31 August 2011

Guest Post: Emotions Rise

Today I am pleased to present this amazing and beautiful poem by Amy Phoenix of Peace4Parents and Innate Wholeness. Amy is a fellow Natural Parents Network volunteer who somehow manages to exude her peacefulness right through the computer. Please check out her blogs, find her on Facebook and read on to see why she is awesome.
Emotions rise like a toiled soul coming up from the depths of darkness
A well of uncertainty, sorrow, and strife
Angry words spew from your mouth to my ears

Of our hearts racing as the blood rushes through
Our bodies
In response to the pain

I recoil
You resist

Reactive anger has done its damage, again.

Moments pass
The hurt surfaces
Threatening to repeat the cycle in another form

The breath releases
A choice presents

Focus on the pain, or allow it through
Ever so observant
No words
No actions
Only breath
And sensations

Emotions rise to be heard again
Like a geyser from the center of the earth
Deserving the space

To be met
In the moment
With Love

Wordless Wednesday: The Beach

27 August 2011

The Gratitude Post

I'm writing a weekly post to express gratitude for everything I have been blessed with in my life. Will you join me in sharing just five things you are grateful for this week?

This week I'm grateful for:

Visiting Family: This weekend I get to see some family that I haven't seen in almost two years and I'm super excited! They haven't even met Piper yet, so it's going to be a great visit.

Meeting Shannon: It's nice to have online relationships with other like-minded adults, but nothing can replace pure human contact (and I don't think anything will ever replace it). I'm fortunate enough to meet Shannon of The Artful Mama in person in all her glory. I hope this will be the first of many meetings.

Other Kids: At home, Heidi and Piper have a 4-year-old and a 6-year-old to play with and at church there are dozens more. Even though some aspects of other kids' influence over my children scares me (hey, I was a kid once), I am glad that they have social experiences besides me. I can only take them so far and I know that some day, their friends will be just as important to them as I am.

Days Outside: After so much on and off rain, it has been really nice to have Heidi and Piper outside every day for hours. I love that they are spending so much time in the fresh air, with nature, even though they do have a lot of fun indoors too. I look forward to even more fun outdoors in the months to come.

Cloth Diapers: I am so, so, so glad that I use cloth diapers. Even after all the "issues" I have had with them, at the end of the day I still love them. I love how I never have to care about putting a diaper on for a short period of time, not knowing whether or not they'll use it, and being able to wash it instead of throwing it away even if it isn't used. Actually, I generally love that no matter what happens to them, I can just wash them and use them again, regardless of how dirty they might get outside. I especially thank my inspirations for cloth diapering: Kirsten at Our Small Tribe, Stephani at The O'Hara Family and Terri at Random Mama Brain. You're awesome and I'm so grateful for you!

20 August 2011

The Gratitude Post

I'm writing a weekly post to express gratitude for everything I have been blessed with in my life. Will you join me in sharing just five things you are grateful for this week?

This week I'm grateful for:

Dinner with friends: (Yes, I can be grateful for this before and after it happened.) I definitely enjoyed my dinner with my real life friends and am so thankful that I got to spend time with them again. Once again, you can read my friend's blog about her journey to England that starts on Monday here and you can read another friend's blog here if you're a bookworm :)

The Bread Machine: My mom gave me her bread machine and I'm so happy! I was thinking to myself yesterday, "Self, we need more bread." And then....I remembered she had given me a machine! Ta-da! Therefore, I made bread. For the first time! I can't wait to use it all winter.

Home Grown Veggies: Even though I have very few things growing right now, I have been able to give Heidi, Piper and myself each a green bean! That's 3 less green beans we have to buy!

My brain: I'm glad that it works. (Most of the time.) That's it.

Traveling: I have a lot of traveling coming up and I'm so excited for it all! I'll be seeing a lot of family and meeting a lot of online friends! I'm so grateful for each of those opportunities and I know the next couple of months will be full of happiness. (Are you throwing up yet? ;) )

18 August 2011

I Had Some Fries with Gravy

Dang it.

Last night, I went out to dinner with my friends and was very pleased to do so. I ordered an eggplant parm hoagie (just about the only vegetarian thing on the menu) and a side of fries with gravy. It didn't even occur to me until today, driving home, that I had gravy.


While I'm sure that this gravy spawned from some sort of powder, and was certainly as far away from a meat product as it could be, it still held its birth in meat and that thought didn't even cross my mind.

Yes, I am still new to vegetarianism. It has only been 18 days since I started my experiment and though I truly enjoy this lifestyle, I know I have a long way to go before I am more comfortable with it. Not to mention that I haven't "officially" made the decision to stay a full vegetarian once the month-long experiment is over (but I'm leaning heavily in that direction).

Vegetarian people, please forgive me. I have known and acknowledged for a long time that most restaurant menus offer very little vegetarian options, but I didn't think that it would cause me to fall back on my previous habits.


I will do better next time, I swear.

13 August 2011

The Gratitude Post

I'm writing a weekly post to express gratitude for everything I have been blessed with in my life. Will you join me in sharing just five things you are grateful for this week?

This week I'm grateful for:

50 Blog Followers! Hooray! I have 50 blog followers! Thank you so much for being here! I am so totally honored that so many of you have chosen to "regularly" read my words. It is truly an amazing feeling.

Vegetables: I love vegetables. Mmmmm. They are so tasty and I am so thankful that I love them and have them in my life. It's good to be veggie.

Dinner with Real Life Friends: This coming week, I have the opportunity to have dinner with some friends I haven't seen in a long time. One of them is making a big move to London very soon (and she's blogging about it) so this is the last time I will see her for a while. I'm grateful that I will have dinner, sans children, with some real people.

Hagen and 5 month old Heidi

Cats: We got our cats back this week after not having them for about 10 months (they were residing at my father-in-law's house). Yippee! (See that sarcasm dripping there?) I am grateful to have them, though because Heidi and Piper think that they are the cat's meow (pun intended) and run around after them all day long. Poor cats had no idea what they were getting into...

My sewing machine: Even though there are times (many, many times) when I would like to throw my sewing machine out the window or drive over it with a tank, I am very thankful that I have it. I have no problem sewing by hand, and I still do it quite often, but sometimes, the sewing machine really helps get the job done a lot quicker.

12 August 2011

I Don't Like What I See

Not so long ago, one of the pages I follow on Facebook posted a question to her fans. She wondered if they had done things differently with each of their children (if they had more than one) and whether or not they notice a difference in the children. She specifically referenced things like babywearing, breastfeeding, cry-it-out and co-sleeping and their reverse counterparts, most of which I have duel experiences with. This question really got me thinking and as a result, I don't like what I see.

First, let me give you some background information.

  • I nursed Heidi for 10 1/2 months until I no longer made milk due to pregnancy with Piper. Piper nursed for 14 months.

  • Despite Heidi breastfeeding for most of the first year of her life, she started sleeping through the night before she was 2 months old. At the time, it never occurred to me for her to sleep with me because she slept all night in her crib. Prior to that, she had been sleeping with me off and on because I realized that when she slept with me, she slept for longer periods of time.

  • On the other hand, Piper literally slept with me for more than a year. Even though she would start out the night in her crib, I was often too lazy to even attempt to put her back in because of how tired I was. When she cried, I'd simply pick her up, nurse her and go back to sleep with her next to me. She started sleeping through the night somewhere around her first birthday and by 15 months of age, she was sleeping in a twin bed with a bed rail. (I'm still reasonably pleased with myself for figuring out that after all that time sleeping in a bed, it was only understandable that she would prefer a bed to a crib.)

  • I semi-discovered babywearing while Heidi was tiny, but I did not invest in a high quality carrier. It was some sling type thing that served a small purpose, but it wasn't my favorite. When I got pregnant with Piper, I knew I would need one so I could give myself the advantage of having two hands pushing a shopping cart or just around the house. I invested in a Connecta and never looked back. I wore Piper almost all the time, especially after we first moved here and she couldn't walk with us to the canal yet. Eventually, I started wearing Heidi in the Connecta as well, but she was already well into toddler-hood by the time that happened.

Why is all of this important?

Well, when I looked at this question, I began to look at the differences I see between Heidi and Piper and relate them to their different upbringings. Yes, I am fully aware that they are two different people and any difference between them could simply be due to that fact, but I know that 'nature' cannot account for 100% of a person's traits. It is with those eyes that I look at Heidi and Piper and see differences that I feel I could have changed.

  • Since before Heidi was a year old, she has utilized a blanket to fall asleep. She also requests a blanket whenever she is crying, even if I'm holding her. My one saving grace is that it's never the same blanket, but the idea that my comfort alone is not enough for her sometimes is disheartening. Piper has no need for trinkets of any kind.

  • I have noticed a general sense of insecurity in Heidi that I do not see in Piper. It's hard for me to describe, especially without you knowing her or having ever been in her presence so you'll just have to trust me. I see this insecurity in her throughout the day, manifesting in her whines and cries for various things. Again, I know this certainly could be age-related, but when I see such a vast difference in Piper, I feel it's something more.

I hate to think that I might have wronged one of my children in some way that will affect how she is in the future. I know that I cannot blame myself for not knowing the benefits of something like co-sleeping until well into Piper's first year, but I can't help but wonder if Heidi would have been different had I breastfed her for at least her entire first year, worn her often and had her sleep with me for as long as she wanted.

I don't know how to fix this.

My one glimmer of hope is that Heidi has now started waking up in the middle of the night and coming into our bed with us. Then she'll sleep as usual until the morning, but at least she's getting a new chance to feel the comfort and stability of the family bed. Plus, I do wear her from time to time, occasionally at home and when carts for two children are unavailable.

This is the big question: What can I do to turn this around? 

Have you done things differently with multiple children? Did you notice a difference between them?

09 August 2011

Everything's Better When It's Homemade

Welcome to the August Carnival of Natural Parenting: Creating With Kids
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared how they make messes and masterpieces with children. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

I’m pretty big on homemade things. You may or may not have noticed, but I like to make things for my children as often as I can and I accept homemade gifts for them as I would a gift of solid gold. They’re not quite at an age where I can create thing with them (although we have made a few attempts) so in the mean time, I will make as much for them as I can and hope it will last through to the next generation.

Heidi's doll on the left, Piper's on the right.

I have always appreciated items made by hand, but having children has caused my appreciation to quadruple. My mother made a lot of things for me as a child, many of which I still have, and she has already continued that tradition by making things for Heidi and Piper. For their last birthdays (Heidi’s 2nd and Piper’s 1st), my mother took two doll bodies and painted their respective faces on them, sewed matching hair on each one and dressed them in semi-homemade clothes. Although the dolls spend more time naked than clothed, they get a lot of love. The hair on Piper’s doll has already seen better days and needs some refurbishing, but I love knowing that these gifts are already so appreciated.

After I discovered Mama’s Felt CafĂ©, I decided to try my hand at making homemade toys and haven’t looked back. I already made some “numbered felt squares” for them and have gone on to make a plethora of felt photo frames as gifts. I plan to make my own felt food to give to them for Christmas when they may or may not get a kitchen from Santa. Naturally, plastic food is often easier to wash, but, well, it's also plastic. Since I've been trying to rid my house of as much plastic as I can (a long and tedious process), I prefer to give them some homemade food because to me it holds much more value.

But I didn't stop at felt fabulousness.

I love skirts and have always loved them in one sense or another. Watching my children play, I've noticed that their movements are often restricted by their pants, mostly because they do not have any pants that were specifically made to fit cloth diaper butts. I thought to myself, "Self, how hard can it be to make a skirt? It's just two pieces of fabric sewn together, right?" Well, almost. While I was relatively successful at making Heidi a skirt for Christmas, it was only because I used elastic for the waist. I'm pretty bad at hems and wouldn't have a clue how to do a proper waist without the elastic (I'm working on it). Nevertheless, I have sewed two play skirts for her that allow for plenty of movement and are sufficient enough to withstand multiple washings and rough toddler play. I long to make more, but every day I resolve to sit down at the sewing machine, I am repeatedly distracted for some odd reason.

Nothing is going to stop me from making more and more homemade items for my children. As they grow, I will include them in whatever practices they find interesting and I will always reinforce the notion that homemade is better than anything found in a store. I look forward to making many Halloween costumes, toys, dresses and whatever else they fancy. After all, what could be better than having an infinite catalog of goodies (mom) at your disposal?


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • Family Draw Time Art ShowKate Wicker shares art (and inspiration!) from her family's cherished tradition of family draw time.
  • The Rules of Creativity: Learning to Create with the "Non-Creative" — Zoe at Give an Earthly shares how she learned to accept her "non-creative" child and claims that anyone, child or adult, can be creative given the right handling and environment.
  • Creating With Kids: 4 Ways That Work For Us — See how Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings nurtures creativity with her kids through craft projects, outdoor creative play, celebrating the creative process, and setting up "little spaces of beauty."
  • Creating memories, not things — Mrs. Green from Little Green Blog reflects on life with a ten year old and how 'creating together' has evolved from 'things' to memories.
  • The Gift of Creation — It may be hot, but Kellie at Our Mindful Life is already thinking about winter.
  • Hidden Talents — Sylvia at MaMammalia describes how providing the opportunity for creativity sometimes means learning to look for hidden talents in unusual places.
  • Creating Joy — CatholicMommy at Working to be Worthy shares how she and her one year-old son create joy for their community.
  • How to do Crafts with Kids — Gaby from Tmuffin guest posts at Natural Parents Network and describes how to keep things simple when doing crafts with kids for magical (easy-to-clean, and tantrum-free) results.
  • Sugar & Spice & Baking on the Kitchen Floor — Carrie at Love Notes Mama enjoys making a mess in the kitchen with her daughter.
  • Young Scientist Makes Purple Potion — Hannah at Wild Parenting loves being a lab assistant for the young scientist in her life.
  • Making a butterfly house — Lauren at Hobo Mama demonstrates the proper way to build a wooden butterfly house with a preschooler.
  • Nurturing Creativity — Amyables at Toddler In Tow shares the enjoyment she feels in nurturing the creativity of her children.
  • Home School Music - Sparking A New Generation Of Musicians — Based on her musical background, Chante at My Natural Motherhood Journey talks about how she creates with and teaches music to her children.
  • Creating (im)perfectly TogetherMudpiemama shares some of the highlights of a summer spent building everything from ships to hoops but most of a lesson on letting go of perfection.
  • Family Soccer Kick Around — When her children wanted to play soccer, Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children helped organize something that would work for her family.
  • Creating Memories Together on Skype — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells how you can create memories online with adult children or anyone who lives in another city or country.

06 August 2011

The Gratitude Post

I'm writing a weekly post to express gratitude for everything I have been blessed with in my life. Will you join me in sharing just five things you are grateful for this week?

This week I'm grateful for:

My mini wet bag: I picked this up about a year ago on a whim, knowing that I would need it in the months to come. It was made by a WAHM (Work At Home Mom) somewhere out there and she is amazing. At the church picnic this past Sunday, I neglected to presume that water would be involved in multiple forms of the children's play and only brought one change of clothes for each child and two changes of diapers. I used everything. Needless to say, I had a lot of wet stuff. This little wet bag held two outfits, two pocket diapers, two microfiber inserts, one prefold, two fitted diapers, a cover and three cloth wipes. Thank you for existing, my dear wet bag.

My car: I love my car. It's awesome. I've had it since 2002 and it has kept me safe all that time. When I drove home last weekend, we had some challenges, but we made it there and back in one piece. Thanks, car.

My GPS: Yet another device in my life that annoys the crap out of me, I am thankful for its existence because it still helps me get to places I haven't been before. Additionally, it reminds me how to get places I may have been before but am not quite sure of. I can overlook the fact that it occasionally wants me to go down roads that don't exist as long as I get where I'm going.

My phone: In the absence of my GPS device, I have the ability to use my phone. I can use it to cross-reference the route my GPS wants to take me and to look up all sorts of great information. Although it is slightly addicting, I am grateful to have it because it keeps me connected to the outside world. (And I can check the weather every five seconds.)

Heidi: She has become so helpful lately it's astounding. And no, I'm not exactly eliciting it any more than I have been, she's just growing up. I love watching it and I am so, so grateful that I am able to watch her grow every day.

04 August 2011

The New Nursing Mom's Checklist

For those of you who are planning to breastfeed and are pregnant, this list is for you. and for those of you who have already had your first child and are working on a breastfeeding relationship, I apologize for not writing this sooner. You can egg my house later. Though this may not be an exhaustive list, I hope it will provide those of you wondering what you need for nursing with a decent place to start.

A Good Pump: While for some of you it might not be "necessary" to have a pump, I would say that the vast majority of women should have a decent one. Why? For me, it really made the difference when I was engorged after my milk came in and Heidi could not possibly eat enough to make me feel better. Pumping was such a huge relief for me in those early days I cannot even begin to describe it. If you plan to return to work, you would certainly need a pump so your baby can still have milk when you're gone. Even if you don't plan to return to work, I think it's always a good idea to pump and freeze your milk for whenever you might need it or to give away to others who can't make milk.
If you don't have an electric pump, you may be able to rent one from the hospital or in some cases, they might give you a manual one. You can also manually express milk, though that takes a bit of practice at first. Whatever you do, please consider staying away from Medela. As a company, they have refused to comply with the WHO code in a number of ways and do not have the best interests of mothers and babies at heart. (Instead, look at Hygeia or Ameda).

This is how I felt about my hospital stay with Heidi.

Nursing Tank Tops: Even before you purchase nursing bras, I would tell you to purchase as many nursing tank tops as you can. Why? I lived in them at the beginning of my first nursing relationship. Literally. I'd put one on to go to bed and then wouldn't take it off until I was going to bed the following night (gross? maybe, but there's not a lot of brain power during the first few weeks of your baby's life...and not a lot of motivation to wear clean clothes). After I was more comfortable with nursing, I just wore them at night as pajamas or under button-down pajama shirts. I cannot recommend them enough, for real.

Nursing Bras: If you are a seasoned nurser, you might not really need any nursing bras because any bra is technically sufficient. However, in the first days of being a new mother, when you are likely to experience some engorgement, you might want to have a really (large) supportive bra on hand to help get you through. If you are already large chested, be sure to purchase a bra that is about two sizes larger than you normally wear and another one a size or so up for those first few weeks. Your chest will thank you.

A Rocking Chair: I consider this essential nursing equipment because it is a comfortable space for you to sit and relax while feeding your child. Additionally, the movement coupled with nursing is a surefire combination for sleep. I found, even after Heidi's birth, that I needed to rock her. It was soothing for both of us and helped with bonding.

A Nursing Cover: If you're like me, you might not be comfortable with other people watching you nurse your child, especially in the beginning. Find a really good, large nursing cover that you feel comfortable wearing and won't be too hot for your baby. I found my favorite cover to be one that went around my neck so that child could not forcefully pull it off (just attempt to choke me) in certain instances. Also, if you will be eventually returning to work and pumping, you might want a cover so that you can discretely pump wherever you are allowed (even at your desk!).
Nursing Piper was infinitely easier.

Lanolin: I was not given any lanolin until I was leaving the hospital with Heidi and when I finally got to use it, I realized what a difference it might have made to me during the first few days of painfulness. It is a substance that does not have to be removed from the nipple before baby feeds so that was a huge plus for me. If you still have some after you're done nursing (or no longer need it) it is also a good substitute for lotion and can even be used on cuts or sores, especially in the diaper area. Additionally, if you cloth diaper and decide to use wool, lanolin is how you keep your wool covers waterproof.

Support:  Having breastfeeding support is so critical in the early days and weeks when frustrations and pain can be enough to make anyone want to quit. Even if you have just one person who supports your decision to breastfeed, it can make the difference between sticking with it and giving up. And while the internet can be very informative, you might also want to have a good nursing book handy for when you cannot get to the computer or just don't want to. The only book I read is one I borrowed from a friend (and still haven't returned! Sorry!), which is So That's What They're For. I found it to be very helpful and would definitely recommend it, but again, I haven't read any others.

Some final tips:
  • Wear a bikini top in the shower. For a while, taking a shower hurt almost as much as nursing and the best way to cover my nipples while still being able to wash myself was with a bathing suit.
  • A lot of women find it easier to learn to breastfeed by being topless. If you are uncomfortable with that, wear a bra and a button down shirt so you don't have to jump through hoops to "whip it out."
  • Co-sleep/bed-share. The easiest nursing for me was nursing in the middle of the night without having to do anything other than open my shirt. If your baby is right there with you, you won't have to do much to feed her. 
  • Freeze as much milk as you can because you never know when you might need it.
  • Get comfortable. It can be very difficult to sit for the duration of a feeding if you are in an awkward position. In the beginning, it's nice to have someone hand you your baby after you sit down, but that is not always possible. While getting yourself comfortable, you can place baby on the floor or somewhere next to you where she can't get hurt. Then once you are situated, let the fun begin.
  • Though they are not necessary, you might want some nursing shirts or dresses in the early days. It always feels nice to wear real clothes and still be able to nurse easily and discreetly. These garments are often expensive, but since they still look like regular clothes you can probably get away with wearing them for a long time. 
What were/are your must-haves for breastfeeding? 



I’m celebrating World Breastfeeding Week with Natural Parents Network!

You can, too — link up your breastfeeding posts from August 1-7 in the linky below, and enjoy reading, commenting on, and sharing the posts collected here and on Natural Parents Network.

(Visit NPN for the code to place on your blog.)

01 August 2011

This Week's Menu

Ahh, August. A time of...new beginnings? Changes? Sure, why not.

I decided (for a number of reasons) to eat entirely vegetarian for the month of August. However, I'm currently struggling with an entire month's worth of vegetarian meals because, well, I don't have a huge vegetarian repertoire. Thus, you're getting a week of food right now and maybe I'll give you another week next Monday.

Monday, 8/1: Greens sauteed with garlic and olive oil, rice and salad.
Tuesday, 8/2: Grilled fish, potato salad and broccoli.
Wednesday, 8/3: Bean sautee over rice.
Thursday, 8/4: Stir fried veggies over rice noodles.
Friday, 8/5: Lentil and barley shepherd's pie (cause I didn't make it last week).
Saturday, 8/6: Polenta and salad.
Sunday, 8/7: Curried beans over rice.

What are you making this week? Any exciting ideas for me?