wait, Nutella is BAD for you?

Add it to the Making-Us-All-Look-Bad Files:  California mother Athena Hohnenberg sued Nutella because their marketing led her to believe their Duncan Hines frosting in an European jar was healthy.

Or maybe it’s the Making-Us-All-Look-Like-Idiots-For-Not-Doing-It-First Files, since a California judge has just ordered Ferrero Inc to pay her three million dollars.

I totally, absolutely do not get this. Sure, I have deluded myself that stirring Nutella into my children’s morning oatmeal was more refined than dumping a melted Snickers bar in there. But I did so fully aware that I was kidding myself. When the nutritional information is right there on the side of the jar, I’m not sure how you can argue that it’s Nutella’s fault if you’re in denial.

The judge agreed with Hohnenberg’s assertion that Nutella’s advertising was deliberately misleading. While Ferrero doesn’t actually come out on TV and SAY “This stuff is arteriosclerosis on a spoon,” I don’t think they ever did a better job of convincing me they were “part of this healthy breakfast” than, say, Frankenberry.

This reminds me of a similar lawsuit two and a half years ago when Baby Einstein was shockingly proven to not make babies geniuses. Apparently someone’s kid got to pre-K without diagramming sentences in German, sued Disney, and that was the end of what had been my children’s favorite age-appropriate viewing.

At that time Vicky Rideout of the Kaiser Family Foundation justified the Baby Einstein burning-at-the-stake this way:

My impression is that parents really believe these videos are good for their children, or at the very least, not really bad for them.

You know what? That is EXACTLY my impression. The Baby Einstein DVD’s were, at the very least, “not really bad” for my children. Not compared to a lot of other stuff on television. And I feel the same way about Nutella: relax. It’s not poison in a jar. If you didn’t bother reading the label on what you were feeding your children, that’s your shortcoming. Don’t ruin the chocolatey goodness for the rest of us.

Do you think we need to be protected from Nutella or Baby Einstein? Did you believe their claims or find them misleading?


Fresh Direct: making moms’ lives easier (giveaway)

Raising a family in New York City has its benefits and its drawbacks, but when people tell me they can’t imagine living here ,I think it’s because they truly can’t.  “I could never live with all that noise,” people tell me, and they’re right– because by “there,” they mean the Marriott in Times Square on New Year’s Eve. (I couldn’t live there either.)

Another assumption non-New-Yorkers have about living here is that the grocery shopping experience must be horrible. “Do you go every DAY?” they ask. “How could you ever get a big delivery of food home on the subway?” When people say this, I smile sweetly, and say, “You have no idea how good I have it.”

I’ve been a loyal customer of FreshDirect since 2002, the year that they opened for business and I became a mother. Fresh Direct allows you to order your groceries online and have them delivered to your door at your convenience. They have healthy kids’ meals. They have heat-and-eat lunches on the go. They have the best fresh guacamole anywhere. And my 7-year-old swears by their meatballs.

Here’s how I shop for groceries: I sit down with my computer. “What do you guys want for dinner this week?” I yell. They tell me; I add it to my cart. If one of my kids is jonesing for lasagna, I can look up a lasagna recipe on FreshDirect’s website and add all the ingredients I need to make it to my cart with one click. After the kids go to bed, I’ll finish up my order over a glass of wine and a DVR’ed episode of the Daily Show. The next morning? Home-delivered perfection.

I LOVE FreshDirect. They make my life easier. And now I love them even more, because they’ve become a national sponsor for Listen To Your Mother, a national series of readings “giving Mother’s Day a microphone” coming to ten cities in the next month. I’m directing the NYC premiere on May 6th. (You do have your tickets, right?)

Not only is FreshDirect supporting our show, they’ve given us a promo code for new customers! 15% off your first order with code PR12LTYM. (FreshDirect currently servesthe five boroughs of New York City, parts of Westchester, Connecticut and New Jersey currently; they’ll be expanding to other delivery areas soon.) If you’ve been thinking about trying FreshDirect, now’s the perfect time to give it a shot (and support Listen To Your Mother by using the promo code).

AND! I am giving away a $50 gift card to shop at FreshDirect!

Good stuff. To enter, comment below and tell me why you want to win.

You can get additional entries by doing one of or more of the following– just let me know in the comments which you’ve done:

  • Follow FreshDirect on Facebook.
  • Follow FreshDirect on Twitter.
  • Tweet out: I just entered to win a $50 gift card for @FreshDirect! http://bit.ly/freshdirectgiveaway via @amywlsn

This giveaway will end on Sunday, May 6th. Winner will be posted on this site. Happy shopping! 

This post is sponsored by FreshDirect, a sponsor of Listen to Your Mother.

what Erma Bombeck taught me (just this past weekend)

This past weekend I joined 350 other (mostly) female writers from around the country at the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop at the University of Dayton. I started reading Erma’s columns in first grade and I never really stopped, since my mother, besides staking every one of Erma’s columns to our refrigerator with a giant fruit magnet, also had every one of her books around our house. Even fifteen years after her passing, to anyone who tries to combine parenting with a sense of humor, Erma is the North Star. (Funny how all weekend each speaker, and every attendee, called her by her first name, as if she were our dear friend. To anyone who loves her writing, that’s how it feels.)

Need I say I loved every moment of this conference? Here are just a few things I learned from Erma and her tribe this weekend:

-I learned that we can put it to bed forever: women are funny. Yeah, you heard me, Christopher Hitchens, wherever you may be.  You heard me, Jerry Lewis (cause I sure heard you; I was in the room when you told the Aspen Comedy Festival that we weren’t). I mean, I already knew it. But now? I think we might actually be funnier than men.

-I learned women “of a certain age” are funny. Scratch that: especially women of a certain age are funny. The comedy world may have a different point of view. As Tina Fey rocking-ly put it in Bossypants,

“I know older men in comedy who can barely feed and clean themselves, and they still work. The women, though, they’re all ‘crazy.’ I have a suspicion — and hear me out, because this is a rough one — that the definition of ‘crazy’ in show business is a woman who keeps talking even after no one wants to f*ck her anymore.”

But they’re wrong. So never mind the tweet from one man at the Erma conference claiming it was a sea middle-aged women tittering about “menopause and mah-jongg.” Never mind showrunner Lee Arohnson saying “Enough, ladies. I get it. You have periods.” They’re saying that because when they see women making other women laugh, they’re not sure just what we’re laughing about. And that makes them a teeny bit afraid.

-I learned that when a retired public schoolteacher tries stand-up for the first time, and I make assumptions (based mostly on her conservative hairstyle) about how funny she will be, and then she makes me laugh until I hurt myself, that I have just been schooled.

– I learned, thanks to the hilarious and feminist Gina Barreca, that “humor is a way to make trouble, a way to get at issues.”

– I learned, thanks to the hilarious and prolific Adriana Trigiani, that writing comedy can be a spiritual gift to those who read it.

– I learned from the wise Katrina Kittle that the character I thought was there merely to spice up the background of the novel I’m starting to (think about starting to) write is actually the heroine.

– I learned, from Erma’s adult children reading her essays to us (and making us bawl), that you can laugh with your kids, and maybe even at them, and they’ll grow up to love you all the more for it.

When I read Erma- even now- I laugh, and I feel less alone, and I marvel at how she always managed to make herself the subject of the joke. No snark. Lots of love. I wonder what she’d be writing about now, what she’d think of this damned mob of scribbling women taking up where she left off, telling the truth and making women laugh, on thousands of websites and blogs and stages everywhere.

I like to think she’d be pretty proud of what she’s started.

me with Bill Bombeck, April 21, 2012

I KNOW! I just wish.

My four-year-old has figured out a new way of testing the waters.

Scene: Kitchen. Morning.

MAGGIE: I wish I could have some of my Easter candy right now.

ME: No candy for breakfast, Maggie.

Maggie rolls her eyes.

MAGGIE: Mommy, I KNOW! I just WISH!

Egg on your face, Mommy! Weren’t you even listening?

I have to say, I’m impressed by the elegance of this logical parry:

  1. Verbalize a desire. Don’t ask for what you want; just muse aloud about it.
  2. Wait for other people in the room to respond.
  3. If they say yes– wow, you’ve just scored.
  4. If they say no– then you just go like, what’s with you, weirdo? I *wasn’t* ASKING. I was just WISHING. Just musing aloud.

I think it’s kind of brilliant. I’m starting to imagine all the arenas of self-actualization where I could give this a try.

Scene: Nordstrom Shoe Department

ME: I wish you would give me every Jimmy Choo in my size for fifty dollars. 


ME: Every pair. And I would pay fifty dollars for all of them. The whole lot.

SULLEN SALESGIRL: *blank stare*

ME: I KNOW! I just WISH!


Scene: The London Hotel. Cocktails. 

ME: I wish you’d give me a deal for a second book. 

EDITOR: Well, the publishing industry is in a bit of a transition–

ME: I KNOW! I just WISH!

I have a bit of trouble going after what I want, naming it, chasing it, entitling myself to the desire and the deserving of it.

I think most women do. I think we’re not supposed to know what we want and ask for it.

And so I’m kind of thrilled that my daughter does wish. And ask. And I hope that she keeps it up. I might even let her have the Easter candy for breakfast next time.

Is there something that you’re too afraid to ask for?


should we get a dog? My head says no, but…

Somebody please stop me.

I’m thinking of getting my kids a dog.

I mean, out of all the mothers I swore I’d never be, dog owner was probably right up there– forging the final link in my chain to eternal enforced domesticity.

Living in New York City makes it even worse: you can’t just open the back door and send your dog out to fertilize the lawn. You have to walk the dog until it poops, pick it up, throw it out, repeat in six hours. (Or however long dogs go between poops. How should I know. Have you sensed I’m not really a dog person?)

Not to mention that that we live in an apartment that already seems crowded enough without a shedding, slobbering beast  to lay all over the couch and clear rooms with its gas.

On the other hand, this.

And this.

We babysat these two doggy siblings for about twenty minutes at the beach while their owners took a walk.

My kids flipped. My kids said “Look Mom! I taught him a trick!” My kids are still talking about it.

Today, the New York Times published an article by Dr. Perri Klass: Can Fido and Whiskers Enrich Children’s Lives?  I would say that Dr. Klass comes down on the rather vehement side of yes. Per Dr. Klass’s research, the benefits include:

  • teaching children skills they can use in social interactions with humans.
  • giving children who have difficulty with human bonds the opportunity to form such a bond with an animal
  • calming children in stressful situations
  • giving children incentive to exercise and be outside
  • protecting children from allergies to animals, if they are exposed to pets in the home early in life
  • providing unconditional love  (“at least, if you have a treat in your hand”)
  • giving children a “much more inclusive sense of self”

I will definitely be hiding today’s Times from my children, who need no further ammunition. But Klass and her experts have almost totally convinced me: for all three of my children, especially for the one who suffers from anxiety, a dog would probably be a wonderful thing.

Although it’s not lost on me that no one’s asking whether Fido and Whiskers would enrich mothers’ lives. Probably because the answer to that one is too obvious. I just know, by week two, I’ll be doing the feeding and the brushing and the walking and the teeth brushing and the petting. And the loving. Okay, yes. I’ll probably be doing some loving, too.

Do you own pets? Did you do it for your kids?  In your experience, has it been worth all the hassles?