Any parent familiar with what a toddler taste bud debate of a disaster dinner-time can be no doubt, like me, takes solace in a predictable lunchtime menu. PB&J, or some variation of, with fruit of some kind. That’s what they eat every day. It’s not the worst thing in the world, but I have to admit a seething sense of jealousy aimed at moms who seem to prepare lettuce wraps, noodle dishes, creative sandwiches, and thermos full of hot soup to send their little kiddos off to school with. I cut out the recipes, file them with the other “try this” meals, tape them in the cook book….stick them to the fridge…permantly fix them to the cork board…until I just give up and finally toss the un-tried recipe in the trash can.
This year, as one of many ambitious resolutions, I put “try the creative lunch-time recipes” on the list. Now, listen, I’m all for setting realistic goals here. I realize with a gusto that my particular lot of toddlers are not going to be interested in lettuce wraps, tofu, or sushi of any kind. I do know my limits. However, it was time to break out of the “what shape do you want me to cut your jelly sandwich up in today” routine. Not even Brachiosaurus shaped PB&J’s were disappearing off the plates anymore.
Still, though resolving to upgrade a habit is a step in the positive direction, I was halfway through January before I actually gave any of it a go. Even with 12 snow days worth of extra time to experiment happily in the kitchen. On the days my kindergartener did have school so far this year, she came back home with her sandwich still in the container I so lovingly put it in at 7 AM.
I refused to believe the “they don’t give us time to eat” excuse…even though they really don’t. Especially for my daughter, who is a vvvveeerrryyyy ssslllooowwwwww eater.
The first lunch experiment… graham crackers in place of bread. One side with Nutella, the other with peanut butter, and a few marshmallows sandwiched in between. The trial lunch run at home went well, so I happily packed them in Brianne’s lunch the next day, and waited to find an empty container when she returned home.
Success! And on top of that, I got a “Mom, can you pack two extra so I can share at lunch?” request.
“Absolutely!” I exclaimed, telling her how nice it was for her to think of other people and simultaneously giving myself a huge, ‘I am the best mom ever’ pat on the back.
What a great start to packing creative lunches……that would have been if I had just kept trying things! But I didn’t, and sure enough… after a couple of weeks….back home came the graham cracker sammies still untouched from the container I packed at 7 AM. Time to brainstorm, right? Like, in the bakery aisle, to make sure we get the best kind of marshmallow imaginable to get the kid to eat her lunch….right?
So, not quite back to the drawing board, but time to ramp up another experiment or two. I got super ambitious an actually wrote out a lunch meal above what dinner we’ll have each day this week. (Writing lists simply gets me through life at times….sometimes multiple lists at a time…) Preparing a hot dish to pack for my daughter’s lunch at 7 AM is not a realistic expectation… so my little 3-year-old, Lo, would serve as guinea pig to test out the lunch time yummies to gauge what kind of reaction her older sister might have.
First order of creative lunchtime business? Nutty Noodles. What doesn’t sound totally awesome about that?! Very excited about my little noodle swaree, I happily went about preparing some Nutty Noodles for Lo after pre-school.
In a mood, she had already thrown at least 10 fits that ended in some sort of violence before lunchtime. So far since awaking gracefully (by pulling getting out of bed to shut her door and pulling her covers back over her head) at 7 AM, she had delightfully displayed her angelic behavior by stomping her feet, spit tossing (you know, when they stick their tongue out at you and spit at the same time, while jolting their head in your directions so it splatters you with spit? No? Just mine, huh?), throwing toys…at the ground and at me, yelling crazy toddler mumble talk at a high volume (this one makes me nervous…she’s going to be the one that swears in the store, isn’t she?), shooting mean glances at me, and sticking her tongue out at me behind my back (clearly not mastered yet since I busted her.).
Needless to say, I was mentally daring her to rain on my Nutty Noodle parade of joy with her three-year-old drama. Selling it huge, like I nervously do whenever I’m desperate for them to like whatever meal it is I just put a lot of effort into making, I placed the Nutty Noodles down in front of the hungry child….and waited for a reaction.
“Good, huh?! Aren’t these awesome? Isn’t Brianne going to love these?” I started berating.
Oh, you little….
I could tell by the little twist of her nose that she had sniffed out my hidden agenda…and she was not going to cooperate.
“Mlah, ” was all I got. BUT- with an up and down nod of the head. What did that mean? Success? Did she like it?
Busted. Little Lo was totally messing with me. She clearly liked the new lunch…this I know, because I’ve seen the true reaction to something she doesn’t like. But, in her glorious mood, she was not going to let me have the satisfaction of knowing how good she thought it was. Instead, she decided to conduct her own experiment, titled, “How many absolute wrong behaviors can I get away with before Mom yells at me?”
It was five. In my final attempt to prove a point and proclaim Nutty Noodles a success, I gave her the old, “you can be done in five more bites.” She twirled all over her seat at the table, needed a long drawn out sip of water in between each bite, but down they went. Ha.
Win for Mom.
After an hour of getting in trouble at the lunch table, little Lo got down and skipped happily off.
“Get upstairs for your nap.” I directed, and off she skipped in the opposite direction.
Grounded from TV and all, Lo would not be broken down to tears. Nothing was getting to her.
It hit me as I watched her skip happily off, humming a tune in her very own nonsensical language…that’s how God wants us to be. Happy.
He doesn’t want us to get down on ourselves because of what’s going on around us, how we feel, or even our own bad mood. It may agitate people sometimes, like little Lo aggravated me today. But that’s OK. Keep being happy. Skip along to your own untranslatable tune. Make it up as you go. In all circumstances, you can find a way to squeak out a little joy. I promise.
Like today, its six degrees out…apparently…but I don’t feel all six of those degrees when I step outside! But, the sun is shining. The snow is masking what’s dead and ugly and brown underneath. It’s blindingly bright outside. I needed my sunglasses to see driving this morning! Delight…in six degrees weather. You can do it. Be encouraged. Make some Nutty Noodles! And hang on, Spring will come.
“No may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way.” 2 Thes. 3:16