Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Lunchbox love

My lunches rock!
How do I know this?
The other day, when I was putting the school lunches together, H. asked me not to put hers in a clear lunch box.
"Why not?" I asked.
"Cos otherwise the other kids see what's in it, and try to steal it. They're always trying to take my food."
How fabulous, I thought. Not that other kids want to eat my daughter's lunch, but that it actually IS good enough to eat.
It happened at her previous school too. In fact, H. is a slow eater - she's busy chatting, looking around, and taking in the surroundings - so one little girl used to pinch the tastiest morsels when she wasn't looking! Thankfully, it was all sorted out after a word with the teacher.
Granted, I do make an extra effort with my lunches.
I have horrific memories of the school lunches I used to get (sorry Mum). Usually it was a sandwich with luncheon meat and tomato sauce (gross) or a warm peanut paste sandwich. There was always one piece of fruit, and usually a homemade biscuit or cake. Plus water from the school bubblers.
The worst periods were when Mum went through health kicks and made us home-made rye bread (so chunky you could carve it), or home-made wheatmeal chapatis with salad, which were warm and soggy by lunchtime.
And we didn't actually have lunch-boxes, so they were usually squashed as well.
It's not all Mum's fault. She had four kids, and a husband to feed on one wage, and money was tight. Plus, I don't think I actually admitted I didn't like her food. I didn't want to get into trouble for not eating it! And as far as I remember, other kids had similar food, though with tastier toppings like jam or cheese and ham (except for the chapatis and rye bread. I was the only one with those, and no one ever wanted to swap...)
It was all so different back then. These days kids seem to enjoy a smorgasboard of offerings at lunch time.
And I'm guilty of it too, because I make sure there is an assortment of tempting foods in my kids' lunch boxes.
Usually sandwiches, yoghurt, fruit, vita-wheat and vegemite, and something like a homemade slice or biscuit. Occasionally they get treats like fruit bars or cheese and cracker packs, but only if they are on special (and nut-free!) Sometimes, if there is time, I cut the sangers into fun little shapes for them.
They always get a cold water bottle to keep it cool (frozen in summer), and to remind them to keep their fluids up during the day.
In these days where childhood obesity is a concern, I sometimes worry I'm sending far too much food. But the kids are growing and they play sport every day at school. Not to mention playing on monkey bars, slippery poles, climbing forts, and flying foxes at lunchtime and before school. I figure they burn up the kilojoules easily, and I don't want them to get the headaches I remember getting because I couldn't stomach my lunch.
Our school has a policy of sending all the lunch rubbish home, so we know what the kids are eating- or not. They're not allowed to throw them in the bin like I used to do!
And I'm pleased to see that finally, there are usually only empty wrappers and apple cores left.
I went through a stage where I tried recipes that kids are supposed to enjoy at lunch - things like cold salads, rice, quiche, savoury muffins, and chicken legs. But these are always unpopular, and come home uneaten.
I find the trick is to give them a variety of food that is quick and easy to eat, so they can run off and play as soon as possible.
Anyone else got some lunchtime tricks (or horror stories)?
Homemade weetbix chocolate slice - tastier and healthier than muesli bars, and nut-free!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

In memory of Nia

I told myself I wouldn’t read it.
For weeks, horrifying details of the nightmare that was little Nia Glassie’s life, have played out in the New Zealand press.
Like the rest of the country, I’ve been sickened by the reports, yet somehow, unable to look away.
How could anyone not just hurt, but torture an innocent child? How could a mother stand by and allow her child to be tormented and abused and yet, do nothing? How could neighbours see some of the violence and fail to report it?
I know we always ask questions like these when incidents of child abuse and domestic violence are reported all too often, but the graphic report in this morning’s New Zealand Herald is haunting me.
With the court case over, and guilty verdicts handed down, the paper vividly catalogued the sickening assaults which eventually killed the three-year-old. Her world was a place where the people who were supposed to care for her put her in a clothes dryer, swung her off a clothesline, kicked her, threw basketballs at her, and made her life hell. Where her mother turned a blind eye to the abuse, and didn't even take her to the hospital to get medical treatment. Where a little girl was too afraid to cry, and would whimper instead.
(I can't go into more details, because I'm feeling physically ill even as I type the words. If you want a detailed account, go read http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10543815).
The statements to police by other children living in this house of hell, were particularly poignant.
Reading the stories, I cried. I felt angry. Sick. Helpless. Sad. I still do.
I don’t know what exactly blogging about Nia will do, but I guess I wanted to write something that might keep this poor little girl’s memory alive.
So that we will all think of Nia and say a prayer for her soul.
So that we will give our own children at extra cuddle and kiss when they come home from school this afternoon.
I know I will.
If you want to know more about preventing child abuse, go to http://www.stopchildabuse.com.au/ in Australia, or http://www.everychildcounts.org.nz/ in New Zealand.
As the ACF says: Children cannot stop child abuse or neglect. Adults can.