Tag Archives: school lunch

Lunch with the bigger kids

Today I got to school in time to see the first/second graders going into the cafeteria. The plan had been to arrive after they were already inside the cafeteria, but there has been some changes made in the way the kids gain entrance to the cafeteria so everything was behind schedule.

This probably came about after a week’s visit from downtown administration to see how things were working on the campus. Three teachers on special assignment were kept busy last week writing notes on their clipboards as they followed the students from playground to cafeteria. One of the teachers complained to me about how badly the kids were behaving and yet I thought they were doing better than usual. She wrote down my comments, too!

Today, only five students were allowed to enter at one time, rather than the line snaking from outside to inside. It does keep the disruptions down, but it eats up huge amounts of time when the kids aren’t in a continuous line, moving forward.

I could tell that the cafeteria manager was nervous about getting the cafeteria cleaned for the next group of students, the third/fourth grade. This was the group with whom I planned to eat lunch. Of course, again, all the kids wanted to sit with me, at the table I had selected. This created a bit of a bottleneck because one of the administrators made the kids move to their respective places. I felt so bad because I was happy to see these students (they were my first set of first graders to whom I read books), and they wanted so badly to see me and tell me things about what is going on in their lives. Many of them will be moving at the end of the school year and will go to different schools next year.

I handed out 10 boxes of crayons, 20 pencils, numerous erasers, stickers, and 75 coloring pages to this group. I had nothing left to give the fifth/sixth graders when they arrived at the cafeteria for lunch. Fortunately, the oldest group wasn’t made to come in five at a time so they actually had plenty of time to eat lunch.

I sat with the class I had helped with a writing project and for whom I had arranged the guest speakers. They were happy to see me, and one of the girls who always goes out of her way to say hello to me, sat across from me and chatted about how much the class had improved since the first of the year. I dug around and found a special sticker for her in my “bag of tricks.” This will be the last time I see them as next year they will all go on to middle school.

As I went back through the office to check out, there stood one of the third graders with her mother. I had not seen her at lunch (she too always makes the point to come say hello to me) and I realized her mother was turning in a doctor’s note for her absence. I gave the little girl a big hug and dug around my bag and found one more sticker to give her.

The girl’s mother was in conversation with the school secretary about seeing the teacher and completing a contract. The little girl is too ill to finish the school year and will need to do the remainder of her work at home. She has strep throat and impetigo. Let me remind you, I gave this little girl a big hug when I first saw her. Pray for me.

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Working with small children can be hazardous 

Small children cough, sneeze, and wipe their hands on me. A flu shot is mandatory. I take probiotics to stay healthy. I also change out of my school clothes as soon as I get home. I’m always washing my hands, and I carry tissues and hand wipes in my bag of tricks, along with stickers, to hand out as I move through the crowds of children who seek me out on the playground and in the cafeteria.


I’ve had two jackets at the dry cleaners recently. One had milk spilled on it by the little girl sitting next to me in the cafeteria. The other one had pink-reddish smears on the back probably put there when one of the kids hugged me. The dry cleaning lady pointed out, with both jackets, moth holes and asked if I was sure I wanted the jackets cleaned. She probably thinks I’m some eccentric old lady.

“Yes, please clean it. I know the holes are there, but this jacket is only worn to school, to work with small children,” was the response both times.

Those two jackets, one purple, one maroon, are the only items I wear to school that need to be dry cleaned, and I only wear them on really cold days. We’ve had lots of really cold days since Christmas break.

Yesterday we had pulled pork for lunch.


This time, a different first grade girl, dumped the container on the right on my pants and shoes. Lots of pork and barbecue sauce. Fortunately, the items could be easily cleaned.

Today is the 100th day of school for our students. Lunch will be pizza, which I don’t eat, and we’ll see what happens as far as messes go.

Seeking sunshine & better days

The weather here has matched my mood–gloomy. We’ve had more rain this month than ever in Januarys past.

Although we need the water, the cold and gloomy days have not made me happy. Every time a storm front blows in or out, and the air pressure changes, the migraines hit. I’ve used more imitex this month than ever in Januarys past.

The third graders at Columbia have been asking me to come have lunch with them. The only way that is possible is to add an extra day to my schedule. On Tuesday this week, and hopefully for the next few weeks, i’m making a point of getting to Columbia for lunch with the bigger kids. Wednesday and Thursday are set aside for the first graders.

So many of the third graders (who were the first students I read to when I started as school chaplain two years ago) want to sit with me at lunch. We run out of room at the table. I took lots of stickers and puzzle pages but ran out before lunch was over. I will have to get more for next week. The cafeteria manager told me that there were more kids in attendance on Tuesday than any other day this year. She could only attribute it to the sunshine.

Next week is the 100th day of school. I have a special book to read and special stickers for the children to wear stating they are 100 days smarter. We celebrate all kinds of things in first grade!  But I find the fifth and sixth graders like this stuff, too.

Here is some elementary school fashion to make you smile. These shoes sure brightened my day:

What’s for lunch?

Do you eat odd things for lunch? Since retiring, and when I am home, my lunches are not much to talk about. I usually eat the school lunch on the two days I am doing my chaplain duties. Then there are those days I go out to lunch with friends and eat a restaurant meal.

Yesterday Terry and I drove through the blooming orchards to a small town that has this famous place for lunch, The Orange Works. It’s in an old orange packing shed, and it has a very limited menu. A few sandwiches and salads (all very good), and the most amazing orange ice cream any where. Yesterday they also served cinnamon ice cream.

The place is open from 11 to 4 and it is constantly packed. People from all walks of life show up for the lunch special–sandwich, potato chips (no choice, just potato chips), orange iced tea, and ice cream, all for the price of $9. And sort of like Seinfield’s soup Nazi, you get little in the way of discussion. Order, pay, step aside for the next person. They always get your order right and they always know what kind of ice cream you want when you come back after the sandwich to pick up dessert. That’s because there are only two choices each day, one always being orange that they make on-site.

So, what to have for lunch today? I have been cooking an egg for one of the cats each day (that’s a whole ‘nother story), but I’ve not eaten a fried egg in over a year, maybe two years. It’s not something I really care for. Usually. Today, though, an egg fried in butter, on sourdough toast, sounded very good. Terry isn’t here today, and since he makes his own lunch each day any way, I decided this would be my lunch. Tomorrow I will be at school and will have a more normal lunch. A chicken leg!

A jolly good week of holiday cheer

Terry made brownie “trees” for his organization’s Christmas potluck. I gave him a little advice.

I wrapped gifts for teachers and staff at Columbia:

 I gave Victorian Christmas tours at Kearney Mansion:

As well as read this book to first graders and ate this school lunch:

To top off the week I had lunch with a friend of 35 years. We talked for three hours over chicken pot pies.
Today I am catching up on household chores and making plans for next week which looks to be even busier. It’s the last week of school before the Christmas break.

Easter Monday

The plan had been to run errands today as it’s my only day this week that does not have an activity on the calendar. Then I remembered that it is also the last day of Easter break. I don’t know how your school district does it, but the schools in this area take the week BEFORE Easter as spring  break, with the Monday after Easter as a day off, too. All those people who spent the week before Easter either away on a trip or doing other activities will today be out, running errands, just like I had planned so as to be ready to head back to school tomorrow.

This all became clear to me while I was blowdrying my hair early this morning. The more I thought about the crowds in places I would be going–car wash, bank, Target, school supply store–I decided to wait until tomorrow morning and get out very early before I head to Good News Club at 2 p.m. I will spend today, the last day of Easter break, doing laundry, working in the backyard, and reading a book I just started and can hardly put down, “Invisible City” by Julia Dahl.

The reason I must GO into the bank, and not just an ATM, is that I need 21 one dollar bills for my school lunches for the month of April. You cannot get those at an ATM. Nor can you get them from your smart phone. I love transferring money, paying my bills, and even depositing checks with my iPhone. But they’ve yet to figure out a way for me to get cold currency from the device.

As for school lunches, I’ve looked at the menus for April and I like each day’s offering except for one, pepperoni pizza, which I cannot eat due to the cheese. There is no hamburger on the April menu, either, which pleases me. You may remember, that was the item I found most disagreeable when I started eating the school lunch as school chaplain. The FRESNO BEE writer who did the piece about me in January checked into the hamburger story with the food services manager and he told her it was coming back but would be improved.  It disappeared from the menus for a couple of months, making an appearance in March, supposedly improved. It was better, but still not great.

The return from Easter break heralds the beginning of the end of the school year. It is the last 10-week quarter and much of it will be taken up with standardized testing, special performances, and award ceremonies. There are four more Good News Club meetings and eight more weeks of school chaplaincy stories.  Then I too will be finished for the year and ready to start summer vacation. We have the month of July filled with plans, but the rest of the summer is still wide open.

The guest presenter

Although unsure of what I was suppose to talk about, I went anyway. Although a bit nervous about talking to a class of college students, I figured they were probably like my former high school students who I taught and entertained for 21 years. Although I had only been in contact with their professor, who found me through that news article, for less than a week, I figured she couldn’t be too dangerous and I would be meeting her in a public place, the same place where I had obtained my college degree all those many decades ago. However, my biggest quandary was what I would say to a nutrition class.

Professor Ireland joked about stalking me when she introduced me to her 1 o’clock class on a Friday afternoon. I was impressed that the students were all in their seats when she and I entered the classroom. No one running in at the last minute and snagging the only remaining seat. All 50 students were there, ready for class. They were attentive. They were interested. They had come to hear me tell my story about working with small children in a part of town that few knew about. The university is a whole world away from the neighborhood I go to twice a week to have lunch with and read to first graders.

The first thing I said to this class of very bright, very motivated students who are working to obtain a degree in dietetics, is to please not leave Fresno after they graduate. On my drive to the campus, I had pondered why I do what I do and why I would want others to do likewise, and the best thing I could come up with is that I care about the community and I want to do my best to help others be their best. I want others to join me in that work. So that was my opening gambit. Please stay here and do good work, with good people, for the good of the community.

Second, I described the school chaplain’s position and even offered brochures to those who might be interested in doing similar work. Only then did I launch into my work with the students in the cafeteria at lunch time, the main reason the professor had “stalked” me to come present to her class about how to get children to eat nutritious school lunches. Professor Ireland had, in a previous life, been a food service director for school districts in the San Joaquin Valley. She believed that eating with children, talking about the food and demonstrating how good it is, could help promote healthy eating in children.

The class period of one hour flew by. Good questions were asked. Constructive comments were made. All of the brochures were taken by the end of class. Professor Ireland was pleased. Whew! Guess I did better than I had expected.