A Little Update

I try not to overload Mommy Business with too much Joshua Kaye Foundation– but I’ve realized that’s probably more than a little crazy. Losing Joshua has changed us forever, and we put so much of our energy into trying to #SpreadLoveAndKindness in his memory. This weekend, we held our first Family Fun Day & Touch-a-Truck event and it was fantastic. We were so touched by the support shown by the entire community. Check out the cool video one of our friends put together. 

So many of you have reached out with kind words and support in one way or another. Thank you- I’m not sure how we’d have gotten through the last 22 months without such a supportive community.

❤M

Joshy squishy face JKF stamp

Not so Black and White

A few days ago, I shared an article and petition on our Facebook page. The petition demands that a “South African mayor stop invasive and degrading virginity tests” as scholarship criteria. I shared it because it horrifies me to think that young women are being held to certain expectations around their sexuality, and that they have to endure regular “two-finger” checks to verify their virginity. The whole practice sounds degrading and out-dated-  at least from the comfort of my middle class, American home.

Screen Shot Petition

 

A very dear friend of mine, whom I adore and respect a great deal, sent an email with an essay as a response to that post. She has graciously agreed to share it here.

Not so Black and White

By Pamela Denholm

South Africa is a wonderful country with beautiful landscapes, friendly and passionate people, and incredible diversity not often seen elsewhere: landscape, religion, culture, demographic, language—it certainly is the rainbow nation.

South Africa is also a hard country to live in. Poverty, tragedy, and injustice touch your life every day. It is unavoidable. And it is intimate. In your town, at work, at the store where you buy your bread, at the post office, at social gatherings: it is very close to home and part of your personal landscape. Do you ever give a thought to how many pairs of shoes you own? You will, when you stand in line at a supermarket behind a woman who doesn’t own any. Do you ever think about how many jackets are in your closets? Drive past a mother holding her cold child, using her body to give warmth. You might consider what to have for dinner, and walk right by a child who considers it a day of grace to have just one corn porridge meal.

What is known most about South Africa is the politics, but what affected me most about the country is how deeply the challenges exceed resources. You can give your time, you can share earnings, possessions, compassion, and do your best for your fellow man, and still feel swallowed whole having not curbed or stayed the roaring tide, not even a little. You are a pebble in a hurricane.

You are a pebble in a hurricane.

That’s not why we moved away. But, if I am brutally honest, having lived in southern Africa most of my life, I feel a mixture of relief and sadness at not having to confront it in my personal landscape anymore. Freed from the hurt, and ache, and guilt, I too can focus on what my children want in their school lunch boxes, or first world problems like why my wifi is down, and which reality tv program is the most outrageous. I don’t like feeling grateful that South Africa’s problems are not my daily reality anymore, but as with everything related to the country, her past, her present, her future: it’s complicated.

Complicated describes, too, the recent call to action on www.ThePetitionSite.com about a Mayor in Uthukele district offering scholarships to virgins. My first reaction, like so many others I am sure, was one of horror. In a country where human rights violations are stacked up against the walls of recent history hallways, the Mayor should know better. Then, I stopped to consider everything I know about Uthukele that isn’t discussed in the article. It is mostly rural, poverty is rife, and 25% of teenage girls between 15 and 19 will fall pregnant. HIV and AIDS are also epidemic, and the rape and assault statistics are out of control.

The article also failed to mention that the Mayor, Dudu Mazibuko, is a woman. She stares down these problems in her community every day. What’s more, the president of South Africa, her president, Jacob Zuma, who was born in her province where AIDS statistics are the worst in the country, was tried in the District High Court just prior to his presidency- for rape. He claimed it was consensual, but here’s the kicker: the woman he allegedly raped was HIV positive, and he knew her HIV status before they had intercourse. When he was confronted about this during the trial, he responded that he took a shower afterwards to minimize his risk of contracting the disease. He took a shower. He is the leader of a nation crippled by a rampant disease, a nation where more people live with AIDS and die of AIDS than anywhere else in the world, and not only did he engage in unprotected (and the general consensus is un-consensual) sex, he remedied the situation by taking a shower.

He was found not guilty, and the young woman who filed charges against him was granted asylum in the Netherlands the year following the verdict. Dudu is a cog in the wheel of the same government led by Jacob Zuma.

I am not Dudu. Thankfully. I am not responsible for the statistics in my district. I don’t stand behind 15 year old mothers in line at the supermarket, and I don’t have to worry at night about the welfare of the growing number of children orphaned by AIDS. Or children born with HIV. I don’t have severe budget constraints and severely limited resources to throw against a rising tide of social and economic discrepancies, and I don’t have to ask myself how I am going to keep clinics open and funded, or how I am going to make a difference in the lives of the most vulnerable demographic of my community: young women between the ages of 15 and 19. Young girls for whom early motherhood is commonplace, and contracting AIDS is much more probable than even the opportunity to attend college.

South African Classroom

Image by Temistocle Lucarelli via 123rf.com

As we righteously follow links on our laptops, iPads, or smart phones, and victoriously add our names to petitions to stop this practice, perhaps we should pause to consider what Dudu is up against, and what she is trying to achieve with the limited means she has at her disposal. I don’t condone scholarships for virgins, and I can’t, again, thankfully, say what I would do in her shoes, but I do understand that she is trying to make a difference in the lives of these young women, and she is trying to reach them before life altering (and in some cases, life ending) mistakes are made. I don’t think we should be pointing fingers at her, if we are truly outraged and want the practice to stop, we should rally to find a better solution that will help her turn the tide.

We should rally to find a better solution that will help her turn the tide.

I so appreciate Pam’s perspective. There is so much I do not have to think about or worry about on a daily basis as average (white) American woman. But my fellow women and mothers across the globe are burdened with so much. It hurts me to think about the little girls who do not get to high school, who are growing up as orphans, who are at risk for AIDS. This is a desperate time…these are desperate measures; perhaps all Mayor Mazibuko could think to do to help. It doesn’t make my heart break any less for these young women, but I’m less horrified by the scholarships than I am by the teen pregnancy and AIDS statistics.

– M

Pam - Square Headshot (1)Pamela Denholm was born is Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), and lived in South Africa for many years before moving with her husband and two children to the south shore of Massachusetts. She is proud to be a woman, and believes we should lead with compassion, understanding, and tolerance. One of her favorite books is The Reader, written by Bernard Schlink, and her favorite quote from that book: “When I tried to understand it, I had the feeling I was failing to condemn it as it must be condemned. When I condemned it as it                                           must be condemned, there was no room for understanding.”

Review & Give Away!! Connects by Fathom Company

I am not an obsessive shopper, by any means, but I loooove finding great new toys for Little A and her friends. I was thrilled to receive a collection of Connects, by Fathom-Toys, to review.

Connects are little, colorful, plastic, chain-link pieces that come in sturdy clear containers to keep them corralled. Of course I asked- the plastic is free of BPA, phthalates and lead and is compliant with ASTM F963 and EN71.

I could hardly wait to open the containers. 6 1/2 year-old Little A and her 7 year-old cousin wasted no time getting started. I had a strong feeling that my daughter would love them, but I was surprised to see my very energetic, talkative, very busy nephew sit for 45 minutes working on a beautiful, intricate necklace for his mom- AND THEN HE CAME BACK FOR MORE! It was awesome to see these two little ones, who are usually running around, maybe secretly competing for loudest child in the family, sit together, quietly focused and creating little pieces of wearable art.

Connects: bright, colorful little links

Connects: bright, colorful little links

We’ve had our Connects for about a month now, and they have quickly become one of Little A’s go-to sources of fun and entertainment and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. She loves to sort and count them, make long strands, design and create necklaces, bracelets, spy-belts to hold her clip on spy gear, leashes for her stuffed animals, and more. I like that they are portable- they don’t weigh much and are fun to bring just about anywhere.

I love that Fathom-Company is a mom-owned business. Marcela is a sweet, determined, hard-working mom who started her company with the goal of creating a multi-use toy to engage her daughters- and she did!

“I’ll still use these when I’m a grown-up!”- exclaimed by Little A as she listed all of the things she plans to do with Connects!

Other cool ideas included in her rant:

    • Make a dress
    • Cover my whole body in them
    • Make anklets and knee braces. (??)
    • OMG- I can make ornaments!
    • Make bags
    • Make banners & decorations

She did have one suggestion for improvement as she was cleaning up a big pile of Connects: “I wish that they were magnetic, so I could just use a big magnet to clean them up!” While I think that’s smart thinking, I’m going to disagree with her suggestion. I would be too nervous to have so many tiny magnets in the house with little kids and animals! Sorry kid- you can pick them up the old fashioned way. 😉

If you’d like to try Connects, you can enter to win a Tall Pail- 950 pieces!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

If you’re already itching to start your own collection, you can order online and save 15% with Mommy Business promo code MB2015!

While Fathom-Company did give us a collection of Connects to review, all reviews are always our honest opinions. Plus, I love them so much I’ve already purchased more to give as gifts!

Follow Connects on Instagram for some great ideas for fun projects!

Winner will be chosen by Rafflecopter app and notified by October 10 at midnight eastern time. Prize will be shipped directly from Fathom Company.


MSTK bio picMelissa Kaye is a Boston-based green living expert, writer, radio personality, food safety advocate, mom, and wife. She is currently working her way through grief and learning how to live without her would-be 10 year old son, Joshua, who died July 7, 2014 of E. Coli. With her husband and two daughters, she has founded Joshua Kaye Foundation, which will honor what was important to Josh- community, fairness and animal welfare. 

Connect with Melissa at mommybusiness.net or on Twitter @mstkaye and @mommybiz7. 

Autism & Asperger’s on Disney’s Girl Meets World

If I had my way, my family would only watch 2 hours of TV per week. We watch more than that, but we’re picky about the shows, especially for our 6 year old. Even on the channels we’ve always trusted, some of the shows are full of sass and even border on bullying sometimes. One show consistently gets it right, though, so we watch religiously as a family.

Girl Meets World, the sequel to Boy Meets World, features the real life,  grown-up Cory Matthews and Topanga Lawrence as the supportive and down-to-earth parents of an adorably quirky adolescent daughter, Riley. The show spotlights issues and topics that kids and families face in daily life- divorced or absent parents, materialism, fitting in, honesty, friendship, responsibility and growing up in general. The most recent episode, which aired on September 11, tackled a topic that most shows would shy away from- Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome- in an authentic way and succeeded in sending the best message possible.

GirlMeetsWorldCastPhoto

One of Riley’s three best friends, Farkle (the son of Stuart Minkus, in case you watched BMW!) is a lovable genius. He’s also a bit socially awkward and outspoken and sometimes misses social cues. In my new favorite episode, Farkle goes through a series of tests after his genius confirmation and is nervous about a possible Asperger’s diagnosis. While Farkle, the guidance counselor, and teacher (Cory Matthew, of course!) offer information about Asperger’s and Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), at no point does anyone send the message that there is something wrong with someone with either diagnosis. Ultimately, it’s revealed that another character (Isadora Smackle) does have Asperger’s and the friends realize the label doesn’t matter as much as they thought it would.

While any diagnosis can be worrisome for a parent or child, and nobody can deny the challenges faced by children and adults with ASD, it’s refreshing and necessary to realize that “normal” doesn’t need to be the goal. Although we have lots of sensory issues in my family, I’m not the mother of an autistic child. I just know how I want my children treated and how I want them to treat others. When even the most well-known Autism advocacy organization seems to be getting it wrong, it’s really nice to see a family TV show get it right!

To quote Riley Matthews, “Who wants to be normal?”

Nobody raise their hand.


 

MSTK bio picMelissa Kaye is a Boston-based green living expert, writer, radio personality, food safety advocate, mom, and wife. She is currently working her way through grief and learning how to live without her would-be 10 year old son, Joshua, who died July 7, 2014 of E. Coli. With her husband and two daughters, she has founded Joshua Kaye Foundation, which will honor what was important to Josh- community, fairness and animal welfare. 

Connect with Melissa at mommybusiness.net or on Twitter @mstkaye and @mommybiz7. 

How to Help When Your Friend’s Child is in the Hospital

Two days ago, my very good friend called me from AZ to ask for my help. She apologized, fearing her question might cause me an emotional breakdown. My sweet friend’s very dear friend is going through hell right now, and she wants to know how to help. Being that her hell looks a lot like my life last June 25-July 6, I was the person to ask. And we are always 100% honest with each other, so she knew I would give it to her straight.

So, in this case, a friend’s child is in the Intensive Care Unit at a nearby hospital, in serious condition after a very brief illness. There are pets and other children to care for. Here are my best suggestions:

1. Keep calling, texting and private messaging.

Your thoughts and prayers are helping to sustain these nervous parents. DO make sure you let them know you don’t expect a reply.

2. Offer specifics, don’t ask what you can do to help. 

If you are in a position to help, offer up ideas. Your friend’s brain is struggling to function on the most basic level right now, they will appreciate having to give only a yes or no answer. Can I pick Janie up for a playdate this afternoon? Can I take your dog for a walk or a sleepover at my place until you’re all back home? Or, if you’re very close- don’t even ask, tell. “I’m coming to the hospital at noon and bringing lunch and some clean clothes. Let me know if there’s anything specific you’d like me to bring.” Or “I’m stopping by your house on my way home to take your trash out, feed the cats, switch the laundry and drop off a lasagna in case anyone is planning to sleep at home tonight.” You don’t have to commit to anything big, but don’t be afraid to if you just can’t sit still.

3. Bring a few simple things when you visit the hospital.

Bottled water, lip balm, SOFT tissues and a few small, healthy snacks. While you’re there for a visit, make sure you watch mom and dad take a few bites and a few sips. When a child is sick, the parents are running on adrenaline and don’t even notice their hunger or thirst, but they’ll need their strength to get through this hard time.

shutterstock_164906795*Shutterstock image

4. Don’t let your friend play host!

Remind the parents that you and other friends are there to help and they should not feel pressure to entertain you. Maybe encourage them to sit and snuggle their child and take a break from thinking about the medical stuff for just a few minutes. If they need to stretch their legs, go for a walk outside in the fresh air for a few minutes, but be mindful of why you’re there.

5. Keep people in the loop.

Offer to update your other friends or your school community. I appreciated the support of our friends and family so much, and knowing that the entire school community was also pulling for us meant the world to my family and me. In the event that there won’t be a happy ending, it is beneficial for the students to have had a heads-up that their friend was sick or injured. But the real benefit here is the support and love of the community.

6. After the whole ordeal, whether there was a miraculous recovery, or a parent’s worst nightmare comes true, acknowledge the trauma.

When a family loses a child, the entire community mourns. It’s ok to talk about your feelings- in fact, it’s soothing, or at least heart-warming when my friends tell me, through tears, how much they miss my son. When a family suffers the trauma of watching their child suffer and survive, there is a huge sense of relief, but the trauma is still there. The child is resilient, but the parents may need more time to recover. Bring food, mow the lawn, clean the house, check in.

In the hardest times, we find our true community. I hope this helps you be there for your friend in their time of need. – M ❤️


MSTK bio picMelissa Kaye is a Boston-based green living expert, writer, radio personality, food safety advocate, mom, and wife. She is currently working her way through grief and learning how to live without her would-be 10 year old son, Joshua, who died July 7, 2014 of E. Coli. With her husband and two daughters, she has founded Joshua Kaye Foundation, which will honor what was important to Josh- community, fairness and animal welfare. 

Connect with Melissa at mommybusiness.net or on Twitter @mstkaye and @mommybiz7. 

 

Why We’re Suing Whole Foods and Rain Crow Ranch

My husband, Andrew Kaye, wrote the following this afternoon, after reading that Rain Crow Ranch had been forced to suspend operations. I couldn’t have put my thoughts together better than this.

This is the ranch whose product infected our son, Joshua, with the E. coli that killed him after he ate it and also sickened multiple children.

This is the ranch who had a different recall a week before we bought the ground beef that made Joshua sick.

This is the ranch run by an owner who openly preaches that you can not get E. coli from grass-fed beef.

This is the ranch which Whole Foods lent money to in order to buy/convert the processing plant that was just shut down, the processing plant which has had a long “contentious relationship” with Federal Safety Inspection Services.

This is the ranch whose products Whole Foods relies upon to supply their Northeast region with grass-fed beef.

This is the ranch whose products Whole Foods has never removed from their stores.

This is the ranch whose products Whole Foods continues to tout as meeting the highest standards for quality and safety.

Sadly, this is is the ranch who will be back up and running again before you know it and sadly, Whole Foods will, in all likelihood, keep on selling their beef while touting their bogus feel-good family farm story.

Because it is about money. If it were about safety or quality or, to quote Whole Foods oft-repeated and incredibly insulting term, “an abundance of caution”, they’d cut ties.

So, for anyone that may question for a moment why my wife and I are suing Whole Foods and Rain Crow, it is to hit them in the only place that matters to them, the wallet. To make the cost of doing business the wrong way costlier than doing it the right way.

Until then, when they sicken or, God forbid, kill the next kid, may the lot of them face criminal charges.

♥️One of my photos of Andy with Joshua ♥️

♥️One of my favorite photos of Andy with Joshua ♥️

Review: Enjoy Life Muffin Mix

Enjoy Life sent us a beautiful package with lots of their mixes to try out. It was so exciting to open the box and see all of the yummy options, along with a fancy new oven mitt, pizza cutter, spatula and wooden spoon. Such great packaging and presentation. Enjoy Life knows what they’re doing!

Such great packaging and so many goodies!

Such great packaging and so many goodies!

We have lots of food allergies in our families. Jenn’s kids are allergic to mango, peanuts, tree nuts, pistachio, cashew, and sesame.

At my house, we’ve got Little A with gluten, oats, soy, dairy, peanuts, tree nuts, coconut, all legumes, cinnamon, sesame and sunflower seed. We keep things very simple and cook & bake with as few ingredients as possible. I’m allergic to clams, gluten, and dairy, and my husband, Andy, is lobster, egg, banana. The great news is that even Andy can have these mixes. ALL OF THEM!! It’s so hard to find safe mixes that don’t include egg, but Enjoy Life has solved that problem! Every box is free of the top 8 allergens. The only ingredients you need to add are: water and the oil of your choice! (I use Kirkland brand organic olive oil from Costco.)

This sweet new wooden spoon is perfect to use with my favorite mixing bowl!

This sweet new wooden spoon is perfect to use with my favorite mixing bowl!

It was rainy and chilly in Boston today, so I spent the afternoon baking! I started with some muffins. I’m sure they would have been good just plain, but I added blueberries and a crumb topping, because Andy likes berries!

Fresh Maine Wild Blueberries- YUM!

Fresh Maine Wild Blueberries- YUM!

The muffins came out great! The flavor and feel is as good as my from-scratch muffins. To make them even more perfect, I would add 1/2-1 teaspoon of vanilla extract next time. And chocolate chips. I love blueberries, but Enjoy Life chocolate chips are my weakness!!!!!

I ate two immediately after taking this photo!

I ate two immediately after taking this photo!

 

A couple of notes:

If you’re going to add blueberries, be sure to toss them in a little gluten-free flour first. This will help them hang out in the muffin without sinking to the bottom.

They’re yummy warm, with a little butter (or Earth Balance soy-free spread) but I think the taste and texture are best after they cool for a bit.

Mmmmmm... warm with butter!

Mmmmmm… warm with butter!

 

My recipe for crumb topping:

3 Tablespoons butter, or butter substitute, very cold and chopped into little pieces

1 1/2 Tablespoons brown sugar

2 Tablespoons sugar

1/2 Cup gluten-free flour

 

Mix with a fork or your fingers until it is blended and crumbly.

Sprinkle on top of muffins, bake, and enjoy!

*As mentioned above, the mixes were sent to us by Enjoy Life, so that Jenn & I could try them and write an honest review. As always, opinions on MommyBusiness.net are our own. You know we always tell truth! -M

Without the Birthday Boy…

Ten years ago, at this moment, I was in labor. I was 4 hours and 35 minutes away from bringing my beautiful son into this world. I was rocking permanent dents into the carpet of my bedroom with every contraction.. trying to stay quiet in my new rocking chair so my family could rest, elated that my baby boy would soon be snuggling in my arms. No matter how many crazy worries went through my head, I never imagined I would be here tonight without my son.

Josh would be SO happy to be celebrating double digits. And we would be happy to do anything he wanted for his birthday. The January before he died, we started the tradition of decorating the dining room with birthday streamers and a banner and balloons and really going all out in the simple ways that make a kid feel special. I could tell he was a tiny bit jealous of his little sister that day, and I was so looking forward to spoiling him in that same way for his birthday 6 1/2 months later. We never got the chance. We spent the days leading up to his 9th birthday trying to wrap our heads around the fact that our son would not be there to celebrate. Our little boy was dead. Forever 8 years old.

We spent his last few days making promises to him- ways we would celebrate his birthday and spoil him when he woke up. Not “if.” We would help him build the treehouse of his dreams. We would even call Pete from Treehouse Masters if he wanted. I would let him skip the next year of school if he wanted, and just spend time doing everything he had ever wanted to do. We meant every word.

On August 3, 2015 at 5:35 AM, Joshua Quentin Kaye will be 10 years old, but he won’t be here to celebrate, to hug, to spoil. I will do my best to hug and love and spoil whoever I am with- all day. I hope you will do the same. #ThisIsForJosh

Josh at NEWC fence JKF Stamp

 

 

 

 

Marking A Year…

We lost Joshy just 27 days before his 9th birthday. Those were the some of the saddest days of the saddest year of our lives, but so much love was shown to us. Losing a child forces lessons on parents, siblings, and friends. We realize that life is short and tomorrow is not guaranteed. The little moments with our children matter more than anything. And telling someone you love them shouldn’t wait!

As we mark our first whole year without him, we’d like these next few weeks to be filled with love. Tomorrow, 7/7 through Josh’s birthday, 8/3, we’d love it if you’d join us in spreading joy and love by sharing how you stay present in the moment, share your love, or spread kindness, using the hashtag #ThisIsForJosh on social media.

Joshy Tying Little A's Shoe

Joshy Tying Little A’s Shoe ❤️

How NOT to Do Customer Service

Oh. My. God. I just hung up the phone with Panasonic customer service and I am ready to pull out my hair.

I bought a Panasonic canister vacuum in January from Target.com- I even sprung for the extended warranty. Well, the vacuum stopped working- just stopped, won’t turn on. Things happen, no big deal, this is why warranties exist. So, I called Target. Super short call with a very nice person who advised me that the vacuum was still under the manufacturer’s warranty, so I would need to speak with Panasonic directly. She even transferred me. Super easy.

After a few minutes of automated prompts, followed by a few minutes of hold time, a nice Panasonic employee answered the call. I explained my situation and she said I would have to drop the vacuum off in South Windsor. Very nonchalantly, like that was the next town over from me. South Windsor is in CONNECTICUT. 1 hour and 50 minutes away. I told the agent that it was too far a drive. Oh, not to worry- they’ll “be happy to reimburse for 50% of the cost of shipping.” I’m sorry… WHAAAT?!?!

I calmly explained that since the vacuum broke less than 6 months after purchase and there was not a service location nearby, it was enough of an inconvenience to have a broken vacuum and to have to lug said vacuum to a UPS store, but to have to pay (prob $100?) was not something I was willing to do. When she said there was nothing more she could do, I asked her to to transfer me to a manager.

A manager got on the line after a few minutes and sounded like she was reading a script. She literally told me that when I purchased the vacuum, I automatically agreed to the terms of the warranty, which, according to her, state that 50% of shipping would be covered by the customer. (I’m not sure how I was supposed to agree to something I couldn’t see inside a sealed cardboard box, but, for kicks, I looked it up on their site. And- surprise!- there is no mention of the customer being responsible for 50% of the shipping costs.) Once again, I explained the situation and why I felt a customer should not be responsible for paying for shipping in this situation. I asked to speak to her manager. She insisted she did not have a manager, but told me I could write to consumer affairs. No telephone number or email- snail mail only. Seriously.

I know, from experience, that there are far worse things in this world, but I don’t have patience for things that waste my time. And, as a business owner, I can not wrap my head around the way Panasonic has failed to empower their customer service managers to resolve issues in a reasonable and responsible way.

This is exactly how NOT to do customer service.

-M