29 April 2011

Hoffman Week, Day 5: Creative Writing

 Eulogy

I would have loved to give a eulogy at Barbara Hoffman’s funeral, though I would have been ridiculously nervous and probably would have started crying. I was not asked to honor her on this occasion (nor do I think any of her former students were) so in lieu of that, I have compiled what I would have said on that day (tears or no tears).

I cannot construct enough words to represent how much it meant to me to have you as a professor. The fact that you waited until my final semester at Marywood to pass on to your next form is significant to me in innumerable ways. You were a tremendous asset to my Marywood career, without which I do not know if my love of writing and literature would have grown so deep.

I may have been persuaded to take your class by my mother, but the reason I kept coming back was the relaxed atmosphere you created and your genuine nature. You brought extra dimensions to the class every time you showed us personal photos, artifacts or other trinkets that you collected over the years from all over the world. You may have not had any biological children, but you had the freedom and the means to educate yourself through visitation and you brought those experiences to your extended family of students. To me, that was invaluable.

You cracked me up. You inspired me. You made me feel as though I could write anything at all and it would be the most amazing piece of work you had ever seen. I rejoiced in the freedom I felt in your classes; the freedom that starts with a prompt and ends in a fully constructed piece of writing from the creative heart. This same freedom allowed me to feel less like you were a professor and more like a mentor or guru, one I should learn from and follow. You laughed at yourself and the mistakes you made over the course of your life, painting a picture that placed all of us on the same level. Nevertheless, I placed you on a pedestal.

I know that our time on Earth is finite, but still I did not think you would leave your body so soon. I had hoped you would be there to attend my graduation and the party afterwards. I had really hoped that you would attend my wedding. Further, I hoped I would be able to introduce my children to you and that they would be able to learn something from you in that and future meetings.

Was I disappointed when you left your human form? Yes, of course. So much so that I still feel intense sadness to this very moment. To be at peace with a person’s passing does not mean that one cannot still feel sad. I know it would disappoint you to have anyone still grieving for you for years after your death, but that is not what I am doing. My period of grief is long gone, but I still miss being in your presence.

Iborrowed this image. 
Today, I honor you. I will continue to honor your life with mine as long as I write. Though I may miss physically visiting your office to seek your advice, I am consoled in the idea that as long as I write from my soul, you would be proud. To your spirit, wherever you are, Namaste.

28 April 2011

My Body, My Temple

This post is part of The Peaceful Housewife's Natural Parenting Blog Party.
The Peaceful Housewife

For the past 3 years, I have been either pregnant or nursing (or both). Though this has been a time-consuming experience, I believe I am immensely blessed to have been able to nourish two other life-forms continuously for so long. I thank my body every day for the work it has done to ensure the health of both of my children, but it has been a long time since I knew my body as only my own.

My original goal for each child I would have was to nurse for a year and then take it from there. My belief was that the child would self-wean when desired and that would be it. Unfortunately, that did not work out with my first daughter who was forced to wean when my milk ran out during pregnancy. I think she was looking for milk, not colostrum, so the day it was no longer what she wanted was the last day she nursed. She cried and I felt like a failure. It was because of the anguish I felt at not being able to nurse her for at least a full year that my resolve to nurse her sibling as long as possible was strengthened.

When my second bundle was born, I knew what to do. I pumped excess when I could and froze it so that I would always have enough. I made sure to nurse her frequently, she slept with me, and when I went back to work part-time, I pumped (something I did not do previously). I also made sure to drink water consistently all day long and eat as many times a day as I could remember. Whatever I did, it worked and I have successfully nursed her past 1 year.

Last Easter
Now that my goal has been met, I feel a little odd. I have been allowing her to have control over the nursing relationship and with that control, she has gone down to nursing only once a day, in the morning when she wakes. It has been very gradual, getting to this point, but it brings the close of this relationship into light. I know that it is only a matter of time before I am no longer providing nutrition for her and though I prepare myself for it every day, I still have very mixed feelings. I look forward to having my body belong solely to me again, but I also feel like maybe I didn't try hard enough to keep nursing, knowing that the full benefit of breast milk extends well into the second year.

Whatever happens, whenever it happens, I will work with it. My body is my temple and I have been fortunate enough to share it with two children, giving myself to them the way mothers have for centuries. When this second nursing experience concludes, I will still be a mother. I will still make breakfast, change diapers and focus my energy on things that matter. Though my temple will no longer be physically open to rejuvenate the stomach, it will still serve as a place of worship, a place with welcoming, open arms and a place where each child can go to receive comfort and stability. 

Hoffman Week, Day 4: Plath, Sexton, and Co.

OK, I cheated. I've had such a horrible case of writer's block, but I didn't want to disappoint, so I have chosen to post this poem from the actual class I took. Unfortunately, this was also the last class she taught me as she passed away before the end of the semester. I wrote this poem in response to the movie, Girl, Interrupted. It's not the worst thing I ever wrote.

I remember what it was like to be sane.
The grass was green, the sky was blue
and life made sense, even to a school girl.
Then one day, it went dark.
They told me I had to figure my life out by the end of homeroom.
I needed to have a plan for my future, one that involved college
Studying
And not boys.
I realized then I didn’t know what I wanted.
I couldn’t.
I still don’t know how they expected me not to go crazy,
constantly being compared to the better, prettier, smarter girls
as if I wasted my existence on
cigarettes, dead trees and alcohol.
I wanted to write.
Apparently, that was crazy.

Inside those padded, brick walls I fell.
Fell into a state of confusion
bliss
remission
reflection on the world and all who claim to be in it.
Inside is a different world
free from judgment
shame
privacy
and free from any decision you might have to make on the rest of your life.
Free. It was far from free to be in here, but as luck would have it,
My parents had more money than love for me.

Where did it go, the “world” I once knew?
I’ve emerged from the prison,
walked the plank,
chewed and clawed through my chains
and for What?
I returned to a place where nothing has changed.
For once, I am whole, just as everyone seems to be
falling apart.
I hope some day they will realize
that sanity lies only in the willingness
to be crazy.

27 April 2011

Hoffman Week, Day 3: Mid and Far East Literature

I didn't care what class Barbara taught, I was still going to take it. Even though I had no clue what Mid East Literature even consisted of, I relished at the opportunity to learn something knew from her. This willingness certainly paid off as I found one of my favorite books of all time through this class. 


If you haven't read The Tao of Pooh, I demand that you pick up a copy this instant and read it. No excuses. Your children can wait. ;)


I'm not lying when I say that this book changed my life. As I read it, I internalized every word as if he was speaking specifically to me. The practices and principles of The Tao resonated with me as nothing has before. While most of the characters surrounding Pooh worry about life or look at it with pessimism, Pooh just is. I strive to attain his level of consciousness, to be able to simply be.

I've always considered other cultures to be wiser and more progressive than our own in the US and Taoism is no exception. Ancient people all over the world were more connected to nature, connected to each other and to themselves than Americans will be in the next century. Though the actual Tao may be difficult to read in some respects, Benjamin Hoff's version brings all of its amazing qualities to a more comprehensible level.

I had several "Aha!" or "Yes!" moments while reading through this text. On page 21, Hoff writes "...the simple and the quiet, the natural and the plain." in order to describe Pooh's mindset. It was only after reading this phrase that I finally started to understand why Hoff chose to use these characters in his book. Though I used to watch 'Winnie the Pooh' as a child, I was often angry at Pooh and especially Tigger because Pooh seemed completely apathetic to anything and everything and Tigger consistently hurt others without getting into real trouble. In reality, Pooh is just in such a peaceful state of mind he has no need to over complicate life or situations and he sees true beauty in everything, even things often considered simple or plain. And Tigger, well, Tigger is still mean.

Another favorite quote of mine is, “Wisdom, Happiness, and Courage are not waiting somewhere out beyond sight at the end of a straight line; they’re part of a continuous cycle that begins right here.”(p. 137) Those of us in America seem to be constantly searching for the next best thing, for true happiness, or the item or person that will finally make our life complete. We do this as if we are going to be walking along one day and see happiness laying on the ground, waiting for us to pick it up. Pooh, on the other hand, has come to the realization that everything he needs to be happy is right in front of him, or rather, within him, and therefore he need not look any further.We have wisdom, happiness and courage every moment of every day but are too busy looking outside ourselves to utilize what is within us.

Next we have: “If people were Superior to Animals, they’d take better care of the world.”(p. 77) Take a moment to internalize that one. I know you've thought the same thing. Yes, animals fight and kill one another, but they do not do it for any reason other than survival (even males who fight other males over a female are simply trying to be the best in their pack, to survive.) Animals do not lie, over complicate things or analyze ideas to death. They simply exist. They respect the environment in which they live and they respect their neighbors. They don't eat when they're not hungry. They don't destroy things just because they can. We create so many problems for ourselves and blame others when we cannot find the right solutions. And People still think they are better than Animals?

Finally, I call upon this quote to brilliantly express my last point. “An Empty sort of mind is valuable for finding pearls and tails and things because it can see what’s in front of it. An Overstuffed mind is unable to.” (p. 146) When we are empty, we are at peace. We do not worry or stress or get upset or fight or get angry or desire. An empty mind is free to enjoy life for what it is and has everything it could want because it's not looking for anything. Emptiness does not mean you are dumb or blind or apathetic; it means you can allow all of the potential within you to come out in full force because it isn't being blocked by the cares of the world. Go ahead, strive to be empty. 

Did you read the book yet?

26 April 2011

Hoffman Week, Day 2: Intro to World Literature

I must admit that I do not remember anything about this class, however, I know that as long as I make a good argument for my work, she will accept it

I miss you.

But I don't know why.
It's not as if I knew you that well, I mean
how well can you know someone who had an entire life before you.

So why should I miss you? I left for good reason.
I was happy to go because I wanted a new life.
I wanted to move on. To learn, to grow, to change.
Like you should.

I miss you. Time has passed but this remains true. Why can't I stop?

You never treated me specially. I was just another person in your life.
You hardly knew me and I know you didn't try to.
This made it easy to leave. But it was still hard.

Sometimes, I thought, I could walk away and never think of you again.
Sometimes, I can't stop thinking of you. I hate that I miss you.

But at least I admit it.

I'm sure not many people do.


I miss you. You were all I knew since birth. My home. My country.


But I would rather miss you than spend another minute within your walls.

25 April 2011

Hoffman Week, Day 1: Writing Skills

For day one of Hoffman Week, I focus on my writing skillz (and yes, it is that way on purpose). If this were an assignment, I might call it a reflection paper or a journal. Technically, I might also include it in the current Natural Parenting Blog Party, but I don't wanna push it. :)

The Essence of a Sleeping Child

I wish I had your face of peace. Your lips have never spoken an unkind word while mine have said many things that could be taken back. Your brow floats atop a sea of perfect skin while mine furrows and bends with worry, thoughts and concerns. Your closed eyes have not yet seen death, sadness, injustice or tragedy, while when I close mine sometimes that is all I see. When you sleep, you leave the physical realm and journey deep into your beautiful unconsciousness, commune with your higher self and refresh for your awakening. When I sleep, I don’t want to wake up.
Heidi as a newborn.

When do we lose our sleeping peace? Is it when we start working, suddenly have money to handle and the weight of the world falls on our shoulders? Is it when we enter high school and find out firsthand just how cruel humans can be to one another? Or is it when we first become aware that the world we entered into isn’t perfect, that we are surrounded by flawed, imperfect people who impart their personal conflicts upon us?

Surely, you are wondering how this childhood peace can be recaptured and once again sleep (and live) in tranquility. What is the simplest way to do this? Learn by doing; be at peace.

Make peace with your debt; it won’t be with you when you’re dead. Make peace with the naysayers because they don’t cry when you’re sad. Make peace with yourself. You weren’t designed to be perfect and you never will be; It’s best to just accept it.

What is the essence of a sleeping child? A sleeping child is peaceful because she has no belongings to weigh her down. A sleeping child does not concern herself with what other people are saying because it does not serve her higher purpose. A sleeping child is perfect because she is not trying to be.
Piper - about 3 months old.

Let go of everything in your life that does not bring you peace. Focus on the image of serene slumber and let it be your mantra. Think peace.

Namaste.

22 April 2011

Anthem

Welcome to the Earth Day Blog Carnival

This post is part of the Earth Day Blog Carnival hosted by Child of the Nature Isle and Monkey Butt Junction. Each participant has shared their practices and insights of earth friendly, environmentally conscious, eco-living. This carnival is our way to share positive information and inspiration that can create healing for our planet. Please read to the end of this post to find a list of links to the other carnival participants. Happy Earth Day!

The word “we” can be used interchangeably with “She,” “Nature/The Earth,” and especially “I.”


We go to bed, tired.
We wake up, tired.

We change, we move, we breathe.

We create.

We take time to play.
We build, we break, we repair.

We wash, use and reuse.

We relax, we forget, we persevere.

We do. We promote. We advocate. We collaborate. We succumb.

We touch, we fuss, we love. We become devoted.

We produce. We provide. We pacify.

We blanket. We cradle. We nurture.

We sustain. Life.


We do this for our children.
We do this for our future.
We do this for our planet.

Earth Day Blog Carnival - Child of the Nature Isle and Monkey Butt JunctionVisit Monkey Butt Junction and Child of the Nature Isle to read all about the Earth Day Blog Carnival.
***
Going Green in 2011 - Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama discusses the way she and her family are going “greener” in 2011.

Our Greatest Teacher - Amanda at Let’s Take the Metro shares her experiences with her children and nature, their greatest teacher.

Dreaming of Spring Gardening - Erin of the Waterloons talks about the ultimate in local food, her backyard garden.

Earth Conscious Minimalism - Nada at miniMOMist thinks minimalism can help you save the world — as long as you don’t just toss everything in the trash! Check out Her list of places to donate (bet you haven’t thought of them all!).

Blessings to the Earth - Amy at Anktangle believes that a simple act, such as being intentionally grateful for our food, is just the catalyst we need to bring about large-scale change.

Eight Movies to Inspire Change - Mrs Green at Little Green Blog shares her top 8 movies that have inspired her to take action to make the world a better place. She’d love to hear your suggestions to add to her viewing list!

Can I Have a Green Period Too? Kelly at Becoming Crunchy shares the environmental impact of switching to sustainable menstrual products, along with offering a great Mama Cloth giveaway for anyone interested in making the switch (and for those who already have and want to increase their stash!).

An Eden to Call Our Own - Lucy at Dreaming Aloud shares how learning to care for the Earth starts in her own garden.

Elimination Communication - Melissa at the New Mommy Files discusses the environmental impact of diapering, and why elimination communication was the best choice for her family.

The Living Earth: A Meditation in Science and Reverence - Seonaid at The Practical Dilettante asks you to pause to wonder at the blessing of the fact that our living planet is here at all.

Earth Day Anthem - Amanda at Let’s Take the Metro created a poem in honor of Mother Earth, women and nurturers everywhere.

The Plasticity of Compromise - Zoie at TouchstoneZ shares how she is working to compromise on healthy family living and avoiding plastics whenever possible.

Earth Day Resolutions - Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama shares why she has decided to make Earth Day resolutions, what those resolutions are, and how they are a step up from her current efforts at green living.

Is it time for you to say “Enough!”? Mrs Green at My Zero Waste asks you to rise up and say ‘Enough!’ on Earth Day.

Homeschooling with the Earth - Terri at Child of the Nature Isle shares her desires and dreams for Earth-based learning and the ways her two young children have already started a natural curriculum.

Beyond the Green Sheen - Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction offers some advice on how to avoid greenwashing and make purchasing choices that really have a positive impact.

Our Greatest Teacher

Welcome to the Earth Day Blog Carnival

This post is part of the Earth Day Blog Carnival hosted by Child of the Nature Isle and Monkey Butt Junction. Each participant has shared their practices and insights of earth friendly, environmentally conscious, eco-living. This carnival is our way to share positive information and inspiration that can create healing for our planet. Please read to the end of this post to find a list of links to the other carnival participants. Happy Earth Day!

Where we live, the Delaware Canal is easily accessible and it has become a routine for us to take a walk along it every day. I find this to be an infinitely wondrous experience because nature is always providing us with something new to look at, talk about or explore. Our time together in the fresh air is irreplaceable; we may not always be able to spend so much time in a natural habitat such as this one. For this reason, I turn every walk into an enjoyable learning experience because nature is our most treasured teacher.

At our entrance to the Canal, we usually find a pair of ducks floating along in the water or waddling through the grass looking for food. They often follow us as we walk, quacking away and Heidi gets a real kick out of being so close to different animals. I also get to point out to her the differences between the male duck and the female duck every time we see them, how colorful his head is and how interesting her brown markings are. We see and hear a number of other birds on our walk, especially geese, though I do not know much about them, nor can I tell a male from a female.


On another part of the Canal, there is a fallen tree still attached to its roots. We know this because the tips of its branches are budding with new leaves in bright red fluffy bunches. When we pass it, I always have Heidi lightly touch it and tell her that those are where leaves come from and some day we might see them turn green. Along the path we use to approach the Canal is another fallen tree that was completely severed and pulled its roots up from the ground. This too is fascinating because we can not only see how old the tree was, we also get a rare glance at what a tree’s roots look like, how they intertwine and how they made their way through the dirt and around obstacles to find the nutrients they needed.

My favorite lesson of all right now, created by Mother Nature herself, is the one I teach Heidi every time she throws a rock into the Canal. “Look at all the ripples you made!” I tell her and she smiles. “Look how far those ripples are going!” Of course she doesn’t quite understand the meaning yet, but in the future I will use this tool to help her understand how her one, simple action can cause so many reactions that were unintentional. That is why we must always be careful when we choose to disturb the water.

I cannot imagine ever living in a place where nature is not easily accessible. She offers us so many opportunities to learn and grow, breathe deeply and enjoy her beauty. I look for every opportunity available to encourage the same love and respect of nature in my children as I have developed over the years and I hope in time they too look to the Earth to teach them life’s most important lessons.

I make Earth Day every day. Do you?


Earth Day Blog Carnival - Child of the Nature Isle and Monkey Butt JunctionVisit Monkey Butt Junction and Child of the Nature Isle to read all about the Earth Day Blog Carnival.
***
Going Green in 2011 - Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama discusses the way she and her family are going “greener” in 2011.

Our Greatest Teacher - Amanda at Let’s Take the Metro shares her experiences with her children and nature, their greatest teacher.

Dreaming of Spring Gardening - Erin of the Waterloons talks about the ultimate in local food, her backyard garden.

Earth Conscious Minimalism - Nada at miniMOMist thinks minimalism can help you save the world — as long as you don’t just toss everything in the trash! Check out Her list of places to donate (bet you haven’t thought of them all!).

Blessings to the Earth - Amy at Anktangle believes that a simple act, such as being intentionally grateful for our food, is just the catalyst we need to bring about large-scale change.

Eight Movies to Inspire Change - Mrs Green at Little Green Blog shares her top 8 movies that have inspired her to take action to make the world a better place. She’d love to hear your suggestions to add to her viewing list!

Can I Have a Green Period Too? Kelly at Becoming Crunchy shares the environmental impact of switching to sustainable menstrual products, along with offering a great Mama Cloth giveaway for anyone interested in making the switch (and for those who already have and want to increase their stash!).

An Eden to Call Our Own - Lucy at Dreaming Aloud shares how learning to care for the Earth starts in her own garden.

Elimination Communication - Melissa at the New Mommy Files discusses the environmental impact of diapering, and why elimination communication was the best choice for her family.

The Living Earth: A Meditation in Science and Reverence - Seonaid at The Practical Dilettante asks you to pause to wonder at the blessing of the fact that our living planet is here at all.

Earth Day Anthem - Amanda at Let’s Take the Metro created a poem in honor of Mother Earth, women and nurturers everywhere.

The Plasticity of Compromise - Zoie at TouchstoneZ shares how she is working to compromise on healthy family living and avoiding plastics whenever possible.

Earth Day Resolutions - Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama shares why she has decided to make Earth Day resolutions, what those resolutions are, and how they are a step up from her current efforts at green living.

Is it time for you to say “Enough!”? Mrs Green at My Zero Waste asks you to rise up and say ‘Enough!’ on Earth Day.

Homeschooling with the Earth - Terri at Child of the Nature Isle shares her desires and dreams for Earth-based learning and the ways her two young children have already started a natural curriculum.

Beyond the Green Sheen - Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction offers some advice on how to avoid greenwashing and make purchasing choices that really have a positive impact.

21 April 2011

Guest Post at Mama Eve

Today I am fortunate enough to have a guest post over at Mama Eve about my first experience with breastfeeding. Check it out if you have time and do look at the rest of her blog because it is absolutely wonderful!

20 April 2011

I Do Bad Things When My Children Are Sleeping

The Peaceful Housewife




This post is part of The Peaceful Housewife's Natural Parenting Blog Party.



First of all, when my children go to bed or take a nap, I watch TV. This is bad because I normally limit their television viewing to less than 2 hours every day and most days they do not watch TV at all. However, as soon as they are in bed for sure, I pop on that set and let my brain soften, muscles relax and eyes gloss over. Then I turn on my laptop and slip into full vegetative mode.

Next, I eat things that I will not normally eat in front of my children, like potato chips or ice cream. Sometimes I eat a whole ‘second dinner.’ And where do I eat this food, you ask? I eat it in front of the television, while I’m on my laptop! Sometimes I drink juice or iced tea and when I’m really, really bad, I drink soda! Are you gasping yet? I am! Especially since I still consider myself to be a natural parent.

What’s wrong with this picture? Well, very simply, I have habits that I have maintained for most of my life and though I have worked to remove them, some are more difficult than others. I still like to watch TV every now and then, especially at night because it helps me unwind. I’m also slightly attached to my computer, mainly because it is very often the sole source of intellectual communication that I have. At the very least, I try to maintain composure around my children to prevent bad habits from forming in them.

The only reason that I have curtailed my own screen time and changed my eating habits is because of them. I was always fairly conscious about my nutritional intake, but I did not eat nearly as many organic items as I do now. Plus, I also forced myself to eat things I never used to like (beans) because I knew they were good for me and I wanted my children to grow up familiar with them. As far as screen time is concerned, I’ve actually grown to dislike having the TV on all the time because it actually makes me antsy after a while, not to mention the fact that there is hardly anything worth watching on it anyway.

While my children have had a very positive influence on my life, I still have some things I need to iron out in order to be a better role model. I figure I have quite a bit of time, though, since they do still take naps *crossing fingers* and it will be a number of years before they go to bed closer to the time I head off to sleep. And if I never change (which I doubt), they will simply have to live with the fact that I’m not perfect, something I’m sure they know anyway.

19 April 2011

Favorites - Take Two

The Peaceful HousewifeThe team of volunteers for Natural Parents Network is an amazing group of women. Below is a list we have compiled to represent our favorite posts on our blogs. Since it is also Natural Parenting Blog Party time, this list is especially pertinent because even though all of these women may not be participating in the party, their blogs are all about natural parenting.

18 April 2011

Five Things I Do with My Children Instead of Watching TV

The Peaceful Housewife




This post is part of The Peaceful Housewife's Natural Parenting Blog Party.





I want to have children, not zombies so I limit the amount of television we watch during the day. If we watch anything, it is usually a movie within the confines of the 2 hour per day limit set by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Most of the time, my children play uninterrupted, but when I pause to interact with them, here are some of the things I do.  

Look out the Window: Both of my daughters love looking out the window. It provides a seemingly endless array of opportunities for learning and quiet observation. There is always something interesting to point out to them or just something to reinforce. We watch people walking different kinds of dogs, adults carrying groceries, children playing and whatever nature has in store.

Heidi mopping the floor.
Use My Child as a Mop: Heidi loves to move, as most toddlers do, and has recently taken to dancing with assistance. When she doesn’t want to do that, I slide her all over the floor either on her butt or on a blanket. Naturally, I do this in the kitchen and not on our carpeted floors and I try not to pull on Heidi’s arms too much. Instead, I use her butt or the blanket she’s on as a propellant and she slides easily all over the floor. I get tired of doing this long before she does, but at least I know she’s receiving attention from me, getting exercise and feeling connected to me all at once.

Sing a Song: And while you’re at it, dance! Heidi loves to sing, mostly gibberish, but occasionally she’ll throw some real words in there. Very often she will simply sing “sing a song” over and over again and I usually join her. At times when all else has failed and she needs to be redirected from something she’s doing, I will “sing a song” to get her attention and return her to a happy, playful mood. Singing leads to dancing, which often leads to the above mopping. All of these things take up a good portion of our day.

Run Around in Circles: The first floor of our apartment is essentially a circle; the living room is open to both the dining room and kitchen, which surround the laundry room. As you might imagine, this presents a perfect opportunity for running, chasing and playing peek-a-boo. When all else fails, I instigate a chase and let her get some good running in, followed by some sort of quiet activity. Piper even gets in on the action crawling as fast as she can (since she’s not yet up to running) after whoever is closest to her. This often turns in to quite the family activity and is much more fun than watching TV.

Go Upstairs: When I need to put a lot of clothes away or do something else that requires my attention upstairs, I take H & P with me. I put the gate up so they can’t go down the stairs and I let them run back and forth between their rooms, playing with toys they don’t normally play with during the day. It also offers them a change of scenery, something that is especially important when we cannot go outside.

Naturally, we do many, many other things while not watching television, but most of them are things you’ve already read about. I try to get creative (when inspiration strikes me) to keep them more interested in using their minds than being mindless so as I think of more interesting things to do, I will be sure to share them with you.

15 April 2011

Natural Parenting Blog Party, Day 1!

The Peaceful Housewife

For Day 1 of the Natural Parenting Blog Party, we have the option to answer a few questions about ourselves. If you care to know, here are mine. :)

1. How many children do you have, and how old are they?

I have two girls who are 2 and 1.

2. Do you have a partner, or are you a single parent?

I'm married, but some days it feels as though I'm a single parent. :)

3. What are your “hot button” parenting issues?

While many issues are so important to me, the one I find most difficult to deal with is the idea of self-fulfilling prophecy. I could go on forever desperately trying to explain how imperative it is to watch what you say to your children, how you say it and especially how you talk about your children in their presence, but I find the best thing I can do is make sure that I monitor my own words with regards to my own children.
 
4. Have you made any parenting choices that you didn’t think you would make before you were a parent, i.e. cloth diapering a child when you had previously thought it was disgusting?

There are a lot of things I never thought about before I became a parent. One that is coming to mind is circumcision because even though I didn't have to make that choice, had I had a boy, I would have had him circumcised without a second thought. I never thought about baby wearing or co-sleeping either, but I am eternally glad I was not afraid to learn.

5. Is there one book or person in particular that’s heavily influenced your parenting choices?

Honestly, I haven't read any parenting books. The book that has had the most influence over my entire life, and ultimately over the way I parent, is The Tao of Pooh. 
 
6. If you had to describe each of your children using only one word, what word would you use?

Heidi = Adventurous
Piper = Love
 
7. Is there one parenting decision that you regret more than others and wish you could change?

I think what I wish most is that I did more research when I was actually pregnant with Heidi, rather than after she was born. I *regret* her birth and her sister's birth and many of the things I did with Heidi as an infant (not making my own "baby food,"not starting her on real solids sooner, not co-sleeping...). 
 
8. Is there an area of your parenting you wish you were better at?

I'm very patient, but sometimes I still have a temper and I still yell. I'd like to stop that. 
 
9. Now for the fun questions – is there one particular food or type of food that you could eat every day?

I love artichokes and salad. I would eat them any time, anywhere, any day.
 
10. Vanilla ice cream or chocolate?

It's funny that is was chocolate my whole life, but recently I'd rather eat vanilla :)
 
11. What’s your guilty pleasure?

Uh..Facebook?
 
12. If you could be part of any television show, which show would it be?

Rather than a TV show, I'd be a part of Lord of the Rings, Star Wars (the original ones) and/or Harry Potter :)

14 April 2011

Chocolate. Need I Say More?

I do not like sweets. I hate doughnuts, Twinkies, cheesecake and any type of frosting that isn't made from whipped cream. So believe me when I say this: If you make these cupcakes, you will eat all of them. Immediately.

My mother made this recipe for her birthday to treat herself (because she has been following Weight Watchers) and I'm pretty sure that in two days time, I ate about 5 of these things (which is A LOT for me). Hey, I didn't want the whipped cream to go to waste!

Double Chocolate Cupcakes (From the Light & Easy Cooking Collection)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 unsweetened cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsweetened orange juice
1/3 cup water
3 tblsp vegetable oil
1 tblsp vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup semisweet chocolate mini-morsels
1 tsp powdered sugar (I think this is technically optional)

Combine first 5 ingredients in a medium bowl; make a well in the center of mixture. Combine orange juice, water, oil, vinegar, and vanilla; add to dry ingredients, stirring until just moistened. Fold in the chocolate morsels.

Spoon into foil or paper-lined muffin pans, filling two-thirds full. Bake at 375 degrees for 12 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from pans immediately; cool on a wire rack. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Yield: 1 dozen (about 153 calories each).

Instead of sprinkling with powdered sugar, we dipped the tops of the cupcakes in whipped cream and sprinkled extra mini chocolate chips on top of that. Hold me back.

You must make these!

12 April 2011

I Am the Change

Welcome to the April Carnival of Natural Parenting: Compassionate Advocacy

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared how they advocate for healthy, gentle parenting choices compassionately. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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When I find out someone I know is having a child, depending on how close I am, I immediately open myself up to her, offering any help I can give if she desires it. That is the extent of what I do, unless of course she actually acts upon my offer.  After I throw my knowledge out there in an ‘if you ever need anything/have any questions, just ask’ way, I sit back and wait. I bounce up and down metaphorically as I linger patiently to see if she will pick my brain, knowing that the slightest question she asks could cause me to erupt in a 500,000 thousand word sermon about anything and everything I believe in. Inevitably, this will cause her to shut down and retreat, covering her eyes and whispering, ‘I don’t know that woman.’

Recently, I received a wake-up call. To put it simply, I call upon the overused idiom, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” I get annoyed by how frequently I see this statement (because I despise excess repetition of anything), but I have not stopped to really think about its meaning in quite some time. After someone gave me the nudge I needed, I looked in the mirror. If I want to give advice to anyone, answer anyone’s questions, be a better wife, mother, or citizen of the world, I first have to start with myself.

If I want other women/mothers to come to me with questions about nursing, baby wearing, cloth diapers, or natural parenting in general, I need to be the person they want information from. If I want my children to develop good habits, be respectful, open-minded, knowledgeable, caring and loving, I need to exemplify all of those things as their role model. If I want my husband to follow what I do and listen to everything I have to say, I first need to respect, acknowledge and show my gratitude for the work that he does to support our family. I am going to be the change I want to see in the world and that is the best way I know to be an advocate.


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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo 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:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon April 12 with all the carnival links.)

  • Natural Parenting Advocacy by Example — Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction uses her blog, Twitter and Facebook as her natural parenting soapbox.
  • You Catch More Flies With Honey — When it comes to natural parenting advice, Kate of The Guavalicious Life believes you catch more flies with honey.
  • From the Heart — Patti at Jazzy Mama searches her heart for an appropriate response when she learns that someone she respects wants his baby to cry-it-out.
  • I Offer the Truth — Amy at Innate Wholeness shares the hard truths to inspire parents in making changes and fully appreciating the parenting experience.
  • Advocating or Just Opinionated?Momma Jorje discusses how to draw the line between advocating compassionately and being just plain opinionated. It can be quite a fine line.
  • Compassionate Advocacy — Mamapoekie of Authentic Parenting writes about how to discuss topics you are passionate about with people who don't share your views.
  • Heiny Helpers: Sharing Cloth Love — Heiny Helpers is guest posting on Natural Parents Network to share how they are providing cloth diapers and cloth diapering support to low income families.
  • Struggling with Advocacy — April of McApril still struggles to determine how strongly she should advocate for her causes, but still loves to show her love for her parenting choices to those who would like to listen.
  • Compassionate Advocacy Through Blogging (AKA –Why I Blog) — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares how both blogging and day-to-day life give her opportunities to compassionately advocate for natural parenting practices.
  • A Letter to *Those* Parents — Zoie at TouchstoneZ shares how to write an informed yet respectful reply to those parents — you know, the ones who don't parent the way you do.
  • Why I Am Not A Homebirth Advocate — Olivia at Write About Birth is coming out: she is a homebirth mom, but not a homebirth advocate. One size does not fit all – but choice is something we can all advocate for!
  • Why I Open My Big Mouth — Wolfmother from Fabulous Mama Chronicles reflects on why she is passionate about sharing parenting resources.
  • Watching and Wearing — Laura at Our Messy Messy Life advocates the joys of babywearing simply by living life in a small college town.
  • Compassionate Advocacy . . . That's The Way I Do It — Amyables at Toddler in Tow describes how she's learned to forsake judgment and channel her social energy to spread the "good news" of natural parenting through interaction and shared experiences.
  • Compelling without repelling — Lauren at Hobo Mama cringes when she thinks of the obnoxious way she used to berate people into seeing her point of view.
  • I Am the Change — Amanda at Let's Take the Metro describes a recent awakening where she realized exactly how to advocate for natural parenting.
  • Public Displays of CompassionThe Accidental Natural Mama recounts an emotional trip to the grocery store and the importance of staying calm and compassionate in the storm of toddler emotions.
  • I will not hide behind my persona — Suzi Leigh at Attached at the Boob discusses the benefits of being honest and compassionate on the internet.
  • Choosing My Words — Jenny at Chronicles of a Nursing Mom shares why she started her blog and why she continues to blog despite an increasingly hectic schedule.
  • Honour the Child :: Compassionate Advocacy in the Classroom — Lori at Beneath the Rowan Tree shares her experience of being a gentle and compassionate parent — with other people's children — as a classroom volunteer in her daughter's senior kindergarten room.
  • Inspired by the Great Divide (and Hoping to Inspire) — Rosemary at Rosmarinus Officinalis shares her thoughts on navigating the "great divide" through gently teaching and being teachable.
  • Introverted Advocacy — CatholicMommy at Working to be Worthy shares how she advocates for gentle parenting, even though she is about as introverted as one can be.
  • The Three R's of Effective and Gentle Advocacy — Ana at Pandamoly explains how "The Three R's" can yield consistent results and endless inspiration to those in need of some change.
  • Passionate and Compassionate: How do We do It? — Kelly at Becoming Crunchy shares the importance of understanding your motivation for advocacy.
  • Sharing the love — Isil at Smiling Like Sunshine talks about how she shares the love and spreads the word.
  • What Frank Said — Nada at miniMOMist has a good friend named Frank. She uses his famous saying to demonstrate how much natural parenting has benefited her and her family.

11 April 2011

I've Kept this Piece of Paper for a Long Time

In one of her classes, Barbara Hoffman handed us this poem by Taylor Mali. It is as true now as it was then or perhaps even more so. I have always found it to be the perfect way to wake people up about speech, grammar and general English principles and think it should become more mainstream. Since I don't want to get in trouble by putting this poem on my blog, I'm just going to link to it and pray that you all follow! I promise you won't be disappointed.

07 April 2011

Organic on a Budget

If you enjoyed reading what I keep on hand, you might also be interested in knowing what I choose to buy organic and what I will buy conventionally. This has everything to do with my budget, of course, but since I believe in organic food and want to give my children the best I can afford, I tend to specifically focus on 'The Dirty Dozen.' The Eco Logical Mom actually posted the updated list of these foods in January, so visit that page to see it in its entirety.  

What I Buy Organic:

  • Apples: I try to give H & P an apple every day, usually shredded because it's easier for Piper to eat (apple snow). Even though I peel them anyway, again because it's easier for them to eat (or has been up until now), I don't know how many pesticides get beneath the skin. Most of the time, I get a bag at Giant or Wegmans for $4.99 and yes, I feel it's worth it.
  • Potatoes: Sometimes, Whole Foods has them on sale, but I found that Wegmans actually has the cheapest bag of Organic potatoes at $3.49 (at Whole Foods and Giant a bag is $4.99).
  • Celery: I was holding off on this for a while, but I was recently made aware how bad regular celery really is, so now I only get organic (and no I don't remember how much it is off the top of my head, sorry).
  • Salad: In case you haven't noticed, we try to eat salad a lot. Since I don't have a garden right now, nor are the farmer's markets alive, I must resort to the store. Whole Foods has the best deal on Organic romaine hearts, three for $2.49. Elsewhere you might pay close to $5 for the same. I find that buying actual heads of lettuce versus bags of salad is the most economical way to go since the heads go a lot further and cost significantly less. 
  • Greens: While I do try to buy things like kale, spinach and collard greens fairly often, I do not get them all the time (depending on my mood). But when I do, I get them at Whole Foods because the bunches are usually $2.49 and you can pick a fairly large one that will last through a few meals, plus the stems can be used for stock or composting. 
  • Other Fruits: I do not always buy fruit beyond bananas and apples simply because of their expense. However, if I get pears or peaches or berries (very rarely!) I do get them Organic.
  • Meat/Eggs/Dairy: OK, I don't actually buy these Organic all the time, but what I do get is cage free, hormone free, grass-fed, vegetarian diet, antibiotic free animal products. In some ways, animal products scare me even more than the pesticides on general foods. The idea that my children could be ingesting growth hormones or whatever antibiotics were given to these animals literally makes me sick. Luckily, I can get the type of animal product I am willing to put in my mouth and their mouths at both Giant and Whole Foods. This is really, really important to me. Remember, everything that that animal ate or was given is what YOU are eating. Think about it.

What I Don't Buy Organic:

  • Onions: They're clean. As clean as an onion can be...
  • Bananas: The skin is so thick it probably wouldn't matter if you put pesticides all over them. Plus, you peel it all off anyway so you don't have much to worry about. I am trying to buy more Fair Trade bananas from Sam's Club or Whole Foods, but if I really, really need them I'll get them wherever. (I noticed that the Fair Trade bananas seem to ripen weirdly, turning an odd shade of brownish green rather than yellow...has anyone else noticed this?)
  • Asparagus: It's low on the list, so if I can get them for less than $2.99/lb, I pick them up. At the Polish store near me, when they have asparagus, they often have it for $.99 a bunch = awesome. 
  •  Peas: You may remember that my children eat peas like they're going out of style, which is why I always have several bags in the freezer. Lucky for me, I don't have to buy them organic because I would be very poor by now.
  • Citrus Fruits: Lemons, oranges and grapefruits don't matter to me much, aside from picking nice looking ones. I can get 10 oranges for $2 at that Polish store and that makes me happy.  
  • Garlic: I don't know anything about the levels of pesticides on garlic, but I've never seen it on a 'bad' list, so I get it where I can.
  • Carrots: These are iffy for me. Sometimes I buy them Organic, sometimes I don't. I've been leaning towards getting them Organic more often than not, but it depends where I go to get them. Again, I'm not sure what the pesticide level of this vegetable is, so I can't really put it on my 'Must Buy Organic' list just yet. 
  • Kiwi: It's also clean, so when I can get 5 for $2.00, I get them. 
  • Peanut Butter: This is the only peanut butter I buy. While I do not buy Organic, I do buy the one that contains the following ingredients: Peanuts and salt. The end.
  • Jelly: I realize that this is counter intuitive to my pact to buy Organic berries and fruits, but Organic jelly is so darn expensive, I just can't do it. However, I always pay attention to labels and for most of my life, this is the only jelly I have purchased, one with no sugar added. (P.S. If you can find the blueberry, it's awesome!)
  • Maple Syrup: Another thing I don't know much about, but I like to think that people don't randomly spray Maple trees with pesticides and that even if they do, it doesn't seep all the way into the syrup. Correct me if I'm wrong. Still, I will not buy anything but 100% pure because if you have to put something else in it and continue to call it 'maple syrup,'  you should be shot.
  • Ketchup (and other condiments): There is a significant difference between the price of 'regular' ketchup and Organic ketchup, and when the ingredients are fairly similar, I opt for the regular.
  • Pasta: I just don't do it.Wait, I take that back. Sometimes I do buy Organic vegetable pasta for H & P because they really love it. Otherwise, I can't serve anything to Mr. Man that isn't white because he'll look at it and make faces. 
  • Canned Tomato Stuff: All the pasta sauce, tomato sauce, tomato paste, and canned tomatoes I buy are usually not Organic. I did, however, buy some Organic diced tomatoes at Whole Foods the other day because they were on sale, but as a rule I don't go out of my way for them.

If you know more information about any of these products, please let me know. I'm always willing to learn more about what I'm eating. Also, please remember that even if I don't buy something Organic, I will only buy the product that contains the fewest ingredients, the least amount of sodium and/or sugar and the closest to real I can find. I can't wait to start finding and visiting the local Farmer's Markets because then I will be able to save even more on good food. :)