What Are We Teaching Our Kids With Our Reactions to Osama bin Laden’s Death?

I know there’s already been a lot written in response to Osama bin Laden’s death on May 1, but something about it all left me feeling discombobulated since I first read the news (on Twitter). After listening to President Obama’s speech and seeing the celebrations and reactions on Twitter and Facebook that ensued, I felt even more ill at ease and I’m hoping to finally articulate my thoughts.

Justice, not Vengeance

I understand feeling a sense of relief that bin Laden is no longer able to kill innocent people. I understand a need for quiet reflection. I understand feeling a sense of justice. What I don’t understand is crowds of people chanting “USA! USA!” like they are at some kind of sporting event, encouraging your children to wave signs celebrating someone’s death or all of the Tweets and Facebook statuses from people with vengeance coursing through their veins. It disturbed me. What are we teaching our children?

Yes, bin Laden did atrocious things in his life, but by cheering and celebrating his death, are we not stooping to a new low? I admit I did not personally know anyone killed in the 9-11 attacks, so it’s entirely possible that my somber reaction to the news is different than those personally affected. Still, it just doesn’t feel right.

David Sirota of Salon.com has this to say:

This is bin Laden’s lamentable victory: He has changed America’s psyche from one that saw violence as a regrettable-if-sometimes-necessary act into one that finds orgasmic euphoria in news of bloodshed. In other words, he’s helped drag us down into his sick nihilism by making us like too many other bellicose societies in history — the ones that aggressively cheer on killing, as long as it is the Bad Guy that is being killed.

…our reaction to the news … should be the kind often exhibited by victims’ families at a perpetrator’s lethal injection — a reaction typically marked by both muted relief but also by sadness over the fact that the perpetrators’ innocent victims are gone forever, the fact that the perpetrator’s death cannot change the past, and the fact that our world continues to produce such monstrous perpetrators in the first place.

When we lose the sadness part — when all we do is happily scream “USA! USA! USA!” at news of yet more killing in a now unending back-and-forth war — it’s a sign we may be inadvertently letting the monsters win.

Talking to Kids About Osama bin Laden

What are we teaching our children when we celebrate the death of another human being? Here are a few different thoughts on how to talk to (or not talk to) your children about Osama bin Laden.

  • Annie at PhD in Parenting chose not to talk to her kids about it: Kids and Osama bin Laden
    “Talking to my kids about history is important. Teaching them about diversity and injustices and privilege is important. But purposely opening this particular can of worms and then scaring them by not being able to answer their questions is not something I want to do right now.”
  • Melissa Ford at Stirrup Queens chose to talk to her twins about bin Laden before they heard about it from someone else: Talking to Kids about Osama bin Laden
  • Jenny Lind Schmitt at Psychology Today talked to her kids about it too, hung up an American flag in the house and talked about honoring all of the people that died on 9/11 and since as a result of bin Laden: Osama bin Laden’s Death: What It Means to Kids
  • From Dane Laverty at Times and Seasons: Barack Obama, Osama bin Laden, and the Kids Eat Corn Pops
    “My hope, however, is that it [bin Laden’s death] will serve as a reminder to us that we can be grateful to have the luxury of dealing with the kinds of inconveniences we face here in America, to remind us that early morning seminary and burned cookies are blessings, because they mean that we’re not facing ideological repression and physical starvation.”
  • From Danielle Sullivan at Babble: Kids Cheer In NYC Over Osama Bin Laden’s Death
    “Isn’t celebrating a death the very opposite of what we should do as parents and Americans? I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t feel satisfied or even proud that our country stood up for those who were senselessly killed, but we shouldn’t make it a party, don our kids in hate-filled t-shirts and light fireworks (as they did in my neighborhood).”

As for my kids, I haven’t seen any reason to talk to them about bin Laden at this point. As far as I know, they’ve never heard of him and at ages 4 and 6, I don’t feel like there’s anything they need to know right now. We’ll save that history lesson for when they are older.

Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

There’s a quote that’s been circulating wildly after bin Laden’s death that was misattributed to Martin Luther King Jr., but is now correctly being credited to Jessica Dovey.

I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. — Jessica Dovey

That spoke to me, as it did to so many other people who reposted it on the ‘net causing it to go viral. And it’s so much more eloquent than anything I could come up with myself.

Martin Luther King Jr. has also said several things that really speak to this week’s events. I’ll just share this one.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness;
only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate;
only love can do that.
Hate multiplies hate,
violence multiplies violence,
and toughness multiplies toughness
in a descending spiral of destruction….
The chain reaction of evil —
hate begetting hate,
wars producing more wars —
must be broken,
or we shall be plunged
into the dark abyss of annihilation.

— Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Strength To Love, 1963

I wish I had some tidy little paragraph to wrap this all up, but I don’t. I only hope and pray that the darkness of our world begins to subside little by little and the love and light shine through. Peace.

Photo credits: Flickr, Josh Pesavento and L.C.Nøttaasen

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Growing meat in a lab to solve the global food crisis?!

Thanks to a scientist in South Carolina, we may soon have something more disturbing to worry about than the recent deregulation of genetically modified alfalfa and the genetically modified fruits and veggies that are increasingly common in the average American’s diet.

drumroll please

Meat that has been created in a laboratory!

Vladimir Mironov — a scientist working for the past 10 years on bioengineering “cultured” meat — thinks meat made in a lab could solve the future world food crisis that’s resulting from diminished land to grow meat the “old-fashioned way.”

Or. Hmmm. I have an idea that could help solve the food crisis. Let’s just stop eating so much meat! Or we could start eating bugs, which are apparently “good to eat and better for the environment.” Um, yeah. Let’s just stick to eating less meat.

Nicolas Genovese — a visiting scholar in cancer cell biology working under a People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals three-year grant to run Dr. Mironov’s meat-growing lab — said, “There’s a yuck factor when people find out meat is grown in a lab. They don’t like to associate technology with food. But there are a lot of products that we eat today that are considered natural that are produced in a similar manner.” Genovese references yogurt as well as wine and beer production.

I’m not sure how one can compare yogurt, which is bacterial fermentation of milk — not to mention something I can make in my own kitchen — with bioengineered meat currently created in a lab.

On one hand, we have milk and cultured yeast, which can easily be made into yogurt in your crock pot in your own home — something I’ve done on several occasions. On the other hand, we have meat that comes from a once living, breathing animal. Yet instead of getting it from an animal, we’re talking about creating it in a “carnery.” If Mironov gets his way, he envisions “football field-sized buildings filled with large bioreactors, or bioreactors the size of a coffee machine in grocery stores, to manufacture what he calls ‘charlem’ — ‘Charleston engineered meat.'”

How are these AT ALL the same?

There’s so much that concerns me about all of this, but especially Mironov’s statement, “Genetically modified food is already normal practice and nobody dies.”

Nobody dies. Is that all that matters — that nobody dies? And who’s to say GM food isn’t killing us slowly? How long have we been guinea pigs eating GM foods? Are there any long-term health studies? Considering it has only been available in the United States since the 1990s, I would venture to guess no, though please correct me if I’m wrong.

Linda Johnson — a naturopathic doctor in New Mexico — speaks to the possible issues of consuming GMO food. She points out:

90% of all corn planted in the U.S. is genetically modified. This corn seed is specially made by Monsanto and engineered to ward off root worm by producing its own pesticide, which you then consume.

So you say you don’t eat corn? If you eat animals that eat corn and they managed to force this food on them, you are eating GM food. Specific animal studies showed that when rats were fed this corn, they developed many reactions that included anemia, increased blood sugar levels, kidney inflammation, blood pressure issues, increased white blood cells and more.

It’s very likely these health problems are affecting humans as well. Since the FDA doesn’t think GM food need to be examined for humans to eat safely, it’s been on the market for a long time.

Johnson adds, “European countries feel there is something wrong with this manipulation of food and they don’t allow it in their countries.
… It is not known what the long-term ramifications of eating food daily that has been genetically modified. What are the damaging effects of a newborn ingesting nothing but formula made with GM ingredients? No one knows.”

So why do we allow it here in the United States?

What are your thoughts about lab meat? Would you eat it? Would you feed it to your kids? Do you think it’s the answer to the global food crisis? Are there positives to this I’m missing? Enlighten me, please.

Related articles:

Photo credit: Yo My Got

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BPA Exposure ‘Much Higher’ Than Believed & Proposed BPA Ban

Bisphenol-A or BPA — a chemical used primarily to make plastics — has been under scrutiny in the United States since 2008 when its safety was called into question. Most recently, a study published Sept. 20 in the online NIH journal Environmental Health Perspectives “suggests exposure to BPA is actually much greater than previously thought and its authors urge the federal government to act quickly to regulate the chemical that is found in baby bottles, food-storage containers and many household products.”

One of the researchers, Frederick vom Saal, professor of biological sciences at the University of Missouri, said in a news release that the study “provides convincing evidence” that BPA is dangerous and that “further evidence of human harm should not be required for regulatory action to reduce human exposure to BPA.”

According to a New York Times article, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says “it is OK for humans to take in up to 50 micrograms of BPA per kilogram of body weight each day. The new study, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, suggests that we are exposed to at least eight times that amount every day.”

In August, Canada placed BPA on a toxic-substance list under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. The country first banned BPA-containing plastic baby bottles in 2008, “but the new move will see BPA removed from all products on store shelves. As a result, Canada will become the first country in the world to declare BPA as a toxic substance.”

Five states in the USA – Connecticut, Massachusetts, Washington, New York and Oregon – have limits on BPA, particularly in children’s products, but California state legislature recently failed to pass a bill that would have eliminated BPA from baby bottles, sippy cups and infant formula cans.

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) believes BPA should be legislated on a national level and wants to amend the Food and Drug Administration Food Safety Modernization Act currently under consideration in the Senate to ban BPA from children’s food and beverage containers. However, Republicans and industry representatives are pushing back, saying that research hasn’t conclusively proven that the chemical is harmful. Sen. Feinstein said, “In America today, millions of infants and children are needlessly exposed to BPA. This is unacceptable. If this isn’t a good enough reason to offer an amendment, I don’t know what is.”

What is BPA and Why Should You Care?

Bisphenol-A is “a synthetic estrogen used to harden polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resin.” It is found in many plastic containers as well as in the lining of canned goods. According to the Environmental Working Group:

Over 200 studies have linked BPA to health effects such as reproductive disorders, prostate and breast cancer, birth defects, low sperm count, early puberty and effects on brain development and behavior. BPA leaches from containers like sippy cups, baby bottles, baby food and infant formula canisters into the food and drink inside where it is then ingested by babies and children. The CDC found BPA in 93 percent of all Americans. Just last year EWG research revealed BPA in umbilical cord blood of newborns, which demonstrates that babies are exposed to this toxic chemical before they are born.

The Environmental Working Group has some tips to avoid exposure to BPA. Raise Healthy Eaters also has a post about How to Become a BPA-Free Family. Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, a registered dietician, recommends things such as:

  • Switching from plastic food storage containers to glass
  • Reducing your canned goods use
  • Using stainless steel water bottles and more.

Take Action:

If you’d like to urge your Senators to support the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act and Senator Feinstein’s amendment to ban BPA in baby bottles and other children’s products, you may send them an email.

Related Posts:

Photo via nerissa’s ring on Flickr

Cross-posted on BlogHer

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Should bars refuse to serve pregnant women?

A pregnant woman walks into a bar… It sounds like the start of a joke, but what actually transpired when an expectant mother ordered a glass of wine at a New Orleans’ restaurant isn’t a joke at all.

Annie Krasnow of The Stir recently told the story of her friend who, at seven months pregnant, visited New Orleans with her husband for a “babymoon” – in other words their “last hurrah” before entering parenthood. After a day of taking in the sights, they went to a quiet restaurant where the expectant mother ordered a glass of Chardonnay. The waitress responded, We don’t serve pregnant women here.

Annie posed the question, “What gives that server the right to refuse a grown woman alcohol?”

Some may argue that there is an innocent life at stake. In this case, her unborn baby can’t speak for itself. But what about mothers who feed their obese children fast food? Or let them buy violent video games? Is anyone refusing them service? It’s not like my friend was drunk. She wanted one glass of wine.

It seems that when women are pregnant, they become public property. I’m not condoning pregnant women getting drunk, but I don’t think that waitress should be allowed to make that decision for anyone but herself.

Melimae replied in the comments, “I see both sides..if something were to happen to their baby, the family could go back and blame the resturant, so they are just covering there butt. BUT I believe having a glass of wine is okay, some ppl say it helps the moms relax. I never did but thats my choice. So it should be her choice as well.”

Squish also commented:

If it was that important to her to have a glass of wine, then they could have ordered room service. It is general knowledge that drinking while pregnant is bad for the baby. Yes, a glass here or there is fine, but why impose that on a business that absolutely does not want to get sued, hurt a baby, or make other customers uncomfortable?

Paula Bernstein at StrollerDerby believes that unless a pregnant woman is drunk, she should be served. She adds that when she was pregnant with her first daughter, she and her husband went on a “babymoon” to France. Her midwife told her it was OK to drink a glass of wine a day and added, “After all, the French women do it.”

Paula also says she sides with the American Civil Liberties Union on the issue.

”Do we really want to make a pregnant woman’s behavior and choices…a crime because it could hurt the fetus?” asks the author of the Blog of Rights. “Allowing the government to exercise such unlimited control over women’s bodies, and every aspect of their lives, would essentially reduce pregnant women to second-class citizens, denying them the basic constitutional rights.”

A comment from Suzy on Paula’s StrollerDerby post said, “If I want to buy wine and beer at a liquor store for a party – am I not allowed to do that while pregnant too? Give me a break. Let’s allow adult women a little personal responsibility – this country would NEVER pass a comparable law limiting men’s rights.”

Candace Lindemann of Mama Saga and Naturally Educational debated on my Facebook page with the crowd that feels if a pregnant woman “needs” to drink, she should do it in private. Candace argues its not about the need to drink, “it is about the fact that a woman’s body doesn’t suddenly become communal property when she gets pregnant. Driving is riskier for pregnant women…should they stop driving? Or never leave the house due to air pollution? Or maybe not be allowed to order fried food? If they feel the desire to eat fish should they hide in their rooms and do it in there?”

Laura Kemp, a Bradley Method childbirth instructor, argued back, “I don’t believe this is an issue of a pregnant woman’s body becoming communal property as much as I believe most citizens view a pregnant body as a woman AND a child.”

Candace replied that she believes the waitresses response “stems not from compassion but from the paternalistic belief that others know what is best.”

Interestingly enough (and falling into the category “the truth is often stranger than fiction”), Summer Minor just reported on new recommendations from the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada suggesting that women who *might* become pregnant abstain from drinking altogether, ya know, just in case they get pregnant at some point.

Some studies report no alcohol should be consumed during pregnancy, while others indicate that light drinking is OK. I’ve had numerous people tell me their doctor or midwife said light drinking was fine. Some doctors and midwives even recommend it as a way to stave off preterm labor. Erin Kotecki Vest‘s doctor did when she went into preterm labor at 8 months and Erin said it worked. Other people have told me their care providers stuck to the no alcohol is safe stance.

While I did not drink during either of my pregnancies, I think it should be a woman’s right to make that choice for herself. I respect that the waitress did what she thought was right, but I really don’t think it was her call to make. Its not her body. Its not her baby.

I think we start down a slippery slope when we start telling pregnant women what they can and cannot do. Where would it end?

What do you think?

Image credit: Remko van Dokkum/Flickr

Cross-posted on BlogHer. Feel free to chime in over there as well!

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Raising Awareness about Nestle’s Unethical Business Practices

This isn’t the first time I’ve blogged about Nestle and is likely not going to be the last. I wrote about the company when I first learned about the Nestle boycott. And again when the Nestle Family Twitter-storm took place in 2009. I wrote about Nestle when I compiled an updated list of all of the many, many brands Nestle owns (for people who choose to boycott them). And most recently, I wrote about Nestle when I discovered that they (well, two of their brands – Stouffer’s and Butterfinger) would be one of about 80 sponsors at this year’s BlogHer Conference in New York City.

My goal – throughout all of this – has never been to tell people what they should or should not do. That’s not my place. My goal has always simply been to raise awareness. There will be people who hear about the Nestle boycott and their unethical business practices and they won’t care one way or the other. Or perhaps they just won’t have time to look into it further. I know that and that’s fine. However, there will also be people who haven’t heard about what Nestle is doing and will want to learn more and find out what they can do and that’s where I like to think I can help. I’m a big fan of providing people with information and arming them with knowledge and letting them make their own choices.

So let’s get to it, shall we?

First thing’s first. Yes, I am going to BlogHer this year even though it is, in part, being sponsored by Nestle. I struggled with my decision for days and days, but in the end I decided to use this as another opportunity to raise awareness by blogging about Nestle, talk with people at BlogHer (who express an interest) about Nestle, and encourage BlogHer to adopt ethical sponsorship guidelines for future conferences. I also didn’t feel like letting Nestle control my life. I’m not saying that the people who choose to boycott BlogHer because of Nestle are doing that (one of my best friends is boycotting the conference though will still be in NYC and rooming with me – yay!)  – I wholeheartedly support the women who are boycotting – but it didn’t feel like the right choice for me. I’ve also made a donation to Best for Babes and will make another one after BlogHer. Best for Babes is a non-profit who’s mission is to help moms beat the Booby Traps–the cultural & institutional barriers that prevent moms from achieving their personal breastfeeding goals, and to give breastfeeding a makeover so it is accepted and embraced by the general public. Best for Babes’ Credo is that ALL moms deserve to make an informed feeding decision, & to be cheered on, coached and celebrated without pressure, judgment or guilt, whether they breastfeed for 2 days, 2 months 2 years, or not at all.  ALL breastfeeding moms deserve to succeed & have a positive breastfeeding experience without being “booby trapped!”

Now onto Nestle and just what it is that makes them so unethical. The following two sections are from a post by Annie of PhD in Parenting.

Overview of Nestlé’s Unethical Business Practices

Nestlé is accused by experts of unethical business practices such as:

Nestlé defends its unethical business practices and uses doublespeak, denials and deception in an attempt to cover up or justify those practices. When laws don’t exist or fail to hold Nestlé to account, it takes public action to force Nestlé to change. Public action can take on many forms, including boycotting Nestlé brands, helping to spread the word about Nestlé’s unethical business practices, and putting pressure on the government to pass legislation that would prevent Nestlé from doing things that put people, animals and the environment at risk.

Want to boycott Nestle?

The Nestlé boycott has been going on for more than 30 years and Nestlé is still one of the three most boycotted companies in Britain. Although Nestlé officials would like to claim that the boycott has ended, it is still very much alive. But it needs to get bigger in order to have a greater impact. Nestlé owns a lot of brands and is the biggest food company in the world, so people wishing to boycott their brands need to do a bit of homework first to familiarize themselves with the brand names to avoid in the stores.

If you disagree with Nestle’s business practices, I hope you will join Annie, me and others in raising awareness by Tweeting with the hashtag #noNestle. Let people know that you do not support Nestlé’s unethical business practices. Tweet your message to Nestlé and to others using the hashtag #noNestle. Spread the word.

If you feel so inclined, you might also want to make a donation to an organization that supports breastfeeding, such as La Leche League or Best for Babes.

Tweet your support! Blog your message! Share on facebook!

#noNestle

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The highs & lows of nature and my Earth Day Challenge

Last night the kids, Jody and I enjoyed a show put on by Mother Nature. A rain storm complete with lightning streaking across the sky and rattling thunder was our pre-bedtime entertainment. Thunderstorms are somewhat of a rarity here (or at least it feels like it lately), and I love sitting in the upstairs window seats watching them with the kids. Lightning is nature’s perfect fireworks.


Image credit: Flickr – PeWu

Seeing my kids get excited about the storm – “Oooh, that was a big one!” – made me enjoy the experience all the more. I love it when they appreciate nature, and after being cooped up inside all winter, I’m so glad that spring is here and more nature discovery is on its way.

Earlier this week I read on Mama Milkers Facebook page that her daughter’s class took an impromptu field trip to see the dead gray whale on a beach in West Seattle. What a great opportunity for those children to see a whale up close like that, but also so sad that it died.


Image credit: West Seattle Blog

While the cause of death of the 37-foot near-adult male whale is still unknown, it turns out that he had quite a bit of trash in his stomach, including a pair of sweat pants, a golf ball, 20 plastic bags, small towels, plastic pieces, surgical gloves and duct tape.

How are these two things – the storm and the whale – related? Well, they aren’t directly, but they are both part of nature, part of this planet Earth that we are celebrating today with Earth Day. There’s so much beauty in nature, but there is also so much pollution that is, literally, trashing and killing it. The whale’s death may have had nothing to do with the garbage in his stomach, but many animals’ deaths *are* a direct result of the trash they ingest.

Today on Earth Day, let’s set our differences aside. Regardless of how you feel about climate change, politics or President Obama, perhaps we can all come together to do something positive that makes us feel good about ourselves. We humans have a lot of power. Let’s use it for good.

“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” – Native American Proverb

I challenge you to give some thought to your daily habits and routines and find one positive change you will make (no matter how small). Do it not to save the Earth – because the Earth is going to be just fine regardless of what we do – but to save ourselves, our children, our grandchildren and all of the animals that have no control over the way humans treat their environment.

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated… I hold that, the more helpless a creature, the more entitled it is to protection by man from the cruelty of human kind.” – Gandhi

Will you accept my challenge? What will *you* do?

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Health Care Reform Lends Support to Breastfeeding Moms, But Is It Enough?

If we’ve heard “breast is best” once, we’ve heard it a thousand times. Health experts agree the benefits of breastfeeding for both the baby and the mother are numerous. A study published earlier this week by the journal Pediatrics points out just how valuable breastfeeding can be. “If 90 percent of new moms in the United States breastfed their babies exclusively for the first six months, researchers estimate that as many as 900 more infants would survive each year, and the country would save about $13 billion in health care costs annually.”

It seems that while everyone gives lip service to the importance of breastfeeding, there isn’t a lot of support for women once they make the decision to breastfeed. Women have been asked to cover up or leave restaurants, water parks, airplanes, and stores when they try to give their baby what’s “best.” Maternity leave in the United States is, at best, 12 weeks. Women who work outside the home have often been forced to pump their breast milk in bathroom stalls, hide under a desk, or sit in their car just to get a little bit of privacy because rooms for nursing/pumping mothers just don’t exist. So yes, breast might be best for baby, but until there are more regulations in place that allow moms to breastfeed without so many roadblocks, how can breast be “best” for moms?

There is, however, a bit of good news on the horizon. Health Care Reform is lending some support to breastfeeding moms with the Reasonable Break Time for Nursing Mothers law.

  • Section 4207 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (also known as Health Care Reform), states that employers shall provide breastfeeding employees with “reasonable break time” and a private, non-bathroom place to express breast milk during the workday, up until the child’s first birthday.
  • Employers are not required to pay for time spent expressing milk, and employers of less than 50 employees shall not be required to provide the breaks if doing so would cause “undue hardship” to their business.

Tanya from The Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog thinks this is a step in the right direction. “I’m not thrilled that it extends the right for only up to 1 year (I pumped longer for my son), but what a huge difference this would make for mothers in the many states, mine included, that do not extend this right under state law!”

Currently, only 24 U.S. states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia have legislation related to breastfeeding in the workplace. Yet women now comprise half the U.S. workforce, and are the primary breadwinner in nearly 4 out of 10 American families. The fastest growing segment of the workforce is women with children under age three.

Doula-ing is excited about the new law and calls it “a giant leap forward for mother’s who want to continue to breastfeed their babies once they return to work.”

Kim Hoppes, who doesn’t appear to be a fan of Health Care Reform is, however, pleased with this change. “Well, something good came out of the health care reform nightmare. Places now have to give breaks to nursing moms so they can pump.”

Lylah from Boston.com Moms seems to think the new law is not enough and asks, “How can we expect 90 percent of new moms to breastfeed without support in the workplace?”

One thing seems pretty clear: If it’s in the country’s best interests to have new moms nurse their infants exclusively for at least six months — and the billions of dollars in health care savings indicates that it may be — then new moms should get at least six months of paid leave in which they can do so. The United States and Australia are the only two industrialized countries in the world that do not offer paid maternity leave. And moms in the Outback have a sweeter deal than we do: In Australia, your job is protected for a year, but in the United States new working moms only get that guarantee for 12 weeks.

What do you think about the Reasonable Break Time for Nursing Mothers law? Is it too much? Not enough? Just right? None of the government’s business?

Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tundakov/2550864384/

Cross-posted on BlogHer.

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Michelle Obama to grow White House organic victory garden

ABC News has reported the Obamas are going to plant a vegetable garden at the White House*. The New York Times also announced that work on the organic garden will begin as early as tomorrow when Michelle Obama, accompanied by 23 fifth graders from Bancroft Elementary School in Washington, will begin digging up a section of the White House lawn to begin planting. Although the 1,100 square foot garden, set to be located in the south grounds, will be out of the main view of the house, it will still be visible to the public on E Street.


First Lady Michelle Obama recently told Oprah‘s O magazine about her garden plans:

We want to use it as a point of education, to talk about health and how delicious it is to eat fresh food, and how you can take that food and make it part of a healthy diet. You know, the tomato that’s from your garden tastes very different from one that isn’t. And peas – what is it like to eat peas in season? So we want the White House to be a place of education and awareness. And hopefully kids will be interested because there are kids living here.

Who will take care of the garden?
In addition to the White House grounds crew and kitchen staff, Michelle mentioned to The New York Times that nearly all family members will play a part in maintaining the garden.

Almost the entire Obama family, including the president, will pull weeds, “whether they like it or not,” Mrs. Obama said laughing. “Now Grandma, my mom, I don’t know.” Her mother, she said, would probably sit back and say: “Isn’t that lovely. You missed a spot.”

What will they grow?
The 1,100 square foot plot will feature a wide variety of vegetables, herbs and fruits to include 55 varieties of vegetables, a patch of berries and two bee hives for honey. The organic seedlings will be started at the executive mansion’s greenhouses. “Total cost for the seeds, mulch, etc., is $200.”

The organic garden will feature raised beds “fertilized with White House compost, crab meal from the Chesapeake Bay, lime and green sand. Ladybugs and praying mantises will help control harmful bugs.”

Organic seedlings? White House compost? Natural pest control? I’m sorry, but I know I’m not the only one who is absolutely ecstatic over all of this?! 🙂

In fact, groups like Eat The View and The WHO (White House Organic) Farm, as well as author Michael Pollan and chef Alice Waters, have been advocating for a White House garden pretty much from the time President Barack Obama was inaugurated and I bet they are all whooping it up right about now.

What will they do with all of that food?
Eat it, of course. The White House chefs will be planning the menu around the garden. Eating locally and in season? Aiiiieee! Be still my heart!

This is not the first time a vegetable garden has been planted at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Eleanor Roosevelt had a Victory Garden planted in 1943 during World War II and there were gardens before that as well.

Hopefully the Obama’s new garden will inspire the people of our country to begin growing even little bits of their own food. Gardens come in all shapes and sizes – from little pots in a window, to bigger pots on a balcony or porch, to a little raised bed in the sunny spot in your backyard, to a community garden plot, to a much bigger plot. Every little bit helps us live more sustainably, protect our food supply, and reduce our carbon footprint. Perhaps sweetest of all, food grown in your own backyard tastes so much better because it’s fresh and hasn’t made a week or two-week long journey half-way around the world!

What do you think? Will the new victory garden start a resurgence in gardening in America? Has that resurgence already begun? Have you planted a garden in the past? If not, do you plan on it this year?

*Thanks to Nature Deva for the tip-off!

The World chimes in about Barack Obama

Today is the day Barack Obama becomes president of the United States of America. There is no doubt that there is a huge number of Americans who are overjoyed that today is finally here, but what about the rest of the world – are they excited too? Immediately after Obama was elected, I asked for feedback from my blogger and Twitter friends from around the world. I specifically wanted to know what their reaction was to the news that Obama would be president and what the overall reaction in their country was as well.

I intended to blog about those reactions back in November, but time got away from me (as it often does). Still, I wanted to share these sentiments and figured today, Inauguration Day, was the perfect time to do so.

Kellie (an American living abroad) said:

We are of course American, but living overseas in England right now. We also traveled to France a few days after the election, and let me say that the Brits and Europeans are THRILLED! It is all over the news here … TV, print news, billboard signs. I love it! We are thrilled with the outcome and look forward to the next four years! We hope he makes some great changes, especially within the military!!!

Naomi (who was living in Canada at the time of the election, but is now in the UK) said:

Hubby and I watched all night and literally wept with joy. Cannot be happier. Not religious, but PRAISE GOD. Thinking of tattoos. “There is nothing false about hope” and “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for”. No joke.

Penny (from New Zealand) said:

Over the past few weeks our newspaper has been full of election news both from our local politicians (we go to the polls on Saturday to vote), and from the US. The US campaign has gone on for so long that I was getting tired of the hype! But I must say that the last two days I couldn’t help but turn my eyes to your country. I’ve been looking at a few blogs, Youtube vids of the candidates and listening to some commentators from our country and their view on the situation. I think (from my perspective) that it was time for change, but I don’t pretend to fully understand the issues that are at stake there.

Perhaps it is hard for US citizens to understand how the rest of the world views America. We see you as a nation of great strength and leadership, but also one whose citizens can be naively insular about the rest of the world. Because you have that position of strength, there is a need for strong, charismatic but uniting leadership. I don’t think the US has had that sort of leadership for a while. (When George Bush was re-elected almost everyone I had contact with here felt disbelief and amazement that he had got back in. Many people here did not agree with the way things panned out in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the continued presence of troops there.) Now with the world economy in a recession and the heightened awareness of peak oil/global warming there is a feeling that things need to change both here and globally.

I couldn’t help but be excited by the historic nature of this election. It’s a great moment for America and even for the rest of the world, to have a multi-racial person elected to Commander in chief. It gives hope that America is moving on from it’s past, and that anyone with guts/determination/leadership can be the head of the land regardless of their ethnicity.

But beyond that I do hope that Obama and his party will be able to take the US forward and serve his people so that even those who didn’t vote for him will be able to say it has been a change for good. I would also like to see some leadership and responsibility in areas such as reducing carbon emissions etc. I feel that the Bush administration has had their heads in the sand about this and I know that many people here think the war in Iraq has a lot to do with the US obsession with oil reserves there and less to do with the terror aspect…

I know that some of my American friends are disappointed and even frightened. I know they have been disturbed by publicity about soul-searching topics like abortion and terrorism but I have the sense that these have been scare mongering strategies. Again, I don’t pretend to fully understand the issues as they apply to the US but I would like to say that any leader or group of leaders needs the support of the people and the feedback from the people to be able to lead effectively. Just because Obama may not have been your choice, don’t give up on him but rather voice your concerns, make submissions. Given the diversity of the US it’s unlikely he will be able to satisfy everyone’s wants, but “needs” are more important anyway.

He (and his party) have a big job ahead. I doubt you will see results immediately but I wish you all the best.

And I don’t intend to sound offensive to individuals when I talk about the US as a whole. I know many of my US friends don’t have naively insular views about the world etc! But it’s a widely held perception here. We are a small country with little clout in comparison to yours and we like to think we are important too – and when many of your citizens think we’re part of Australia it gets just a tad annoying. At least LOTR has put us on the map! LOL!

Megan (also from New Zealand) said:

I am so happy for you. I sat with Ara in my arms trying to keep her calm enough so I could hear what was being said. I had tears in my eye…and still have.

I have been talking to Dave (my husband) via email and both he and I are very disappointed that we do not have an Obama in our country…our candidates are like squabbling little toddlers in the sand pit….and we have our elections on Saturday and I still don’t know who to vote for.

We need an inspiring person like Obama…we need a leader to pull us out and give us a slap (not that I believe in hitting ;-)) …we need direction too…I can only hope that your Obama can pull our little country up as well.

I think the world has hopes and dreams and your poor Obama is going to be run haggard with all the cleanup. He has my support and my excitement even though I’m half a world away.

Juliet (from the UK) said:

Hi, I’m from Brighton, UK and have followed the excitement both on the news and from the Twitter feeds I subscribe too.

This must be such an amazing time for you guys at the moment, Obama brings strength, positive change and finally gravitas to the White House. It feels like you have only just started opening the gift he is giving you.

Although it has been great watching it on the news, you could feel what was happening much more from your conversations on Twitter. It was great hearing about all of the personal stories across the US as the evening unfolded.

All we need in the UK now is someone as cool as Obama! I’m quite jealous – ours certainly doesn’t match up!

Planning Queen (from Australia) said:

I am from Melbourne, Australia and also had tears in my eyes when Barack and his family got up on stage. Luckily my children were home from school and I could emphasise the importance of this moment in time to them.

Australia is a small country (by population) and the influence that we have on the wider world is very small. America however is the complete opposite and has the opportunity to lead the rest of the world with the decisions it makes. To me the last 7 or so years has seen this leadership going in the wrong direction, with countries like Australia and the UK following.

My hope is that with Obama, this truly will be a change in leadership that will help guide others in the right direction. The direction that cares about the environment, prefers diplomacy over aggression and looks after the disadvantaged.

Congratulations to Americans for making the brave choice of change.

I had several Canadians weigh in too.

MomOnTheGo (of Canada) said:

I’m a Canadian and have to say that there was a lot of Obama-fever up here, too. He is an amazing speaker who spoke of change and his beliefs with passion. His openness to the world and international issues and, honestly, his intelligent approach to any issue that I heard him address brings hope for the world. I think Planning Queen summed up the role the US plays in the world very well. We sometimes talk about “sleeping next to the elephant” means you have to be vigilant when the elephant rolls over. There are many Canadians who are sleeping easier with the knowledge that Barack Obama will be in charge of the elephant.

I find it interesting to hear Obama referred to as a socialist since, for the most part, his policies are still more conservative than those of our Conservative Party. We’ve had a state medical system for decades and waiting lines at emergency rooms are no different than in the US and I have never needed to decide whether I could afford to take my child if she was sick, I paid nothing when I left the hospital after giving birth and never thought twice about attending each and every pre-natal appointment because they were all paid for. American men, women and children deserve these things. There are waits for some surgeries but we’re working on those.

If nothing else, Obama brought passion for the democratic process to millions who were feeling estranged from it, even people in other countries. That is an entirely good thing.

Leanne (from Hamilton, Ontario, Canada) said:

What happens in U.S. politics definitely affects the economic and political climates in Canada. So, it is with intense interest that I followed the returns on November 4. I stayed up late to catch the incredibly classy and inspiring acceptance speech. I’m just so giggly-thrilled that Barack Obama was elected to be the next President of the United States of America. I am floored that a man so controlled, intelligent, sincere, charismatic, young, black, liberal, inspiring, even-tempered and dignified could have been elected to that position. I honestly did not think that nearly 30 years of Republican grotesqueries would allow it. What has especially made me hopeful for the future was his acceptance speech, which was not gleeful, not self-congratulatory, nor particularly celebratory. He seemed to be telling his supporters, the U.S. as a whole and the rest of the world: you have done an important thing but it is not going to be the most important thing you do, that will be the hard work of making our world and country better. And, gosh darn, I believed him. It seemed to me that Obama set the entire tone of his administration in that speech: It’s not “my” government, he see to be saying, it’s your government, and he’s just there to guide the rebuilding, to be the lightning rod for the energies of the people of the U.S. It is the morning of a beautiful day in the U.S. and as a Canadian, I’m lucky to get to share the weather.

Shawna (of Ontario, Canada) said:

I read your blog about Obama’s win and thought I would share some thoughts on how it looked from my corner of the world in Ontario Canada. Many of my friends, family and neighbours were actively engaged in this election. For a long time we have admittedly looked to our Southern friends and family and shaken our heads in disbelief at the administration of your Country. When George Bush was elected 4 years ago we were very saddened that the American people voted once again for a man who spoke so often of hate, terror and fear. That individualism and power seemed more important than community and peace.

But all that changed with this election. I loved watching the excitement and energy of the American People in the lead up to the election. There was so much passion, energy and hope. Last night we spoke to our children at the dinner table about the election and explained how millions were going to vote that day just as we had over a month ago in our own Country. We told them that we hoped that the people would vote for a man named Obama because he believes in people and cares about the world (my children are 5 and 3 so we were keeping it simple). My daughter Ainsley beamed at me and said that she too hoped they voted for Obama because he seemed like a good man. Later my partner and I sat down and watched the coverage and were ecstatic when Obama was awarded victory. It was a proud day for Americans and we were and are so happy that the US voted for change. This seemed to be an election for the people and I think it demonstrated how good democracy can work when citizens are inspired to be engaged. It serves as an example for all of our Countries to expect more from our leaders and contenders for office. That we shouldn’t have to vote for the lesser evil or against someone but instead for someone and for values we believe in.

Everywhere I go today people in my city are talking about the election and the hope that has come with it. What it means for our own Country policy wise is less important to me right now than what it means for us as people who can believe in change. We elected a minority Conservative government here about a month ago who is reminiscent of George Bush and the Republicans. Many of us fear that our Country is headed in the wrong direction and that so many of the values we as Canadians hold dear will be undermined by our leaders. The election in the US reminds me that it is the people of a country who truly make a difference and that when we come together and put our energy into something we can accomplish great things. I carry this with me as I look forward to what our country needs and how I as a citizen can influence that change.

Jennie (from Canada) said:

I’ve spent that last two days watching lots of news about the American election. Canadians in general follow American politics since the actions of one of us influences the other.
I am so proud of the American people. Electing Barack Obama as your president is monumental. I feel lucky to have witnessed such a historic time on earth.
The election of Barack Obama has removed some of the veils of cynicism that I’ve acquired over the years concerning politics and the world’s ability to change. If the United States with all its history can choose an African-American man as their leader, then I believe that women can aspire to the top position of power.
I hope that the momentum of this time does not fade and that the issues that really matter are addressed under the new administration. Despite the troubling times we are living in, we have a small victory in a battle for unity. We are blessed.

Annie (from Canada) said:

We were relieved and excited that Barack Obama was elected president. I’m excited about the message of change that Barack Obama brings. I’m excited about the race barriers that have been broken down. I’m excited to see a Democrat back in the White House (it seems all too long since Clinton left). I was scared every day of what new policies, wars or other ideas George Bush might come up with to hurt his people or other people around the world and was worried that McCain/Palin (especially if McCain died) would be more of the same or worse. I’m glad I don’t need to be scared anymore.

While I’m extremely excited for my American friends about the positive domestic changes that Obama is sure to bring, I am unsure about where he stands on issues that will affect Canadians. I’m a big supporter of free trade and when he suggests it might be renegotiated, that worries me. And when people say it would be renegotiated to include stronger environmental provisions, I say “go ahead!” because the Americans have a worse record when it comes to protecting the environment than we do (but we’re not far behind). But I worry that once the doors are opened at all, that Obama might start applying restrictions to other parts of free trade that are beneficial.

I also wonder what Obama will keep and what he’ll get rid of with regards to greater restrictions that have been placed on foreigners. I used to travel to the US frequently for business, for family vacations, and for day shopping trips. Now I don’t anymore. I’m scared and I’m annoyed. I used to get a smile and a few friendly questions at the border (where are you from, where are you going, how long are you staying, have a great trip!). Now I get grilled to the nth degree by a scowling border guard that seems to assume that each person trying to cross the border wants to do some sort of harm to the United States (no, really, I just want to shop and vacation….don’t you want my dollars…guess not). Also, there is a law/policy brought in under Bush that indicates that foreigners that are pulled over by the police for any reason can get thrown into jail immediately. A Canadian woman that turned right somewhere where it wasn’t allowed ended up spending the night in jail. Even the possibility of that happening, especially as a mom that often travels with my small children and that does not want to be seperated from them under any circumstance, makes me scared enough to not go to the United States. What happens if I miss a sign and make an illegal turn by mistake?

All that said, I’m very excited for Americans. But I’m anxiously and apprehensively waiting to see how Obama’s attitude and policies towards foreigners (especially close allies) will be different than his predecessor. Until then, I’ll be vacationing in Cuba and shopping in Canada.

Rebecca (from Ontario, Canada) said:

Ben (my husband) thinks I’m silly for being so emotional today. I’m overwhelmed with feelings: awe, incredulity, happiness, gratitude, relief…

The success of Barack Obama’s Presidential campaign is monumental in its importance, not just to the United States of America, but to Canada and the world. He represents change, hope, and tolerance. He represents black people and white people. He’s educated, well-spoken, quiet, graceful, charismatic, and inspiring.

Imagine: there are people alive today who, years ago, couldn’t vote because of the colour of their skin. Yesterday, they were allowed to vote – and one of the people they could vote for was BLACK! Not only did a black man RUN for President, he WON! This is huge. Now, every generation that follows will grow up learning about the first black American President and how he changed the world.

Now, Obama has a tough job ahead. He inherits a huge deficit, two wars, and countless other problems. Add to that the promises he has made for change, and you have a potential for heartbreak and disappointment if he fails to do what he has said he will. I do not envy his job at this point, but I hope he realizes the importance of keeping his word and always doing the best he can, to lead the most powerful country in the world with fairness and humility while being decisive, intelligent, and innovative. Major changes to environmental policy are required, immediately, and I think he realizes that. Green collar job creation will be instrumental in taking steps to halt the progression of environmental destruction. Obama, I think, understands that major change must take place, and NOW, in order to avoid going past the point of no return.

His first order of business, I think, will be to try to fix the economy, followed by a decision to withdraw troops from Iraq, deal with Afghanistan, and all the while making policy on environmental decisions. Tough job.

Mr Obama, I wish you the best. Congratulations and good luck!

If after all of that, you still need convincing that the world is excited to see Barack Obama as the new president of the United States, check out this link to World leaders’ quotes on Obama election win. Yes, this is much bigger than the United States. It impacts the entire world.

Today my kids and I will be sporting our Obama t-shirts while we witness history and watch the inauguration on TV with the rest of the world. I can’t help but be filled with pride and gratitude as I think of all of the work so many people did to get us here today and also filled with hope as I look to the future.

National Day of Service

Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “If you want to be important — wonderful. If you want to be recognized — wonderful. If you want to be great — wonderful. But, recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. That’s a new definition of greatness.”

Monday, Jan. 19, is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and also the National Day of Service.

Michelle Obama has challenged all of us to volunteer on Jan. 19.

Volunteers of all ages and backgrounds are committing to renew America together, one community at a time.

Whatever service activity you organize or take part in — cleaning up a park, giving blood, volunteering at a homeless shelter, or mentoring an at-risk youth — you can help start this important journey. But this is about more than just a single day of service, it’s the beginning of an ongoing commitment to your community.

To find an event in your area, visit USA Service.org.

As for me and my family, we plan to visit our neighborhood park and walk around our neighborhood picking up trash. With the strong winds we’ve been having the past few weeks, there is a lot of trash scattered about that needs to be cleaned up. I really wish I had a way to get the plastic bags out of my tree, but I think we’ll have to focus on the trash on the ground.

What will you do to help out your community on this National Day of Service?

Update: So the fam and I went out in the crazy, wild wind today (it was a good thing it was warm and sunny out) and picked up trash at our neighborhood park. There was quite a bit to be had and we filled about half of a trash bag. There was everything from beer cans (a lot) to a Starbucks cup to plastic grocery bags, papers, a hanging file folder, and various water and soda bottles.

Here are a few pics (taken with my iPhone) from our excursion:

Jody and Ava get trash out of the bushes. 1/19/09
Jody and Ava get trash out of the bushes. 1/19/09
Jody and the kids look for trash at the park. 1/19/09
Jody and the kids look for trash at the park. 1/19/09
Me and the kids pose with the trash we collected. 1/19/09
The kids and I pose with the trash we collected. 1/19/09