Tuesday, August 7, 2012

"The Real World" Grassroots Edition

Welcome to the August 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Farmer's Markets

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 written about something new they've learned about their local farmers.


"Our farmer". It is fun to be able to say those words.  

Like many in the US I am 2-3 generations removed from farming, at least on my mother's side.  On my father's I believe it is much more than that.  My maternal grandfather did grow up on a farm.  My mother has memories of visiting her grandparents over the summer and watching her grandfather stomp on the head of a chicken and her grandmother cleaning and cooking it for dinner.

But those are not my memories. The majority of my childhood memories are from the 1980's... an era of microwave cooking, margarine, and refrigerator biscuits. My father was and is still a hunter so I was never completely ignorant when it came to the origins of food, but I didn't really grasp the difference between "whole" or "real" foods and the concoctions that were showing up in kitchens all over the country.

My confession... when I was first on my own I thought that "real cooking" meant hamburger helper - because, you know, you cooked it on the stove and started with raw meat ;-).  My rather steep learning curve started with a diagnosis of gluten intolerance in one of my older children and it has been a wild journey.  I can't fully retrace the steps as it has been over a decade, but needless to say I have a much firmer grasp of what La Leche League means by "a variety of foods in as close to their natural state as possible".

At some point several years ago I became interested in raw milk and went looking for something local and that is where we found "our farmer".  We are in one of the fortunate states where we can simply purchase raw milk directly from a farmer (many folks don't have that kind of food rights as witnessed here, here, and here).  Not only do we drive by the cows which supply our milk, we have to honk at our laying chickens to get out of the way in order to park.  If we choose we have access to grass fed, well cared-for beef, pork, chicken, and lamb.  Even cooler (in my mind) is that "our farmer" is a she!  I love the opportunity to expose, particularly the young, children to adults in non gender-normative professions.  Additionally she knows us.  She can and has put things aside for us when supplies were running low.  During the slower production times she works with her families to help folks get what they want, keeping in mind everyone's needs.  For me that offers a wonderful feeling of food security.  Whole Foods doesn't care if I get my groceries, other than the fact that it keeps them in business.  Nor do the producers of that food watch my children run around chasing the chickens - but "our farmer" knows that our safety is in her hands.  And my family knows that our health is directly connected to the health of the animals and land.

So this is my thank you to "our farmer" and all of the farmers out there running family farms, CSAs, and the like.  I know that most sustainable farmers receive very little in the way of subsidies and support, particularly when compared to the factory farms, sparking my gratitude to run all the more deep.  Thank you for keeping it real.


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon August 14 with all the carnival links.)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Tale of Six Births

Welcome to the June 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Embracing Your Birth Experience
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 written about at least one part of their birth experience that they can hold up and cherish.
Like each child, each birth was so completely different.  And as with most things it is an experience amiable to refinement... you learn each time a little bit more about the process and a little bit more about yourself.  There are more things that were "perfect" about my later births, than my earlier births, but there are things about each to celebrate.  So here, now, are those moments....

1993 - first birth.  I went into this one fairly unprepared.  I had taken the hospital class, but honestly hadn't paid a whole lot of attention.  I had this impression that if you just "rode" the contractions like a wave it would all work itself out.  Huh, not quite like that.  So I had several interventions that I hadn't planned on and had not done the work personally, or on behalf of my support team, to create the type of birth I had envisioned.  I was pushing not a terribly long time if I remember correctly, and the Dr., who may have been the one on call, picked up a pair a scissors to perform an episiotomy.  I told him that if he came near me with those scissors I would kick him.  He didn't.  The first time I had really stood up for myself with a medical professional.

1997 - Austin.  He's not in the picture because we lost Austin at 26 weeks gestation to hydrops, but I couldn't write a story of my births without him. I celebrate the fact that we were able to hold him and spend time with him before we had to say goodbye.  His contribution to our family also gave us family unity in our decisions to leave our sons intact and later, to birth at home.

1998 - My what a journey.  There's nothing quite like a pregnancy and birth after a loss.  This was my first birth without an epidural.  I was incredibly proud of that as it was something that had been important to me previously but had not been fulfilled.  I also find humor in the fact that the poor ER dr who got called in to do the catch (due to the quick progression) had the amniotic sac burst just as he was sitting down on his little stool drenching both him and the wall behind.

2001 - My first homebirth. Uhm, yeah - my brain was a little out to lunch on this one as I didn't realize the incredible cramping I was experiencing was labor until I felt her head.  In my defense, other than Austin, I had always gone late and here it was 2 weeks before my EDD. This one we did on our own because when you don't call the midwife until you feel a head your usually SOL.  It was pretty amazing just our little family, but also pretty fabulous that our midwife lived just 10 minutes from us and walked in within a couple of minutes of the birth to help us navigate the next parts, not to mention the cleaning up.
2004 - First water birth. 9lb 14 oz baby.  Yeah I'm awesome ;-).  Actually I felt like I had been run over by a mac truck after it was said and done - but still it makes a great example about not prejudging a woman's ability to give birth.  I actually got to labor and know I was in labor.  I spent a nice 5-6 hours kneeling beside the bed, rocking, *laboring*, instead of the crash course of the previous two.  Oh and all of the kids got to be there; something we hadn't managed with the previous two, though we had tried (see preceding sentence).  The chatter of the older three on the bed while I was pushing is one of my favorite memories.

2007 - my "baby". This is the only one that I managed to get on video and I love this video.  I had always judged myself as being slightly out-of-control during pushing.  Not that I think that one should be in control, but you know how you have these ideas about yourself that don't apply to anyone else.  So anyway, I was slightly embarrassed at the whole thing, but watching that video I realized it wasn't nearly like I had pictured it in my head and I am proud of the strength that that woman on the video brings. And I knew I was in transition.  This was the first baby that I didn't panic during transition, but just knew what it was and went with it. That flow that I had assumed would just happen with my first birth had arrived.  And it was pretty darn perfect.
Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be live and updated by afternoon June 12 with all the carnival links.)
  • I was Foolish Then — ANonyMous at Radical Ramblings describes how foolish lack of preparation for childbirth led to a feeling of powerlessness and fear, but that in the end she had her baby in her arms, and that's one thing she can celebrate.
  • Sometimes no plan is the best plan — Tat at Mum in search contemplates that maybe she doesn't need a birth plan for her upcoming birth.
  • Disturbing the peace — Kenna at Million Tiny Things thought she would be a calm, quiet baby-haver. Ha!
  • Accepting the Unexpected During Birth — Emily at S.A.H.M i AM imagined herself laboring on a birthing ball but she never imagined where she'd really be most comfortable when the time came...
  • Sacred This Time, Too — Kimber at The Single Crunch learned enough to know that the way she birthed wasn't they way she wanted to; but she also knew to enjoy it for what it was.
  • The Birth Partner: A Great Natural Labor Companion — Justine at The Lone Home Ranger thinks that the secret to her pleasant natural labors was having a great support system.
  • the Best Thing About My Labor ExperienceCrunchy Con Mommy realizes that amidst all the things that seemed to go wrong with her labor, the love and support of her husband was the one thing she could always count on!
  • Your Birth Was My FavoriteDulce de leche describes some of the highlights from each of her four births and explains why despite the differences, they are all her favorites.
  • Birth Story: Part One - Moon on a Stick! Gentle Mama Moon tells the first part of her birth story to share some of the delight of labouring at home.
  • Embracing My Birth Experience by Sharing My Birth Story — Dionna at Code Name: Mama made peace with her first birth by sharing the story with her son.
  • Focusing on the Beauty of Birth — Julia at A Little Bit of All of It shares the beautiful aspects of her birth center water birth.
  • A Joyful Induced Delivery — Amy Willa: Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work notes the meditations and perspective that helped her achieve an unmedicated birth despite being induced for medical reasons.
  • Finding Joy in an Imperfect Childbirth Experience — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells what she learned from her two very different childbirth experiences.
  • What's to like about a c-section? — Jessica at Crunchy-Chewy Mama is glad she her second child at home, but she also cherishes much about the c-section she had four years earlier.
  • What Story Will I Tell? — Rachael at The Variegated Life realizes that the way she tells the story of her second child's birth matters — and could be exhilarating.
  • I Quietly Put My Hopes to Rest E — Erica at ChildOrganics shares her emotional ups and downs with the highly intervened birth of her special needs daughter, Bella.
  • Tale of Six Births — Jessica at Instead of Institutions appreciates that unique challenges and joys of each of her births.
  • Labouring naturally: nature’s gift — Caroline at stoneageparent describes the most beautiful, spiritual aspect of the labour of her son, the first stages along a bumpy road to giving birth.
  • All The Woman I Am. — Lindsay at This Woman's Work shares a poem about letting go and surrendering during the thralls of labor.
  • A twin birth story: embracing the unexpected — Megan at The Boho Mama shares her twin birth experience and how she found the silver lining when faced with preterm labor, premature birth, and a two-week NICU stay.
  • Giving Birth With Eminem — Kerry at City Kids Homeschooling shares how fiery rap music contributed to an empowered homebirth with her third baby.
  • Two Different Births — Cassie at There's a Pickle in My Life shares how she learned from her first birth experience and how to trust yourself and your body.
  • Embracing Our Potential: Birth as a Metaphor — Sheila from A Living Family guest posts at Natural Parents Network and expresses how birth has served as a metaphor to help her through other experiences in life.
  • Little Sister's Birth Story: Our VBAC Adventure — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama describes the recent birth story of her baby girl, her pride in an epidural-free VBAC, and how her story isn't exactly the birth experience she had planned for.
  • A Journey in Birth Confidence — Shannon at The Artful Mama shares her experiences with labor during both of her sons' births.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Thank you Dr. Tiller

I was working on writing something descriptive, meaningful, about a man I feel honoured to have known.  Something poignet about his assassination one Sunday morning while at church.  But everything I wrote seemed pretentious which Dr. Tiller was not.  So this is what I have...

Thank you Dr. Tiller for listening to and respecting the families that you inherited from your father.

Thank you Dr. Tiller for knowing that women have needed and always will need access to safe abortion.

Thank you Dr. Tiller for trusting women.

Thank you Dr. Tiller for not abandoning the women in greatest need.

You are loved and you are missed.

Thank you.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Winning the lottery - the first post

For years I've kept a running list in my head of what I would do if I won the lottery.  This is beyond the regular pay off debts, set up college funds, update cars/house, etc.  I've probably had a dozen ideas over the years, but have not written them down any place so have promptly forgotten all but two.  Seemed like an excellent topic for a blog post that I could add to as new ideas developed so.....

17/365 yes, i'm bad with math
By Robert Couse-Baker on Flikr
1. Start my own political party.  At least that was my plan when I first came up with this idea probably a decade ago.  However the legal climate has changed so I may look into a SuperPAC instead.  Not sure exactly how I would define all major issues at this point, but I do know it would libertarian on all social issues.  The paternalism of both major political parties is a source of annoyance and occasionally fear for me.

2. Launch a breastfeeding marketing campaign.  I know exactly what I want it to look like. I want to juxtapose images of the inconvenience of long-term formula feeding with the ease of breastfeeding (once you get past the learning curve).  So I picture something like a parent waking to a fussing baby in the middle of the night who stumbles downstairs to make-up the formula then back up to feed a now almost hysterical baby and the next scene is a fussing baby whose mom reaches over to pick him up from the co-sleeper and then snuggles into a nursing session without hardly moving.  Another might be a family stuck on the side of the road with a flat tire - crying baby empty bottle and then the same scene with a baby happily nursing.  I'm sure that you all could come up with a number of other ideas.  All of these would be followed with a tagline that was something to the effect "Breastfeeding... mom deserves it" following up by one of the abysmal stats on the education that the standard HCP get with regards to breastfeeding and urging mothers to insist that they get proper lactation support.

3.  This is one I came up with a couple of weeks ago.  I would set aside a fund that I would use twice a year during my local NPR station pledge drive.  On opening day I would call them and ask how much it would take to finish this thing off right now and then give them the money.  I'm really looking forward to putting that into action!

Of course all of these will be a bit difficult seeing that I don't really buy lottery tickets.  As a family we pass them around during the winter holidays buying them for each other, but usually only the scratch kind that wouldn't offer the kinds of funds needed for my plans.  Looks like I may have to consider some future investments.... ;-)

What would you do with your winnings?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Play Here Now

Welcome to the September Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting Through Play

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 shared how challenging discipline situations can be met with play. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


Not too long ago I was having a really bad day. You know, one of those days which starts just a bit off kilter and goes down hill rapidly. I had hopes of getting some work done, tackling some home improvement projects, essentially have a satisfying, productive day. Instead everything took longer than I had planned, I ended up at my job much longer than I had expected, other family members were equally unproductive and it topped off with an interruption by a pushy door-to-door salesperson just as I was making dinner (oh and when she rang the doorbell I turned on the wrong burner and nearly set the house on fire). By the time our salesperson left I was quite literally in tears and just wanted to hide for the rest of the day.

Except that wasn't really what I wanted. What I wanted was my day back. I wanted to be able to be able to lay my head down at night and be content with where I stood. As I took a few breaths and attempted to get some level of composure I knew what I needed - I needed to let go of the expectations of productivity and do a little "be here now"ing. My zen exercise is play.

It is hard for me to play. I claim to find it boring, but it would be more honest to say that the "protestant work ethic" and drive for productivity that is an integral part of my learned experience leave me struggling to "waste" that kind of time. As is so often the case, my oldest suffered the most, and at one point when she was 3ish had an imaginary friend who she named "Jessica." My mommy guilty story is that she wanted to play with me, and since I had not accommodated her, she pretended that I did. And as is so often the case with each child and passing years, I have been able to appreciate the opportunity that play provides for truly being in the moment with your child.

A couple of years ago my middle daughter was in a play and at that time was young enough that I wasn't comfortable just dropping her off at rehearsals. This meant that 3-4 times a week I would be sitting on the floor off to the side of the rehearsal space with the youngest who was then a bit over a year. Old enough that I couldn't just sit and nurse her and young enough that she needed my constant attention in this non baby-friendly space. So for those hours I couldn't read or knit or do laundry or anything else "productive" - I had to focus entirely on my baby. The universe certainly knows what lessons we need.

So back to my bad day... As I was finishing up cleaning the kitchen I called in the oldest boy and asked if he wanted to play Othello. Not to turn away from a chance to beat his mom he said of course and grabbed the game. Shortly in we were joined by the 2 of the 3 other kids who were at home as well as my husband. After I lost the game (though only by 4!) dad and daughter played and by the end of it everyone was feeling more relaxed and in touch with each other.

Play is a way to connect. It is often less intense than cuddling or conversation so can be particularly useful when there is internal and/or external tension. It is a way to cross ages and often interests. It is a shared experience that has the potential to be universally accessible. And while I also continue to value and nurture my children's ability to play without me (benign neglect and all), I want to remember to play more.

Daily Mantra....
Play Here Now


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:

  • On being a more playful parent — Isil at Smiling like Sunshine shares how the Playful Parenting book impacted her.
  • Parenting a toddler through play — Alicia at I Found My Feet lists some examples of how she uses play to parent through everyday tasks and challenges.
  • Splashing in Puddles — Abbie at Farmer's Daughter shares how she learned to get dirty and have fun with her little boy.
  • Say Please — Cassie at There's a Pickle in My Life explains how they taught their son manners by "play," showing that actions speak louder than words.
  • No Nanny Needed — Laura at Our Messy Messy Life wishes parenting through play was her only responsibility during the day.
  • I'll Run Away With Gypsies — Nikalee at Spotted Pandemonium maneuvers physical and emotional obstacles while spinning playful tales, jumping through hoops, and inspiring the kids to clean the living room.
  • A Promise To My Daughter — Lindsey at An Unschooling Adventure writes a poem for her daughter promising to use play instead of anger when facing difficult situations.
  • Parenting Through Play — Not Always Easy But Always Rewarding — Amy at Peace4Parents discusses how play hasn't always come easily to her, the power of appreciative observation, and how her family learns together through play.
  • Imagination Plays a Role in Our Parenting — Tree at Mom Grooves shares how parents can use play to set the foundation for communication and understanding.
  • A Box of Crayons — Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction talks about how a simple box of crayons has become a wonderful parenting and teaching tool.
  • The Essential Art of Play — Ana at Pandamoly shares some of her favorite lessons available for young ones through play.
  • The Art of Distraction — Amanda at Let's Take the Metro shares a list of distracting alternatives to harsh punishments in tough parenting situations.
  • Grace and Courtesy Games at Home or School — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now has ideas for grace and courtesy games that help you encourage courteous behavior without reprimanding your child.
  • I am woman, hear me roar! — Mrs Green from Little Green Blog shares how one simple sound can diffuse an argument in an instant.
  • Getting Cooperation Through Play — Amyables at Toddler In Tow talks about respecting the worldview of a preschooler by using play to encourage connection and cooperation.
  • Playful Parenting = Extra Energy??Momma Jorje didn't think she had the energy for playful parenting. See what she was surprised to learn…
  • Dance Party Parenting — Laura from A Pug in the Kitchen learned how to be the parent her children need through play.
  • Wrestling Saved My Life — Wrestling is as vital to her son's well-being as babywearing once was, finds Hannah at Wild Parenting.
  • Parenting through play — By playing with her children, Tara from MUMmedia is given amazing opportunites to teach, train and equip her children for life.
  • Parenting Through Play Starts in Infancy — In a guest post at Natural Parents Network, Issa from LoveLiveGrow shares that though she only has a 3-month-old, playful parenting has already started.
  • Play Before Sleep — Adrienne at Mommying My Way writes about how playing and singing with her son before he falls asleep helps calm her frustrations that tend to arise at night.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Learning to read

I decided to repost my contribution to a thread on a local homeschool board.  It is an issue important to many young or new homeschooling families:

As .... alluded to, there is a school of thought (supported both by research and anecdotal reports) that reading is primarily a developmental task and that many a diagnosis of "dyslexia" is actually when we attempt to push the brain to go beyond its capabilities at any given time.  Imagine diagnosing all of our 9 month olds who weren't pulling up and cruising with paraparesis.

Day 48 - Some books
 Phil and Pam on Flickr
On the personal side I have had children reading at 4, 12, and 8.  Child number 3 was reading before child number 2 - I've known this to happen in other families.  The child who read at 12 is not one of those who picked it up and was at grade level in 3 months like many, it continues to be a difficult task for him.  However.... he is willing to do it, he looks forward to the day when it becomes easier and novel reading is enjoyable, he is "well read" thanks to audio books, and his self-esteem and image of himself as a learner has zero relation to has natural ability is this one particular skill.  He is also functional and was actually functional prior to the point that I would have described him as "reading".  Frankly given the benefits we have incurred by allowing the natural progression, even if reading is never a relaxing past time for him I am fine with that.  As a special education teacher I saw the lives of far too many children sacrificed on the alter of an externally imposed reading time line.

A couple of links.... this is a site of stories of learning to read in various ways at various ages (Think of it as _How Weaning Happens_) http://sandradodd.com/reading.  I will say that Sandra Dodd rubs me totally the wrong way, but don't let that deter you from the useful stuff she has on her site.  These are a couple of academic researchers who have decided to focus on unschooling families http://www.lifelearningmagazine.com/0904/Alan_Thomas.htm.  There is also some good stuff in the work of Raymond and Dorothy Moore (_Better Late than Early_, etc).

In the end it has helped me to think of it a bit like potty learning.  I can spend months or years in a miserable battle with a kid that just isn't ready or I can watch their developmental timeline and avoid the headaches and potential long-term (and life-long) fall-out of a less than positive experience.

ps - this is absolutely not to dismiss observations of different learning styles. Just like with potty learning, weaning, crawling, etc there are different motivations and strategies that work better for all of us.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

When gender binary is just easier and what can we do about it?

Marley is nearly four.  And like most of my other kids when they were around that age she has a fascination with sorting things.  She takes the shapes out of her pattern block set and piles them up: circles, squares, rectangles, triangles, ovals.  She take food out of her play kitchen and lines it up along the floor: produce, cartons, meat products.  She also has a fascination with taking about body parts: how we poop, can we cut our hair.  Bringing the two together we end up having a lot of discussion about the genitals of various folks.  Marley has a vagina like mom and [naming her brothers and various friends] have a penis.  Like any good three year old this must be followed by "why?". It is in these moments that I long for the days 14 yrs ago when my oldest was this age and I just didn't think about such things because then, the answer was easy. "Why? It is because boys have a penis and girls have a vagina". That's it, end of story.

By Debs (ò‿ó)♪ on Flickr

But we know that isn't it.  First we have to consider the fact that regardless of the fact that they are often conflated gender (boy, girl) and sex (male, female) are NOT THE SAME THING. Gender is a social construct, sex is a biological one - and there isn't just two of either one. I'm not going to go into listing and discussing the various labels that are currently being used because frankly I don't know enough about it, but I do know enough to know that I could easily end up giving out-of-date or offensive information so it's best to just not go there.  For the purposes of my life with my children I am most concerned with marginalizing those with assorted gender variant experiences.

It is difficult though, because brains at this age aren't designed to handle nuance. They feel most comfortable with "the sky is blue" not "the sky is sometimes blue, sometimes purple, sometimes green, and sometimes black. Really it depends on the air quality and diffusion of light through the atmosphere.  I think it might have something to do with the weather patterns too." Most kids stopped listening five words in and are happily skipping off with their answer to the next thing.  And for the simple answer to the simple question of "why?" I've satisfied Marley and myself with "Well some people have a penis and some people have a vagina. And there are a few people who have something a bit different." It is almost short enough to hold her attention and it satisfies my need for honesty.  It also hints at the "more" out there which I think is essential when giving simple answers to ultimately complex questions - because if they don't know there is a "more" then when they are ready for it, they won't know to go looking.  For me, leaving gendering concepts out all-together is easiest at this point.  Later we can talk about how a person's genitals relate to their social experience.

Is this something that you consider when having these discussion with your children?  If you do (or are wondering about it now) how do you incorporate all of our wonderful diversity?