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Hill Country Living

Sometimes when I’m slow on news I ask my kids what I should write about in my column. I almost never take their suggestions because they are often fairly incriminating or completely self-serving on their part. Like this morning when they suggested that I write about a certain person who got pulled over by a cop recently because two of the big kids this person was hauling 200 yards down the street were buddy-buckled in the front seat. 

Since one of the buddy-buckled kids was mine and he instigated the buddy-buckling I told him I would write about how he should have been arrested and held without bail for putting this person in that position. So his next suggestion was that instead I write about how I should buy mini-Gatorades and Kool-Aid Jammers for their lunchboxes.

This is the first year I’ve ever packed their lunches with any consistency. Up until now, what usually happens is that I start the school year with big, grand culinary intentions. The first week of school my boys are getting homemade burritos and full-on slices of legit pizza. I suggest macaroni and cheese or bowls of spaghetti and meatballs for their lunches. 

I’m fully prepared to offer them foie gras and buy a package of lobster bibs, just in case. But about day four, when I run out of bread, it all falls apart. The thoughtful meals I packed mere hours before suddenly descend into a crumpled collection of plastic bags of Dorito dust, a slice of American cheese and the rest of the half eaten apple still in the sandwich bag from yesterday’s lunch. Within the month I’m getting the notices that I have a $15.74 overdue balance to the cafeteria.

But, for reasons beyond my comprehension, as the universe is a mysterious place, I have stuck to it this year. Here we are, half way into week four, and I am still packing lunches! But having made it this far, I am learning new things I never knew before as this is uncharted territory. I am discovering. 

For instance, the better you make the lunch the less they’ll eat it. Yeah. It’s like a cruel joke. Does my kid want a homemade burrito? Does my kid want a massive slice of the cheesiest pizza-of-perfection I’ve ever made? Fresh grapes? Granola and yogurt? No. You know what my kid wants? A Lunchable. 

For those of you without children who may not know, a Lunchable is a pre-packaged “lunch” box. It’s sold in the grocery store in the cold food cooler near the bologna, if that tells you anything. The “lunches” consist of such options as a tiny, cold set of miniature “hot” dogs or a small stack of ham and crackers. Some Lunchables include an tiny Oreo, some a tiny Nestle Crunch. 

There is one with a build-your-own pizza, complete with sprinkle cheese, the entirety of which looks like something you might make in the Play-Doh kitchen set. In fact, I think Play-Doh and Lunchables should partner up and come out with a Play-Doh Lunchable Maker. The kids could mold their own lunches everyday while simultaneously enhancing creativity.

That being said, I’ve been saved by a Lunchable many a’time. If I had $2.37 for every time I’ve grabbed a Lunchable at the last minute, I’d have enough to pay my over due cafeteria bill that’s sure to eventually come. 

I’ve come to realize, though, that it’s all about the trade. I know this because my boys come home with items in their lunch bags that I didn’t pack. Like, say, peanut butter chocolate Rice Crispy Treats or Tootsie Rolls. Both are delicious but I’m wondering what happened to their own lunch items for them to score like that. I tell them they can give food away to those who seem hungry but to not just give good food up for junk. Or, what I think might be happening, to trade their entire lunch for a single lollipop. The lunch-box rule in my house is this: if you don’t want it then give to those who need it, otherwise always trade-up, item for item. 

Thanks to my oldest son for this week’s column idea. Kool-Aid Jammers for you all next week.

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