Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The White House and the winter garden. Plus: The Roundup

Last week's excursion to the White House didn't end indoors. After the small roundtable discussion with Michelle Obama, the other invited journalists and I joined a couple hundred teachers and school officials on the White House South lawn to celebrate the winners of the Healthier U.S. School Challenge.

On the South Lawn, October 17, 2011.

After milling around and munching on apples, White House chef Sam Kass took us down to the official White House garden for an exclusive tour. You can read about it on Yahoo! Shine, of course: The White House and the winter garden: Eating local all year long. My favorite part was getting to snack on pineapple basil blossoms and learning about some of the Thomas Jefferson heirloom seeds that they had planted, courtesy of Monticello. Here are a few pictures from that tour:

A slate tablet in the garden. (Photo: Lylah M. Alphonse)

Part of the White House garden. (Photo: Lylah M. Alphonse)

White House chef Sam Kass with the Thomas Jefferson fig tree. (Photo: Lylah M. Alphonse)

Chef Kass picks one of the last of the pumpkins. (Photo: Lylah M. Alphonse)

The White House garden, with the Washington Monument in the background. (Photo: Lylah M. Alphonse)

And now, The Roundup:

On Yahoo! Shine:

On Work It Mom!:

On 4 Kids or More:

On the Savvy Source for Parents:

Monday, October 24, 2011

Michelle Obama on work, life, and parenthood

First Lady Michelle Obama (third from right) holds a roundtable discussion on the "Let's Move" initiative and motherhood issues in the Old Family Dining Room of the White House on October 17, 2011. Yes, that's me sitting right next to the first lady! (Official White House Photo: Chuck Kennedy)

I spent the beginning of last week at the White House, taking part in a small round table discussion with First Lady Michelle Obama. The focus was supposed to be on fitness, health, and her "Let's Move!" initiative, but as we went around the table in the Old Family Dining room, introducing ourselves, the conversation quickly turned to the thing we all had in common: juggling work and life.

The eight other journalists and I asked questions about non-political, personal topics: How she's trying to make the White House feel like home to her two daughters, how to stay motivated and focused while living in the public eye, how to handle stress, kids and screen time, and more.

"Like any mother, I am just hoping that I don't mess them up," Mrs. Obama said of her daughters, Malia (age 13) and Sasha (age 10). "Even when times are tough, in the end you are as happy as your least happy child."

Given my perpetual search for work-life balance, is it any wonder that I asked the first lady how she manages to find her own? Here's what she told me:

Friday, October 21, 2011

Let your kids go crazy with Glow Crazy! This weekend only...

My youngest kids' newest obsession is the Glow Crazy Distance Doodler, a cool play-in-the-dark concept. It's pretty simple: Load up the special light wand with AAA batteries, smooth a sheet of light-sensitive paper onto the wall, turn off the lights, and draw on the walls with impunity. The light-sensitive paper fades to darkness again in a few minutes--the images last long enough for a few cut-throat games of tic-tac-toe, but fade quickly enough to use over and over again before bedtime.

This weekend only, the makers of Glow Crazy are offering a special deal: Buy a Glow Crazy Distance Doodler (they're available at WalMart, Toys R Us, and stores) and you'll get a cool Glow Glove for free. (You'll need the UPC code from the Distance Doodler box and your dated store register receipt; details are here.)

If you're doing a little early holiday shopping, this is worth checking out!

Note: Aside from a sample for my kids to try out, the makers of Glow Crazy have not compensated me in any way for this post. I just really love the product!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Can lingerie ads also be sexist? Plus: The Roundup

Supermodel Gisele Bundchen's latest ads for Hope lingerie have set off a firestorm in her native Brazil, where the country's first female president, Dilma Rousseff, has denounced them as sexist and demanded that Brazil's National Council for Advertising Self-Regulation investigate the campaign.

You can view all three of the ads over at Yahoo! Shine, but here's the gist: Each one starts off with the Brazilian bombshell dowdily dressed, looking contrite and just a little upset, confessing something that could infuriate her husband (she crashed the car, she spent too much money shopping, her mother is coming to stay for while).  Then the word "errado"—Portuguese for "wrong"—flashes on the screen. The next shot shows Bundchen making the same confession, but while standing in a come-hither pose, wearing nothing but high heels, a push-up bra, and panties (and some major confidene). A bell dings, and the word "certo"—"right"—appears.

"You're a Brazilian woman. Use your charm," a man's voice says in Portuguese as Gisele struts across the screen in skimpy lingerie and sky-high stilettos.

"The campaign promotes the misguided stereotype of a woman as a sexual object of her husband and ignores the major advances we have achieved in deconstructing sexist practices and thinking," Rousseff's Secretariat for Women's Politics said in a statement. They also accused Hope Lingerie of promoting "discriminatory content against women," which is against Brazil's constitution.

So, is the ad sexist and exploitative, as President Rousseff claims? Personally, I don't think so. For one thing, she's shilling lingerie (and her own lingerie line, at that). For another, she's the highest-paid supermodel out there right now, and Hope Lingerie paid her a bundle.

Click over to Shine and watch the videos at "Gisele Bundchen and lingerie: Are these ads sexist?". What do you think?

And now, The Roundup:

On Yahoo! Shine:

On Work It Mom!:

On 4 Kids or More:

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Should marriage be temporary? Plus: The Roundup


Lawmakers in Mexico City have come up with a new and controversial way to address that city's soaring divorce rates: by making marriage temporary.

Instead of "'Til death do us part," couples would be allowed to decide on the length of their marriage (minimum length: two years). The temporary contracts would contain prenup-like legalese about financial support, how marital assets would be divided, and who gets custody of the kids. And at the end of the contract, happy (or semi-happy) couples could opt to renew for another two years, while those who are tired of being together could simply walk away without a legal hassle.

Mexico has the second-largest Catholic population in the world (after Brazil) and, needless to say, the Catholic Church isn't too keen on the idea.

"This reform is absurd. It contradicts the nature of marriage," said Hugo Valdemar, spokesman for the Mexican archdiocese. "It's another one of these electoral theatrics the assembly tends to do that are irresponsible and immoral."

What do you think? You can read the rest (and jump in to the 100+ comments) on Shine: I do... for now. Mexico City considers temporary marriages

The Roundup continues! Here's what you may have missed last week:

On Shine:

On Work It Mom

On 4 Kids or More

Monday, October 3, 2011

Rock a child's world: The 2012 Children's Hospital Boston Battle of the Bands

It's too easy to do nothing, because you think that what you can do just isn't enough. But doing what you love can also help others. Case in point: The 2012 Children's Hospital Boston Battle of the Bands.

The competition is part of Generation Cures, a philanthropic organization that raises awareness about the power of giving and science. Student bands (minimum size: two people) who sign up and raise funds for the hospital get a chance to perform at a live Battle of the Bands at the Hard Rock Cafe in Boston on Feb. 12, 2012. 

To sign up, go to and submit an original song with a positive, upbeat, “make it better” theme and then set up an online fundraising page; each band has to promise to raise at least $500 by Dec. 22 in order to be eligible to compete.

For two weeks in January (Jan 4-18) fans will be able to vote for the best band online at the Generation Cures website. The top eight bands will rock out at the Hard Rock, and the winner will receive a cool bundle of prizes, including studio time and chances to perform elsewhere. (There are also prizes for the 2nd and 3rd place bands and the band that raises the most money for Children's Hospital Boston.)

Bonus: Student bands that sign up by today (Oct. 5) at can be in the running for a little something extra: A recording session on the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus. The state-of-the-art mobile recording studio and high-definition production facility will be at Children's Hospital Boston on Oct. 9.

Get rocking!