Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Best lunch date ever

I just got back from the best lunch date I could imagine... I had lunch in the school cafeteria with my six-year-old daughter.  This is the second time I have done this, and - as before - I was impressed with the level of controlled chaos that the elementary school seems to operate under.  Meeting E. for our 20-minute power lunch was a balancing act at best: get there early enough to not be late as I know the school operates on a very tight schedule but not so early that the little guy and I are wandering the halls aimlessly; pack enough food to feed a hungry belly, but not so much that it can't be consumed in the limited 20 minute time slot the first graders have.

E. normally takes lunch with her, and I am happy with that.  Being a vegetarian family, days with non-meat options are few and far between.  And, even if we did eat meat, I have to believe I'd be less than excited about the "healthy, balanced" choices the school offers: chicken nuggets, mini corn dogs, nachos, ham and cheese wrap?  I'm sorry.  Maybe I operate on a different scale, but even if I ate meat these selections seem more like treat items, not something I'd have my kids eat every day.  Just because you put "whole grain" in front of the chicken nugget doesn't make it healthy to me.  Even the vegetarian choices that they have a few times a month don't excite me - whole grain mac and cheese, cheesy quesadilla, pizza dippers, french toast sticks?  I mean ... really?

I think E. mostly opts for the cold, bring-from-home lunch option, because she is intimidated by the whole hot lunch line process, and in first grade most kids seem to pack a lunch anyway.  However, if she chose never to do the hot lunch, I'd be fine with that.  Last time E. and I had lunch together, we did get the mac and cheese, and I have to say I didn't like it.  It tasted like, well ... cafeteria food.  Today's choice was the pizza dippers, but E. didn't want to have anything to do with them either.  So, instead I packed a cold lunch for her, myself and her brother.   I wouldn't say it was the healthiest or best either, but I can certainly feel better about cold leftover homemade veggie pizza, organic go-gurts,  diced peaches and homemade vegan chocolate chip and walnut cookies than the unexciting, glorified mozzarella sticks I saw kids dipping into pizza sauce.

I am proud of my kids when it comes to their food choices so far.  Sure, they eat way more mac and cheese and grilled cheese than I would like, especially when we go out, but they also eat salad, brussels sprouts, broccoli, kohlrabi, and other "weird" things like the crazy smoothies we make.  One first grade boy was staring at the little guy eating his pizza, and told me that he just couldn't understand how a kid younger than him was eating pizza with black olives and green peppers on it. (For the record, it also had mushrooms.)  I was kind of surprised by that grown-up observation from him, and asked him if he didn't like those items.  The reply? No, he only eats pizza with sausage and pepperoni.  Ugh.  (He was also eating the pizza dippers.)

I've been reading a lot about the childhood obesity problem in the United States, and I have to admit to being confused by it.  School lunches aside, kids are kids.  They are active by nature.  After lunch today I spent the next fifteen minutes on the playground for recess and the energy out there was palpable.  I had managed a 3.5-mile run earlier in the day and wasn't too excited about extending that, but I got drawn into running with the first graders and easily spent half of recess running this way or that.

To me, it's got to be a crime for a child to become obese.  I feel you'd almost have to be hogtying them to get them not to burn energy - at least with my kids and the majority of the kids I see in our community.  I don't know, maybe that will change as they get older.  I know my husband and I try to limit their TV intake and video games and such.  Maybe at some point, they'll fight us more on that.  At this point, though, I look at my three-year-old who will literally run laps around an area if he has a plethora of energy, and it's hard to believe he would ever voluntarily slow down.

In any case, I hope that my husband and I are setting a good example that will be taken to heart as the kids get older.  I think I surprised some of the kids on the playground today by running.  A couple actually asked me what I was doing.  When I replied that I was simply running with the girls, they just responded, "Oh," and started running, too.  Maybe more kids need to see examples of adults being active.  I suppose if we're not always sitting on our butts, they won't be either.

Sucking it up

I managed to get up this morning before dawn to go to a core conditioning class I had been ditching for almost two months.  A new teacher today had us start out with three separate plank exercises for the warm-up.  At that point, I already knew I was in trouble, and I was right.  By the time we got to the cool-down exercises I had to give up and lie there like a beached whale because my abs wouldn't cooperate anymore.  I walked out of that class feeling pretty shaky in the middle, wondering if my core would actually hold me up for the rest of the day.

Not so much because of that but rather because of a severe case of delayed onset muscle soreness in my quads the past few days, I didn't really expect to go running today.  I geared myself up to do a short walk with some run intervals thrown in if I were feeling wily.  However, when I got to the coffee shop where I would later meet the Wednesday morning running group, I was put to shame.  I missed the group, which I figured I would, but I did see them in the distance.  Running with them was a lady who had just run her first 50-mile road race this past weekend.  What an inspiration!  I figured if she could run then the least I could do was give it a try myself.  Surprisingly, I took off and had a really good run for it.  I averaged a 9:15 pace for three and a half miles with no notable soreness.  I love running.  There are always lessons to be learned.

Exercise and the aging parent (um, that's me)

When it comes to me and exercise and kids, there are a lot of reasons to keep at it even if it doesn't feel the best.  I, of course, want to set a good example for my kids, so that they have the best start in life and carry that forward into their own lives.  Also, though, as an older parent of two very young children, I feel I owe it to them to at least try to stay as healthy as possible for as long as I can.  There are so many factors that I cannot control, but I'll be damned if I won't at least try to control the ones I am able to.

Run happy, be happy!


  1. They do seem to serve some strange stuff there. Stick to the homemade.

  2. Thank, Cap'n Pat, for visiting the blog! Yes, I plan to stick to the homemade for as long as we can. It definitely seems to be the better option...