Saturday, December 31, 2011

Update: Virtual Benefit for Momma Jorje

A little over 48 hours ago, I posted a Virtual Benefit for Momma Jorje.

That blank space represents how speechless I feel in response to the outpouring of love and support that followed. The team of volunteers at the Natural Parents Network joined me in springing into action to support our friend, our teammate, our sister Jorje. Many of you donated, and many of you helped spread the word about Spencer and his family.

Together, we have raised over $1000 for Jorje's family. ($1362.63 at time of posting.) I matched the PayPal fees on the first $1000, so almost every penny of that total has gone directly to the family. (If anyone is interested in helping offset PayPal's fees for donations over the first $1000, please contact me at

Together, we have given this family a tremendous gift, the gift of remaining close together while Spencer gets strong enough to join them at home.

Your support has enabled Spencer's family to spend more time
close to him, as it should be!
Spencer with Momma Jorje and Daddy Elmo.
Photo Courtesy of Momma Jorje

Thanks to your help, Jorje, her husband, and their two year old daughter checked into a hotel directly across the street from the hospital yesterday. Thanks to your help, Jorje is able to provide more of Spencer's feedings throughout the day and night directly from the breast. You have helped to ease the burden on this family during this challenging time.

Spencer's Beautiful Baby Foot!
Photo Courtesy of Momma Jorje
As for Spencer? He has been growing stronger and more healthy slowly but surely. I'm no medical expert, so forgive me if I get any of the terminology wrong, but Spencer's bilirubin levels have been dropping and as of today he no longer requires light therapy. He has also been taken off heat! He remains on oxygen, but his oxygen saturation has stabilized and they have lowered the level to 23 (Jorje tells me that 21 is "room level", so he's almost there!). An echo-cardiogram next week will show whether there has been improvement in the heart condition that is causing him to require oxygen. Spencer is growing more alert and responsive at the breast, and has been nursing longer and stronger every day.

I have been humbled and overwhelmed by the response to Jorje and Spencer's story. I am awed by both the generosity of virtual strangers, and the power of social networking to draw attention to this family's need for support and understanding.

Thank you. All of you. Whether you donated, helped spread the word, or kept this family in your thoughts or prayers, you made a difference. Donations will continue to be accepted, as there is still no estimate as to how long Spencer will require special care. Please continue to donate if you can, and to spread the word by sharing the original benefit post. Most importantly, continue to keep Momma Jorje and her precious newborn son in your thoughts and prayers.

To show your love to the team of Natural Parents Network volunteers who worked so hard to help make this possible, please click here for their favorite or most popular blog posts of 2011!

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Thanks for your support!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Making the Best of Mistakes

Dear Delilah,

Yesterday, something happened that I'm not very proud of. While your lunch cooled on the counter behind me, I rinsed the dirty dishes in the sink, singing and laughing with you while you played at my feet. Suddenly, I heard your plate hit the floor, and whipped around to see the cats greedily chowing down on your lunch. In anger and frustration, I shouted as my foot hastily shot out toward the cats, grazing Nala's back end.

Who am I kidding? Let's not sugar coat this. I kicked the cat.

Nala with Delilah @ 8 Months Old
It doesn't matter that I didn't kick hard enough to hurt her. I doesn't matter that she's so fast that I barely made contact. What matters is that you saw your mother react, out of anger, with violence. What matters is that I was violent toward an animal. Not just an any animal, but an animal that you love dearly. And you were scared. And upset. I immediately regretted it.

I scooped up your tiny body, trembling with fear and sobs, and I told you that Mama was wrong to do that. I crouched down with you in my arms to gently pet Nala and tell her that I was sorry, and that I was wrong to kick her. I explained to you as simply as I could that I was angry at Nala and Rowdy for ruining your lunch, but that what I did wasn't okay, and that it is never okay to hurt animals or people on purpose. As tears filled my own eyes, I apologized for scaring you and the kitties.

I made a mistake, and it is weighing heavy on my heart. I remember witnessing violence towards animals when I was a child myself. I remember how helpless and confused I felt. It gives me great distress to think that I made you feel those things. There is nothing that will make what I did okay. That said, I hope that by taking the time to apologize and calmly explain that what I did was wrong, what you take away from it will not be fear and anger. I hope that what will stay with you is that I admitted my mistake and tried to make amends for it.

Like all humans, I make mistakes. You are going to see some of those mistakes, and they might be hard for you to understand. Still, as your parent, it is my duty to quickly admit my mistakes and explain how and why my actions were wrong. It is my responsibility to teach you that we must try to learn from our mistakes and do everything in our power to make things right.

I'm sorry I kicked your kitty, and I'm sorry I scared you, but in the end, I'm not sorry that you saw it. What you saw was not merely an act of violence with no purpose or explanation, but the process of making a mistake, realizing it, and trying to make it better. I can't promise you that I will never react poorly out of anger again, but I can promise you that I will always make every effort to be an example of making the best of every mistake.



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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Virtual Benefit for Momma Jorje

Many readers of this blog know and love Momma Jorje, one of my fellow volunteers at the Natural Parents Network. For those of you who don't, let me tell you a little about her. Momma Jorje is one of the kindest and most authentic people I've had the pleasure to know and work with. She is a busy wife and mother in Tulsa, OK who shares openly and honestly, even when the truth is difficult, about her journey of attachment parenting, minimalist living, and most recently, becoming a parent of a child with Down Syndrome.

Spencer at 12 Hours Old
Photo Courtesy of Momma Jorje

When Jorje was 18 weeks pregnant, she found out that she was having a son with Down Syndrome. Jorje's family immediately set about learning everything they could to prepare to welcome Spencer to their loving circle. Spencer was born on Monday, December 26, and while he has needed some special care to get off to a good start, he has been making progress every day. There have been many steps forward and a few steps back, and Spencer will be remaining in the NICU until he is strong enough to join his family at home.

Here's what some NPN Volunteers have to say about Jorje:
Jorje is a wonderful, giving person. While she was dealing with all her pregnancy and nursing while pregnant woes, she always had time to help me out with mine. I will be eternally grateful for her friendship.
     - Shannon of Pineapples and Artichokes
I read a lot of blogs, but I always get excited to see a new post from Jorje. Her perspective on life and motherhood always gives me much to think about with my own life. Even with her busy life she's always ready with a positive comment or a good suggestion. I'm grateful to have her in my "circle of moms."
     -Jennifer of Monkey Butt Junction
Jorje is one of the people I'd turn to when I need a friend. No matter what's going on with her, she's always there for you. I have such respect for their choices around Spencer and am so proud to call her my friend.
     -Luschka of Diary of a First Child 
Jorje, you are my amazing bump buddy, my nightly ear, and inspiration. I pulled out my little manual pump to pump in solidarity with you. Hopefully, if I can get enough, it can help a family in your position locally. Lots of love!
     -Jennifer of True Confessions of a Real Mommy
Jorje is always happy to share her knowledge (tarantulas and head lice!) and passions (minimalism and breastfeeding!) and wisdom (raising multiple kiddos!) with everyone else, and I love following along with her adventures. She was meant to be Spencer's mother, because she'll be a megaphone for Down syndrome as well as (as always) an attached and amazing momma.
     -Lauren of Hobo Mama
Jorje has been a consistent source of support and friendship to her fellow volunteers, and it is my honor to be able to return that support to her today.

Jorje was heartbroken to be sent home without her beloved son. The hospital is unable to accommodate her has a guest, and she hasn't been able to locate or access resources that would enable her to stay close by. While she lives too close to the hospital to qualify for using the Ronald Mc Donald house, she lives far enough away that traveling back and forth to feed and bond with Spencer is both an emotional and economic hardship. Due to Spencer's birth, the holidays, and recent medical reasons, Jorje's husband has missed quite a bit of work, putting strain on an already tight budget.

Nature's best medicine!
Photo Courtesy of Momma Jorje
Together, we have the power to help this family. Jorje's family is weighing the pros and cons of staying in a nearby hotel against driving back and forth from their home to the hospital. In both cases, cost is a primary consideration. We can help by offsetting the costs of fuel and hotel accommodations so that Spencer's family can stay close to him, enabling the bonding and breastfeeding that will help him get strong enough to go home.

There are two ways you can help:

1. Donate.

Donations made using this button will go directly to Jorje's family. I will personally be offsetting PayPal's fees for each contribution with my own donation, so no amount is too small. Every single dollar helps. If you don't have a PayPal account, you can use a credit or debit card on the lower left-hand corner of the donation page, no account required!

2. Spread the word. Share this post on facebook, twitter, tumbler, your own blog, and anywhere else you can. If 500 people see this and each person contributes just $1, we could make a world of difference to this family. We might not be able to bring Spencer home any faster, but we can help his family stay closer to him for longer! Please help spread the word about Spencer, and help me help this loving family who is so deserving of our support and generosity.

For updates on this fundraising effort, follow along on twitter or facebook!

For the latest news on the benefit's success and Spencer's progress, click here!

For the final update on this virtual benefit, click here!

If you like this blog, please vote for me on Babble's Top 100 Mom Blogs. Thanks for your support!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Potty Training: We're Doing it Wrong

Dear Delilah,

You've been showing signs of readiness for potty training (or learning, if you prefer) for so long that I can't even remember exactly when it was that we introduced the potty. Close to a year ago? Anyway, we've never pushed it, just had it available to use here and there. In the past few months, you do "Number 2" almost exclusively on the potty, but pee has been a bit more elusive. I understand that this is exactly the opposite of how it goes for most kids. Another tally in the "Delilah does it backwards column." Hey, at least "Walking before crawling" is now in good company!

While you've had no problem using your little potty chairs, you react to the actual toilet as though it is actively trying to kill you. We tried one of the little seats that fits under the regular seat, but you were still not convinced that the big potty was your friend. Daddy and I decided that it was time to start trying to transition you to the big potty and started looking around for some good solutions that would help your tiny little body feel safe and secure on the great big scary toilet.

We settled on the Kiddyloo Toilet Seat Reducer and made it seem super duper special and amazing by wrapping it up and putting it under the Christmas tree. We threw in a cute Potty book to up the awesomeness factor even more.

It worked! Perhaps a little too well, as you have spent the last 48 hours walking around the house declaring "POOP" at every opportunity so that you can sit on the potty and look at your book. I'm happy to oblige, because it is a major step forward from recoiling in horror at the suggestion that you could try getting up on the big potty. You also thoroughly enjoy unfurling yards and yards of toilet paper to wipe your perfectly clean and dry bottom with. Ultimately, I intend to use cloth wipes with you, but I'm nervous about them getting tossed into the toilet before I can intervene.

Since you'd warmed up to the idea so much, I decided to experiment yesterday with some classic potty training advice. You spent most of the day with a naked tush, getting on the potty regularly. We had a few successes that were met with much celebration.

Unfortunately, you discovered another favorite thing ever. Cleaning up puddles of pee on the floor! What fun! Shortly after an unfruitful trip to the bathroom, I'd hear the unmistakable splatter of pee hitting the floor. You'd smile and proudly proclaim "PEEPEE!" before running to the kitchen to get a towel and then happily cleaning up your mess. Cute? Adorable. Funny? Hilarious. A sustainable potty practice? Not even close.

Lesson learned, you won't be one of those naked bottom potty trainers. Yet another reminder that no piece of parenting advice is one-size-fits-all!



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 Thanks for your support!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Return of the Kiss!

Dear Delilah,

May 2011
Delilah gives Daddy a signature sloppy kiss
Up until a few months ago, you loved giving lots of wet, sloppy, awkwardly full of tongue kisses. When asked for a kiss, you'd open wide, stick out your tongue, and apply your gaping mouth to the mouth of your victim willing kiss receiver. Then, all of a sudden, it stopped. No more kisses. At all. For anyone. I'd ask for a kiss, and you'd turn your head away. I started to actually miss all that slobber when you stopped giving it away!

I've continued to offer and ask for kisses, but have tried not to push the issue. I don't want you to get the idea that you should feel compelled or pressured to give (or receive) affection or touch when you don't want to. Nor do I want you to learn that it's okay to pressure others to give or receive affection if they don't want to. I have patiently waited, stealing kisses on your cheeks and the top of your head, until you were ready for the smooching to resume.

Alas, the return of the kiss has arrived! And what a refined, demure kiss it is. Yesterday while we were playing, you paused to give me a hug. I asked for a kiss, anticipating the rejection I've grown accustomed to, but instead, you puckered up and planted one on me! Gone was the slobber and excessive tongue, replaced by perfectly puckered lips and a cute little "smack" when you pressed them against mine. As much as I loved the clumsy kisses of the past, I hope these new perfectly pleasant pecks are here to stay. Now come give Mama a kiss!



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Monday, December 26, 2011

A Glimpse of Our Holiday Weekend

Dear Delilah,

Your third Christmas really outdid itself. As your father and I were getting ready for bed last night, he remarked, "I think this is the best Christmas I've ever had." And it was! We had three straight days of relaxing and enjoying family. We decided not to travel at all, opting to spend our first Christmas in our new home in our new home.

Our weekend kicked off on Friday, known to some as Festivus, when Grandma Laurel and Grandpa Bruce came to visit. We had fun playing games, opening gifts, going out to dinner, and just being together. Grandma and Grandpa brought you one of your favorite gifts, a piano that's just your size. After Grandpa and Grandma opened their gifts from us, Daddy gave them an impromptu Ukulele lesson!

After a quick pancake breakfast on Saturday morning, Grandma Laurel and Grandpa Bruce had to head out so Grandma could be back in time to play at the Christmas Eve service at her church. We got ready for our own traditional Christmas Eve celebration with my parents, Grandma Bev and Grandpa Rudy. We went to a beautiful candle light service, then headed to Grandpa and Grandpa's house to enjoy time with them, your Aunt and Uncles, and your Great Grandma. We ate a delicious meal and opened gifts before heading home to say goodnight to our own Christmas tree!

Christmas day was simply delightful. You finally started to figure out the present opening thing and enjoyed playing with each new gift before moving on to the next. We spent the day just relaxing together as a family, playing with our new toys (yes, all of us), watching Mama's favorite holiday movie (A Christmas Story), and eating yummy food before settling in for the big football game. You didn't get to see much of the game before it was time for you to go bed, but at least you didn't have to see your Bears getting beat!

We have been truly blessed this year, and topping it off with such a joyful holiday weekend was more than we could have hoped for. I hope all who read this were able to celebrate their holidays in the most enjoyable, meaningful ways!



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Friday, December 23, 2011

The Great Santa Debate Revisited

Dear Delilah,

Last year around this time, I wrote to you about one of the few parenting choices your father and I can't seem to agree on: The Great Santa Debate. Well, here we are again, with Christmas celebrations knocking at our door, and we still don't quite agree. I guess this is where I express gratitude that you remain completely oblivious to Santa Claus, giving us yet another year to work it out.

This year, our discussions about Santa have grown a bit more complex. We've moved beyond debating whether or not it's technically a "lie" to discussing how encouraging or discouraging belief in Santa might bleed into other aspects of faith. Namely, religion. What's interesting is that I tend to want to handle Santa the way your father wants to handle religion, and vice versa.

See, your father and I are not religious. We have similar beliefs in terms of what sort of higher power may exist, but we approach those beliefs a little differently. My desire is to encourage you to explore what others believe and draw your own conclusions. While your father and I both agree that we want to prevent religion from being forced on you, I also want to be careful that we don't force a lack of religion on you.

A friend recently pointed me towards this blog post by Parenting Beyond Belief, which sums up this issue much more eloquently than I could ever hope to. In a very small nutshell, the point is that parents are in a position to support both imagination and critical thinking skills when it comes to talking about both Santa and God. (But please, don't just accept my nutshell. Go read the post. It's worth your time, I promise.) This seems to me to be the ultimate compromise in handling both topics.

What I have come to grasp is that there is a middle ground between "lying" and saying that Santa (or God) is real and outright denying their existence. Given the society we live in, you will be exposed to these concepts on a regular basis whether your father and I bring them up or not. As you grow older, you will begin to ask questions. The most important revelation I've had is that I don't have to have the answers. I can explain to you that some people believe X and some people Y, and ask what you think. By doing so, I allow for your imagination to run wild while also encouraging you to use your own critical thinking skills to find your truth.

The time will come when you want to know what I believe, and what your father believes. Hopefully when that time arrives, we will have provided you a foundation for understanding that you are not required to share our beliefs. Hopefully you will have a clear understanding that we support you in coming to your own conclusions and believing what feels right for you.

I still won't lie to you. Your concrete questions will receive concrete answers. In the end, it's not so much Santa (or religion) that I'm opposed to. It's the way people use these concepts to manipulate the behaviors of others, or as an excuse to judge others. As your parent, it is my responsibility to guide you in ways that are consistent with my values, while allowing you the freedom to reach your own conclusions and develop your own values. Equally important, as your parent, it is my privilege to observe as you learn and grow and decide for yourself both whether or not Santa is real, and whether or not religion has a place in your life.

This year, there will be no Santa at our house. What there will be is plenty of love, joy, family, giving, and gratitude for all that we've been blessed with. That's the holiday spirit. That's our reason for the season. Will there be Santa next year? We'll just have to follow your lead and see where it takes us!



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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Self Portraits

Dear Delilah,

Ever since you discovered your love for the camera, I can hardly snap a photo of you without capturing you reaching for the camera, yelling about wanting the camera, or pouting because you don't have the camera. Several months back, you started taking self-portraits.

Most of them look like this:

There are approximately 237 images like that one floating around on my lap top. It's always amusing to look through them and see what you capture in the background. I'll spare readers the shots that contain a sliver of your head and a direct view up one of my nostrils or a glimpse of the dog's butt.

The other day, when looking through your photos on the camera, I went from amused to impressed when I saw this:

A bit heavy on the flash, but you managed to get almost your whole face in it, and even mustered a smile! Before long, I'll be asking you to take the photos to share on facebook, for the family holiday card, and even for this blog!



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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

2011 NPN Blog Blitz

I am proud and honored to be volunteer with the Natural Parents Network (NPN), a community of natural-minded parents and parents-to-be where you will be informed, empowered, and inspired. When you visit the NPN’s website you can find articles and posts about Activism, Balance, Consistent Care, Ecological Responsibility, Family Safety, Feeding With Love, Gentle Discipline, Healthy Living, Holistic Health, Natural Learning, Nurturing Touch, Parenting Philosophies, Practical Home Help, Preparing for Parenting, Responding With Sensitivity, Safe Sleep, and so much more!

The volunteers who dedicate their time and energy to make NPN the outstanding resource it is also spend countless hours informing and inspiring others on their personal blogs. To close out 2011, the NPN volunteers have come together to provide you with some valuable reading material. Each volunteer has selected either their most viewed post of 2011 or their favorite post and shared the link here. Please take a few moments to visit each post. Our intention is to expand our reach as bloggers and informed parents and parents-to-be who are still growing as we move through our own journeys. Each volunteer has provided links to other social media sites where you can follow them as well.

We hope you enjoy reading these posts as much as we enjoyed writing them. We are always looking for new volunteers so please, contact us if you are interested. Just a few hours per month can help other mamas in a huge way!

Abbie at Farmer's Daughter shares her Christmas Cookie Swap Blog Hop, which is her fourth annual virtual cookie swap and most popular post of the year. Please stop by and link up your favorite holiday recipe until Dec. 31. You can find Farmer's Daughter on Facebook and Twitter.

Adrienne from Mommying My Way shares Fear vs. Faith, one of her favorite posts about how often living a life of faith can look like a life of fear, but the two are really quite different. You can also find Mommying My Way on Facebook.

Alicia of Lactation Narration retells the story of her oldest daughter's 5 years of nursing and weaning in her favorite post of 2011, The Weaning Party. You can find Lactation Narration on Facebook and Twitter.

Amy of Toddler In Tow shares Finding My Mommy-Zen, her most viewed post of 2011. In this post, she shares her desire to balance her own self-esteem by choice in order to parent with peace and compassion. You can also find Toddler In Tow on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter, and follow Amyables (Amy W.) on Google + and Ravelry.

Arpita of Up, Down, and Natural shares one of her most popular posts titled Reflections. This is a beautiful look at the type of mother she wants to be. You can find Up, Down, and Natural on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Charise of I Thought I Knew Mama shares Why Do Children Have More Food Allergies Than Ever Before?, her most viewed post of 2011. This post explains the shocking info that one unsuspecting mother discovered when she started researching why her daughter had a violent allergic reaction to eggs. This is a must read post for ensuring the health of your family. You can also find I Thought I Knew Mama on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Stumbleupon.

Christine of African Babies Don’t Cry shares The Best First Food for Babies, one of her favourite posts of 2011. This well-researched post delves into the healthiest and most nutritious food to feed your baby. You can also find African Babies Don’t Cry on Facebook, Twitter, Google + and Pinterest.

Cynthia of The Hippie Housewife shares Gentle Discipline for Toddlers, her most viewed post of 2011. This post describes five gentle discipline tools for parenting toddlers. You can also find The Hippie Housewife on Facebook, Google +, and Pinterest.

Darcel of The Mahogany Way shares how Babywearing As a Way of Life one of her favorite post of 2011. This post showcases some beautiful woven wraps that she has purchased, traded, borrowed, and sold over the years. Darcel also talks about the benefits of babywearing from the newborn through toddler stage. You can also find Darcel{ The Mahogany Way} on Facebook, Twitter, Her Community for Mothers of Color, and Pinterest.

Dionna of Code Name Mama shares 50 Healthy Snack Ideas for Kids Plus Fun Serving Suggestions, her most viewed post of 2011. Most of these snacks are quick to fix and portable, so you can pack them to send with your child on play dates, at preschool, or to just have handy in the refrigerator for when your child wants to grab a bite to eat “all by himself.” You can find Dionna on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube.

Erica at ChildOrganics shares a post that is not only close to her heart, but also her most viewed post for 2011 titled Attachment Parenting in the NICU. This post shares her top 10 tips for parenting should you find yourself with a baby in the NICU. You can also find Erica on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Gretchen of That Mama Gretchen shares her personal experience of returning to work, expressing milk, and the ups and downs in between in her 2011 most viewed post, Mama's Milk. You can also find Gretchen on GFC, Blog Lovin', Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Isil of Smiling like Sunshine shares how to make an autumn tree using pumpkin seeds, her most popular post in 2011. This post features a lovely craft activity that you can do with your kids! You can also find Isil on Facebook and Twitter.

Jennifer of Hybrid Rasta Mama shares 80 Uses For Coconut Oil, her most viewed post of 2011. This comprehensive post provides background information on the benefits of coconut oil as well as outlines 80 uses for it. You can also find Hybrid Rasta Mama on Facebook, Twitter, Google +, and Pinterest.

Jennifer of True Confessions of a Real Mommy shares her most popular post of 2011, Weekly House Blessing (Otherwise Known as Cleaning Once a Week). This post outlines a once per week cleaning routine for busy moms. You can also find Jennifer on Twitter.

Joella, the mama behind Fine and Fair, shares An Unusual Gripe with Bebe Gluton, one of her most popular posts of 2011. In it, she discusses the controversy surrounding a "breastfeeding doll" and offers her take on the gender role implications of dolls in general. Fine and Fair can also be found on twitter and facebook.

Julia of A Little Bit of All of It shares the story of how her co-sleeping relationship ended with her daughter, her most viewed post of 2011. This post shows how her daughter transitioned to her own bed on her 2nd birthday and the emotions involved for her mom. You can also find A Little Bit of All of It on Facebook, Twitter, Google +, and Pinterest.

Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment shares True Blessings: White Noise and Grandparents, her most viewed post of 2011. In this post, Kat talks about how she maximizes getting sleep and how grateful and blessed she is to have her parents be so involved in helping and spending time with her kiddos.

Kelly of Becoming Crunchy shares That Cup Does What?, her most viewed post of 2011. This post is one of a series of reviews and information on switching to all natural menstrual products - having heard so many different options and recommendations, Kelly decided to give a whole bunch of them a try and pull all the reviews together in one week for anyone interested in making the switch. This post in particular covers the ins and outs of the Diva Cup. You can also find Becoming Crunchy on Facebook, Twitter, Google + and Pinterest.

Kristin of Intrepid Murmurings shares a popular post from 2011, something she and her husband made for their girls for Christmas, great for open-ended play and construction: Handmade Tree Blocks. You can also find Kristin on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.

Lani of Boobie Time shares Helping a Fellow Breastfeeding Mom, her inspiration for starting to blog. This post discusses the importance of fellow moms supporting each other and some tips on having a successful breastfeeding relationship. Lani can also be found on Facebook.

Laura at WaldenMommy: Life Behind the Red Front Door writes about finally entering "spring" when her child with special needs begins preschool. After battling post-partum mental illness (post tramatic stress disorder) after the preterm birth of her third child, she finally begins to feel healthy and whole again in "It's Fall, Ya'll-Again."

Lauren of Hobo Mama shares On not having an AP poster child, her (OK, second) most viewed post of 2011. Lauren's first child shook her certainty that attachment parenting meant babies never cried and toddlers grew independent — and that's all right, too. You can also find Hobo Mama on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest.

Luschka of Diary of a First Child shares Lactivism, Breastfeeding, Bottlefeeding and Mothers at War, one of her most viewed posts of 2011. This post discusses how the breastfeeding/bottle feeding debate causes a division between mothers, leading to the alienation of women and babies, while divisive companies prosper. You can also find Diary of a First Child on Facebook, and Twitter.

Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children shares how With Privilege Comes Responsibility, one of her most viewed posts of 2011. This compelling post explains her strong felt desire to stand up for those less privileged. You can also find Living Peacefully with Children on Facebook.

Melissa of Vibrant Wanderings shares a Montessori-Inspired Checklist for Choosing Toys, her most popular post of 2011. The article outlines some important Montessori principles and how they relate to children's toys, translating that into some simple guiding principles. You can also find Melissa on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest.

Melissa of White Noise shares Modern Day Wet Nurse, her most viewed post of 2011. In this post, Melissa shares the benefits of human breast milk and human milk sharing. You can also find Melissa at Mothers of Change.

Momma Jorje shares Amniocentesis - What is it *really* like?, one of her most viewed posts of 2011. This open and honest series offers not only the technical process of amniocentesis, but also the emotions involved in awaiting (and receiving) the procedure and a diagnosis. Momma Jorje can also be found on Facebook.

Moorea of MamaLady: Adventures in Queer Parenting shares Fluoride: Another Reason Breast Is Best, her favorite post of 2011. This post provides research on the harmful effects of fluoride in drinking water for babies and toddlers and ways to limit fluoride consumption in your home. You can also find MamaLady on Facebook and Twitter and her Parent Coaching Site.

Rachael at The Variegated Life is Calling the Muse in her most viewed post of 2011. In this post, she describes how she uses ritual to help her tap into her creative spirit. You can also find Rachael on Twitter and The Variegated Life on Facebook.

Rebekah and Chris from Liberated Family shares Using Cloth In a Disposable Society, their favorite post of 2011. This extensive post provides a lot of information regarding the varied uses of cloth as well as the many benefits. You can also find Liberated Family on Twitter.

Sarah at Parenting God's Children shares her most viewed post: Confessions of a Breastfeeding Advocate: I Couldn't. She confesses her struggles with breastfeeding her daughters, but shares why she'll continue the good fight. You can also find Sarah on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Seonaid of The Practical Dilettante offers a science- and reverence-based meditation on The Living Earth, her most viewed post of 2011. This meditation was originally written for Earth Day, but it provides a way to reconnect with your place in the living breathing planet at any time of year. You can also find Seonaid on Facebook, Twitter, and Google +.

Shannon at Pineapples & Artichokes shares I Recommend (But Moira Likes This Book Too), her most viewed post of 2011. This post is a review of a wonderful book that talks about all the different ways that families can be made up, along with some of why this topic is so important to her family.

Sheryl at Little Snowflakes shares her experiences with tandem nursing in Tandem Nursing – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, her most viewed post of 2011. You can also find Sheryl on Twitter.

Stay tuned for some amazing posts from all of these tremendous bloggers in 2012!

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Monday, December 19, 2011

Mama's a Graduate at Last

Dear Delilah,

When I found out I was pregnant with you, I was well into my second year as a full-time student after returning to college to complete a Bachelor's degree at the ripe young age of 28. I was on track to graduate in Spring of 2010, based on my plan to take a hefty load of credits each semester, including summers, and continuing to work part time.

Needless to say, everything changed when I discovered I was on my way to fulfilling a dream that was even more important to me than my dream of completing my degree. I was going to be a mother. Your mother. And as the story usually goes, my priorities changed. School was no longer the top priority, though it remained high on the list. I knew that in order to be the kind of student I wanted to be while being the kind of mother I hoped to be, I had to change my plans. Gone were the 17 credit semesters and spending hours on campus. They were replaced by 6 credit semesters and as many online courses as I could take.

Working on a paper with
1 month old Delilah
The greatest challenge for me over the last few years has been maintaining balance. Juggling motherhood, school, and work hasn't been easy, and while I think I managed to make the best of it, there were times when I wanted to give up. With the investment of both time and money I was making, it was important to me that I be able to devote myself to getting the most out of the education I was acquiring. It was important for me to turn in only the best work, and to study in order to do the best I was capable of on exams. None of that was more important to me, however, than being a present, attentive, nurturing mother.

I didn't always succeed. There were times I turned in work that wasn't my best, and more regrettably, their were times when I wasn't at my best as your mother. There were times when due dates were near and my patience was limited. There were times when you wanted to play and I had to focus on completing a paper or project. There were times when I had to miss out on fun family events because I had to be at class. There were times when graduation day seemed so far away and unreachable that I questioned why I was bothering with school at all.

And now, finally, at long last. It happened. I graduated. Not only did I graduate, but I graduated Summa Cum Laude (with highest honors, or as Daddy says, I graduated "really loud"). And now, people want to know "What will you do after graduation?" Will I head straight into grad school? Will I seek full-time employment in my field? Can I get more hours in my current positions?

All of those options are possibilities...eventually. I do plan to continue to my education to the graduate and perhaps even doctorate level. Some day. I plan to work full-time in my field. Some day. I may increase my hours a little bit at my current jobs, but primarily, my plan is to increase my mama hours. For now, I'm going to wake up and enjoy leisurely mornings with my beloved daughter. I'm going to play and learn and explore with my little girl. I'm going to bake and cook and clean and garden and play guitar and sing and sew. I'm going to get back in touch with my parenting principles and philosophies, and I am going to try to live them every day.

There will always be further education. There will always be more hours to work. There won't always be a precious little girl who needs her mama, and I'm going to hold on to that little girl for as long as she'll let me. Thank you for your patience with me, sweet Delilah. Thank you for being adaptable. Thank you for your grace and humor. Thank you for cheering me on while I walked across that stage to accept my diploma. I can't wait for all of the adventures we have in store for us in the days, weeks, months, and years ahead, and I can't way to enjoy them with you.



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Friday, December 16, 2011

Kids and Politics

With the attention the "Occupy" movement has garnered, the topic of children attending political protests has become a hot one in recent months. When one of my favorite bloggers posted "Should Children Be Involved in Protests?" I was prepared to read an account of a child becoming injured due to the excessive force that has been used by law enforcement at some of these protests. I was prepared to respond that the problem isn't children at protests, it's that peaceful protests are turning violent at the hands of those who should be protecting the peace. Then, what I read instead was an account of a parent who placed her child on a train track as part of a protest.

If you haven't already heard this story, I'll give that a moment to sink in. I know I needed one.

To be clear, this piece was inspired by Parentwin's post, but it is not a direct reply to it. Let me start by saying that I don't disagree with Parentwin's conclusion that kids should not be used as public service announcements. They shouldn't. However that doesn't mean that they have no place in politics. I'm not going to attack that mother's reasoning for doing what she did. Not because I agree with her decision, but because I think she's been attacked plenty, and I don't think attacking her does anything to address the issue.

Thankfully, her child was not harmed. I am going to go out on a limb here, and say that this particular occurrence does not lead me to the conclusion that children do not belong at protests. That said, I don't think any one would argue that children belong on train tracks. They don't. The knee-jerk reaction to sensational stories like this is that kids should never be at political protests, ever. The truth is that incidents like this are the exception, not the rule. The issue to me is not that children have no place at political protests, the issue is that as parents, we need to ensure that we are involving our children in a safe and age appropriate manner.

I have had no qualms about bringing my child to political protests. When our governor began what I perceive as an attack on the schools and workers in our state, my daughter was at my side (strapped to my front, actually) at local, peaceful protests. We took in the situation to ensure that it was, indeed, peaceful before joining the crowd. We congregated with other families in a spot with an open area to our backs for quick exit, on the off-chance the crowd became rowdy or law enforcement became hostile. We've stopped to chat with Occupy protesters at the local park. We will continue to participate, as a family, in safe, peaceful protests.

Some have said that by doing so, we are using our child as a political pawn. I disagree. We are doing what I think most parents do, which is to teach our child our values. We guide by example, and we include our child in activism because activism is important to us. At the risk of offending people (Hi mom!) I might argue that bringing a child to (again, safe and peaceful) political protests is really no more controversial than bringing a child to church.

Now, bear with me, I'm not naive enough to imply that politics and religion are the same. What they do share in common, however, is that most people have very strong values and beliefs associated with them. If parents who include their children in political activism are forcing their beliefs on them, aren't parents who involve their children in religion doing the same? I don't think so, in either case. In both cases, parents are guiding their children in the development of their values. They are leading by example. They are exposing their children to what's important to them. They are practicing what they preach. And I don't have a problem with that.

Discouraging children from learning the facts and using critical thinking skills to draw their own conclusions about the issues? Problem. Forcing children who express disagreement with such beliefs to participate anyway? Problem. Placing children in dangerous situations to prove a point? Problem. Including children in safe activities that support the parents' beliefs and values? Not a problem.

There is a chorus of parents insisting that children should never be at protests, because you never know when a protest could turn ugly. The bottom line is that most protests are peaceful, we just don't hear about the peaceful ones on the news. You never know when a car might crash, but that doesn't mean you should never take your kids in the car, it means that you should understand the risks and minimize them as much as possible.

Rather than call for parents to leave their kids at home, I encourage them to be proactive in seeking out safe opportunities for activism. Know the location you're going to. Assess the situation for safety before you join in. Know where the exits are. Seek out other families and stick together. If there's a family friendly area designated, stick to it. If there isn't, stay on the outskirts of the crowd, and leave immediately at the first sign of risk. Get acquainted with the law enforcement present, unless they're hostile, in which case, see "leave immediately at the first sign of risk". Keep your kids close to you. Bring snacks and activities for them in case they get bored. Be vigilant in reassessing the situation, and if there is any indication that safety could be compromised, don't wait it out, just leave.

And for crying out loud, don't put your kid on a train track.

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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Safe and Sound Sleep

Welcome to the Safe Cosleeping Blog Carnival
This post was written for inclusion in the Safe Cosleeping Blog Carnival hosted by Monkey Butt Junction . Our bloggers have written on so many different aspects of cosleeping. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

Dear Delilah,

When you were born, I wanted to keep you as close to me as possible as often as possible. The nurses scolded me about sleeping with you in my arms in my hospital bed, so rather than put you down to sleep in the lonely hard plastic bassinet, I continued to let you sleep in my arms, opting not to sleep myself. It's no surprise that within moments of arriving home, we were seen like this:

I did a lot of research on cosleeping both while I was pregnant and while you were a newborn. I knew I wanted you close to me, but above all, I wanted to make sure you were safe. Your father had concerns about bed-sharing, one method of cosleeping. You were so tiny, and he was afraid of you getting squished. While I was confident about the safety of a nursing mother sharing bed space with her baby without blankets or pillows near the baby, I knew that the pain medication I was on after your cesarean birth made it unsafe for you to sleep in bed with me.

We compromised and opted for another method of cosleeping, placing you in a bassinet right next to the bed. This arrangement gave us all of the benefits of having you close by, without the risks associated with those pain medications and the blankets that are a permanent fixture during cold Wisconsin winters. Even though you were next to my side of the bed, when you woke to nurse, your father had to get up to get you, as the recovery from surgical birth makes any shift from a lying down position a very slow and painful process. Still, I was committed to safety, and until I didn't need those medications anymore, we either stuck by our plan, or I sat up in bed, awake, holding you in my arms, as you always slept better and longer that way.

Our sleeping arrangements evolved as you grew bigger and more mobile. Once I mastered side-laying nursing, there was no turning back! I could sleep while you helped yourself to my milk, and everyone was happier that way! When you outgrew your bassinet and we started putting you down for naps in the crib in your nursery, we discovered that you seemed to fall asleep better on your own.

That began the journey toward the sleep arrangements we have today. You start out the night in your own bed. Now that you're sleeping through the night more often, you often stay there all night and wake up happily before I bring you into bed with me to nurse you while I catch a few more winks. When you do wake up in the night, you join us in our bed, being returned to yours if you get too squirmy and need more of your own space, and then joining us again in the morning. Even though you don't spend all night with us, we consider our bed to be a family bed, as you are always welcome in it. Without our family bed, we'd miss out on moments like this, waking up and looking out the window together for the first glimpse at the winter's first snow:

Still, all of the warm, fuzzy moments in the world would not be worth it if they meant risking your safety. There is wide agreement among professionals and parents alike that the safest place for babies to sleep is in close proximity to their parents. That said, there is also widespread misinformation about the dangers of bed-sharing. When appropriate safety guidelines are followed, bed-sharing is a safe and secure cosleeping option. When bed-sharing is not safe, or just not what works best for a family, safe cosleeping can be a traditional bassinet near the parents bed, a co-sleeping specific bassinet (the Arm's Reach Co-Sleeper is a popular choice), a side-carred crib (read about how Monika of aias dot ca side-carred her crib), or even a firm mattress on the floor.

Just as with all parenting choices, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Some people sleep better alone, and some sleep better snuggled up to a loved one. Anyone who questions where our family falls on that spectrum need only glance at the three of us snoozing comfortably on your father's side of our king sized bed. I am thankful that we had an open mind about cosleeping and bed-sharing, that we took the time to look into the risks and safety precautions, and that we have embraced the concept of a family bed, even if all of us like to be alone in it once in a while!




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Safe Cosleeping Blog Carnival

Thanks for reading a post in the Safe Cosleeping Blog Carnival. On Carnival day, please follow along on Twitter using the #CosleepCar hashtag.
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
  • Emotive Co-Sleeping Campaign - Miriam at Diary of an Unconscious Mother talks about her feelings on Milwaukee’s anti-cosleeping crusade and its latest advertising campaign.
  • Why Cosleeping has Always been the Right Choice for My Family - Patti at Jazzy Mama shares how lucky she feels to have the privilege of sleeping with her four children.
  • Cosleeping is a safe, natural and healthy solution parents need to feel good about. - See how Tilly at Silly Blatherings set up a side-car crib configuration to meet her and her families' needs.
  • Black and White: Race and the Cosleeping Wars - Moorea at Mama Lady: Adventures in Queer Parenting points out the problem of race, class and health when addressing co-sleeping deaths and calls to action better sleep education and breastfeeding support in underprivileged communities.
  • Reflections on Cosleeping - Jenny at I’m a Full Time Mummy shares her thoughts on cosleeping and pictures of her cosleeping beauties.
  • Cosleeping and Transitioning to Own Bed - Isil at Smiling Like Sunshine shares her experiences in moving beyond the family bed.
  • What Works for One Family - Momma Jorje shares why cosleeping is for her and why she feels it is the natural way to go. She also discusses the actual dangers and explores why it may not be for everyone.
  • Really High Beds, Co-Sleeping Safely, and the Humanity Family Sleeper - Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama gives a quick view of Jennifer’s bed-sharing journey and highlights the Humanity Family Sleeper, something Jennifer could not imagine bed-sharing without.
  • Crying in Our Family Bed - With such a sweet newborn, why has adding Ailia to the family bed made Dionna at Code Name: Mama cry?
  • Dear Mama: - Zoie at TouchstoneZ shares a letter from the viewpoint of her youngest son about cosleeping.
  • Cuddle up, Buttercup! - Nada of The MiniMOMist and her husband Michael have enjoyed cosleeping with their daughter Naomi almost since birth. Nada shares why the phrase "Cuddle up, Buttercup!" has such special significance to her.
  • Co-Sleeping With A Baby, Toddler, and Preschooler - Kerry at City Kids Homeschooling shares how co-sleeping calls us to trust our inner maternal wisdom and embrace the safety and comfort of the family bed.
  • Fear instead of Facts: An Opportunity Squandered in Milwaukee - Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction discusses Milwaukee’s missed opportunity to educate on safe cosleeping.
  • Cosleeping: A Mini-rant and a Lovely Picture - Siobhan at Res Ipsa Loquitor discusses her conversion to cosleeping and rants a little bit about the Milwaukee Health Department anti-cosleeping campaign.
  • Our Cosleeping Story - Adrienne at Mommying My Way shares her cosleeping story and the many bonus side effects of bedsharing.
  • Cosleeping can be safe and rewarding Christy at Mommy Outnumbered shares how her cosleeping experiences have been good for her family.
  • Adding one more to the family bed Lauren at Hobo Mama discusses the safety logistics of bed sharing with a new baby and a preschooler.
  • The Truth About Bedsharing - Dr. Sarah at Parenting Myths and Facts discusses the research into bedsharing and risk - and explains why it is so often misrepresented.
  • Cosleeping as a parenting survival tool - Melissa V. at Mothers of Change describes how she discovered cosleeping when her first baby was born. Melissa is the editor and a board member for the Canadian birth advocacy group, Mothers of Change.
  • Dear Delilah - Joella at Fine and Fair writes about her family bed and the process of finding the cosleeping arrangements that work best for her family.
  • CoSleeping ROCKS! - Melissa at White Noise talks about the evolution of cosleeping in her family.
  • Safe Sleep is a Choice - Tamara at Pea Wee Baby talks about safe sleep guidelines.
  • 3 Babies Later: The Evolution of our Family Bed - Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment talks about how her family’s cosleeping arrangements evolved as her family grew.
  • Tender Moments - The Accidental Natural Mama discusses tender cosleeping moments.
  • Cosleeping Experiences - Lindsey at An Unschooling Adventure describes how she ended up co-sleeping with her daughter through necessity, despite having no knowledge of the risks involved and how to minimise them, and wishes more information were made available to help parents co-sleep safely.
  • The early days of bedsharing - Luschka at Diary of a First Child shares her early memories of bedsharing with her then new born and gets excited as she plans including their new arrival into their sleeping arrangements.
  • The Joys of Cosleeping in Pictures - Charise of I Thought I Knew Mama shares pictures of some of her favorite cosleeping moments.
  • Symbiotic Sleep - Mandy at Living Peacefully With Children discusses how the symbiotic cosleeping relationship benefits not only children but also parents.
  • Co-sleeping Barriers: What’s Stopping You? - Kelly at Becoming Crunchy shares how she was almost prevented from gaining the benefits of co-sleeping her family currently enjoys.
  • Co-Sleeping with the Family Humanity Sleeper - Erica at ChildOrganics shares a way to make co-sleeping safe, comfortable and more convenient. Check out her post featuring the Humanity Organic Family Sleeper.
  • Why We Cosleep - That Mama Gretchen’s husband chimes in on why cosleeping is a benefit to their family.
  • Adding to the Family Bed - Darah at A Girl Named Gus writes about her co-sleeping journey and what happens when a second child comes along.

A big thank you to all of the Safe Cosleeping Blog Carnival participants!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Trimming the Tree

Dear Delilah,

Admiring the Snow Outside
Last year, trimming our holiday tree didn't go quite as I'd hoped it would. This year, the experience was much more closely aligned with the magical moments I'd been envisioning. While we didn't go cut down a tree (next year, I swear!) we all went together as a family to pick our tree out together. The night of the first snowfall while you slept, Daddy and I brought the tree in from the garage to give it some time to settle before we decorated it.

 When we came down the stairs next morning, your big eyes got even wider than usual as you smiled and exclaimed, "Tree!" After our busy morning playing in the snow and a nice long nap for you, we set to work decorating the tree together, holiday music playing in the background and holiday cheer filling our home as we sang along and hung glittery balls on our tree.

Since this is our first holiday season in our new home, we were very excited about having more space for the tree. In our previous home, space was so limited that the tree always ended up shoved into the corner of the front porch. Having our tree right in the living room where we can enjoy it every day makes such a difference!

And of course, we continued the tradition we started last year of giving you your own "tree" created from one of the branches trimmed from the family tree.

We used a smaller branch this year, so it isn't quite as elaborate as last year's tree (which can be seen on Natural Parents Network's Wordless Wednesday post today, along with other beautiful images of holiday traditions!). My only disappointment this year was discovering that last year's dragonfly Solstice ornament, another holiday tradition, went missing in our move. Thankfully, the etsy shop I buy them from had one just like the one I got you last year, so a replacement is safely on its way, and this year's ornament is all ready to be presented to you on the Solstice.

Slowly but surely, we are piecing together our family's own traditions and special ways of celebrating. We have so much to celebrate this holiday season, and I'm looking forward to spending time enjoying the season with loved ones.



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