Monthly Archives: August 2011

Bento for our Supastah!

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Between Darin’s sports, the kids’ sports and activities and my weeknight meetings, our schedule is pretty much a hot mess. Being busy, though, is a sacrifice Darin and I are willing to make for our children because we want them active, involved and not idle.

That said, Tuesday was crazy busy: Darin had a volleyball game at 6:30, Jaylen had a pack meeting for scouts at 7 and then Darin had indoor soccer practice at 8:30. My responsibility is to feed these people, get Jaylen to scouts and keep the three girls. My brother, who’s a boy scout, is helping with taking Jaylen to scouts, so that’s stress off of me (he wanted to volunteer anyway, and his son is still too young for scouts, so it works out).

Figuring things out takes a little pre-planning. On Monday night I made the cold part of the kids’ lunches (noodles were made Tuesday morning), prepared and wrapped baked potatoes for the slow cooker for Tuesday’s dinner, prepared an omelet mixture for Tuesday’s breakfast and made Darin a bento dinner too. He has time to eat before volleyball and time to eat before soccer.

I made him two smoked turkey and Black Forest ham sandwiches on multigrain sandwich thins with provolone, spinach and yellow mustard; I also cut stars out of the top of the bread and flipped them inside out for contrast. He also has broccoli, grape tomatoes, an orange (he’s Type I diabetic, so I slipped that in in case his sugar gets a little low) with a star cut out for easy peeling, cherry fruit leather rolled up (and also cut into a star) and greek wild blueberry yogurt with some Back to Nature Apple Blueberry granola (which is nut-free; he has nut allergies) on top.

This is my first bento for the mister and so I asked him how he liked it. He first lied and told me he liked it, but I called him out on it; he said he didn’t like the bread. Sigh. I can’t win for losing with this family.

Kids’ Choice: Noodles

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When it comes to cooking for my family, I’m a bit pretentious or elitist: I like to actually cook instead of microwave or defrost or toss frozen foods into the oven. I’m not judging anyone, do what works for your family, but I like to roll up my sleeves and be a little elaborate. It’s one thing I like to do.

Experts encourage parents to do this sort of thing as a means for teaching healthy eating habits; train a child in the way he should go, as it were. But yeah, my kids still prefer ramen noodles and Chef Boyardee and Hamburger Helper when given the option. Ramen aside, I’m not a fan of those things.

Jenna has requested ramen noodles for weeks and over the weekend I finally bought little insulated containers so I could honor her request.

Today my babies are taking noodles, Wheat Thins toasted chips, a skewer of cheddar cheese and Black Forest ham (or cheese and grape tomatoes or just cheese, depending on whose lunch it is), Stonyfield Farms soy yogurt, cherries (for Emma, the others had half of a Clementine orange), three mini Oreos, broccoli and quartered baby carrots.

I’m sure some of it will come back, but I wanted to pack a little extra because I know ramen isn’t so filling.

I checked around and others recommended putting boiling water in the insulated container for 5 minutes prior to putting the hot food inside; we’ll see how warm it kept their noodles when they come home.

Kids Choice: Pancakes

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I’m frustrated with trying to get these hooligans to eat, so we’re doing a round of kids’ choice lunches this week.

First up is Emma’s choice: pancakes!

In full disclosure, I bought mini frozen pancakes. I know, I know. I generally like to make these things because it’s loads cheaper (plus you can toss in chocolate chips and food coloring and the kids think you’re awesome), but I was working with a short timeframe, so frozen was going to have to do.

That said, today the kids had six mini pancakes, five or six cherries, Stonyfield farms yogurt and a treat: mini Oreos for the little two girls and two rainbow Chips Ahoy for the older two. Oh, and Jaylen has applesauce instead of yogurt because he hates yogurt.

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(Also, my foot’s in the picture. I had to go back to taking photos on my phone because I left my memory card at work.)

We picked up some cutters and candy eyes this weekend, trying to build our bento supplies up. The kids enjoyed their little pancakes faces (the smile is a cashew).

Most of the kids ate everything. Jenna didn’t eat her yogurt because she was afraid it’d be gross (we had a conversation about chemicals, additives, preservatives, dyes, etc. on the way to school this morning after I told them not to expect their yogurt to taste like Danimals or Go-Gurt). Jaiden didn’t eat her cookies (weird, I know) and apparently 5-6 cherries is too many because no one finished those. Jenna didn’t eat her cashews (“I hate NUTS!” she said) and Emma said someone knocked her lunch on the floor today, so she had to eat cafeteria food. Oh, and her lunch was still in the lunch box after it was picked up off of the floor. ANNOYING.

Tomorrow we’re going with Jenna’s choice: ramen noodles.

Let’s Talk: Picky Eaters

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Dinnertime.

This is an old picture, taken from the days when my babies were still small enough to sit in booster seats at the dinner table (the date on the photo is Feb. 10, 2009), but it still serves my point very well: my kids can be very, very picky eaters.

Really, it’s only a couple of them who are still pretentious about food. The other two are much better about eating, but are still picky every once in awhile. I’m really into serving healthy meals most of the time and sometimes those meals include things that typical children might not eat. All four of the kids love (!) broccoli, for instance, but I cannot get Emma to eat any kind of fruit and Jaylen only wants to take PB&J for lunch. Emma prefers dairy above all else: cheddar cheese cubes, Cracker Cuts, string cheese, yogurt. Jaylen doesn’t like yogurt, he won’t eat things like english muffin pizzas or pigs in a blanket at lunch because they’re cold. Jenna prefers fruit above all else and actually always makes really healthy choices, she has a very healthy appetite, but I cannot get her to eat very much at lunch. Jaiden eats just about everything, but wouldn’t eat the english muffin pizzas, either, and she hates tomato soup.

I’m just touching on this a little bit, but you get the idea. Four kids, four different palates, four different lists of dos and don’ts.

So let’s talk about this: how do you get your picky kids to eat their lunch?

I’m an advocate of giving kids choices, of sending them with food they like in hopes they eat it, but I am getting frustrated right now. I’ve been making lunches for 3-4 children every day since the beginning of August and I’m not only beginning to run out of ideas, but also out of patience. I’ve let them choose things for the menu, I’ve let them pack their own lunches, I’ve let them help me prepare bentos, I’ve let them decide between things I’m considering while I pack; each of these suggestions works one day and not the next (plus I really don’t have time to let four kids dictate their desires in the midst of a busy morning or evening). I just need a little less stressful situation with the lunches.

How do YOU get your children to eat? Did it take awhile for your children to get used to healthier/different choices in their lunch boxes? Are they over it now?

If you have any ideas or tips please comment and let me know!

The Monster Mash

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Monster Mash bentoA quickie little share today:

I was browsing Pinterest and showed my children some of my bento pins; my son LOVED the monster face sandwiches he saw, so this morning we gave it a go.

Yesterday Jaiden forgot her lunch (pigs in a blanket), so she just took yesterday’s lunch, but Jaylen and Jenna have monster faces! These were SO fun to do. The sandwiches are PB & strawberry jam; Jenna has cheese and grape eyeballs and Jaylen has banana and grape eyeballs; the eyebrows are made from slivers of baby carrots.

They also have more grape “eyeballs,” string cheese and broccoli; Jenna has a blueberry cereal bar and Jaylen has chocolate-covered graham crackers.

The kids had toasted cinnamon raisin bagels and grapes for breakfast and Jaylen decided to eat the peel off of his grapes, then put one in his monster’s mouth (he said it’s another eyeball).

We’re having an issue with the kids actually eating some of their food for various reasons; I hope today the majority is eaten. These are too, too cute!

PS – I would not recommend using bananas as the base for the eyeballs. They got slippery and so did the halved grape, which I tried to adhere using jam, and the eyeballs were sliding off of the bananas. Jenna’s cheese-grape combo worked a little better.

Beginning our days

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Yummy breakfast!

This is what a Monday morning looks like in our crazy house. Notice the smiles? Yeah, they were happy to smile it up for the camera and stall a little more this morning, making us a teensy bit late that didn’t even count against us. It was one of those mornings here, a morning where we just couldn’t pull it all together in time no matter how much nagging I did.

One of the big changes we’ve implemented this school year, in addition to packed lunches, is a sit-down breakfast. It’s not a sitcom breakfast, where we’re all sitting down together, slowly beginning our day; truth be told, our mornings are usually like that scene in Home Alone where the family realizes they woke up late* and runs around the house in fast forward. Darin and I don’t usually sit down and eat breakfast at home, honestly, but the children have done it this year and not only is it a better start for them, but it’s much nicer on my car too in that there are no crumbs, no Pop-Tart wrappers, no crushed bits of cereal in my back seat.

Every single morning Jaiden asks what we’re having for breakfast and it’s really nice to have an answer for her instead of telling her to grab something out of freezer or pantry and having her microwave, toast or bag whatever it is she ends up with (and that goes for the others too). It’s nice not to send Darin out the door with waffles for Emma every single day. It’s just nice to do it and they really seem to like it, too.

What I’m really telling you? Is that this school year I’ve decided to torture myself by making three meals a day for five or six people (we only have Emma half of each week, plus every other weekend). It’s exhausting. But it really helps to have a plan.

Menu plan - August 21-27

I’ve been meal planning for several years and it is wonderful for its organizational and financial benefits. A few months ago I bought a magnetic tabbed organizer from Target and I love it; I use it every single day between our menu, the schools’ lunch menus and Darin and the kids’ sports schedules. Our menu usually goes in front and now that more than half the house can read, they know what we’re having for every single meal.

And let me clarify: Just because it says we’re having pancakes for dinner doesn’t mean it will happen. I didn’t feel like fooling with pancakes tonight, so we had pasta instead and maybe pancakes tomorrow. We’re also switching our Tuesday and Thursday breakfasts so we can eat waffles for breakfast before Emma goes back to her mom’s house (waffles are one of her faves).

As you can imagine, mornings are usually hectic around here.

In the mornings I’m up and making lunches (if I didn’t get it done the night before) or breakfasts or taking a shower. I wake the kids up at 6:30 a.m. and we’re usually coming downstairs by 6:40-6:45 a.m.; this is when Daddy gets up. If Emma is here, she goes into the bathroom to brush her hair and teeth first, once she is dressed, so that she will be ready to go; when she is done she sits down, has breakfast and Darin rushes her out the door by 7:05 a.m. The other three kids ride with me (they go to a different school than Emma does, in a different part of our area), so they get a little more time to eat in the mornings.

Jenna's lunch 8/22

While they eat I do my hair, take pictures of their lunches, try on a million things before deciding on something I don’t really want to wear, listen to the Today Show, tell them to leave the cats alone fortheloveofallthingsholy, nag them to stop talking and eat, nag them to pick their belongings up off of the floors and to clean up after themselves, nag them to remember their lunch boxes and milk money. I try to leave the house by 7:40 a.m. Some days, like today, I am writing checks for school or trying to get a knot out of someone’s shoelace or refereeing a disagreement on the way to school (all while I talk to my friend on the phone); other days it’s a quiet 15-minute trip through the country and into town for school.

At 8 a.m., when I drop them off, I sigh. My mornings are all about five other people and two kittens from 5:30-8. And the rest of my commute is all about me, all about quiet. All four minutes of it.

Rox!

And that’s how we do mornings.

(I know you love the gratuitous share of my baby, Rox. He was/is named Roxy, then we found out the cat we thought was a she is really a he, so now he’s just Rox. And this is him chillin’ in the windowsill while the kidlets eat breakfast.)

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(* I don’t generally wake up late anymore. My cats are my alarm clock and they are usually walking up and down my sleeping body at 5:30 a.m.)

Meal planning template from here.

Elvis Week: Let me be your teddy bear

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Let me be your teddy bearI just realized that my last Elvis week post was never posted! Shame on me.

How’s this for unimaginative? Yeah. It was Friday, I needed to go to the grocery store and I was out of ideas, really.

Our theme? Of course, Teddy Bear!

I printed out a cute little teddy bear to use as a template for sandwiches or cheese or something, but my unpreparedness won and I ended up just making the kids PB&J with an American cheese teddy face (yeah, that’s a teddy bear face), White Cheddar Cheez-Its, leftover Elvis muffins, carrot sticks and Babybel cheese. This is Jaiden’s lunch and if I’m remembering correctly, the Cheez-Its were actually her afternoon snack, but they fit right inside her lunch box so in they went.

I’m not going to apologize for not sending “cutesy” lunches every single day. Sometimes you either just don’t have it in you or sometimes it just doesn’t work. I will say that I am very much looking forward to getting more cookie cutters and picks! That will happen once I can finally rebound from summer childcare (which is expensive if you have three kids).