Voting: Before and After

This post was inspired by Morningside Mom‘s cute voter makeover post yesterday.

On Thursday, after Jody and I had finally completed our monstrous mail-in ballots, Julian and I picked up Ava from preschool and headed downtown to drop off the ballots in person (and save $.59 x 2 on stamps). We drove around the block two times before finding a parking space a block away. Because this was the location of the early voting as well as the drop-off for mail-in ballots, it was THE place to be.

Before voting, I was a tired, frazzled, but ever-hopeful Obama Mama.
Tired Amy pre-voting

We went into the county clerk’s office where Ava got to put the ballots into the box all by herself. (I’m cursing myself for not taking a picture.) She was so proud and said, “I voted!” Then when we walked outside she said, “Did we just vote for Brock Obama?” :)

After voting, I honestly felt energized, excited and proud, not only of Ava for her enthusiasm in the political process this year, but of all of the people who were turning in mail-in ballots and voting early. This is an exciting time to live in!
Energized Amy post-voting

And I did get a picture of Ava once we got home, with an “I voted” sticker on.
Ava voted!

I know many of you are getting sick of the political posts here, there and everywhere. Based on the fact that I’ve had some email subscribers cancel lately, I think perhaps some of you don’t want to hear about politics on my blog either (though my subscriber #s have gone up overall so I can’t complain!). But there are only 4 days left until election day and I have to be honest, you might read a bit more about politics on this here blog before I go back to business as usual. I feel it’s my right and really my obligation to share my thoughts.

Happy Halloween to all! :) And, if you haven’t yet, don’t forget to VOTE next week!

Her first tattoo

Ava with her first tattoo 10/26/08 “Brock Obama!”

And because I have a hard time going entirely wordless I have to add that she was flashing her Obama tummy at shoppers in line at the grocery store this weekend. I could never get away with that myself, but my 4-year-old sure can. ;)

Oh, and yes, it’s only temporary.

See more Wordless Wednesday posts at the original WW home and at 5 Minutes for Mom.

Obama Mamas Get Involved: A Call to Action Part 2

Last week I wrote The Time for Change is Now: A Call to Action Part 1 and promised that I would follow up with Part 2 with stories of my family and friends who have inspired me with their volunteer efforts to help Barack Obama win this election.

obamamama.jpgWe have just one week until election day. One week to rise to the challenge. One week to get involved and make a difference.

Earlier this month my friend Alison from GreenMe wrote Ask Not What Your Country Can Do for You. I have to credit her with helping me reevaluate my priorities and giving me the proverbial kick in the pants I needed to go volunteer myself. She wrote:

Okay, so you would like to volunteer, but you don’t have the time? I am sure that you — like myself — procrastinate on a daily basis. You put off the laundry or the vacuuming or dropping off the recycling — so that you can do something else. Right now there is nothing more important in your future and the future of your children and grandchildren — nieces and nephews than getting out the vote and talking to your neighbors. No single thing is more influential in your future than the future of your country. The last 8 years of President Bush have been a near disaster. The election is less than 4 weeks away — and YOU don’t have time to volunteer? Not even 2 hours? What about 4 hours?

Think about the amount of difference that you could make in 4 hours? Supposedly, every 14th person that you contact is likely to actually “hear” your words and have a change of heart and mind. Consider this: if 100 people read this blog today and, 100 people then go out and each to talk to 50 people tomorrow — statistically that would result in 357 additional people voting for your candidate. In swing states, such as Colorado, 357 people just might make the difference in who is the next President of the United States of America.

Alison, who is a third generation Coloradoan and mother to a 15 month old son, has spent several hours volunteering herself at the local Democrats office, making phone calls and canvassing. When asked why she chose to get involved, Alison said: “Life on earth is interconnected. What happens today, what happens here, affects not only you and me, but future generations and people around the world. Obama understands the interconnectedness of life and he genuinely wishes that United States of American lives up to its own motto as a ‘Government of the People, for the People, and my the People.’ With that it mind? How could I not get involved in this election?”

Another “Obama Mama” (which is on a pin I’ve been wearing for the past week) who inspired me to get involved is my good friend Brandy Lance, who’s currently living in Georgia with her husband and two young boys. Although she hasn’t been able to volunteer as much as she’d like, she still found ways to get herself and her children involved in this election.

We decided we wanted to thank those who can donate more time. My boys and I began baking goodies for our local Obama office volunteers. We’ve made them cookies, muffins, and pretzels and even though a volunteer that lives just down the road from us has volunteered to take them to the office, I have driven the boys down each time. I at least want to show them how the volunteers are dedicating their time, what the office looks like and how appreciative the people are when they receive their gift of thanks. It’s a small way to get children involved in the political process while helping to create a better sense of community and appreciation.

Brandy has also done some data entry work for her local Democrat office.

This is the first election Brandy has gotten involved in and says the reason is, “I believe that America needs major change now and needs to have some better policies in place for the sake of my children’s future. If I don’t help elect a candidate whom I believe can, and will, help our country, then it seems to me that I really don’t care all that much.”

Another mom who felt the need to get involved in an election for the first time is Erika Carlson, mom of two of Louisville, Colo., who organized the Louisville Mamas for Obama, which is comprised of a few dozen women. They held a bake sale which raised $650 for the Obama campaign and also got hundreds of bumper stickers, buttons and yard signs out to Louisville supporters, as well as managed informational tables at the Farmers Market. She’s now working on getting the Louisville Mamas for Obama to volunteer for the Get Out The Vote efforts these last few days before the election.

When asked why she choose to get involved she said, “I felt last election that Bush could not possibly win, and he did. I want to make sure that our feelings of ‘being ahead’ in the polls doesn’t lead to complacency.”

A couple other women I’ve been inspired by as of late are my sister and my mom. Both have been doing work for the Democratic party in this election. My mom, a retired school teacher in northeast Michigan, has been volunteering a LOT – canvassing, making phone calls, and working in her local Obama office, and I’ve been really proud of her for it. She plans to work the last four days before the election, doing whatever they need her to do.

Although this isn’t her first election to be involved in, the last time was many years ago when Bobby Kennedy was running for president. She decided to get involved again this year because, “Enough is enough. I cannot just sit by and let another Republican get elected. I declared myself a Democrat and started to volunteer. We have to have a president that really and sincerely cares about our country’s future and the future of my children and grandchildren, and we have to improve our image globally.”

So there you have it, four stories from four different women, all motivated to get involved to help shape the future of our country, and all of whom helped inspire me to get involved.

We have just seven days left before history will be made. Can you get involved? Do you have an hour or two to spare? Can you make some phone calls to remind people to vote and tell them their polling place? Can you drive people without transportation to the polls? Can you make a donation? Can you bring some food to volunteers on election day? Every little bit helps.

Here’s one more (specific) way to get involved. Cynthia Samuels recently posted about a group called Election Protection that will work to protect people from voter suppression on election day. She urges, “If you are an attorney or law student or paralegal, please sign up to help.” My little sis, who is an attorney, will be involved in those efforts.

Lastly, today Barack Obama gave a very inspiration speech in Canton, Ohio. You can watch the last six or so minutes of it here. A few things he said that especially stood out to me were:

“We have to work this week like our future depends on it in this last week…because it does.”

“We can choose hope over fear and unity over division, the promise of change over the power of the status quo.”

“It won’t be easy, it won’t be quick, but you and I know it is time to come together and change this country.”

We only have one week left. Let’s come together. Let’s get involved. Let’s change this country!

Trick-or-Treat : Halloween Candy Alternatives

This post was especially popular last year, so after a few updates and changes, I’m recycling it this year.

Candy aisleHalloween is right around the corner, but in light of my recent discoveries about damaging effects of artificial colors and flavors (and petroleum and coal tar) in candy, I haven’t been feeling very excited about a holiday that promotes candy consumption.

Consider this:

Americans spend a whopping $950 million on Halloween candy every year. So it’s not surprising that a 2006 Mayo Clinic article estimates that 1 in 3 American children are now considered seriously overweight or at risk of becoming overweight. That’s a staggering 25 million children who are at high risk for high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, bone and joint problems, exercise induced asthma, disturbed sleep patterns, premature maturity, liver/gallbladder disease and depression. — Go Green

So the idea of handing out “treats” that are laden with sugar (or worse, high fructose corn syrup AKA HFCS) AND chemicals was less than appealing to me. But what is a good alternative that won’t get my house egged the next day?

Using several different web sites, I’ve compiled a list of some alternative Halloween treats. (Please be aware that some of these may be choking hazards for small children.)

Non-food options:

  • Temporary tattoos
  • Stickers
  • Playdoh
  • Pencils
  • Small pads of paper
  • Fancy erasers
  • Pencil toppers
  • Crayons
  • Coins (pennies, nickels, dimes)
  • False teeth
  • Superballs
  • “Slime”
  • Kazoos or other small musical instruments
  • Tiny decks of cards
  • Origami paper & instructions
  • Bubbles

Healthier food options (buy organic and/or fair-trade if you can afford it):

  • Natural non-HFCS candy
  • Granola bars
  • Cereal bars
  • Pretzels
  • Glee gum
  • Packets of instant hot chocolate
  • Raisins
  • Fruit leathers
  • Prepackaged trail mix
  • Prepackaged cookies

Things to avoid:

  • Avoid costume jewelry, especially glossy, fake painted pearls and toys from vending machines, both of which may contain lead
  • Avoid cheap plastic toys that are just going to end up in the trash and go off to the landfills

Last year I passed out cereal bars to the older kids and stickers to the younger kids and I didn’t hear any complaints. In fact, the younger kids were often quite excited about the stickers.

Now what about for your OWN kids?

What do you do if your kids go trick-or-treating and come home with a bag full of stuff you’d rather they not eat? While my kids at 4 yrs old and almost 2 are still too young (in my book) for door-to-door trick-or-treating, we went to a Halloween parade yesterday (the kids dress up and walk down Main street) and the local merchants passed out candy after the parade was done. Last year I decided to buy some natural candies – suckers, cookies, fruit leathers, etc., to trade Ava for once she was done trick-or-treating. She was happy with that. This year, however, I didn’t stock up on the natural candies first because I recalled that we got so little candy from the excursion and I’m not going to sweat it. She and Julian have had a piece of candy yesterday and one today and I think that’s fine. Everything in moderation.

On Halloween night this year, I think we’re going to go to a Halloween carnival at our rec center. There are a lot of games for the kids to play, prizes, and fun. It beats going out in cold in the dark if you ask me and I think the kids will enjoy it more. :)

What will you pass out this year? Will your kids go trick-or-treating?

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The Time for Change is Now: A Call to Action Part 1

If not me, who? If not now, when?
— Mikhail Gorbachev

obama_sunrise.JPGAfter reading and hearing about some of my friends* doing fund-raising and volunteering for the Obama campaign, last weekend while out running errands, the family and I stopped in our local Democrat headquarters and I inquired as to what I could do to help. I happily signed up to call democrats and undeclared voters in my city to remind them to turn in their mail-in ballots. I hadn’t given a whole lot of thought as to when I would do the calls, I just knew that I feel so strongly about this election that I wanted to do something more than exercise my right and responsibility to vote.

The first day I tried to make calls while the kids were playing outside. I got through about seven calls before Ava came to the backdoor and started yelling – while I was in the middle of a call, of course. The woman on the other end chuckled and I said, “You can’t tell I’m making this call from home, can you?” ;) I decided then that I should probably reserve my calling time to when my husband Jody was home in the evening or on the weekend.

On Tuesday night with Jody home to tend to the kids, I got through about five pages of calls while sitting in my car in the driveway. Seriously. That’s not exactly what I had planned when I signed up to volunteer, but it was quiet and there was no one to disturb me. :)

Even though there are less than two weeks until the election, there is still a great need for volunteers (and donations as well). Beyond making calls to remind people to return their ballots or remind them of their polling places, etc., volunteers are needed for other reasons. Volunteers are still needed to canvass local neighborhoods, especially in key swing states like Colorado (where I live). They are needed to drive people without cars or licenses to and from the polls on election day. There is also data entry work to be done (which would be a lot more practical for this mom to do at home in her jammies). And although this is not an actual volunteer position (but something that I’m sure would be very much appreciated), one can always deliver snacks, meals, etc. to the poll workers on election day.

That quote by Gorbachev has been going through my mind a lot lately. If not me, who? If not now, when? In these last few days it’s up to all of us to do whatever we can, whether that be talking with our friends and families about our choices, blogging about it, pointing out lies that the GOP is spreading (I just got a flier in the mail today saying Barack Obama is a friend of terrorists – paid for by the Colorado GOP), volunteering on a formal level, etc. If you’ve been wanting to do something, but not knowing what you can do, I encourage you to visit or call your local Democratic office and ask. It’s that easy and I bet you you’ll feel so good about yourself once you’ve done it. The time is now.

* There will be a follow-up post to this one chronicling the volunteer efforts of my mom and a few of my friends. They’ve inspired me to get involved and it is my hope that maybe they will help inspire you too.

Still not convinced you need to do something to help Obama secure this election? Watch this video. Maybe it will change your mind. The time is now.

Consumer Reports: high-tech births=poor outcomes

Consumer Reports isn’t just for researching your next car purchase or washing machine anymore. That’s right, that longtime resource for product reviews has broadened its scope to include health and wellness. In a recent article Consumer Reports tackles the topic of childbirth, concluding that "Too many doctors and hospitals are overusing high-tech procedures."

Consumer Reports cites a new report, Evidenced-based Maternity Care by the nonprofit Childbirth Connection, which found that "in the U.S., too many healthy women with low-risk pregnancies are being routinely subjected to high-tech or invasive interventions that should be reserved for higher-risk pregnancies." Some of those interventions include:

  • Inducing labor. The percentage of women whose labor was induced more than doubled between 1990 and 2005
  • Use of epidural painkillers, which might cause adverse effects, including rapid fetal heart rate and poor performance on newborn assessment tests
  • Delivery by Caesarean section, which is estimated to account for one-third of all U.S births in 2008, will far exceed the World Health Organization’s recommended national rate of 5 to 10 percent
  • Electronic fetal monitoring, unnecessarily adding to delivery costs
  • Rupturing membranes ("breaking the waters"), intending to hasten onset of labor
  • Episiotomy, which is often unnecessary

The study suggests that high-touch, low-cost, noninvasive measures are underused in today’s maternity care for healthy low-risk women. These include:

  • Prenatal vitamins
  • Use of midwife or family physician
  • Continuous presence of a companion for the mother during labor
  • Upright and side-lying positions during labor and delivery, which are associated with less severe pain than lying down on one’s back
  • Vaginal birth (VBAC) for most women who have had a previous Caesarean section
  • Early mother-baby skin-to-skin contact

They’ve also included a quiz to test the consumer’s knowledge about maternity care and debunk several misconceptions. Here are a few examples from the quiz.

An obstetrician will deliver better maternity care, overall, than a midwife or family doctor.

False. Studies show that the 8 percent to 9 percent of U.S. women who use midwives and the 6 to 7 percent who choose family physicians generally experienced just-as-good results as those who go to obstetricians. Those who used midwives also ended up with fewer technological interventions. For example, women who received midwifery care were less likely to experience induced labor, have their water broken for them, episiotomies, pain medications, intravenous fluids, and electronic fetal monitoring, and were more likely to give birth vaginally with no vacuum extraction or forceps, than similar women receiving medical care. Note that an obstetric specialist is best for the small proportion of women with serious health concerns.

Once you’ve had a C-section, it’s best to do it again.

False. Studies show that, as the number of a woman’s previous C-sections increased, so did the likelihood of harmful conditions, including: trouble getting pregnant again, problems delivering the placenta (placenta accreta), longer hospital stays, intensive-care (ICU) admission, hysterectomy, and blood transfusion.

Labor itself can benefit a newborn’s immunity.

True. When babies do not experience labor (if the mother has a C-section before entering into labor, for example), they fail to benefit from changes that help to clear fluid from their lungs. That clearance can protect against serious breathing problems outside the womb. Passage through the vagina might also increase the likelihood that the newborn’s intestines will be colonized with “good” bacteria after the sterile womb environment.

The buzz in the blogosphere about this is mostly positive. Critics of the current state of birth in the United States are happy to see Consumer Reports raising awareness about the need for change and bringing this information to mainstream society.

The blogger at Rain Garden says, "I feel encouraged that a non-profit organization like Consumer Reports is picking this up on their radar – it is just one more spark that may ignite change."

Susan at Hug the Monkey agrees and says, "It’s kind of amazing that a mainstream and respected organization like Consumer Reports has gotten behind natural childbirth. This must signal a shift in our society’s ideas."

Shay at Augeries of Innocence says, "This just goes to prove pretty much everything that is in The Business of Being Born. If you haven’t seen the DVD, I highly suggest you watch it, rent it or buy it. Even if you’re not wanting to go completely natural for your birth, it has a lot of helpful information on it and really lets you see how wonderful the childbirth process can be."

Yogi Barrett, a prenatal class instructor who blogs at Five Points Yoga, says,

Though women and their partners shouldn’t have to become “experts” on maternal and fetal care when they’re pregnant, it’s very helpful to remember that you are a paying consumer. I recommend finding a doctor or midwife who will take the time to answer the questions you have, and who will talk to you about your choices, options and alternatives. Too often, women come to my class and say something like, “My doctor won’t let me go past my due date. She’ll induce me if I do.” We have to remember that we have a responsibility in all of this to ask questions, and know that it’s *our* decision whether we have that test or procedure. We cannot abdicate responsibility for our bodies and our babies, even if a doctor/midwife presents a procedure as non-optional. The time to set up this dynamic is before you’re in labor – it’s difficult to have rational conversation and decision-making in the midst of active labor!

If you’re pregnant, remember that you need to have confidence in your provider. It’s never too late to switch providers if you’re unhappy. I’ve had students switch providers mere days before giving birth! But also remember, the most important person to trust is yourself, and your baby.

I couldn’t agree more. As a natural birth advocate myself, I think the fact that Consumer Reports posted this study is huge and another step in the right direction. Women want to be informed, they want to make conscious choices regarding their prenatal care and their birthing care for their sake and the sake of their babies. The more information women and their partners easily have access to, the more empowered they will be to make choices that are best for themselves and their babies.

Cross-posted at BlogHer.