When I Questioned the Feds and Why You Are Needed Now

This week, CongressDaily published some of my conversation with Secretary of Agriculture Vilsak. I hope someone in power will read it and understand that we can’t just talk about the health of our children and invent new programs to “help” them.  It is a question of where we are putting our money.  All the jumping jacks and walks to school must be supported by healthy food!!!  The love of a fresh spinach salad with a whole grain roll will last long after they leave school.  Yes, walk to school, but many children are greeted by donuts and Fruit Loops.

Good quality food costs money and it is worth it to spend it on our children!  Please, please make your voice heard right now!  The easiest way is to go here to send an email where it matters most or to telephone the Capitol Hill switchboard at 1-800-815-3740 and ask to speak to your U.S. House Representative.  Tell him or her that you want an additional dollar per lunch allotted in the reauthorization  of the Child Nutrition Act,   that, in addition to the extra dollar, you want the following:

  • Increased quality of meals served in the school meal program; including less use of highly processed foods which are high in fat and sodium, increased fresh and high quality fruits and vegetables, more whole grains, and reduced overall sodium content.
  • Strengthened nutrition standards for school meal programs and competitive foods.
  • At least $50 million mandatory funding for Farm to School programs. (Healthy Schools Campaign)

My School Lunch Revolution

Click here to go to my recent post on Chicago Moms Blog about my three-year long battle with our school lunch program and what we can do about it now (write your representatives!).  Also, see this recent article here (not written by me) and one in the New York Times (also not by me).

Meet Isa

isaimg_0322Isa is suffering from Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. Please read about her family struggles and see what you can do to help. Children should never have to suffer.

Homework Meltdown

1animated10-thumb2Little Eva is only six and in first grade, yet she has to do homework every night. Five nights a week, she has a math worksheet to do. Seven nights a week, she is required to read two little “easy reader” books. Since she was an infant, we have read a story or two to her every night at bedtime. Every night. This summer, Eva was happily reading easy reader books aloud to us as well. Now that she has to read them every day, it has become a chore and the joy of reading is already fading. Honestly, it’s killing me. My Masters in Education training and research taught me that children are better off learning to read at seven or eight. Furthermore, there is ample research on how children love to read until they are forced to do it for homework. School homework really can kill a lust for reading. I just never thought it would happen so soon. My friends who are the parents of second graders in the district warn me that the second graders are not only required to read every night, but they are required to write about it every night as well. This is just too soon.

When Eva gets home from a full day of school with a mere twenty minutes of recess and gym class only once every three days, she is very tired (don’t even get me started, my letter to the Superintendent about the need for more free play and recess has gone unanswered for over a month now). I’d much rather she have the choice to read aloud to us. However, if she takes a night off, she won’t get a cute stamp on her calendar for that day. If she doesn’t do her math homework, she misses out on the few minutes of “play time” which is really snack time. Incidentally, I don’t have her over-scheduled. On the weekdays, she has ballet one day a week and martial arts one day a week. On the weekends, she goes to Sunday school every week and Brownies once a month for an hour.

The other night, poor Eva was tired and didn’t want to do her math homework. She wanted me to give her the answers. When I refused, she flipped out. I had never seen her like this. She was knocking things off her desk, toppling furniture, kicking and screaming. She threw the worksheet at me and yelled, “Just rip it up Mom! Rip it up!” When I wouldn’t she grabbed it back and took a marker and blacked out all the answers she had done so far. This just broke my heart. She is way too young for this.

I am simply at a loss as to how I can change the homework policy at this school. They are so driven to get their scores up. They have made Kindergarten into first grade and first grade into third grade. My daughter is doing homework here in Skokie that my friends’ third graders are doing in Northbrook (schools with much higher scores I might add). Can I make a difference in this district that has been determined to excel at all costs? Would these administrators be willing to turn back the policies they just put into place in the last two years? I’d like to try.

Support Healthy Schools

Earth Friendly Cream Cleanser (a favorite of mine from a local company!)

Earth Friendly Cream Cleanser (a favorite of mine from a local company!)

The Healthy Schools Campaign is hosting a national summit on November 12th in D.C. to promote Green Cleaning in schools nationwide. Click here to sign your name in support and find out more about the summit. A recent Illinois law requires schools to use green cleaning products, but it is not a nationwide thing. Green cleaning is good for everyone. No strong smelling toxic chemicals for our children and teachers (and custodians) to inhale. No toxic chemicals dumped into our water system. No toxic chemicals created to pollute the earth. Oh, and no one is requiring the schools to buy prepared products. Nothing could be cheaper than baking soda, borax and vinegar (my personal favorite cleaning products) What’s not to love about keeping schools healthy places to learn? Yeah!

A Message for All Women

The following was passed on to me via email from my cousin. I apologize, but I cannot give the author her proper credit. I suppose, given the message, she would rather I post this than worry about her copyright:

This is the story of our Grandmothers and Great-grandmothers; they lived only 90 years ago.

Remember, it was not until 1920

that women were granted the right to go to the polls and vote.

The women were innocent and defenseless, but they were jailed
nonetheless for picketing the White House, carrying signs asking
for the vote.

And by the end of the night, they were barely alive.
Forty prison guards wielding clubs and their warden’s blessing
went on a rampage against the 33 women wrongly convicted of
‘obstructing sidewalk traffic.’

They beat Lucy Burns, chained her hands to the cell bars above

her head and left her hanging fo! r the ni ght, bleeding and gasping
for air.

(Dora Lewis)
They hurled Dora Lewis into a dark cell, smashed her
head against an iron bed and knocked her out cold. Her cellmate,
Alice Cosu, thought Lewis was dead and suffered a heart attack.
Additional affidavits describe the guards grabbing, dragging,
beating, choking, slamming, pinching, twisting and kicking the women.

Thus unfolded the ‘Night of Terror’ on Nov. 15, 1917,
when the warden at the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia ordered his
guards to teach a lesson to the suffragists imprisoned there because
they dared to picket Woodrow Wilson’s White House for the right
to vote.
For weeks, the women’s only water came from an open pail. Their
food–all of it colorless slop–was infested with worms.

(Alice Paul)
When one of the leaders, Alice Paul, embarked on a hunger strike, they tied her to a chair, forced a tube down her throat and poured liquid into her until she vomited. She was tortured like this for weeks until word was smuggled out to the press.

So, refresh my mem ory. Some women won’t vote this year because- why, exactly? We have carpool duties? We have to get to work? Our vote doesn’t matter? It’s raining?

Last week, I went to a sparsely attended screening of HBO’s new movie ‘Iron Jawed Angels.’ It is a graphic depiction of the battle these women waged so that I could pull the curtain at the polling booth and have my say. I am ashamed to say I needed the reminder.

All these years later, voter registration is still my passion. But the actual act of voting had become less personal for me, more rote. Frankly, voting often felt more like an obligation than a privilege. Sometimes it was inconvenient.

My friend Wendy, who is my age and studied women’s history, saw the HBO movie, too. When she stopped by my desk to talk about it, she looked angry. She was–with herself. ‘One thought kept coming back to me as I watched that movie,’ she said. ‘What would those women think of the way I use, or don’t use, my right to vote? All of us take it for granted now, not just younger women, but those of us who did seek to learn.’ The right to vote, she said, had become valuable to her ‘all over again.’

HBO released the movie on video and DVD . I wish all history, social studies and government teachers would include the movie in their curriculum I want it shown on Bunco night, and anywhere else women gather. I realize this isn’t our usual idea of socializing, but we are not voting in the numbers that we should be, and I think a little shock therapy is in order.

It is jarring to watch Woodrow Wilson and his cronies try to persuade a psychiatrist to declare Alice Paul insane so that she could be permanently institutionalized. And it is inspiring to watch the doctor refuse. Alice Paul was strong, he said, and brave. That didn’t make her crazy.

(Woodrow Wilson was our only president to earn a PhD, but I was not aware that he did this.)

The doctor admonished the men: ‘Courage in women is often mistaken for insanity.’

Please, if you are so inclined, pass this on to all the women you know.

We need to get out and vote and use this right that was fought so hard for by these very courageous women.. Whether you vote democratic, republican or independent party – please remember to vote!

Stop the Violence: Cease Fire

See what I have to say about the violence in Chicago and an organization that is doing something about it, Cease Fire. Click here to go to my article on Chicago Moms Blog.