The Missing Lunches and the Legend of Mozzy Sticks

Missing shark doo doo doo doo doo doo
There have been times in my life when a ringing phone seems like the most terrible kind of portent.  The sound echoes on the not-yet-manifested changes that will inevitably occur when I touch the green circle and accept the call.  There were times it might have been a call from around the world.  Times when it could have been a call from home.  There was even a time in a movie called Cape Fear that the phone actually became sentient and signaled impending horror in the only way its tinny little voice box could.  But nothing creates a malaise of doom or a pit of nerves the way a call from your child's elementary school does.  What if the particular and miraculous mix of genetics and moxie you sent out the door whole in the morning is hurt?  What if they're sick?  What if they're in trouble?  Please, dear Lord in heaven, don't let it be lice. All thoughts that crossed my mind last Tuesday when I heard my phone repeatedly vibrating in my desk.  All reasons why I was nervous when accepted the call.

"Mrs. Gallagher?  I just wanted you to know that both the kids are fine.  But it appears they don't have their lunch boxes today.  Is it ok for them to go through the lunch line or will you be able to get a lunch to them before early dismissal?" lunches?  I'm the first to leave in the morning so I don't get to double check backpacks and sweetly remind my little darlings to grab their lunches from the fridge before running out the door to race one another to the bus.  (I don't want to spoil anything for anyone, but it happens every day and the result is always the same and the same argument inevitably occurs despite our abilities to learn from every previous experience we've had with this.  Isn't there a definition of crazy that says something about expecting different results from doing the same thing?  That.  We prove that every morning.  I digress.)  The important part of the lunches for Sweet Girl and Little Man is that they're gluten free and casein (cow's milk protein) free AND cater to their very finicky palates of late.  We've been doing this for almost 10 years now for Sweet Girl and the entirety of Little Man's illustrious career as a human.  It's not the easiest and it's not for everyone, but we've made it work for us and it's better all around.  So I knew that letting my children go on a maiden voyage through the Sea of School Sustenance was more likely to be a scene from Titanic or the Poseidon Adventure than from Bravo's Below Deck series.  The problem was that I couldn't get lunches to the kids because I was currently on my shortened planning period when I received the phone call.  Best laid plans have gone awry this day.

"Yes, please let them go through the lunch line.  I'll put money on their account.  I bet one of them will refuse everything and the other might find something, but I'll make sure they get fed at home and we'll make sure they don't make it to school without lunches again."

I say a quick prayer for every soul in the cafeteria and for patience for the kitchen staff as two children with no knowledge and/or experience with school lunch are about to wreak havoc upon a predisposed-to-excitement crowd on a day when we have an early dismissal for snow.  Blessed be the school staff members who remember to breathe deeply and count to ten for theirs *should be* all the riches in all the lands forever and ever, amen.  (Snow Day Beatitudes) Then I move on to getting the middle schoolers walking into class properly educated before they leave early for the day as well.  In the back of my mind, though, lurks the uncertainty of what I will meet running off the bus this afternoon.  Will one or both of my children be ravenous and cantankerous? Will one or both of them find the school lunch experience charming and wish it could happen every day?  Will one or both of them wonder aloud how my husband and I have failed them as parents due to the lack of lunch box in backpack which has occurred on this day?  Yes.  Yes to all.

Image result for mozzarella sticks
The most delicious things to ever be delicioused.
Sweet Girl comes bounding off the bus with a glare and a "Why didn't I have a lunch today? Can youplease fix me some lunch NOW? I said please." Little Man follows closely on her heels with a - all in one breath - "Mommy! I didn't have a lunch today but did you know that you can get food in the cafeteria?  They have lots of stuff and they told me I could get whatever I wanted.  It was so fun and I didn't have any money to pay but they said they'd ask you for money and they helped pick out the food I wanted.  I can't believe they have food there!"  Sweet Girl bookends our Greek tragicomedy with a supercilious "I told you that's not gluten free and not good for kids like us!" I assuage her with freshly cooked bacon and ask Little Man for details.  He is a fount of information and I glean from the barrage of words unleashed upon me that his lunch consisted of orange juice, Frosted Flakes, chocolate milk, and mozzarella sticks which he pronounced haltingly, with reverence, and still got it wrong.  His assessment of his lunch was as follows: "I had these sticks that had cheese in them!  Real cheese that tasted so delicious.  And then some Frosted Flakes, I think they're called that, with a tiger.  The orange juice was sweeter than what we have here.  But I also got to have chocolate milk.  Which is, like, real milk WITH CHOCOLATE IN IT, Mommy.  They can put chocolate in milk and it tastes so good.  You can drink chocolate! It was the best lunch I've ever eaten!" 
So it wasn't the disaster I had envisioned from the buzzing of my phone to the news of missing lunches to the short cruise on the good ship NES School Lunch to the backlash on this particular parenting fail.  Which is good news.  I'll take any victory I can get.  We all survived an Unexpected Occurrence, which would have been a derailment a couple of years ago.  AND you can drink milk with chocolate in it.  What an amazing time to be alive. 


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