Mrs. Q on the move…

I’ll be back in school and eating school lunch in just a couple weeks. Frankly, I’m not looking forward to eating the lunches again. I keep hoping that there will be menu changes and that things will be better than the 101 school lunches I ate over the first half of the project. It’s probably optimistic of me to think that the food service companies that provide the meals might have retooled their menus. But considering the media attention being paid to school lunches in general, I remain hopeful that things will be better. Maybe I have to tell myself that (“It will be better, it will be better…”) so that I can feel ok about it. Also I’ve mentioned before that I have a sensitive system. My body has been happy all summer long. Upsetting that balance bothers me a little, but I will survive.
When I think about my job, I look on the bright side and think about my students and co-workers. I’m thrilled that I’ll get to see them again and get back into the school routine. I love my work. I work with kids who are needy in many ways. I enjoy helping them and I do believe I make a difference in their lives. I wish I could tell you more about myself, but it will have to suffice that my profession was a deliberate choice. I wanted to do this, I worked hard to get here, and I enjoy most days very much.
I love having summers “off” (this summer the blog has kept me very busy so it was not exactly “off”) but I dislike transitions. The transition from the end of the school year to the summer can be especially challenging because getting through the end of the year stuff can be stressful and exhausting. Then suddenly I’m at home listening to the crickets. In late August it’s the opposite. I’m at home, relaxing (and blogging a lot truth be told), and all of a sudden I’m at work, running around setting up my room, getting rosters together, and trying to plan. A year ago the transition in August/September was the most difficult I have ever experienced. I don’t know what caused my anxiety to spike, but knowing that last year was rough is helping me feel prepared for any emotional changes that come with the start of this school year.
Another bonus: Autumn is my favorite season. It’s hard not to feel excited by crisp, jean jacket weather. Then kicking leaves, going for comfortable walks without humidity and replacing my sandals with more rugged boots (I’m not a sneaker person, but I love comfy shoes). I enjoy Halloween (last year I wore a ridiculous hat and called it my costume) and eating homemade pumpkin bread. I’m vowing now to go to the pumpkin patch this year with the kid (I didn’t get around to it last year). And did I mention that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday? The months to come will be some of my most special.
***
Guess what? I was interviewed by Parents magazine for their September issue, which is on newsstands right now! Last week I was at the grocery store and was just about to check out when I saw a September issue of a magazine. I knew my interview in April/May would be coming out soon. I turned around and went straight to the magazine aisle. I found Parents magazine and I noticed on the front that their school lunch article was one of the headlines! I hurriedly flipped to page 219 (what a thick issue!) and found that my quotes were there, in the first paragraph no less! I wanted to grab the other people in the aisle and scream, “YES!!” But I refrained myself because after all I am anonymous. Instead I did a little excited jump because isn’t everyone excited in the magazine aisle?! Mrs. Q, (aka Me!), was in Parents magazine… What a thrill and what an honor. Check out the article — it’s informative with lots of expert opinions.
***
I will be speaking at the Mayo Clinic’s Center for Innovation’s Transform Symposium 2010 next month. They asked me months ago and I had to accept. I mean, who turns down the Mayo Clinic? We’ve been working out the details so that I can remain anonymous. I told them, “No photo, no video, no problem!” Well, they want to record it… Oh boy.
Of course the Mayo Clinic came up with a solution: Second Life. They do various speeches through Second Life already and so it’s easy for them to have an avatar of Mrs. Q “talk” about the project, school lunches, and kids’ nutrition. How brilliant of them — I shouldn’t have expected anything less. Not to mention everyone in the Center for Innovation is exceptionally nice. I have no experience with the virtual world, but planning the presentation has been such fun.
If anyone would like to figure out who I am by attending the conference, well, it’s sold out and I’ll be “speaking” through an avatar. How appropriate for the mysterious Mrs. Q.
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27 Responses to Mrs. Q on the move…

  1. Mary Zawadzki August 23, 2010 at 12:43 pm #

    Oh Mrs. Q!!! I am so excited and happy for you … and for the kids too! This is wonderful — an interview in Parents AND speaking at Mayo!!! Awesomeness and congrats.

    Good luck with the new school year!

    Big NYC Hugs,
    Mary

  2. Viki August 23, 2010 at 12:43 pm #

    I picked up the Parents magazine in the bookstore a few days ago and read through it. Good Stuff. All this attention though, how does no one at your school know it is you, I wonder?
    I think it will be extra hard to eat those school lunches in a few weeks. You know so much more now. You know what those chicken nuggets are made of, you know more about the containers they are served in, you will remember much more clearly what fresh veggies taste like.
    Would you have ever believed in January that your decision to eat school lunch and blog about it would land you in Parents magazine and in a Mayo Clinic Symposium?

  3. Michelle August 23, 2010 at 12:50 pm #

    When I first found your blog, I wondered what health implications you faced eating that garbage each day. I hope they've changed, but I doubt it. When I went in for my daughter's birthday lunch the other day, the kids had a choice of three milks: strawberry, chocolate, or vanilla. No plain. I was sickened.

  4. Kelly August 23, 2010 at 1:09 pm #

    Mayo Clinic and Parents Magazine???!!!! How super exciting! I could not be happier for you… what a great thing for this project/blog.

    If it makes you feel any better, it would appear that at least one Midwestern town is jumping on the slightly healthier school lunch bandwagon. The other day I downloaded the lunch calendar for my kids' elementary school and it would appear that SEVERAL of the regular school lunches have gotten a "health makeover". Still not what I'd like to see, but even baby steps should be applauded at this point.

  5. Dorn August 23, 2010 at 1:30 pm #

    Congrats on the article & have fun behind your avatar.

  6. Shannon August 23, 2010 at 1:51 pm #

    Ok, I gotta say, the second life thing is just too cool, lol! Good luck!

  7. Mrs. Q August 23, 2010 at 2:42 pm #

    Thanks! The whole project is surreal

  8. Maggie August 23, 2010 at 3:13 pm #

    Congrats Mrs. Q! I'll look for Parent's magazine, and hope you can let us know what you talk about at the symposium.

    As far as school meals this fall, maybe your school will be one of the 100.

    http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2010-08-17/health/ct-met-healthy-school-lunch-0818-20100817_1_cps-healthier-school-meals-education-president-mary-richardson-lowry

  9. Anonymous August 23, 2010 at 3:35 pm #

    haha! you are like a spy.

  10. Mommy Lisa August 23, 2010 at 4:00 pm #

    WOW – the Mayo Clinic and a magazine. Nice!

  11. Scattered Mom August 23, 2010 at 4:19 pm #

    Best of luck, Mrs. Q. I feel honored to have actually "met" you. :)

    I understand your mixed feelings about going back to work. I love my job too, but I also love the freedom of being able to sleep in, cook, and putter around my house. September is always so full of uncertainty while schools figure out funding, classes, and who will be where. I dont like the transition either. On the other hand, I also love fall (it's my favorite season too!).

    Have a wonderful time at the conference. :)

  12. Janet August 23, 2010 at 4:39 pm #

    I just read your article, that's so awesome! Congratulations! I've only started to follow this blog recently, and, while I am no longer in high school, my brother is in elementary school and i cringe thinking about the food he eats.

  13. Kim August 23, 2010 at 5:17 pm #

    Mrs. Q, your post gave me goose bumps! These things couldn't happen to a more deserving, capable person. Congratulations!

    I'd also like to take this opportunity to say that at the start of your summer break, I assumed we'd see posts from you maybe 3 or 4 times a week. Here we are near the end of your break and you've barely missed a day. I'm amazed at how interesting and thought-provoking I consistently find your posts to be. Time and again, you manage to open a topic I didn't even know I care about! Many thanks for working so hard and putting your heart, soul, and infinite patience into this project. Here's to your increasing success!

  14. Anonymous August 23, 2010 at 7:02 pm #

    Mrs Q,

    Why would you lose your job over this blog? I guess I just don't get it. All you are doing is posting what you eat for lunch at the school every day. Any other teacher eating the same lunches could stumble upon this blog and probably figure out who you are.

    I don't understand why you have to be anonymous at all. Wouldn't you have a legal protection, some sort of protected speech clause.

    If someone were to threaten your job just for posting what you eat every day then it's shameful, and frankly they'd be proving that they have something to hide in the lunches they serve and I guarantee that school would be hearing from thousands of us in your defence.

  15. Bartelmy August 23, 2010 at 10:02 pm #

    I remember my school lunches fondly, but then, they were cooked by the dinner ladies, and we had an hour to eat them. Plus, at home, I was raised on chips for every meal (British, so 'fries').

    I now work in a McDonalds while I'm doing my degree. I don't eat the food there, although I'm entitled to a free meal. I bring a packed lunch in for every shift.

    Over the last two years, I've watched my coworkers, especially the women – the teenage boys seem to handle the extra calories easily – put on more weight around their stomachs and hips. When I did used to eat the food, after a series of morning shifts, eating hash browns and sausage McMuffins, my heart began to feel very weird. I read the information on the back on the tray mats, and I was shocked to find out just how many calories were in the food. I know calories are only a rough guideline for nutrition, but finding as many in a milkshake, or a brownie, or one of those tiny sausage McMuffins as in a Big Mac was quite a shock.

  16. Melissa August 24, 2010 at 2:41 am #

    It will be interesting to find out if there are any changes in your lunches this year. As a Registered Dietitian in WV, I review some of the daycare/preschool/headstart menus in the area. A specific headstart program does follow school regulations/recommendations for meals. I have been told by them that some regulations have changed in WV for the new school year. Supposedly WV schools received a grant to help get more fresh fruits and vegetables (not canned or frozen) into the schools. They also are discouraged from using breaded meat products. For snacks, they can only offer juice to drink preferably once a month but no more than once a week. The amounts of whole grain products are also increasing.
    These are the few regulations that really got my attention. I really like that they are being encouraged to offer more fresh foods. I would like to add though that the headstart program did not receive money from the fresh fruit and vegetable grant, but they are still working to increase the fresh offerings. From what I have heard from other dietetic professionals and parents, the schools here are on their way towards healthier offerings for school provided meals/snacks.
    I look forward to one day hearing that your state is also on its way towards making some major changes in regulations for school meals in order to offer a larger variety of more fresh and healthy options.
    Thank you for your dedication to this project! I am currently working in a hospital setting, but if I would ever leave, I would really like to become more involved with child/school nutrition. We can not always change how/what they eat at home. However, I feel that children can be greatly influenced by what they learn about food, nutrition and exercise outside the home.

  17. Anonymous August 24, 2010 at 2:49 am #

    Thought you might like this-posted on the Facebook page of my local market:

    New Seasons Market: Does your child have a taste for adventure? Check out the FREE class, "Build a Better Lunch Box," 2–3:30pm, Saturday, Sept. 4 at our Concordia and Mountain Park stores. For the Concordia class, register at 503.288.3838; call 503.496.1155 for the Mt. Park class. Space is limited!

    New Seasons Market
    http://www.newseasonsmarket.com

  18. Mrs. Q August 24, 2010 at 3:19 am #

    Thanks for your support!

    Re: Anonymous – I don't worry about losing my job, but I worry I would have to stop doing the project. I think that things would be uncomfortable for me at work and there could be hurt feelings.

  19. Elizabeth August 24, 2010 at 9:42 am #

    This is wonderful — an interview in Parents AND speaking at Mayo, thanx for the post.

  20. Maggie August 24, 2010 at 10:20 am #

    Mrs. Q – you mentioned hurt feelings. Who are you afraid of hurting?

  21. Mrs. Q August 24, 2010 at 11:26 am #

    Maggie – The lunch "ladies" who I consider to be friends. I worry they may feel betrayed. Hopefully I'll be wrong because this is going to come out at some point!

  22. Joy August 24, 2010 at 11:32 am #

    Good luck with it all! Cheers!

  23. whatevs August 24, 2010 at 12:33 pm #

    Congrats on all the exciting thing going on in your life! As for lunches, we start next week and yesterday our lunch menu was posted. While some of it is the same old chicken and pizza, I was happy to see a few positive changes. In addition to the fries or tater tots, kids have an option of fresh veggies every day-side salads, carrot sticks or cucumber slices(!). Also, the salad bar was brought back from near extinction to a daily happening, including salads available with turkey, grilled chicken and tuna. I also saw dried cherries and fish sandwiches on the menu, as well as soup-and-sammie days. I was pleasantly surprised and I am hoping you are too!

  24. shari August 24, 2010 at 3:00 pm #

    congratulations! I am so happy for you. We start school Wed 8/25 and my son will be taking a sandwich on whole grain bread, a salad, and blueberries. I just hope that he will have the time to eat it!! 10-20 minutes is not enough.

  25. CLAMCO August 24, 2010 at 6:35 pm #

    We started school yesterday. I'm a lunch lady and our food service has promised to put some new things on the menu but not for a couple of months. Today we served beef tacos and chicken patties. We don't assemble the tacos. The kids make their own. We just provide the fixins and the food is made by cooks in another kitchen and sent down to us. The taco meat today consisted of these tiny little balls of meat that, to me, resembled rabbit pellets floating in a sea of grease. Kids commented that it looked like dog food. I couldn't disagree. Needless to say, the chicken patties were the top seller today. lol!
    Good luck with the food this year in your school. I hope it's better than last year. :D

  26. Mrs. H August 24, 2010 at 7:05 pm #

    I still see the see the same high-carb, high-sugar snacks and "treats" for sale at my school (chips, crackers, chex-mix, ince cream, etc.). Of course there is a weak-looking bowl of fruit and some hard-boiled eggs, but it's hard to pick those when you have Cheetos and ice cream to choose instead!
    I'm very happy about all the great attention you are getting, Mrs. Q. What you are doing has really brought this topic out into the mainstream, and a lot more people are talking and thinking about these issues – not just us radical, crazy people who want kids to be healthy. I hope to see (or not "see") more of you in the future.
    And another thing…it's awful to hurt people's feelings, but surely the school cooks will understand and agree with your motives. Most cooks can't do anything about what they serve. But if they can do something, and they're not, that's a different story.

  27. Maggie August 25, 2010 at 12:10 am #

    Mrs. Q, that's an interesting concept about the feelings. As long as the food service workers don't know what you are doing, it's OK.

    Mrs. H, you've got a point about food service workers not being able to do "anything". I'd suspect there are quite a few who would much prefer things to be better. Why wouldn't we?

    It's a challenge. Food is a very personal issue. Ten people would have ten ideas about what lunch should be. Add regulations (some in general public have little knowledge – granted, regulations can change but for now…got to follow them), funding (lack of?), little control over the circumstances we work in (schedule of meals, time allowed, etc.). Hearing a lot of "don't do that", and not a lot of "what to do instead". It's an interesting situation. Small steps happen, but it's too little, not fast enough in many eyes.

    Yes, it is a challenge. It will change, it is changing (yes, small steps).I have faith, but need teachers, administration believing it matters, that lunch/breakfast is important & honestly a part of the school day, not an aggravation and annoyance.

    Mrs. Q, if you are ever able to come out from under cover, I hope you will be a driving force in your teacher's association/union to say that it's OK to have longer school days, more time to eat, see teachers eating with students and so on.

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