Thursday, May 31, 2007

Equal Pay for Equal Work is good law--Make it enforceable!

I've been sitting shocked on the sidelines this week, digesting the 5-4 Supreme Court decision that set a 180 day time limit for employees to sue for pay discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

I was somewhat encouraged by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's dissenting opinion, but also very discouraged by not only the majority decision, but the realization that Bader Ginsburg is the only woman on the court now.

Read more about it: CNN Money, New York Times

Today I am glad to report that has initiated an action step we can all take, sending a petition to tell Congress, "We Need Equal Pay for Equal Work--it is good law, make it enforceable!" This issue is key to protecting the fair employment of women everywhere. Please join me in signing this petition. As individuals it's easy to feel depressed and powerless. As a collective voice we can't be ignored. has grown to over 100,000 members in its first year and our goal is to be millions strong by the 2008 election. e-outreach for May 31:

The Supreme Court just delivered a huge blow to the fight for equal pay for equal work. It told Lilly Ledbetter, a 60-year old "fiery mother of two," that even though, for years, she was paid between 15% and 40% less than her male counterparts on the management team (a fact she learned late in her 19 year career), she could not make a claim of workplace discrimination. Why couldn't she make a claim? Lily Ledbetter learned about the pay discrepancies too late. The court ruled that claims must be made within 180 days after the pay is set. But how many of us know what our co-workers make? In fact, it's illegal to ask in many states.

Justice Ruth Ginsburg wrote the dissenting opinion for the 5-to-4 decision, and in it she asked Congress to overturn the ruling and clarify the intent of the law. Several Congressional leaders are already stepping forward to counter this outrage by drafting new fair-minded legislation. Let's get behind them so they can pass this legislation immediately.

Tell Congress, "We Need Equal Pay for Equal Work--it is good law, make it enforceable!"

Sign the petition and then pass it on to friends so we can build support for the Congressional leaders who are stepping forward to right this wrong. Frankly, they need our help--because as the Washington Post reports, business groups, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, are applauding this dangerous, short-sighted ruling.

CITIZEN VOICES ARE CRUCIAL: Citizen voices are going to be crucial to giving leaders the "political capital" they require to fix this problem. Here's what several of the key leaders who are fighting for us have to say about the ruling:

"Yesterday's Supreme Court decision reflects a poor understanding of the real problems with long-term pay discrimination," said Senator Harkin. "Most new employees feel less comfortable challenging their salaries, and it is very difficult to determine when pay discrimination begins. Furthermore, a small pay gap tends to widen over time, only becoming noticeable when there is systemic discrimination over a period of years. I look forward to working with my Senate colleagues to ensure every worker receives the paycheck he or she deserves."

"Unless Congress Acts, this Supreme Court ruling will have far-reaching implications for women, and will gravely limit the rights of employees who have suffered pay discrimination based on their race, sex, religion or national origin. All Americans deserve equal pay for equal work and it is our responsibility to get this right," said Senator Clinton.

"This week's Supreme Court decision sends a dangerous message about the value of pay equity in this country. It is unacceptable that women and others would be limited in their opportunities to stand up for themselves and for their families. I am proud to team up with my colleagues to right this wrong," said Senator Mikulski.

"As Justice Ginsburg suggests, the ball has now fallen into Congress' court and we intend to address this ruling," said Representative George Miller (D-CA), chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee. "The Supreme Court's narrow decision makes it more difficult for workers to stand up for their basic civil rights at work and that is unacceptable."

*Don't forget to sign the petition and pass it along to friends and family as well. Let's support the Congressional leaders who are coming forward to right this wrong.

Best - The MomsRising Team

p.s. Have you experienced workplace discrimination? What happened? Share your story and experiences with all and/or email us at:

Labels: , ,

7-year (and 3/4) itch revisited

Last summer I wrote about my "seven year itch" for mothering as my daughter and I spent lots of time rubbing each other the wrong way. Now the school year is ending and there is still plenty of friction to go around. This is a big transitional year, from being a little kid to a real girl. I sense that she is torn between the desire to crawl back into my lap, being taken care of as a toddler, countered by an irresistible urge to be seen as grown up.

I keep thinking that she'll make a really great grown-up someday when she gets to call all the shots. But in the meantime we have power struggles and tears over whether I am expecting too much from her and/or not giving her enough freedom.

In all the years of reading literature about how children are affected by their parents, I can't think of much about how parents are affected by their children. I mean this seriously and not ironically. I can now look back at some women whom I would have once considered to be bad mothers and now I see that maybe part of it was that they were worn down, tired, thwarted, or feeling like "this wasn't the life that I signed up for." This is still a largely taboo subject and I have to admit that I squirm when I read brutally honest works like The Mother Knot by Jane Lazarre.

I wrote a screenplay when my daughter was a toddler, one of many challenging stages of life. Shadows of Fire turned out like a classic Lifetime Movie. It centers on a family secret that is traced over two decades following a fire that killed one of two young daughters. The protagonist is the surviving daughter grown up, a young scientist who has tried to get out from under the thumb of her overbearing mother. This mother is awful, negligent at a key moment, an alcoholic and a frustrated writer who eventually gave up her writing to become a shallow society woman. Above all she is really hard on her daughter. This mother was just about as bad as I could make her, short of having her commit murder. As I was writing the screenplay, I conciously identified with the protagonist, but when I was done it became clear that the mother was the projection of my own nightmares about the shadow side of motherhood. I don't like the mother, and I didn't really feel a catharsis through her, but I can identify with the possibilities of her downfall. She was changed by the experience of motherhood, by the pressures her husband's job brought to bear on her families, by her own lack of mojo and ability to pursue her dreams. She lost one daughter and felt that she had the right to mold her remaining girl's future.

I should go back and re-read it to see if there are any fresh lessons waiting inside for me. This is an unproduced screenplay, by the way, and is still available for optioning! I submitted it to Project Greenlight and a few other contests, where it got generally good reviews by women who like family dramas, and poor reviews from guys in their 20's. No surprise there.

So, on this path of motherhood, I keep coming back to the same lessons. Try to be patient. This too shall pass. The bad feelings on one day don't have to define me or my relationship with my daughter. On a practical level, staying on schedule with a good night's sleep is important for all of us. And takes time, and we have to endure some tough days to show them we're serious. It's hard to hear that she knows she'd have to behave at a restaurant if she were with her teachers, but she somehow can "get away with" a meltdown if she's with me. I am looking for that delicate balance between my role as a refuge and safe harbor, but also letting her know that it's time to grow up.

Breathe in, breathe out, and take it one step at a time.


Friday, May 25, 2007

"Opting Out" at the tipping point?

The "opt-out" phenomenon has reached a tipping point with new books and media coverage coming out this spring.

In my new podcast episode I talk to Opting Out? author Pamela Stone. Opting Out? provides a clear-eyed look at the lives of stay-at-home mothers. As a sociologist, Pamela Stone conducted extensive interviews with 54 women to trace their life-career paths. This research is just what was needed to shine a fresh light on this often-divisive topic.

I had an insight this week that the heated discussions over different views of the opt-out phenomenon can be seen as a battle for the definitive narrative of mothers' llives. (The following interpretation is mine, not Pamela Stone's, so if anyone doesn't like it they can be upset with me.)

Leslie Bennetts has written a narrative based on scary stories of economic dependency.

Linda Hirshman comes from a philosophical background that is internally logical, but in my opinion is an inaccurate and limiting sterotpye of mothers' lives. I believe that you can live a full and meaningful life as a mother who has taken leave from the paid workforce, because I've seen many women do so.

Lisa Belkin's original Opt Out article sparked this discussion with a narrative built around choice feminism. She gave us the term "opt out" which has had incredible staying power even though it may not be the most accurate descrption for the workplace pushes and family pulls that lead women to exit the workforce. I get the feeling that Lisa Belkin didn't foresee the controversy she was unleasing with her Opt Out piece, and I give her credit for continuing to follow this developing storyline in her Life's Work column

In Mojo Mom, I wrote a guidebook for women who were navigating the identity transitions of motherhood. I embraced motherhood as a catalyst for transformation, saying that change was going to come anyway so you might as well make the best of it. It was a delicate balance between individual strategies and advocating for systemic changes, which I have continued to work on since finishing my book. I am proud of the fact that I researched and wrote my book while I was still in the process of raising a young child. My goal is to create mom-to-mom conversations with an eye on the larger culture.

Pamela Stone gives us the research background that combines women's own stories and sociological analysis. Written with respect for her subjects, Opting Out? provides the fairest and most objective map of the landscape that I have seen.

Just this month there has been an incredible amount of discussion about mothers and the workforce. Interestingly, the data themsevles pesent us with a Rorschach blot of ambiguity. Depending on the time period you are studying, and the significance you assign to the fluctuations between approximately 70 and 75% of college-educated, married mothers of preschoolers in the workforce, you can either see huge changes or a trend that has been remarkably consistent over the years.

Is the glass half full or empty? A little emptier than five years ago, and what does that mean? It's open to interpretation that varies widely depending on your point of view and storyline of choice. Is it time to come up with a new term to replace "opt out"? Can we come up with a new phrase that is just as sticky and memorable, but more accurately reflects the work-life tradeoffs women face?

More coverage you should know about:

Helaine Olen did a Q&A with Pamela Stone on that dovetails nicely with the topics that Pamela and I discussed on my podcast.

Harvard Business School Press has just published Sylvia Ann Hewlett's new book, Off-Ramps and On-Ramps: Keeping Talented Women on the Road to Success, which presents the business case in favor of offering flexible employment.

Ellen Goodman, my favorite columnist, wrote a brillant Mother's Day piece on women being marginalized as "A third gender in the workplace" when our complicated lives are actually the norm. She wrestles with the "deep-seated bias that puts the image of a 'good mother' at odds with that of an 'ideal worker.'"

Sharon Lerner on reminds us of the limitation of the opt-out storyline in her article, "The invisible mommies."

And finally, let's not forget the other scholars who have been writing about gender and the workplace for years now. I am planning to go back and really study Joan Williams' Unbending Gender: Why Family and Work Conflict and What to Do About It.

Labels: , , , , ,

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Mojo Mom on The Today Show

You asked for it--Here's the clip from my Today Show appearance with Lisa Belkin, Leslie Bennetts, and Gail Saltz.

The conversation about women's lifelong career paths continued on May 18 when Lisa Belkin returned to talk with Sylvia Ann Hewlett to discuss "Women and the Glass Ceiling." Hewlett has a new book out, Off-Ramps and On-Ramps: Keeping Talented Women on the Road to Success. I'll dive in to that next week.

This week I am still immersed in Pamela Stone's research into the lives of opt-out mothers. Stone presents these women's voices and her own analytical insights in her book Opting Out? Her results are more nuanced than the "did we jump or were we pushed out?" soundbites you'll hear so often, even used to summarize her book. I had many a-ha moments in reading Opting Out? and Stone's findings have persuaded me to view the tradeoffs of being a stay-at-home Mom in a new light. Pamela Stone will join me later this week on the May 25 episode of The Mojo Mom Podcast, so be sure to listen in on our conversation.

Monday, May 21, 2007

"Writing Motherhood" on "The Mojo Mom Podcast"

I am getting back on track after a surprisingly intense week of post-Mothers-Day burnout. Wasn't burnout something that was supposed to happen when I had a new baby, not a second grader? My experience this month shows that self-care basics are something that Moms never outgrow.

This week's new podcast episode provides a great way to recharge your mojo by jump-starting your creativity. My guest is Lisa Garrigues, author of Writing Motherhood. If you have ever thought of writing, I highly recommend that you treat yourself to Lisa's book, which is based on her years of teaching writing classes for mothers. Writing Motherhood is original and beautifully written in a manner that evokes the same deep truths as The Artist's Way, but Lisa's book is written especially for us. A writing practice can be a private pursuit, the nexus for a group of writing mamas, or something you eventually pursue for publication. But I can testify to the fact that the process is worthwhile, independent of the product.

To write is to stake a claim for time, creativity, and energy that is just for you! Listen to our podcast conversation, brought to you through our MotherTalk partnership, and I think you'll agree that Lisa is a wise guide on this journey.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Pix from Amy & Meghan's New York Adventure

I don't ususally put up a lot of photos on the blog but I'm going to post a few from the New York trip. Here we are backstage at The Today Show, Gail Saltz, Meghan, myself and Lisa Belkin. Meghan and Gail could be sisters and so could Lisa and I, looking at this picture. Funny how that worked out.

It was truly like a Willy Wonka moment (remember Mike Teevee?) to be downstairs watching the live program on the HDTV monitor, and then to walk upstairs and into the show. I wasn't that nervous but this was a new experience for me, espeically navigating the group discussion format.

The other panelists were all unfazed about being on the show. One asked me, "You're from 'somewhere else,' aren't you?" and she couldn't believe that I'd flown in from North Carolina for the segment. Another said she'd almost forgotten that she was supposed to do the show that morning. But everyone was quite cordial backstage and I appreciated getting the photos.

So Meghan and I were dorky enough to go to the NBC Store afterward. We had souvenirs to buy for our kids, of course. And we had to pose for snapshots alongside our top Mom Crushes, Steve Carell and John Krasinski. (That's 2 out of 3 because alas, we did not even encounter a photographic Jon Stewart while we were in New York.)

Sign me up for my job at Dunder-Mifflin. Actually, in the case of Steve Carell it's important to say that the crush is on him and not his character!

Meghan is going to the Brown reunion in two weeks and it will be really interesting to see if John Krasinski is there. Meghan's husband went to Brown, so no, she is not just stalking John.

It's JK's fifth reunion--yes, he is really that young and we are not!

Enough tourista-ness for one day. But hey, if you can't have fun with a friend then what good is a trip to New York?

Sprinting Past the Marathon Finish Line

Mother's Day marked two solid years of work on promoting Mojo Mom. It feels like I've been knocking on everybody's door for a long time, and was a great feeling to get the call from The Today Show. This has been an intense and rewarding trip and it feels like I sprinted past the marathon finish line...

...and then collapsed. Returning home from New York, I found myself totally depleted, in-bed-before-9 pm exhausted. I've felt like a puddle of sludge since Saturday. I am still managing the three-ring circus of the second shift but I have let the first shift slide for a couple of days. I realized today how amped up I have been, and a little quick on the temper and impatience. Just dropping work for a day or two isn't enough. I really need to find a way to chill out. Maybe it's time to sign up again for the stress-reduction class I dropped out of a couple of years ago.

There was so much to juggle before I could head out the door to New York. Not just travel arrangements, but household tasks that couldn't wait, such as housepainters coming, and the refrigerator and air conditioner breaking down at the same time. When I got home I found that my daughter had tangled with poison ivy and had an itchy rash on her face, close to her eyes, so Monday we were in to the pediatrician for a prescription.

More than ever, I have really appreciated my flexible work schedule and the fact that I can usually make the pieces fit, even if it's an awkward and wobbly puzzle I assemble on some days. My hat is off to those women who do far more work with less flexbility, resources and backup. Weeks like this, I don't even know how I do it.

So there is a complete lack of trenchant social commentary, burning ideas, or flashes of insight pouring out of my brain today. Just one tired Mom admitting that there are days that I lose my mojo, too.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Mojo Mom's A-Ha Moment: Cracking the Privilege Code

After all the years of researching and writing Mojo Mom, reading the Mothers Movement Online, working with and reading the Mothers & More POWER loop, I believe that sitting on the Today Show couch with Leslie Bennetts and Lisa Belkin and reading Pamela Stone's new book, Opting Out? have pushed me over an important tipping point of understanding.

I have cracked the feminist code and I understand why the Baby Boomers are mad at us younger women who have opted out. The text is about money and career, the subtext is about power and privilege. Boomer feminists worked to give us a place in a man's world, the world of power and privilege. That world is built on a foundation of a lower class, low-paid support system that is assumed to exist but rendered invisible. This could be the unpaid work of wives or the low-paid wages of service workers.

In the 1970's, women were given begrudging access to this kingdom, as long as they "played like a man."

Fast-forward to our generation. The invisible work, the second shift is still there and "playing like a man" just isn't working for many of us. We are able to eke out egalitarian relationships before we have children, but gender roles haven't changed that much. Men still don't expect to divide that work 50/50. When babies arrive, this invisible workload shoots through the roof. The truth is that someone has to do it, and we don't have a social infrastructure that lifts this burden off women's shoulders. So in the most privileged couples, the "opt-out" dynamic becomes very apparent when a high-power woman leaves her place in the man's world to go home.

Boomer femininsts are mad that women would leave behind the position of power, privilege and money that they worked so hard to earn on our behalf. One woman leaving the corporate ladder signifies gender failure when one man leaving the corporate ladder is just a guy making a choice.

Privileged men are generally glad to see women move home because this allows the men to have more time and energy to focus on their careers, thereby exercising their male privilege. Egalitarian marriages become more "traditional" to some degree when women stay home.

Women who leave the workforce are frustrated to see that they lose their previous status and become socially invisible and devalued in their role as a mother. Work at home is necessary and important but it is not admired, valued, and privileged. Sometimes this work it is only noticed when it is NOT done perfectly, which is expecially frustrating. We mothers see the value of the invisible work we are doing. We certainly see how much of life is made up of that work. Our eyes are opened to this big picture and we can't comprehend why others don't understand it.

So I finally understand why opt-out women are truly radical: we expect to be able to leave the world of privilege, take the blinders off our eyes and see the whole picture of life, expect others to do so, and return to the world of privilege on our own terms. Although we say in our democracy that "all men are created equal," the last thing the world of privilege wants is to be asked to see the big picture that includes caregiving, poverty, and discrimination. This is why I want more mothers in public life. Nancy Pelosi may play the political game with the best of them but I love knowing that she knows understands what it means to be a caregiver.

The younger generation of mothers hopes that we are reclaiming power in a new way by creating a career spiral to replace the old career ladder. Our plans challenge the whole system. With Mojo Mom I aspire to be more than just a writer telling individual women how to cope within an unfair system. This is why the short-lived Total 180! magazine and the book Happy Housewives drive me crazy--they are at best gallows humor that helps women adapt to the current system of privilege without challenging it.

For the first time I feel like our generation is attempting something truly radical. In Mojo Mom I consciously traced a path from self care to women's leadership and that trajectory continues to soar. We have to keep working to get caregiving counted in our society. As Pamela Stone says in Opting Out? mothers are the canary in the coal mine for an often inhumane workplace. We are cracking under the double-bind pressures of being an ideal worker and and ideal mother and we are finally demanding that something has to give. I want to be a good mother and a good worker. I want to work on my own terms and have paid opportunities to contribute even though I've taken time away from work. I am determined to make this happen even if I have to create my own path, in a manner that I hope paves the way for other women to do the same.

There is a tsunami of caregiving need coming our way. We are the ones who will have to shepherd the older generations through 20, 30, 40 years of retirement and elder care. Many of us will spend more years worrying about our parents than we will caring for our children, and as I have written before, that is not a matter of choice. If parenting cracks us, will elder care crush us? There is only so long we can get away without making the invisible work visible and dividing it fairly. We'd best get started now.

Labels: , , , , ,

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Live from New's Mojo Mom

I am back from New York and I feel like I have an adrenaline-letdown hangover. I am on borrowed time with this blog post as my daughter has already overslept for an hour, but I'll see what I can write.

The trip to New York was fantastic, and the best part was going with my friend Meghan. The trip made me realize both how much we'd shared and how much we still had to learn about each other.

We saw The Color Purple on Broadway on Friday night and it was a perfect Mojo Mom inspiration heading into Satruday morning. I was so proud of Fantasia. At age 22, she stepped into the lead role in a cast that had already been working together. She rocked the house and seeing her expressions during curtain call, I sensed that she is truly amazed by this opportunity.

I am still processing my Today Show experience and I will write more later. Most importantly I want to write about the writings I referred to this week as I was preparing. I felt like I was writing a term paper--I knew I would not be able to say much during a 5-minute TV appearance but I wanted to have my facts straight. I will share these resources with you in a later post.

Quick Today Show thoughts:

My goals were to #1 represent the motherhood movement with integrity, #2 look like I belonged on the panel, #3 not say anything stupid, and #4 get my points out.

With only about 5 minutes split 4 ways it was very, very quick. The whole experience was overwhelming and surreal. I didn't feel nervous in the moment but I did feel a little blanked out just before we started.

I was proud not to take Mommy War bait AND to work in the mention of

I think Pamela Stone's new book "Opting Out?" is brilliant. Finally we have a rather objective, qualitative but thorough research-based study. I want to get in touch with Professor Stone because in writing "Mojo Mom" I am essentially one of her subjects narrating her experience as it happened. I am so interested to put my book into her context, both in an exploration of identity and my link between each woman's individual process and the need to work toward women's leadership and collective activism.

Ironically, Pamela Stone is much more up front about her biases and interpretations than is Leslie Bennetts. Bennetts should own up to the fact that she's written what I call a "researched polemic." It may be journalism but it is not social science and she must take responsibility for the tone of her book. She's not just "the messenger" as in "don't shoot the messenger." She had selective interviews and is the interpreter.

After the Today Show I kind of wished I had said that while Leslie has a valid point about financial planning, the experience of reading her book feels like choking down a plate of barbed wire.

Gotta run, family calls. Have a great Mother's Day everyone.

Monday, May 07, 2007

My Media Breakthrough

After three solid years of knocking on the national media's door, I finally got the big call! I've been invited to appear on The Today Show this Saturday, May 12. I couldn't have asked for better timing than the day before Mother's Day.

I am really excited about this opportunity to represent Mojo Moms everywhere on the national stage. I'll be bringing my perspective to a discussion about "Women Who Opt Out" of the workforce and what happens next. My goal is to breathe some fresh air into this topic with my ideas about identity, career reinvention, and mothers making a difference whether or not they are in the paid workforce.

The discussion is scheduled to include Leslie Bennetts, author of The Feminine Mistake, and my blogging about her book is what drew The Today Show's attention to my work. Fortunately the panel will be rounded out by Lisa Belkin, author of the original "Opt-Out Revolution" article, and Today Show regular contributor, psychologist Gail Saltz.

This is an interesting group and I have been thinking about what distinguishes my Mojo Mom perspective. Three main qualities jumped out: First, I truly represent Gen X and newer Moms among a panel of established Boomers in this discussion. Second, although Lisa Belkin's Opt-Out concept has been criticized for representing a small sliver of women, I am a member of that precise demographic, so if they want to talk about that group I can speak from experience. I hope to broaden the topic to connect to the needs of all Moms. And third, I am much more of a media outsider, working my way up as an independent author.

When I approached agents and publishers with the book proposal for Mojo Mom, the uniform response I received was "This sounds like a good idea, but it's a crowded market and you don't have a platform." Translation: I wasn't famous enough. So rather than giving up, I created independently, published the book independently, landed a national distributor, and hired a publicist. I like to think that this entrepreneurial spirit represents Gen X at its best. I came of age in Silicon Valley in the 1990's. By the end of the decade, everyone and their brother had a startup, so it didn't intimidate me that much to launch my own company. Desktop technology allows me to publish my blog, create & distribute the Mojo Mom Party Kit, and produce my podcast. I have kept writing and publishing as I built my "platform" one plank at a time.

After receiving the call from The Today Show, my first reaction was to email my colleagues at and Mothers & More to ask them to help me gather the most relevant statistics to arm myself with. This was a useful exercise, but I soon realized that I have been preparing for this moment for years now. I know who I am and what my message is. This is like a final exam in being myself.

My friend Meghan Gosk, whom I interviewed in Mojo Mom about her family-work-life path, will be coming to New York with me. We've been friends since our children were in baby and toddler playgroup together and our friendship has grown to include my book, joint activism, and a year together in our Mojo Advisory Circle that focuses on business development.

And finally, as I come up on my 300th Mojo Mom blog posting, I want to thank all of you who are reading this for joining me on this journey. I've written the equivalent of a second book on this blog, and I enjoy our timely and interactive discussions even more than book publishing. Keep reading the blog and listening to the podcast--and please send some mojo my way on Saturday. I promise I'll do my best to make you all proud.

Labels: , , , ,

Friday, May 04, 2007

"Lunch Lessons" for Parents

In my last blog posting I was upset about fast-food philanthropy brought to us courtesy of our friends at NewsCorp, owners of Fox and American Idol. I had criticized the Idol Gives Back spectacle as a hollow "attempt to create a diet based on vitamin-fortified french fries."

Little did I know that this is the prevailing strategy in many school lunch programs. reports that "Schools acquire taste for faux-junk food." I saw that headline and wondered what exactly was "faux junk food." I mean, if it is already junk, how can it be "faux?" Turns scools are adopting a strategy that cuts fat and calories by "furtively supplementing hamburgers with soy and subbing applesauce for shortening in cake." In West Virginia, deep fried breakfast donuts are "fortified with 5 grams of protein and 14 minerals and vitamins."

I was surprised to see that the director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest was quoted by as supporting the faux-junk food offerings as "helpful" and "part of the solution."

Count me as appalled. We are barely feeding our kids food in this case. And what happens when they grow up with a taste for burgers and donuts and (non-fortified) "pancake on a stick." What will they eat once they make their own food choices?

I emailed this article to a friend and she told me that our neighboring-county schools are not allowed to have knives in the school kitchen, as it would pose a liability risk. So the cafeteria workers are only allowed to use box cutters to open the massive cardboard boxes full of frozen foods. We have local farms that could supply the schools with produce, but you'll need more than box cutters to prepare fresh food.

There are calls for sanity out there. Alice Waters of Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley has started the Edible Schoolyard movement that aims to provide kids a real meal at school. Think about how important that is for the children who count on school breakfast and lunches as the most reliable meals of the day. When Alice Waters calls for a "Delicious Revolution" it makes my mouth water. I taught at a school in San Francisco that followed her advice and I can tell you that the excellent fresh food was a huge benefit. I taught until I was seven months pregnant and I am happy to report that my school lunches kept me going during a very energetically draining time.

As individual parents I can recommend that we look at our school cafeteria offerings and send our kids to school with a healthy packed lunch if necessary. The book Lunch Lessons: Changing the Way We Feed Our Children provides dozens of kid-friendly recipes, nutritional information, and resources.

I admit I am the first one to need to study a few lunch and dinner lessons. My 7-year-old has become very set in her ways and only likes a handful of meals. My strategy is to start cooking more as a family this summer. We do have one recent victory to declare. She has decided that she will eat broccoli, as long as I am not looking!

Labels: , , , ,