21 February 2011

After much pondering and discussion, I've decided to make a bloggy leap of sorts.

This blog has been a place to stay in touch with friends and to chatter about things on my mind, but over the past months and years I've found the tone to be shifting. As of late, I've been feeling more drawn to writing about the things in my heart and sharing my thoughts on the things I feel passionate about.

The logical path for my writing seems to be to put my time and energy into my previously neglected business blog. I want to accomplish more with my writing than just getting my thoughts out. I also want to devote attention into developing a resource for my business. These two things combined have brought me here.

I've transferred a number of posts from this blog to the Nature Baby Blogging, the ones I feel reflect the ideas and personal background I want to bring to my clients. I'm not entirely sure of the fate of this blog, whether this will be the last ever entry or if I'll pop on here to share more personal things, but if you follow me over here please do join me over at Nature Baby Bloggings.

Here's to appreciating the past and welcoming the potential of the future!
Post-publishing note: My editor (aka Liam) has just pointed out that I didn't actually include a link to my new blog. Huh. That might be useful. Here it is! Nature Baby Bloggings

10 February 2011

Tonight, my mind is whirling after some inspiration from a fantastic piece of writing on mothering and feminism, and also from a friend's blog entry about her struggles. Together, these pieces of writing have me pondering the disservice of the "You can have it all!" myth.

Children are told they can be anything they set their minds to. Girls are told they have the freedom to pursue any path they want and that they can excel at everything. They can be a doctor and a mommy, and they can simultaneously be the best doctor and the best mommy because feminism has paved that road for them.

And so, we little girls grew up and we took that message to heart. We excelled in every class (even math and science of course!), we went on to post-secondary institutions to earn fabulous degrees, we secured careers, we planned lavish weddings, we birthed a few kids, we baked cupcakes for the bake sale, and we kept an immaculate home every step of the way. We can have it all! So we will have it all! And we'll do everything to our fullest and perfectly because we expect it of ourselves.

And yet...none of it is all perfect and grand. We have some things that come easily to us and other areas where we struggle. We passionately pursue some areas of our lives but we feel resentful about other areas. We feel less than perfect and we beat ourselves up for our failings. We try to stretch ourselves to be everything all the time but there simply isn't enough of us to go around. We're tired. We're overwhelmed. We're disappointed in all the failings we see when we can't quite be fantastic at everything.

Here's what I think: I think that we can't have it all. I think that everything is out there for use to have, but that we need to choose what we want the most for us, whether it's for today or this year or this lifetime. And then we have to go after that with a dedication and joy that doesn't care about all the other paths.

If we want to delve deep into the attachment parenting world and breastfeed on demand for years and make all our own home cooked foods from scratch and homeschool our children, then so be it. If we want to have wildly successful careers that require 60 hour workweeks which don't leave time for children or for us to be our child's main caretaker at least, then so be it. Pick one and go with it.

If we want to be the spontaneous mother who is forever bringing her kids on adventurous vacations and pursuing in-depth hobbies by moving to some guru's hut for 6 months, then we should. If we want to be the well-planned-out mother who has an intricate carpool schedule to get each of her children to their activities on time as well as racking up at least three volunteer commitments each week, then we should. But we can't carpool from our guru's hut and we shouldn't beat ourselves up for that.

If we want to graduate from high school and delve straight into family life and have all our kids grown and moved out by the time we're 45, we should embrace that. If we want to attend 15 years of post-secondary and then backpack around the world for a few years before settling down, we should joyfully pursue that path. If we want to parent in the boundless energy of our youth or in the tempered wisdom of our more mature age, we should welcome the gifts we have to give our children each day.

We can't have it all and be it all and excel at it all. There are too many tempting valid options in every area of life to take a piece of everything all at once. We can, however, deliberately choose the path we set upon and walk each step with full awareness and joy. And maybe that's having all right there, after all.

08 February 2011

Welcome to the February Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting Essentials

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 the parenting essentials that they could not live without.
Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


When I started to think about things I cannot imagine parenting without, my mind went immediately to material things. We have a number of items in our home that I consider important to our daily life. Our Learning Tower sees a lot of use every day, my camera helps me to record our moments, my spiffy Blendtec blender has become a main tool in our kitchen.

And yet...I can imagine parenting without these items. In the end, they're tools. They're tools I cherish and enjoy but in the end they're still just things.

The deeper answer to the question of my parenting essentials are things which cannot be bought or kept.

My husband's companionship is first and foremost what I cannot imagine parenting without. He is the rock on which our family rests. He is my parenting partner, physically when he is home and emotionally when he's at work. He is my main sounding board when I have frustrations or new ideas, and he helps me to find my center and my true direction when I'm scattered. I am blessed beyond words to have him as my children's father.

Outside of my relationship with my husband, I have relationships with other parents. Over the years I've come to realize that these relationships are also essential to my work as a parent. There is the superficial, and yet still deeply necessary, social aspect of friendships. I need people to talk with, to laugh with, to sit quietly with. The value in these friendships go far beyond this, though. In friendships I find resources for information, examples of how to approach situations, a place to express my fears and triumphs, and a place of normalcy when I'm feeling like an outsider with my parenting choices. There is something deeply satisfying about being in the company of a person who truly understands you, and I often feel most understood in the presence of a mom walking a similar path. She can empathize with my frustrations about difficulties and share my joy in the truly good things in a way only another mom can.

In the end, people and relationships are the things I can't imagine parenting without. There are few jobs quite as intense and demanding as parenting, and having a support system in my husband and my friends is more valuable than anything I could ever purchase.


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:

  • Not Without Him — The love Starr at Taking Time shares with her husband is the foundation of her parenting.
  • I Cannot Imagine Parenting Without B(.)(.)bs — From an uneducated dreamer to a breastfeeding mother of a toddler, nursing has forever changed Kristy at Strings to Things's relationship with her daughter and her outlook on life.
  • Raising a Child in the Internet Village — When Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction has a question or concern about parenting, she turns to the Internet. What did parents do before Google?
  • Partner in Crime and ParentingBethy at Bounce Me to the Moon can't imagine parenting without her husband's sense of humor - he brings her laughter and love every day.)
  • I Make MilkPatti at Jazzy Mama can't imagine trying to mother her babies without her breasts, but she could do it if she had to.
  • New Perspectives Bring New BeginningsMJ at Wander Wonder Discover, who is a former authoritarian mamma, has gained perspective via parenting.
  • Time Out!Mrs. Green at Little Green Blog explores how time apart can increase your capacity to give unconditionally.
  • Unimaginable Without HimKristina at heyred designs is celebrating her amazing partner, without whom none of her parenting experience would be possible.
  • My Parenting NecessityClaire at The Adventures of Lactating Girl needs "me time" in order to be the Mama she wants to be.
  • Babywearing As a Way of LifeDarcel at The Mahogany Way talks about the benefits of babywearing in everyday life.
  • Parenting Partnership — Sometimes Abbie at Farmer's Daughter doesn't appreciate her husband enough, but she definitely couldn't imagine parenting without his help.
  • Parenting EssentialsMomma Jorje loves her parenting products, but she needs you even more.
  • My Parenting Must-Have: SupportJoella at Fine and Fair wrote a letter to her daughter about the role that support from friends and family plays in her mothering.
  • It's More Than Just Hair — Think doing hair is full of fluff? Too girly? Useless? Karli from Curly Hairdo Ideas used to think so too.
  • The Minimalist Parent — The parents at Living Peacefully with Children embrace a minimalist perspective when it comes to baby gear. A good sling is all they need.
  • Without My BreastsCharise at I Thought I Knew Mama can't imagine parenting without her breasts; here's why.
  • Loves Books, Loves PeopleSeonaid at the Practical Dilettante discovers that the library is a perfect fit for her family's needs.
  • An Ode to the Maya WrapRevMama's next child might be named Maya, because of her fondness for the sling.
  • Avoiding the Padded RoomPecky at Benny and Bex is here to testify that it takes a village to raise a child.
  • My parenting essentials, from Tivo to battery-operated monstrositiesLauren at Hobo Mama presents a list of parenting essentials you didn't even know you needed (and probably don't…).
  • Attachment Parenting Through Separation: It Makes It a Little BetterJessica at This Is Worthwhile talks about how she couldn't survive her separation without attachment parenting and the bond it's afforded her with her 3 year old son.
  • Parenting EssentialsDeb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares the principles she used to parent her children from infants to adults.
  • My Parenting Essentials — The things that are truly essential to Kim at In Desperate Need of Entertainment aren't things at all.
  • I'm No One Without My Sling — How baby carrying is essential to the parenting of Jessica Claire at Crunchy-Chewy Mama.
  • I Cannot Imagine Parenting Without...Isil at Smiling Like Sunshine talks about what she needs to raise her children.
  • February Carnival of Natural Parenting — Through her experiences over the last five and a half years, Casey at Love What Is has discovered her most important tool for parenting is using her instincts.
  • CNP: I Cannot Imagine Parenting Without __________.The Artsymama discloses the one thing that gave her back control of herself as a parent.
  • Laugh Until I Cry — Laughing with her sons keeps Acacia at Fingerpaint & Superheroes connected and grounded.
  • I Cannot Imagine Parenting WithoutLuschka at Diary of a First Child realizes what the one thing she can't imagine parenting without is, and it turns out it's not a thing after all.
  • It Takes Two — Here are a few of the reasons why Jenn at Adventures Down Under cannot imagine parenting without her fabulous husband.
  • Stopping to Listen — Though it wasn't easy at first, Knocked Up - Knocked Over cannot imagine parenting her daughter without listening first to what she is telling her.
  • The Essence of Parenting — There are many wonderful resources that make life easier for Michelle at the Parent Vortex to parent, but the essence is the relationship between parent and child.
  • What I Cannot Live WithoutSybil at Musings of a Milk Maker considers her computer to be a parenting lifeline.
  • True Blessings: White Noise and GrandparentsKat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment can't live without her white noise machine and the support of her parents.
  • The Necessities! — What "stuff" does a natural parent like Lily, aka Witch Mom really need? Not much, it turns out.
  • Mama Showed MeMama Mo at Attached at the Nip writes about how parenting wisdom is passed on by example.
  • Ode to the Loo — For Joni Rae at Tales of a Kitchen Witch, the bathroom is her safe place, where she can take a minute to calm down if she is feeling touched out.
  • Go, Mama. Go!Andrea!!! at Ella-Bean & Co. has been able to integrate her many roles through her get-up-and-go parenting essential, exercise!
  • My Other HalfBecky at Old New Legacy realizes what a relief it is to have her husband parent alongside her.
  • Grace, Love, and CoffeeMrsH at Fleeting Moments realizes that lifelines can take the form of the profound, or the mundane. Both are ok.
  • Supportive Spouse, Check! — There are so many parenting tools and gadgets that are superfluous, but the one essential, for Danielle at born.in.japan, has been her supportive spouse.
  • Why I'm a BabywearerMeredith at Becoming Mamas reflects on the ways babywearing has enhanced her mama baby relationship...and made life easier to boot.
  • It's Marvelous Out Here, Kiddo!Rachael at The Variegated Life can't imagine parenting in the big city without the marvels of Prospect Park to share with her Critter.
  • Yes, Thank YouAmy at Anktangle offers tips on how to ask for and accept help, an essential for successful parenting.
  • Parenting Essentials Checklist: Mom’s Inner Rebel and Her Kids’ VoicesOlivia at Write About Birth reflects on raising global citizens and saying no to societal norms.
  • Eco-Mama Online! — An Eco-Mama living in the mountains of a nature island, Terri at Child of the Nature Isle finds it essential to connect to nature and to connect online.
  • Sorry, We Just Sold the Last OneNev at The Adventures of Lime confesses she missed out the day they handed out patience.
  • LaughTashmica at The Mother Flippin' Blog reveals her super power, her talisman agains mean mommy.
  • My Priceless Parenting Resource — What do books, a magazine community, my mother and the local playgroup have in common? Lucy at Dreaming Aloud tells us...
  • The Gift of Shared TimeTree at Mom Grooves strives to experience the world from her daughter's perspective.
  • Follow the GigglesDionna at Code Name: Mama can’t live without the sound of her child’s giggles - come watch her video and you’ll agree!
  • Can I Mommy Without Boob?Emily at Crunchy(ish) Mama shares her fears about weaning and losing part of that the mother/child bond.

07 February 2011

This morning, CBC shared a story on its website about how the Breastfeeding Coalition of P.E.I is working towards establishing  breastfeeding rooms in various venues across the province. This piece featured a hockey arena which has converted an unused dressing room into a place for moms to nurse. This way moms who don't want to sit on the cold hard benches in the arena have a place to go, and the room even has some toys to occupy siblings.

I'm always happy to see breastfeeding discussed in a positive light in the media. I'm also thrilled to see that efforts have been put into making it easier to meet the needs of babies. Taking care of tiny people is intense and just the thought of someone being accommodating can be a huge blessing to a frazzled parent.

Part of me, though, cringes as the other side of the message that this breastfeeding room might send. Will people think that moms are "supposed" to breastfeed only in these rooms? Will moms who feed their babies in the stands be subjected to pressure to move since there's an entire room dedicated to them? Will this help or hinder the message that breastfeeding is a normal part of parenting?

Mother's rooms or nursing rooms can be extremely useful in some situations. For the mom of a distractible nursling, a quiet place can sometimes serve as the only place where the baby will breastfeed. Or sometimes a quiet room can be what the mom needs in order to catch a few minutes of downtime to recharge. Some moms are not comfortable breastfeeding in public in the early days or at all, and so the availability of a nursing room can allow her to attend events she might otherwise miss out on.In these situations, nursing rooms are a fantastic tool.

On the other hand, there are plenty of moms who would choose not to use the nursing rooms. There are moms who don't want to miss out on the hockey game, moms who are comfortable nursing in front of others, moms who want to remain with their friends or family, or moms whose child who nurses for 30 seconds at a time every 5 minutes. For these moms, staying where they are is what would make them most comfortable and while the option of using a nursing room is nice, there should be no implication that they need to move there before feeding their child.

Whether a mom chooses to  nurse in the nursing room or while watching the hockey game, I would hope that both choices are seen as acceptable. Breastfeeding is often something that we as a society support to in theory but that we have problems showing support for in reality. Showing support for mothers who are breastfeeding in public goes a long way in normalizing breastfeeding and in helping families to meet their breastfeeding goals.

So I welcome these nursing rooms and I think it's great to let moms know that the option to use them exists, but let's also continue to send the message that nursing in public wherever a mom may be is also an equally-acceptable option.

02 February 2011

I sit at home and I see only what is in front of me. Dirty dishes. Laughing children. The dog who needs to be fed.

Small things, in the big picture of it all. Big things, in the moment.

I start reading stories of the violence in Egypt. People injured. People killed. People running scared in the streets. Not in some textbook, some snippet in history from that war that one time. Right now, right exactly as I sit here.

Demonstrators in Giza.

How can my world, my moments, my superficial thoughts all go on just like nothing is happening? I can't possibly be that disconnected from living breathing people who are not so different from me.

I remember my friend talking about the world going on despite the tragedy that tore her life apart and how deeply unfair it felt. Is it fair of my life to go on as normal when witnessing another's tragedy?

I can't stop my superficial moments. I can't quiet the children and their needs. I can't push pause indefinitely on my joy and happiness.

But what can I do? I can stop. I can reexamine. I can choose what is truly superficial and not worth my worry. I can choose what is meaningful and place my attention there. I can experience each moment of my life and use it for more than fretting about petty things.

I can love more. I can give more. And I can pray.

Christians standing to protect Muslims as they pray in Egypt today.

28 January 2011

I try to cook breakfasts for our family every morning so that we don't just eat cold cereal and/or end up hungry and grumpy part way through our mornings. I love this pancake recipe I got from my mom a few years back since not only are the pancakes yummy but the oats, eggs and the optional add-ins offer some protein (AKA Breakfast Staying Power). It also is really forgiving of substitutions and "ish" measurements.

Grandma's Oatmeal Pancakes:

2 1/2 cups flour
2 cups quick cooking oats
1/2 cup sugar or honey
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
2 eggs
4 cups milk
1/2 cup oil

In a large bowl, mix together flour, oats, sugar (if using honey wait and put it in the liquids later), salt, baking powder and cinnamon.

In a smaller bowl whisk together eggs, milk, oil, and honey (if you're using honey instead of sugar). Add the liquids into the large bowl and mix together.

Let stand 10 minutes to thicken and then cook in a frying pan over medium heat.

Extras (I typically do one or more)
- 1/4 cup ground flax seed
- 1/2 cup chopped nuts
- 1 cup frozen blueberries
- 1/2 cup finely ground pumpkin/sunflower seeds.

Today I put in a couple of mashed bananas also, and I thought that it made the batter crazy thick (as you can see by the beefy pancake in the photo) but I've now realized that I didn't add enough milk. This is the doubled version of the recipe and I doubled everything but the milk. Gah! Anyhow, the bananas were yummy but I can't say how they work if you actually follow the recipe properly.

23 January 2011

I've been pondering lately the profound impact children have on their parents. In studying my course material the other day, I was reviewing charts which show the ebb and flow of hormones in pregnant and lactating women. Prolactin, oxytocin, and estrogen are some of the main hormones which rise and fall during various stages and which continue to be impacted by a breastfeeding baby's actions until the very last nursing.

These hormones have numerous seen an unseen impacts. Any mom who has breastfed can tell you about the nap-inducing qualities of breastfeeding a newborn or about how the sound of her (or any other) baby can can cause an instantaneous ache within her breasts.

Oxytocin is the "love" hormone, and as part of the milk ejection reflex a mother's level of oxytocin remains raised for a few minutes after each feeding. It helps to foster feelings of affection and strengthens the bond between mother and baby.

Parents think and talk a lot about their impact on children. We debate whether nature or nurture plays a bigger role, where to draw the line between permissive and overly authoritative parenting, and which educational approaches will best help our children to flourish. So much is the focus on what we're doing to them, but I wonder if what they do to us is just as profound.

For 40 weeks of pregnancy and for up to years of breastfeeding after, a child creates daily physical changes in his mother's body. The literature out there shows us the huge impacts these changes have on things like reducing risks of some forms of cancers, osteoporosis and diabetes, but I really wonder on a personal, emotional level what being repeatedly washed in bursts of hormones does to a woman.

In her book Why Love Matters, Sue Gerhardt describes how our genes express themselves based not only on our genetic makeup but also based on environmental triggers. Her focus in the book is on how oxytocin impacts growth in an infant's brain, and I wonder about the awakenings that take place within a mother. 

A friend talked to me about a book called The Tao of Parenting. While, I haven't read the book yet, the section she spoke about has stuck in my brain. The act of parenting pushes us and refines us in a way that few other experiences do. In the book the author draws a parallel between monks who endure physical hardships as a way of seeking enlightenment with the parent who walks the halls hour upon hour with a crying infant. We are pushed beyond our comfort zone, forced to find a deeper place within ourselves when we truly feel we can't go on for another moment.

Being a mom of three kids has brought me to many places I never imagined I'd go. I've been so angry and overwhelmed that I've needed to walk away before causing physical harm. I've sat holding sleeping children, in tears at the beauty and perfection before me. I've gained an instantaneous bond with women I've never met before when we have nothing in common other than the role of mother.

I never entered the role of mother expecting for it to be a path of such self-development and deep personal change, but it has been. I frequently ponder the path my life would have taken had Nick not entered my life when he did, and I really wonder if I'd recognize that other person I would have become without the changes my children have stirred within me.

19 January 2011

Mesh produce bags. They're not just for your oranges, it seems.

12 January 2011

Recently, I wrote about my thoughts on my career path and whether an online program to pursue midwifery was in the cards for me. Long story short, I rolled the idea around in my brain for a few weeks and came to the realization that the program was too time-intensive for what I'm able to take on right now.

Not long after I made this decision, a conversation with my friend about the upcoming changes for writing the IBCLC exam got me wondering if becoming an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) was perhaps a more fitting area of continuing my education. Currently, with my four years of experience being a La Leche League Leader, my only additional requirement before qualifying to write the exam is to complete 45 education hours. The time investment is relatively minimal in comparison to the midwifery program and it's more central to my current skill set.

I've registered for some online classes through Health-E Learnings and as I've been chipping away at the hours I've realized two things.

Firstly, becoming an IBCLC is definitely the right path for me. The more I learn about breastmilk composition and the mechanics of breastfeeding, the more passionate I become about sharing this information with mothers to help them avoid and overcome breastfeeding difficulties. We've had so many moms come to LLL looking for help with issues that range from simple and easy to complex and heart-breaking, and I feel like this added depth of knowledge gives me so much more of an ability to help. Even if I never seriously pursue paid IBCLC work, the value through my LLL work will make all this a worthwhile pursuit.

Secondly, learning new things has helped me to further appreciate unschooling. Since learning about and encompassing this educational style for our children, this is the first formal education I've participated in and it has truly reaffirmed my belief in unschooling.

The two goals in front of me are to complete my education hours and to prepare myself for writing the IBCLC exam. Because these are my own goals that I have set, I'm extremely motivated to meet them. When I'm nursing Olivia down for naps or at bedtime, I read my course material on the iPad. When the kids have gone to bed at night I pore over more material before I go to bed. I usually have one afternoon nap each week where the big kids are at my mom's and I happily dedicate my only alone time to afternoon reading (which, I've discovered, is worth double time since I'm actually fully awake and able to concentrate properly). With a big enticing goal set out in front of me, I'm very willing to make reading a priority.

I'm excited about the things I'm learning. I see the practical application of my new knowledge and I can't wait to share it. Two of my three textbooks just arrived and I've spent some time browsing through them (and maybe hugging and sniffing them if I need to be brutally honest here). I'll be reading through Breastfeeding and Human Lactation along with the study guide on my own, a much different experience from the times I've done textbook work for marks in past classes.

I've had the opportunity to further explore my learning style and how to best understand new information. I was really struggling with a section in a course where I had to learn the components of breastmilk along with their functions and fluctuations. I realized that I couldn't "see" the concept and so I spent a few hours taking notes and drawing out a breastmilk composition flow chart. It added significantly to the time it took me to complete that course, and I didn't need to do it in order to get credit for the hours, but it's the activity that helped to firmly plant that information in my brain.

My oh so pretty flow chart on our kitchen wall.

Reflecting on this has me looking at optional education as compared to mandatory education, and what type of experience I want my children to have.

I want for my kids to find things they're passionate about and to dive into them. I want them to feel driven to pursue education and skills because they believe that these things are vital to their personal development. I don't want education to be something my kids "have" to take part in without any understanding of how it will have a practical implication in their lives. I want them to be excited about the incredible things they can learn, and the way they can impact the world around them with these new abilities.

I thought that unschooling was simply an educational approach for my children but instead it has turned into a lens through which I view the world we live in. And so, the experience of unschooling my children has become an experience of unschooling myself as well.

01 January 2011

I came across a nifty idea the other day called Project 365. The idea is that you take a picture a day for the year as a way of documenting your life and having fun. Since my rocking husband got me a rocking camera for Christmas, I'm totally on board. I figure I can learn the ropes of my new camera while exploring ideas during the year.

I'm putting the pictures over on a Flickr stream I started up and you're more than welcome to take a peek and make comments. I'll be updating it far more regularly than this blog if all goes according to plan. ;)

Happy New Year!!

Random awesome photo that I wanted to put in my 365 stream but it was taken a day too early. Not only is it pretty, but I stood in a freaking cardboard box in my pajamas on my deck and nearly froze my arms off to get this shot. And it's still not quite what I was aiming for. Bah.

Copyright 2010 In desperate need of entertainment.

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