How To Pack A School Lunch In 7,348 Simple Steps

lunch bag

There is this thing that happens five mornings a week in my kitchen and, without fail, five mornings a week it gives me anxiety. This particular task fills me with such dread that I have developed a unique and totally involuntary physiological response to it: I sneeze. Not just once or twice, but incessantly. For about 20 minutes I’m just a non-stop sneezing machine.

So what is this terrible, horrible, no good, very-bad, sneeze-inducing task?

Packing school lunches.

Yep. School lunches. I don’t know why packing lunches for my kids is such a drag, but perhaps the fact that there are no fewer than 7,348 steps involved in the process has something to do with it. For those of you who need a little crash course in packing school lunches for your little darlings, it goes something like this:

  1. Open the lunch box. Discover that it smells like apple juice mildew and moldy bread, so spend the next 10 minutes washing and disinfecting this plastic-enshrined tomb for forgotten food scraps.
  2. Decide on a main course. Under normal circumstances your child will only eat marshmallows or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, but schools are morally opposed to marshmallows for lunch and your child’s classroom is a nut-free zone, so both of your go-to’s are out. He also likes steak, but that’s just pretentious and probably wouldn’t taste any good by 11:13 anyway (P.S. Why are school lunches always at such random times???). He’ll eat lunch meat, but not as part of a sandwich because that would disrupt his dedication to no different foods touching in any way at any time. Decide to go the not-in-a-sandwich-lunch-meat route.
  3. Consider your options for packaging. I could put the lunch meat in a plastic baggie, but that’s just wasteful. If I put each individual food item in its own baggie every day, that amounts to something like 4.3 trillion plastic baggies over the course of his educational years. I love planet earth too much to subject her to such rash treatment. Decide on a reusable tin bento box: earth friendly and, as an added bonus, excellent fine motor skill development while the child struggles to figure out how to undo those awkward clasps.
  4. Pack a yogurt. 100% of the time one of the side items is yogurt because he will always eat the yogurt even when he refuses to touch the rest of the lunch. Yogurt counts as protein, dairy, and fruit so this is a good compromise. Plus, you can freeze yogurt the night before and it acts like a little ice pack in the lunch box. This makes you feel good because you already packed not-in-a-sandwich-lunch-meat, and that deserves to not be served at room temperature because E.Coli is not just a buzz word.
  5. Pack some crackers. Crackers are shelf-stable so you can buy the Costco box with 10 pounds of Goldfish crackers and not have to buy Goldfish crackers again until summer. This is why I win all of the parenting awards.
  6. Pack a fruit. He only likes fresh pineapple and mangoes when they are in-season, so pack him an applesauce squeezie pouch. Suffering builds character, and character builds society.
  7. Pack a sacrificial vegetable. It is required that you pack a vegetable even though you know he won’t eat it. You will be a terrible mother if you don’t pack a vegetable, so just do it. The good news is, since he will literally never touch this vegetable, you can actually just re-pack the same carrot sticks or snap peas every day until they start to go limp and somebody notices. It actually saves time and money in the long run.
  8. Pack a juice box. But not just any juice box. He won’t drink the healthy no-sugar-added-organically-good-for-you ones because he’s as stubborn and sugar-ly inclined as his mother. He also won’t drink certain brands because they “taste like tomato juice” or “leave a funny taste in his mouth”. Buy the ones that make the biggest mess if you squeeze them the wrong way, and just hope that when he does The Big Squeeze the straw is pointing away from his crackers because if they get soggy he won’t touch them.
  9. Pack a goody. If your school isn’t too stringent on their “no treats” policy, you might be able to sneak in a little goodie to serve as a chaser for their yogurt and Goldfish cracker lunch. Personally I like fruit snacks because they have the word “fruit” in the title and I still feel bad about forcing the applesauce on him again, but a cookie or a Rice Krispie treat would work just as well.
  10. Look at your mod-podge lunch and curse the moms who started this whole Pinterest lunchbox revolution. Why did somebody ever have to plant the idea that food should look like a dinosaur or a sunshine or a unicorn jumping over a rainbow? Why can’t we just put some food in a bag and pray that he’ll eat some of it like in the good ‘ol days?
  11. Write an encouraging note. I’m pretty sure he just uses the notes as a napkin but, hey, whatever works.
  12. Oh, yeah! Pack a napkin.
  13. Remember to put the lunchbox into his backpack. Because if you forget to put the lunchbox into his backpack then he’ll have to buy school lunch. And if he has to buy school lunch then all of your lunchbox packing was for nothing. And if all of your lunchbox packing is for nothing, then maybe you shouldn’t even bother…
  14. Add $3.50 to his lunch account, and munch on lunchmeat and applesauce for breakfast.
  15. Vow to spend this summer teaching your kid to pack his own lunch.
  16. Repeat steps 1-15 tomorrow and every school day for the next 13 years.

Go forth, and may the joys of packing school lunches be ever in your favor!

My Seattle Spring Bucket List


Now that Hannah is 2, she seems to be learning new words every day. The cutest by far, though, has to be the fact that she has learned how to sing her first “song”: Mr. Sun, Sun, Mr. Golden Sun. Whenever she catches a glimpse of the sun (which is quite rare during a Seattle winter), Hannah breaks into song: “Sun! Sun! Goooooooolden SUN!”(P.S. It’s absolutely adorable. P.P.S. We’ve missed you, Sun. –Yours Kindly, every Seattleite who has been Vitamin-D deficient since September).

And now that the glimpses of sun are becoming less infrequent, I’ve been longing for the longer, warmer days of spring. So as I sit here daydreaming of the next season, I’ll share a few of my “Seattle Spring Bucket List” longings with you:

  • Visit the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival. I haven’t been to this since Jacob was a baby, and I can’t wait to go back! The endless sea of blooming flowers, the equally endless rows of mud puddles and mud-covered children, the obligatory stop at Snowgoose Produce for a giant scoop of ice cream–I want it all!
  • Easter. Easter is my favorite holiday of the year, and I can’t wait to do all of the fun Easter-y activities with my kids. On the short list: Opening resurrection eggs, baking resurrection rolls while acting out the Easter story, painting eggs (Pro tip: Place your egg inside a wire whisk and dip into a bowl of dye–even a 2 year old can handle this without making a mess!), a neighborhood Easter egg hunt, and making a table-top Easter garden.
  • Plant a garden. I’ve never really done this before, and the only times I’ve tried have been epic failures. After all, I have enough to worry about keeping a husband, three children and a dog alive–adding plants onto that list is a bit too much for me. But I have empty garden beds in my new yard and they’re mocking me, so I think I’ll give it a go. Wish me luck.
  • See all the baby animals. I want to pet baby bunnies. I want to hold baby chicks. I want to see a baby lamb frolick in a field. Give me the farms, the spring fair, the neighborhood horse ranch–just give me all the cute baby animals, please!
  • Go puddle jumping. We have plenty of puddles in the winter, but they’re cold and I won’t let my kids play in them for too long because, well, pneumonia. But spring puddles are fun because you can jump and splash and soak your little brother and it’s not the end of the world (Unless you ask the little brother. Then it is definitely the end of the world.). Bonus if there’s a rainbow in the sky on puddle jumping day.
  • Find some frogs. We have a pond behind our house that is chock-full of frogs at this time of year, but we are yet to catch any of our amphibian friends for further observation. Jacob cries every night that he hears the frogs croaking outside his bedroom window because he wants to hold one of them. So basically, this is just so we can all get better sleep at night.
  • Ride bikes. So, none of my kids can ride bikes without training wheels. Hannah’s off the hook because she just learned how to walk 9 months ago, but the almost-6 year old and the almost-8 year old have no excuses. I’ve already made up my mind that THIS IS THE SUMMER. Yes, this is the summer that they will learn how to ride a bike. And I guess that means we need to start practicing. Pray for me.
  • Go outside after 3 PM. For the past few months it has been dark by the time David is getting off the school bus, and I can’t WAIT to get my afternoons back! Kids arguing? Send them outside! Too much energy? Outside! Need a change of scenery from our living room with the same pile of books and board games? GO OUTSIDE!!!!
  • BBQ. Speaking of going outside, I’m ready to revive the BBQ. Winter is for crockpots, but warmer weather calls for the grill. I’m ready to say goodbye to soups and stews and hello to burgers and brats. Yummmmmmm….
  • And speaking of yummmmmmm…I will be eating asparagus. Fesh, local, in-season asparagus. And lots of it. Yummmmm….
  • Run outdoors. I did most of my training for my last race on a teadmill at the gym because it was too cold and wet and miserable to go outside. I’m ready to just open my front door and say, “Yeah, this will do!” and then do it!
  • Buy shoes, not boots. With the exception of my running shoes, I have literally worn the same 3 pairs of boots on repeat every day for the past 5 months. I don’t even remember what “shoes” feel like on my feet. I would like to get a new pair of shoes to remind myself.

And now it’s your turn! There’s still time for me to add on to my list, so what are your must-do spring activities?