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A date and cheese boats


For our lunch date today Emma requested pancakes and cheese, two of her favorites. And so they had mini pancakes; she and Jenna had sight words written on theirs, Jaylen had a pirate and “ARGH!” on his and Jaiden, who prefers me not to write on her food, had candy eyes plus lipstick and eyelashes.




In addition to the pancakes, they had strawberries, raspberries, Horizon organic yogurt Tubers and adorable little Babybel cheese boats!


And this is where the fun nearly stops. There’s an air show this weekend and when I got to work this morning I found out their media event was about an hour prior to Emma’s lunchtime. As those things sometimes do, it went later than planned and I was late for our lunch date.

And I had Emma’s lunch box with me. Ugh. By the time I got there she had already finished a school lunch and spilled chocolate pudding all over herself. But she ran to me when she saw me, so I’m assuming she forgives me.


We sat outside in a courtyard area and she ate most of what was in her lunch box while she chatted with me. She was excited to read the sight words, too. When she was done we joined the rest of her class in the hallway and went to her classroom. Emma didn’t want me to leave and it made me feel guilty, but I had to get back to work. It was great to spend one-on-one time with her, which is rare for the two of us.


Show & Share Friday



We FINALLY made it to Friday! I thought it’d never come again.

I didn’t plan our meals this week and I’ve felt SO disorganized; for us, it definitely helps to have a plan. A little extra time on the front end saves A LOT of time on the backend.

In my flurry of morning activity today, I just pulled a bunch of things out of the fridge and made a few decisions. Today was a no frills lunch, really. They had a rolled up slice of ham, cubes of sharp cheddar, broccoli, Clementine oranges and either animal crackers or Cheez-its. On Fridays they get to choose between purchasing ice cream or something from the PTO concession stand so I intentionally do not pack treats.

I haven’t checked their containers yet but going off of what they said, broccoli came back from almost everyone and Jenna also didn’t eat her ham (“I don’t LIKE ham!” she says. “And not broccoli! Two things I DO NOT LIKE!” Whatever, she does too.) Jaiden didn’t eat all of her cheese today, she said, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Jaylen came home with cheese too as he’s not a huge sharp cheddar fan (they only had 3 cubes each today).

One of my big questions when I started making my first bentos was what happened to the leftovers. It’s nice to cut these things out so they’re adorable, but I’m totally not going to wasting a ton of food, there’s just no reason for it. I try to find uses for them or eat them (or have the kids snack on them); with cheese, if I cut it with cutters, I’ll save the excess to be used in another dish, like grilled cheese or tacos. This morning I had half of a Granny Smith apple and half of a Clementine orange leftover between making their breakfast and lunch, so I packed them in a container with chunky slices of cheese (I’ve been cutting them from a block of sharp cheddar) and cashews for breakfast; I usually eat at my desk in the mornings but when I got to work today our office manager had brought sausage biscuits for everyone, so I had that instead and ate my fruit, cheese and nuts for lunch.


Yesterday was my lunch date with Jaylen. So far I think we’re all enjoying weekly lunch dates; last week I talked about other benefits and in addition to those, having lunch with them allows me to get a better feel for how lunchtime goes and why some food comes back (a combination of time and being self-conscious, for instance). Next week is my first-ever lunch with Emma and I’m excited about it. I’ll let you know how that goes, of course!


This last share has nothing really to do with bento boxes, except for the fact that the photo looks like a bento, but I wanted to share anyway. On Monday we woke up to cooler temperatures and I was inspired to make a warm, autumn-style breakfast. I had a ton of apples (red and green) and decided to make cinnamon apples to go with our Cream of Wheat; I also remembered we had plums and cherries so I added those too. It was SO GOOD! It was all very simple to make: dice your apples and plums, halve your cherries and remove the pits, dump your fruit into the bowl with 2 tablespoons of butter or margarine and add sugar and cinnamon to taste (I used granulated sugar this time, but I always use brown sugar); microwave for 8-10 minutes, let cool a little and eat!

My kids, even the ones who are picky as all get out, LOVED it. They said it was better than Chili’s and IHOP (which is a HUGE compliment as they’re big fans of the cinnamon apples at those restaurants) because it was homemade by Mommy. Aww. I had mine with a little hot Tazo tea as we were headed down the road to our friend’s dad’s house to shoot guns. (Have I mentioned we live in Tennessee?) We ate the leftovers for dessert after dinner, with some Back to Nature Apple Blueberry granola sprinkled on top for a little crunch, and it was even better! This will definitely be added to our list of faves.

Mama loves you



It’s been a ‘clean the pantry’ type of week again, and we’re coming off of a long holiday weekend that’s thrown our routine off-kilter, so I haven’t been shooting photos like I usually do.

Monday was a bye, if you will, due to the holiday. Tuesday I wanted to do something quick and simple, so my younger three took ramen noodles, carrots and a cookie while Jaiden took her kids’ choice meal (that I forgot about last week!): nachos.

Wednesday, which is still ‘today’ for me since I worked late and am still up, I packed adorable little PB&J sandwiches with Cheerio eyes and carrot mouths, apple slices with a heart cut in and baby carrots. I had to include the speech bubble and a message for my babies, too.

We were running late this morning and two of the kids forgot their lunches, so Jaiden had a talking sandwich while the other two had school lunch (hot dogs, I imagine). Now I only have to pack lunch for Jaiden and myself, since tomorrow is my first lunch date of the year with the best son God could ever give a mother. I’m looking forward to it!

Kids’ Choice: PB&J and fishies


Continuing with our kids’ choice theme, today PB&J was listed on the menu (my son love, love, loves PB&J). My girls didn’t want jelly, though, so we went with honey while Jaylen had homemade raspberry jam. A few weeks ago I saw these Pepperidge Farms Goldfish-Shaped sandwich thins and didn’t buy them, even though I wanted to, because the kids were still iffy on this type of bread. Of course they saw these on a commercial and decided they were cool, so the next time I went to the store I came home with these bad boys. Two points for the marketing geniuses because now at least another one of my children is willing to try sandwich thins.

We added a candy eyeball to eat little fishy, then I cut the cheese into short little octopi, cut carrots into some sort of seaweed, added marshmallow bubbles and then the apples were just going to be apples. I bought food safe markers at Walmart the other day (also: scored these on the clearance aisle!) and today was our first spin with them; one of Jaylen’s was a pirate octopus and he thought it was very cool.

Then, while I was taking a picture of his lunch, he and the girls decided they wanted to write on their sandwiches and cheese themselves. Jaylen gave Jaiden’s fish a red smile, Jenna colored her fish’s dots in blue.

And while I was taking the first photo, Jaiden decided the apple was a clam and the marshmallow a pearl. How creative is that?

Today was also the first day of mommy-kiddo lunch dates. Each Thursday I will have lunch with one of the kiddos; we kicked off today with Jaiden. I love having lunch with the kids; to me it’s interesting to watch them in their day-to-day environment, to see how they interact with their friends, to interact with her friends myself (some she’s had since Pre-K!), to spend time with the kids and to talk with them one-on-one.

The bonus for me is that three of the kids are at one school and they have lunch at very close times, so I get to see each of them sometimes (Jenna’s lunch is later than everyone else’s, so on her days that will not be the case). Emma goes to a completely different school and I don’t really know her friends (though I know some of their parents), so I’m looking forward to meeting them.

Going to lunch with the kids also gives me a chance to see my hard work the bentos in action! (For the record, I also made a bento lunch for myself containing the same things the kids were eating.)

You can see that Jaiden’s fish must have applied some lipstick when I wasn’t looking this morning!

I had to stop by Jaylen’s table to love on him and give him some chocolate milk and one of the kids’ former teachers told me she checks his lunch out every day when she walks by because she’s curious to see it (she called me the Martha Stewart of lunches, but I’m not quite there yet!); she said her favorite was the apple cut-out switcheroos during Elvis Week (that one’s a favorite among the family, too).

The student teacher in Jenna’s room also noticed her lunch today and thought I’d made the fish. Flattering, but nope! She went on and on about them and I thought it was nice that she was paying close enough attention to her that she knows what was in her lunch box. (Two points for you too, Ms. Jeanne!)

We’re supposed to have ham and cheese roll-ups tomorrow to close out the week, but Jaiden’s asked for hummus or nachos, so we’ll see what happens. The other two would likely be okay with sandwiches (I don’t think they’d touch hummus with a ten-foot pole).

When I wake up it’ll be Friday! I can’t wait. It’s been a long, frustrating week.

Bento for our Supastah!



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



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



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.


(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.