Tag Archives: kids

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.


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.

Let’s Talk: Picky Eaters



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!

Beginning our days


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.


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.)


(* 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


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).

Elvis Week: That’s all right, Mama



With limited bento supplies – no adorable little picks, only a few cutters – it’s really difficult to do an Elvis-themed bento week. It’s probably difficult to do an entire week of Elvis-themed lunches as it is, supplies or not. Today it was more about letting go than decorating.

Today we took it back to where it all began, back to July 1954 when slap bassist Bill Black and guitarist Scotty Moore agreed to conduct a recording session with a young Elvis Presley. They did this though neither was really overly impressed with the young man from Lauderdale Courts apartments. After recording a few less than stellar country songs, the trio took a break and Elvis began cutting up and playing Arthur Crudup’s “That’s All Right (Mama)”. Bill and Scotty joined in, Sam Phillips recorded it and history was made at Sun Studios in Memphis, Tennessee: rock ‘n’ roll was born.

(As a sidenote: I know Bill Black’s children, Louis Black and Nancy Black Shockley. They live in my county and I’ve interviewed them several times for stories on their father; Bill Black passed away in October 1965.)


So what does this all have to do with today’s lunches?

The kids wanted to make their own lunches. And I let them. Because what would it hurt?

Well, that’s all right, mama
That’s all right for you
That’s all right mama, just anyway you do
Well, that’s all right, that’s all right.
That’s all right now mama, anyway you do

We had mini sub sandwiches on the menu and they wanted to eat crackers and cheese again. But allowing them to make their own lunches gave them a buy-in and it makes them want to eat it because they’re proud of what they made.


Each varies a little bit, but they all made ham, cheese and pepperoni sandwiches and they each have two pickles. The older two really got creative with theirs, making faces using pepperoni, mustard and cheese. Jaiden and Jaylen have Reese’s Pieces for their treat and they have strawberries, raspberries and grapes in addition to a bag of chips. Jenna didn’t want candy, she wanted marshmallows and Annie’s Chocolate Bunny Grahams and grapes.

As you can see, they used a lot more packaging than I do (though I do put pickles in bags usually so the juice doesn’t get all over everything) and they wanted to wrap their sandwiches in wax paper like they do at Subway (totally their doing!), but that’s all right, Mama, right?

First day of school



As of tomorrow, the 2011-12 school year will officially be underway. And so will be my goal of making bento-style lunches for all four of my children the majority of the school year.

Now, I’m not a creature of habit. Routines give me anxiety. I like variety. And so I will probably not be in the kitchen, dutifully making bento lunches every single day. Some days the kids will buy lunch. Some days Em will be at her mother’s house. Some days I’ll let the kids do it.

Whenever I set out to do something – and this is my 30-year-old wisdom speaking – I ask myself what I’m hoping to accomplish. In packing lunches for my kids I hope to give them healthier meals, which I hope will help, encourage and teach them to make healthier choices on their own. I want to cut down on the processed food they eat and ensure they get organic, cage-free, grass-fed, local, in-season foods whenever possible. Also? Bentos are just so stinkin’ CUTE and who doesn’t love a cute lunch?!

Tomorrow school begins so I have been preparing for it all weekend. This afternoon I decided to go ahead and make lunches; mornings are not really the best time to work on them and when I can, I like to work ahead.

On the Monday lunch menu was sandwiches, per the kids’ requests. Above, Jaiden (fourth grade) will be taking cream cheese and cucumbers on a multigrain sandwich flat, string cheese, baby carrots, grapes and a s’mores snack mix I made using organic honey grahams cereal, mini marshmallows and chocolate chips.



As I went along I got a little more creative with it. Jaylen (second grade) and Emma (kindergarten) have the same sides as Jaiden, but different sandwiches. Jaylen has a dinosaur made from a smoked turkey and sharp cheddar sandwich on white bread; its eyes are made with food coloring and the … pointy things, can we call them dinosaur paraphernalia?, are made from cucumbers. Emma is tired of PB&J, so she also has smoked turkey and sharp cheddar, but on a whitewheat sandwich flat. I cut a cross from her bread, flipped it over and placed it back in the hole; I also made a cross from cucumber peels and adhered it with cream cheese.

With my kindergartners on a staggered schedule this week (and Emma going back to her mother’s house), this will be my only Emma lunch until next Monday. Jenna will have lunches twice this week, but not for a few days. I need to figure out something really special for her first day. She helped supervise while I made lunches for the other three, and even decorated their lunchbox notes with heart stickers, but was really upset when I told her I wasn’t making one for her. Pobrecita! Only a couple more days.

Looking around at bento stuff lately, I cannot wait to buy picks and little sauce cups. We’re using the Ziploc divided containers (bought some today with purple lids – perfect!) for right now, but I also want to buy some that will give us a little more length for the days when I want to send fruit skewers, though I suppose shorter stirrers (from the cocktail section of Walmart, for instance) will suffice.

My husband was impressed with the baking cups used as containers. “I would have never thought of that,” he said. Yeah, me neither. Thank you, oh Internets, for that.