Brock Omama for pwesident – Wordless Wednesday

I haven’t written much about my political views here. It’s not because I don’t want to share them or that I’m afraid of turning off some readers (that’s not it at all). It’s due to lack of time, which I admit, with an election that is as important as this one, that’s a pretty lame excuse. I plan to write a bit more about my thoughts later this week, but for now I’ll leave you with two very cute Obama supporters.

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

A look at where our food comes from

Last week on Oprah, Lisa Ling gave us a glimpse into some of America’s farms – factory farms as well as organic farms – to see just how some of the animals we eat live before they become dinner on our table. They showed what the living conditions look like for egg-laying chicken, Lisa Ling in a factory chicken farmpregnant pigs and veal calves. Oprah had replica cages and crates on the stage to demonstrate the cage/pen sizes of animals in factory farms. “In an egg-laying hen cage, five to six hens could be in a single cage. The typical crate for a young male calf being raised for veal has enough room for him to stick his head out. Pregnant pigs—which can weigh more than 500 pounds—are about 5 to 6 feet long, while the cages they live in are about 7 feet long.”

There was also information presented about Proposition 2, the proposed Standards for Confining Farm Animals (specifically egg-laying chicken, pregnant pigs and veal calves) initiative statute that will be voted on in California’s general election this November. “The new regulations, which would go into effect in 2015, would require cages to be large enough to allow these animals to be able to stand up, lie down, turn around and to be able to fully extend their limbs without touching the side of an enclosure or other egg-laying hens.” My friend Melissa (Nature Deva) has some information about Prop 2 on her blog and there’s more information from Cameron at The Thin Green Line. If you live in California, I encourage you to look into it before you head to the polls so that you can make an informed decision.

The point of Oprah’s show was not to scare anyone into vegetarianism or veganism, but to educate people so that they can make conscious choices when it comes to buying their eggs or meat.

In the past, I’ve bought cage-free eggs from Vitamin Cottage because I assumed that meant the chickens were treated better and able to go outside, but after looking more into it, I’m not sure that’s the case.

According to Health Castle:

  • Free-Run or Cage-free eggs are produced by hens that are able to move about the floor of the barn and have access to nesting boxes and perches. The nutrient content of these eggs is the same as that of regular eggs.
  • Free-Range eggs are produced in a similar environment as cage-free eggs but hens have access to outdoor runs as well. The nutrient content of these eggs is the same as that of regular eggs.

I recently discovered a local farm stand (thanks to Alison at Green Me) where they have free-range eggs every Wednesday, as well as locally-grown fruits and veggies available Wednesday through Saturday. We’ve been going there for the past few weeks for some produce, but I bought my first dozen eggs this past Wednesday. They open at 10 on Wednesdays, I got there at 10:30 and got the last dozen they had! Seems I need to be on the ball Wednesday mornings if I want to continue to get them each week because they sell out fast.

Free-range eggs from our local farm standAnyway, the eggs have been wonderful! Ava enjoyed carefully examining them all at home on the kitchen table (and I admit, so did I) because every egg looks different. There are slightly varied sizes, different colors, different shades of those colors, some with spots, etc. They aren’t cookie cutter eggs like you get from the grocery store and I think that definitely adds to their appeal.

On Saturday we went back to the farm stand and, because Julian wants to see the animals they have every time we stop in, we asked the owner if I was OK if we went back to look at the sheep and chickens and he was fine with that. That was cool to show the kids exactly where our eggs are coming from. I think most people want to believe that their chickens get to run around in a big open space like these chickens do, though in reality, they are generally packed 6 to a small cage for their entire lives.

Someday I’d love to have some chickens of our own, but that will probably need to wait until we move into a different house with a slightly larger yard. Ava already talks about how she will go out and collect the eggs every day. :)

Here are the kids and Jody observing the animals this weekend, and, at least with regard to the chickens’ eggs, seeing just where our food comes from:
Checking out the sheep - 10/18/08 Looking at the chickens 10/18/08
Thanks for the eggs, chickens! 10/18/08 “Come-ere sheep” 10/18/08

What to do with all those leaves!

dryleaves.jpgThis week I wrote over at 5 Minutes For Going Green about all the brown material you’ll ever need for your compost bin. Check it out and then keep it in mind this weekend when you are raking and bagging leaves, which is something I’m sure to be doing since our trees have dumped a ton in the past week!

Though since the weather is going to be awesome, and Jody will be back home (hallelujah) after 6 days in California, you might catch me and the fam at a pumpkin patch too. :) Have a great weekend.

Keeping Halloween safe and fun for everyone

Halloween is a magical time for kids, the opportunity to leave reality behind and transform themselves into anything they desire for one evening of fun. Oct. 31 is just over two weeks away which means moms everywhere are scrambling to get costumes put together. Beyond making sure your children’s costumes are adorable, unique, and/or scary (depending on what you’re going for), its important to keep safety in mind as you assemble your costume.
My kids at a Halloween parade in 2007
Here are some general costume tips for making sure your little ghosts and goblins have a good time while staying safe.

  • Select light-colored costumes whenever possible. If you must use dark colors, put reflective tape on the costume to ensure nighttime visibility.
  • Avoid masks (which make it hard for kids to see and breathe) and opt for non-toxic face paint or makeup instead. If a child must wear a mask, make sure the eye holes are big enough to see out of and ask that they remove the mask as they walk (or run) between houses trick-or-treating.
  • Double check costumes for ease of movement. Ask your child to run through the backyard in his or her costume to make sure its not so long that it could cause tripping. For toddlers, make sure the costume isn’t so bulky that it makes moving around difficult.
  • Make sure that costume props, such as wands or swords, are flexible, in case kids fall.
  • Put a nametag — with your phone number — on your children’s costumes.
  • If kids are older and will be trick-or-treating without adult supervision, be sure you know their route ahead of time and have them take along a cell phone.

Selected tips above from:
Eco Women – Safe Halloween
Lorain County Moms – Keep Kids Safe with Smart Costume Choices

When dressing up infants and toddlers, there are some additional things to keep in mind. Susan West has written a great article on the subject and has several helpful suggestions.

Look for a costume that has room to wear clothing underneath! If the cool evening doesn’t beg for extra clothing under that superhero, chances are your little one will eventually get tired of plastic pants and butterfly wings. Find a toddler costume that also allows for a jacket if necessary. If you need to remove the top or bottom of the infant costume, you can still continue on to your favorite Halloween party.

Want the safest suit possible? Opt for a suit that has few pieces and no mask. Some cute toddler costume ideas include a monkey, doggy, kitty or princess. Use face paint instead of a mask and easily attach ears or a crown with either a headband or barrettes. A shortened monkey tail will also help avoid potential tripping. TIP: make sure your little prince or princess can easily get in and out of the suit. This makes bathroom breaks as simple as possible!

Infant Halloween costumes should have no small parts which may come loose and placed in a child’s mouth while you aren’t looking, nor should they have any type of heavy hood materials which might slip down over a child’s face while they are placed in the rear of a car in the car seat.

Both infant and toddler Halloween costumes have become far safer than they once were. Materials used are normally flame retardant. Be certain that yours are, as it is difficult to be constantly aware that a child adheres to safety rules with regard to the candles placed in the jack-o-lanterns. Swap candles for glow sticks to be safe.

I’m not personally a big fan of the use of flame retardant on children’s clothes or pajamas (that’s a whole other post for another day), I think for one day a year when they might be standing over the open flame of a candle in a jack-o-lantern, it will likely not hurt them. If you are using a candle rather than a glow stick or flashlight in your jack-o-lantern, please take precautions to avoid an accidental burn by placing the pumpkin off to the side of your porch, away from the heavily trafficked area. It’s also important to remind your children to be aware of and stay away from flames.

While I personally can’t imagine trying to dress my 50 lb. dogs up in costumes (they would not be happy with me), some people choose to go that route. Here are some tips from Dog Tipper to keep Fido and Fifi happy on Halloween night.

If you decide to dress your dog in a costume make sure it’s a safe one. Be sure there’s nothing he can chew and choke on. Make sure the costume is not too tight, constricting his breathing.

Also, be sure he’s not getting overheated. Finally, reflective surfaces are excellent; although you plan to keep your dog with you at all times, many dogs get loose on Halloween night due to all the excitement. If you are chasing after your dog in the dark, reflective costumes will be the safest for him.

If you are still in need of a costume and don’t want to go the green route (hint, hint) by using items you already have at home, purchasing one at a consignment or thrift store or borrowing from a friend, please consider using CostumeStudio, where proceeds from your purchase will benefit the children of war-torn Uganda.

This Halloween we have teamed up with Invisible Children and will be donating 100% the profits from your purchases to help children in the war-torn region of Uganda. In a sense, we are giving away Halloween. It is estimated that five billion dollars will be spent on costumes this Halloween. Five billion dollars would feed over a hundred million starving children for an entire year. We are hoping to remove the barrier of entry to doing good by creating opportunities that integrate into people’s lives. We are enabling people to incorporate good into people’s everyday lives. On every product page is the exact donation amount you will be giving to help children in the war-torn region of Uganda.

Whatever costume you choose, make sure it’s a safe one and then have fun!

Cross-posted on BlogHer

Fighting poverty, globally and locally, is easier than you might think

Today, Oct. 15, is Blog Action Day, the day that thousands of bloggers, regardless of their genre, unite to discuss a single issue. This year’s issue is POVERTY.

I feel very fortunate that I’ve never experienced poverty. Yes, money was always tight when I was growing up. We never took vacations that didn’t involve staying somewhere for free and bringing our own food (my great-grandma’s cottage), going out to eat was rare, hand-me-downs were a part of life, and my mom grew some of our food in a garden and sewed some of our clothes. But I never went to bed hungry, I never had to cram my feet in shoes that were too small (or go without shoes at all), and I always had a roof over my head and a warm bed to sleep in.

And now, in my adult life, I am just as fortunate. My kids have it better than I did growing up (isn’t that always the goal?), but my husband and I definitely make sacrifices as we live on one salary so that I can be a stay-at-home mom. We try very hard not to live beyond our means, but this has been a learning experience for us over the years. As an aside, we recently paid off our last credit card, so other than one Jody uses for business trips (which we are reimbursed for), we no longer have any credit card debt to worry about. That is a fantastic feeling!

The sad truth though is that millions of people around the world are not as fortunate as I have been, and I fear that as the U.S. economic crisis continues, more and more people will find themselves living on less and less as they struggle to make ends meet.

The good news is that there are some simple ways each of us can help make a difference.

I’ve found a few ways to easily help fight poverty ONLINE. The first two are the simplest, which require nothing more than pointing and clicking. The second two require investing some money, but are both pretty amazing.

  1. Visit The Hunger Site every day. One click can help feed others.
  2. Play the Free Rice game – boost your vocabulary while feeding hungry people.
  3. Kiva – Kiva’s mission is to connect people through lending for the sake of alleviating poverty. Kiva is the world’s first person-to-person micro-lending website, empowering individuals to lend directly to unique entrepreneurs in the developing world.
  4. MicroPlace – MicroPlace’s mission is to help alleviate global poverty by enabling everyday people to make investments in the world’s working poor. MicroPlace is currently the only website that provides everyday investors with the ability to make investments in the microfinance industry. Through MicroPlace, an investor can make investments that earn financial returns while having a positive social impact.

If we are really going to make an impact on poverty though, we need to focus our efforts locally as well as globally. Here are a few suggestions on how you can make a difference in your own COMMUNITY.

  1. Go through your closets and drawers and donate anything you no longer wear or haven’t worn in the past year. Have your kids help with this too by going through their own clothes and shoes to find those that no longer fit.
  2. In the same spirit and keeping your children involved, ask them to select a few toys to donate to those less fortunate. Let your kids deliver them to the charity of your choice.
  3. Eat meatless dinners for one week every month (or one day every week) and donate all of the money you saved on meat to a local homeless or battered women’s shelter.
  4. Skip your Starbucks coffee once a week and donate the money.
  5. Donate your time to help serve lunches in a local soup kitchen.
  6. If you have a skill to offer, check with your local charity to see if they can put it to good use. Chances are they will welcome the offer.
  7. The Salvation Army’s Annual Bell-Ringing Campaign is coming up and volunteers are always needed. This could be a fun and worthwhile project to do as a family.

I hope you’ll consider doing one or more of the ideas above and that you’ll stop by Blog Action Day to read some of the other posts today. If you’ve participated in Blog Action Day on your own blog, please leave a link to your post in the comments and I will compile a list here, adding to it throughout the day as time allows. Thank you!

Other Blog Action Day participants:
– The Buy Nothing Project: Fighting Poverty the Self-Sufficient Way
– Ima On (and Off) the Bima: The King and the Shack
– 123Pizza: Poverty and the Girl Effect
– Chasing Domestic Bliss: Poverty and Homelessness
– Crazy Adventures in Parenting: Blog Action Day 2008: Poverty