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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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Declare War on Mommy Wars

I am so over this mommy wars stereotype. I see many references to mommy wars in the media—portrayals of women that show us as judgmental, petty, gossipy people who resort to passive-aggression or verbal catfights—but how real is this so-called phenomenon?

Online, I see plenty of flat-out horrible comments from trolls and a fair amount of people sharing their own positions in ways that comes across harshly, but I chalk much of that up to the limitations of written communication:  the absence of polite tone-of-voice and positive body language to soften conversations and sometimes forgetting about the actual humans on the other side of the screen. But, online harshness and media perpetuation aside, how many women are actually at war with other moms in their day-to-day lives over different parenting choices? Differences of opinion are normal, but war?

Sure, Ms. Scowling Stranger’s eyes might linger too long when something about my baby catches her eye (maybe a flash of skin while toddler-nursing, or other mothers have mentioned this when bottle-feeding), but looking at me doesn’t mean judgment. It might mean curiosity, it might mean she is lost in thought about her day, it might mean she is thinking back to something related about her own baby. Now, maybe sometimes it does mean judgment. But, is that war or is that someone making a snap judgment, keeping it to herself, and then moving on?

Of course, sometimes uncomfortable interactions dont stop just at glances— people can phrase things in insensitive ways. I am in that stage of pregnancy where assessments about my body, family size, the “appropriate” sex of our forthcoming child, etc. seem like conversational free-for-alls to others. Are people warring with me, or are they (imperfectly) trying to attempt conversation? Emotionally healthy people generally don’t walk around trying to say jerky things to others, so I choose to hear their words as interest; I hear their stories about their pregnancies as stories about them, not as judgment of me. (Thank you to the books of Deborah Tannen for helping me with this mind shift.)

If my theory that “it’s not actually about me” is true, then perhaps the way to stop so-called-mommy wars is to reject feeling warred with. It’s time to call a truce, not a truce in the sense that we all have to get along (because that just isn’t human nature, I’m not suggesting we all sing kumbaya after chasing a baby down a hill–see Similac video link above), but a truce in that we reject the mommy wars myth, this terribly ugly and oppressive stereotype of women. Recognize that a truce feeling doesn’t come from an external source; since we can never control or change anyone else, the truce feeling has to come from within ourselves.

Nice theory, right? But what does that even look like? Here are six ideas:

1. Offer grace when someone says something the wrong way or asks an insensitive question. Every one of us has done this unintentionally, right? Try to hear what they are communicating about their own story. “Why do you ask?” and “It sounds like you have strong feelings about X,” make the conversation about the other person and not you.

2. Assume that when a person talks about her choice to X, she is talking about HER choice and not critiquing your choice to do Y. Listen for feeling words that you can both agree on, even if your approach is totally different, “Yes, it sure is tiring to have baby crying at night.” “It sounds like you are frustrated with the cost of formula/diapers/childcare. Money sure is different now that our families are bigger, isn’t it?” Focus on being an empathetic listener rather than offering solutions, mentally comparing how you do things, or showing how your way is right (unless invited to give advice).

3. Assume something else is going on when someone glances over with a frown. It is normal to not realize where our eyes have settled when we are lost in thought. If it really is bothering you, make eye contact and smile back to gently shake them out of it, or a friendly, “Hi, do we know each other?” can also get to the root of things.

4.We all make flash judgments, but work on the ability to let those thoughts go as soon as you recognize them. Initial feeling and impressions often can’t be controlled, but what you do with those feelings can be hurtful or helpful. Socially, if you are involved in a conversation that is gossip, cut it out. When you spend less time judging others, you feel less judged yourself, and that is freeing.

5. Think carefully when you post online. Remember that you don’t have tone or body language to soften your words. Also recognize that the anonymity of the internet can lead to some really unhelpful communication. Don’t feed the trolls, and don’t be one. When we forget the dignity of the other person, when we have no hope left of seeing the value of their point or character, the conversation isn’t going to be productive. Imagine a real person at the other end of the screen when you type. If you were the healthiest communicator you could be, would you talk to your best friend, your mom, your son, or your boss that way in an in-person disagreement?

6. Realize that no choice you make will ever please everyone, and that is ok. You can be wrong in someone else’s eyes and just walk away from it. This one applies big-time online. In real life, there is more chance for healthy dialogue with those whose perspective you truly value, but online, especially with strangers and acquaintances, “proving” your point can be futile.

How prevalent do you think mommy wars are in face-to-face life versus in the media or online? Is it possible to call a truce by reframing how you perceive others? What helps you move past judging or feeling judged? With the prevalence of online communities (including this one), how can we discuss and disagree without demeaning?

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Some of you know that I teach a class called Attached at the Heart (based on the book of the same name) geared toward parents, potential parents, of kids pre-conception through preschool. People often ask me what we cover in the class, so here it is:

Week 1- Charting a New Course: Introduction to Attachment Parenting
We’ll start our course with a look at how culture impacts parenting choices and examine what attachment theory is and why it matters to our families.

Week 2- Prepare Yourself for Pregnancy, Birth and Parenting + Use Nurturing Touch
Expecting and potential parents will gain an understanding of options surrounding pregnancy and birth while those post-partum can reflect on their experiences. Then, we’ll explore how to use massage, babywearing, and play to connect with babies and kids. This session includes a live demonstration of the 4 major categories of baby carriers along with safety and developmental considerations for each. Caregivers are invited to bring their own carriers for hands-on help.

Week 3- Respond with Sensitivity + Ensure Safe Sleep Physically and Emotionally 
Babies and young children can communicate physical and emotional needs intense ways like crying and tantrums. We’ll talk about how parents and caregivers can leverage this communication into a strong relationship. Additionally, parents will increase their understanding of infant sleep patterns, creating safe sleep environments, and the importance of responding to a child’s nighttime needs.

Week 4-  Feed with Love and Respect + Balance Your Needs
From breast or bottle to solid foods, meals are a time for parent-child connection. We’ll explore finding healthy methods that work best for your family. Additionally, we’ll  develop strategies to nourish your own emotional and physical needs while meeting your child’s needs.

Week 5- Practice Positive Discipline
The key difference between positive discipline and permissive parenting is setting healthy boundaries, but what does that mean and how do you enact it? Leave this session armed with over 25 practical ways to connect with your kids through gentle discipline.

Week 6- Provide Consistent Loving Care + The Ripple Effect of Parenting 
Empathy can be every parent’s secret weapon for addressing overwhelming cries, tantrums, and misbehavior, but this ‘language of love’ doesn’t always come intuitively. Thankfully, there are strategies you can use to help. Additionally, we’ll talk about choosing a caregiver when you are away from your child and staying true to your style of parenting in the midst of a culture filled with competing ideas.

Want to learn more or register for the session happening in Fall 2014? Visit the course homepage.

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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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Granola bars are a necessity in my house for my picky tummy in the morning, but the gluten-free, dairy-free, wholesome variety tend to be pricey. About a year ago, I started devising this recipe to be a bar alternative and discovered that they are sweet enough for a dessert. My kids are crazy about them and they are so easy to make!
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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Babies, babies, babies: I have a lot of friend having babies. It’s wonderful! Some are first-time-moms, others have 1 or 2 or 3 or 4 little ones, others are having their first in many years. Some are immersed in a eco-minded lifestyle, others are curious about some of the options. As a naturally-minded mom, the two things that I get asked the most about are babywearing and cloth diapering.  So, today I thought I’d explain a little bit about cloth diapers. We have used a lot of cloth diapers over the years: not every brand (though many), but every category.  At the most basic level, a cloth diaper is two parts: a layer (or more) of absorbency and a layer of moisture-proofing. In other words, it is  a layer to soak up wetness and a layer to keep that wetness (or more) from leaking out. There are many combinations of these two things, so let’s take a look at the options.

Types of Cloth Diapers

 

Cost Guide: $ is cheapest, $$$$$ is most expensive. Cost rating is based on price as well as longevity in terms of the months that a baby can use it and how well it will endure through multiple children.
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