Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Preschool and what happened before school.

What a morning.

Today was Elsa's first day of Preschool!  I know, right? How did this happen?

Well, there's nothing else for her to do.  There's no Gymboree, there's no mommy-and-me dance or gymnastics or art or anything.  At least not in the morning.  Every single class I have seen is either in the Picking-up-first-graders time period, or the It's-dinnertime time period.  So I thought I would check out the preschool options, to get her on the waiting list for, oh, I don't know, maybe next spring?  So I went to the Presbyterian Preschool (which comes highly recommended by non-religious folk, and is totally secular.)  (Secular is a word that some people around here don't know.  I mean, literally.)  I was really impressed.  They have the classes broken down into small groups, and there are only nine kids in the 2-year old class, with two teachers.  The teachers are lovely, and they do a lot more school-type stuff that I would expect with children that young.

And there was no waiting list.  So she started today. She's going from 9 to 11:30, twice a week.  And I was hoping that this morning we could get the twins sent off on the bus, and have a nice quite morning getting ready, somehow, I don't know, emotionally preparing her for what was about to happen.  But then Ramona fell down and wacked her head on the porch step while waiting for the bus.  Someone had so inconsiderately weighed her backpack down with three pounds of clementines for school snack this morning (I am a terrible person), so she must have been a little off-balance. And the bus pulled up just at that moment, so I kept the twins off the bus so I could put some ice on her head and watch her for a few minutes, but that meant I had to get myself and Elsa ready, leave 25 minutes before I was planning to, and drop the girls off at school before heading over to the preschool to drop my baby off.
Unsure, at first...

...but ultimately, it was a good day.

Elsa, of course, cried.  She was wailing as I left, but the assistant teacher called me about a half hour later and told me that she was fine.

And Ramona has a huge goose egg on her forehead.  And, yes, tomorrow is Picture Day.

What a morning.

Edited to add:

I swear, only a child of mine.  About an hour before I usually leave to go pick up the twins, their school calls me.  Apparently, Ramona fell in the library and hit her head on a bookshelf.  In the Exact Same Spot as this morning.  The office lady told me she's never seen that big of a goose egg on a kid's head in the entire time she's worked there.  It was already much better by the time I got there, but honestly.  The first time could have happened to anyone.  To hit your head twice in the same day in the same place?  I think you have to have some sort of genetic predisposition...

It looks much more impressive that this in real life, I swear.

No, she didn't knock her teeth out as well. That's just how few teeth she has right now.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Food for Thought: Thoughtful Food

Today was “lunch buddy” day at Ramona and Charlotte's school. Actually it’s grandparent’s Day, and the kids were encouraged to invite their grandparents to come and have lunch with them at school, but in the interest of inclusiveness, any family member could come. So off I took myself to school, to eat a school lunch.

Now, I had seen the menu, I knew what to expect: “Beef fingers, mashed potatoes and gravy, peas, fruit/vegetable bar, milk.” But I have to say, having eaten that food, I feel assaulted by my lunch. I had hoped that “fruit/vegetable bar” meant that they have a salad bar? But I was wrong. There was some watermelon in a cup. I asked a teacher about the salad bar, and she looked confused; then she said they must have meant a bar, like a granola bar type thing. I didn’t see that either, though. I was also told that they choose this lunch to serve on “lunch buddy” day because it’s one of the best things on the menu. I don’t want to be too negative, but let me just say: it wasn’t good. And it wasn’t healthy. Usually food manages to be at least one of the two, but I guess if it needs to be inexpensive and easy to prepare, too, then something’s gotta give.

The “beef fingers” – and I don’t know why that term seems so icky when I’m okay with “chicken fingers” – were definitely flaked and formed beef of some variety, covered in batter and fried (at some earlier point in time) and reheated. The mashed potatoes, which were the most appetizing thing on the plate, were potato flakes, peas were canned, “texas toast” was a thick piece of white bread with something yellow smeared on it (butter? maybe?) There were three different kinds of milk: chocolate, 1% plain, and “vanilla shake” milk. The girls both chose the latter. I looked at the label and there were 22 grams of sugar in there. That’s 8 more grams than is in a serving of the vanilla ice cream in my freezer. And the packaging of “vanilla shake” milk was almost indistinguishable from the plain milk, which is significant when you realize that a fair number of those kids can’t read. In the whole lunch, there were no whole grains and not much fiber, especially if you consider that most of the kids threw their peas away. Charlotte and Ramona started on the watermelon, then ate the peas, and each ate a little bit of the meat sticks. They weren’t interested at all in the potatoes or the toast.

Now, I don’t fault Oklahoma, our school lunches back in California weren’t much better, although at our elementary school there was a salad bar. What saddens me in this case is that almost every kid at this school eats the school lunch. And in a situation where 56% of the kids get free or reduced lunches, and this lunch that they get is going to be their best opportunity for balanced, nutritious food for the day, I feel like we are letting these kids down. My girls bring their lunches to school every day, because I have the luxury (and believe me I know how luxurious it is) to have the time and money to do that.

I know I’m not saying anything new; Jamie Oliver has had an entire TV show on this subject, and there is also an excellent blog written by an anonymous teacher who has resolved to eat school lunches every day of the year and write about it. It’s hard to feel so powerless about it. I only have the power to protect my own children from this, but change has to happen. I just don’t know how to do it.

One thing that I did do was to email the girls’ teacher and tell her that I’d be interested in doing something food-related with the class. She had asked me earlier if there was anything I was really passionate about that I’d like to come and talk to the class about, because the kids love it when parents do that. At the time, I couldn’t think of anything (I mean, I’m not going to go in to a first grade class and do a Zumba presentation, am I?) but now I remember exactly what I’m passionate about. Fresh, healthy, tasty food.

I felt compelled to compensate for the lunch; snack was peaches, home-made hummus, and multi-grain crackers
Much enthusiasm ensued.
Score! For hummus!
Except on Elsa's part.