Merry Advent!

Holiday traditions are so important to me.  Most of my very fond memories from childhood involve one holiday or another.  But Christmas season is my very most favorite time of year!  I want my children to have special memories from the holidays, too.  We make a pretty big deal about Christmas every year at our house.  One of the best ways to build childhood memories is through family traditions.  So we’ve adopted a few different family traditions of our own.  One of our favorites is our advent calendar.

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I bought this adorable little advent box at JoAnn Fabric on the day before Thanksgiving at a ridiculously low price and I’ve had so much fun painting it!  That low price is really important because with 5 children, we live on a tight budget.  This also comes into play when considering what goes into the advent calendar.  I know that most families put little sweets and treats into each day of an advent calendar, but I don’t like the kids to have a ton of sugar.  Also, that many treats for that many children with food allergies is not an inexpensive endeavor.  We think our version is more fun anyway.

img_3629Most of our days have little laminated paper tags like this that have an advent activity typed on them.  I move them around every year to the day that works best for that activity that year.  The children are so excited to wake up each morning and check the calendar to see what the day’s activity will be.  Several days there are “special treats” in the drawer instead – lollipops or candy canes for each, usually.  But we all enjoy the activities more.

Our qualifications for advent activities are that the activities must be generally inexpensive, require little or no preparation, and be easily accomplished, typically with things we will already have on hand.  These are the ones that we do every year:

*Make paper snowflakes – this year we used templates found on Pinterest and hung them around the kitchen when we were finished.
*Take Christmas pictures – we try to get 1 set of good pictures of us as a family done each year at Christmas time.  It doesn’t always work out, but it does more years than not.
*Donate a bike – I save $1 every week all year long to be able to donate a bike to a child in need each year.
*Mail letters to Santa
*Wrap some presents
*Make a Christmas craft
*Make some gifts – we typically make handmade ornaments for family and friends each year, but there are other handmade gifts each year as well.
*Read 4 Christmas books – we have a nice little collection with some great favorites in it.
*Mail Christmas cards
*Mail gifts to faraway family
*Make a snowman – when there is no snow on the ground, the kids have to get creative!
*Donate some food to those in need
*Drink hot cocoa together
*Family solstice dinner – since we don’t get to partake of a lot of the holiday meals we attend, because of our food allergies, we have a big holiday meal for the solstice each year.
*Go see Santa
*Read ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas – always done on Christmas Eve at bedtime!

As you can see, the activities don’t have to be extensive, expensive, or stressful to create a lot of holiday cheer!

What are some of your favorite holiday traditions?

Morning Chores and Weekly Chores

Welcome to the January 2015 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Household Chores

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared stories, tips, and tricks on tackling household chores. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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With all of these kids running around, our house can get a little crazy.  The only way I can make sure that everything runs smoothly throughout the day is to make sure our morning chores get done every day.  I use my HPDA to keep track of what I need to do on a daily basis – and which of those things I have already done.  That way, as I get sidetracked by things like toddlers pouring syrup into the butter tub, I can come back and remember whether I gave the kids their medicine or not.

HPDA To Do List

Every day, I need to take my thyroid medicine and my supplements.  Then, somewhere around eating breakfast and getting kids dressed for the day, I do several things.  I make sure the pets are fed.  It is Sofi’s job to feed the bunnies and Walter and Elliott’s job to feed the puppy.  It is my job to remind them.  I  brush my teeth and hair, and do my best to look presentable for the day.  I get dressed for the day before I ever leave my bedroom, so that isn’t on the list.  I check the menu for the day and make sure that everything I need is thawed and anything that needs to go in the crockpot is started.  I make sure the dishwasher is emptied.  Sofi and Walter empty it and put away everything they can easily reach.  They both dislike doing the silverware, so they alternate doing it daily.  I keep the calendar color coded for them so that they can tell whose day it is easily.  When they have put away everything they can reach, I finish them off by putting away all of the dishes that belong up high.  Once the dishwasher is empty, there is room for the breakfast dishes, and the kids and I clear our places at the table.  I also pick up the babies’ dishes.  Once the dishes and the condiments are off the table, I wipe it all down.  Then I start clearing the counters.  The counters are, unfortunately, one of the places where everything seems to land.  So, I can spend quite a bit of time getting them excavated and wiped down for the day.  Once they are cleared, I hand out the kids’ allergy medicine and make sure they take it.  Then, I can move on to putting in a load of laundry, and I am done for the morning!  Of course, by this time, it is usually lunch time!

The other side of the morning chores coin is the kids’ side.  Sofi is 8.5, so she is capable of quite a bit.  She dresses herself each day, brushes her hair and puts it in a ponytail, brushes her teeth, and puts in her hearing aid, in addition to what I’ve listed above.  She also often helps Elliott, 3.5, to pick out his clothes for the day and get dressed.  She also often gets him bundled up and takes him with her to feed the bunnies.  This is one of their favorite joint chores!  Walter, at 6.5 also gets himself dressed every day, but takes a bit more poking and prodding to do so, to do his dishwasher rack, to clear his spot at the table, and to put on his glasses for the day.  But, he can do all of these things for himself, so long as I keep reminding him to do them.

Past our morning chores come my weekly chores.  I wash and dry everyone’s laundry, and help to get it put away.  I’ve shared my laundry system before, about how I keep laundry as simple as possible with so many people.

HPDA Weekly To Do List

Once the laundry is done, there are my other weekly chores to work on.  Some days I work on them when I run out of morning chores.  Some days I don’t work on them at all.  But, I try to get each of them done weekly – scrubbing both the bathrooms, dusting, sweeping and mopping every hard floor in the house, vacuuming every carpeted floor in the house, washing the throw rugs, watering the house plants.

There is so much to do to make sure the house runs smoothly!  Luckily, as long as my morning chores get done, I’ve got a good jump on the day.

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • Seven Tips for Decluttering with Your Clutterbug — Do you have a child with hoarder tendencies? Help them declutter before the Legos and stuffed animals take over your home. Charlie of Three Blind Wives, guest posting at Natural Parents Network, offers some expert advice.
  • Chores, Chores, ChoresLife Breath Present talks about how her family divides chores, and how Baby Boy joins in to keep their home clean and running smoothly.
  • Of Toddlers & Housework — Holly at Leaves of Lavender talks about some of the ways she lets her not-quite-3-year-old son help out around the house.
  • Whistling While We Work: On Kids and Chores — Dionna at Code Name: Mama realized recently that she often feel resentful when she carryies more than her share of the household load. And so several weeks ago, she brought a laundry basket upstairs and had the kids start folding. Thus began a regular series of household responsibilities for her kids.
  • The 4-Day Laundry Plan — Becca at The Earthling’s Handbook line-dries all of her laundry, including cloth diapers, and stays sane while also working full-time outside the home. She’s sharing her tips!
  • Chores Don’t Have To Be Drudgery — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama discusses how she gets the whole family motivated in the daily care and maintenance of maintaining a home. After all, chores do not have to be drudgery.
  • Morning Chores and Weekly Chores — Kellie at Our Mindful Life can get anything done, so long as she gets her morning chores – and her weekly chores – done!
  • A place for everything and everything in its place — Make it easy to tidy up by having just enough stuff for the space you have. Lauren at Hobo Mama talks about this goal in her own home and gives tips on how to achieve it in yours.
  • Cleaning With Essential Oils — What essential oils could add a boost to your cleaning routine? That Mama Gretchen has a round up of what you might like to consider!
  • Montessori-Inspired Sweeping Activities — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells how her children helped keep their house clean and shares ideas for Montessori-inspired sweeping activities.
  • 9 Natural Cleaning Recipes for New Mamas — Dionna of Code Name: Mama, guest posting at Mama & Baby Love, shares recipes for safer, natural homemade cleaners that parents can make with ingredients they trust. Leave a comment on the post for a chance to win a copy of Homemade Cleaners – a book packed with tons of natural cleaner recipes!

Friends Near, Friends Far


Welcome to the August 2014 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Friends

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared stories and wisdom about friends.

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Making and keeping friends has been one of the hardest challenges of my adult life.  I love people.  I love to just hang out, spend a few hours chatting, knitting, watching the kids goof off, play games.  Yet, as an adult, it can be hard to find a group of friends if you aren’t in an area you grew up in – which I am not.

 

When we moved to Kansas City, just before Sofiya was born, I knew only a few people.  I made a few friends here and there.  Then, when Sofi was about 7 months old, I started attending regular La Leche League meetings and I met my tribe.  Some of the moms from the group really clicked with me, and several also belonged to a larger parenting group which I was quickly invited to.  That group became my village in a time that I truly needed one.  In the years that I lived in Kansas City, this group of attachment parents was a source of joy, comfort, education, and resources.  They donated breastmilk to Walter when he was unable to nurse as a newborn.  Together we did co-op orders, playgroups, homeschool classes, and mom’s night out.  My kids and I formed some very close bonds with several of the people in this group.

And then, we moved to Ohio…

Ohio has been good for us on a lot of levels.  I get to be back with my family, which means more to me than I can adequately express.  My husband went from inside sales (talking on a phone all day, which he really doesn’t enjoy) to outside sales (walking in doors and talking to people face to face) which he really enjoys.  We are in a small town, which we have really enjoyed, and we feel like we are a part of a greater community because of that, as well.  We are much closer to the agricultural roots that we feel so strongly about, and are sourcing a large quantity of our food locally these days.  There are many things that we are grateful for here in Ohio.  But moving meant leaving behind all of those great friends that we had in Kansas City.

We’ve worked hard at building up friendships in Ohio like the ones we had in KC, but we aren’t quite there yet.  I know that one day, we will again have regular play dates, mom’s night out, and co-op orders.  I know that one day we will have friends close enough that I know I could tearfully ask if they would donate breastmilk for a baby who can’t seem to get latched for some reason.  I know that I am hard at work building those connections again.

In the meantime, we go back to Kansas City every year to visit old friends.  While we are there, we usually hop in on a Frontier order, plan a big play group day, and try to make a homeschool class (or 3).  It’s a lot of fun to hook back up with those old connections in our old stomping ground.

Our best friends have also made a huge effort to make it out to see us.  A few friends have come once or twice to Ohio.  We keep the camper stocked, plugged in and ready for company.  Anyone is welcome to come spend a few days or more in it.  It’s a great arrangement because it gives us all our own space to breathe, gives the kids a break from each other when tensions are high, and lets everyone have a place to retreat for some calm time before bed.

One of my best friends, who was there for Elliott’s birth in Kansas City, upon finding out that I was pregnant with William in Ohio responded with, “Congratulations!  I can come out for a week when you are due.  Let me know what timing you think would be best.”  She should have left on Thursday to be back home on plan, but decided to stay one more night and got to be there for William’s birth.  It was so special to have her there for both of my babies, even though they were born 600 miles apart!

My kids and I are looking forward to a camping trip at the end of the month with this same friend and another close friend.  Some of the kids’ friends will be in this group as well.

It really is special, watching my kids navigate the waters of making new friends in a new community without all of the homeschool cooperation and collective that we are used to, while they retain their relationships with their friends from Kansas City as well.  Walter still counts Kieran as his best friend, though they only see each other a few weeks a year.  When we are getting close to time to see him, Walter has such grand plans for all of the things they are going to do.  He always boasts that he will be getting up “early, early, early” so that he and Kieran can just “play, play, play!”

I’m really looking forward to the day that my kids and I have friendships in Ohio that are as strong as our friendships in Kansas City, but I also love how my children have learned that you don’t have to see someone regularly to love them, think of them, and have a strong friendship with them.

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

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

  • Sibling Revelry — At Natural Parents Network, Amy W. shares her joy in witnessing the growth of the friendship between her two young children.
  • Making New Mama Friends — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama muses on how she was able to connect with like-minded mamas and form deep friendships both in ‘real life’ and online. Learn how these life-long friendships, both between Jennifer and other mothers but also between Jennifer’s daughter and the other children, formed and flourished.
  • Family, Friends and Family Friends — Vidya Sury at Vidya Sury, Going A-Musing, Collecting Smiles is reflecting on family friendships, past and present.
  • Arranging friendships in a modern world — From a free-range childhood to current parenthood, how can an introvert like Lauren at Hobo Mama navigate the newly complicated scheduling of playdates and mom friends?
  • Mommy Blogs: Where Moms Make Friends — Mothers make friends with other mothers in new ways. The options from earlier decades remain, but new avenues have sprung up with mommy bloggers. Laurie Hollman, Ph.D. at Parental Intelligence shares her thoughts.
  • Friendship and Sacrifice: Guardians of the Galaxy — Shay at 4HisGlor y learned that friendship lessons can be found in unlikely places, like blockbuster summer movies.
  • Friendship – Finding, Forming, Keeping, and WishingLife Breath Present‘s thoughts on finding, forming, keeping, and wishing for friendships as an introvert.
  • Consciously Creating My Community: Monthly Dinners — How have you intentionally created community? Dionna at Code Name: Mama‘s goal for the year is to cultivate community. One way she’s done that is to help organize two different monthly dinners with friends.
  • Adults need imaginary friends, too — Tat at Mum in Search shares why it’s a good idea for adults to have imaginary friends. You get to meet Tat’s friend and download a playbook to create your own.
  • Friends Near, Friends Far — Kellie at Our Mindful Life helps her kids keep in touch with friends 600 miles apart.
  • Which comes first, social skills or social life? — Jorje of Momma Jorje frets about whether her daughter can learn social skills without experience, but how to get good experience without social skills.
  • Snail Mail Revival — Skype isn’t the only way to stay in touch with long distance friends, That Mama Gretchen and her family are breaking out the envelopes and stamps these days!
  • Montessori-Inspired Friendship Activities — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares a roundup of Montessori-inspired friendship activities for home or classroom.
  • How I used the internet to make local friends — After years of striking out at the park, Crunchy Con Mom finally found some great local friends . . . online!
  • My How Friends Change — Erica at ChildOrganics knows entirely too much about how to comfort a friend after a loss.

My Village

Welcome to the March 2014 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Everyday Superheroes

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have talked about the remarkable people and characteristics that have touched their lives. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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When I became a mom, I had an inkling of the mom I wanted to be, but no idea how to get there.  I knew that I wanted my babies to have “good food”, “safe products”, “appropriate developmental toys”.  The problem was, I didn’t necessarily know what that meant, and I didn’t know how to figure that out.  None of my long time friends had children.  The parenting magazines and stores put out the information that their corporate sponsors dictate.  I knew that the one sided information from the mainstream media couldn’t be the entire story, because one size never fits all.  But I didn’t know where to find other information.  I think there are a lot of people out there who are in this same position.  6959751408_826ab8fecf_b

I was lucky in that a friend from a due date club invited me to an internet forum for crunchy moms, when Sofi was 6 months old.  On that forum, I met a group of women who grew with me, learning about the alternative options to the mainstream offerings.  I learned about whole foods, traditional diets, cloth diapers, chemicals in our typical household products, vaccines, differing educational philosophies, and natural baby care.

9535658967_ef4e2a16dc_bAbout 6 months later, some friends at La Leche League invited me to a local Attachment Parenting group.  In this group of families, I learned about community.  I learned about homeschooling, about gentle parenting as children grew and matured, about physically supporting families on a daily basis.  I learned about vulnerability, about encouragement.  I learned what it meant to be real, and to allow others to help us.

Together with these women, I researched, I learned, I experimented, I GREW.  Were it not for these women, these families, I would not be the mom I am today.  It wasn’t because these people were better than me, and taught me to be a better person.  It was because together we were genuine with each other.  It was because as a group, we found out about who we want to be and how we want to parent.  261593_10150289482925155_1444356_n

Now, 7 years later, I am the mom I wanted to be.  I have learned about so many of the concerns that I had as a new mother, but more than that – I have learned that I am capable of learning about any topic I want, and of realizing great change in my life.  I have learned that I can find a community for myself, no matter where I am, and no matter what my beliefs are.

The people who taught me these things – they are my everyday heroes.  They are the people who get me through every day.

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: 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 updated by afternoon March 11 with all the carnival links.)

  • I Am A Super Hero — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares how she learned the hard way exactly what it means to be a real super hero and not a burned out shell of a human simply pretending to be one.
  • Quiet Heroics — Heroism doesn’t have to be big and bold. Read how Jorje of Momma Jorje is a quiet hero…and how you probably are, too.
  • Not a Bang, but a Whisper {Carnival of Natural Parenting} — Meegs at A New Day talks about the different types of “superheroes,” ones that come in with a bang and ones that come in with a whisper.
  • Silent courage of motherhood in rural Cambodia — Nathalie at Kampuchea Crossings marvels at how rural Khmer women defy the odds in childbirth.
  • Super PappyMother Goutte‘s little boy met a superhero in checked slippers and Volkswagen Polo, his grand dad: Super Pappy!
  • An Open Letter to Batman — Kati at The Best Things challenges Batman to hold up his end of the deal, in the name of social justice, civic duty, and a little boy named Babe-O!
  • My Village — Kellie at Our Mindful Life reflects on the people who helped her to become her best self.
  • 5 Lessons My Kids Taught Me — Children are amazing teachers, when we only stop to listen. They remind us to choose happiness, to delight in the small things, to let go and forgive. There is so much we can learn from our children. Justine at The Lone Home Ranger shares a few of the lessons she’s learned.
  • Could you use some superpowers? — Tat at Mum in search shares a fun activity to help you connect with your own superpowers.
  • Like Fire Engines — Tam at tinsenpup tells the story of the day she saw a surprising superhero lurking in the guise of her not entirely mild-mannered four-year-old daughter.
  • Everyday Superheroes — Erica at ChildOrganics shares her list of Walker Warburg Syndrome Superheroes that have touched her life forever.
  • My Superhero of the Week: Nancy GallagherTribal Mama muses about the transcendent things her superhero mom has done.
  • My choice in natural birth does not make me a super hero — Bianca, The Pierogie Mama, discusses her thoughts on her experience with the perception of natural birth and putting those mamas on a different level. Does giving birth naturally give cause for an extra pat on the back? No! All mamas, no matter how they birth, are superheroes.
  • Someone’s Hero — Sometimes being a parent means pretending to be a grown-up, but it always means you are someone’s hero. Read Mandy’s lament at Living Peacefully with Children.
  • Growing into a Super Hero — Casey at Joyful Courage shares how owning our behavior and choosing to be a better parent, a better person, is an act of courage.
  • A Math Superhero — Kerry at City Kids Homeschooling writes that her 7-year-old daughter’s superhero is an MIT-trained mathematician.
  • It Starts With Truffula Trees And Tulips — Luschka of Diary of a First Child takes a hard look at the realities of her relationship with her mother, and through this post goes on a journey of discovery that ends in a surprise realisation for her.
  • We Don’t Need an Excuse — Maria Kang (aka “Hot Mom”) asks women #WhatsYourExcuse for not being in shape? Dionna at Code Name: Mama asks Hot Mom what her excuse is for not devoting her life to charity work, or fostering dozens of stray dogs each year, or advocating for the needs of others. Better yet, Code Name: Mama says, how about we realize that every woman has her own priorities. Focus on your own, and stop judging others for theirs.
  • It’s not heroic when you’re living it — Lauren at Hobo Mama knows from the inside that homeschooling does not take a hero, and that much of what we choose as parents is simply what works best for us.
  • Superheroes, princesses and preschoolers — Garry at Postilius discusses why his preschool-age son is not ready for comic book superheroes.
  • The Loving Parents of Children with Special Needs – Everyday Superheroes — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares posts with resources for parents of children with special needs along with posts to help others know how to support parents of children with special needs.
  • Everyday Empathy — Mommy Giraffe of Little Green Giraffe shares why her secret superpower is everyday empathy.
  • The Simplicity of Being a Superhero — Ana at Panda & Ananaso explains what superheroes mean to her wise three-year-old.
  • My Father, The Hero — Fathers are pretty amazing; find out why Christine at The Erudite Mom thinks hers is the bees knees.

Helping Out

A dozen years ago, when Micah and I first moved in together, we agreed to a division of the household work which we deemed fair.  Basically, we both did the things we enjoyed, and we found that this got all of the jobs done without either of us feeling stressed.  I loathed washing dishes – Micah found it cathartic.  My physical condition made emptying a full kitchen size garbage bag painful – Micah found it simple and far prefered this system to my myriad 1 gallon trash cans around the house which I could easily empty daily.  I loved to deep clean, and far prefered to scrub a bathroom over doing a sink full of dishes.  I ironed so often that our ironing board had a permanent place in our open living/dining rooms.  I did the pet care, the laundry, the dusting and the floors.  Micah did the cooking.  And we were perfectly happy with that arrangement.

Over the years, some things have changed.  For instance, we split the cooking, most of the time, and Micah has taken over a lot of the pet care.  Plus, we’ve gone from the 2 of us and one small cat to 2 parents, 4 children, a large cat and a pretty large dog.  The household chores take much longer than they used to, and need to be done far more frequently.  When we were first together, Micah could fry a couple eggs for breakfast and I could fix myself a bowl of cereal and breakfast was over in 15 minutes.  Now, pancake mix must be made a few times a week, and pancakes are made daily for 5 people.  Breakfast can take an hour or more, if everyone’s wake up times are staggered just right.  By the time breakfast is cleaned up (usually my job), we have anywhere from 1 to 3 hours before lunch time.  I make lunch for myself and “the troops” during the week.  Daddy usually handles it on the weekends.  I meal plan and do most of the weeknight dinner cooking.  Micah does a lot of the weekend dinner cooking.  He still cleans up the kitchen and does the dishes after dinner.  We’ve both taken on additional “kid” chores, like diaper duty and bath time.  I still do almost all of the house cleaning, the majority of the laundry, and now 99% of the homeschooling.

So, for the past seven and a half years, there has been a LOT of household work to do.  But lately, things have changed, a bit.  Suddenly, Sofi and Walter have gotten old enough to make meaningful contributions to the household chores.  They are able to clear their own dishes from the table, scrape their plates, and put them in the dishwasher.  They are able to put lids on condiments and carry them to the fridge.  They are old enough to unload the dishwasher.  Sofi is old enough to sweep the front entry and throw away the dust.  She is old enough to do a load of laundry by herself.  She is old enough to put her own laundry away.  Walter is able to put away his own laundry and feed the dog.

Kids Helping Out: Our Mindful LifeNow, it isn’t as though they miraculously began doing household work.  They have always worked side by side with Micah and me.  But now they have learned well enough that they are able to do the chores by themselves.  They have gone from needing us to be beside them as they worked, to being able to do the job alone, while I work on another project nearby.  It may seem small, but clearing the table and emptying the dishwasher has really decreased Micah’s work load and left him more time in the morning and evening, and less stress.

I’m looking forward to seeing all of the children mature into being able to make more and more meaningful contributions to the household.  How do your children help you at home?

Sharing My Joy

Welcome to the February 2014 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting Fears

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared stories and wisdom about parenting fears.

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As a parent, I do things a bit differently than the majority of Americans.  I am aware of this, and I am ok with this.  There are some things that I don’t even begin to expect others to do – even if in my utopian dreams, everyone does them.   There are some things that I wish others understood better.  There are some things that I am passionate about and that I believe that most families could do, to the benefit of the children or the family.  However, I also understand VERY well that every family is different and the same things don’t work for every family.

One of my biggest parenting fears is that other parents may feel that I am measuring them against myself, because I do things differently than they do.

I will admit that once upon a time, I was a new mom, with only one baby, and a lot of loneliness in the world.  I was in a bad place in life, and feeling isolated and judged.  And in that space and time, with only the experience of one baby, I was in a place that I sometimes judged other parents.  This is one of my few regrets as a parent, and I am truly, deeply sorry for making that mistake.

But now, 7.5 years and 3 additional children later, I have a different outlook on life.  I have got a great network of supportive friends.  I am no longer in that lonely, sad, scared place I was once upon a time.  And I really do not have the time to sit around judging other people’s choices.  Unless a choice involves outright parental neglect or abuse, I don’t really think twice about it, these days.  So, I am always taken aback when it is implied that I am being judgemental, or as though I am coming from some high and mighty place.  And it is implied, and even outright stated to me that I am, every now and again.

The reason it is always such a shock is that I have only made the decisions I have made for my own family.  I have chosen to do things that bring me and my family great joy.  My entire family loves the benefits that we have enjoyed from breastfeeding.  We all love our cloth diapers.  We all love eating whole foods that help our bodies to be strong and healthy.  We all enjoy the dynamic that homeschooling has brought to our lives.  And on, and on, and on.

Our Mindful LifeOur family doesn’t sit around thinking about what families who aren’t breastfeeding, cloth diapering, eating whole foods, or homeschooling *are* doing.  We spend our time enjoying ourselves and each other.  We spend our time spreading love.  And we spend our time telling other people about the joys in our lives.  That means that sometimes, we talk about breastfeeding, cloth diapering, eating well, homeschooling, or one of the other plethora of things that we do.  We talk about these things because they bring us joy and we want other people to know that they are options that bring us joy.  We do not talk about them because we think that it will change the minds of people who find joy in formula feeding, disposable diapering, eating processed foods, schooling at the school building (as we call it), or any of the other things that people do differently from us.

So, I always feel a little bit sad when I am talking to someone about something that we do, and they start defending the reasons that they do what they do.  People will see our cloth diapers and ask a few questions.  And after a minute, they inevitably start saying things like, “I thought about cloth diapering, but it just didn’t work out for us because it was too much laundry, and Lenny hurt his back at work, and I couldn’t do the stairs to the basement all of the time, and so, even though I’d really LIKE to be doing cloth diapers, it just isn’t going to work out for us to do them – now or ever…”  Or, I’ll post an article on Facebook about breastfeeding and someone will often say, “Not everyone can breastfeed!”  Or we’ll be hanging out with friends when some comment will come up about some current TV show, and I’ll mention that we don’t have a TV.  Inevitably, the mom will blush, and stammer, and start talking about how they only watch such and such channels, and only for so long every day, and how if only dad would turn off the TV that mom would happily live without one, and how it would be so great if the kids didn’t watch TV…

HomeschoolingAnd in any of these situations, I can feel that tension.  That feeling that I am being judged as being the mom who thinks she is better than all the other moms because my family does things differently.

The thing is, when I am talking about what we do, I am not judging anyone.  I am not feeling superior to anyone.  I am not saying that any one person should do things the way that I do them.  What I am saying is that these things that we do bring our family joy.  I am saying, this is my authentic self, and I won’t lie to you about who I am to make you feel better – I believe that you can feel good knowing who I am and who you are.  I am saying, if you find that what your family is doing doesn’t bring you joy, and you want to ask me about what I do, I am happy to talk about it!  I am saying, I am happy and I hope you are happy too.

 

 

***

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 (list will be final around 5pm PST February 11):

  • When Parents’ Fears Escalate — If we didn’t self-doubt, we probably wouldn’t care enough about our children to struggle with understanding them. But how do we overcome self-doubt? Read advice from Laurie Hollman, Ph.D., guest posting today at Natural Parents Network.
  • What ifs of addiction — After seeing how addictions of adult children is badly hurting a family close to her heart, Hannah at HannahandHorn shares her fears for her own child.
  • Sharing My Joy — Kellie at Our Mindful Life shares her fear that others think she is judgmental because she makes alternative choices for her own family.
  • Building My Tribe Fearlessly — A meteorite hit Jaye Anne at Tribal Mama’s family when she was seven years old. Read the story, how she feels about that now, and how she is building her tribe fearlessly.
  • Fear: Realized — Laura from Pug in the Kitchen shares how her fear of car accidents was realized and how she hopes to be able to use her efforts to overcome the remaining fears to help her children overcome their own.
  • I’m a Negligent Helicopter Parent — For Issa Waters at LoveLiveGrow, the line between helicopter parenting and negligent parenting is not so cut and dried.
  • My Greatest Fear For My Child — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama admits that she has struggled with not allowing her fears to control her and how the reality of this was blown wide open when she became a mother.
  • Procactive Steps to Calm Parenting Fears — Every parent has certain fears related to dangerous situations, That Mama Gretchen shares ways she is preparing herself and her children for emergencies.
  • Homeschooling Fears – Will My Children Regret Being Homeschooled? — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares an interview with her now-adult children that answers a question she had throughout their homeschooling.
  • An Uneasy Truce — Homeschooler and recent convert to unschooling, Tam at tinsenpup shares just a few of the things she tries to keep in mind when fear and insecurity begin to take hold.
  • Fearing the worst, expecting the best — Tarana at Sand In My Toes writes about fears that come with parenting, and why we must overcome them.
  • Can I be the parent I want to be? — Amanda at Postilius confronts her struggle to peacefully parent a preschooler
  • Out of Mind, Out of Fear — How does Jorje of Momma Jorje deal with her pretty steep, long-term fears regarding her son’s future?
  • I Don’t Homeschool to Manage My Kids’ Transcripts — One of Dionna at Code Name: Mama’s fears of parenting is that she will get so caught up in the monotony, the details of homeschooling, the minutiae of everyday life, the routine of taking care of a household – that she will forget to actually be present in the moment with her children.
  • Beware! Single Mom Camping — Erica at ChildOrganics shares her first adventures as a single mom. She laughed, she cried, she faced her fears.
  • Parenting Fears And Reality Checks — Luschka from Diary of a First Child shares her three biggest fears as a parent – that most parents share – looks at the reality behind these fears, and offers a few suggestions for enjoying parenting.
  • Parenting fear : to kill a pink rabbit…Mother Goutte tells us the story of a pink rabbit that disappeared, came back, and became the symbol of her worst parenting fear…
  • Roamingsustainablemum considers whether allowing your children freedom to explore the world safely is harder now than in the past.
  • Meeting my parenting fears head-on — Lauren at Hobo Mama had many fears before she became a parent. Learn how they all came true — and weren’t anywhere near as scary as she’d thought.
  • Don’t fear the tears — Justine at The Lone Home Ranger worried that letting her children cry when going to sleep was tantamount to the dreaded parenting moniker, CIO. She discusses what actually happened after those teary nights, and how she hopes these lessons can carry forward to future parenting opportunities.
  • Will I Still be a Good Mom? — Mercedes at Project Procrastinot worries about her mothering skills now that breastfeeding is no longer the top priority.
  • Pregnancy Fears: It Happened to My Sisters, It Will Happen to Me… — Kristen at Baby Giveaways Galore discusses the difficulties with pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding that the women in her family have had and how she overcame them.
  • Fears — Meegs at A New Day talks about how her fears before parenting led to a better understanding of herself and her desires for her daughter.

Keeping it “Normal”

Welcome to the January 2014 Carnival of Natural Parenting: The More Things Stay the Same This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have talked about the continuity and constancy in their lives. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants. ***

We have moved around quite a bit the past 2 years.  With young children, this can be a process.  It really shakes up their world a lot when we move house, because to them, home is the world.  One of the things that we do to help them out with the process is to keep things as “normal” as possible for them.  Here are some of the ways we accomplish this. IMG_20131215_152858

1. The kids’ things are the last things packed up and the first things unpacked.  The playroom is usually unpacked and back in action before anything else.  Their beds, dressers, and hanging clothes are usually next. IMG_20131215_152810

2. Rules stay the same – for the most part.  Almost every rule that we have stays exactly the same with the move.  The exceptions are if there is something at the new house that requires a new safety rule or if there is a big change that I want to make in some area already.  An example of the first is that when we moved into our first house in Ohio, almost all of the lights worked on pull chains instead of switches.  My children were used to being pretty independent and had to learn that climbing on things to reach the pull chains was not safe for them, and they actually broke one of the ceiling lights doing this.  An example of the latter is something like toys having a new location – at this house, ALL toys live in the playroom all of the time.  There are no toys in the bedroom and we don’t play in the rest of the house.  This rule changed the moment we walked in the door because I didn’t want them to get used to having toys all over the house and then have to remember that now we are doing things differently. IMG_20131215_152842

3. The daily routine/rhythm stays the same.  We may be doing things in a new place, but we are still doing them the same old way.  Our sleep and wake times are consistent.  Our meal times are consistent.  Our “morning chores” and other daily chores are consistent.  Heck, even everyone’s laundry day stays consistent.  Knowing what to expect – even in a new setting – really helps the kids to settle in to the new home. IMG_20131215_152958

4. Put things back where they came from.  As much as possible, keep things where the kids will know to look for them.  Try to keep the dresser drawers the same.  Try to keep toys in their same organizational systems.  Try to group things together the same way in the kitchen.  Anything that is familiar will help to keep the transition smooth. IMG_20131215_152950

5. Keep cool and act like this is all normal.  Kids look to the adults in their lives as models for how to handle a situation.  When the adults are stressed and panicking about the move and the newness, the children will be too.  When the adults are calm and matter of fact, the children are more likely to be as well.  Be the example for how to handle the new situation and your kids will find it easier to be ok with it. IMG_20131215_153049

6. Talk and listen to the kids.  Hopefully, this is a normal thing to be doing with children.  Before the big day, start talking about what will happen.  Even very young children can do very well with this.  About a week before our move, we started telling Elliott (2.5 years) that Daddy was going to bring a big truck to the house and put all of the boxes of our things in it.  Then he would drive it to the new house and bring it all inside!  Then we would all live at the new house with all of our things.  It was very simplistic, but it became a mantra for him.  He understood all of that, and he was ready for it the day it happened.  It helped him to not be afraid of packing up things in boxes, and it helped him to not be confused by putting our things in the truck.  It also helped him to be comfortable at the new house, waiting for the truck with Daddy and our things to arrive.  But, when it got dark, and he got tired, he began to fuss that he wanted to go back home now.  I listened to what he had to say and gently reminded him about Daddy, the truck, the boxes, and living at the new house.  We did this a few times over a few hours, and then he was satisfied.  He went to bed and never mentioned going back again. IMG_20131215_152820

7. Keep it positive.  Most of the places we have lived have happy memories attached, but we have always moved for a positive reason.  Reminding the children what good we are getting at the new home often helps to normalize it for them as well.  Our move from Missouri to Ohio was such a huge example of this for us.  It was really hard to leave our friends and family in Missouri, and it was something that my kids tended to focus on.  I reminded them often of why we had chosen to move.  One day we did an activity where we sat down with two pieces of paper and wrote down everything we loved about Missouri on one, and about Ohio on the other.  The page with Ohio had at least twice as many things as the Missouri page.  It gave the kids a great visual and we’ve never again had a discussion about things being better in Missouri.

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Have you ever moved house with children?  How did you help to keep things normal for them?

*** Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: 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 updated by afternoon January 14 with all the carnival links.)

  • The making of an artist — Some kids take longer than others to come into themselves, so you have to stick with them, as a parent, long after everyone else has given up, writes Douglas at Friendly Encounters.
  • Not Losing Yourself as a First Time Mom — Katie at All Natural Katie continues to stay true to herself after becoming a new mom.
  • Using Continuity to Help Change {Carnival of Natural Parenting} — Meegs from A New Day talks about how she is using continuity in certain areas of her life to help promote change and growth in others.
  • Staying the Same : Security — Life changes all the time with growing children but Mother Goutte realised that there are other ways to ‘stay the same’ and feel secure, maybe a bit too much so!
  • Harmony is What I’m AfterTribal Mama gushes about how constant change is really staying the same and staying the same brings powerful change.
  • A Primal Need For Order and Predictability – And How I Let That Go — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares how she overcame her primal need for order and predictability once her awareness shifted, opening her eyes to the impact this had on her young daughter. Take a short journey with Jennifer and she bares her soul, exposes her weaknesses and celebrates her new outlook and approach to living life, even in the face of total chaos.
  • Breastfeeding Before and After — Breastfeeding has come and gone, but Issa Waters at LoveLiveGrow finds that her relationship with her son is still just the same and just as good.
  • A Real Job — Back in high school That Mama Gretchen had a simple, but worthwhile career aspiration and today she is living her dream … is it what you think?
  • Comfortingsustainablemum never thought she would want things always being the same, but she explains why it is exactly what her family wants and needs.
  • The Other Mums’ and The Great IllusionMarija Smits reflects on the ‘great big magic show of life’ and wonders if it will continue to remain a constant in our lives.
  • Unschooling: Learning doesn’t change when a child turns four — Charlotte at Winegums & Watermelons talks about the pressure of home education when everyone else’s children are starting school.
  • Finding Priorities in Changing Environments — Moving from Maine to a rural Alaskan island for her husband’s military service, Amy at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work found that keeping consistent with her priorities in changing environments can take some work, but is vital to continuous health and happiness.
  • Keeping it “Normal” — Kellie at Our Mindful Life has moved several times in the last two years, while doing her best to keep things stable for her kids.
  • The Evolution Of Our Homeschool Journey — Angela at Earth Mama’s World reflects on her homeschooling journey. Homeschooling is a constant in the life of her family but the way in which they learn has been an evolution.
  • Sneaking in Snuggles: Using Nurturing Touch with Older Children — When Dionna at Code Name: Mama’s son was a toddler and preschooler, he was the most loving, affectionate kiddo ever. But during the course of his 5th year, he drastically reduced how often he showed affection. Dionna shares how she is mindfully nurturing moments of affection with her son.
  • Steady State — Zoie at TouchstoneZ writes a letter to her partner about his constancy through the rough sailing of parenting.
  • A Love You Can Depend On — Over at True Confessions of a Real Mommy, Jennifer has a sweet little poem reminding us where unconditional love really lies, so it can remain a constant for us and our children.
  • Same S#!*, Different Day — Struggling against the medical current can certainly get exhausting, especially as the hunt for answers drags on like it has for Jorje of Momma Jorje.
  • New Year, Still Me — Mommy Bee at Little Green Giraffe writes about how a year of change helped her rediscover something inside herself that had been the same all along.
  • One Little Word for 2014 — Christy at Eco Journey In The Burbs has decided to focus on making things this year, which is what she is loves, as long as she doesn’t kill herself in the process.
  • The Beauty of Using Montessori Principles of Freedom and Consistency — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares the continuity of her teaching, parenting, and grandparenting philosophy using a combination of freedom and consistency.
  • My Husband’s MiniCrunchy Con Mom shares which of her sons looks more like her husband’s baby pictures — and the answer might surprise you!
  • Growth Happens When You Aren’t Looking — Lori at TEACH through Love is treasuring these fleeting moments of her daughter’s early adolescence by embracing the NOW.
  • A New Reality Now – Poem — As Luschka from Diary of a First Child struggles to come to terms with the loss of her mother, she shares a simple poem, at a loss for more words to say.
  • Making a family bedroom — Lauren at Hobo Mama has decided to be intentional about her family’s default cosleeping arrangements and find a way to keep everyone comfortable.
  • New Year, Same Constants — Ana at Panda & Ananaso takes a look at some of the things that will stay the same this year as a myriad of other changes come.
  • I Support You: Breastfeeding and Society — Despite how many strides we’ve taken to promote “breast is best,” Amy at Natural Parents Network talks about how far we still have to go to normalize breastfeeding in our society.

Friends With Food Allergies

kidsintowerI have said before that, as a family with food concerns, we love being included in the same social activities that every family enjoys.  Sometimes, however, it can be intimidating to people who aren’t used to dealing with people who have food allergies.  Including friends who have food allergies in your events is really not as difficult as it may seem.  I’d like to share a few tips to help out people who may be new to thinking about others with food allergies or sensitivities.

Preparing for a visit:

1.  Do a quick sweep of the area you are meeting up in and make sure there isn’t food hanging around where it shouldn’t be.  If you are inviting friends to your house, make sure the living room and rooms where children will be playing are clear of food, for example.

2. Wash any tables and counters where food is usually prepared with a clean cloth (or paper towel).  Pay special attention to grease and crumbs.  These may seem innocuous to you, but they are like giant flashing danger signals to those of us with allergies.

3. Clean the floor in rooms where you prepare or eat food.  Sweeping or vacuuming is sufficient.  They do not need to be perfectly sanitized.

4. Talk to your children about containing food while guests are over.  Just like any activity, children do best when they know what to expect ahead of time.

5. Don’t be afraid to ask the parents about any special preparations you can make!  Most of the time, we don’t expect that you go completely overboard for us – we just want to keep our families safe.

6. Watch out for cross contamination.  If you are preparing food to share with people who have allergies, please be aware of cross contamination.  Do not use ingredients from containers that have been dipped into with a utensil, such as a knife used to spread jam on bread.  The jam may be gluten free, but the bread crumbs picked up by the knife and dipped back into the jam could make someone sick.  Also, make sure work surfaces are wiped down immediately before preparing the food.  Grease spots on surfaces can be hard to see but easily transfer to foods that are being prepared.

7. If you would like to do a special treat for everyone, but don’t want to make an allergen friendly variation, please just let us know and we will usually be happy to bring our own version of the treat that we can have.  Believe it or not, we have replacements for most foods that we enjoy just as much.

During the visit:

1. Keep food contained in certain areas.  People carrying snacks all over the house with my allergic kids there scares me to no end!  Keeping food in the kitchen or at a designated table makes it so much easier to feel safe.

2. We don’t expect you to buy special foods, but if there is a severe reaction to a food, we do expect to be safe from it.  Everyone knows how dangerous peanut allergies can be.  If you have a friend with a peanut allergy, just don’t have peanut butter when you are together.  My egg allergy is along these lines.  Inhaling crumbs that have egg in them makes me very physically ill for several days.  Eating a meal without eggs in it is really not that difficult.

3. If you are eating something we are allergic to, please keep it contained to your area.  Soy and gluten are great examples of this point.  I cannot expect that when I go to someone else’s house, that it will be soy or gluten free.  In fact, I assume the opposite.  So, if sandwiches are on the menu for lunch, I’ll keep my kids and their gluten free bread at one end of the table, and I would really love it if the people eating wheat based breads could keep them at the other end of the table.

4. Be vigilant about cleaning up after eating foods that may have allergens.  Everyone needs to wash their hands and faces.  And dishes or containers that have held foods with allergens need to be cleared from the table as soon as possible to avoid the spread of allergens.

5. Always ask parents before offering foods to children with food allergies or sensitivities.  People are often surprised to learn that there are allergens in unexpected foods.  For example, most people don’t know that many spices have traces of dairy, soy, or other allergens in them.

6. Show us the labels!  If there is a food that is planned to be shared, please let us see the labels from everything that goes into it.  This is not a burden for us – we are used to reading labels constantly.  And we are not assuming that you aren’t capable of reading, but there are sometimes ingredients that you may not realize are allergens.  For example, modified food starch can be gluten.

We really, really understand that this can be intimidating.  And we know that there is a lot to think about.  But after a little while, this will all just seem like second nature when we are together, and it won’t seem nearly as intense.  Thanks for including us!  We really do appreciate it.

Jupiter’s Child Review and GiveawaySecond Annual NPN Holiday Gift Guide & Giveaway (Jupiter’s Child – 12/6, 26 winners, US only ARV $2587.26)

Second Annual NPN Holiday Gift Guide & Giveaway (12/6, 24 winners, US only ARV $2587.26)

 

This is a Joint Review and Giveaway of the Organic Cotton Tee – Green Peace Chicken and Carved Wooden Hedgehog from Jupiter’s Child between Natural Parents Network and Our Mindful Life.

About Jupiter’s Child

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Jupiter’s Child is a small company of three multi-talented women. They bring a collective background of experience in woodworking, handwork, and graphic design.  The talents of these three women come together beautifully in their etsy shop, full of toys, children’s clothing, and Waldorf craft supplies.  I got the privilege of reviewing their organic cotton “Peace Chicken” toddler tee and carved wooden hedgehog.

Our Experience

Elliott is so excited about his new “Chicken Shirt”!  And why wouldn’t he be?  Just have a look at it!  Does it get any cooler than a chicken with a peace symbol?  Not at our house!  It has brought a smile to everyone who has seen him in it  And the shirt is organic cotton that is so soft and snuggly!  I turned it inside out to wash and dry, and there was no problem with the image, like some shirts have.  The quality of the shirt is just great.

hedgehogAnd the carved wooden hedgehog is also one of his favorite new things.  We promptly named him Prickly Porky, after a character in some of our favorite children’s books.  We love our wooden animals at this house, and the quality on this guys is fantastic!  Just check out his little ridges and the needles carved in his sides!  He is so much fun.

Sustainable Practices

One thing that I really love about this company is how much emphasis they are putting on sustainable practices. From organic and natural fibers to water based inks to FSC-certified sustainable wood, these women are obviously aware of their impact on our planet.


Buy it!

You can purchase your own Organic Cotton Peace Chicken Tee and Carved Wooden Hedgehog at Jupiter’s Child for $26

WIN IT!

For your own chance to win a Turquoise and Red All Cotton Hand Spliced Jumprope from Jupiter’s Child, or one of 25 huge prize packages we’re giving away, come back to this post on November 6th when our Rafflecopter widgets will go live for your chance to enter! Or you can visit Natural Parents Network on November 6th to see and enter to win all of our fantastic prize packages at once!

Disclosure: Our reviewer received a sample product for review purposes.
Amazon links are affiliate links.
We try to seek out only products we think you would find relevant and useful to your life as a natural parent.
If we don’t like a product, we won’t be recommending it to you.
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