Earlier this week I found myself at the kids school at lunch time for a birthday lunch with Hunter. And since I was going to all the effort to go grab food and go to the school, I figured I would stick around the lunchroom a little longer so I could enjoy lunch with Bennett and Hallie as well.
Here are a couple observations from Monday’s lunch experience.
- The lunch room is loud. When I first walked in, it was just two kindergarten classes and grew progressively louder the more kids that entered the space. I didn’t realize just how loud it was until I stepped out for a minute and walking back in hurt my ears. I don’t think it was any louder than most cafeterias but I’d forgotten how chaotic that space is. And I love that there is not a teacher in sight in that cafeteria – that means they’re getting a much deserved break! Instead, the cafeteria was being manned by a few classroom aids and some lunchroom workers and the saint of a man who was going behind all the kids picking up trash and cleaning up their messes.
- There is so much food wasted. This is just my observation, but those that brought their lunch seemed to eat the majority – those that purchased food ate a fraction. Like one bite out of the hamburger and didn’t even touch their fruit. So much food was thrown away. I kept reminding kids that they didn’t have much time left and they better eat – they looked at me like I had horns. My persuasion did nothing, they threw away the majority. I wanted to take a picture of every plate and send it to their parents! I’ll become the crazy volunteer lunch mom – policing the eating behaviors of kids. I was told by the aid in Bennett’s class that he eats his lunch the same way every day. He takes crackers and pepperoni and he stacks them up – and takes a bite out of the whole stack. I told the aid, “That’s not good – I’m sure he makes a huge mess every time he does that.” She agreed and she came up with the solution that he could eat over his lunch box so all the crumbs are contained.
- There were too many little kids eating alone. I was drawn to the kids that were sitting by themselves at the end of a bench and I couldn’t help but wonder why they were sitting alone. Do they not have friends? Do they have anxiety in chaotic environments? Do they really enjoy reading and would rather read than talk? I asked Hunter about a girl one table over. “Does she sit alone every day?” He shrugged unsure as to her eating routines. Then I realized, kids often don’t notice everything going on around them. They need to be trained and retrained to notice things such as a kid eating alone. They need to create buddy benches in cafeterias just like they’ve done for recess. If you don’t have someone to eat with, sit at this table which signals other kids you need someone to eat with. Did I mention I need to be the volunteer lunch mom?!
- Kids enjoy their parents visiting for lunch. I keep thinking Hallie is going to grow out of it, but she still enjoys it and her friends love on her little brothers that tag along. Hunter’s eyes lit up when he caught my eye across the cafeteria and he rushed over, and his friends were right behind him. And Bennett…oh Bennett – everything is still so new to him and this was the first time he’d seen me at lunch time and he was so excited. He was a little crazy, he was so excited. He kept leaning over and hugging me and telling me he loves lunch. He was pointing out all his friends and all the funny things they’ve ever said. He wanted to share everything with me.
It was serious effort to get out the door with the two littles, grab food and sit through three lunches (with time to spare in between) but it was worth it. And going to school always teaches me something, even when I’m not the student.
When we went to Carlsbad, it was the first time we left this guy overnight. In fact it was the first time he had formula. Just before we were leaving I started to get a little nervous. I knew he was in the best hands with our niece and her husband which put me at ease, but it was still a little hard driving away. And wouldn’t you know it – he got along just fine without me. He had his fun adventures with his cousins including football and volleyball games and lots of snuggles. I got videos of him smiling and cooing and it was just what my heart needed to see. He was in good hands.
You only turn 8 years old once in your life and Hunter has been counting down the days. In fact yesterday, he was counting down the hours. We’re all excited that his birthday has officially arrived.
We celebrated with lunch at school (which Bennett and Hallie also benefited from) and “sugar snap cookies” for his class. Hunter told me he wanted doughnuts or sugar snap cookies as a treat for his class. You mean snickerdoodles? Yes, the ones with the frosting? You mean sugar cookies? Oh, that’s what I meant
His very own scriptures with his name on them. They were in a case when he opened up the gift and he said excitedly, “A new lunchbox – this is a really heavy lunchbox!”
Tonight we had a service project over at Steve’s parents house, helping them prepare for some painting and remodeling. Hunter wasn’t too keen on the idea of spending his birthday doing this – but once he found out his cousins would be there, he was all in. Once all the work was done all the cousins were outside playing soccer and we ended the night with a cake to celebrate.
Hunter’s request was sprinkles in and on half of the cake. Not the whole cake – just half of the cake. Funny kid. His church teacher dropped off a milkshake when we got home. It was a good day to turn 8!
Check out our family birthday tradition – the birthday bucket.
Often when I’m scrolling through Facebook, I save food recipe videos to view later. Most of the time I never go back and look at them, but I saved a salsa chicken recipe and several weeks later, I scrolled through my saved videos to find it. It looked like a simple, one pan dinner and I’m always looking for recipes for busy weeknight meals.
The first time I made it, we devoured it, although our kids complained it was pretty spicy. We cut back the spice just a bit and I taught Hallie how to make it. She’s the only one who makes it so naturally we renamed it Hallie Chicken. She’s made it for our family, family up in Utah, my parents in Idaho and we’ve delivered it to friends in our neighborhood. Hallie’s willing to make it for anyone!
SALSA CHICKEN RECIPE
- 1 cup rinsed uncooked basmati rice
- 15 oz can drained and rinsed black beans
- 1 cup frozen corn
- 3/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 tsp oregano
- 16 oz jar salsa
- 1 cup chicken broth (or water and chicken bouillon)
- 3 chicken breasts ~1-1/2 lbs – each breast cut in half
- salt and pepper to taste
Put all ingredients except chicken in a 9×13 pan and stir. Depending on how spicy your salsa is, you’ll want to cut back the cayenne pepper. Place chicken breasts on top, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover with tin foil and bake at 375 for 60 minutes. If desired, shred chicken and place back on top of rice, sprinkle with cheese. Eat with tortilla chips or in a tortilla.
This has lit a fire within Hallie and she’s ready to learn a new meal. She’s ready and willing to take on more dinner responsibilities and I’m happy to hand that over to her!
Here is his weekly photo from last week – as happy and smiley as a baby can be. His hair is growing in enough that his siblings are enjoying styling it. Here is the Bennett mohawk. He’s started the backward scoot which just lands him smashed up against furniture around the room. And he’s pushed forward a couple times when trying to get something just out of reach.
He’s enjoying his oatmeal cereal with fruit mix-ins – although he spits out rice cereal. Just look at him – I love his smile, I love his snuggles and history tells me he’s just going to grow up!
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