Subject: Nancy solves the problem of her son’s green smoothie making him weird!

Nancy's sonDear GreenSmoothieGirl: I spoke with you in Houston after your delightful class last month. I shared with you the story of my young son, who asked me not to make him green smoothies any more because the kids were making fun of him. You asked me to write up the story for you and include a picture, so here it is!

My six-year old came home from school and announced that I could no longer put green smoothies in his lunch. He said that the kids were saying his drink looked “gross.”

Nancy's daughterI said, “We’ll take care of that!” I sent an email to to his teacher the following day. Since parents are asked to take turns bringing in the snack for school, I asked her if I could demonstrate making green smoothies in the classroom when it was my turn to provide the snack. The teacher was supportive of the idea.

Our green smoothie demonstration was a big hit! The kids loved watching what I put in the blender and showing that they were “daring” enough to drink spinach and other fruits and vegetables. To their pleasant surprise, they loved it! When I asked my son the following day what the kids said about his smoothie, he responded, “It’s cool.”

try oneChandler in Salisbury, Maryland (now in The Woodlands, Texas)

And this is my little green smoothie girl, London (age 4)



Classroom rewards that aren’t food

One of my readers gave me a cool resource, in response to my story about going to my son’s 6th grade teacher asking her to reconsider her policy of giving candy for good behavior and academic performance.

It’s called, How to Reward and Motivate Kids Without Using Food. Here it is.

I bet few teachers have ever seen this. But it’s a great idea and I’m supportive of anyone who tries to interrupt the easy path to good behavior and good grades. That path is a cop-out, and the results to children are harmful. With 1/3 of our kids overweight, and childhood diabetes and asthma and ADD skyrocketing, we don’t need to add calories, acidity, and disease risk to their too-sedentary school day.

Not to mention the tooth decay, depression, fatigue, vulnerability to viruses and bacterial infections, and many other consequences that come with feeding a kid sugar and salt as a reward.

When I talked to the teacher about my wish that my son not be rewarded with candy in the classroom, she said, “Can I give him pretzels instead?” I said, “Uhhh, white flour. Salt.” She laughed and said, okay.

(It’s still rewarding behavior with junk food.)

I hope parents and teachers read this report and share it with others, because it has lots of great ideas.

EVERY time I have a conversation with other parents about the junk-food-in-the-classroom thing, they express their frustration and disapproval. Even regular “Standard American Diet” families aren’t happy about their subpar diet being supplemented with an extra couple pocketfuls of candy almost every day.

But it’s like Matthew said with the Zumba class last week—WHY were we the only ones to leave, or say anything, about the music that made our ears ring long afterward? Virtually all the parents dislike it. Virtually none SAY anything.

I wish more people would speak up. I talk to the teachers in a respectful, non-threatening way. If you’re a parent, I hope you will, too.

Back to the candy factory…..I mean, school

My children have gone back to school. If I said I was sorry about that, I’d be lying.

I love my kids, but summer is hard for working moms. And August is crazy around here because I’m about to leave on my 4th trip of the month, all 4 of my kids have had birthdays in the past 3 weeks, and two of my kids have changed from public to charter school, or charter to public school, this year. Immunization waivers from the health dept. are a pain in the butt.

And my oldest daughter turned 16 yesterday and is not only transferring to the charter school I co-founded (Newseek says it’s the #1 school in Utah)—she’s also moving back home after living with her dad for a while. (Tears welling up just writing that. I’ve no words to express my happiness about both of these events.)

I went to the elementary school where Tennyson is transferring into 6th grade. I waited in line to talk to the teacher. A bag of M&M’s was on each desk, with the child’s name hand-lettered on it.

This was the convo:

Me: I’ve heard great things about you! My son is excited to bust out of 6 straight years wearing a school uniform. I just have one concern. I’m kind of a, um, you know, health food nut. I know, I’m weird. But I’m not a huge fan of candy as an academic or behavioral reward. I read in your handout that you do that?

Teacher: Oh, haha, yeah, um, I really should do less of that.

Me: I just wanted to volunteer to pay for alternative rewards, you know, that stuff you can buy a pack at a time—pencils, little toys, notepads, stuff like that? If you buy it, for the whole class, I’ll pay for it, instead of the candy.

Another Mom: Oriental Trading Company is good.

Me: I know candy is the easy thing to do. [I hand her my business card and tell her I’m teaching a class here in Orem Sept. 6 and I hope she can come, bring her husband and kids.]

Teacher: Oh, Green Smoothie Girl! I know you! I do green smoothies.

Another Mom: Oh! You’re Green Smoothie Girl! I just got your newsletter this morning—I want some of those raw bars! Are they really good? [A conversation ensues between the teacher and the waiting moms about how this mom has been surreptitiously slipping the greens into the kids’ breakfast smoothie and how excited she is about it.]

[I know with that raw-bar comment, this whole blog just got suspiciously self-indulgent, especially when I put the link behind the words! They are yummy and so nutritious. But I am not making this conversation up.]

Teacher: It’s hard to find stuff that appeals to 6th graders. Stickers just aren’t gonna cut it. How about pretzels, should I give those to your son instead?

Me: Um, that’s not really better. White flour and salt, you know? When my kids were little, I used to take alternative “healthy” treats to the teachers for when candy was being handed out. But Tennyson probably won’t like that. If you don’t find something whiz-bang enough at Oriental Trader that 6th graders will like, I might just set up a reward system where I pay him $1 for every treat he turns down. Or maybe I will give you some alternative treats for him, if he’s okay with it.

[end of conversation]

Any moms who have better ideas, let me know. My kids have been educated at a charter school I helped open, since my 18-year old was in 3rd grade. So I haven’t had to deal with this, much, for a very long time.

My purpose talking to the teacher is to (a) identify myself as a watchful parent who cares about not only my child’s health and nutrition, but the whole class’s, (b) be positive and offer to help, and (c) let the teacher know that I generally support her even if there’s one area where I’m a fan of the classroom policy.

I’m sure the moms reading this blog would like feedback and ideas, so join the conversation!

Under the Big African Sky, part 2

In the village of Muukuni, everyone lives in huts made of mud and straw. The “palaces” of the female and male chiefs are just BIGGER straw-mud huts. Virtually everyone drops out of school at age 15 because their families cannot afford to send them to secondary school through age 18.

I am fascinated by this very large village comprised of smaller villages–with fenced compounds for each family. I believe I was there for a reason, and I intend to find out what that is. They don’t seem to have any help in sending children to school. Only 3 in the village with 3,400 school-age children have had the chance to go to college, which makes them local celebrities.

My guide, Philip Muwba, is 32 and wishes he could study to become a math teacher. Instead, he has a part time job giving tourists elephant rides. My other guide, Lumba Simulube, is a single mother of a 4-year old daughter, and she would love to study to be a nurse. I asked how many children would LIKE to go further in school, and they said, “Many! They just can’t afford to.”

But after age 11, parents must pay for uniforms, exams, and tuition. The exciting thing about this village I found in Zambia (formerly Northern Rhodesia), different than working with villages further north in Africa, is that Victoria Falls (one of the 7 natural wonders of the world) is just minutes away. So the large town of Livingstone has grown up around it, with secondary schools and a college where young people from the village can be educated. I am gathering more information to find out how directly I can work with those schools and the University of Zambia four hours away.

It’s very inexpensive to send an African child to school. I am hoping to put together a great way to sponsor the students who excel in school but have no way to access higher education. I have a contact in the village who is highly motivated to help ambitious, smart kids who have a desire to help their people, become educated and return to help their people. I hope to put something together that’s really cool and tell you about it, but first I have to research how you get money directly to the educational institutions to sponsor kids, etc. I’m talking to my full-time humanitarian friends.

Check out my photos of the children in the village fascinated by the photos we took of them. (You could entertain them for hours by taking their photo and showing it to them, as they have no mirrors and have never owned a photo of themselves.)  

We took four of the kids from the village (with their adult chaperon) to our five-star resort for the day. I can’t even describe how fun it was to watch 12-year old Precious, 6-year old twins Austin and Herbert, and 2-year old Kala, swim in a pool for the first time. Eat in a restaurant. Play with my two iPods. Watch soccer on TV. Kala couldn’t stop stroking my white skin and hair. All firsts for them.

They were completely fascinated by ice floating in glasses of water, and couldn’t eat enough of it. Ditto shaking salt on food. Shaking it on a plate and dipping their fingers, or their food, in it. It was an experience I will never forget.

What to do when your kids go into the “real world”

In 2008, after being married for 20 years, I found myself a newly single parent.   I was on my own trying to achieve a high-raw diet for my four athletes in elementary and middle school.

At their dad’s home, my children get a salad with dinner, but also sugar cereal, Top Ramen, junk-food snacks, meat for dinner, and . . . no more green smoothies.

What’s a mom to do?   I know many of you have similar questions, because I get them filling my Inbox.

Some of my kids are asking for good nutrition on their own. My two daughters are vegetarians by choice and ask their dad if they can come to my house when he makes hamburgers. My healthiest child begs for Brussels sprouts and steams them after school for a snack. And all the kids notice they don’t like how they feel, eating junk at his house.   But others of my children will eat junk whenever they get the chance.

These are a few tips if you or a parent you care about is dealing with this or a similar situation.   Because even if divorce isn’t part of your life, your kids may go to the in-laws’ or grandparents’ home and encounter a set of standards different than yours.


–Make sure your kids leave for school (or for their dad’s or grandparents’ house) with excellent nutrition up until that point.


–Let go and know that after all you can do, God takes you the rest of the way.   You don’t have to be perfect, you just have to do the best you can.   My mom always said that she sent her eight children out into the world and said a prayer after us when we walked out the door.   Control the things that you can, that feel right to you, and let go of the rest.   It’s like my yoga teacher says: I’m going to show you ways to push your body outside its comfort zone, but do you what you can and call it good.

That’s not to say, of course, that we dive-bomb into junk food hell.   If you ever needed good nutrition, you need it most in crisis.   You can’t control the emotional devastation of many of the trials that confront you in life.   But one thing you can control, with a bit of effort, is how you treat your body.

Don’t let nutrition and exercise be the first things to go.   Keep up the standards you can reasonably achieve and you’ll feel so much better, traversing the tough times.

To Your Health,

–Robyn Openshaw

p.s.   If the only habit you maintain through your kids living apart from you part of the time is a green smoothie, you’re still nutritionally far ahead of 99 percent of Americans.   Remember that even a pint of green smoothie is 7.5 servings of greens and fruit!

My thoughts after Educ. Week: stand up in a sit-down world, part 4 of 5

I listened to this presentation for an hour by a very nice and apparently very poorly educated woman who very frankly has no business telling anyone what their diet should be.   I love formal education and am often impressed by doctorate degrees. But sometimes a PhD is worthless when the person who earned it has no critical thinking skills, is not discerning.


When she lauded as the best diet in history, I began to fidget rather uncontrollably as only people close to me know I do.   Just the day before, I’d been in attorney-activist-author-cancer survivor Merilee Boyack’s auditorium lecture, standing-room only, called “Standing Up In a Sit-Down World.”   Just today I read this from Seth Godin’s blog:


It’s uncomfortable to stand up in front of strangers.

It’s uncomfortable to propose an idea that might fail.

It’s uncomfortable to challenge the status quo.

It’s uncomfortable to resist the urge to settle.


I really hate conflict. Believe it or not, I don’t argue with people about nutrition, not in the last 10 years anyway.


With my own university and community education experience, I’m pretty quick to formulate relatively articulate responses.   I did raise my hand, with this in my head ready to say, politely:


“That curriculum and ideology you have on the big screen was bought and paid for by the   most powerful industries in America: DAIRY, and MEAT.   It is not in keeping with the Word of Wisdom we profess to believe.   It has led to an epidemic in all the modern diseases that are destroying someone each of us knows and loves.   It has led to two-thirds of us being overweight or obese, which is bringing our economy to its knees.   There IS a better way than the diet you have on your screen.   It’s called living close to the land.   Eating mostly raw plants and whole foods.   The way God made them.   Before men discovered fire, and invented boxes and cans–and McDonald’s.”


My friends, I would like to finish this story with something besides what actually happened.   I know I’ve built this up, but unfortunately, you’ll find this to be a story with no climax.   She looked right at me, and didn’t call on me.   I should have raised my hand higher.   That was the place to speak up.   I didn’t get my shot.


Sounding off on my blog, here, is the next best thing.   I think I’ll send a newsletter to my 12,000 newsletter subscribers pointing to this blog entry.   This is important.   The world is going to teach your children a bunch of GARBAGE about nutrition.   Your children will listen, they’ll take notes, they’ll memorize it for tests.   This starts in elementary school.   I hope you’re teaching them the truth.   If you’ve been with me for long, you have sources.   Point to them.   Speak up when it’s appropriate.


(Even Merilee Boyack told a story of when she remained silent in a city council meeting when she was being considered for mayor after the mayor died.   It’s not always right to speak up, when speaking up constitutes “shooting off your mouth.”   But let your gut guide you: there is a time and a place to speak up.   I missed one this week. Boyack was actually sitting in this nutrition class near me, taking notes. If she reads this by googling herself, I would like to formally apologize here for NOT speaking up.)