Open thread: Halloween

I think it was Chris Rock who said that Halloween is the one holiday that you can’t fake if you are a poor kid. A kid can lie their way through the other holidays (“I got a transformer for Christmas — it’s at home!”) but a child can’t really fake a costume.

At my school there is a uniform policy. It means that kids must wear white on top and dark on the bottom. It evens the playing field. Halloween is one of the few days they can get out of uniform. I feel for the kids who can’t dress up, although some might not dress up for religious reasons. I saw some kids with orange shirts and that was a good compromise. One kid from a big family was still in uniform yesterday at school and I’m sure the family can’t afford to get every child a costume.

There were a couple classes where the teacher took away the party due to bad classroom behavior (they had to earn it, but they didn’t). I felt really bad for those kids. They looked so depressed walking in the hallway and seeing all the other kids dressed up. I’m hoping those classrooms can earn a Thanksgiving party…

Aside from the costume, Halloween is a candy holiday. Other celebrations throughout the year can be geared away from junky snacks, but Halloween puts teachers in a tricky spot. I gave out pumpkin stickers, Halloween-themed pencils and Halloween-themed pencil erasers. They were a hit with my students. What was under my control was not candy-related.

After seeing the sad kids from the couple classrooms who didn’t “earn” a party, I don’t think it’s appropriate to deny them the party especially if the whole school is dressing up and each classroom is having some kind of event. It seems mean considering my school’s general attitude towards Halloween. Doing a Halloween-themed craft is a great way to make the holiday less about getting as much candy as possible. Teachers, how do you manage Halloween? How does your school handle it?

***

The internal debate I had was whether or not to let my son go trick or treating. We went last year but my son was so little that it was just cool to carry a plastic pumpkin and have people drop things into it. Now that he knows and remembers things, he will ask to eat the candy right away. Even if we take the goodies away overnight, he will ask us where they went.

I was leaning towards not doing it, but my husband wants to go. We really had fun going around the neighborhood last year: I like the community feel. It’s always freezing on Halloween though. But we’re going to give it a shot. Wish us well — we’re sure to have a tantrum or two on our hands! I’ll comment on Sunday night about what ended up transpiring. What are you doing for Halloween, if anything?

Day 133: cheeseburger with a side of twitter

Today’s menu: cheeseburger, whole wheat buns (not pictured), banana, baked beans, cookie
There’s today’s lunch. I grabbed the cookie not the buns. I ate the patty, the beans, and the banana:
My trash
I chatted with the kids about this lunch and I got the usual “tell-her-what-she-wants-to-hear” spiel (that’s one of the reasons why I ask so rarely – plus I don’t want to grill them about their lunches every day):
Scene: Mrs. Q, little boy, little girl
Mrs. Q: “What did you have for lunch today?”
Girl, “Cookie, milk, banana, beans, and…”
Boy, “A hamburger”
Girl, “With cheese.”
Mrs. Q, “Oh ok, and did you eat it all?”
Girl, “Yes!”
Boy glaring at her, “No you didn’t!”
Girl, “I ate the cookie, the milk, the banana…”
Mrs. Q, “Did you eat the beans?”
Girl, “Yes!”
Boy, “No you didn’t”
Girl, glaring back with no comment.
Girl, “I ate the hamburger!”
I just don’t know what to believe!
***

I do a lot of tweeting (my husband calls it “twitting,” which sometimes seems appropriate). No one has ever asked about how I got into Twitter, but I want to share the story.

A few weeks ago I blogged about my friend who got me into blogging (in 2004 I started a personal blog read by only my mom and my sister, which I updated through last year). Well, that friend is the exact same person who introduced me to Twitter. She got an account pretty early on. I looked around on Twitter after she told me about it. It didn’t seem like it was my thing so I didn’t get an account at first. I didn’t want to give status updates to people I didn’t know. But after a couple months, I figured I would get an account too, mostly because I wanted to follow people who were famous (Mark Bittman, Rick Bayless, Yoko Ono, Venus Williams, Andy Roddick, Al Gore, Dooce, Anderson Cooper (side note: yum), Augusten Burroughs, Oprah, and on…) Yes, I have a personal Twitter account that I used for a short while with about 150 followers. It’s a protected acct, but don’t worry: I no longer tweet there (too busy for two accounts).

I started a Twitter account for Fed Up With Lunch because I liked that Twitter had a broader scope than Facebook, but it was more “anonymous.” Since I am anonymous, that feature lined right up with my initial goals. I thought about starting a Facebook account for this project, but I didn’t want it to be found by my coworkers who are on Facebook. Although there are tons of people on Twitter, only 2% of my real life friends are on Twitter compared to 98% of them are on Facebook.

Now I use Twitter more than I use Facebook. I still don’t have an official Facebook account for the blog project (but there are two imposter ones — shaking my fist at weird strangers!). I’ll probably start up a Facebook account for the blog, but I’m still in no hurry.

I enjoy tweeting because it’s fun to connect with people who are interested in similar topics (food, education, school lunch, parenting, etc). They are people I would never have met without having a Twitter account. Also I credit my Twitter account for making Fed Up With Lunch a successful blog. It’s the PR department!

Recently (10/16) one of my tweets was on the front page of Twitter. That was really cool. It was a quote that was retweeted more than 30 times: “Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil, and you’re a thousand miles from the corn field.” ~Dwight D. Eisenhower  Too damn true!

Sick Day Randomness (plus giveaway winners!)

No one slept last night (Wednesday night). The little one has an ear infection. At about 3 am I realized that it would be really hard for me to be coherent at work. When I woke up dizzy at 8 am, I thought about pushing myself to work even though I’d be late…. but it would have been a total loss for the students and an ordeal for me. I feel guilty missing work, but I reminded myself that’s why they give me sick time: to take care of myself and my family. I took the little guy to the doctor in the morning and got a much needed nap in this afternoon…. ahhhh…..

Don’t you love it how little kids can be chipper after nights of little sleep? He was a peach this morning, which was quite endearing.

***

I used random number generator (I love generating randomness) to choose the lucky seven winners of the lovely grocery bags from Nature’s Path!! (Blogged about it last week Friday)

Winning numbers below:

The comments with those numbers are:
#38 – Jay
#51 – K
#26 – KC Quilter
#28 – Arlani
#21 – Stephanie M. Allen
#59 – projectanime
#44 – JaniceNJ
Yeah! I hope you like the bag as much as I like mine! If you are a winner, please email me at fedupwithlunchATgmailDOTcom and I will mail the bags out as soon as I can. A couple of you don’t link to a website so if I reserve the right to re-giveaway any bags that aren’t claimed by next week Friday.

(Also the website from the Oat Grow drink I mentioned is http://www.livesimpli.com/. Because the company just got started, I think you can only get their products on the website.)

***

I put our crockpot on top of the fridge. I know… I was rushing and stupidly shoved things anywhere to clear off the counters.

Yep, it fell.

Luckily no one was in the kitchen at the time. The inner ceramic shattered so it is kaput. Any recommendations for a replacement? It was 3.5 quart. I’m thinking this time I’ll get a 6 qt, but it seems rather large. There is also this adorable 1.5 qt crockpot…but it might be too small… Thoughts?

Day 132: chicken nuggets and school lunch news

Today’s menu: chicken nuggets, grapes, greens and cornbread
I ended up eating quite a few of the greens, more than I ever had eaten before. Eh, they don’t get better by eating more and still haven’t grown on me. I didn’t get a chance to photograph my trash today because I was called away from my room (for some prescient gossip) and took parts of my lunch with me, including the greens.
My friend asked, “Ooh, is that spinach?” with a gleam in her eye.
“No, they’re collard greens.”
“Too bad. I loved school lunch spinach.”
That is not the first time people have remarked on various cravings they have had for different things from the school lunch — you guys have shared tons of little snippets of nostalgia for salisbury steak, school lunch pizza, and even school lunch PB&Js.
Her comment about spinach reminded me of my grandparents’ love of Stouffer’s Spinach Souffle. My grandparents would buy the side dish, put it on a cookie sheet, and bake it in the oven when my sister and I came to visit. The souffle was often a main dish. They ate a lot of reheated microwave meals, but I LOVED the spinach souffle. I could go for some right about now…just because it reminds me of them.
Friends have stories about going to their grandparents’ house, smells in the kitchen, and eating so much food they would burst. When I visited my grandparents, it was the opposite. I always felt hungry and there never seemed to be enough to go around at mealtimes. Grandma is a sweetie, fluent in French (ironic since she like microwave souffles!), a great traveler, and overall amazing human being, but her one flaw is that she isn’t much of a cook. To this day she says, “My favorite thing to cook is to go out to dinner.” Oddly, when her children were young, they didn’t have a lot of money and went out for dinner once a year (her husband’s company party). I really wonder what my mom ate as a child….I gotta find out.
***
Regarding drinking the fruit cup juice, what can I say…it’s good! It tastes better than the mushy fruit!
***
Random school lunch news tidbits:

Day 131: meatloaf and the moon

Today’s menu: meatloaf, bread (kids got two slices), fruit cup, potato wedges

Welcome to the far side of the moon, where for two days in a row the kids have eaten weirdly overly processed meat products splashed with a red sauce and then torched. I think it has to be similar to experiencing a day on the moon: one moment you’re freezing your ass off and the next you’re burnt to a crisp.

Yesterday one of my students went home and threw up after school. Then today the poor kid ate lunch (above) and went immediately to the bathroom and puked lunch up. The student ended up leaving school early because she/he continued feeling sick.

I felt nauseous yesterday after I ate that chicken, but it passed…. Things that make you go “Hmm.”

Hello, my name is HJ587M43 and
I’ll be your processed meat patty for the day!

So, hooray for potatoes with skin. I’m thrilled by that since I read that much of the nutrients are in the skin. I never knew that before a few weeks ago. I would consider potato wedges a whole food (over tater tots or fries).

I sucked that fruit cup dry
like a vampire on Halloween!

***

I’m guest posting on Eating Rules today! Check it out: Day 26: School Lunch. It’s a Q and A so maybe you’ll learn a little more about me – Andrew Wilder and I have even met in person.

***

My post tonight is insanely late because of the severe weather we are having in the area. I almost didn’t make it work today actually. A dear friend was stranded at the airport as she was on her way to a conference and only made it one leg of a two leg journey. It was wonderful to get some time with her and to go out to dinner (Japanese food!). I think she enjoyed dinner with a two-year-old! It’s always an adventure. Now I’m off to dreamland…maybe I’ll visit the moon tonight in my dreams…

Day 130: chicken parm, white bread, and PACK

Any guesses?

Chicken parm!
Today’s menu: Chicken parm, carrots, breadstick, applesauce.
What happened to that chicken? It was hardly appetizing when I looked at it through the film. Then I opened peeled off the plastic and just shrugged. I shudder to think how many main entrees went right into the trash. Unfortunately I can’t be in the lunchroom with the kids to observe everything that happens during lunch. I’m in my room eating the lunch and taking a picture, which I couldn’t do out in the open. (Next year I’m going to spend more lunches with the kids in the cafeteria since I won’t have to hole myself up in my room.)
This was not an easy lunch to choke down. In fact, I was a little nauseous after eating it…
I started at the non-burnt side and worked my way in…
I didn’t eat the breadstick (or what I now like to call them: bread tampons). I couldn’t. Although the menu notes “soft breadstick,” on the hard/soft spectrum, I rate them as “chewier than ought to be.” I’m betting the kids probably didn’t have a chance to take more than a bite due to time restrictions.
I don’t think white bread offers any benefit and other people agree. In fact I was told that white bread is so processed it would better for you to eat a spoonful of sugar than to eat a piece of white bread because the processing is worse than the sugar (sorry, no citation for that quote, but if you find one let me know). To make white bread, wheat flour is stripped of the wheat germ and bran (the good stuff), bleached with chemicals that do leave residuals, and vitamins are added back by spraying them into the mix (enriching). Then everything is baked into a loaf and you eat it!
Keep in mind that just because a loaf of bread is brown, it doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been bleached. Many times “caramel coloring” is added to make consumers think a piece of bread is “whole wheat” when it’s not. Many people say avoid enriched flour.
And if that was not enough,
the applesauce was frozen…
***
A reader emailed this to me:

P.A.C.K: Pack Assorted Colors for Kids is a national healthy-eating program that not only encourages children to eat more colorful fruits and vegetables, but gives them (and parents!) the tools to help make it all a little easier.   This is all part of Welch’s commitment to get more produce in kids’ diets.
It’s so simple for parents to get started.  
Each day of P.A.C.K is assigned a color (Monday is purple/blue, Tuesday is white/tan/brown, etc). Moms and dads ask their kids to choose corresponding fruits and vegetables to buy at school or “pack” in their lunch or snack on that specific day.  The interactive site offers parents and kids tons of downloadable information, printable posters and signs to hang at home, word games, coloring sheets and more.
The PACK program is a collaboration between Welch’s and Produce for Better Health Foundation
It’s self-promoting of Welch’s, but I support getting more kids to eat fruit and veggies. I think what bothers me is that the program unrealistically asks the kids to buy fruits and vegetables at school, which implies both that the kids have money and that there is choice. Most schools don’t have a rainbow of veggies available for the students because it’s cost prohibitive. Most of my students don’t have money in their pockets that they could use to buy veggies.

Open thread: Corporations you love

Yesterday I blogged about meeting a rep from Nature’s Path and feeling that the company is aligned with my beliefs about kids’ health and nutrition (and doing the right thing for the planet).

Are there any other corporations whose products you recommend to friends and family? Why do you recommend them? The corporate values or the high quality of the products… or both? Just curious if there are more companies I should know about!

***

Thank you so much for your uplifting comments on Thursday night’s post. I had a rough day. I’m happy to report that I felt much better on Friday. Back to my usual self. I have to admit that it helped that Friday was a “professional development” day and I was able to do something out of the ordinary (and eat another one of those wonderful Mexican lunches but without the tortillas this time). I needed a change in pace. I thought about photographing today’s meal, but I ended up taking the day off from photographing my lunch. It sort of feels liberating to do that!

got corporations? *UPDATED*

If you have been reading this blog for awhile, you’ve heard me talk about how I dislike and mistrust corporations. One day it will be abundantly clear why when I share more about my life, but for now you will just have to trust me: it is a strongly held opinion based on something that happened. Many of you have commented that not all corporations are bad and maybe I need to back off a little. Well, life went ahead and proved you right.

I went to BlogHer Food, which was made possible by contributions by corporations. At first I was a little uncomfortable about that relationship and I wondered privately if it was really on the “up and up” for me to attend. I decided to withhold judgment until I got to the conference. That proved to be wise of me.

Anyone at the conference could attend any session. So there were employees of sponsoring corporations and PR people attending different talks and a couple representatives sat in during our session on the Values track. The way that BlogHer manages the crowd is smart: people who are watching are able to comment while the chat is underway.

The very last person to make a comment was the representative from Nature’s Path Organic. She stated it exquisitely, “I’m mad! I’m mad that more people aren’t upset about school food! You know, I work for an organic company and even during a recession our sales are up. Why can’t more companies do the right thing for people?” I was stunned.
After the talk I found her to chat. It was refreshing to hear about Nature’s Path and to hear about all of the amazing things that they are doing for people (school gardens too!) while also putting out a fantastic product for adults and children.
She mentioned a further detail as it related to school lunch. She told me that she had met people in control of buying food for school breakfast programs (if you look at their product mix, it’s geared toward breakfast). I don’t remember if the people were part of a school food company or directly from a school district. Nature’s Path displayed their product selection and were endeavoring to get some of their heritage grains onto the lunch trays of students. Well, the buyer did agree to purchase something for their school breakfast program, but it wasn’t a cereal grain. The company or district purchased Nature’s Path’s wholegrain toaster pastry… The Nature’s Path representative told me that they were thrilled to get the sale of that product, but they felt some disappointment that their other products were passed on.
I don’t know about you, but if my school district bought heritage grains for breakfast and actively promoted the offering to the parents of the students, participation in the breakfast program would increase dramatically. In fact if my son was attending that school, I would send my child to school hungry and with money to buy breakfast and feel confident that he was getting a solid start in the morning. To me it seems short-sighted to choose only the toaster pastry. Certainly it could be a money issue, but if this company or school district is able to purchase the whole grain toaster pastry, they must have some money. Not to mention offering higher quality school food options would bring in extra dollars.
(On a side note, I think districts need to start sending out surveys to parents and finding out if they would be willing to pay for higher quality lunches and offer examples of the kind of food that could be available with a funding shot in the arm)
Anyway, I hit it off with the representative from Nature’s Path. She offered to give me a tour of their production facility if I ever visited their factories (in the Canada/Washington state area). I told her about our Twitter/Blog party in August and that #lunchrevolution became a trending topic on Twitter in Canada. Notes from a Cookie Jar and I want to do another Twitter/Blog party in January and it looks like Nature’s Path is in!
I feel great that corporations are out there who are doing right by people and it’s very encouraging that they can turn a profit too.
Another giveaway!
Towards the end of the conference I passed by Nature’s Path’s booth and they had some extra bags that they didn’t want to haul back with them. I took as many as I thought I could fit into my suitcase. I’m giving away SEVEN reusable grocery bags exactly like what you see above! To enter, please comment on this post.
Later at a BlogHer Food party, I got two very interesting kid-friendly samples from two other companies:
Full Bloom — Delicious snack for kids!

Dairy-free chocolate oat drink!
The company is so brand new that its website isn’t working yet!
*UPDATED: Here is a working website for the Oat Grow drink: http://www.livesimpli.com/
I also forgot to say that it was delicious!*
No samples to share with you of those products, but just knowing that they are out there is comforting. Developing connections with amazing companies doing good things made me feel better about corporations in general. It’s nice to feel inspired by organizations instead of feeling let down.