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Baby

It’s pumpkin processing day! It is a day that I love and loathe. I love it because it means FALL IS HERE and the yield is great! I loathe it because it takes a long time to cut the pumpkins, roast them, cool them, peel them, process, can up the puree, roast the seeds, and then clean up. OK, OK, if you’ve been over to my house, you know we pretty much never get the dishes done the same day. But, sometime in the next week (or two), Dave or I will have to do those dishes. Over the years, I have gotten better at the whole process (almost 8 years to the day, I wrote this post about my first attempt), but now the complicating factor is three adorable little helpers/distractors. 

Today, though, the stars aligned and the children played outside amazingly while I worked inside on this. I like to cook with the kids, but Baby T (16 months) is a wildcard with cooking right now. He loves to shove his brothers off of step stools, climb the Learning Tower and put his fingers where the knife is cutting or throw ingredients on the ground, etc. My go-to of wearing baby on my back doesn’t always work well with this one. He likes to be IN THE ACTION and will start clawing at my back and pulling my hair to get down. Needless to say, any sort of cooking is just hard right now. Yet, enter today! The lovely fall weather just made everything work out. I was able to keep the back door open to the screen porch and let Baby T play in the dirt pile along with V (5.5) and E (4) while they played away. In the morning I asked if they would like to go to the library, and for the first time ever I got a no. “We want to play a complicated construction game today, and we will need all morning–like hours,” V told me. Sure enough, they got intently into digging and arranging dirt, bricks, and streams of water into some sort of kiln-like structure. They shared tools and trucks peaceably for hours. It was amazing and rare! I still am shocked about it, and so, so grateful. It was needed after a ton of sibling conflict recently.

With them happy in the backyard, I excused myself to the kitchen. The weather was perfect for leaving the back door open to the screen porch so I could still hear all of T’s pips and babble and watch the three of them team together. Usually T has to stay in the porch or house  when I am in the kitchen (and then screams at me) because he gets into everything in the yard: climbs up the swing set ladder, picks mushrooms, etc. But, today he was happy to stay at the dirt pile and perfectly within sight and sound of me. Flitting in and out of the house to help him as needed, get everyone de-mudded and fed, etc. throughout the day actually worked well because it gave me breaks in the midst of the long process.  I actually think it was the most pleasant pumpkin processing day I’ve had! 

For the past few years, I have used “neck pumpkins” (Pennsylvania Dutch Crookneck Squash) rather than pie pumpkins (or even jack-o-lantern ones). They have such a sweet flavor and are comparatively easier to cut into than the super-thick-skinned orange variety. Plus, the slender, long neck is all flesh with no seeds so it yields a lot of puree. These two came from Great Country Farms

Neck Pumpkins Read more…

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Sharing Gifts, Sparking Imagination

At the beginning of January, I got to give my first sermon to an all-adult audience. I’ve done plenty of gospel-sharing to kids and families, and I’ve taught other material to adults, but this had new nuances for me. So, yay!

My congregation for the day was folks in a memory impairment unit of a nursing home. What dear, dear people. I taught on the Christmas story since I knew they had not had a church service since November. I had some props like a fiber-optic angel (our tree topper) and a stuffed lamb (thanks to my kids for sharing their toy), but the most awe-inducing thing was the baby doll wrapped in swaddling clothes. There were audible gasps when I held it because they thought it was a real baby, which clearly was a wonderful idea to them. No one was concerned that I had pulled a baby out of a bag, instead it was just sheer wonder that a baby would be there with them.

Baby Doll

 

Babies transforms everything, right? Read more…

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I am a huge fan of Dr. Laura Markham and her website Ahaparenting.com, so when she put out a book on sibling relationships, I was thrilled. Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings* (PPHS)is a welcome addition in the world of positive parenting. Really the only other similar book I know of is the wonderful classic Siblings Without Rivalry* by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, but I needed to do a lot of adjustment to the concepts in that book to make it work for the baby, toddler, and preschool set, especially when I was living in the world of two-kids-under-two. PPHS fills that gap and addresses how to apply gentle parenting concepts for the younger ages.

Peaceful Parents Happy Siblings

Part One of PPHS explains Read more…

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The Home Birth of Baby T

Baby 3 is here. It’s a boy, and he is now eight weeks old!
Baby T 8 weeks

 

Baby T was born on Father’s Day and is a dream come true in every way. To be a mother to three (three!) children is such a mind-blowing thing after a road to parenthood that involved loss and infertility. We are so grateful for our sons. They teach us and grow us every day. Baby T’s birth was also a dream come true in another way: he was born at home. This had been a dream of mine since I was a teenager when I babysat for a mom of three who was a lawyer, Bradley Birth instructor, homebirther, and later went on to be a midwife. When the kids were asleep, I would peruse her educational bookshelf. These readings left a deep impression on me. I learned that birth need not be an unbearably painful, drama-filled thing like in movies. I learned that birth is a process that harnesses the amazing design of the female body and our incredible hormones (the classic Childbirth Without Fear is a good read on this).

Fast-forward many years: for our oldest child’s birth, we finally settled on a hospital birth versus home birth in the 3rd trimester for financial reasons.** The hospital, even with a doula, ample preparation, and self-advocacy, was not a fit for me.  For our second son’s birth, we knew we’d find a way to make the money work, as certified professional midwife (CPM) care was a vastly better fit for processing birth trauma as well as pregnancy with pelvic instability. But, with pending construction at our house, we opted to deliver at a freestanding birth center rather than home. It was an amazing home-away-from-home birth, with all the same (lack of) equipment as home, but we still had to load up, drive to get there, drive home, etc. So, for the third time around, we knew we wanted to be at home for the whole thing. Provided baby and I were healthy, it was time for the dream to come true! Now, here’s the story.

*Check out this irony: a hospital birth cost $11K-$30k+ but our part is $0 with insurance. In contrast, non-hospital pre-natal care and the birth is about $4k, but our insurance covers none of it.

 

The Birth of Baby T

Disclaimer:  this is a birth story. It involves bodily functions. I have not shared anything here that I am not comfortable saying aloud to you face-to-face. But, if you aren’t interested in such details, stop reading now. Read more…

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When E turned two, I started this series to reflect on how an attachment parented child naturally grows in independence. While every child  is different (my three boys sure are), I hope that attachment parenting parents are encouraged to see that a bedsharing baby  will eventually do fine in his own space, a nursing toddler doesn’t  continue at the breast into high school, and a babyworn kiddo learns to walk, explore, and assert himself. 

 

Baby Bee E

Our Dear E at Age 3

You sleep in your own bed, a crib mattress on the floor in a room with your brother. You like to sleep with your baby and a lantern. Sometimes you like a parent to lay with you for a few minutes, but usually you just want your own space. You usually are aware of your tiredness and fall asleep easily and quietly, though some nights you do like to use your pass (“get out of bed free” card) to do spins in the living room. Your body seems to have a natural clock when it comes to sleep. You sleep through the night and wake up at 6:00 am, and you nap from 1:00-3:00 each afternoon.

You weaned from nursing at 26 months when my milk dried (I was 15 weeks pregnant). You were only nursing once per day so it was not a jarring transition. Since T was born 6 weeks ago, you sometimes ask to nurse again. This means a 1 second attempt before you move on.

Your favorite foods are Read more…

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Protein for Morning Sickness

I’m almost in my third trimester with Baby 3, and this pregnancy is flying by! This time around, some things are easier because I have a base of knowledge about my body, I have a midwife I adore, etc. But, other things are just as hard: fatigue, nausea, intense back pain.  The good news is that at least now I have some strategies.

With V, I threw up until 37 weeks of pregnancy (thanks to acid reflux from new, unbeknownst-at-that-point lactose intolerance). With E, throwing up wrapped up at 16 weeks. This time, things were mostly settled by 16 weeks, but certain smells will still set me off and I cannot drink plain water without intense reflux or vomiting (same held true with the other two pregnancies as well).

So, what is a natural-minded pregnant lady supposed to do to combat these icky (but for a lovely reason) feelings? Eat protein! Every single time you start to feel nausea, eat something with protein in it. Crackers and carbs are for the birds. I followed the not-so-helpful Saltine advice in my first pregnancy. But, for babies two and three, I knew about the benefit of protein. If you are like me, the idea of protein meat might sound just horrible for a couple of months in there, but there are other options. Instead, try: Read more…

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 I just submitted this to Mothering.com for publication, but you get a sneak peek!

 

I am writing from Pathways to Child Flourishing, Attachment Parenting International’s 20th Anniversary symposium.

 

Peggy O’Mara (founder of Mothering.com) got hung up in the mass flight cancellations do to a fire in Chicago, but spoke via video. One of the things she focused on is the term attachment parenting (AP). I frequently encounter people who get hung up on this name. O’Mara shared that when she started her parenting journey, “In the 70s there was no name ‘Attachment Parenting’ just a desire to parent more naturally.” I am so grateful to live in a decade where we have a vernacular about gentle, responsive parenting. Moms and dads, feel empowered by common language; don’t feel limited by a label! O’Mara succinctly said that, “Attachment Parenting is not about rules but a way to see the world.” When you feel limited by attachment parenting as a label, embrace that one of the eight tenents is balance. Some things will work for you and your family, others won’t. The heart of AP is not checklist, but a desire to parent from the belief in the innate goodness of our children and ourselves.

 

One of the goals of this symposium is to address this reality that while research and science clearly support the ideas of AP, many of us who advocate AP (from researchers to educators to parents) spend a huge amount of time and energy correcting misconceptions or feel the need to reframe or defend our choices. So far this morning, Dr. Darcia Narvaez spoke on moral development in children and adults from an anthropological perspective, and Dr. Kathleen Kendall-Tackett presented research on the benefits of breastfeeding, not from the milk-content standpoint, but on the physiological benefits to mothers.

 

One of the questions that I run across is this ideas that attachment parenting is some newfangled trend–and thus should be discounted. In reality, something like attachment parenting has been around as long as people have been around.  At the Pathways symposium, Dr. Narvaez presented* the Konner Hunter-Gatherer Childhood Model.

See the model’s points in bold below, followed by my view on modern applications.

-Soothing perinatal experiences

The perinatal period lasts from several months before birth to one month after birth. Obviously, the hunter-gatherers were not going to an OB for regular ultrasounds and labor inductions at 41 weeks. Their pathway was going with the flow. Now, there were some good, empowering things (birth as natural function versus medical event) and some really, really bad things about this (high infant and mother mortality). In this age of options–OB or midwife, home or hospital, epidural or not, vaginal or surgical delivery, meeting baby’s nighttime needs via safe bedsharing or crib–making soothing choices for pregnancy, delivery, and post-partum has the potential to be even more possible than for our prehistoric counterparts.

- Held or kept near others constantly

- Prompt response to fusses and cries

- Nursed 2-3 times per hour initially

Babywearing is the first thing that comes to mind for me on these next three points of the model. While I don’t have to worry about a wild animal sniffing around if I leave baby on the living room floor and he cries out, I recognize that baby needs to be close to me. I am his safety, security, food source, and even his biological regulator for breathing and temperature. A baby is defenseless, so keeping him on me in a carrier makes sense (and doubly so for those of us who have older kids who aren’t yet up to the task of appropriately tending to baby).

Now let’s get honest about that nursing thing. Read the bullet point again–that’s not once every 2-3 hours, this is 2-3 times each hour at the beginning. Whew! While my oldest son was that newborn that could nurse 24/7, my body was not up to the task of that frequency. Let’s just say the words popped blisters and leave it at that. But, I get the point of this vision of nursing: watch your baby not the clock, offer a breast as one of the first strategies to sooth crying, and don’t worry about nursing too much. Babies have tiny tummies that need frequent fillings. Nursing while babywearing (while still observing all safety rules) and safe bedsharing are ways to meet baby’s frequent nursing needs.

Frequent nursing and proximity to baby keeps crying to a minimum, which has added physiological benefits for baby and caretaker: less cortisol (stress hormone) and more oxytocin (the so-called love hormone, released during nursing and skin-to-skin time).

To continue on the breastfeeding track, here’s the next Hunter-Gatherer Model point:

- Nursing continued for 2-5 years

A term that I love for this is full-term nursing, which I take to mean reaching or transcending the age that the World Health Organization advocates, “Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended up to 6 months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond.” In the U.S. in 2007 only 22% of babies were breastfed at 12 months, so going until two–or as long as is mutually agreeable thereafter–is even smaller. Yet, breastfeeding after infancy has great benefits! Somehow, our culture has forgotten the simplicity and normality of offering breastmilk as part of a well-rounded early childhood diet.

The last three characteristics in the Konner Hunter-Gatherer Childhood Model are the three that I struggle the most with:

- Frequently cared for by individuals other than mothers

Free play in nature in mixed-age groups

Positive social support: high social embedeneness

As I’ve shared before, I feel limited by Silo Parenting, the opposite of the historical alloparenting model where grandparents, older siblings, and others all help to care for a child. A dear friend grew up in Columbia and shared with me that although her parents both worked, she was always taken care of. There was an aunt, uncle, older cousin, etc. to help get the house and kids taken care of. This kind of extended family care is wildly different from my single-family-home lifestyle.

Something intrigues me about living more as a tribe (even as complicated as I’m sure that gets sometimes). I’ll confess that I occasionally whittle away my kids’ naptime daydreaming about intentional community–or at least having a dear friend move into the house next door and share daily life. The kids could play self-contained together in the back yard while one parent cooks dinner and the other one does some work from home and others are on or off-site. Then we eat together and share the highs and lows of the day, clean up (while the cooking parent gets some time to him or herself), and then retreat to family spaces for bedtime. Throughout the days, kids of all ages teach and learn from each other through play and exploration.

Ok, back to reality…not only is the alloparenting/tribe model very different than my silo style in terms of home life, compare this to today’s educational model of sitting in a classroom of same-aged kids for six hours a week at age three and thirty-five hours a week at age five. It’s a different era now, I get it, but Dr. Narvaez pointed out that single-age environments actually increase competition rather than cooperation. This also puts kids with peers more than elders (meaning anyone older, from teenager to great-grandma), which makes life lessons that much harder to learn. (Gabor Maté addresses these ideas in Hold Onto Your Kids.)

It’s these last three that I see just as much value in as the earlier points, but they are so wildly countercultural it is hard to know where to begin engaging them. Throughout human history, we’ve benefited from amazing advances from sanitation to fetal surgery, from hand-to-mouth living to (relative) affluence. But, as much as we’ve progressed, would we do well to embrace these most ancient parenting traditions? When we contemplate that hunter-gatherers have occupied 90% of human history, are not these the genuinely tried and true methods? Is there a way to capture the best of modernity and the best of the past?

*In her talk, Dr. Narvaez referenced Konner (2005): Hunter Gatherer Childhood Model; Dr. Hewlet and Lamb 2005; Naravae, Panskepp, Shore, Gleason, 2013

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I was 24 weeks pregnant with my oldest son (I’ll refer to this as PG1) when I woke up one morning and felt like someone had kicked me between my legs. I felt bruised from the inside and outside. It was painful to walk but also painful to lay down on my side. I made an appointment with my OB practice and I was diagnosed with diastasis of the pubis symphysis, a more extreme version of the symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD) that many women experience late in pregnancy. Diastasis symphysis pubis (DSP) is such an extreme separation of pubic bones that they are considered dislocated.  For simplicity, I am going to refer to all of these as SPD in this post, but for the record: SPD can also be referred to as pelvic girdle pain (or PGP), pubis symphysis pain, and a few other names that may refer to the same specific issue or some broader ones, like pelvic instability, which may also refer to issues with the sacroiliac joint (naturally, when the front of your pelvis spreads the rear pelvic joint is impacted, too). The pelvis naturally widens during pregnancy, especially in late pregnancy, to accommodate for delivery. This increased pelvic girth and flexibility is part of a woman’s amazing ability to birth a baby. But for me, it happened too much and too soon. The obstetrician (OB) I met with at the time told me that my diastasis was the most extreme case he’d seen in over twenty years of practice, but there was nothing to be done save for taking pain medication and making some small comfort measures. Getting a second OB opinion didn’t yield me any additional hope. From a physiological standpoint, the doctors were correct— the gap wasn’t going to close itself during pregnancy. But, there is more to health and healing than mainstream western medicine’s focus on medication, surgery, or bust. For my next pregnancy, where SPD became intensely painful at just 20 weeks, I knew better and utilized many strategies to make the pregnancy considerably healthier and happier. So, here’s what I know now through two pregnancies and four years* of pelvic instability.

Symphysis Pubis

Location of the symphysis pubis

Read more…

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Portrait of an AP Two-Year-Old

In my attachment parenting (AP) journey, I’ve felt like many resources provide a picture of this parenting style during infancy but not for beyond that. When Beyond the Sling came out it was such an encouragement to read about the daily ins and outs of someone else’s AP lifestyle and recognize elements of my family dynamic in that. So, to celebrate my dear E on his second birthday*, I thought I’d share this simple portrait of our growing guy:

*Read about his awesome birthing day here.

Birthday Boy!

Birthday Boy!


Sleep
You start the night in your own bed, a crib mattress on the floor in a room with your brother. Some nights we nurse to sleep, other nights daddy or I sit near your bed. If you wake in the night (5 out of 7 nights in the week it happens around 1 AM), you grab your water cup and baby and climb into my bed to sleep between daddy and I. You ask to nurse and I tell you, “Milkies are asleep. We can nurse again after 6 am.” When you were 14 months old you were waking every 45 minutes to nurse, and so our family gently instated some healthy boundaries over the course of several weeks to help all of us have better nights. (Here‘s a storybook about bedsharing and night weaning that helped us.)

Nursing

You ask to nurse pretty much every time you see me, but accept no easily (though you appreciate patting my chest or getting a snuggle instead).  Other times when I’m not in the mood for nursing and you are, you come up and bite exposed skin on my arms or legs.  I tell you, “Bites hurt. I like kisses,” and we move on. Read more…

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10 Ten Things Newborns Really Need

If you want to live simply with baby, consider skipping the baby towels in lieu of a clean adult towel; instead of a baby bath tub use the sink or cobathe (you can even use a water carrier, if desired); if your house is small or baby will sleep near you, you may need only a very simple baby monitor, or none at all.  There are loads of baby products out there: some are adorable, others seem like they’ll solve whatever baby-related issue you may have, some are just plain clever or fun. But, what do you really truly NEED for your newborn?  Here’s my list for baby gear minimalists.

For a newborn, you need: Read more…

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