A few weeks ago Dave, Ransom, Rhys & I had a BLAST at the McDonald’s Family Time Getaway weekend. It was my first ever invitation to be a part of a “mommy blogger” trip, so I’ve been super excited to share about it. It was a fun-for-the-whole-family trip and they totally lived up to their claims! Read on for a very cool giveaway!

This is a sponsored post from BlogHer and McDonald’s.

Like me, you may be addicted to love McDonald’s French fries or a good old Quarter Pounder but secretly wonder if the Golden Arches aren’t a big bad multi-billion dollar corporation underneath all those billions served signs decorating their front lawns. Well…

I’ll give you the skinny on all things McDonald’s and let you decide.  I too, have had my doubts about the whole gig especially since films like & the recent documentary have not been so kind to Ronald McDonald & his friends.  While I would highly encourage you to see those films I’d love to give my point of view on not only these issues, but other aspects of McDonald’s you may not know about.

First things first –we had so much fun as a family!  Everything from an amazing BBQ, the early morning pick-up, the giant swag bag filled with fun toys, games, puzzles, tee-shirts –a vintage score!– to their overwhelmingly hospitable attitude and very detailed schedule for our time there.  It was a very nice treat for our fam.

You should have seen Ran's face when Ronald came out to visit at our welcome BBQ!

You should have seen Ran's face when Ronald came out to visit at our welcome BBQ!

As for Rhys…

...not so much.

...not so much.

The sprawling property of McDonalds Headquarters was absolutely stunning!

The sprawling property of McDonalds Headquarters was absolutely stunning!

You can see the rest of the pics of our family and our raucously good time

Our family took part in multiple hands on sensory experiences, like eating the original Egg McMuffin with ham and cheese the exact way it is supposed to be made.

mcdonalds_egg_mcmuffinHoly Mother Of McMuffins. It was beyond good.  I admit, I have been to McDonald’s twice for one since they roped me into loving this tasty little treat.

Ransom and the kids made homemade smoothies with every possible fresh & juicy fruit they could imagine with head chef Dan.  The fact that Ransom -my finicky eater- took a plate of strawberries, blueberries & blackberries, mixed them up, drank them, offered them to me and smiled was worth the whole weekend! ;)

Ransom was Berry Excited! :)

Ransom was Berry Excited! :)

The next day, we got a window into the heart of Mickey D’s…

Have you ever noticed those plastic little boxes hanging off the drive through window and next to the credit card swiper on McDonalds’ counters.  They wait ready & willing for you to insert your spare change.  Those donation boxes are the (RMHC) Ronald McDonald House Charities biggest fund-raisers collecting more than $18 million in the U.S. per year!

The goal of the RMHC for over 35 years is to allow families to stay together (no matter what their financial status) which in turn helps children to heal faster and cope better. To date there are 300 Ronald McDonald Houses in 30 countries worldwide which serve more than 7,200 families each day around the world!!! It was awesome to learn even more about McDonald’s “charity of choice.”  We toured the Oak Lawn Ronald McDonald House, which was so incredibly beautiful & serene.

the gorgeous 3 story winding staircase at the Oabrook RMH. It's meant to communicate arms stretched out welcoming the families in.

The gorgeous 3 story winding staircase at the Oabrook RMH. It's meant to communicate arms stretched out welcoming the families in.

Before this trip I had only a vague idea of what the RMHC’s are all about. A few years ago some of my dear friends used a Ronald McDonald House while they took care of their infant daughter as she received multiple heart surgeries & ultimately went home to be with the Lord.  Later on they raved about how wonderful the overall experience of the Ronald McDonald house was.  Upon taking the tour, it seems they are not alone.

I can’t imagine how hard it would be to navigate a seriously ill child enduring long procedures, a semi-permanent hospital stay and the mounting bills that accompany all of this drama.  I am so. very. grateful. for a charity to do the work of caring for these families in a great time of need.

When your child is deathly ill what more could you ask for than to be around people who understand exactly what you’re going through while living all together in a beautiful, clean, safe environment so that you can rest and regroup to face another challenging day?

Many folks there couldn’t quite find the words to articulate what this type of support meant to them.  In fact, anyone who has ever used the facility has done nothing less than break down in grateful sobs when they describe the benefits of living at the RMHC. It’s quite amazing when you consider that they welcome over 3,000 of these very tired and very grateful people every day.  Here’s a of our visit to the Oak Lawn, Chicago area Ronald McDonald House.

Thank God for organizations like this right?

I think it struck such a powerful chord in my heart because of my belief that human beings are –at our core- intended to be in loving, accepting, peaceful community. Brought together by tragedy, the Ronald McDonald Houses are providing that safe haven for people, creating an instant community.

After the Oak Lawn RMHC tour we toured the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile.  The Care Mobile’s are basically traveling clinics that offer health care for kids –in their own neighborhood- who cannot afford it otherwise.  The Care Mobiles serve more than 150,000 US families saving them more than $10 million a year in health care costs!!!  It was just amazing to see the love that is going into organizing where these GIANT trucks go and how they care for these kids.

Like "Meals on Wheels," except with Doctors & Dental Chairs! :)

Like "Meals on Wheels," except with Doctors & Dental Chairs! :)

The Care Mobiles are essentially staffed by over 30,000 volunteers globally who commit their time and talents to serve children in need.

If you’re interested in serving with the RMHC or the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile, PLEASE check it out here! You and your fam can volunteer by serving dinner at a House or by simply helping with summer yard work.  Or, you can skip that and donate financially or give goods.  Get creative.

The bold & strategic initiative to care for underprivileged kids –whom I identify with because of my own humble beginnings in inner city Detroit- has left me grateful and extremely appreciative.

For that I’d like to say, kudos, Mickey D’s, kudos.

Us Mama type’s think a great deal about how healthy -or unhealthy- the food is for our kids, especially when we start thinking about how often our kids eat McDonald’s.  You should know they’re making a major effort & a serious commitment to our kids’ well being. In fact, over the last 20 years they have continuously reduced the total number of calories per meal for a standard Happy Meal.  It is now down to 410 calories.

Vintage Happy Meal Barbie. We toured the Happy Meal Toys archives. Very cool.

Vintage Happy Meal Barbie. We toured the Happy Meal Toys archives. Very cool.

You may have heard in the news lately that the CSPI (Center for Science in the Public Interest) is attempting to sue McDonald’s over the use of Happy Meal toys.

(Are you kidding me,?!)  We are the parents.  It’s our decision to take our kids to McDonald’s -or any other restaurant that markets *fast* food on any given day.  We also decide whether or not they get said toy, cookies, shake or ice cream.  This is our responsibility, not McDonald’s or any other company who markets their products to our kids.  Seriously,  I hope the CSPI finds better things to do with their time!

All that said, after learning from Dan, the head chef, the chief nutritionist and various others who have a hand in meal prep from the farm to the table, I feel good about allowing Ransom -and eventually Rhys-y Bear- to eat a Happy Meal while were on the road.

Here’s a few fun facts for ya that struck my fancy:

1.  McDonald’s is continuously trying to improve and offer balanced choices for kids including the Apple Dippers, the Milk Jugs (as opposed to the sugary sodas), offering nutrition info & working to make fruits and veggies fun for the kiddos.  (Have your kids ).  They have put a lot of effort into making McDonald’s a healthier place for little ones.  Did you know that they offer pineapple spears in France, kiwi on a stick in Italy, corn cups in Japan/Asia, cherry tomatoes in Brazil and  fizzy fruit drinks in Australia?!?! How cool is that?  They tried carrot sticks here but apparently our kids weren’t having it.

The Marketing to help kids choose fruits/veggies in other countries. Man, I wish we could get some Kiwi in the U.S.!

The Marketing to help kids choose fruits/veggies in other countries. Man, I wish we could get some Kiwi in the U.S.!

2.  McDonald’s is working to make the healthier option foods fun by offering characters like Shrek on the milk jugs which has serve to double milk consumption in the U.S.

3.  McDonald’s has maintained a high priority and has led the industry with award winning standard & state-of-the-art technology to analyze the safety of those cute little gadgets Ransom delights in so greatly every time he opens up his beloved happy meal.

I was very impressed with the years of work that has gone into turning fast-and-convenient inexpensive food into healthier food.

Like any food item though, you can overdo it like I always seldom do.  The Nutritionist taught us how to go into a McDonald’s and order a meal for us and for our kids that is the correct amount of calories per meal.  I argued for the crispy chicken on my salad, but alas ’tis better to choose the grilled –skip the fries- & order a yogurt parfait or the apple dippers & a diet pop.

I was surprised and comforted to realize these are choices I can live with.

On a more serious note…

One of the BIG issues the aforementioned films raise: the fair & humane treatment of the animals.  As you can imagine it takes a whole lotta chickens & a whole lotta cows to make a whole lotta nuggets & burgers.

A few comforting facts about the chickens:

1) There are no hormones given to chickens.

2) Their chief veterinarian assured us that they have not used antibiotics on their chickens for 1 year.

3)  They get big breasted chickens by selective breeding, not hormones.

In regards to the cows:

We didn’t get a solid answer about the use of hormones in dairy and beef cattle used for the hamburgers.  I was particularly interested in this because of the particular issues Fast Food Nation raises in regards to the treatment of cattle and the migrant workers who tend to fill the job positions needed to produce a tremendous amount of  hamburger patties for McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s & other fast food establishments.  When I asked about the films, I was given an answer about Super Size Me, but not about Fast Food Nation & Food, Inc. They did clarify that the dairy cows bring lean meat in while the fat of the  beef cows are used in the hamburger patties along with the angus beef cattle for the angus burgers.

Another highlight of the trip was sitting down with the Prez & two VP’s.  All 3 of those lovely ladies giving us an insiders of view of what it’s like for them to be wives, Mom’s, & big-ballers within the corporation.  As a budding woman-leader type it was right up my alley.  Just completely awesome & inspiring.

One of the VP’s -Denitra- is FROM MY HOMETOWN BABY!  She hails from Detroit and started off as a crew worker, behind the counter at the McDonald’s on Grand River by Evergreen! Holla!  A hop, skip and a jump from the house I grew up in, we’re just two kids from the hood comin’ up in the world.  (Okay, well except of course that she’s raking in the big bucks and I’m well, just raking). :)   Regardless, I’m so proud! :)

McDonald's Prez & Senior V.P.

McDonald's Prez & Senior V.P.

Let’s just say, because of this trip I now have ketchup flowing through my veins. :)

As a part of this promotional post McDonald’s is hosting a GabbingwithGrace giveaway!  To enter the giveaway just leave a comment and let me hear what you think about McDonald’s and/or if you have any questions about my trip!

Win an extra chance by retweeting this post & leaving an additional comment to let me know you did.

You could win 1 of 10 prize packs!!!! McDonald’s is offering one lucky GabbingwithGrace reader a Family Time, Happy Time Prize Pack valued at $100! The prize pack includes: a McDonald’s Smile Tote Bag, a $25 AMC Gift Card, a $20 McDonald’s arch gift card, a McDonald’s fleece blanket, McDonald’s French Fry Playing Cards, a McDonald’s Frisbee, a Monopoly Junior Board Game, Organic Lip Balm, a McDonald’s Vintage Character T-Shirt, a McDonald’s Stainless Steel Tumbler and a surprise set of Happy Meal Toys.  You can find the official rules here.

I tried with no avail to encourage the marketing exec’s to hire to sing their next McDonald’s theme song commercial.  What do you think?  Hire or no?  Leave it in the comments for an additional entry into the giveaway.

I feel extremely lucky to be picked among the 10 mommy bloggers who got the inside scoop on all things McDonald’s.  I met some great ladies while enjoying a really fun few days in Chicago.

Some of my other blogger friends have some really amazing foodie blogs, giveaways and other stuff going on.  I have links to their blogs here.

My new blogger friend, Loralee. This woman is seriously hilarious.
My new blogger friend, Loralee. This woman is seriously hilarious.

After 2.5 days exploring every possible nook’n’cranny of the McDonald’s empire, I left with a great impression of a highly functional and successful business.  Not only does everyone who works at the Headquarters genuinely love it –which says a lot- but they also are extremely thoughtful about every aspect of the franchise.  Overall, I was very impressed.  There is a reason why it’s listed as one of the top 10 companies for women to work for: when you value families, quality & success it’s an addicting combination!

Now, I just have one question for you:






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