Monday 27 October 2008

Obama or McCain?

I'm not typically one for politics. It's too big and murky and uncertain for me. How do you vote for one person when there are so many issues at stake, when you agree with candidate A on issues a, b, and c, and you agree with candidate B on issues x, y, and z, and you think everyone's going about issue d the wrong way? It feels like there's no winning - or, perhaps, no losing, for the eternal optimists out there.

But there's an election coming up that, for once, I have come to feel quite strongly about. Which is sort of a shame, because it's the American election, and I'm Canadian. So I don't get a say anyway.

Well, here's my say, for what it's worth.

If Obama becomes president, he has said that the first thing he will do is sign the Freedom of Choice Act. The FOCA would annihilate every single state law limiting or regulating abortion, including the federal ban on partial birth abortion. It would effectively nullify informed consent laws, waiting periods, parental notification or consent laws, and health and safety regulations for abortion clinics. As FOCA will become a constitutional right, medical professionals and institutions that refuse abortions would lose legal protections. Government officials, too, will be left open to lawsuits, as FOCA prohibits any government agency or official from taking any action that would "discriminate against the exercise of" the FOCA-created legal rights, with respect to any "benefits, facilities, services, or information" - which would include something as simple as a pro-life speech given by a public official.

(As a side note, Obama's support of federal hate crime laws to include sexual orientation should also be worrisome to those who may soon find their morals dictated to them by the government.)

I will never understand the legalization of partial birth abortion. However you feel about abortion itself, partial birth abortion is so absolutely horrifying and undeniably wrong that it could not be considered anything less than murder.

Of course, Obama did make his views on children even more clear when he said he didn't want his daughters "punished" with a baby if they make a mistake. I wasn't aware that babies - even unexpected ones - were punishment.

Something else I don't understand - Obama had this to say in his speech to Planned Parenthood:

"In 1966, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America gave its first Margaret Sanger Award to Martin Luther King, Jr. And in his acceptance speech, which was delivered by his strong and wonderful wife Coretta, Dr. King wrote, “Our sure beginning in the struggle for equality by non-violent, direct action may not have been so resolute without the tradition established by Margaret Sanger and people like her.”

That struggle for equality is not over and now we are at one of those rare moments where we can actually transform our politics in a fundamental way. But it’s going to take people as resolute as Mrs. Sanger and Dr. King..."

It literally shocks me that, given Margaret Sanger's racist eugenic ideology, Obama would hold her up as a forerunner in the struggle for equality. The logic...well, it simply escapes me.

McCain, on the other hand, supports giving legal protection to unborn children, and opposes government funding for abortions. McCain is pro-life with the goal of eliminating the need for abortions in the first place - something that truly gets to the heart of the issue.

But there are many who are not disappointed by the promise of FOCA. So leaving the abortion issue aside, what else would an Obama presidency bring?

Obama opposes allowing parents to homeschool their children with little or no government interference. Obama's education fact sheet includes more daycare ("education from birth"), voluntary (for now) universal preschool, and government workers coming into people's homes to see how the parents are doing ("evidence-based home visiting programs"). A review of his education platform on his website shows a threatening push to place children under the government's banner of care.

McCain, on the other hand, supports the right of a parent to choose among schools for their child, including home education. A review of his education platform on his website shows a strong emphasis on empowering parents to choose and providing freedom of education.

Speaking of parenting freedoms, how about vaccinations? McCain believes in the right for individuals (and in the case of children, parents) to make informed health care decisions, and does not support pre-empting these prerogatives. Obama has said that he is "not for selective vax". Combine a firm position of pro-vaccine on schedule with mandatory UHC insurance for children...yikes.

At the heart of it - McCain trusts you to parent your own kids. Obama thinks he can do a better job than you.

Ronald Reagan said it well:

"I hope we have once again reminded people that man is not free unless government is limited. There's a clear cause and effect here that is as neat and predictable as a law of physics: as government expands, liberty contracts."

Economically, Obama opposes the passage of a law requiring a balanced budget. Where is the fiscal responsibility and accountability in this? McCain, on the other hand, supports the passage of such a law.

McCain supports the appointment of judges who are strict constructionists, ones that will not legislate from the bench. Obama opposes this. I find some of Obama's statements on this subject to be particularly frightening. It is relevant to remember that an Obama presidency would last four years - but Supreme Court nominees serve an average of 15 years and can stay as long as they like.

I'm going to stop there for now, as far as Obama/McCain goes, despite the many more issues I have with Obama. I've found the political entries over at Parenting Freedom to be highly revealing, and much more in-depth than my non-political mind tends to go. (I've also rather enjoyed her many Sarah Palin pictures, all with her beautiful family right there beside her.) I'd like to end with a slight shift in focus - third party votes.

I know many people don't like either candidates and dislike the thought of voting for the "lesser evil". Some (hat tip to Lauren) have suggested that we need to think in the long term, sacrificing our votes now in hopes of eventually getting to the point where a third party could mean something. I understand that argument, I truly do, and normally would encourage the idea of voting for a third party.

In this particular election, however, I could not do so. My vote would go firmly to McCain.

As it stands right now, it looks as though the election could go either way - Obama or McCain - and perhaps more likely Obama. It seems (and I could be wrong) that most people who vote third party would look at McCain as the lesser of two evils if they had to choose. If all of those third party votes went to McCain instead, it could mean the difference in who becomes the next president. So while I feel it is admirable to vote for the person you feel most comfortable with - even if it is a third party - this year I would have to vote for McCain. I would so hate to see Obama elected that even if I wasn't 100% comfortable with McCain (and I do disagree with him on some issues), I would forgo the third party vote and vote for McCain instead. Considering the issue of Supreme Court judge appointments - this is a long-term matter.

So for those who support the rights of the unborn, the rights of parents, and the right to believe as you choose and act accordingly, for those who want accountability and a balanced budget, for those who prefer personal freedoms to "big government" - vote for McCain, not a third party. The election is uncertain enough that all of those "throw away" third party votes could make the difference between Obama winning and McCain winning. And to me, Obama is by far the greater evil.

Tuesday 21 October 2008

Appreciating fall

I have decided that this year will be the year that I learn to love fall.

I've never been terribly fond of it before. It's cold and wet and chilly. The fresh berries are gone. The trees lose their leaves. Winter starts looming.

(Oh, how I detest winter.)

But no. This year I will enjoy fall. And so far I have. It was helped along by my growing interest in food and sustainability. What grows in what season? What should I look for? What are the local farmers selling now? What new in-season foods can I add to our menu? What new recipes can I try?

Last week it was apple butter and apple sauce. Nothing fancy, but I've never made either before so it was exciting enough for me. Tonight it was roasted butternut squash. That stuff is delicious!

I've also been enjoying apple cider this month. This intrigues me, as I've always hated apple juice. To be perfectly honest, it looks and smells like pee. Which makes me think it tastes like pee. But apple cider? YUM.

Fall also means the return of the pumpkin hat! Oh pumpkin hat, how I adore thee. (Though not nearly as much as I adore the little boy whose head you sit upon.)

Fall means carpets of leaves to wade through in the wooded area behind our house.

Why have I never properly appreciated this place before? It's beautiful. Our own secret land to explore...

...or just to admire as we sit and contemplate.

So I've decided - fall isn't so bad after all.

Perhaps next year I can work on appreciating winter too.

Apple Butter

Peel and quarter 10 apples and place in large pot.

1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 1/4 cups apple juice
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves

Admire your spice rack for the umpteenth time.

Heat all ingredients to boiling, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 1 hour. Mash apples. Simmer uncovered for 1 hour more, stirring occasionally.

Cool for 2 hours and store in the fridge for up to 3 weeks (alternatively, freeze or can it). Serve with the most amazing biscuits ever. Make a mental note to thank your MIL for that Betty Crocker cookbook.


Peel and quarter 4 apples and place in crock pot.

You'll notice mine are unpeeled. Big mistake. I'd read that they were easier to peel after they had been cooked. Again - big mistake. It didn't even give my applesauce the nice "rosy glow" I had been promised. Next time, I peel my apples before cooking them.

1/4 cup water
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg

Cover and cook on High for 2 hours or until apples are tender. Stir/mash/puree to desired consistency.

Store in fridge (or can it).

I'm beginning to love fall.

Next up - making pumpkin bread with that cute little pie pumpkin. Assuming I don't change my mind and decide to make pumpkin butter instead. Or pumpkin pie. Or pumpkin cookies.

Oh, the decisions.

Thursday 16 October 2008

Advice for the first year

My baby is 18 months old today. It's such an interesting age - some days more baby than boy, other days more boy than baby, most days a combination of both. So far I've said the same thing with each passing month: "This is my favourite age yet." It just keeps getting better.

His transition from baby to boy (coupled with an influx of newborn babies in our church and amongst some friends of mine) has had me thinking about his first year and the things that really made a positive difference during that time.

The first, likely, was that I completely ignored 90% of the advice I received.

(The best advice I ever received, on the other hand, was from an old man in the elevator. He told me to "just give that child lots of love, 'cause it's a crazy world out there." Truer words have ne'er been spoken.)

In the spirit of being offered unsolicited advice and immediately dismissing it, here is my advice for the first year:

Baby Advice #1: Stay Calm.

Seriously. Do it. Stay calm.

Just relax.

Deep breath in. Now let it out.

You know how they say animals can sense fear? Well, that squalling little bundle of pink perfection in your arms can sense it too. Along with frustration, and anger, and "holy crap, I don't know what I'm doing!" And she will respond to that.

I see it so often - she cries, you bounce, she cries harder, you bounce harder, she cries louder, you shush louder, and soon you're both worked up in a crazy frenzy and things are going bad fast.


Stop bouncing and start swaying. Stop shushing and start cooing. Quietly. Whisper words of comfort and songs of peace. She might stop crying. She might not. But either way, your blood pressure will be lower, your breathing will be slower, you will be calmer. And nine times out of ten, she'll respond to that more than anything else.

I've found this to be true right from birth, through babyhood, and into toddlerhood - and I'm guessing it'll be true right on through the rest of the stages. When Mom's calm, the rest of the household just seems that much calmer too.

I've found this to be true in all manners of situations as well. Crying newborns, frustrated babies, angry toddlers - everything goes better when Mom stays calm. Go about doing what you need to do to take care of the situation - but do it calmly.

What's more, the things being stressed over often aren't worth stressing over in the first place. It's okay if your six month old isn't eating three square meals a day. It's okay if you have a period of sleep issues - they often resolve themselves in short order. It's okay (and quite normal!) if your baby isn't sleeping through the night by the time she's a month old - or six months old, or even nine months old! It's okay if your baby doesn't roll over, sit, walk, or talk as early as your friend's baby did. It's okay, there's no need to stress over every little bump and sneeze and waking.

It's okay. Relax.

Just stay calm.

Baby Advice #2: Baby Your Baby.

Because, well, they're babies. It's what they're made for.

Two Harvard researchers said it better than I ever could.

Baby your baby. Save independence for later. Give them the foundation they need for independence now.

Your baby will not become spoiled if you carry him often and if you respond to his cries. Those are the very things that will give him the security he needs now to become a healthy adult later.

Consider co-sleeping with your baby. Snuggle him while he nurses. Invest in a good carrier and wear your baby.

Most of all, just hold and comfort that little one - your touch and reassurance is what he needs.

Bonus Advice: Have Fun!

That's all - just have fun. That first year will go by so fast. Enjoy your baby - which, really, is half the point of the first two pieces of advice! Stay calm, don't stress, hold your baby, and comfort your baby - enjoy your baby.

Saturday 11 October 2008

Breastfeeding Challenge 2008

The boy and I took part in the the 2008 Global Breastfeeding Challenge this morning, latching on along with 159 other moms and their nursing children (including, I was happy to see, a good number of nursing toddlers!). Not as high as last year's 198 babies, but a great turnout nonetheless.

It was so nice to see all those moms and babes contentedly nursing away right there in the middle of the mall. Props to each and every one of them!

I must admit to being disappointed by one of the speakers, who was up there with her small baby that she was "sad to say had to be weaned already", as the mother had gone back to work. I would have been much more impressed to hear from one of the many amazing and dedicated mothers who, despite having to return to work, continue to nurse their little ones, whether by pumping during the day or by nursing only before/after work. That would have been a far more encouraging message to the mothers gathered, particularly those who were facing the prospect of having to return to work themselves.

(I also dumped a ridiculous amount of gift bag vaccination propaganda in the trash when I got home - cute little "Gerri the Giraffe" isn't wanted around here, thanks.)

But, all in all, it was a cheering morning. We're now heading out of town to spend Thanksgiving weekend with relatives. Happy Thanksgiving to all those Canadians out there, and happy weekend to everyone else!

Friday 10 October 2008

I fail at housekeeping

This evening I pulled out all our furniture and swept underneath.

I found a potato under our sofa.

(But in my defence, I have a toddler who loves to pull the potatoes out of the pantry and play with them.)

Monday 6 October 2008

Quirky boy

I know that every mama thinks their babies are amazing...but boy, do I ever think my son is amazing.

He's also really funny. I remember that being the very first thing that surprised me about him. Things were going along as expected - a bit of crying, a lot of nursing, pretty regular sleeping, diapers to change, cute little coos and heart-melting smiles - and then out of nowhere, my boy was funny! Caught me completely off guard!

At first it was just him laughing when we did silly things (how did he know we were being silly??), but it quickly progressed to him trying to make us laugh. I don't think I've stopped laughing since.

But then, well, then there are the times we're perhaps laughing at him instead of with him.

Like with his nose. He can point correctly to most of his body parts when prompted, but when you ask him where his nose is, he invariably points to his toes. It doesn't matter how many times we correct him or stress the different starting sounds or point to our own nose while prompting - nope, his nose is on his toes.

But hey, at least he has rhyming down.

He still has this thing about clothes, too. Only now he's combined it with his thing about cars. He'll go through his drawer, pull out all the shirts that have cars or trucks on, and bring them to one of us to put on him.

All of them. At the same time.

We usually set the limit at around three.

Then he'll proudly walk around showing us his truck shirt...and his other truck shirt...and his other truck shirt. Oh, and look at the cars on my pants, Mom!

Silly boy.

He's started getting into stacking blocks lately, instead of just knocking down the towers I build. Which is very exciting for me, because now I get to build my awesome kick-butt towers (which always have to be perfectly symmetrical, because I'm anal like that) and not have him knock them down only a few blocks in.

What? I can play with my son's blocks if I want to!

Anyway, so now he builds these gravity-defying towers...and then (what else?) pushes them around pretending they're cars. He's got his cute little "car sounds" and everything.

He's also into lining things up lately. Last week I found him lining up his diapers along the windowsill. Yesterday he was spreading them out like some crazy diaper-quilt on the floor. I'm always hunting for diapers nowadays - I guess it's time to look into some playsilks for him instead.

Imitation is pretty big around here too. He thinks it's hilarious to put the pillow over his head, the way Daddy does in the morning when he doesn't want to get up yet. Or, after watching us play DDR, he runs onto the dance mat, does this crazy on-the-spot dance, and runs back off giggling maniacally.

Speaking of his maniac giggle (honestly, he sounds like the perfect villain with his evil little laugh), he did this very loudly in the grocery store today after I handed him a banana. I love that my kid freaks out over bananas instead of junk food. Oh, but even bananas have paled in comparison with his new love - frozen blueberries.

You'd think they were crack the way this kid's addicted.

The first time he had them, I'd brought them out to mix in with our oatmeal. He had perfectly good fresh blueberries on his tray, which he had been happily eating up to this point. Then he wants one of these new things I've brought out, so I tell him he's weird and hand him a frozen blueberry.

Oh my. Things got a little scary after that. In the "give me those frozen blueberries or die!!!" sort of way.

We won't talk about the diapers that followed that episode.

Anyway, from the sounds of all this...I may perhaps spend too much time laughing at my kid's insanity. Maybe it's a good thing he won't remember any of this.