13 October 2011

The Gathering

On the weekend of October 8 some of the amazing women and men who work hard to make Natural Parents Network the wonderful community and resource that it is got together for a meet-up at two locations across the U.S. — the Midwest and the Northwest. This was the first time that many of the volunteers have met in person after a year of collaborating on this amazing website. Please scroll to the bottom of this post for a list of links so that you can read what some of the other volunteers had to say about this incredible First Annual Natural Parents Network Team Get-Together!

As you might remember from last week's Gratitude Post, I spent this past weekend with some awesome people who I've only had contact with online before, the volunteers for Natural Parents Network. Even though not all of them could make it to the two planned gatherings, we had a good turn out and did some cool activities, but overall just enjoyed being together. And now that I feel like I'm writing some sort of sappy novel, I'll move on to a more interesting commentary.

Shannon from The Artful Mama and I (not having met in person before, but having chatted on Skype) drove half-way across the country with three small children to go to this meeting. Crazy? ..........I'll leave that up to you.
This is an exact replica of the car we drove. Almost.

H & P and Little Man did really well during this trip. It took us 24 hours to go each direction with Shannon and I trading off on driving the whole time. Stopping every few hours for gas, food, diaper changes, missing water bottles, more diaper changes, caffeine, diaper changes and random detours made it constantly eventful and relatively entertaining. It was certainly not without its challenges, however, specifically the final 2 hours of our time heading to Dionna's house when all three children took turns screaming in a chorus of "Get me out of this car!" I'm not proud of my mothering during that time when I simply had to keep my mouth shut for fear of saying horrendous things I knew I'd regret, but the point is that we made it!

Contemplating the vastness of freezer stencils.
For our "troubles," we each received amazing goody bags filled with great stuff from Tom's of Maine, Natural Newborn, Luna Pads and more. Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children was generous enough to hand make each bag holding all the great stuff, which doubles as a reusable produce bag! I am so grateful to each company's generous contribution to our gathering as well as Mandy's handiwork! Thanks!

As you might imagine, after 24 hours in a car we all passed out pretty well upon walking into D's house and seeing two already made up air mattresses for us to crash on (Thanks again, peeps!). After sleeping, we were able to regain some sort of normalcy and enjoyed breakfast before heading out into the back yard to make freezer stenciled shirts! I had no idea what I was going to make up until two seconds before we did it and then it took me about 100 years to do both designs for both girls. ("Perfectionism" at its best!) I'm fairly happy with the way they turned out, though, and I'm definitely going to be doing more freezer stenciling in the future.

Going above and beyond, before she realized just how high "beyond" is.

Our Saturday afternoon activity was a visit to a local nature center and a mile long hike in beautiful woods complete with limestone rocks. I'm eternally grateful for having brought my Connecta carrier with me, though it didn't do me quite as much good when I had to carry both Heidi and Piper on said trail while it was nearly 90 degrees outside. This hike caused me to come to the awful conclusion that I am out of shape. Terribly. Sure it was 90 degrees and I was carrying 50 extra lbs at some points up hill over large rock formations, but still. Out. of. shape. My legs felt it for the rest of the day.

On Sunday, while everyone else was doing yoga (which I wanted to do pretty badly), I took H & P to Unity Village, which is the headquarters of my church and a place I had only been to once before in my life. After driving all that way, I needed to at least visit because it is such a wonderful place to be. I was fortunate enough to attend their Sunday service while H & P spent some time in their child care program and I must admit that service made me cry at least 3 times. I'll be posting more on that later, but for now you can enjoy pictures of the rose garden (sans roses, sorry).


Ahh, fountains.

The remainder of Sunday consisted of a lovely parenting talk led by Amy at Peace 4 Parents where many of us really got to open up about some of the every day challenges we face in trying to be better parents. It's always nice to be able to open up safely about the troubles we have since, believe it or not, none of us is perfect! We followed that up with an evening of quinoa chili and henna by Joni Rae at Tales of a Kitchen Witch. You'll probably see a lot of her awesome work floating around, but if you don't get the chance you can at least see my amazing ankle (Even if the photo isn't that great).

One of the things I loved most about this gathering was never having to worry about where my children were. Having so many natural, attachment parent-minded adults around left me feeling so comfortable that I never hesitated to walk out of a room or in and out of the house when I had to. I always knew that my children were in good hands and would never be spoken to in an inappropriate manner or treated poorly. If only we could all be together all the time, to take turns watching children and disciplining, cooking and cleaning...oh wait, that's Utopia right? Or perhaps a commune.

I'm already looking forward to next year's gathering, wherever it may be, because this was such an energizing trip for me (mentally) that I feel the inherent need to do it again. It is so hard to find like-minded friends, especially like-minded parenting friends, and I certainly don't plan on leaving this group any time soon.

To learn more about all the members of the Natural Parents Network team, visit our about page. To become a volunteer for NPN, first please check out what we're in need of, then contact us if you're interested in helping out. Here's information about some of our lovely volunteers, including all of those who are writing about the gathering today:

In The First Annual Natural Parents Network Cross-Country Get Together, Natural Parents Network thanks the many volunteers who made our first annual get-together a success, and the awesome companies who donated to fill "welcome bags" for the Midwest group.

Northwest Gathering Attendees:

Lauren at Hobo Mama writes Meeting My NPN Friends.  Also find Lauren on Twitter and Facebook!

Amy at Anktangle writes Meeting the NPN Family.  Also find Amy on Twitter and Facebook.

Arpita at Up, Down & Natural writes Me And My Ladies ~ First Annual NPN Team Gathering.  Also find Arpita on Twitter and Facebook.

Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings writes Seattle Bloggy Meetup & Gluten-free Shortbread! Also find Kristin on Twitter and Facebook!

Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy writes Meeting Those People.... Also find Jennifer on Twitter.

Shannon at Pineapples & Artichokes writes Thanks.

Moorea at MamaLady: Adventures in Lesbian Parenting writes The Natural Parents Are Coming! Hide the Stroller!

Midwest Gathering Attendees:

Dionna at Code Name: Mama writes Wanted: More NPN Volunteers in Kansas City! Also find Dionna on Twitter and Facebook!

Jorje at Momma Jorje writes Vacation Weekend with Volunteers.  Also find Jorje on Facebook!

Amy at Peace 4 Parents writes The Value of Parent-to-Parent Support, Truth, Love, and Healing.  Also find Amy on Twitter and Facebook.

Amanda at Let's Take the Metro writes The Gathering.  Also find Amanda on Facebook.

Joni Rae at Tales of Kitchen Witch writes The One Where I Go to the NPN Gathering.  Also find Joni Rae on Twitter and Facebook

Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children writes First Natural Parents Network Get Together.

Rebekah & Chris at Liberated Family.  Also find Rebekah & Chris on Twitter.

Fabulous NPN Volunteers who were unable to attend:

Melissa at The New Mommy Files writes Building a Modern Day Village.  Find Melissa on Twitter and Facebook.

Rachael at The Variegated Life.  Find Rachel on Twitter and Facebook.

Luschka at Diary of a First Child writes Dear Screen Name, Are You Really My Friend? Find Luschka on Twitter and Facebook.

Darcel at The Mahogany Way writes The Natural Parents Network Gathering I Couldn't Attend.  Find Darcel on Twitter and Facebook.

Sarah at Parenting God's Children. Find Sarah on Twitter and Facebook.

Julia at A Little Bit of All of It. Find Julia on Twitter and Facebook.


  1. You make such a good point about trusting that our kids were safe at all times - perhaps that's why Kieran felt so comfortable with our home invasion :)
    Thank you again for making the trip - the weekend would never have been complete without you!

  2. Wish I could have been there!

    I didn't realize you drove with Shannon - how cool!

    Also, awesome that you got to visit your church's HQ. Looking forward to hearing more about that.

  3. Thank you for making the long trip to be there, Amanda! It was really nice to get to meet you, and I'm only sorry we didn't have more time to spend together. I agree about the safe environment, community, and gentle alloparenting present there. It definitely makes me want to start (or join) a commune!

  4. I'm glad you touched on the community parenting aspect. It was definitely nice to know that our children were safe and that we were all looking out for them.

    I definitely love the idea of a commune setting... except for that whole living-on-the-road dream of mine.

  5. Thank you :) I sooo enjoyed meeting everyone!!

    Charise I was tempted to tell you to drive down to Shannon, then drive to me, but I think that would have been quite the trip! Plus we would have needed a rather large van :)

  6. Your ankle is amazing.

    I am jealous of you all, but very happy it was such a great time. :) Thanks for sharing!