Good Deeds 2012 Week 13: Just Label It Campaign

Good Deed: Signed a petition asking the FDA to label genetically engineered (GE) foods. 

I could go on and on about the many ways that this country's relationship with food scares me, which is why I focus on organic ingredients and making what I can from scratch. Healthy feeding has become a huge priority for me and as my kids get older, I become more committed to creating good habits in my children and providing them with a healthy foundation for life. It's also another reason I'm so happy to be a Stonyfield Yo-Getter. It's a brand that I use and trust and my family totally loves. Not to mention their philosophy and business practices make me excited!

They partnered on the Just Label It Campaign to move the FDA to create more educated consumers and a transparent food industry. Today one million people have signed the petition - more than any petition that has been filed with the FDA! But, one million signatures is just the beginning of a food revolution.

How about taking a moment to sign this petition yourself? What were your good deeds this week?

Disclaimer: I am a Stonyfield Yo-Getter, which is an ambassador program for which I do not receive compensation. They did provide product coupons and items, however I lost the coupons. Go figure! All opinions are my own.


In Sickness I'm Much More Appreciative Of My Partner

For the From Left to Write Book Club we read Signs of Life by Natalie Taylor, which inspired this post.

We've had a sick house for the last couple of weeks. Two Sunday trips to the doctor's office in a row finally determined that W had strep and B had a double ear infection. B has been the sickest child I have ever had to care for. His temperature sat between 102 and 105 for three days. He has projectile vomited on me more times than I care to remember. He has had diarrhea (I know this is totally gross, but so is motherhood) beyond what I thought possible. He's refusing food, thickly congested, coughing, cranky, and in pain.

I'm just finishing Signs of Life by Natalie Taylor, sharing the loss of her very young husband before the birth of their first child and her early days of parenting  on her own. Now I'm sick. I'm home bound today, stuck in bed trying to beat whatever it is I caught from my little germ factories. And I wonder how I would have navigated the last week on my own.

At first I planned to write about how unfair wakes are for the family who lost someone, reflecting on my uncle's tragic death only a year ago, and watching my aunt and cousins stand for hours receiving and comforting strangers. But, then, as is often the case, being a parent threw a wrench into those plans. We all got sick and I became aware of how much of a difference it made to have a partner through all of it.

The other night B was laying in bed next to me. I had just given him a bottle and was starting to doze off... And woke as he projectile vomited all over me and the bed. Matt sprung up and grabbed him, took him to the nursery and started to undress him. I pulled off my shirt and then pulled the sheets off the bed. I changed and took B from Matt, who then found fresh sheets, remade the bed, and threw all puke-covered items in the washing machine. It was a true team effort. And we somehow did it without turning on too many lights and waking up W. I try to imagine how I would have handled that on my own. I would have figured it out, but it would have been really hard and it would have included more lights, more crying (both me and B), and an awake 3 year old.

Moments like this leave me in awe of single parents. Whether single by choice or single by tragedy or single by job circumstances that leave them alone for days or weeks or months, they navigate all of the things that I take for granted. It makes me feel like such a wimp. I don't go to the grocery store with the two boys, because why bother?!?! Matt can stay home with them and I can move much quicker on my own. When one of the kids is sick or misbehaving or driving me crazy, I have someone to tag me out. When B's fever sky-rocketed above 105 I had someone to help me make the best decisions about what to do. When W split his eye open and needed stitches, I had someone to drive me to the hospital. Simply said, parenting with a (GOOD) partner is easier.

I commend every single parent out there. They are truly amazing. I don't think a family needs two parents to be successful. Families come in many different styles. But, sitting here sick and feeling bad for myself, the last thing I can imagine having to do tonight is make dinner, bathe the kids, and get them to bed on my own. But, if that were to be my situation, I know I'd have no choice but to do everything I could to take care of my kids and ensure their happiness. Because that's what you do for your kids... Whether parenting on your own or with a partner.

During the fifth month of her pregnancy of her first child Natalie Taylor is devastated by the sudden death of her husband. Her journey with grief is chronicled in the memoir Signs of Life. Join From Left to Write on March 29 as we discuss Signs of Life by Natalie Taylor. As a member of From Left to Write, I received a copy of the book. All opinions are my own.


Good Deeds 2012 Week 12: Helped a Homeless Family

Good Deed: Helped a homeless family make it through the day.

Over a year ago I noticed a woman standing outside of the train station with a coffee can and a sign asking for help. She looked like she should have been commuting with the rest of us. Her hair was pulled back, her clothes were clean, and she wore makeup. She stood there silently with a tiny smile. Her sign asked for help to get through the day and she held resumes.

She was there daily and I would give her the change in my pocket or a piece of fruit that I didn't get a chance to have during the day. She always looked put together, there was no deterioration over time that would lead one to think she had a drug problem. I wondered how she ended up there. She looked like a secretary who had just lost her job. I hoped that when I went on maternity leave with B she wouldn't still be there by the time I returned to work, hoping she would have found a new job and a better situation.

But she was still there when I returned to work in August. I was so sad to see her. Recently I packed up a bag for her with nuts, water, fruit, and some granola bars. I walked up to her and told her I was sorry to see her there everyday and I hoped the bag of food could be her lunch.

Her name is Bonnie. She never, ever imagined she would be in her situation. Bonnie has worked hard all of her life. She bought her first home at 25. She did everything right. She has sales and administrative experience, but lost her job over two years ago and no one wants to hire a woman in her 60's. Bonnie takes care of her daughter and her two granddaughters. Her daughter was diagnosed with mental health issues years ago and was no longer able to work. Bonnie had to take custody of her granddaughters, who are in high school now. The four of them are living in a hotel. They have to move every three days per the hotel's rules, but she assured me it wasn't too bad since the hotels owners have three hotels they rotate through. The hotel room costs $65 each night. She scrapes together the money so that they can stay in the hotel and relies on people for food.

Each day she sends the girls off to school, takes the bus to the train station to stand outside with her can, returns to the hotel after rush hour to bring her daughter lunch and check in on her, goes to the library to search for jobs and print resumes, goes back to the train station with her can for the evening commute, and then heads back to the hotel with dinner.

I listened as she told me about her skills and asked if I know of any job she could take on. She mentioned two commuters who had promised to help her at their own companies and held onto the possibility that they would come through. She mentioned that as a young woman she used to operate the bridges in Chicago and knows sign language because her son was hearing impaired. "I just need to get back to work," she said.

I reached into my wallet and pulled out a VISA gift card that I received for Christmas. My plan had been to put it toward a new bag for work. But, clearly, the fact that I even had a job meant Bonnie needed it more than I did. So, I handed it to her. She pulled out hotel receipts and asked if I'd like to see them. I told her no, only that I was happy to help them cover another night in their hotel room.

What was your good deed this week?


No Two Sick Kids Are Alike

It's just as everyone says: Your kids will be very different from each other. And mine are very different... Especially when they're sick.

B spiked a 104.6 fever on Saturday evening. The highest fever I have ever seen. He was otherwise happy and seemed normal. Until he wasn't -- And then things went downhill fast. This is the first time I've really dealt with a super sick B. And I just kind of expected it would play out the way it does with W.

In the most simple ways they are the most different:
  • W is up throughout the night when sick. B sleeps right through.
  • B refuses all medicine, wrestles you, clenches his teeth, spits it out, all drama. W would happily open his mouth for the dispenser and still asks for more.
  • B likes Pedialite and happily drinks it. W has never accepted it.
  • W tends to get cranky and lethargic when he's sick. B still has a big smile on his face and is still all over the place.
  • B is a puker. Actually, he's a projectile vomiter. W rarely throws up. I think he's only thrown up 2 or 3 times.
So, what's the point? The point is this: Once you feel like you know how to deal with a sick kid, the next one will throw you for a loop. Your expectations for having a sick kid and how they'll act (like everything else) continues to change and defy your expectations.


Good Deeds 2012 Week 11: Auction for a Family

Good Deed: Participated in an online auction to support a family who lost their young son.

I've struggled with the whole good deeds thing. There is a thin line between trying to make a difference and becoming one of those "look how great I am, aren't I nice to do these things" people... And I'm really trying to be thoughtful about my approach. I believe in quietly doing good. I love the saying that goes something like this: true charity doesn't come with a tax acknowledgement. This is one of those cases when I have questioned whether I should share something, because I don't want it to be misunderstood. I started this goal to see how one person can make a difference, but it seems to be in conflict with my core feelings. This week I really considered not posting this, so I'm not going to share all the details...

Last week I read a blog post of a family whose son died in his sleep. I was led there through a link from a blogger I know. Their son was about the same age as W. The post made me cry. And I've been checking on my boys every night since reading the post. A couple of days later (through another blogger I'm friends with on Facebook) I learned that friends of this family were holding an auction to help them. I took part and actually won a few items.

I don't know this family, but I'm happy to help them. My heart breaks for any family facing the loss of a young child. I truly do not know how I would survive. And I don't know how they are either.


Is "Shut Up" A Bad Word?

Sunday morning W got up from having his breakfast and walked into the living room. I asked him to come back and wipe his face. He ignored me, so I repeated it again. And possibly again... I can't remember.

What I do remember is his response: "Just... shut up."

Matt and I both whipped around and snapped that it wasn't ok to say that to anyone. We asked where he heard it. He had a stunned look on his face and told us it was in Toy Story. We didn't send him to his room or punish him. Just told him it wasn't ok and he agreed not to use it again.

Then Monday night after work he announced that he had to go to the bathroom, so I rushed him there with B under my arm. I sat down with him and out of nowhere he whispered "Just... shut up" then looked up at me and smiled. I pretended that I didn't hear him, smiled and acted sweet, asked him to repeat himself. He clearly rethought it, but the good thing about 3 year-olds is they don't know better and usually do as they're asked. So, he repeated himself. And I put him in his room and told him that my feelings were hurt and he was using a mean word and it was never ok to say it.

He looked at me with those enormous eyes of his and promised he wouldn't do it again. And I have no choice but to believe him and move on.

But, now I'm so confused... Did I give the phrase more power by getting angry about it? If I had simply ignored him, would he have repeated it? Clearly he's playing with words and isn't a bad kid, but he needs to know his boundaries with words. How should "shut up" be handled?


Good Deeds 2012 Week 10: Operation Precious CARgo

Good Deed: Donated baby items to an expectant military mom through Operation Precious CARgo.

Chevrolet and Driving the Midwest has partnered with Operation Homefront to create Operation Precious CARgo, allowing a dozen bloggers to rally their communities and collect donations for an expectant military mom. Melisa from Suburban Scrawl is organizing a team and I'm thrilled to help out, so put together a bag full of things on the wish list.

Interested in helping? Check out her post to see the wish list and how your can get her the items.

Hats off to Chevy for putting this program together and to Operation Homefront and their mission to provide emergency financial and other assistance to the families of our service members and wounded warriors.

What was your good deed this week?

Note: I am in no way affiliated with Operation Homefront, nor was I compensated for this post. All information was found on their website: www.operationhomefront.net


Save the Working Mom Pity Party

I'm a working mom. I know all moms are working moms, but I'm a mom who also has a full-time job. And I'm OK with that most days. I have co-workers who I really enjoy, a career that inspires me, and the flexibility to drop everything whenever necessary. But, it's not easy. It's exhausting and fast-paced and often emotional (but so is staying home with kids!).

I've gotten used to the questions about how I manage the frantic pace of my life... But, one thing I can't get used to is the underlying pity that is often thinly veiled with those observations. For instance, someone recently commented that I'm "not lucky enough to stay home..." This was after the whole "I don't know how you do it" pity party. I focused on the help I have from my mom and two nannies, my flexible schedule, and how lucky I feel to have a great job. What I should have said was: Luck has nothing to do with it. There is nothing unlucky about finding a career that is fulfilling and a job where you're appreciated. Period.

Choosing to work doesn't make me a bad mom. Yes, we currently rely on both of our incomes to maintain our quality of life. Could we make changes that would allow one of us to stay home? Absolutely. Do I want to? No. The assumption that deep down inside all moms are yearning to stay home is wrong, as is the ignorance that comes with comments that include the word "luck" in the working mom vs. stay at home mom debate.

I wear a lot of hats and play a lot of roles in my life. But, mom is the first role I think of in the morning and the last one I think of when I go to bed.

Visit this Babble.com piece that includes my thoughts and the insights of other working moms on Twitter. How do you feel about being a working mom?


Meal Planning: Week 10

Things have been nuts lately. Last weekend consisted of a baby shower, a wedding shower, dinner with my in-laws and breakfast with them the next morning, a trip to the Farmer's Market in Evanston, time spent with visiting relatives, a trip downtown, and on top of all that a few of us were sick. The weekend rolled into a hectic week... I had to work late on Monday night, attended an event on Wednesday night, and spent most of the week battling a rough cold. Does this explain why I skipped the meal plan last week?

We cleared the calendar this weekend and spent some down time at home. We needed it. I opened a Real Simple magazine this morning and found three recipes to try for our meal plan this week with some of my stand-by's. Here it is:

Sunday: Left-over vegetable barley soup from Friday
Monday: Slow-cooker chicken and mushroom pot pie with salad
Tuesday: Slow-cooker spaghetti bolognese with salad
Wednesday: Turkey meat loaf, brocolini, and roasted potatoes
Thursday: Paprika chicken and sauteed kale
Friday: Roasted parsnips and radishes with a green salad

My plan is a little ambitious, but I prepared the Monday and Tuesday night slow-cooker recipes this evening and plan to make the Wednesday and Thursday meals on Wednesday evening (the bonus of not having to commute!).

Balancing a family and work isn't easy and my meal plan tends to be a small anchor that gets us through the week. (And provides left overs for lunch!)

What are you making this week?


Good Deeds 2012 Week 9: Dress For Success


Good Deed: Donated a handbag to Dress For Success

Last night I went to the Sassy Moms in the City Go Red event and it gave me the opportunity to do a good deed. Win/win, right?!?! They asked guests to bring handbags or shoes to donate to Dress For Success. I did a mass overhaul of my purses and dress shoes last spring when I had to merge my closet with Matt's and move W into the guest room. It was painful, but forced me to get rid of a ton of old purses and shoes. (Read: a few boxes full of shoes and purses.)

So, since I just cleaned house, I wasn't sure what I'd be able to part with. I was confident that I had kept only purses and dress shoes that I actually used. Except for a purse that I bought years ago at a Brooks Brothers outlet store and have used maybe five times. Brooks Brothers is basically a place that people go to dress for success, right? So, I passed the purse on to someone who needs it. (Lesson learned: When you think you've spring cleaned, there is always one more thing that can go!)

The mission of Dress for Success is to promote the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional attire, a network of support and the career development tools to help women thrive in work and in life.  
What was your good deed this week? Link it up or leave a comment.

Note: I am in no way affiliated with Dress For Success, nor was I compensated for this post. All information was found on their website: www.dressforsuccess.org