Wednesday, October 04, 2006

We'll Have Our Cake And Eat It, Too.

As you know, I'm not much for tackling any important issues on this blog. Homelessness, poverty and oversexed Republican representatives take a back seat to any narcissistic stories revolving around my latest diet, grooming habits or too-cute-for-words anecdote about my kids. But when I see something that really riles me, that just screams injustice, I am forced to take action. Because this time, it's personal.

They're trying to take away our cupcakes.

According to this recent article* in the Los Angeles Times, some school districts are banning any non-nutritional treats from classroom parties. That would include birthday cupcakes, Halloween candy or little Susie's mom's killer caramel brownies. Instead, one district administrator suggests parents bring carrots.

Oh, yummmmm! Birthday carrots!

Now, I don’t know about your kids, but if I were to show up in either of my girls’ classrooms with a bag of carrots to celebrate their special day, I'd be beaten senseless by a mob of angry kids. And Kiyomi, while relaying the offense to her therapist in twenty years, would recognize it as a pivotal moment in her decision to jack a Hostess truck.

In fact, if I show up at any party bearing a platter of carrots, feel free to pull me aside and kick my ass.

Don't get me wrong - here at home we try our best to give our kids a healthy, balanced diet. We even have soy bacon in our freezer, right alongside the edamame and Boca Burgers. As they're getting older, we try to guide them towards making healthy choices for themselves. (Oh, alright. Except for this.) And I supported the ban on soda vending machines in our district schools – the daily presence of those big metal boxes was unnecessary and too great a temptation, sort of like putting a bacon dispenser outside my office door.

But the responsibility of my child's health is not the job of anyone else, especially the parents of my child's classmates. I trust my kids to exhibit some measure of self-control, so if Billy's mom wants to bring in birthday cupcakes smothered in buttery pink frosting and topped with chunks of sugar crystals and gummi bears, that's fine. My girls usually scrape off half the topping anyways, and will usually forego sweets for the rest of the day, telling me they're "all sugared out." And even when they do jump on that treat like a rottweiler on a pork chop, I'm not likely to become alarmed enough to call for a district-wide cupcake ban. More likely I'll ask them why they didn't save half of that monstrosity for me.

I realize there's growing concern over childhood obesity but I think it's a mistake to blame it on a few cupcakes consumed over a nine-month period. Most teachers I've seen have the foresight to make sensible recommendations: only one treat per child, and for classroom potlucks parents are encouraged to bring vegetable and fruit platters or sandwiches. I showed up at Kira's last classroom party with a tray of sushi which, along with other parents' offerings of dolmades and pupusas was appreciated by teachers and kids alike. But I know that we were all grateful that one of the mothers had the sense to show up with a tray of homemade churros for dessert.

Some administrators are suggesting alternate treats for the kids - stickers, school supplies, special seat covers (and sue me for having a perverse mind, but all I can picture are those things you find in public restrooms, only this one has "Happy Birthday Claire!" scrawled across it in crayon.) These are all good suggestions, but the idea of all my child's classmates singing 'Happy Birthday' to her while she blows out a candle stuck into an eraser just seems so wrong to me.

The article mentions that the Texas legislature passed the "Safe Cupcake" amendment last year, which guarantees parents' rights to deliver unhealthful treats to their children's classroom. This would ensure that anyone showing up at school bearing a platter of sninckerdoodles won't be fingerprinted, put into a headlock and escorted off the premises. I hope we won't have to go so far in our school, but if a ban on sweets appears on my district's horizon I'm prepared to fight tooth-and-nail for the cause.

Because if they want my cupcake, they'll have to pry it from my cold, dead hands.


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  1. Mmmm, churros...

    Meanwhile: what in the HELL is going on over there? That country has an aversion to socialism so strong that healthcare is practically a luxury, and yet they're going to legislate the cupcake out of existence? Talk about your nanny state.

    And please tell me that the news coming out of Chicago and New York re: fois gras and trans fat respectively, is some kind of massive Onion-like hoax. Please?

    Mmmm, bacon...

    Memo to self: do not read this blog when hungry.

  2. This whole post is hysterical.

    I'm snack mom today, LG insisted on sending oreos. She carefully placed them into individual baggies. You can send cookies occasionally, but your supposed to send something nutrious. She worked hard on it and I don't have the heart to tell her.

  3. Can you make cupcakes that look like carrots? What about carrot cake?

    In my town the issue has more to do with life-threatening food allergies than healthful eating. There's just no way to guarantee that those delicious home-baked goodies haven't been tainted with tree nuts or the like. Even if the allergic kids don't eat them, the allergen's presence in the classroom could cause problems - which really stinks all around.

  4. You are so hilarious! Actually, I can see why they are doing this ban b/c more and more kids are allergic to peanuts and who knows what nuts are in those delish cup cakes though.

    Sorry Marsha. But I'm all for that bacon dispenser metal box though, one for my house.

  5. You have me laughing! I guess that beats getting mad. I hate when people take things too far. I agree with you, banning birthday cupcakes and treast seems a tad over the top. Shades of big brother never sit easy with me. Yet, I never considered it in terms of allergic reactions though.

  6. Our school district has a ban on any food-related items that are not "INDIVIDUALLY WRAPPED." basically this means i couldn't even bring CARROTS, for petes sake. I can however bring Little Debbie snacks, or some other highly processed foods. But bring something low-fat and healthy-albeit homemade? Not allowed!

    They do however also suggest bringing some NON-food items,such as pencils, stickers, etc...


    Our childhoods were filled with birthday cupcakes, fun treats from kids at school, and we all turned out just fine!

    I'm with ya girl!

  7. I'll be rootin' for ya! Take down the man -- one pointless piece of cupcake legislation at a time!

    Viva la sweets!

  8. The mental image of your daughter blowing out a candle stuck into an eraser made me snort Diet Coke out my nose. Too funny.

    As for the cupcake ban? Shit, call me crazy but shouldn't school administrators or "the community" be worrying about bigger issues? Like teaching the kids how to do math or read? Wackos!

  9. FUNNy FUNNY post. You so crack me up. I am one to never ever ban cupcakes or any sweets for whatever reason so I am with you on this one.

    How about if the kids eat a cupcake they are required to run around the playground 3x immediately following? Or would that be violating their fundamental right to be sedentary if they want to?

    UMMMM cupcakes.

  10. AMEN! Let's not ruin childhood by forever banning the great classroom equalizer...the tray of cupcakes. Gawd how depressing and idiotic. We should be concerning ourselves with more important issues in schools like LEARNING. What an insult to assume that teachers and parents are complete idiots. What do the powers that be think we're doing...hazing 4th graders by forcing them to eat six Little Debbies at one sitting? Please.

    I'm with you all the to buy a pack of Oreos from the office vending machine.

  11. Well said. The childhood obesity stats in this country IS alarming, however, birthday treats are not the problem.

    The problem stems from lazy, and/or obese parents passing on these characteristics/traits to their children. Fewer trips to fast "food" joints, some exercise, and limiting t.v./computer/video game time would do wonders.

    If no one ever brought another sweet birthday treat to school again, I seriously doubt the weight (combined or individual) would go down--you'd just end up with a bunch of fat, uptight, and grumpy children. ;p

  12. Um, halloween candy was the only reason I had a kid. Now you're trying to tell me that some schools are going to try to ban sweets? Noooooo!!!!

    I guess I'll have to add 'snack pantry' to the end of my warning 'Keep your religion out of my schools and your business out of my bedroom'.

  13. I shared your (hilarious) post with the Loved. His response: "I love this country." Tone of voice: despondent and sarcastic.

    I'll stand shoulder to shoulder with you to protect our right to bring cupcakes to school. And I'll help you eat them quick in the bathroom when the principal is on his way to get us.

  14. You are sooo funny - yep, let's ban birthday sweets but forgot about actually focusing on what's important at schools, like the learning part. I can see me picking up my daughter from daycare now after the other 18 4-year olds pelted her with erasers and pencils that she handed out for her birthday "treat" me crazy, but I'm bringing cupcakes.

  15. "the idea of all my child's classmates singing 'Happy Birthday' to her while she blows out a candle stuck into an eraser just seems so wrong to me" - so wrong, and yet so fucking funny!

    I am the queen of forcing healthy eating habits on my kid (my son actually demands that people dilute his juice with water, he's so brainwashed), but this is ridiculous. Healthy snacks for a birthday treat? What is this, Russia?

  16. What about putting recess and PE back into schools on a daily basis. My kids would have PE offered as an elective
    in middle school, and in elementary school I think it was
    every other day. Let them run and play and give em' the damn cupcake, ho-ho, twinkie and ding dong.

  17. i totally think this is such crap.. who the hell wants a party without junk food?!? part of being a kid IS eating junk. it's fun. you know? maybe if we made kids get off their asses and go outside, instead of playing video games all day, we've have healthier kids? lol

  18. ask the school if banana bread cupcakes with 'no-fat' 'no-sugar' 'soy'icing' will be acceptable (of course you will have to go and find that icing but it would beat carrots anyday).

  19. This IS so wrong. I heard of a similar ban brewing in my city, but it hasn't affected my school. But if it does, they'll have to take me down, too.

    Cupcake power!

  20. We have a "no homemade food or treats" rule at my kids' school. Also, the teachers are not allowed to give the kids candy. I don't blame my 3rd grader for wanting to drop-out.

  21. Is it bad that I want a churro now?

    I feel the same way. Luckily I doubt that law will pass. Most people wouldn't support it. Well I'd hope not. I sure as hell wouldn't. We eat pretty healthy most of the time, but I have no problem with my kids eating treats too. Banning cupcakes....that is just wrong. Maya's school is having a trick or treating thing at their "Pumpkin festival". So we'll for sure be getting some tasty stuff there.

    Now, pass me a churro please.

  22. While I understand the concerns of those with allergies, I'm not sure it is reasonable to expect schools to deprive all kids of every traditional pleasure that someone else is allergic to.

    I think what bothers me about all this is the neglect of what food means. It is not just calories; it is a way for people to celebrate and commune with each other. Special foods for special days are an important part of every culture. This isn't just taking away sweets; it is changing what birthdays mean and how children celebrate together. A birthday is a celebration; carrots do not do the job.

    But if they appreciate sushi, maybe you can sneak this by: twinkie sushi.

  23. I live in NY, and some hoity-toity moms at my son's school have tried to enact a similar ban. They want to do away with the 'empty calories.'

    The irony? I know for a fact that half of these moms drop their kids off at school and then go out for a 300 calorie martini afterwards. The hypocrisy!


  24. Veronica: I think you brought up an important point, that it isn't just about the food itself, but what it represents.

    If you read to the end of the Times article, there's a quote from a kid in one of the 'dry' schools that says, "It's cool, because we don't eat garbage." Ironically, it then goes on to say that "there's an M&Ms birthday cake waiting for her at home."

  25. Ohhhh... I just can not BELIEVE we survived with all of our edible oil products...

    I had my daughter's birthday party this past weekend where I rented a popcorn machine... Very Cool...

    Anyway, a mother asked me if I would mind air popping her kid's popcorn...and putting only using sea salt and could I make certain that she only drinks this soy drink and No!no!no! cake and could I make certain that she did not have any other sugar product... and well could I make certain that her daughter washed her hands before she ate... and ohhh... you were going to order pizza? How 'bout going to the health food store and buying this soy pizza it is so good and so nutricious...
    I just could not believe the list...
    Yeah, 20 kids at my house with a popcorn machine and i'll airpop your kid's popcorn and go shopping and MAKE your kid a special pizza and tell her that she can not have cake...

  26. I am singing your praises right now, with a mouth full of imaginary chocolate cupcakes.

    Isn't this why they're called, um, treats? Because they're not all-the-time food but special treats for say...parties?

    Maybe they should put more energy into lobbying to get McDonald's out of every neighborhood and Coke machines out of the schools if they're so worried about obesity. It kills me how shortsighted our nation's educators can be.

  27. Oh and I laughed out loud at Mrs Chicky's line about Halloween candy. I want to be at her house on the 31!

  28. There is another issue that you maybe haven't thought about. There are kids who are deathly allergic to nuts (my son for instance) and you'd be really surprised at how many snack foods have nut ingredients or have been made on the same lines as nuts products. In some cases it's not about your right to bring a cupcake, it's that a cupcake isn't worth a kid's life. And while kids know what they can not eat some children will go into anaphlaxis from touching a surface that the contaminated food has been. As for the individually wrapped items, you can read the ingredient list and see what's in it to see. And while it's a bummer for the kids who don't have allergies it's literally life and death for kids like my son.

  29. WAIT A MINUTE! Hold everything!

    I've solved the problem...

    Carrot cake!

    'Nuff said.
    (damn, I'm good...)

  30. Urban Urchin: In response to your comment and others here that brought up the issue of food allergies, my argument here is with the ban mentioned in the article, which is in direct response to the epidemic of childhood obesity. I think that a district-wide ban on cupcakes because they think it's going to impact the problem of overweight kids is myopic.

    But I sympathize with you and your son, and if a teacher were to forbid them im her classroom becaue of a child with these life-threatening allergies, I would certainly comply. However, would that mean the entire school would have to affected by this ban? I wouldn't think so, but again, I don't have a child with this condition, and none of the children at my daughters' school do, so perhaps that's a misconception. Also, how do you control what other kids bring in their lunch? I would think that this would be a impossible task - maybe you can shed some light on how that's handled in your school.

  31. I, for one, am tired of being told what is in the best interest of MY OWN CHILDREN.

    I mean, that's why I got a divorce.

  32. "... jump on that treat like a rottweiler on a pork chop." That provided the BEST mental image, thanks. ;-)

    I'm with you here. Everything in moderation. There's no need to go balls-out and ban birthday treats. Come on -- what are they going to do next, police kids' lunches? Ridiculous.

  33. Marsha- I agree a ban on cupcakes for the sake of fighting childhood obesity is ridiculous. And I thank you for your understanding and your question. Any opportunity to educate is appreciated. And I think in my case, it's just nut products and doesn't have anything to do with healthy or unhealthy snacks. I also think regarding birthday treats it should be on a class by class basis- as you suggested. I think there is always a compromise.

    Prior to finding out my son had these allergies (he also has anaphlayxis to eggs and all other nuts) we had been asked by our daughter's school to not send any nut products to school because of food allergic kids. It was inconvient but the stance I took was my kid can eat something other than peanut butter for 5 meals a week in order to keep another kid safe.

    I know to people who are fortunate enough to never give peanut allergies a second thought, we sound crazy. The reason allergic parents push for peanut free throughout school is that the oil contains the protein which is the allergic part. Nuts are inherently oily and leave residue. Residue can trigger an anaphylatic reaction. Especially since kids aren't the best about washing their hands.

    My son is 18 months old- so we'll cross the school bridge when we come to it. However, I will relate one incident: we went to a Bagel store on a trip to Brooklyn. I asked all the questions I have to ask and I was satisfied with the answers so I ordered him a bagel with cream cheese. But I was tired and forgot to ask them to wash the knife that they use to cut the bagels. He took one bite of the bagel and began vomiting and had diarehha. Because even though they wipe the knife clean, they don't wash it in between cutting bagels. And they serve bagels with peanut butter. My kid almost died and I am his mom- who is going to be more vigilant than me?

    I've hogged your comments long enough. I posted yesterday about dealing with peanut allergies and I'll post more about what it my blog if you're interested.

  34. Marsha

    Did you say cupcakes??!!! Have you checked out "Joan's On Third" or "Sprinkles"?

    Picture one of these next to your afternoon cup 'o joe!!

    And By the way... When my son's class was doing their family unit, I sent in our favorite family recipe (handed down through generations), Chocolate Scotcheroos.. It's conveniently located on the back of the Rice Krispies box. They're awesome!!!


  35. So true and even when a child's diet is balanced and sane, it gets tougher and tougher not to offend the noisy and strident and powerful lobby of the NO SUGAR MOMS. They're the ones whose children are eyeing the candy necklaces and dreaming of the day they are alone and can nibble at the jewels without a mother lunging for the poison.

  36. totally right on. i would much rather see schools take on the proccessed crap that most kid eat in the school cafeteria than the occasional cupcake.

    also, if i don't get to make cupcakes for my kid to take to school, how the hell else am I going to be able to eat a shitload of cupcakes myself? i need the excuse, man.

    the term "buttery frosting" now has me salivating. thanks for that;-)

  37. The one thing that seems to be missing from the discussion here is the fact that birthday parties do NOT belong in a classroom. The teachers are often expected to stop their educational day and serve up cake and cupcakes for a child's birthday because a parent cannot be there to do so. And even when a parent is there they often expect it to be full scale party for their child, an exceptional waste of an educational day.

    One of the other issues is one that is not discussed in the article. In Los Angeles the ban is that no home made foods may be brought in to the classroom, due to several incidences in the past 2 years when children and teachers alike fell ill with food poisoning from foods made at home and brought in for parties and celebrations. Being such a litigious happy society parents and teachers then sued the District, which then imposed a new ban on all home baked/made foods and that only those from a proper bakery or premade foods could be brought in during school hours. All bets are off though after school hours.

    On that sweet note...I am off to eat one of my daughter's delicious homemade chocolate chip cookies and wear it with pride.

  38. Wow, if I hadn't just plugged my piehole with three pieces of cream cheese-stuffed pumpkin bread, this post would have me salivating. And laughing. Which is probably an ugly combination any way you slice it.

  39. I wonder how new this idea is.
    when I went to preschool (california, early-mid 70s) my teacher had a cake. actually, a fake cake. she'd pull it out and we'd sing happy birthday and then it would go right back in the drawer.
    That was not only disappointing, it weirded me out. Strangely I don't remember if anyone brought real cupcakes to eat or if we sat around eating carrots anyhow.
    But yes, I mostly agree, it is a bit much. Now that lunchable stuff.. that stuff is scary.

  40. As a teacher, I have to speak up and disagree with 'anonymous' who says that parties don't belong in the classroom. I actually look forward to these little celebrations - it is often a welcome break from a hectic day of stringent curriculum. We have our 'parties' during the last 15 or 20 minutes of school - hardly "a waste of an educational day,"

    Most of my kids are from very low income families, and often these little celebrations are the only ones they may be a part of. In fact, if I know that a parent will not be able to make it into class, I pick up some treats myself. (usually healthful, but not always.)

  41. Childhood obesity is a serious issue, however, I agree that an occasional cupcake to celebrate someone's birthday does not make a child fat. How about the processed foods people are eating? How about eating at Mcdonalds's several times a week? How about too much tv watching and computer playing instead of running around outside and actually getting some *gasp* exercise? there are so many other things more pressing than the food served at a birthday party that makes children fat.

  42. I agree with you completely. My kids school goes crazy over peanuts, too, and has been known to confiscate the killer legume from children's luches. Really people, get a grip. There must be enough parents not doing their jobs out there that school district feel compeled to step in and take over the job.

  43. What is wrong with this over regulated world. We all need out treats.

    Ummmm, and I have a suggestion as to where those carrots could go....

  44. You are right, as usual.

    Does anyone REALLY think that school treats are what is wrong with our kids and the obesity problem in our country? Yes, removing unnecessary temptations sets a good example, but the classroom treats?

    I wish more parents would actually "parent", pack their kids a good balanced lunch and help them become independent thinkers so that they can make their own healthy decisions regarding food. And yes, the whole "it takes a vilage" concept makes me feel guilty for the kids who don't benefit from mindful, active parenting, but the cupcakes are NOT the culprit!!!

    Now, pass me a chocolate one before I pass out from low blood sugar!


  45. People can go way overboard.

    We had one school try to ban milk because two girls were allergic.


  46. ahh - the food police have been out in force in the uk lately, led by their unlikely general, jamie oliver. feel very ambivalent about the whole issue, but resernt deeply being called an 'idiot, tosser, and a***hole' by someone who gave his children chihuahua names!

  47. Darn good thing junk food is still allowed on special occasions at my son's pre-school since I'm at-this-very-moment making some biscotti in honor of Columbus Day tomorrow! :-)

  48. I totally agree with you on this one. I mean, I'm all for taking junk food and sodas out of schools, but banning birthday treats is going too far. Great post.

  49. Oh my god I can taste the frosting right now. I think I have to have a cupcake.

  50. are they fricking KIDDING ME??? I know the answer, but, oh man oh days...

    Call me if you need back-up.

    p.s. Will and I were up north for the weekend, he had a show in Petaluma, so afterwards, we headed to the boardwalk at Santa Cruz. We had deep fried TWINKIES & deep fried OREO'S!!! I never knew such a thing existed. They were so frickin' good. But then again, you could deep fry my socks and they'd be good.

  51. I still can't believe that they're trying to ban cupcakes...

    Do we need to bargain with them and tell them that we'll bake them with laxatives in them to ensure proper fiber content? No, no bargaining...this means WAR!!!

  52. This is happening in L.A.?

    Maybe cupcakes not only cause obesity, but they could be racist, sexist, drive SUV's and Republicans.

  53. cupcakes? they want to deprive the children of the birthday cupcakes?

    burning at the stake is none too good for those bastards.

    I say this as the drool from having considered the cupcakes during the reading of your post has descended onto the place where my boobs used to be. great. not only did they steal the little children's cupcakes, but they made me get drool on my chest.

    they're goin' down. somebody bring me a shrubbery.

  54. AMen! And hmmmm. Bacon. You made me drool on my computer keyboard.

  55. this makes me glad I went to school when I did.

    we had so little to look forwrd to back in the days of olde (I mean, taking away recess, random week-long vacations,every state holiday off, a day that ended around 3:00) the suggestion of carrots in lieu of sweets would have been the end of me, I just know it.


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