Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The anti-bento lunch box, part 3: another look at Owen's lunch

I am going on my 4th year of blogging about lunches here (albeit off and on), and have pictured over a thousand bentos during that time.  And yet this is only the third lunch of Owen's to appear here. The first two lunches were posted three years ago in 2010, the anti-bento lunch, and an updated anti-bento lunchbox part 2.

Without further ado, Owen's current cast of cafeteria characters:
Owen's lunch stuff - an autism awareness lunch

Owen's lunch is almost exactly the same every single day.
  
Owen's lunch contents - an autism awareness lunch
Every. Single. Day. He has the following packed in his lunch box:
- a thermos of milk
- a jar of applesauce
- a container of something crunchy
- a spoon
- an ice pack

The only thing that changes in his lunch is the Thermos Funtainer (we have 3 "boy ones" in rotation) (I once sent Paige's Hello Kitty one in his lunch box and it came back untouched, he refused to drink from it).  I am THRILLED (like, hallelujah, rejoicing!) that he drinks milk from those Thermos bottles because for the first 3 years of school he would only drink the Horizon organic milk boxes, in either vanilla or strawberry. He still LOVES those milk boxes, but now we do those only as an occasional treat. Plain milk in a Thermos Funtainer is much easier on our grocery budget (not to mention, less sugar).

The stainless jar for his applesauce is a more recent purchase. There was a time that Owen would only eat applesauce from the little single serve containers. With a straw poked through the lid. It took years of work for him to eat it with a spoon. And then another year before he'd eat the same applesauce (Mott's natural) from a jar, rather than the single serve container.

Ever since Owen braved to eat jarred applesauce from a regular container I have been searching for the right container to pack it in. You wouldn't believe how many I have tried and discarded. My requirements were pretty simple: something in the 6-9 ounce size range, leak free, easy to open. Well, I did find something that met those requirements, but they were totally not durable and would crack and need replacing. Like every three weeks. Finally, finally, I have found the perfect applesauce jars for Owen.

Owen's lunch box - Lunchbots Rounds applesauce jars - an autism awareness lunch

These are made by Lunchbots. They hold 8 ounces each. They are not big and bulky like the Thermos Funtainer food jars, so Owen is able to grasp them better to easily open and close. They don't leak. They will never crack. Hello. We finally found a winner. 

The contents of Owen's "something crunchy" container changes day to day. Today he had pretzels. Sometimes it is crackers (saltines, Ritz, Goldfish). Sometimes it is corn chips (like Fritos, or the Trader Joe's version of). In truly desperate "oh no, our cupboard is bare!" times he gets plain Cheerios as his crunchy thing, but being that he eats dry plain Cheerios for breakfast every.single.day I try not to double him up on that if it's at all avoidable.

If you can't tell, eating is a huge struggle for Owen. And for us, as his parents, and as a whole family. We can't walk into any ole restaurant we like and sit down for a meal unless we know they serve french fries. Yes, french fries. That is the only (ONLY) food from a restaurant Owen will eat. If we are going somewhere unfamiliar we have to pack a lunch box for him to take along.

Owen has made eons of progress, in many areas, since being diagnosed with autism at age three. There has not been much progress in the eating department at all. Things like eating applesauce with a spoon instead of sucking it through a straw, allowing that applesauce to be in any old bowl or container instead of the familiar pre-packaged single serving containers are HUGE milestones for him. Those seemingly small steps took years of work and tears (on all our parts) to achieve. 

Not all kids with autism have enormous eating issues like Owen, but many do.
Owen is not your typical picky eater. Owen would starve rather than eat food outside his accepted circle of foods. And that is not an exaggeration. He would simply not eat

Lately Owen has been open to smelling unfamiliar foods. This is a huge step for him, as food smells used to send him running for the hills. We take what we can get. Small steps. Baby steps. Itty bitty infantile teeny tiny steps.

Owen's lunch, all packed up and ready to be zipped. Yep, that's the same lunch box he's used since Kindergarten. :)

Owen's lunch box - an autism awareness lunch

Thank goodness L.L. Beans lasts forever. I think we will get a couple more years from this yet. 

a peek in Owen's lunch box - an autism awareness lunch

So here we are, at the end of April. The end of Autism Awareness Month. I squeezed Owen's lunch in just under the wire!

Amy's final autism message, which also touches on the topic of food:

"Children with autism are 5 times more likely than other children to have problems eating. Often labeled "pickiness," these eating disorders are actually due to sensory issues (extreme sensitivity to tastes and textures), oral motor difficulties (problems chewing or swallowing), obsessive-compulsive disorder (always having to drink from the same cup or eat from the same bowl), food allergies or sensitivities, or a combination of all of the above.  
My son has a very severe autism-related eating disorder. He has eaten only sweet potato/yams out of the same bowl for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the last seven or eight years now. We work with a doctor and mix in supplements to make sure he gets adequate nutrition, and we work on adding new foods with a combination of occupational and behavioral therapy. Happy Autism Month!"
    
Thank you for your support during this month of sharing about autism. :)

Supplies used to pack this lunch:
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Last Two Puzzle Lunches for Autism Awareness Month!

It is the end of April, and the end of the month-long Autism Awareness themed lunches.

I have two more puzzley lunches to show now, and I'll be back later to share one of Owen's typical lunches. Riveting stuff, let me tell you. :)

But first, an Ethan lunch -
PlanetBox and puzzle pieces - granola bites, apples, grapes, crackers & cheese
Packed in a PlanetBox:
- organic gala apple slices, flip-flopped to make a fun pattern
- grapes
- homemeade granola bites, made puzzle shaped by using a puzzle muffin pan
- Wheat Thin crackers across the top
- cheddar cheese

Paige's lunch from the same day -
Puzzle sandwich, organic apples & strawberries, cukes, pretzels & tiny treat
Packed in an EasyLunchbox:
- puzzle shaped sandwich
- pretzle chips
- a few organic gummy bears in the treat box
- cucumber slices, with a sprinkle of fresh pepper
- apple and strawberry slices

And that, my friends, is the end of the puzzle lunches for awhile. Phew!

Another special autism message from Amy:
"Person with autism" or "autistic?" Language shapes how we perceive the world and how others perceive us. In disability circles, "person first" (person with autism) language is usually encouraged, however many autistic self-advocates prefer the term "autistic." 
They say that autism is such an integral part of what makes them who they are, that that saying "person with autism" would be the equivalent of calling a woman "a person with womanhood." In fact, Temple Grandin once famously said that autism was such an inseparable component of her identity that even if she could "cure" herself, she would choose not to.

I tend to use "autistic" or "on the spectrum." My son considers himself the possessor of an "autistic brain" and sees it as a superpower. However, I do use person first language at times, after receiving a lecture from an acquaintance about the shocking wrongness of using "autistic." The lecture didn't convince me "autistic" was wrong, but it did convince me that it can be so distracting to some people that it will sidetrack an entire discussion. ;)

Happy Autism Month!
   
Supplies used to make these lunches:
    
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Monday, April 29, 2013

Muffin Tin Monday | April Showers Bring May Flowers


Welcome to Muffin Tin Monday! 

The assigned theme for this week is April Showers Bring May Flowers.

Muffin Tin Monday - April Showers Bring May Flowers

Top row: 
2 umbrella sandwiches. 
The green handles for the umbrellas are from Lindt chocolate "carrots" I saved from Easter.

Middle row: 
havarti cheese raindrops atop crackers. 

Bottom row: 
strawberry flowers on a kiwi backdrop, bento picks make the tulip stems and pretty daisies. 

April has felt especially rainy to me this year, not necessarily literally, but figuratively it has been a sad month. Death (a child from our elementary school passed away), disasters (Boston Marathon and West, Texas tragedies), and a diagnosis (not ready to talk about that yet). It's just been a month of yuck and heartache and I am so hoping May blooms with beauty and bursts with bliss. I have two friends who are having babies next month and that seems like a wonderful start. :)

Supplies used to make this muffin tin meal:

   
    
New to Muffin Tin Monday? Check out the MTM information page to read all about it. The schedule of themes can be found there too. :) The themes through June are posted!




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Friday, April 26, 2013

EasyLunchboxes Lunch | Honk If You Love Fridays! car bento

This cute little lunch was for my youngest car-fanatic, Tyler.

Tyler attends morning preschool four days a week and is home by lunchtime, so packing a lunchbox is not necessary on most days. But the boy LOVES a lunchbox. So every now and then I try to have a cute lunch waiting for him at the kitchen table, all packed up in a lunchbox, for when he gets home from school. Tyler gets so excited and sports a smile a mile wide as he unzips the lunchbox and lifts the lid of the bento box. His delight is well worth the extra minutes it takes to put a bento together for him. :)

EasyLunchboxes Preschool Lunch - car sandwich, organic Z bar, carrots & cucumbers, fruit salad. Beep beep!
Packed in an EasyLunchbox:
- Car sandwich, this is hummus on seedy multigrain bread, with little cheddar cheese wheels
- the road, an organic Clif Kids Zbar
- spare tires and jack ;) - cucumber slices and baby carrots
- road hazards: kiwi chunks and strawberry pieces, with a cute flag bento pick

Tyler waved that little flag pick around and said, "look mama! it's a sign!". I said "that's called a flag!". To which he then said, "a flag? the flag goes on the castle!".  Coming from a kid who was completely unintelligible a handful of months ago, his words make me so happy. :)  

  
Supplies used to make this lunch:
  

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Thursday, April 25, 2013

EasyLunchboxes | Penguin Burrito Bento

Cute little penguin meal: 
   
EasyLunchboxes penguin lunch - deli burrito, grapes, pistachios, goldfish crackers.
Packed in an EasyLunchbox:
- deli burrito, stuffed with Applegate natural smoked turkey breast, Applegate havarti cheese, & romaine lettuce
- two little penguins made from Applegate organic cheddar cheese (cut with cutters from this set)
- penguin bait (Goldfish crackers) :)
- grape assortment with a cute penguin bento pick
- pistachios 
- a few organic gummy bears are in the little penguin pot

This was a dinner sort of meal for Paige. I had to take her along to some after-school appointments that would cut into her starting-to-starve-time. For a school lunch I would have shelled those pistachios for her, since the time allotment for lunch period is pretty tight and I don't want her to waste those minutes wrestling the shells open. But for outings, such as this one, I LOVE having time consuming eats in her box. It's a great distraction and keeps her busy and engaged in her meal for a longer period of time, making the waiting at appointments much more tolerable for everyone. :)

Supplies used to pack this lunch:
  

Disclosure: Applegate recently sent me a selection of delicious organic and natural deli meats and cheeses to try out and enjoy. Yum! 
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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

school lunches: puzzle bynto bentos

And this is what school lunch looked like today...

fun lunch in a bynto bento lunch box
Ethan's lunch, packed in a Bynto box:
- organic gala apple slices in an oversized silicone muffin cup
- grapes with cute dancing animal picks :)
- turkey roll-ups
- cheddar cheese puzzle pieces
- pretzels 

Bynto lunch for kindergarten - garlic chicken pizza & sides
Paige's lunch, also in a Bynto box:
- organic gala apple slices and strawberries, also in an oversized silicone cup
- cucumber slices 
- leftover garlic chicken pizza with fresh pecorino Romano cheese on top (YUM!)
- pretzels and a cheddar cheese puzzle piece

Those puzzle pieces are there for Autism Awareness Month, and here's Amy with another great message:
"We tend to associate autism with children, but autism is a lifelong condition: autistic children become autistic adults. And this transition can be difficult since many services and supports end abruptly when children become adults, although their need for them remains. 
There is currently a lack of group homes and caregivers available to provide care to adults on the spectrum. Even those, like my son, who have the potential to go to college or work, may not be able to due to a lack of support and understanding: for sensory difficulties, for problems with independent living skills, or for social and communication difficulties that cause problems in interviews or other professional interactions.

It's Autism Month, and I'm spreading the knowledge!"
 :)

Supplies used to pack these lunches:
  


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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Lunchy school lunches - 2 EasyLunchboxes

Lord have mercy that lame title really took some work to write. My poor little pea brain is so fried. Yeesh.

Two lunches here, both in EasyLunchboxes:
  
EasyLunchboxes Kindergarten safari lunch - grilled chicken, hummus, crackers, strawberries, cucumbers.

Paige's lunch:
- leftover grilled chicken from last night's dinner, cut into bite-sized cubes
- hummus in the lidded mini-dipper box
- Wheat Thin crackers
- cucumber slices
- strawberry slices
  
Paige asked that her lunch have "a style" - by which I think she meant "a theme". So in went two animal mini-fork bento picks and I called it a safari. She was pacified with that. Phew. ;)

Ethan's lunch:
EasyLunchboxes - snacky lunch - organic apples, strawberries, carrots, cheddar cheese & pretzel chips
  
- organic gala apple slices, dipped in lemon juice to keep fresh and bright
- a few organic strawberries
- organic baby carrots
- cheddar cheese, the top piece is puzzle-shaped, and all the scrappy bits are underneath
- his most favorite garlic parmesan pretzel chips


The cheesy puzzle piece is a nod to April being Autism Awareness Month, and as such, Amy is here to share another message about autism. :)
"One common characteristic of autism is a lack of eye contact. (So common that autistic author John Elder Robison titled his memoir "Look Me in the Eye.") Some autistic people describe having to make eye contact as being painful, like being burned. Some find it difficult or impossible to process speech and look at someone at the same time. (I've seen t-shirts that say "I can listen to you or look at you. Pick one.") In fact, some not only need to look away but need to stim, doodle or engage in another activity in order to block out sensory overload and allow their brains to process speech. 
Given the fact that polite eye contact varies from culture to culture, and given that this would really be asking our son to change a lot just so other people wouldn't need to feel uncomfortable with his different way of processing, this is something we never actively worked on with him. Overall he seems to have picked up this cultural norm over time and does pretty well with eye contact himself these days, but still there are many times when he appears to be absorbed in something else, when he's actually listening quite closely. 
Every brain is different. If someone doesn't look at you when you're speaking, they may actually be working to pay extra close attention to you rather than none at all. 
Happy Autism Month!"
   
Supplies used to make these lunches:
   

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Monday, April 22, 2013

Muffin Tin Monday | Earth Day

Happy Earth Day!

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!

2-4-6-8! What should we appreciate? Our planet! Our planet! Yay Earth!

Unfortunately, these peppy cheers are all I have to contribute to today's Muffin Tin Monday. Time totally got away from me last week and a busy weekend (and an overdue homework project) took precedence.

I can't wait to see what YOU came up with! 

Muffin Tin Monday button

New to Muffin Tin Monday? Check out the MTM information page to read all about it. The schedule of themes can be found there too. :) The themes through June are posted!




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