September 2010

This week I am in charge of snacks for my daughter’s pre-school class. This means I am responsible for providing healthy, fun, well-rounded snacks for 14 three and four year olds on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Holy Kitchen Nightmares, I haven’t been this stressed out since my family took the class guinea pigs home for the summer in fourth grade.

I know I know, it seems like such a simple task right? Throw some carrots and cheese and pretzels into a basket and you are good to go right? Oh no my friend, it is far more complicated than that. You must have the perfect combination of nutrition and variety with extra points thrown in for creativity.

So here is my snack fantasy: I breeze into school with fruits, vegetables and a protein formed into zoo animal shapes and contained within cages formed from pretzels. The teacher looks at me and says “Wow! I have never seen that before! So creative – and yet nutritious too!” Then later, at the mandatory co-op meeting she brings up MY snack to the other parents as the example of a perfect snack.

When the snack is presented to the kids they all laugh joyously as they pick out their favorite zoo animal and then eat everything because it just tastes so good. They all want to play with Emma after snack, because she is the one who brought in the best snack EVAH.

The other mothers call me or email me that night to tell me that their kids were still talking about the snack when they got home and could they please find out how I managed to get their kids to eat veggies. Oh and also could they please be my best friend.

I am snack genius and pre-school hero.

Here is how it really went down:

On Monday I provided square pretzels, cut up cheese sticks and red seedless grapes. When I was putting them out the teacher said “You know next time you could get the pretzel sticks and then the kids could make little barbells with the grapes!” GREAT Jen, great – snack FAIL. I could just see the teacher making a mental note “No creativity. Lazy mom. Poor Emma.” CRAP.

So I spent the last two nights scouring the internets for some creative snack ideas that would really wow the teacher (oh yes, and provide nutrition to the kids, that too of course). I came up with a few things, but nothing I could do without a trip to the grocery store (and just as an aside, what is the deal with “Ants on a log”? Raisins and peanut butter? How gross is that?). So I opted to make lace cookies with Emma yesterday (from my Grandmother’s recipe, points added for tradition maybe?) Then this morning we made cheese sandwiches and cut them with heart shaped cookie cutters. Then we cut apples horizontally to show the little star in the middle where the seeds live. Fun, right? Healthy, right? Pretty, right?

When I arrived today to set up the snack, the teacher came in and said “Wow, that’s a lot of food.” CRAP. And then came the mental note “Overachiever. Martha-Stewart wanna be. Poor Emma.” I. Cannot. Win. And she didn’t say it, but I could see in her eyes that she didn’t think cookies were a good idea AT ALL. (Even though in the handbook it says we can bring a sweet ONE time during the week – I swear it does.)

I have another shot at snack on Friday, and then again in December, so I guess I might yet figure out how to make the zoo animals etc., but at the moment I think I am just going to throw some carrots and pita chips into the basket and leave a tub of hummus with the teacher. Emma will just have to figure out another way to become the most popular kid in the class, and I will just have to give up on making the teacher like me. Or having friends.

Being a mom has brought me some of the happiest moments I have ever known in my life, which has surprised me a little I think. I guess that’s the thing about being a parent, you have no idea what you are missing until you have a child and your entire world is rocked.

And yet, despite the joy being a mom brings me, there are moments when I weep.

It usually happens in the middle of the night, in the dark, and I am usually holding one of the kids as they sleep, or struggle to sleep or refuse to sleep.

I weep because in the quiet of those moments, I realize how tiny my kids are. And in the same breath I realize how big they are, and how fast they are getting bigger. I flash forward to a time when they are in elementary school and refuse to let me kiss them goodbye when I drop them off; then to high school when I am lying awake at night waiting for them to come home from a night out; then to the day when they leave for college and finally I end with the time in the future when Mike and I have time to go on dates again, are able to sleep for eight hours uninterrupted and can clean up a room once a week instead of every hour.

And as I sit there in the dark, fast-forwarding through my life, I try desperately to memorize the feel of the little body in my arms, the look of the sweet face sleeping and the smell of a freshly bathed baby. I know I will forget, as the days move on and get fuller and more hectic, I will forget the quietest moments in the dark of the night. And the knowledge that I will forget makes me cry even harder.

My babies are slipping away from me, which is what is supposed to happen of course, but knowing that doesn’t make it any easier. Really, they started slipping away from me the moment they were born, and I am just fortunate enough to be along for the ride.

I know there is more weeping in my future, because time will only move faster as the years go on. It’s ok really, because those moments in the dark help me remember to try my best to cherish every moment with my kids, try not to get upset about the little things, and make sure they know how much I love them.