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The School Cafeteria

(A treat fro your from two years ago. A piece I’d hoped to have published and never got around to submitting so here it is for your reading pleasure instead.)

Twice this year, I have taken the “opportunity” to have lunch with my kid. I twitch at this memory and the thought of  the incredible quantities of food that are being tossed into the trashcans. I experienced an overwhelming sense of loss. Needless to say, my visit was both a jarring and eye opening experience both times.

Last year, my son was in the first grade and lunched with the fifth graders. So when the megaphone got pulled out, I figured it was the older kids that were to blame. Near enough to middle school, I knew there was trouble a-brewing with this demographic.

But this year, the attempt to quell the “chaos” with a prison-like loudspeaker system commanding quiet from a room half-full of seven year-olds was employed multiple times in the limited lunch time period.  My husband and I recalled that our grade school lunchroom was just as loud. But as long as food wasn’t flying and children weren’t running, that’s a school lunchroom’s MO.

As for the food, thanks to people I actually know, there has been a true effort to make the cafeteria offerings a little more nutritious. They admit they can’t go all Jamie Oliver’s Food Nation on the system but I did see hummus on the menu. And if the children are hungry, they will eat the food that is in front of them. But on the occasion I was visiting the school last, it was holiday time. Despite the teachers attempt to not spoil their lunch, the kids hunger was quelled prior to lunch by those class parties.

Now sitting in the school cafeteria, I looked at the kid across from me and queried him on his indifference to his food. He said, even though he wasn’t hungry, if he was in the daily bought lunch program, the lunch women were required to put the complete lunch on his tray.  So a main, a snack side, a fruit or veg, and a drink would all be piled onto his plate. Even if he was just going to stare at it. In Union terms, an opportunity to eat was being provided.

As I watched all these loud children ignoring the majority of the food in front of them, I asked one of the lunchroom patrollers/teachers about the state of waste that I saw occurring. He said that they’d at least instituted a policy were pre-wrapped food could be brought up and trades could be made. The kid next to me took advantage of this and had at least two portions of pineapple. But I watched tray after tray of packaged and uneaten food go into the trash.

I then commented to the janitor at the amazing amount of wasted food I now saw actually physically being dumped into the trash cans. And this was only the second grade. There were many more lunchtimes yet to happen. Daily. Statewide. I then asked if he had any idea whether people were dumpster diving behind the school. He probably thought it an odd question but  I assume they are. He said surely the trash services picked them up quickly enough. Were the bins locked?

When I had asked the grocery store produce guy this question as he filled a huge trash can full of wilty vegetables, he said that he knew people not only dumpster dove for the produce, but sold it as well. Just because you can’t see it, hunger is still everywhere. And he added, they used to give the damaged pet food bags to the pet charities until they found out that people were purposefully sabotaging the food bags. And that was the end of that. Idiots.

The system is more than flawed. Mandatory feeding rules and regulations dictate what big brother thinks our children need in their bellies while feeding them within the scant hurried half hour of lunch when they’re not hungry, denies real bodily desires and needs to be met. And the waste factor is really disturbing and health regulations shut any other possibilities down.

I nod and smile when my kid asked me if I’ll come back to school again. I didn’t even mention the part where he completely ignored me during his lunch to show off to his buddies. I ended up making small talk with the kids around me. They are entertaining but I think I’ll skip the lunch visit and enjoy the academic classes before or afterwards instead. Or make my husband visit instead.

Summertime and the Fourth of July

Again, it’s hot high Summer. The Fourth is always muggy nasty here in Maryland. But I’m looking forward to spending time with some dear friends this weekend. People who know and love me just for me. My ‘touch base’ people.

Inspired to find pictures that represented the Summer Holiday, I began to go through my online program. Hours later, I have more pictures than I need. And I was reminded of what Summer is made of.

 

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fishing

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Ferry family

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Eamon breaks in Tyla's new kayak

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Eamon and Noah

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The Fourth of July and Summertime is made of family, playgrounds, pools and oceans, soccer and strawberries, sitting with your cat, steam engine tractor shows, vacations, crab feasts and crabbing, watermelons, and corn.

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The missing tooth

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Learning how to ride your bike, playing with your baby sister, catching fireflies, sky blue snowcones and UTZ potato chips, amusement park rides, boardwalk fries and the beach, arcades, face painting, Plein Air painting, bowling, fishing, parks, fairs, Summerfest here in Caroline County, and the fireworks.

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Ferryboats, camps, crabbing, frolicking, put put golf, and losing your first tooth. It’s about innocence and fun and sun burns and bug bites. It’s about life on the earth with glee and wonder. So if you need a life boost, choose one activity and dive into it with all the gusto you can muster. I think you’ll be surprised at the happy hangover you can get from actively engaging in the ritual that is Summertime.

I had forgotten all these wonderful memories even happened until I went through these pictures. And I am inspired and amazed at how much living you can cram into a year much less a Summer. It goes fast so grab it as it’s going by.

Mothering In Thirds

A third of the time, I feel like I did a good job with the choices I made in a day mothering my children. A third of the time I feel like a crappy mother who made crappy choices regarding my children. And a third of the time, I have no time to consider the quality of work I’ve done as a mother because I’m too busy hustling to keep up with all the necessaries like feeding and bathing my children.

She'll be a writer too from mothering in Thirds on Shalavee.com

Last week I was a little hormonal and Fiona got a fever. There’s nothing to test you and your compassion and stamina like a baby with a fever. She had it for two days and still wasn’t right for another couple. Fall out includes not eating, excessive clinginess, and general feeling like the boat is sinking and you have nothing to bail with but a smile and a prayer.

When they cry, we leap to our feet knowing that surely our failure to do so will cost us an unknown price in the future.

And then a week later, she’s a happy-go-lucky independent eating toddler. Last week bad mother feeling. This week, Great Mother. 

Tuckahoe Park in Mothering in Thirds for Shalavee.com

At least I don’t feel bad all the time? I’m in Good Mother mode and especially proud of myself when I’ve identified a problem and created a plan for the solution. Standing up in the crib? I know what to do. Daycare clingy-ness? You may be part of the problem. And taking time to take care of my stuff allows me to feel so much happier and I can be present with both children. Because the big guy gets the shaft sometimes.

Eamon and Daddy playing with the new apple laptop on Mothering in thirds from Shalavee.com

The last third is just survival mode. Where ideally I’ve anticipated all that needs to be done, packed and planned for it, and am in auto mode to get us where we need to be on time. But sometimes it’s just putting out fires and trying not to yell. Survival Mom mode. Everyone stays alive and deadlines are made and opportunities to eat (OTEs) are not forgotten.

But sometimes at night, when I get to unplug, I have the blissful moments where I forget I’m anybody but me. Not Good or bad Mom. Just Shalagh. Poking at pictures on Instagram, wishing I had time enough to read and really escape. There’s a fourth part and she’s the gal who I was before I was Mommy and the person who has become better because I became Mommy.

Soon enough, I’ll be happy being too busy just being me. This will eventually happen after my kids no longer need me. At least I’m hoping I’ll be ready for the business of being busy when they’re ready to be independent. And part of me will be the better Mother for letting them fly away to their new homes. I’ll be proud of my accomplishments, forgive myself my moments of Mommy humanity, and be glad I recognized their and my needs in the process.

Baby Primeval

I’m watching her swagger across the room, her hands up, hips swinging in that self-conscious “I’m just learning how to put it all together” kind of way. A crash course in evolution is happening right before our eyes. The baby primeval is a living fossil. A blueprint of man and womankind.

her broom from Shalavee.com

We don’t remember our own development (or being kept alive) but we get ringside seats to watch evolution firsthand when we have children. As they grow, we can see the sparks igniting in their brains. Their daily realizations of their body’s capabilities and limitations.

If you blink, the moment’s gone. So I stare at her. I marvel in her reasoning process as she learns baby physics. Things go down. Water is wet. In and out and ouch.

Fiona Marie from Shalavee.com

I wonder at the biology in action as she masters and strengthens each muscle group, each brain hurdle cleared for the next daring bodily feat like climbing and standing from a squat. Everything we take for granted we can do. Biological imperatives are driving her. We are just here to keep her between the lines and on the road. Her ancient body programming is doing the rest.

100 Days Of Happy Project

I took Eamon to see his talking doctor last Friday. Her name is Sasha, she’s a social worker, and she is so young and so lovely.

The reasons are many as to why this is a little necessary. Originally, we began to see her because my son had one too many anxieties for a little guy. He’d break down at night and cry uncontrollably saying he was never going to be able to go to sleep. No matter what we assured him with, he just kept falling down the worry hole.

Recently we found we have a 9 year-old who really doesn’t feel like doing what we ask or tell or threaten him to do. So Sasha has helped by mediating. Explaining that parents are there to help him develop habits that he will take with him when he leaves. She is someone who he can believe will tell him the unbiased truth because she’s unrelated to him.

Last week was also teacher appreciation week. I had a heck of a hard time getting my grumblesome son to create a card for his teacher Mrs. A. On Monday I asked him to think of one nice thing to say about her. On Wednesday, he said she was funny and on Friday made the card and felt really good about giving it to her.  Homemade cards from this kid are cool.

Happy Birthday Boy on Shalavee.com

Happy birthday boy

While at his appointment, Sasha suggested that we join the 100 Days Happy Project. And so we have. I got little journals at Target for $2 a piece and Eamon has been tearing it up. He’s got the Happy section which is where we write one thing we’re happy about every day. And he’s got a journal going on in another section. We assured him we would never read what he’s written. Mark often laughs at how I leave my journal lying around and he just doesn’t even care.

So we are 4 days into the 100 Days Happy project. I figure it will be our summer homework. And there is everything good about creating a gratitude journal. Especially for a grumbly 9-year-old who speaks in extremes like “you never” and “you always”. An attitude of gratitude actually makes you happier because you begin to consciously focus on the positive instead of the negative. Maybe give it a try for the Summer along with us?

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