Our Mindful Life

Our Mindful Life: June 2013

Our Mindful Life

Our Mindful Life is about paying attention to what it is that we do on a day to day basis and how we impact each other and the planet. We will talk about all of the things that we do here at home to make ourselves and the world a better place.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Potty Learning, Again

Potty learning is such a huge part of toddlerdom, and of parenting!  How many parents have I heard say that they just can't handle or just aren't looking forward to potty training another child?  Many!  So, while I've talked about our method of potty learning before, I think it is worth revisiting, since Elliott is now potty learning.

I'd like to talk more about the nitty gritty of the process we employ this time around.  I think that articles like my last one, and this fabulous one that I read on Natural Parents Network last week, have a lot of great informative tips, sometimes people really need a step by step process of how someone else has done something.

My process with Sofi was not good.  She was ready just before 2 years old, and I was massively pregnant with Walter, overwhelmed, and not ready to do it with her.  So, I kept her in diapers to not have to clean up in the house.  I was too hot to go outside with her, so I kept her inside.  I was too big to reach over and get her diapers on and off easily, so I put off taking her to the potty.  Consequently, she learned to poop on the potty just before 2, and has done that consistently since.  However, she was almost 3 before she was actually ready to try full time potty use again, and it was a lot more nerve wracking for all of us involved.

So, when Walter decided he was ready, although the initial timing wasn't good for me (he decided to potty learn on a trip from MO to OH, just me and the kids, for my grandfather's funeral), I didn't brush him off like I had Sofi.  I jumped right in and got to work!  He potty learned so easily and effortlessly that I am using that same process again with Elliott and it is going just as smoothly.  Instead of potty learning being a process akin to pulling teeth for us, we are all enjoying it.

The method I've used with the boys looks like this:

1. Wait until the child is showing some interest.  Otherwise, it is going to be a battle.

2. When the child is interested, begin showing him or her where the appropriate place to go is.  For us, we have a little potty chair, a potty ring for the adult potty, and we let them go in the grass outside.

3. When the child asks to try to use the potty, take him or her to the potty, or other acceptable place.

4. When the child is able to ask and go in the designated area a few times, start giving the child a bit of bottomless time each day.  Without a diaper, the child will really begin to understand when he or she is going.  Use this as a gauge to see how well the child is able to make it to the designated area, consistently.  If he or she isn't able to get it to where it goes, consistently, then he or she is probably not yet ready for this project.  MANY children will be interested before they are ready to do it full time.  Trying to force a child to go because he or she is interested is a losing battle, and it can make all kinds of problems in other areas of your time together.  I highly recommend waiting a little longer for the child to be ready.  Forcing can actually cause it to take longer for the child to be out of diapers/using the potty all of the time.

5. If the child is consistently going in the same place, it is time to leave them diaperless most of the time.  For us, at this stage, we take off Elliott's diaper first thing in the morning when he wakes up.  He is diaperless all morning.  When he goes down for a nap, we put a diaper back on him, or if we are going out somewhere, he usually gets a diaper.  Then, he is diaperless for the afternoon, and gets a diaper again at bedtime.  So, he is basically diaperless unless he is sleeping, or we are out of the house.  And when I say diaperless, I mean what we refer to as "nakey bakey" at our house, which means naked bottom.

6. When the child is not using his or her diaper, even when away from the house, and is asking to go to the potty instead, he or she is probably ready for regular bottoms away from home.  Some people opt for trainers, some skip straight to the regular underpants.  With Sofi, we tried desperately to find trainers that actually absorbed liquid, as the Gerber training pants did not.  We finally bought her some from Amazon, but she was really through the need for them by the time we found them.  Walter did not like the constriction of trainers, so he went straight into boxers.  Elliott is almost to this point and occasionally wears his boxers as well.

7. When the child is wearing underpants away from home without having accidents almost all of the time, and is able to remember to stop what he or she is doing at home to go to the designated area to go almost all of the time, he or she is probably ready for underpants at home, too.  The problems with underpants from the beginning, in my experience, are a few.  First of all, it is much faster to make it to the potty with nothing on the child's bottom to get in the way.  Second, the feeling of having something next to the skin often lets a child forget that it isn't a diaper.  Not having anything there is a new sensation that helps them to keep remembering to stop and go to the designated area when the urge comes.  And when the habit of going potty is formed, putting bottoms back on doesn't seem to confuse like it does when the child is first learning.

The next step is night time, and it is almost a separate ball game.  A child who can go on the potty all of the time during the day is not necessarily ready for being diaperless at night.  However, some children could go without a diaper at night long before they are ready to go without during the day.  This is another area where it is really best to let the child lead and go with what the child needs.  If your child is trying not to wet his or her diaper, and can't control it, there is no point arguing.  Many children do not develop this ability until they are in elementary school.  No amount of coercion, punishment, bribery, or sticker charts is going to change the amount of control a person has over his or her body.  Better to just keep using a diaper at night for a while longer.  Some children aren't quite old enough to be capable of communicating the concept of staying dry all night.  If that is the case, just keep that diaper on at night.

But, if you have a child who is still wearing diapers at night, it is important that this is the ONLY time the child wears diapers.  As soon as the child is up in the morning, the diaper should come off.  This was one of our struggles with Sofi, as well.  If we didn't take the diaper off right away when she woke up, it left her confused.  When the urge hit, she had to consciously remember whether she was in a diaper and could just go ahead and go, or whether she was in underpants and she needed to stop and go to the potty.  Often, she would simply forget to think about it, and we would have an accident.  When we finally got consistent about taking that diaper off as soon as she was awake, she stopped having accidents very quickly afterward.

On the other side of that coin, you may have a child like Walter, who had learned by about 6 months that he hated to be wet at night and he could hold it until he was ready to be changed. If this is the case, go right ahead and lose the diaper at night as soon as the child is doing well going to the potty!  This will also help to solidify for the child that the diapers are done.

It is a good idea to protect the mattress somehow when there is a little one potty learning, as well.  There are vinyl mattress protectors available in most stores that carry bedding.  These go under the sheets and keep the mattress dry if the child does have an accident.  We don't like the off-gassing of the chemicals from these types of plastics - especially where our children sleep - so we opt for wool blankets under the sheets.  These offer a high level of moisture protection for the mattress as well.  Fleece fabric is another good alternative.  If you place it with the fluffy side down against the mattress, it will help to keep the liquid off the mattress.

And the last thing that I am going to say about our process is this; cloth diapering makes potty learning so much easier.  So much easier, in fact, that I would recommend to parents who are working on potty learning that they purchase enough cloth diapers for a few days (which should not be very many, if your child is ready for potty learning).  Disposable diapers pull the liquid away from the child so that he or she can't really make the connection between production and being uncomfortable.  It just takes a while for that feeling of wetness to be present in a disposable.  But in a cloth diaper, the child knows right away what has happened.  This is especially true if you are using flats or prefolds without some type of lining between it and the child.  Prefolds (used with plastic pants) typically cost between 1 or 2 dollars each.  To buy 7 or so of these types of diapers, even just for potty learning, is just as cost effective as buying a package of Pull-Up style diapers that are popular for potty learning.  Plus, the cloth diapers are a one time expense where disposable potty learning diapers are going to be a recurring expense.

And, that is our entire process for potty learning!  What would you add?  Or what is different about your potty learning process?


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

My Journey to Happiness

Each of us has things that have happened in our past that were unpleasant.  Some of us have things in our past that are unfathomable.  And most of us have plenty of things in between.  I, myself, have had my own share of difficulties and things that have happened to me.  And for a very long time, they defined who I was, how I lived, and what I did.  But they don't anymore.

These days, I am defined by who I am, what I do, what I believe, and what my goals are.

So, how did I get from where I was to where I am?  How did I get from the negativity, the anger, and the powerlessness of my past to the happiness, beauty and love in my present?  It wasn't an easy journey, but it was a simple journey.

It used to be, once upon a time, that I could sit down for hours with a close friend and a cup of coffee and I could rail, or cry, or fight out what all of the things that had happened to me.  And contrary to what some people believe - things do happen to us.  People we love die.  People steal things that are precious to us.  People hurt us, physically and emotionally.  Yes, to a large degree, we can be in charge of the people we surround ourselves with, but learning who is safe and who is not involves getting hurt.

For many years, I carried around the anger, hurt and resentment for all of the things that had happened to me.  And then, one day, I met this amazing man.  And I knew that if I wanted him to be in my life, I had to stop holding on to all of that past crap, or there wouldn't be room for the goodness of him.

Now, I want to point out that the man was the catalyst for me, but that doesn't mean that he would have been the only worthwhile catalyst.  I'm sure I missed plenty of opportunities along the way.  I'm sure there would have been more opportunities later.  Happiness is not love induced.  But, the fact of the matter is, it was realizing that I didn't have room in my soul to love enough because of all of the anger and resentment that I was hauling around.  And I decided to change that.

The process of letting go isn't easy, per se.  I didn't just decide that I was no longer mad.  It took years to get from angry to happy.  But it was years of gradually becoming less angry and more happy.

This is how I did it.

1. I stopped using my time to constantly think about the things I was mad about.

2. I took a real, hard look at my past and decided what I could do anything productive about.  Then I decided whether I wanted to do anything about those things or not.  For the most part, I realized that it wasn't worth it to me to pursue the things in my past.  And if they weren't worth pursuing, then why was I letting them run my life?

3. I started thinking about what I actually WANTED in life.  This was HUGE for me.  It had been years since I had dared to dream about what I wanted, because I was so stuck on what had happened before.  I was afraid to dream, and I had to get past that.  Without dreams, there is no way to achieve what our hearts truly desire.

4. I started working, in very small increments, toward what I wanted to achieve and the kind of person I wanted to become.

5. I started focusing on the things that were good in my present, instead of the things that were wrong with my past.

6. Finally, I began spending most of my time being happy with what I have, and focusing on what I am doing to make my world a better place.  I very rarely focus on the harder parts of my past anymore.  I sometimes look back on something with sadness, but no longer with anger.  Sometimes I wish, for instance, that my father were still here, to enjoy his grandchildren, to meet my husband, and to see who I grew up to be.  I am sad that he didn't get to do those things.  But I don't dwell on it, because I can't change it.  And I almost never go back to the place in my past where I was angry about his death.

Working through this process has really allowed me to take possession of my own life.  As long as I was angry about the things that had happened to me, I wasn't in possession of my own life - the people who had hurt me and moved on were.

I'm not saying that this process is an easy one, or that it will work for everyone.  I am saying that it worked for me, and helped me to let go of the anger that was ruling my life for a long time.

How have you let go of your past and moved on to your future?  What tips can you share with us?


Friday, June 21, 2013

Foodie Friday: Normalizing Allergen Diets

A post showed up in my Facebook feed today about how to make a gluten-free diet feel "normal" for a child at a birthday party.  And I found that I had a lot of big feelings about this subject.

First of all, our entire family eats dairy, soy, gluten, corn and egg free about 90% of the time.  Daddy and Sofi, who can tolerate those kinds of things, might get a treat of one of them here and there, when we are out at some special occasion.  This is NORMAL for our family.  We talk extensively about how some people eat some things, while others eat other things.  In our family, we approach our food allergies the same way that we approach the fact that Daddy and Elliott love spicy food and the rest of us do not so much.  If the boys and I eat one of our allergens, it makes us feel yucky - just like it makes Sofi, Walter or me feel yucky if we eat spicy food.  It is a choice we make to feel healthy and good by not eating food that our bodies don't like.  Just like our family chooses to eat healthy foods in general, to help our bodies feel good.

Again, this is NORMAL for our family.

I think that there are a few key components to our normalization of eating our diet in our family.

*Our entire family eats the same diet.  We do not segregate some people's foods from other people's.  Therefore, we don't have a lot of issue with one person envying what another person has.  The only exception to this is that Elliott does not tolerate any milk substitute we have found so far but hemp milk, and Walter cannot tolerate the hemp milk.  We are hoping to buy a high quality blender this year to allow us to make our own almond milk that everyone can tolerate.

*We do not apologize for or overly explain our dietary needs.  If we were Jewish, we would not feel the need to apologize for eating Kosher.  If we were Catholic, we would not feel the need to apologize for not eating meat on Fridays during Lent.  And just because it is for medical reasons instead of religious, we don't apologize for sticking to our diet.  If someone offers us something that we can't eat, we simply say "No thank you," and don't dwell on it.

*We don't talk wistfully about the foods we can't have; we enjoy the foods that we can.  For my sons, they have always eaten their allergen diet - with the exception of gluten and eggs.  We gave up gluten when Walter was 2 and eggs last summer when my throat started swelling shut from being next to egg mayonnaise.  So there are a very few foods that the kids can remember eating that we can no longer have in the house.  I, on the other hand, remember cheesecake fondly!  I don't talk about it in front of the kids, though.  We don't talk about breads, cakes, cookies, pretzels, brownies, Ben & Jerry's, or cornbread and how we can't eat them.  We talk about Enjoy Life brand, Kettle Chips, So Delicious, and the foods that we can have.

*We eat normal foods.  There is a giant misconception by the public at large, that families who have food allergies subsist on dry rice cakes and beans - and nothing else.  Now, don't get me wrong here. My kids can take down some dry rice cakes, and I have formed a love affair with beans during this pregnancy.  However, the majority of the time, we eat foods that appear on the menu at most American homes.  The difference is, we cook most of our food from scratch instead of buying boxed components.  My biggest piece of advice for families eliminating a food from their diets is to take their favorite recipes and Google search, "recipe (allergen) free (name of recipe)".  Chances are pretty good that you will find several great recipes for the food you are already eating.

*We don't try to replace everything.  Some things just can't be replaced.  In my world, scalloped potatoes are one of them, but Sofi isn't convinced.  At any rate, if you just can't find a good replacement for something, accept that and move on.  The upside is that different companies are coming out with new products every day.  Chances are good that you'll be able to find a replacement eventually.

*We act like it is normal to eat this way.  Because it is.  It is normal to eat in a way that makes your family feel good.  The world over, people eat differently.  When you are in cultural centers, where people from many different areas or cultures gather, you will see so many different types of foods.  And the guy eating African bread and beans isn't looking around at the guy eating enchiladas and wondering if it is weird that they are eating different things!  They are eating what is normal for them.  They are respecting that one another are eating what is normal for them.  And they are acting like what they are eating is normal.  And that is how we approach our diets - with confidence and a matter of fact attitude.  Our children have learned this same attitude from our modeling.

*We work, in every area of our lives, to appreciate what we have, what we love, and what our own goals are in life, instead of comparing to those around us.  I think this probably plays a large role in helping our children to not be concerned about what the other kids at the table are having when we go to a party.

And believe it or not (because most people don't), my kids are completely happy with what they have and get!  When they get a big pile of candy at a holiday, they just gather it up and give it to their cousins.  They don't even blink about it.  In fact, I've gone to look over their things and found them with a bag already prepared with foods that they know we can't eat.  They don't crave the birthday cake that everyone else is eating.  For the most part, they don't like super-sweet white sugar cake anyway.  They don't care that every other kid at the party is eating blue ice cream and they have to eat coconut ice cream.  And that is what normal is all about!

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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Parenting 101: Power Struggles

Power struggles are one of the hardest parts of parenting.  You proclaim that something must be done this way.  Your child refuses to do it that way.  You dig in.  You threaten.  You take something away and put it out of reach.  Your child digs in.  He starts yelling, kicking, hitting.  There is no happy ending in sight.

No one enjoys these moments.

So, how do you navigate these moments without them turning into a power struggle?

5 tips for avoiding power struggles:

*Realize that very little in life has to be one way.  When you are about to dig in your heels on an issue, stop and ask yourself WHY?  Why do I feel that this must be done this way?  Is it because that is how I want it to be done, or because there is really no other way to do it?  If the answer is that there is really only one way to do it, then you have no choice but to do it that way.  If this is one of the other 99% of all interactions, try a little creative thinking and decide if there is another way to accomplish your goal.

*Reevaluate the goal, and determine if what you think is your goal actually is your goal.  Much of the time, we think that our goal is one thing when actually we are thinking of the path to the goal.  For example, is your goal really to throw away a choking hazard, or is it to keep a baby safe?  If it is to keep a baby safe, is there another way to do it besides throwing away a choking hazard?

*Consider whether there may be a way to compromise.  There is nearly always a way to compromise on an issue.  Even when it is a safety issue, is there a way to do it differently that would be safe?

*Consider the event from the other person's point of view.  It is very easy to get stuck in our own point of view, but it can inhibit one's ability to find a compromise.  People very rarely do things just to bother other people.  After all, who wants to hang out with a grump?  So consider that the other person probably has a reason for wanting things to be done their way as well.  Considering from both perspectives may help a compromise to become evident.

*Consider whether the relationship is more important than the issue - or not?  Sometimes, there is a deal breaker.  But much of the time, the relationship really is more important than the issue.  If this is the case, decide how to back down in a way that allows you to maintain your dignity as well.  Often, simply saying, "You know, I have thought about it and decided that I don't actually care as much about this issue as I thought I did," is a great way to back out of an uncomfortable situation.

Power struggles don't have to happen.  You have the power to make them not happen.  These tips apply to parenting, but also to relationships in general.  I use the same methods with my 2 year old, my almost 5 year old, my almost 7 year old, and my husband.  And all of our relationships have flourished because of it.

What other tips do you have for avoiding power struggles?

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Monday, June 17, 2013

Mom Hacks Monday: How I Keep Laundry Sorting to a Minimum

There are currently 5 members of our family - soon to be 6.  We use cloth diapers, cloth napkins, cloth wipes, cloth "paper" towels, dish cloths, and hankies.

We do a lot of laundry.

It used to be that I spent hours sorting laundry.  The actual washing and drying aren't so bad, because they are hours largely spent with me doing something else.  But the sorting, sorting, sorting!  The diapers and wipes were fairly easy, because they were always washed together and came out together.  Clothes for 5 people is a totally different story.

This year, I have hit on a lovely system, though!  I got every bedroom its own laundry basket.  Then there is a hamper downstairs.  About 95% of the time that the kids or I change our clothes, it happens in our own rooms.  So, they take off their clothes and put them in the basket.  Daddy keeps his clothes in his office downstairs and he usually changes in the downstairs bathroom, so there is a hamper downstairs for his things and for the clothing that anyone takes off in the bathroom.  Random towels and other laundry also goes in the hamper.

The hamper is the only laundry that I sort, all week.  When it is laundry day, I wash one laundry basket at a time.  When it is done, if it goes in the dryer, it comes right back out and into the basket it came down in.  If I hang the clothes out on the line or drying racks, I keep each basket together on the line and sort them right back into the correct baskets as they dry.  Anything from the hamper that isn't Daddy's gets sorted into the correct basket - which takes very little time.  And the baskets are each delivered back to their bedrooms where they are (hopefully) put away!

And, voila!  I no longer spend hours sorting laundry each week!

Do you use a "laundry system" in your home?  If so, how does it work?

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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Fostering Communication With Children

It always surprises me when people think that babies and young toddlers cannot communicate.  And it is something that I come across often.  I remember one specific instance, when our almost 7 year old was about 15 months old.  We were on a road trip and we'd had to make several stops right together at one point.  I was relating the events to a friend when I said, "And Sofi said she had pooped," My friend interrupted to blurt out, "She did not!  She can't talk!"  I just stood there flabbergasted.  Of course she couldn't talk, but that didn't mean that she hadn't told me she had pooped!

Some of the great parenting myths are that our babies are manipulating and trying to control us, that they don't feel things, and that they are fairly passive creatures until we fill them up with our will, rules and knowledge.  All of these myths contribute to the thought that babies can't communicate with us.  But the truth is that from birth, our babies communicate with us.  They just don't do it through speech.

He may not be able to say, I'm a cat, but
we all know that is what he means!
Young children don't speak, but they do signal.  Parents who are watchful, responsive and empathetic with their babies and children learn these cues and what each one means.  As an example, breastfeeding moms usually learn pretty quickly that a newborn baby who is wiggling around is looking for a breast.  This is an early hunger cue.  The baby sucking on a fist is also a cue.  To a nursing mom, these things are typically learned quickly, and taken for granted as the baby communicating a need.

But the signals don't end there.  Different babies form different signals for different needs.  The more we, the parents, pay attention and respond to these signals, the more signals the baby forms, and the more communication we can have with them.  Babies will form cues to let you know when they are tired, overstimulated, need a diaper, or even that they need to relieve themselves (this is the basis of elimination communication), and many other things.  And the older they get, the more they can signal.

The thing is that if your baby doesn't feel heard, he or she will stop attempting to communicate as much.  He or she will only communicate what is necessary, like hunger or pain.  And when our kids stop communicating with us, except when necessary, we lose out on a lot of our parenting experience.

So, how can we foster this communication with our young children?

*From birth, if possible, spend a lot of time with your baby.  Baby wearing is a great way to do this.

*When your child is crying, or using his or her body to express displeasure, really try to resist the urge to think that the baby is trying to make you do anything.  Instead, really try to be with the child in that moment, and think about what it is that the child is upset about.  Try to understand what your child is communicating.  You don't have to address it, change it, give in to it, or do anything about it.  But try to understand it.  Being able to understand where your child is coming from is a huge step to gaining their trust, encouraging them to communicate AND to responding gently.

*When your child is calm, alert and happy, stay present and try to figure out what he or she is doing, thinking, or observing.  Watch for all of the little cues that he or she gives about his or her feelings, likes, dislikes, and thoughts.

*When your child is pointing, signing, grunting, or babbling at something, try to figure out what it is.  Don't just say, "I don't know what you want!" and go back to what you were doing.  Really try to get in that little mind and figure it out.

*When your child is pointing, signing, grunting, or babbling about something, really resist the urge to tell the child to "Use your words."  Accept your child's communication where it is.  Then say the words for him or her instead.  And, a little speech development tip that I learned long ago, use the exact word by itself first.  Then you can use it in a sentence if you wish.  As an example, if your child is pointing at a ball, and carrying on, you can say, "Ball?  You want the BALL?  Let me get you the BALL."

*When you understand what your child wants, validate their communication in some way.  If it is a newborn signaling something, take care of the need.  The baby will learn to use this same signal for the same need every time.  If it is an infant or a toddler, verbally assure the child that you understand what he or she is signaling, even if you can't fill the need.  When they understand that you understand, they will keep trying to communicate.

What other ways do you foster communication with non-verbal children?


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

I Only Expected to Love...

Welcome to the June 2013 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting in Theory vs. in Reality
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 are sharing how their ideas and methods of parenting have changed.

In parenting, I’ve been lucky, I think, in that I went in with very little expectation of what it would be like.  I knew only that I would love my children, and that I was prepared to be flexible in my parenting, to be able to adapt to what worked for my children.  I read some parenting propaganda, but much of it did not resonate with me.  I knew all along, for instance, that babies did not need all the plethora of baby “essentials” that were touted on baby registry guides, in parenting magazines, and on television.  Any book or article that told me exactly what to do to be the perfect parent, have the perfect child, or handle every situation perfectly was immediately thrown out.  I already knew enough to know that children were not mechanical and that individual results would vary.

I went in hoping to breastfeed, to keep my baby close to me, and to treat my children with respect.  Other than that, I had very little expectation for myself.

My entrance to the parenting pool was more of an unprepared shove from the side than a swan dive, when my first child was born 2 months early, via c-section, and installed in a NICU while I was discharged and sent home for 3 weeks.  But, I was able to recover gracefully and hold tight to my ideals.  I pumped milk for the baby who was too small to breastfeed.  I spent every minute I could with my baby at the hospital, and nearly every minute I had with her when she came home.  I treated her with respect and got to know her, fought for her, and responded to her from day 1, instead of trying to tell her how she should feel.

And we went on from there, growing and bumbling through our relationship as parent and child.  It is funny to me now, looking back on that first chld’s experience.  I did childcare in my home for a few different children the first few years of Sofi’s life, and every now and again I look back at my “rules” for these children.  I’m always shocked by what expectations I had for them!  Sofi herself, at 18 months old or so, would stand by the wall with her nose to the wall when she was “in trouble”.  Walter never had to do this.  Elliott cannot imagine what that would mean.  Sofi didn’t do it for long.  Watching as my own children grew, and being flexible enough to try new things and see what worked for each child allowed me to back out of situations that weren’t working instead of digging in my heels and “winning”.  In reality, both my children and I won this way because we no longer fought most of the time.  I remained open, at all times, to learning new things about parenting that would help me to be a better parent, and my children to have healthier lives.

I am still growing and evolving, nearly 7 years later and with my fourth child on his way.  I still read books and articles regularly, tossing aside the “perfect solution” books and devouring books that offer ideas, support, and open guidance instead.  I still strive to be a better parent.  I still work on the parts of my parenting that I don’t like.  And, I suppose, I am still holding tight to my ideals of breastfeeding, being flexible, and respecting my children.

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 November 13 with all the carnival links.)
  • Acts of Service: The Great Neighborhood Clean Up — Sarah at Firmly Planted shares how her daughter's irritation with litter led to weekly cleanups.
  • Running for Charity — Find out how Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction uses her love of running and a great new app to help feed the hungry.
  • 50 Family Friendly Community Service Project Ideas — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares a list of 50 family-friendly community service project ideas that are easy to incorporate to your daily, weekly, monthly, or seasonal rhythmn.
  • Volunteering with a Child — Volunteer work does not need to be put on hold while we raise our children. Jenn of Monkey Butt Junction discusses some creative options for volunteering with a child at Natural Parents Network.
  • Family Service Project: Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina — Erika at Cinco de Mommy volunteers with her children at the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina, where 29% of the recipients are children.
  • Family Service Learning: Advent Calendar — Lyndsay at ourfeminist{play}school offers her family's approach to some holiday-related community service by sharing their community focused Advent Calendar. She includes so tips and suggestions for making your own in time for this year's holidays.
  • How to make street crossing flags as a family service project — Lauren at Hobo Mama offers a tutorial for an easy and relatively kid-friendly project that will engage young pedestrians.
  • Pieces of the Puzzle — Because of an experience Laura from Pug in the Kitchen had as a child, she's excited to show her children how they can reach out to others and be a blessing.
  • Appalachian Bear Rescue — Erica at ChildOrganics shares how saving pennies, acorns and hickory nuts go a long way in helping rescue orphaned and injured black bears.
  • Volunteering to Burnout and Back — Jorje of Momma Jorje has volunteered to the point of burnout and back again... but how to involve little ones in giving back?
  • How to Help Your Kids Develop Compassion through Service Projects — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares service projects her family has done along with links to lots of resources for service projects you can do with your children.
  • Involving Young Children in Service — Leanna at All Done Monkey, the mother of a toddler, reflects on how to make service a joyful experience for young children.
  • A Letter to My Mama — Dionna at Code Name: Mama has dedicated her life to service, just like her own mama. Today Dionna is thanking her mother for so richly blessing her.
  • 5 Ways to Serve Others When You Have Small Children — It can be tough to volunteer with young children. Jennifer at Our Muddy Boots shares how her family looks for opportunities to serve in every day life.
  • When Giving It Away Is Too Hard for Mommy — Jade at Looking Through Jade Glass But Dimly lets her children choose the charity for the family but struggles when her children's generosity extends to giving away treasured keepsakes.
  • Community Service Through Everyday Compassion — Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children calls us to Community Service Through Everyday Compassion; sometimes it is the small things we can do everyday that make the greater impacts.
  • School Bags and Glad RagsAlt Family are trying to spread a little love this Christmas time by involving the kids in a bit of charity giving.
  • Children in (Volunteering) Service — Luschka at Diary of a First Child reminisces on her own experiences of volunteering as a child, reflects on what she thinks volunteering teaches children and how she hopes voluntary service will impact on her own children.

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Monday, June 10, 2013

Mom Hacks Monday: Cloth Diaper Abacus

We have a little problem at our house.  It is a problem that I have been told, many a time, I should get over, because most moms would LOVE to have this problem.  However, I don't like to have problems; I like to have solutions!  And so, after running into this problem for several weeks (years?) now, I finally came up with a workable solution to it.  And I found it to be so clever, that I thought I'd share with my lovely readers!  Perhaps some of you have the same problem, after all.

The problem that we run into at our house is that I am lucky enough to have a husband who understands that the house and its contents belong to all of us, and that taking care of it is everyone's responsibility.  So, sometimes, he comes along to help me and does part of a job for me.  But, sometimes, he forgets to let me know where he was in the job when he stopped, and I am surprised later when I find the work partly done.  This happens very often with our diapers.  You see, cloth diapering requires its own special washing instructions.  One very important aspect is that the diapers need to be thoroughly rinsed to get out any soap residue, or any ammonia that is lingering in them.  Everyone who cloth diapers finds their own laundry system, through trial and error, that works with their particular diapers, machine, laundry soap, etc.  For our family, we wash the diapers once with our detergent, then run through two more complete cycles, sans detergent, before drying.  More than once (sometimes in a week), I have come to the washing machine to find a load of diapers in it that has obviously been through at least one cycle, but with no clue as to where in the process they were left.  And, most of the time, this happens when Papa is already at work, and often can't answer his phone or a text to let me know where the diapers were in the routine.  And so, often, I sit on a pile of dirty laundry for quite a while, unable to continue my daily chores, because I'm not sticking my hands in and possibly pulling out a surprise if the diapers were only run once.  I equally abhor using the water to run them through several more loads knowing that there is equal probability that they have been washed completely and are ready to dry.

And this is so aggravating to me!  Usually, if Papa is washing the diapers, he starts them after I have gone to bed for the night, or before I get up in the morning.  Either way, I often don't see him before he leaves for work in the morning, which means that there is no easy way for him to (remember) to tell me where the diapers were at.  What I needed was something that either of us could do to let the other know where the diapers were in the wash routine, even if we didn't see one another in-between.

I came up with the Diaper Abacus!!!

For this project, I used 1 piece of floral wire, 3 wooden spools (although beads would work just as well), 2 small nails, 2 clothes pins, and some paper.  I simply bent the wire into a U shape, with a double coil at either lower end, to hold the paper.  These look like the bottom of a safety pin, and the paper slips between the coils.  Before putting on the second coil, I slipped the spools over the wire. Then I put the two nails in the wall above the washer and wrapped the wire around them.  The paper I labelled "Washed" and "Needs" and I tucked one into each coil, and clothespinned them to be sure they wouldn't fall out.  And, ta-da!  Now, when one of us loads the washer and turns it on, we can slide a spool over to the "Washed" side.  The next person who comes along can tell that the diapers still need 2 more cycles.  If they start a new cycle, they can slide a spool across.  And when I come downstairs in the morning, I can see whether the diapers are just where I left them, or ready for something else.  Magic!

As a side note, I think this would also be a great solution for moms who are just so busy that it is hard to keep track of how many cycles the diapers have been through.

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Friday, June 7, 2013

Foodie Friday: Tuna Mac and Peas - Gluten, Dairy, Soy Free

I used to have a love affair with Tuna Mac and Peas, long ago when I was single and broke.  And then when I was engaged and broke.  And then when I was married and broke.  And then when I was married with a baby and broke.  And, it turns out that now, doing well, I still love my Tuna Mac and Peas.  However, these days it is a bit more complicated than opening a 25 cent box of macaroni, preparing according to label directions, and dumping in a can of tuna and some frozen peas.  See, I am yet to find a decent box of mac and cheese that fits our allergen restrictions.  So, it has been a long time since I have pursued the beloved Tuna Mac.  Until just recently, I just couldn't figure out a way to replicate those gooey noodles with the pleasant pop of peas.  But recently, with the help of our beloved Daiya cheese shreds, I was able to make the most tummy pleasing, allergen friendly (unless, of course, you are allergic to tuna...  or peas...) Tuna Mac and Peas!  Oh, yes, my taste buds were just singing about it!  So, of course, I'm here to share the recipe with you!

Tuna Mac with Peas - Dairy Free, Gluten Free, Soy Free

2 Cups gluten free pasta (The recipe says Mac, as in macaroni, but you can use whatever shape you like best.)
1 Can tuna in water, drained (If you can't have soy, be sure to read your tuna can. Most tuna is water is actually tuna in soy broth.  Within the same brand, some varieties will actually only be in water and salt.)
1/2 - 3/4 Cup Daiya Cheddar Style Shreds
1/2 Cup frozen (or fresh or canned in a pinch) peas

In one saucepan, heat several cups of water to boiling, to cook the pasta.  Once the water is boiling, add the pasta and boil until tender.

In a separate sauce pan, combine tuna, Daiya, and peas.  Stir frequently as the cheese substitute melts.  If it isn't turning goopy, add in a few spoonfuls of the boiling pasta water and stir, until it reaches the proper consistency.  Once it is properly gooey, remove from the heat and place a lid on the pot.

When pasta is cooked to your liking, drain it and return to the pan.  Scrape the tuna mixture into the pan with the pasta, and stir to combine.

Fix a bowl for yourself and one for any naked kitchen helpers who have been hanging around.

And enjoy!!

As a side note, this recipe is VERY flexible.  If you like it cheesier, add more cheese.  If you like more peas (like I do), go ahead and add them in.  It is easy to double or triple the recipe for a larger family dinner - this recipe fed me and Elliott, while Sofi ate about half of a serving and had a half a serving of plain pasta with Daiya.  Walter, my non-adventurous friend, had plain noodles with cheese as well.

So, what about you?  Have you ever tried Tuna Mac?  Do you love it as much as I do?

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Monday, June 3, 2013

Mom Hacks Monday: Non-Breakable, Non-Plastic Toddler Dishes

When our family made the decision to stop using plastics as much as possible, especially in contact with our food, one of the hardest things to replace was our toddler dishes.  What can you feed a toddler on that won't shatter into a million pieces if it is accidentally dropped on the floor, but isn't plastic?  And where do you find things made out of it for a reasonable price?  What do you do?  You get creative!

We found that wood or metal would be our best options, but not all metal is safe either.  Many are coated with plastics, lined with bpa or contain things like lead that you don't want your child eating.  But wooden dishes are not always easy to come by, either.  And when we made this choice, we were flat broke and couldn't afford to shop at fancy internet retailers where a single wooden baby bowl cost $12 or more.

So, we began scouring our usual venues - thrift stores, garage sales and estate sales.  We found olive forks in the little used section of silverware that we had inherited long ago, and they were just the size for little mouths.  They were simply miniatures of our nice flatware set, so completely plastic free, but with real tines.  We found demitasse spoons, which are tiny little metal spoons.  We found wooden salad bowls.  In fact, at this point, we've managed to buy several different sets of wooden salad bowls for about $1 for a set of 6 or more.

But what about when you just don't want a bowl?  When the toddler needs plenty of space to see his meat, veggies, and sauce?  We found a great idea in the cooking section of our local department store...

A bamboo cutting board that came complete with silicon, grippy edges and a carved in reservoir that catches the juice instead of letting it run off to the table!  And it only cost us a few dollars.  It washes up easily, doesn't scratch or break, and also doesn't have a rim like most plates, so it doesn't go through the occasional tipping problem that plates sometimes have.  Elliott just loves his "pate"...

even when he is too tired to make it through dinner!

And yes, that is a plastic sippy cup he has.  We have pottery plates, bowls and mugs that he will transition to, but he isn't ready for them yet.  In the meantime, we settle for bpa free plastic for regular use, with a stainless steel sippy cup and a Lifefactory Glass Water Bottle that we use for special drinks or away from the house sometimes.

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