Signs of spring

I was on my evening walk, when I passed my neighbor coming out to her car.

She lives just far enough down the road that, like a true New Englander, I recognize her face, but don’t know her name. She gives me a familiar nod and wave.

“How ah ya?” she asks.

“Good. Howahyoo?” I reply, my accent getting the better of me, slipping out when confronted with another Bostonian accent.

“Good. Sick of the weathah, I’ll tell ya that,” she says, matter-of-factly, referring to the latest dumping of snow we received earlier in the day.

This is New England in winter. Save for the occasional die-hard skier in your life, everyone else around here “hates wintah. Hates the snow” (or, at least, the snow that arrives after December 25th). Just ask them.

Around here, particularly during wintah, we love summah. So much so, that when we have the first unseasonably warm, 70-degree, day in March, you will find us wandering around in shorts and tee shirts. On the first hot day, my kids will pull out the kiddie pool in the backyard, wear bathing suits, and spray each other with the hose – even though it will inevitably turn back to 40 degrees the next day.

Talking about our summahs on the Cape or campin’ up North are what get us through the wintah. Sure, we may take a few ski trips here and there to Maine or Vermont, but that’s all for show. A way to distract ourselves until summah arrives again. In fact, it is statistically proven that the higher frequency of complaints from New Englanders about New England weather can be directly correlated with a close proximity to spring. In other words, my neighbor’s comment means spring is just around the corner.

It is a complicated, love-hate relationship we have with the region and its meteorological patterns, but I’d never go anywhere else.  Elsewhere just doesn’t suit. I know. I’ve tried to live in many other places. The South? Too conservative and hot. The Midwest? Too windy, spread out and flat. Florida? Too Florida.

“New England is the only place I will ever live,” my father once told me, perhaps prophetically, years ago before I set out to live in twelve different places, only to find myself back in New England in the end. “New England is the only place where you don’t need to worry about most natural disasters, like tornadoes and earthquakes. They’re rare. ‘Course, there is the occasional hurricane. And then, of course, the snow. But I tend to stay indoors during those,” he said.

For all his love for New England, my father always despised the accent.

“It’s car, with an “r.” Not Ca-ah,” he’d scold me as a kid. “I’m telling you now, whether it’s Cockney, Drawl, or Bostonian, if you show up with a certain kind of accent, people make judgments about you before they know you. “

“Boston accent seemed to work for JFK,” I’d tell him.

“And JFK wasn’t a real leader,” he’d shoot back, rolling his eyes. “JFK was a simply a libertine, elected on good looks.”

Whatever that means.

The most interesting thing about my father’s distaste for the New England accent to me was that my father had grown up poor, one of seven children. Had paid for his education via his Naval service in World War II and had gone to Boston College thanks to the GI Bill.

My mother, on the other hand, had grown up in a privileged family from Needham. Her father was a well-known Boston Globe reporter in his day and my mother went to the finest schools.  There was no person in the world my father adored more than my mother. And there was no person in the world I have ever met who had a heavier Boston accent than my mother.

Winter was her Achilles heel. Long before it was common for people to discuss depression and SAD syndrome, I’d call her up on a cold February day and hear her lament the weather.

“I’m sick of the weathah, I’ll tell ya that,” she’d tell me. “I’d love to get in the cah and drive to Florida right now. Leave New England enti-ah-ly.”

Of course, she never did.

New Englanders are born and bred to have this kind of difficult relationship with the cold weather.  We hate it, but the sweet reward of New England summer holds us here. A few escape, here and there, but most of us stay – and complain. And wait.

“I’m sick of this weathah, I’ll tell ya that,” we say to each other, as a way of bonding. The yearly storms haze us and give us the feeling of a shared, common experience that binds us. This is New England in the winter.

“Don’t worry,” I call to my neighbor as she heads in. “It can’t last forever.”

“Yup, nothing lasts forever,” she laughs.

“Right!” I say.

Not even a New England winter.

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Still resolved

The picture sat staring at me from my Facebook feed.  A delicious, icy, salted Margarita. By far, my favorite cocktail.

“It’s arrived,” read the caption. “Ditch Your New Resolutions Day! Tell us which resolutions are going bye-bye.”

I guess it is entirely my fault for exposing myself to it by being a fan of the Jose Cuervo Facebook page, but it still kind of pissed me off.

Do we really need to encourage people *not* to keep doing they healthy things they vow to do on New Year’s day just to sell products? Depending on the product you’re shilling, particularly if its booze, cigarettes and junk food, I guess it’s necessary.

Regardless, I’m still resolved. Resolved to do what I committed to do the first of the year. I’m still resolved to run four races before I turn 40 in October and raise money for four great charities in the process. It is called my Four before Forty project.

Training started in earnest last week.  While I’m very rusty, I’m able to get through about four miles, although I’m walking about half of it at this point. So far, I’ve only been training on the treadmill. I know from past experience that it will be a huge shock to the body once I switch from treadmill training to street running. Unfortunately, living in New England, I may not get a chance to get in much street running before my first race, the Third Annual Michael McCaffrey Hope Challenge 5k on March 9th.

Until that day, I’m also resolved to keeping my friend Ali’s memory alive – via this blog, and via my fundraising efforts.  Ali died on December 28th at age 40 after living with lung cancer for over two years. A beautiful, inspiring light was extinguished too early, and I won’t let that go unnoticed.

I’ll write more about Ali in another post. But, for now, won’t you visit my fundraising page and learn more about Ali and the fight against lung cancer?

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The consequence of not knowing when to say “no”

For the last few days, Child #1 has been tailing me around the house asking me to purchase for him some virtual currency used in the video-game world he inhabits one-to-two hours each day. It is a tiny little piece of hell in a dark corner of the internet known as Roblox – and my kid wants “Robux” to spend on things like virtual shirts, pants and hats.

“Why don’t you go and EARN some Robux and stop asking me to BUY them for you,” I have said now about 20 times in the past 72 hours. “I am already spending $12 a month for you to have a membership on that site. I am not spending anymore.”

“I can’t!” he cries, with no other real argument to back that up. “Please! I really want this special hat! My character won’t look cool without it!!”

“Let’s sit down and do some research,” I finally say. “How does one earn Robux? How can we earn you enough to buy that hat?” (*Side note: If anyone reading this knows a damn thing about Roblox and wants to tell me how I can get this child some Robux, please divulge. I sure as hell have no idea.)

After many long minutes navigating the site, and several other long minutes spent watching YouTube videos claiming to have “tips” but actually reveal nothing, I am ready to give in.

“How much does this hat cost?” I ask as we log back into his account.

He shows me the price list of how much virtual currency costs on the site, and then how much the hat he wants to buy will cost in Robux. I am not kidding when I tell you that this hat – this virtual hat that actually doesn’t exist –  other than on a computer game – costs $200. No, not 200 Robux. 200 bonafide U.S., American-President-style dollars. 200 clams. 200 smackeroos. I am floored.

“You’re joking….” I say to him. “No way. Never going to happen.”

Silently I run through any recent clothing purchases of my own that might have even come close to $200. Frankly, I can’t think of any. Perhaps the last winter coat I purchased a few seasons ago? It occurs to me my last big handbag/purse purchase was a nice Michael Kors bag that was more than $200 – but, c’mon: It is a bag I can actually touch, feel and use. I will have it for years. We are talking about a VIRTUAL hat here.

Then, the tears begin. Dear lord, not this.

When you’re a working mother, as I am, you’re often busy and not often in the mood to deal with this sort of stuff. You want your free time with your children to be fun and rewarding – not focused on the negative. But the upside is if you work hard and make a good living, as I do, you can often throw money at the problem/issue/whininess to make it go away. The downside is you can often throw money at the problem/issue/whininess to make it go away.

As the tears flow, I realize I have done this far too many times. I am the worst. I suck at parenting. I have created a 2012 version of Augustus Gloop. Although tall and skinny because, unlike Augustus, he could care less about food, still yet a self-indulged whiner who expects to get just about anything he wants. A child who breaks down in Target because he wants new swim goggles, even though he already has a pair of swim goggles that are mere months old and work just fine. A kid who cries when Mom says no to a $200 pretend hat.

It’s official – I am going to parenting hell.

Where is parenting hell? It is a place where adolescent children go to therapists and tell them they feel “hollow inside” because Mom never let me “accomplish anything on my own” and are then given antidepressants to continue to not accomplish anything on their own. The next level of parenting hell involves a 22-year-old adult child that drives a very loud Ford F-150 with a bumper sticker that says “Rehab is for quitters.”

It’s then that I decide this will be a teachable moment – and proceed to have what is possibly the most absurd discussion about pride, work and reward that has ever been had with a child.

“You need to take the time to earn those Robux in order to buy that hat yourself,” I explain, almost visibly wincing at how stupid this sounds. Am I actually encouraging my kid to spend MORE time on a video game that I regularly ask him to stop playing because he is on it far too much already?

I try and reach back into my memory for some parallel from my own life about working, earning money and the rewards of accomplishing something. I remember feeling proud the first summer I had a waitressing job and had saved so much money I could afford to go back-to-school shopping and purchase things beyond the allowance my mother gave me. I remember the sense of accomplishment in saving for and buying my first car and having a job that allowed me to fill it with gas.  Can I find any relationship between these experiences and the Roblox/Robux conundrum? Shit, I CAN’T!! I am BLOWING IT!! BLOWING IT!!!!!

“Mom, I’m sick of the computer. Can I go in the backyard and play?”

The backyard? What a novel concept!

“Absolutely,” I say. “You’ve earned it.”

Posted in Children, Lessons learned, Parenting, Reality check, Working Mothers | 2 Comments

The problem with playtime

It’s a gorgeous summer day as we bust through the gates of our local park, ready for what I hope will be hours of fun-filled, energy-sapping movement and activity.

Five minutes after we arrive, my seven year old asks me to play hide-and-seek with him. I do, for five minutes, until he finds a boy his age on the playground to play with and I walk away, hoping he doesn’t notice me wandering off. As I do, my four year calls to me from the swings.

“Mom, push me!”

I do, for five minutes.

“Honey, you make the swing go now. You need to pump your legs,” I tell her.

“Go ahead, you can do it!” I add, over my shoulder, as I head to the bench to take a seat. Once there, my seven year old greets me to tell me he’s bored and can I please think of a game we could play together? As I’m shooing him away, my four-year-old beckons me to assist her in repeatedly going up and over a metal bar she likes to treat like a gymnast’s apparatus.

30 minutes later, and we’re leaving. The kids say they’re bored and sick of the park. I am sick of their relentless requests. So we take off hours earlier than I’d hoped and in a significantly darker mood.

“The kids CANNOT entertain themselves!” I complain to my husband later that evening.

“I know,” he sighs, laying down for 20 seconds of quiet before the kids come in and request he pretend to be a pony.

Soon after, I begin griping about this issue to anyone who will listen to me.

“I don’t remember bugging my mother to constantly entertain me when she took me to the playground, or to the pool, when I was a kid,” I declare. “Christ, I was just glad to be there! Just glad she took me at all! But this generation? This generation simply cannot play on its own!”

“I know! This is a serious problem that needs to be addressed!” cries a chorus of no one to agree with me. Because, apparently, I am one of very few who seems annoyed by this trend. And, clearly, my generation brought this on ourselves with our insistence on not just being parents, but by professionalizing it all the way down to playtime.

Parent-child-playtime dependency starts with the ignorant, yet well-meaning new parents, who, bursting with enthusiasm, take their four-month-old baby to the playground together. The infant, barely even blessed with the ability to hold his own head up, is “guided” down the slide in Mommy’s or Daddy’s arms. He is then treated to a 30-minute ride in the baby swing while his parents take turns standing in front of him, “oohing” and “aaahhing” each time he swings forward.

By the time this kid is three, he may now be walking, but that doesn’t stop these parents from following him all over the playground – cheering him on as he (gasp!) climbs stairs and (wow!) slides down the slide – alone! He is reminded not to eat woodchips and to “share” during any tense moments involving shovels and pails in the sandbox. The intense drama that will erupt around a fall or a skinned knee goes without saying.  This bonding we experience by taking part in our child’s playtime never gets old.

Except it does. Dear, god, it does. Especially by the time they reach age seven and may no longer NEED a parent right behind them, but still EXPECT one to be there. Every. Minute.

I’m a working mother and, quite frankly, after a day of writing, researching and interviewing people, I’d really enjoy being able to read a book or check email while my kids run around on the playground. Hell, I’d even lie down on the park bench and nap if I didn’t think it would earn me a visit from local police or DFS. But even if I wanted to endure the whispers from disapproving parents who are shocked I am not keeping my eyes glued to the kids, it wouldn’t matter anyway. Because as soon as I do anything remotely resembling adult activity, my children will be on me like white on rice.

“Mom? Can you be the tickle monster and chase me and my friends?”

“Mom? Watch me do this on the monkey bars!

“Mom! Time me! Mom! Mooooooom!!!!”

I will indulge these requests for a while, but after too many of them, I start getting nasty.

“What?! No, I can’t watch! Go ahead and play for goodness sake. You know, play? Why can’t you just go play?”

But then….the guilt creeps in and I begin to feel like I am shamefully ignoring my kids – like I am one can of Budweiser, Marlboro Red cigarette and pair of size-22 pants away from being that woman who thinks it’s acceptable for dirty-diapered toddlers to roam unsupervised in the street. The kind of mother who tells her kids to “Go on and git! Mama’s watchin’ her stories!” as she settles her butt down for an episode of General Hospital.

One day, as I am allowed three minutes of peace because I’ve just spurned my son’s attempts to get me to play, I go into a fantasy shame spiral about the possible damage I may be causing.

“Gross motor skills not developed at an early age leading to significant other learning delays and problems,” I imagine the college-readiness evaluation stating, as it is concluded that my son is not eligible to attend even the most basic of community colleges at age 18.

“Lack of parental involvement in playtime,” the guidance counselor will sigh. “If only she’d sucked it up and BEEN the tickle monster more. This kid had the makings for Harvard…if only….”

But, in short time, I am roused by a small voice.

“Mom, will you build a sand castle with me?” it asks.

“A sandcastle?” I say, exhaling, as I heave myself up from the bench and allow a tiny hand to lead me the ten feet toward the sandbox. “Sure.”

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I once heard a very poignant and moving interview with an author dying of cancer. He said to the question of “Why me?” he often responded with “Why not me?” His feeling was that he had lived a wonderful, fulfilling and successful life and felt “you can’t be winning at everything without occasionally losing at some things, too.”

I feel I’ve got a pretty great life, but, unfortunately today was my day to lose. Although I was well out of the so-called risky period, the first trimester of pregnancy, I learned at the doctor’s that we had lost our baby.

It’s been a rough couple of months with this pregnancy. Early on, I was hit with a nasty virus that turned into pneumonia. I went through two rounds of medication to treat it because it wouldn’t go away. There were many days I would cough so hard I would throw up because the pneumonia and the pregnancy nausea made a vicious pair. I spent some time in the hospital. But through it all, the ultrasounds continued to show the baby was fine and developing normally. I felt if he/she could make it through that, then anything else going forward would be a breeze.

But it didn’t work out that way. And who can say why things took a turn this way now? Unfortunately, these things are common in pregnancies, about 25 percent don’t make it. But I think the most difficult thing in my circumstance is how far we had come, and through so much, only to have this happen.

So, for now, the future remains unclear as to the eventual size of our family. But I look at the children I have now, and my wonderful husband, and know, despite it all, I am blessed.  And because of that, regardless of hard times like this, in spite of the inevitable crap that gets thrown in my direction sometimes, on most days, I’m still winning.

Posted in Parenting, This doesn't make sense, You can't have it all | Leave a comment

Working mothers are happier, healthier

A new study being talked about this week finds working mothers report higher rates of happiness and healthfulness than stay-at-home moms.

From a Huffington Post story on the research:

According to a recent study by the American Psychological Association of over 1,300 moms the happiest moms are, perhaps unsurprisingly, those who work part-time.

Full-time working mothers were equally well-off on several important levels, though. Both part- and full-time workers reported better overall health and fewer symptoms of depression than those who stayed at home. The working groups also showed no significant differences in terms of personal perceptions that their jobs “supported family life, including their ability to be a better parent,” the study’s authors said in a press release.

As for why they might be happier, the authors theorized, “a mother’s participation in employment provides her with support and resources that a mother who spends full time at home does not receive.”

The most poignant thing I can say about this research is: damn straight.

I love being a working mom. Sure, I have plenty of days when life seems so crazy that I think this would all be so much easier if I didn’t have to balance the demands of parenting kids with the demands of my career. After all, the point I am trying to make with this blog is that “having it all” is a myth, but you can do your best to go insane trying.  However, on most days, I’m thrilled with my choices: I get to help my kids grow up AND continue to nurture a journalism career I’ve been working on for over a decade.

By going to work every day, I get an eight-hour reprieve from the almost-constant need of young children to be tended to, entertained and watched over. And I think me being a working parent benefits my children tremendously as well. My children have been in daycare while I’ve worked. This gives them an opportunity to socialize and learn in a stable, regulated environment where I know they are safe. And, on most days, they are happy to go to daycare, too.

I am the first to admit I have an amazing job that allows me extreme flexibility so that I can be both a mom and a professional. If I have a sick child who can’t go to school or daycare, I can generally work at home in order to deal with it. If some parental duty that needs doing/attending to in the middle of the day comes up, I can hop back on my computer and finish my work at all hours of the day. And, believe me, I do. The other night I was up until 1:00 am filing a story. But I feel tremendously lucky to have that opportunity, because it also meant I could get mommy things done earlier in the day when many people must be present at a job.

The decision to be a working mother or a SAHM is a tough one. But it is studies like this that hearten me about my choice. And for any of you stay-at-home moms out there who think we working moms are making the wrong choice by leaving our kids for a few hours to head out to a job, I have this to say: I respect your decision to stay home, please respect mine.


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I’m cooked

It has recently come to my attention that when I said “I do not like cooking,” that may comments may have been misunderstood.

Let me be clear:

-I like cooking when its used as a term. Like, “Now you’re cooking!” This is usually said under circumstances such as when I’ve offered some brilliant solution to a problem, or I’m getting a lot of work done quickly, or I’m answering several trivia questions correctly, right in a row. When this is said, it makes me feel good about myself.

-I like cooking when it is a lazy Sunday afternoon. My husband is watching some football game, my children have found some activity to occupy them that doesn’t require me to stand over them and assist. This leaves me free to roam slowly about the kitchen while assembling ingredients and drinking large amounts of red wine while my dish comes together. I especially like this kind of cooking when it accomplishes me getting buzzed by dinner time.

-But, most of all, I like cooking when someone is doing it for me.


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What? No babies?

I launched this blog because I wanted to explore the concept of trying to “have it all,” and mainly my motivation revolved around trying to have a successful career and a family. While I haven’t posted much on that particular topic, I do plan to get around to writing more on it in the near future (I’m sure the world is on the edge of its seat waiting). This particular article on the ABC News web site this weekend seems like a great place to start.

The article lists seven ‘annoying’ questions that working mothers despise. It suggests that what many may consider seemingly innocent questions can come off as demeaning or threatening to working mothers. Queries like “How do you juggle it all?” and “Do you feel guilty for working?” are on the list. I’m not sure if I’ve ever been asked any of these specific questions, nor do I think I’d find them insulting if I were to be asked. But I’m also the type of person who will tell someone the details of my three-year-old daughter’s stomach bug five minutes after we’ve met, so maybe it’s my lack of filter that would make some of these questions seem perfectly normal to me.

However, I can tell you while none of these specific questions have upset me over the years, I have been insulted by many remarks made by coworkers and former colleagues that have made it very clear to me that working mothers continue to go up against misunderstanding, prejudice and just plain ignorance in the work place.

One that sticks out particularly vividly came from a former boss. Now, this person was a decent boss and I didn’t have any real issues with him as a manager when I was working for him. And after I had my second child, I left the company – not because I didn’t like the job or him, but because something better came along. It was a strategic career move any person would have made, children or no children.

But a year or so after leaving the job, I came back into my former office one day to visit. I was on an assignment in the area and popped in to say “hi” to former colleagues.

“What, no babies?” my former boss said to me when he saw me.

I know it was just his light-hearted way to say hello to me and he meant no ill will with the remark. I made some dumb joke about how while I was not smuggling my children in my purse, I did have a diaper in there if anyone needed proof I was a mother, then tried to move beyond the topic. But inside, I was annoyed. The remark rubbed me the wrong way. Alot.

“No babies?! WTF??!!” I said to myself, a bit incredulous, later that day. I felt as if by greeting me that way he was summarily reducing me to the woman who was “pregnant all the time.” Obviously, to him, I was that “woman who has babies.” And that was apparently mostly who I was in this person’s mind – regardless of the fact that the majority of the time I was with the company I was, in fact, not pregnant and had accomplished quite a bit professionally. If reviews mean anything, then my time there was not defined by being pregnant. I always received great reviews on job performance.

But the truth of the matter is that there, and many other places I’ve worked, there aren’t a lot of parents. No, I should say there aren’t a lot of working MOTHERS. There are plenty of men with kids who have wives that make the sacrifices and who don’t need to feel ashamed when their kids are sick because they need to work from home and carve out time to run to the doctors for a prescription. The fact that they go home to kids at night is not a major factor in their career and this is why they are not seen as the ones with “the babies.”

As a fun, happy end-note to this, I’d like to point out a remark made recently my current boss; a wonderful, more-enlightened individual, who I mesh with much better. We were at a lunch event with several members of our team and the subject of another co worker, in another department, came up. She was out on maternity leave, or had just returned from maternity; the exact details elude me. Anyway, she isn’t someone I know and I mentioned that I’d never met her. My boss noted I probably had not ever interacted with her because she mainly works on tasks unrelated to our team’s focus and also because, in his words, “she has babies a lot, so she isn’t really around much.”

Now, I know this sounds horrifyingly backward, but to know my boss and his brand of sarcasm, it is the exact opposite. In a read-between-the-lines, you-have-to-know-him sort of way, he was taking a swipe at exactly the kind of ignorance that prompts people, like my former manager, to say “What? No babies?” to working mothers. And, because I can read between the lines, I know just what he means. And that is one of many reasons why my current work place is a great environment for a working mother, like me, who does alot MORE than have babies.

Posted in Reality check, Working Mothers, You can't have it all | Leave a comment

Ronald McDonald is not the devil

OK, let’s just all get our shit together here and stop obsessing about how McDonald’s is contributing to the downfall of civilization.

I’d like to start this argument by detailing my background with McDonald’s – or as many people view it: The Evil Empire.

My relationship with McDonald’s began in the same fashion it does with many young Americans: The food was so good to my three-year-old culinary.aesthetic that it might as well have been toddler crack. And they were giving toys away, too. Really, could there be a better place?

Fast forward a few years to a time when a nasty rumor circulated that McDonald’s was using some kind of worm in their hamburgers. I believe I was in third grade. According to Wikipedia, the most prevalent form of this tale was that Mickey’s D’s used earthworms, which is curious because, apparently, earth worms would cost more to buy in bulk than beef. Nevertheless, the story left a bad taste (Ha! See what I did there?), and I stayed away – albeit temporarily.

However, by the teen years, and the time I had my driver’s license, I was full on Mick D’s crazy again and there were many a good evening spent driving through, late-night, to gorge ourselves on cheeseburgers, or, as my best friend Meliss liked to have: The “QP.”

Then, tragedy strikes sometime during my senior year of high school: I hit my local McDonald’s after an evening of studying at the library down the street. About two hours later, I begin wretching my guts out. Never have been sure if it was food poisoning, or a badly-timed case of stomach bug. Either way, the incident was enough to put me off McDonald’s – and all burgers, actually – for about ten years. I became a vegetarian soon after and I don’t think I visited a McDonald’s for anything but a bathroom run on a road trip for a decade.

As I matured and life changed, so did my attitude toward McDonald’s. I started eating some meat again in my early thirties, that included McDonald’s cheeseburgers. Then my children came into my life, and McDonald’s became my go-to place for many an evening when there wasn’t a ton to eat in the house and I just didn’t feel like shopping and/or cooking. These days, I’d guesstimate I take them to McDonald’s about once a week. There, I admitted it. Go ahead, call DSS on me.

Here’s the thing: I just really don’t think McDonald’s is the devil, like so many of you try and accuse. There is a push right now by a some sort of consumer/health/children’s advocacy group – whatever – to get McD’s to do away with Ronald as their spokesperson/character/mascot/figure (just what is he?). McDonald’s, as well they should, has basically told them to go take a flying leap. Ronald ain’t goin’ anywhere.

In response to this, LA Times writer Marissa Cavellos makes a good point in a recent post about comparing McDonald’s food to the standard kids meals they usually receive for lunch at home or school. As Cavellos notes in her article, a cheeseburger Happy Meal — a small cheeseburger with small fries and 8 ounces of 1% milk — has 640 calories, 26 grams of fat and 1,040 milligrams of sodium, according to a nutritional menu from the McDonald’s website. Also available is a 4-piece chicken-nugget meal, complete with apple dippers and low-fat caramel dip and apple juice, at 380 calories.

“Now, for the heck of it, let’s take a look at a traditional PB&J lunch served up at home,” notes Cavellos. “For the sandwich, let’s use two slices of Wonder bread (70 calories each), two tablespoons of Jif (190 calories) and one tablespoon of Welch’s grape jelly (49 calories). Add half an apple (47 calories). And a cup of 1% milk (102 calories). According to, that lunch comes in at 528 calories.”

So, as the writer points out, you making your kid a PB&J at home isn’t really all that much better than taking them to McDonald’s – in fact the McNuggets and Apples option is actually fewer calories than the PB&J. OK, I know a bunch of you will now hop onto the sodium count, or some other health factor in the McD’s food. But I’m not buying it.

Here’s my point: Simply by claiming you don’t eat at McDonald’s, or take your kids to McDonald’s, doesn’t make you by virtue of your avoidance that much healthier than those of us who do. Do you walk the walk at home and give your kids only healthy food? If you do, power to you. I’m glad you’re not my mom. (Fun side note: My sister has a friend who has never given her child candy. One year at a Christmas party at my sister’s home, the aforementioned candy-deprived child was found ensconced behind a large Christmas tree, surrounded by the wrappers of about one thousand Hershey’s Kisses.)

I’m the first to admit that there are many days I am THAT mom: The one who lets her kids watch more than the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended one hour of TV. The one who would prefer to take her kids to the McDonald’s Play Place and let them eat McNuggets for dinner rather than bring them home and make them grilled chicken and veggies. I hate to cook. I always have. I’ve made my peace with this.

On the other hand, I don’t allow them to eat junk all day. They get their five-a-day allotment of fruits and veggies. Many times we’re at McDonald’s, I’ll insist on the apples for a side dish instead of fries. They drink milk. And at the end of the day, they really could care less about the food, they are obsessed with the cheap Happy Meal Toy. Go figure. I have to repeatedly remind them to “have a few more bites.’

There is a happy medium to be struck here. As Morgan Spurlock so aptly points out in his documentary “Super Size Me,” going to McDonald’s all the time will make you fat, give you high blood pressure and nearly destroy your liver. So don’t. But eating a Happy Meal once in a while – even (gasp!) weekly – isn’t going to kill your kids. Relax.

Posted in Lessons learned, Reality check, This doesn't make sense, You can't have it all | Leave a comment

Morbid Curiosity

The White House has declared it won’t be releasing the photo of Osama bin Laden’s dead body after a team of Navy SEAL bad asses went into his hideaway compound in Pakistan and took the son-of-a-b*tch out the other day. While most of the world agrees his death is a good thing, the issue of whether or not we should all get to gawk at a gruesome shot of him shortly after a bullet went through his head is apparently quite divisive.

I have to admit that if that photo were released, I wouldn’t be able to help myself from looking. But I can see the side of the administration when they say they believe the photo would be inflammatory and might put lives at risk.

While part of me would want to see that picture, another part of me is relieved I won’t have the opportunity. I almost always regret looking at graphic images after I have seen them and, even though it would be a shot of one of the world’s most horrible people with a bullet hole of justice through his head, I know it would be tough to stomach.

I used to be much more interested in seeing graphic images. I wouldn’t think twice before clicking on an image, even if the disclaimer screamed *Warning: Graphic image!! That only made me want to see it more. Then I read a story about the Catsouras family in California. They lost their precious daughter Nikki when she took her father’s sports car and was tragically killed in a highway crash. The horrid pictures of her crash scene, complete with her decapitated body, were leaked on the internet. Her parents talked about how difficult it was for them to know these images of their daughter were being gawked at by thousands of people out of sheer morbid curiosity when all they wanted was to have remembered as the beautiful young woman she was in life.

After reading that story, I started thinking more before I looked at things I would find online. I’m not saying I haven’t seen anything graphic since that story impacted me, but before I go looking, I think hard about my motivations for wanting to see. If it is just morbid curiosity, I don’t click. Sometimes the image might have a valid, historical or informational reason to for viewing it. But if it is just some gruesome picture of a poor soul in a less-than-desirable condition, I stay away. I hope that by doing so, that I’m contributing in some small way to what Nikki Catsouras’ parents were trying to accomplish by bringing their story public. And I hope if you’re reading this, you’ll think before you click the next time you might have the opportunity to see something graphic. Is it really something you need to view?

Posted in It's human nature, Lessons learned | Leave a comment