Write a Letter to Santa and Help Wish Kids!

Between November 7 – December 24, visit your local Macy’s store or Macy’s Believe online to submit your child’s letter to Santa and help make dreams come true for Make-A-Wish kids around the country. For every letter received through December 24, Macy’s will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish (up to $1,000,000).

Jack LOVES the idea of Santa. In prior years he has written Santa several letters, made him cards, even even built a shrine in his room. At eight years old, it seems that he might be starting to waiver in his devotion and questioning a bit more, but still – he wrote a letter to Santa this year, asking for a haunted house and asking that Santa respond if he got the message. He included his very own “return receipt,” which was a drawing of some toys and dashed lines to indicate where to cut.

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Santa dutifully responded and Jack was beyond excited. He just knows Santa will come through for him.

David and I set to work looking for a toy haunted house. We didn’t find much, but we didn’t want Jack to feel let down by Santa, especially on the last year he’s likely to believe in him. So we bought a dollhouse and developed a plan to paint it, sand it, and turn it into something haunted. I was also able to find a “monster bucket” on (post-Halloween) sale so that should help us haunt the place up.

This may seem like a lot of effort, but Santa is just one small thing that adds magic to Jack’s life amid all the hardship he endures due to Leukemia. Make-a-Wish helped in this effort this summer, as well, when Jack was granted his wish for a TARDIS bedroom makeover. Jack is still delighted by his room and with the granting of his wish, we saw a happiness in him that we haven’t seen in a long time.

He's in love.

He’s in love.

This holiday season Macy’s is helping to bring magic to more kids with their Believe Campaign by working with the Make-a-Wish Foundation! This year marks the seventh year of Macy’s Believe campaign, which invites believers of all ages to drop off letters to Santa at any Macy’s store by depositing them in special, designated Santa Mail letterboxes. You may also submit your letter online at Macys.com/believe.

For each letter received by December 24th, Macy’s will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million, to grant the wishes of children (like Jack!) with life-threatening medical conditions. Last year, Make-A-Wish granted the wishes of more than 14,000 children across the United States. A wish is granted every 38 minutes!

Here in the Bay Area, Make-A-Wish is working on granting the wish of 4-year-old Joysse, a girl from San Mateo who was diagnosed with Leukemia. For her one true wish, Joysse asked for a princess party complete with purple and pink decorations, a princess dress with a cape and crown, cake and ice cream and more! She is so excited that she asks her mom, Gabriela, about it every day. Her party is scheduled for January, but as a surprise, Macy’s will be helping her prepare for her wish with a very special celebration at the San Francisco Union Square location.

To help kids like Jack and Joysse this year, make a trip to Macy’s or visit them online to submit your child’s letter to Santa. It’s totally free for you and yet you will get the satisfaction of knowing you’ve helped bring some magic back to the life of a child with a life-threatening illness!

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I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

My Extraordinary Kid

What makes your kid extraordinary isn’t just the epic stuff. It’s the little things. The small moments that maybe only you see — and quietly celebrate every day. Jack and I have had our ups and downs as of late. He is growing and maturing, and yet still holding onto childhood as much as possible. He is nearly 8, and caught between two stages in his young life. And at the same time, he is fighting cancer with his every breath.

Sometimes it’s all too much for him.

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Last week we had his friend over for a playdate. When it was time for the playdate to end, Jack wasn’t ready. He had a full on meltdown, declaring that it was unfair, that he didn’t want to be around me, and that no one understood how he felt. For the first time ever, he threatened to run away from home. When we dropped his friend off back home, Jack dashed out of the car and into his friend’s house – I had to pick him up and carry him back to the car (keep in mind I’m VERY pregnant).

On our way home, Jack said, “You probably don’t like me anymore.”

To which I replied, “Jack, of course I like you. I love you! We all say and do things we don’t mean sometimes. I will always love you, no matter what.”

Later on that evening he calmed down and apologized to me, unprompted. He then proposed a punishment for himself – perhaps he could have 3 hours of revoked iPad time. I told him I would think about it. Jack is generally so well behaved that I have very little experience with punishments!

All evening he hugged me spontaneously and repeatedly declared that he loved me. I told him I was so very glad that he was feeling better.

Experiences like these are hard on both of us, but they teach us a lot. Life is complicated and we are both still learning how to navigate it. Cancer has really amplified the everyday emotions we have to face, so we have to be stronger than ever and team up to face it together. I am constantly amazed by how Jack handles it all – he is truly extraordinary.

When you’re faced with the challenges that we are, it helps to have organizations out there like Stanford Children’s Health – the largest Bay Area healthcare provider with an exclusive focus on children and expectant women. Whether your visit is routine or rare, Stanford Children’s Health is committed to providing extraordinary care for healthier happy lives. In fact, Stanford Children’s Health and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford has been the top-ranked children’s hospital in Northern California for over a decade.

Thanks to Stanford Children’s Health and their dedication to extraordinary care for extraordinary kids, I was able to create a slideshow celebrating my kiddo and all of his awesomeness. Check it out.

Your kid is extraordinary. Show them how much you enjoy every moment together by creating a special video of your own!

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Greek Gods of Yogurt

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I wrote this post while participating in a blog tour conducted by Clever Girls on behalf of Dannon. I have been compensated for my time commitment to the program but my opinions are my own.

For more information and recipe ideas, visit www.oikosyogurt.com or www.Facebook.com/oikos. I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do.

By the time Jack’s dad and I split in 2008, I was underweight due to stress, depression, and a certain 2 year old stealing half my food (much tastier when it’s on Mama’s plate!). Not only that, but I was still breastfeeding Jack, which had the weight melting off of me. I didn’t have time or energy to keep up with my nutritional needs and before I knew it I was wearing size 0 pants for the first time in my life (LIFE, PEOPLE!). I was losing my curves and absolutely not happy about it.

David and I started dating in the fall that year and one of our favorite things to do together was eat. Just about every time we got together, we went out to dinner or he cooked for me with LOADS of butter or cream. Between that and eating lunch together daily, plus weaning Jack at 2 1/2 years old, I gained 30 lbs…and was steadily climbing. I am a small person and most would say PFFT, but none of my clothes fit me anymore and my BMI tipped to overweight.  30 lbs on a small frame like mine is a lot.

That was when I joined Weight Watchers. I wanted to get to a healthy weight somewhere between under- and over-weight, and I did it in a decent amount of time. I took a break from it for awhile when life got busy, but I’m back at it (albeit only via the online tool). With WW I can pretty much eat the foods I like, but I need to watch portions. Rather than eating cupcakes every day (which, yes, I absolutely was doing for a while – hey, they are half off between 2-3pm at work!) I now only indulge a few times a month. (I suppose I could find a diet cupcake but that is just BUNK.  Or, if I really wanted a cupcake that badly, I could, like, do exercise, but it’s not THAT important to me.)

So cream and butter aren’t in my diet much anymore except in small portions and in yogurt form. I had a thing for maple yogurt with cream on the top but that had to go.  I turned to Greek-style yogurt, which was slightly better points-wise, but had a hard time finding a nonfat type that I actually liked (NF Greek yogurt tends to be a bit sour, in my opinion). I then got the opportunity to try this nonfat Oikos Greek yogurt and I marched down to my grocery store to grab some.

Lucky for me, the Oikos yogurts were on sale 4 for $5. Woot! I was bummed they didn’t have honey flavor (my fave Greek yogurt variety), but I got peach, blueberry, raspberry, and cherry (the fruit on the bottom type). I promptly went home and ate the raspberry one and it was absolutely frickin’ delicious. It wasn’t sour like the other NF Greek yogurts I’ve tried, thank goodness! Also unlike other nonfat yogurts, the yogurt wasn’t thin and runny. I was a happy camper.

I popped into the WW tool online, plugged in the nutrition facts and found out that the Oikos yogurt is the same number of points as the nonfat stuff I’d been eating. SCORE!  (If you’re on WW, typical Greek yogurt is about 7 points and Oikos is 3 – even some of the FF yogurts out there are 4!)  So, uh, NO DUH I’d recommend it. Healthy, yummy snack for the win!

Two important pieces of info you will surely want to know:

  1. Dannon® Oikos® Plain and Fruit on the Bottom contains 0% fat, while the Dannon® Oikos® traditional blended varieties contains about 3% fat. Both are an excellent source of protein, twice that of most regular lowfat yogurts.
  2. Dannon® Oikos® 0% varieties contain active yogurt cultures and range from 80 calories (Plain) to 130 calories (Fruit on the Bottom) per 5.3 oz. cup.

Oh and another tidbit that I found interesting – Oikos is actually owned by Stonyfield Farms, makers of the little yogurts (one of the few that can be found in organic) I prefer to give my kid.  If it’s related to organic, that’s almost like it IS organic, right?  (Did you know if you have a carrot cupcake, it totally counts toward your veggies for the day?  😉  You’re welcome.)

By the way, for you breastfeeding moms out there, yogurt contains probiotics, which ward off thrush (if you haven’t gotten it, that is).

I have partnered with Dannon to help promote the Dannon Oikos Greek Yogurt Series. I have been compensated for my time commitment to the program, which includes writing about the promotion and product; however, my opinions are entirely my own and I have not been paid to publish positive comments.

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The Face of Triumph

Thanks to Plum Organics for sponsoring my post about fun kid photos and the stories behind them. Enter Plum’s “Babies for Yum Caption Contest” on Facebook and you could win a $100 gift card or Plum goodies.

For Jack’s fifth birthday, I wanted to do something different.  I didn’t want to add even more toys to his already bulging pile (I am pretty sick of stepping on Legos) and he’s been very adamant lately that he wants to spend time with me (usually instead of going to daycare), so I thought a shared experience would be a great alternative.

David and I discussed a trip to Disneyland but, after looking at the insanely high cost a trip like that would be and taking into account that Jack has fun playing with things like cardboard boxes, we thought something close to home would be just as good.  It didn’t take long to decide on Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo – they have a TON of rides that are tailored to younger children and, since I wasn’t sure how Jack would react to the rides, there are many animal exhibits as an added benefit.  I figured we couldn’t go wrong.

I was right!  Jack absolutely loved the theme park (EXCEPT for the roller coaster, which he “kinda hated”).  One of the coolest things about the theme park was the selection of carnival games.  I know what you’re thinking – carnival games are typically quite scammy; however, there was a balloon game with a little sign that said something like “children play until they win.”  I was beside myself with the AWESOME (especially after recently experiencing a fundraiser carnival where Jack tried several times to win and had no luck, which led to a meltdown).  I forked over $5 for a couple of darts and on his 4th try Jack managed to pop TWO balloons with one dart, shocking all of us!  Rather than go for one big prize, he decided on two smaller stuffed dolphins, one of which he gave to his 2 year old cousin Sabrina.  He named the blue one that he kept Splash.

Here is a picture of him posing triumphantly with his winnings (doesn’t he look so blasé?):

 

And the gold medal goes to Jack!

Jack was super happy to have won and Sabrina was delighted with her dolphin.  Neither child let their new toys out of their site for the rest of the day.

Let me tell you – that was the BEST $5 I have ever spent!

I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do.

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Help Empower Young Girls with a Click!

The following is a post sponsored by Yahoo! Every time someone clicks here to make Yahoo! their homepage, they’re showing their support for Girls For A Change.

I was selected for this opportunity by Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do.


Last fall I went to New York (insert New York song – it’s what dreams are made of, I hear) and attended my first blogging conference – the one and only BlogHer. I met some awesome female bloggers, including Aunt Becky of Mommy Wants Vodka fame, whom I nearly tackled coming out of a party that I couldn’t get into (I was late and the place was packed, bah!).  She was quite gracious about it, thankfully!

A few months after I came home, I found out that Aunt Becky had launched Band Back Together, which is a new little blogging baby of hers that has simply EXPLODED since it went live last fall.  I immediately fell in love with the group blogging site and its mission, which is: “Through the power of real stories written by real people, we can work together to destigmatize mental illness, abuse, rape, baby loss and other traumas so that we may learn, grow, and heal.”  I simply had to be part of this and thankfully, Becky was accepting volunteers.

The site is less than a year old and has over 1,000 members contributing.  There are over 100 resource pages to connect people with information about anything from divorce to teen pregnancy (and more are added almost daily).  Becky and the rest of the Brains Behind the Band put in countless (unpaid!) hours every day to continually improve the site and support the contributors who share so much of themselves in order to get help and help others.

I feel so incredibly lucky to be part of this site and work with so many women who want to do good things for the blogging world (plus Becky’s husband The Daver, who is also a vital part of the whole operation!).  I am inspired by Becky’s ability to bring this to life in such a short time AND make it so successful (the site has already won a Bloggie and was recognized as one of the Top 25 Mental Wellness Blogs).  And Becky doesn’t stop with the good ideas – she has recently invited teens into the fold at Band Back Together and plans to tackle non-profit paperwork next.

Which brings me to another very special non-profit organization out there called Girls For a Change. In their own words,

Girls For A Change (GFC) is a national organization that empowers girls to create social change. We invite young women to design, lead, fund and implement social change projects that tackle issues girls face in their own neighborhoods. GFC empowers girls for personal and social transformation. The program inspires girls to have the voice, ability and problem solving capacity to speak up, be decision makers, create visionary change and realize their full potential.

I’m sure you can see the similarities here.  I love that this organization is working with girls of an impressionable age to inspire, empower, and make them aware of their own strengths and influence on society.  I believe this is a great way to turn little girls into adult advocates and drivers of social change (perhaps like an Aunt Becky).

If you’d like to give a helping hand to Girls For A Change, Yahoo! is making it easy for you – click this link and follow the instructions to make Yahoo! your homepage between now and July 1st.  For each person who does this, Yahoo! will donate $10 to GFC, up to a total of $10,000.  We have until this Friday to find 1,000 individuals to meet this goal!

Please pass on this message, tweet with the hashtag #cleversforachange, get the word out on Facebook or other social networks.  I’d love to wake up Friday and see that $10K goal met!

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