Quality versus Quantity

Every morning, without fail, my two year old asks, “Mommy, you going to work?” She looks up at me with those big brown droopy eyes, and frowns with genuine concern.

It breaks my heart every time I answer, “Yes, Vicky.”
I feel guilty to leave her when she pleads: “I wanna stay with you”, “I wanna work, too”, “Mommy, don’t leave”, “Mommy, I miss you.”

I feel like I’m abandoning her and her brother, failing them, by not being able to grant them this one wish.

This morning, she woke up and came to my room as usual, sniffing her giraffe blanky. “Mommy, you here?”

“I’m in the bathroom,” I said from my vanity where I was doing my makeup.

“Mommy, I sit too?”

I scooted over to the edge of the chair so Vicky could sit next to me. She adjusted the lighted mirror so she could see herself.

“Mommy, it’s my turn.” She took the blush brush from me and began to apply “Honey Lust” M.A.C. eyeshadow to her cheeks. I handed her a small eyeshadow applicator, and she selected another color which she commenced to dot madly below her brows.

“Mommy, I pretty?” She batted her long eyelashes at me and pouted her lips.

“Your beautiful!” I said squeezing and kissing her cheeks, and I meant it.

“And you know what? Your going to work with me today!”

She didn’t really say anything at first, but her eyes gleamed, and she sort of squealed. She held her face in her hands, and said excitedly, “I have to get dressed!”

I had promised my older daughter, Sofia, that I would leave work early to pick her up from school and take her to the mall to eat Johnny Rockets. So, I figured I’d make it a “take your daughter to work day”, as well.

We went to my office for about two hours, then came home to meet up with my sister so we could pick up Sofy and go to the mall together.

My husband and son were outside throwing around the football when we got there. I watched through the glass patio doors as they played catch. The goofy smiles on their faces as they chased each other across the yard; my son’s laughter when his dad grabbed him by the waist and lifted him high up in the air; the pure joy in their expressions made me want to stay and join them. I reached for the handle, but hesitated.

I was on my way out to spend the afternoon with my three girls–Sofy and Vicky, and my little sister Marta. She is seven years younger than me, so I always felt more like a momma, than a sister.

The boys needed their horseplay, and the girls needed their shopping and pampering, and eating at the food court, of course. I decided not to interrupt their bonding, and instead set off to pick up Sofy.

Sofy was really excited to see the three of us waiting for her by her locker. She got out of the line, pointing at us so her teacher could see we were there to pick her up. She grinned from ear to ear as she showed off her little sister to her friends and teacher.

“This is Vicky”, she said, smiling proudly as she introduced the mythical creature they had heard so many stories about.

“Mommy, can we go to the park,” Sofy begged in front of her classmates and teacher. I wouldn’t say no anyways, but when one of her best friends chimed in that he was going to the park, too, I quickly agreed.

Yes, one of her best friends is a boy, and he’s a cutie too. Needless to say, I’m in a heap of trouble when she gets older.

We watched the girls and Sofy’s classmates chase each other from tree to tree, just like the squirrels. I pushed Vicky on the swings, while Sofy played on the see-saw with her friends. The whole while Sofy smiled and laughed giddily, with that same emotion Vicky had expressed earlier that morning, and like Gaby while playing with his dad. If there is one commentary that is unanimous amongst people that know my daughter Sofia, it’s that she always has a beautiful smile on her face. You can’t fake that unwavering happiness.

At the end of the day, I suppose every parent fears that they don’t spend enough time with their kids. But, I firmly believe that the quality is just as important, if not more so, than the quantity.

Hot-Lunch

I don’t remember who decided to go on strike, but most of us jumped on the bandwagon pretty quickly…

Who, in their right mind, enjoyed the Hot-Lunch at school?

It was always corn-dogs, green beans, apple sauce, or less-than-thoroughly-cooked pizza, that was more tomato sauce than crust. It didn’t matter what it was, the stagnant smell hung like a toxic cloud menacing the children to move along the lunch line.

Each morning, as the school day began, our teacher would take roll and ask the students, “Hot lunch or did you bring lunch?”

“What’s the hot lunch today?” We’d ask every time, knowing all the words to the song in our heads, but unable to get them out. It can be hot, but that doesn’t make it lunch. We prayed for a cafeteria miracle!

There were usually two options: something gross, not surprisingly followed by something grosser still; but almost always pizza, which was the best, albeit semi raw, option. Nothing like uncooked tomato paste, to get those gastric juices going.

We’d eagerly walk up to the clear glass partition between us and the slop that would otherwise surely suck us in like some 1980s horror movie, each time hoping for a different outcome. But, it was always those same aluminum containers, overflowing with protein and fiber and nutrients—in other words, yucky, smelly, green stuff.

Well, one day, to my surprise and dismay, there was no pizza, even though they had said it was the hot-lunch!

I wasn’t going to pay $2.50 for corn-dogs and corn bread, or Salisbury steak. I don’t care what they wrote on the bulletin board, that was NOT steak. It was like a stake through the stomach. I wasn’t going to throw away money or food. So, I grabbed a chocolate milk, and a pack of cookies, paid the lunch lady and was on my way.

After a couple of days of this, I suppose they started noticing they had a surplus of corn-dogs. The lunch lady said I HAD to get the hot-lunch if I had signed up for it. I tried to explain that they didn’t have what they had promised during the morning roll call, but she insisted. I sullenly, no, not sullenly, I infuriatingly, went back and got a hot-lunch tray; the corn-dog seemed to bark at me in contempt. Ok, I was a little sullen.

I threw it all away! Their moist and chewy texture made them nauseating. Somebody needed to put those dogs to sleep.

So, we or I, decided to go on strike. One day, we all said we had brought lunch from home so none of us would buy the hot lunch. 20 kids, give or take, at $2.50 each, that’s 50 bucks. Yep, there were only about 20 of us in the classroom, in the whole 8th grade for that matter! For this small private school, fifty dollars was a significant enough sum to cause a stir.

They did the math and figured out some kids weren’t buying the hot lunch, even though they had signed up for it!

GASP!

Also, rumor had it that somebody who actually did bring their lunch from home, had snitched about the “strike”. TattleTales! It was the Hot-Lunchers versus the Sack-Lunchers. I certainly thought they were a sack of something after that.

We all got called to the Chapel. Church services were held there, as well as weekly Chapel when we would sing songs of praise and hear different Christian testimonies. It was GREAT, because you didn’t have to eat anything! We held mental math competitions, which I loved ’cause I was, ::cough cough:: am a geek. We also performed drama piece recitations, and reenacted many a nativity scene there.

Today wasn’t about fun, though; it was serious.

The Principal said we were being defiant and conspiring together for evil, maybe she didn’t say evil. She was going to get to the bottom of it, she insisted pounding her fist on the pew before us, specifically, before me I thought. After several minutes of the “What would Jesus Do” spiel, she dished out some silly punishment. No Hail Mary’s or Our Father’s, since it was a Christian school; more along the lines of “no recess for a week“, or an essay about Christian morals, and what not.

But, the biggest punishment…we had to start eating the hot-lunch again.

I will say that they messed up on the food orders less frequently. AND, eventually, they even started ordering Papa John’s instead of pretend cooking in their Easy Bake Ovens!

VICTORY!