Going Live and Learning About Hunger


Our last two dinners had strong potential to be disasters. One involved a major Mom Fail, a blender, and a mango. The other involved putting Lindell, 5, on live radio ... without a delay. Thankfully, both events ended peacefully and have been added to our special memories of Dinner with the Smileys.

Breakfast with the Smileys on Mike and Mike

On Friday, the boys and I were guests on the Mike and Mike radio show on Kiss 94.5 FM in Bangor, Maine. Upon our arrival bright and early at 6:45 in the morning, Mike #1 (I'll let you decide which one is #1 and #2) said, "The only thing wrong with these microphones is that -- "

"They don't have a delay, do they?" I said.

The older boys (Ford, 11, and Owen, 9) understand what being "on air" means. Lindell, not so much. He still nods in agreement when he's talking to his grandparents... on the phone. The concept of broadcasting means nothing to him. To his mind, he was in a small room with cool equipment and microphones hanging in front of him.

There was no guessing what he might say.

If I was going to have the boys on live radio, however, Mike and Mike's studio was the best place to do it. Stuffed monkeys are everywhere: hanging from the microphones, sitting on the windowsill, wedged behind computers. But the first thing Lindell found was a rubber pig, which did keep him occupied throughout most of the hourlong segment. Only problem: the pig made tooting sounds, and, for Lindell, that's alot like being given a whoopie cushion.

On air, the boys were able to interview Mike and Mike. They asked, "Do you ever spend time at home?" "How much time do you spend in the studio?" And, "Have you ever said something on air that got you in trouble?"

Their answer to the last question involved a story about giant underpants, which, again, led Lindell dangerously close to his comfort zone: potty humor. I was on borrowed time.

Thankfully, our breakfast arrived, and everyone got busy eating. Then Mike and Mike surprised the boys by taking them bowling... before the lanes even opened to the public. There, Lindell could finally let loose and throw heavy objects. I started to relax. No need for a "delay" anymore.

Then the senior bowlers came in and crowded the lobby as they waited for their session to begin. Now Lindell had an audience, and one that he could see. When Dinner with the Smileys photographer Andrea Hand offered him a high five for a strike, Lindell smiled, turned around and motioned for her to high-five his, um, cheeks.            

The Good Shepherd Food Bank

In Maine, 15% of families (1 in 4 children) are food insecure, which means they don't always know when or from where their next healthy meal might come. The role of the Good Shepherd Food Bank is to provide for these families better access to food and education about nutritious options. A Food Bank representative, Melissa Huston, arranged a tour for us to see the warehouse where food donations are kept. But in order to make it in time, I had to pick up the kids at school and hurry across town.

I forgot snacks.

By the time we got to the Food Bank, my three children, who are not food insecure, in the backseat of the van had dissolved into grouchy non-participants. They were hungry (I don't let them use the word "starving"). They couldn't believe I'd forgotten snacks. And water. And now they had to tour a warehouse full of food they couldn't eat.

It was a timely and important lesson: Hunger hurts. Hunger makes people behave inappropriately. Hunger reduces concentration. Hunger can make us angry.

For my boys, their hunger was only temporary. For many children, intense hunger and its side effects are a daily concern.

Melissa came home with us from the Food Bank and let the boys help her prepare a nutritious meal out of the Cooking Matters cookbook sponsored by ConAgra Foods Foundation. Preparation involved throwing vegetables and fruits into a blender.

Lindell was in!

Preparation also involved chopping and tasting new foods, like mango, under the watchful eye of our dog, Sparky.

Sparky's motto: Wait for it. Wait for it. And maybe Lindell will drop something on the floor.

Lindell's motto: I can lick the mango, say I've "tried" it and then put that piece back into the blender.

Our dinner consisted of oven baked chicken, fruit and vegetable puree, homemade macaroni and rolls, proving once again that mealtime doesn't have to be fancy or expensive to be good for you.

So far, we've had eleven meals since this project began in January. We've had eleven experiences that have broadened our sense of community. New people have entered our world, and we are richer for it.

Sign on to www.Facebook.com/DinnerWithTheSmileys for photographs of past dinners and hints about who's next!

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Navy wife Sarah Smiley is a syndicated newspaper columnist and the author of Going Overboard: The Misadventures of a Military Wife (2005) and I'm Just Saying (2008). She has been featured in the New York Times and Newsweek, and on Nightline, The Early Show, CNN, Fox News and other local and national news outlets. Her liferights were optioned by Kelsey Grammer's company, Grammnet, and Paramount Television to be made into a half-hour sitcom. Visit www.SarahSmiley.com for more details. To contact Sarah, you can also visit her Facebook page.

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