Thursday, February 20, 2014

In Defense of Food

Last Friday, Aaron and I volunteered at Adam's school. Of all the times I've celebrated Valentine's Day in elementary school, high school, college, in my 20s, and now, this one was the most memorable. (An anti-Valentine's Day party in college was a close second, complete with beheaded Cupids, an all-black dress code, and arriving with a same-sex date.) Who knew volunteering at an elementary school could be so romantic? ;)

We thought it was important to observe Adam in his school environment—particularly in the lunchroom—after receiving a phone call and an email from Adam's teacher that he wasn't eating lunch, and Friday worked out for both of us to take a vacation day.
I felt like a giant going through the lunch line with a bunch of five and six-year-olds, even though most of what I remember from my own elementary school days seemed the same (minus the new "enter your number" system of paying, everything is electronic these days. We had plain old lunch tickets). The lunch lady was a grandma-type who wore a hairnet and seemed sweet but stern "Only one cookie, honey," the presentation of the lunch looked about the same (fruit, veggie, main dish, treat), and the brown fold-up lunch tables seemed mostly unchanged from the 80s. I guess that's one type of furniture that has stood the test of time. 
I'm fairly certain we didn't have a salad bar option until middle school—maybe it's more for the teachers?—and I know we didn't have to eat lunch in our winter gear, like Adam's classmates. The students go from lunch straight to outside, so they eat with boots, hats, coats, scarves, and snowpants on.
Lunch was pizza on Friday (one of Adam's favorite lunch options) so he actually ate ok, although we had to prompt him a little to drink his milk and eat his pears. I noticed, too, that he didn't touch his cookie. (What kid doesn't eat cookies?)
It was so much fun to sit with him and his little friends. The way the other kids were staring at us, we kind of felt like local celebrities. You could tell Adam was proud to have us there, although I couldn't tell if he was annoyed when one of his friends—Hailey—took a liking to Aaron, asking him questions, laughing extra hard at his jokes, and basically monopolizing the conversation. She decided she was going to be Aaron's shadow from that point on. (I got the impression that her mom was a single mom, based on a few of the comments she made and then a few of the things her mom said when I met her later on.) Might I add it was a back-to-the-50s themed day, and Hailey was wearing bright red lipstick, had a scarf in her side ponytail, and was wearing a poodle skirt, which made her even more adorable. (You could tell she felt very grown up.)
We stayed for recess, when the kids had free time to play outside. Adam was unofficially the "captain" of one of the soccer teams. What? Adam? The captain?
"Do the other kids always ask you if they can play? Are you kind of in charge at recess?" I asked.
"No, not usually," he said with a shrug. "I think they were asking me to play because you and Dad are here."
After watching the kids burn off energy for 20 minutes? 30 minutes? A horn sounded and just-like-that all the kids dropped whatever they were doing and immediately got into line to go back inside. Talk about a conditioned response!
The class did a "wiggle break" once they were back in the room to the Tootie Ta dance (Google it if you have little ones), then the teacher set up four stations and she had the kids form four separate groups so they could rotate from station to station. One station was about math — counting candy hearts, one was an art station, where the kids "painted" with bingo dobbers around heart outlines, one was reading, and one was writing basic words in a very short story about Valentine's Day. I took the art station, Aaron took math, and the teacher took the other two. With 22 kids in the class, I'm not sure how she would have done it all without our help, although I'm sure she has a good system by now. Boo to budget cuts and getting rid of helpful teacher's aides!! It was fun to help out and feel useful in the process, great to see Adam in his class environment, and nice to meet some of his friends.
After the class activity, the kindergarteners walked down to the gym where they did a series of dances, including the Cupid Shuffle and the Cha-Cha Slide!
I only took one picture, because he clearly wasn't happy about this one.
After the dance, Aaron and I met with the school nurse and talked to her about Adam's poor lunchroom eating habits. He won't eat cold lunch because "no one eats cold lunch," he will only eat certain hot lunch meals, and some days nothing at all, not even one bite and she suggested having him come to her office every day after lunch to go over what he ate that particular day.
"What's a good reward for him?" she asked while peering over her bifocals.
"Chipotle!" Aaron and I answered in unison.
"Ok, so if he gets a certain number of stars for eating a few bites of his lunch, I'll tell him he can go to Chipotle. We can try it, anyhow."
I wasn't totally sold on the idea, but it sounded like a start. (I still thought there may be a deeper psychological reason and assumed we'd be making an appointment with the school psychologist.)
The "eat-your-lunch-then-bring-your-tray-to-the-nurse" method seems to be working. We're on Day #4 of the new system, and he's had three positive progress reports. He respects authority, so I think the fact that he's being held accountable by someone other than us is working in our favor. I have nothing but gratitude for that kind woman, who is taking time out of her day to record what Adam eats. Yesterday, he didn't eat any of his spaghetti and meatballs, and nurse Jan was able to convince him to take a few bites of meatballs or he wouldn't get a sticker. And he did! Adam even said his friend Cadence has been encouraging him to eat during lunch so he doesn't have to eat in the nurse's office while everyone is outside during recess.

I REALLY hope this works long-term.
In other news, swimming lessons are going well, even though I miss our lazy Saturday mornings. As soon as Ben turns four, he'll be on his own in the water, which will be kind of weird for Aaron and I. It will be the first time since Adam was born that one of us doesn't need to swim with a child.
Oh, the luxury of getting a kid dressed after swimming without having to hurry and get yourself dressed, too!
Ben isn't cold. He just ate a blue sucker. (Valentine's Day treat)

We just did our taxes, and with our returns, we'll be going to the Kalahari again (the boys can't wait) and getting new carpet upstairs. Yes, folks, "I guess this is growing up."

Kirsten returned from maternity leave and within the same week, my friend Anna gave her notice. ENOUGH ALREADY! I hate that so many of my close friends have left the company ...  loyal friends who understood the nuts and bolts of our industry ... friends whose professional opinions I respect ... friends who I knew I could trust and count on during a work crisis (or personal one!) ... friends who made me laugh and shared intimate details of their lives with me and made work more fun just by their presence. (Thankfully there are still a few key players remaining.) I've seen a lot of people come and go in my nine years at the magazine, and I know certain people will stay in my life even after we are no longer coworkers. [Just like in past jobs!] Still, it's hard saying goodbye, especially when our marketing department was like a tight-knit little family for so many years.
Two of my friends were recruited, which I take as a good sign—the economy is doing better. And some staff turnover can be a blessing in disguise, to get new blood and energy in here. I'm already starting to bond with one of the new girls, who is only 23. I love her excitement, her innocence, her positive attitude. And through everything, this experience has definitely brought my boss and I closer together.

Right now my mom is in San Diego with three of her cousins, the first time she's taken a solo trip without my dad. I'm so proud of her. And envious. Right now it's a snowglobe outside my window (9 to 12 inches of snow predicted tonight!) and she's all "Let's just sit in the pool and relax ..."


Ben is mostly potty trained now (still a few accidents during nap, and he wears a pull-up at night because he sleeps so hard), he still drinks a TON of milk, and he's still attached to Blankie. I don't know how we'll ever break him of the habit. He's only allowed to take it out at nap time during preschool, and as soon as I pick him up, he grabs it from his locker and deeply inhales. It's amazing how comforted he is by a simple blue baby blanket. If we ever lose his blanket, we're in trouble.

He also loves to make "tickets" in school (when I pick him up, his backpack is filled with pieces of paper), roll up pieces of paper and call it his "maps," write his name, and create abstract paintings. His Batman obsession is cooling down considerably. We no longer have to fight him in the morning over his outfits, which is nice. (Yes, he does own shirts other than Batman shirts!) He's more into sports now because of Adam (he has to do whatever his brother does), and likes to shoot baskets after preschool, play hockey in our kitchen, and play basketball in our living room (we have a small basket attached to the back of our porch door).

I realized recently that Aaron and Adam STAND the same way in front of the TV when an intense game is on. They walk the same way. They have the same expressions. They even answer certain questions the same way. Sometimes it freaks me out just how similar they are. Right now, Adam is all about watching the Olympics. He gets really excited when we win a medal, high-fiving whoever is nearby and chanting "USA! USA!" He has gym class once a week and it's always his favorite day. (Coincidentally, his gym teacher came up to us after the school dance and said she loves having Adam and Michael, his best friend, in her class because they're polite and respectful and most of all, COORDINATED. Apparently not many kindergarteners are. Who knew?!)
Adam once told me that the best part of his day is the 20 minutes I let him and Ben shoot baskets in the preschool gym after I pick them up from preschool, so it's become part of our routine. I usually sit on a rocking chair and watch. Pure joy.

Just ONE MORE BASKET, please?!?
It was tough to get them to stop shooting baskets to pose for this shot.

March will bring more dinners (including a belated birthday dinner with my high school girls), more work events (Food and Wine), a vacation (the Kalahari), a mixed-emotion dinner/night out downtown (my niece April is turning 21!), family birthday parties, and more snow. It's one of the longest months of the year, and we will ALL be excited to turn the calendar to April and (hopefully) welcome spring with open arms.