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The School Sprint

September 2, 2013

H started pre-school in a rather hurried fashion.  Thinking I was oh so organised, I contacted the school whilst we were still in the UK to see if we could come and look round.  They agreed and we arranged a date on the Tuesday after we got back to Pakistan.

Settling into the registrar’s office I started filling in the forms and casually asked when term would start.  “Tomorrow” she said.  “Tomorrow?” I said.  “Tomorrow”, she said.

I looked at H.  “Do you like the school?” I said.  “Yes” he said.  “Can I bring him tomorrow?” I said.  “Yes” said the registrar. And that was that.

Save that now he needs a packed lunch every day.   I remember packed lunches of my youth.  I had a Kermit The Frog lunch box and flask.


What all stylish 5 year-olds about town were carrying circa 1980

The contents of my packed lunch didn’t really vary from the ‘sandwich, yoghurt, piece of fruit’ standard. There was a boy though who sat at my lunch table once and complained to the dinner lady that his packed lunch was too hot.  She was confused.  She called out for reinforcements and the two dinner ladies together peered carefully into his lunch and retrieved some beans.  She stuck her finger in and said “it’s not hot – it’s cold”.  She then retrieved her finger (placing the beans back down in front of the little chap who peered mournfully at the finger shaped hole in his lunch) and licked it.  “Aaaah, it’s hot!” she screamed.   It turns out that the chap had spicy beans in his packed lunch.  In Lincolnshire.  It marked him out as impossibly exotic for the whole of the rest of his primary career.

I think I’m managing the packed lunch thing ok, although we’ll see how H gets on with breadsticks and humous this lunchtime.  If it goes well I may expand into a range of antipasti.  Alternatively we’ll go back to the ‘bread and butter and cheese’ which has served us well so far.

No, lunch isn’t the issue.  The big pain in the posterior is breakfast.  I discovered this on day one when I sat H down in front of his usual Weetabix (TM) with a request to eat up quickly as we had to leave the house by 7.30am.  He looked at the Weetabix, looked and me and just sat there.  Now, for the uninitiated, Weetabix is a tricky customer.


It looks benign but don’t believe a word of it…

You’re ok for the first 5 minutes.  It holds its form, quietly drinks up milk and lulls you into a false sense of security. And then it turns.  Suddenly it becomes a mixture of sloppy goo and the hardest substance on the planet.  And it welds itself to anything it touches.  There are shuttles which have gone to the moon held together with weaker stuff.  You need a chisel and a hammer to get it off.  And it’s supremely unappetising, so trying to cajole a 3 yo to chomp it down in time to get in the car for school is tricky to say the least.

So I’ve been looking for alternatives.

1. Pancakes.

For: 1. The children will eat them. 2.  You can make them the night before.

Against: 1. They’re not very healthy.  2. They only last one day. I discovered this when J, the 1 yo, refused to eat his on day two. I had a nibble and it was rancid.  You have to make them fresh each day.  I know that now.  H, on the other hand, was happily chomping his way through his pancake, undeterred by the fact it tasted of sour milk.   A future career as a sommelier is, perhaps, not his destiny.

So with cereal out (I object to offering him anything sugar frosted or chocolate flavoured, leaving 99% of Pakistani cereals out in the cold) and pancakes off the menu, toast not an option as H himself said that it took him too long to eat I was slightly in despair until I opened my Annabel Karmel cookbook.  Gosh she’s good.


I love this book.  And you can buy it used on Amazon.  But you’re not having my copy.  Oh no sirree.

For the moment we’re now having banana and raisin muffins for breakfast made with wholemeal flour and…wait for it…Weetabix!  It’s like a healthy breakfast in cake form.  Who could possibly complain?  Not H or J, that’s for sure.

Anyway, busy mums out there, any other suggestions for speedy and healthy breakfasts?  All ideas much appreciated!

[Photos courtesy of and]

  1. Can’t help. M would bathe in weetabix if I’d let him. And had a chisel handy to get him out afterwards. His normal breakfast is four. Yup. Four. He did have six once when B was in charge, but he brought the last half back again, so we’ve stopped at four since.

    We’re cereal and toast types, anyway.

    ps have to beg to differ with you on AK though – she’s too thin and tottery and big haired for my liking. I’m not usually thinnist, but honestly anyone who purports to be about feeding children has to be at least a size 16 and with a very large cuddle-able bust. Does the woman know nothing….?

    pps J’s bday present. Hmmmm. Bad us. B has emailed xxx


    • 4 weetabix? 4? Has he suddenly become a 6’7″ rower? Wow. I’m impressed.
      Can see what you mean about AK but I’m not going to hold being thin and having nice hair against her. Actually, as I typed that I thought “Why ever not?”. So maybe I will, although I do like her recipes very much as they have few ingredients, are easy to make and taste good. There’s no downside at this end.
      B has indeed emailed. Thank you. xxx


  2. Aunty Ailsa permalink

    Oh I do agree with Harriet about AK, as you will see from my Facebook comment!!!!! I know you can get most things in Islamabad, what about porridge????? Tastes wonderful, excellent nutritionally and you can sweeten with some fruit or honey (rather than adding sugar). No, R would not eat it but then that is just him!!!!


    • Porridge keeps coming up as a suggestion. I raised H on porridge (obviously I’ve finished raising him now. He is 3 after all.) so don’t know why I haven’t given it a go with J. I shall rectify that shortly and report back on the results.


  3. Surely oatmeal pancakes aren’t too unhealthy? You can freeze them and then put them in the toaster or microwave to defrost as needed. Same with waffles though for us they’re a sometimes treat.

    In our house we have a lot of cereal and toast. If he’s slow with toast, make it into a jam sandwich – somehow it’s easier to eat. My children love having chapatis rolled up with honey inside. Maybe you can ask your aya to make you some? I buy them here and keep them in my freezer. Porridge is also a big one with bananas and maple syrup or honey. My children love it. Eggs on occasion, if we wake up early enough but I suppose that doesn’t qualify as speedy?

    My daughter likes granola and yoghurt but for some that’s also an acquired taste.

    Love the idea of breakfast muffins by the way.


    • Not meaning to be a biff, but how do you make oatmeal pancakes? I can’t find them in any of my books. Suggestions gratefully received (at the same time as your fab cake recipes!).


  4. Just had a thought – are you talking about english pancakes or American pancakes (which I think in some places are called hotcakes or flapjacks?). I’m referring to the American sort – though I’m not sure that would make a difference to its going off in a day?


    • It was American pancakes. English pancakes just wouldn’t keep at all (but are utterly delicious when freshly made with lemon and sugar. Yummmm).


  5. My husband is on a one-man campaign to convert the world to porridge. Personally I’m a big fan of cornflakes for kids, because they are very low in sugar. Lower than Special K, and other “healthy” cereals.

    Two children fainted at my children’s school the other day in assembly. I asked my daughter why, and she said “they hadn’t had breakfast”. I felt so sorry for the parents. Oh, the shame of it!

    As for AK, I can’t bear her books, because of an early unfortunate encounter with a paragraph that started “children will love…” and mine didn’t. I think it was to do with making smiley faces on a sandwich with cherry tomatoes and green things. My children aren’t that stupid. They know salad when they see it, even if thinly disguised as a human face. My pedantic and aggrieved self wanted to add in the word “some”, as in “Some children will love…” in thick black felt tip.

    Trouble with pancakes, is once you start, you’ll be making pancakes for breakfast for the next 18 years. How will you ever come down from the heights of daily pancakes to boring cereal or toast?


    • My goodness, I’m feeling slightly sorry for AK here, although let’s face it – she’s setting herself up for a fall there. I don’t think I know one thing that all children will love, unless it’s the icing on fairy cakes and I bet there are even some super healthy children out there who don’t even love that.

      I agree on the pancakes front. I think that they should be reserved for special occasions as I’m not sure I can be bothered to make them. At least with muffins it’s half an hour’s work for a week’s worth of fodder.

      Am definitely going to give the porridge a go. As I said, I’ll report back…


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