Sunday, October 28, 2007

Sickest Generation?

I saw this article last week, "Are Our Kids the Sickest Generation", and I've been bothered by this a lot. My daughter has a peanut allergy, one nephew has asthma and food allergies, another nephew has a nut allergy, other friends have kids with eczema and food allergies, a colleague's son has ADHD, and a friend's toddler now has autism.

What is going on?

The only person I ever knew with a peanut allergy was my friend Jim in college. Now, my daughter has 4 kids in the 1st grade who sit at the Peanut Allergy table at lunch. My sister had eczema when she was a child, but it took years to diagnose it and she felt ostracized by it. Now, I've seen many children with patches of eczema and mothers concerned about giving medicated creams to their toddlers.

I'm not sure what's going on. It makes me angry because I know as parents, we did everything "right" during pregnancy. We stayed away from alcohol, second-hand smoke, caffeine, tuna fish, and brie. Peanut butter was a good source of protein for vegetarians. We drank milk for the protein and calcium to help our babies grow. Now our babies have milk allergies and need to have rice and soy milk.

At first I felt this is an era of better diagnosis. Adults are happy to realize they've been lactose intolerant all these years. However, the incidence level is alarming.

I don't know why this is happening, but it angers and hurts me. And, maybe there's guilt too because our foremost instinct is protect our children first. Our children are suffering because of this. There have been cases of death from allergic reactions because of hidden allergens. I read an article from Today Show and now I wonder what's wrong with me for not carrying the epi-pen with me every time we go to the mall. My vigilance for my daughter is extra high this time of year as we have to monitor all candy (Reese's and Snickers are out! Peanut M&M's scare me the most because they can be mixed in a bowl with regular ones). My daughter is attentive herself and has been questioning candy/snacks since she was 3 years old. As parents, we have to take the extra step and question restaurants whether they use peanut oil in their cooking. I learned Chik-Fil-A and Cheeburger Cheeburger use peanut oil for frying.

We don't live near toxic waste plants. Maybe there are power lines that are too close? I've read theories about ultrasounds disrupting fetus development. There is also mention of the environmental chemical overload and even microwaves. Friends and family who have children in India do not have any of these issues.

Obviously, we will all learn to deal with these physical and mental health concerns on a day to day basis. I can only hope we can stop or isolate the cause.

Friday, October 12, 2007

So Simple

"How does one become a butterfly" she pensively asked.
"You must want to fly so much that you're willing to give up being a caterpillar"
- Trina Paulus, Hope for the Flowers

What a wonderful quote! It's a simple concept, but so strong. It forces one to look at the options:
1) stay in a safe cocoon as a fuzzy gray caterpillar
2) fly and float through the air, enjoying freedom and the beauty of the world.
It's also compelling that it's part of nature, a lifecycle. Everyone has to make this change

On the Job Training: Motherhood - When Bad Lunches Happen to Good People

Now that my daughter is in school, she has the option to buy lunch or bring it from home. We read the menu the night before and decide what to do. For lunch, I've done the deli slices on bread or tortillas, chicken quesedellas, and chicken nugget sandwiches.

It's only October and she's telling me she's bored. I started looking online for options and found a colorful sandwich slideshow on and article on Chef Todd English, who preps his son's roast chicken with basil and parsley lunch the night before. (Well, yeah, if I had 17 restaurants, I'm sure I'd have a few tricks up my sleeve.)

So, I was inspired after checking these sites. I had brown sugar-flavored cream cheese, which could go with grated carrots from a salad mix. I lightly toasted a tortilla and spread the cheese. I thought the combo tasted pretty good. A bit sweet, but still healthy.

She asked me what was for lunch and I told her, "Brown sugar cream cheese rolled up with carrots." She agreed to it. (Yeah! 1 point right there!)

In the evening, I asked her if she liked her lunch.

"No, I didn't like it. What was in it?" Apparently, there was some lettuce leaves stuck to the grated carrots and the green threw her off.

I panicked. Was she hungry all day because I didn't test-drive this sandwich first? (Bad Mom Moment ahead!)

"No, I ate some of it. But, don't ever give that to me again." she requested nicely.

"Ok, fine. I won't do it. I was trying to be creative." I replied.

"No, don't do this creative again. All I want is a bagel and cream cheese from the cold food line at school." she said determinedly.

Done. Of course, she only repeated this for another 5 minutes how she doesn't like it, don't give it EVER EVER again, etc.

I don't want her to end up eating hot dogs, bagels, nuggets and pizzas from school. So, I'm open to (nut free!) lunch ideas suitable for a picky eater -- easy to pick up, unwrap and eat.

Be A Kid Again

This is one of those lists that get forwarded all over the internet, but I liked this one because it made me pause. How much of these things do I do now, or rather could I do now? If I can't or don't, who is stopping me from doing it now? The answer is usually one of the indicators of adulthood - it might be dirty or dangerous or inconvenient or interferes with getting bills paid.

Be A Kid Again

Do a cartwheel.
* We finally finished renovating our basement after a year of work. The paint, spackle, and drywall dust were gone. The carpets were new, the walls were delicious and smooth and there were open spacious rooms. I can't tell you how much effort and work we put into it. It was a mentally and physically challenging endeavor. It was a cartwheel moment.

Walk barefoot in wet grass.
*Is there anything better!?

Play a song you like really loud, over and over.
*When Duran Duran comes on the radio, for some reason the volume just needs
to be really, really high.

Read the funnies. Throw the rest of the paper away.
*Actually, if you get the Sunday Philadelphia Inquirer, that's what you end up doing anyway.

Dot all your “i”’s with smiley faces.

Sing into your hairbrush.

Dunk your cookies.
*I used to dunk chocolate chip cookies in milk and pull out the chips. I'd make a tidy little pile of chips. Then,enjoy a big bite of the chocolate. (Now, I eat low fat ginger snaps)

Play a game where you make up the rules as you go along.

Step carefully over sidewalk cracks.

Change into some play clothes.
*If I had my way, I'd never have to change into play clothes because I'd always be wearing them!

Try to get someone to trade you a better sandwich.
*Anyone want a veggie chicken sandwich on one slice of flaxseed bread? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Eat ice cream for breakfast.
*Ok, this is my plan. Eat flaxseed bread now so I can eat ice cream for breakfast when I'm an old woman. My plan is to make life easy for myself. I'll simply tie a spoon around my neck so I don't have to bother anyone whenever I want breakfast.

Kiss a frog, just in case.
*I'm digging the Geico gecko these days. That British accent on a green lizard makes me laugh uncontrollably!

Blow the wrapper off a straw.

Have someone read you a story.

Find some pretty stones and save them.
*I do that now. I toss them into candlescapes.

Wear your favorite shirt with you favorite pants even if they don’t match.
*Ok, my family of fashionistas will probably claim that I do this already!

Take a running jump over a big puddle.

Get someone to buy you something you really don’t need.

Hide your vegetables under your napkin.

Stay up past your bedtime.

Eat dessert first.
*On hot summer days, my colleagues and I have gone to Dairy Queen for lunch and ordered awesome sundaes. Also, one of my favorite restaurants in Philadelphia is the Rose Tattoo Cafe. Their mushroom soup and desserts are awesome. There would be a group of ten of us from work, and everyone had mushroom soup. Finally we decided to go for soup and dessert only, skip the meal. I remember we confused some new people who were ordering entrees.

Fuss a little, then take a nap.

Wear red gym shoes.

Put way too much sugar on your cereal.

Make cool screeching noises every time you turn a corner.

Giggle a lot for no reason.

Give yourself a gold star for everything you do today.

*I like that idea! So much that we do goes unrecognized, not necessarily by others, but by ourselves. We get bogged down by the 10% that didn't go right, we missed appreciating the 90% that did. A former boss commented once, "You turn on the light switch every day. You only notice when the lightbulb doesn't work." I think that's so true. We don't acknowledge ourselves or the people around us for 'lighting' up when they do.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

On the Job Training: Motherhood - The Ugly Duckling

I'm finding a new sense of maturity in this 6-year-old. She tends to question and evaluate more, so I know I need to be ready with my age-appropriate answers.

I was reading "The Ugly Duckling" to my daughter, which we've read dozens of times before. It's always a pretty hard story to read in my opinion because the other animals and humans are quite mean to the "ugly duckling." Everyone is so mean that baby swan that he has to go live away from the rest of society. The mother duck tried to protect her "baby", but she really couldn't be there all the time. It's only after the long and lonely winter does he come out on his own.

I read aloud, "So the ugly duckling was sad because he had no friends."

Annika stopped me, and asked, "Why does it say he has no friends? He has his mother. So he has one friend. "

I had to smile because I felt so assured about our close relationship. I was happy to see her confidence in knowing that she always has me in her corner. I told her she was right.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Happy Heart

Last weekend, I stopped at the grocery store to pick up a few things since I had friends coming over in the evening and a kid’s birthday party prior to that. I was shopping with my daughter, which is so stressful to me. It’s not because she’s constantly pestering to buy products conveniently located at her eye level. She's actually quite good. I’m just a super paranoid mother at the grocery store making sure she doesn’t get snatched or hurt by grocery carts. (I once read about a boy who fell from the cart and suffered head injuries and I’ve considered it a death trap since).

Anyway, this woman was carting around me and she leaned over to ask, “Excuse me, what perfume are you wearing?”

I paused and stunned because it was so unexpected. If she reprimanded me for not controlling my daughter who was running with the grocery cart I was ready. For this, I thought for a second.

“It’s Clinique Happy Heart,” I replied.

“Oh! it smells so good!” she gushed. I thanked her and she left.

I was surprised, but not really. I first received a sample of Happy Heart from my sister and wasn’t too impressed with it. Yet, I tried it and was surprised to receive many compliments. So, I eventually indulged in the full bottle. My husband says that is the fragrance that reminds him of me. I still don’t agree with it because I think Prescriptives Calyx or Lauder's Pleasures (Intense) is more like me. However, the positive responses make me continue using Happy Heart.

I casually mentioned this incident to my friend and she commented that it’s part of the positive energy that’s happening in my life.

I have always said that the way you present yourself and the energy you emit predicts the kind of people and energy you attract. Be the kind of person you want to be with. If you’re going to be grumpy and bitchy, you’re only going to attract negativity in your life.

So, what’s there to be positive about? A helluva lot!

My girlfriends and I were comparing where we were one year ago at this time and how far we’ve come with our personal and professional lives and goals. Last year, I was extremely fatigued as I was bombarded with stress and demands on the work and home fronts. I felt burdened with everyone’s problems, even that of my clients and corporation! So much of it was beyond my control. I could see the toll on my health, as well.

This year, so much has changed and things have picked up enormously. As my horoscope said, I’m on an “upward spiral.”

I haven’t won the lottery or anything. It is really smaller things that keep building on each other and building such a platform . Most of all, I’ve learned not to take anything for granted. Life is too short to think you can get a do over. But, it’s too long to hold on to the small things. That might be my mantra for 2007.

So, like my Happy Heart perfume, I’m hoping to emit some of the positive energy I feel these days.

For those who think I’m just full of it and want to keep bitching and moaning, I do have one other inspiration that my friends and I keep in mind on those days that we just want to give up.

“Nobody trips over mountains. It is the pebbles we stumble over.”

We can let little things deter us and just bring us down. And, give up. But, if we recognize them as pebbles, we just have kick them out of our shoes and move on. It’s so easy to let one problem overwhelm us.

But, I've heard the view from the top of the mountain is spectacular.

That Wierd 70's Flashback.

I'm on the treadmill at the gym. I've got "Pure Disco" playlist on my iPod, which includes classics like "The Hustle", "Fly Robin Fly," and "I Will Survive."

Looking up at the TV screen, Dorothy Hamill is chatting with Larry King about her book.

I had a weird 70's flashback. I'm 8 years old again.

Remember the Dorothy Hamill bob? It was fun, alive and easy to maintain. How easy? Why, it morphed seamlessly into the Princess Diana hair do in 1980.

Reason and Consequences

People like to say "Everything happens for a reason." Yes, I think so too, but now what? What is the reason? What are you going to do about it?

I think if life didn't kick us in the butt sometimes, we'd continue to sit happily on our fat arses. There are times when I thought my life was going down the tubes. For example, when I was 25 and had my first "real" job for two years, my director suggested I should look elsewhere for a job. They wanted to redefine my position and bring in an experienced professional. I hated her. Was mad at my boss. And, I hated myself for doing a bad job. I was used to leaving jobs on my own terms, not someone else's.

So, what was the reason that happened? I ended up at a great job in NYC, which I continued for 3 years and left on my own terms. That second job set the foundation for a career change and brought me to the career I excel in today.

If I didn't get that kick in the pants back then, I don't know what would've happened. Would I have stayed there and just waited for my boss to get promoted so I could get her job? How great was that job anyway? Where was the growth potential?

Sometimes when jobs or marriages end or health takes a downturn, it's like life putting on the brakes for you. Take a look around you. Is this where you want to go? We always have to remember we are driving our own cars. We can take it off cruise control and stop going around the block. We can move forward.. if we choose to do so.

So, some disruptive events lead us to introspection of our choices. Then, there are other events that happen and explanations are not as easy, such as death of a spouse or child or a terminal illness. Are there lessons? It's hard to say. There's a lot we don't understand and I think the reasons may not be apparent at the time. While we would love for someone to hand us the definition, it may take time to evolve and for us to grow to recognize it.

I chose the waterfall picture because my professor used to call it "Cascading Consequences." The source of the water is one. It starts in one stream, flowing in the same directions. Then, as it goes over the edge, the rocks and earth take it into different directions.

One event may happen and it will lead to multiple streams and flows. As it goes over the edges, it reaches out and touches more rocks and plant life than it would have had it gone straight.

So, when certain events happen and there's no logical reason for it, it's really a cascading consequence - something we can't see but know it's going in many directions.