then he wasn’t really finished by the time lunch was over. He told me that technically he could stay and finish his meal, but then he would miss recess with all of his friends. No wonder he’s so desperate for food when he comes home from school.
  • overall, the atmosphere in the lunch room was pleasant–the adults were friendly and the kids seemed happy
  • the cafeteria workers were nice and seemed to know many of the kids by name
  • a surprising (to me at least) number of kids chose the mandarin salad or veggie burger
  • there were no junk food extras available for purchase. The kids said maybe once a week there are chips or candy available, but not every day.
  • the fruit and veggies seemed fresh and appetizing and many kids really did eat them, though I noticed almost no one chose to add the lettuce and tomato to their burger
  • the lunch room monitors turned the lights out to signal the end of meal-time and quiet the room; damp dishcloths sat on each table and the kids were required to clear and clean their table before being excused to go outside. I thought this was a nice way to transition from lunch to recess, and I liked the added responsibility of clean-up duty.

I know area school districts are making an effort to offer healthier and more appetizing food to students, and I was pleased with the results at Garrett’s school. I think they are doing their best to strike a balance between quality ingredients and food that kids will actually eat. I also appreciate that I can get detailed information on each meal option on the school’s website, therefore making a more informed choice about when and if I let Garrett buy lunch.

My biggest concern was the lack of time students had to eat, and the fact they often have to choose between filling up or playing outside with friends. While I don’t have a good solution for this problem, it was helpful to realize the time constraints Garrett faces, which will influence the lunches I pack for him in the future.

While my experience was positive, I think there is a wide variance from school to school. My cousin, who has a young daughter (G) in a different local district, described a much different experience based on her two recent visits.

Just like at Garrett’s school, the overall lunch menu was fairly healthy and well-rounded, though there was a basket of chips and other junk food available for purchase right next to the register. The atmosphere, however, was a vast contrast. While the kids at Garrett’s school were largely left alone by the lunch monitors, at G’s school they are very, shall we say, interactive. According to my cousin, these women have a somewhat intimidating presence, and spend the short lunch time constantly shushing the kids, directing them to “eat your main first,” and making them do a little chant to quiet down. The kids are bombarded with announcements like, “Stop. Your beverage should be open. Stop, open your beverage and take a drink.”

Sounds like a recipe for indigestion to me.

According to my cousin, it’s a stressful environment, and the idea that the adults are instructing kids what and when to eat is distracting at best. “They keep telling the kids, ‘eat your main first,’ but if  it’s a crappy main, with fruits and vegetables on the side, I’d rather her eat the fruits and veggies, and eat less of the main.”

Clearly each school has its own approach, and I’m sure they are all trying to do the best they can with the resources they have. Still, I think that changes for the better are always possible, and much more likely when parents are aware and involved.

If you’d like to figure out how you can help, or just want to relive your old lunch room days (why?), make a lunch date with your kids. Yes, it feels a little weird going through the lunch line and sitting at small tables while your kids’ friends tell you random facts, but it does make a difference. Even just that one small chunk of time gave me better insight into Garrett’s school life.

Check out the National Take Your Parents to Lunch website for some helpful resources, including what a lunch tray should look like, questions for your food service provider, and what goes into school lunch. If you live in Colorado and want to be more informed on the topic of school food, visit LiveWell Colorado for information and ideas.

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