Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Happy Song

Dear Delilah,

I think I want you to stay two forever. Sure, there a moments when I catch a glimpse of what the "terrible twos" must be all about. Like this morning when you couldn't jam any more stuff into your tiny little purse, and decided that 5 minutes of blood-curdling screams was the appropriate reaction. But for the most part? You are such a joy that my heart wants to explode right out of my chest on a near daily basis.

The latest and greatest is what we like to call your "happy song". Several times a day, you scrunch your eyes shut like you've got more soul than you can control, bob your head back and forth, and sing about being happy. This song has no discernible melody, no rhyme or reason. But it's the most beautiful song I've ever heard. You alternate the word "happy" (except it comes out "hoppeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee") with people and things that, apparently, make you very happy. With your scrunchy eyes and bobbing head, and the "ooooohs" interspersed here and there, it's got to be the happiest darn song in the world.

I've been trying to capture it on video, to no avail. Every time I pull out the camera, you drop everything to start modeling your ridiculously lopsided "cheeeeeeese" grin.

Like so:

A typical rendition of your Happy Song goes like this:

Oooooooh Happeeeeeeeeeeeeee
Happeeeeeeeeeeeeee Dadaaaaaaaaaaaaaa
Happeeeeeeeeeeeeee Mamaaaaaaaaaaaaa
Happeeeeeeeeeeeeee Sadieeeeeeeeeeeeee
Oooooooh Happeeeeeeeeeeeeee

Repeat X 1 Million

Your happy is song is always greeted by a chorus of laughter and smiles from your father and I. We even try to sing along sometimes, but you're always switching it up. Sometimes it's all animals, sometimes all people, sometimes a mix of both.

I hope that you will always find as much joy in those you love as you do when you sing your happy song about them!



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Monday, March 26, 2012

DIY, How To's, Recipes, and More From the Natural Parents Network Volunteers

It's that time again! You might remember the great post in December 2011 that highlighted the Natural Parents Network Volunteer's most popular or favorite posts from the year. Well, we are back and this time we are bringing you a collection of posts that focus on Do It Yourself projects, How To's, Tutorials, Recipes, and anything related to a step by step guide or informational how-to.

There are a lot of really wonderful posts here and I hope that this serves as an excellent resource that you can pass on to your friends! Enjoy!

Momma Jorje: a slightly crunchy mommaJorje of Momma Jorje.com shares her Family Cloth Tutorial in pictures. She includes step by step photos with some tips for making very neat family cloth. You can find Momma Jorje on Facebook, too!

Lani at Boobie Time Blog shares "How to Help a New Breastfeeding Mom." This post provides some tips on helping a new mom while she is learning to Breastfeed. You can also find Boobie Time Blog on Facebook and Twitter.

Amanda at Let's Take the Metro shares "How I Make Cloth Wipes." This post details how Amanda made all of her cloth wipes. You can also find Let's Take the Metro on Facebook.

Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy shares "Lessons in a Picture Book." A Lesson plan for pancakes and how to make your own butter! You can also find True Confessions of a Real Mommy on Facebook and Twitter.

Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction shares "Tips for Road Tripping with a Toddler." A long car trip with a young child can be a great way to make some wonderful memories if you are prepared to meet the challenges. You can also find Monkey Butt Junction on Facebook and Twitter. 

Abbie at Farmer's Daughter shares "Maple Cinnamon Swirl Bread." This recipe tutorial shows you how to make a sweet whole wheat bread with beautiful cinnamon swirls in each slice. You can also find Farmer's Daughter on Facebook and Twitter.

Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares "How To Consume Coconut Oil Plus Coconut Oil Candy Recipes." This post provides some tips on how to get your daily dose of coconut oil down the hatch. It also provides some very tasty recipes for coconut oil candy! You can also find Hybrid Rasta Mama on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google +.

Alicia at Lactation Narration gives some ideas for how to accomplish Partial Weaning for moms who would like to cut down on nursing without completely weaning. You can also find Lactation Narration on Facebook and Twitter.

Cynthia at The Hippie Housewife shares "A Learning-Rich Environment." This post provides a number of suggestions for creating a learning-rich environment and incorporating learning into everyday life, with a particular focus on the preschool age. You can also find The Hippie Housewife on Facebook, Pinterest, and Google +.

BecomingCrunchyKelly at Becoming Crunchy shares "Kale Chips = Awesome!" This post shares a super easy recipe for making a super easy (and surprisingly tasty) snack from one of the most healthful greens around. You can also find Becoming Crunchy on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Shannon at Pineapples & Artichokes shares "How to Move to California." A silly how-to she wrote while she and her then fiance were driving to their new home. You can also find Shannon on Pinterest, Flickr, and Google +.

Gretchen at That Mama Gretchen shares a recipe for "Homemade Fruit Leather." It's easier than you ever thought and the perfect snack for you and your family. You can also find That Mama Gretchen on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Julia at A Little Bit of All of It shares "How I Cloth Diaper (Part 1)." This post details the way Julia has cloth diapered her daughter along with the products she uses. You can also find A Little Bit of All of It on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google +.

Joella at Fine and Fair shares "Our First Sensory Bins." In this post, she shares how she made a "Scoop, Measure, and Pour" themed sensory bin, as well as an "In the Garden" themed bin. She also shares some tips for making your own sensory bins! Fine and Fair can be found on Facebook and Twitter. 

Visit Code Name: MamaFor all of you breastfeeding mamas, Dionna at Code Name: Mama has the ultimate DIY experience with the main ingredient being your breastmilk! 58 Medical, Cosmetic, and Other Alternative Uses for Breastmilk includes a cradle cap remedy, an anti-itch salve, weaning jewelry, lotion, and more. You can also find Dionna on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube.

Melissa at Vibrant Wanderings offers several ideas for "Keeping a Toddler Happily Busy on a Long Flight." The list includes handmade felt activities, among many other things. You can also find Melissa on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google +.

Shannon at The Artful Mama shares "Preparing Toddlers for Birth." This post features MamAmor dolls and shows some alternative ways to talk to toddlers about pregnancy and birth. You can also find The Artful Mama on Facebook and Twitter.

Kym at Our Crazy Corner of the World shares her "Family Binder DIY." This post shows how to put together a family binder, to help organize cleaning, meal planning, shopping and budgeting all in one convenient location!

I Thought I Knew Mama: A window into the adventures of stay at home mamahood, natural parenting, & green and healthy livingCharise at I Thought I Knew Mama shares "5 Green Living, Spring Cleaning Tips." This post provides easy ways to keep the toxins out of your home and to freshen up your home for spring. You can also find I Thought I Knew Mama on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google +.

Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings shares "Daily Bread: My Favorite Whole Grain Bread Machine Recipe." This recipe is easy, highly adaptable, and a great starting point for creating your own daily (or almost daily!) homemade bread. You can also find Intrepid Murmurings on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest.

Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children shares "10 Tips for Toddler Carseat Woes." Check out these ideas of dealing with toddler carseat issues without resorting to punishments. You can also find Living Peacefully with Children on Facebook.

Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment shares "DIY Mom's Night In." A somewhat humorous solution, this post provides exhausted Mamas the recipe for the perfect way to recharge!

Stacy at Sweet Sky shares “Ways to Bring More Mindfulness Into Your Days.” This post provides tips and tricks to bring yourself back to the present moment, so you can be the parent you want to be. You can also find Stacy on Facebook.

AnktangleAmy at Anktangle shows us how to make your own popsicle stick puzzles, a fun and simple "busy bag" activity for toddlers and preschool aged children. You can also find Amy on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google +.

Hobo Mama: A Natural Parenting BlogLauren at Hobo Mama shares "How to sew a mei tai baby carrier." The mei tai is Lauren and Sam's favorite carrier for baby Alrik: as comfortable and simple as it is beautiful. You can also find Hobo Mama on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google +.

Visit African Babies Don't CryChristine at African Babies Don't Cry shares "How to Make Rainbow Coloured Rice (Without Alcohol) for a Toddler Sensory Bin." This post provides a step by step tutorial for making vibrantly coloured rainbow rice for sensory play, includes a printable PDF. You can also find African Babies Don't Cry on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google +.

Luschka of Diary of a First Child shares "How To Send A Hug In An Envelope." This post is a creative way to send more than just the standard card to love ones. It literally is a hug in an envelope! You can also find Diary of a First Child on Facebook, and Twitter.

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Thanks for your support!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Unseasonably Warm

There really are no words for the weather we've been having lately. In March. In Wisconsin. Observe:

Happy Spring!

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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Gentle Weaning: Mission Accomplished

Dear Delilah,

Photo by Nicole Aarstad
of Bella Photography
A little while back, I wrote to you about some mixed feelings I was having about our progress toward weaning. A couple of weeks after writing that, you were down to nursing just two to three times a week. I had decided that I wanted to cut out the bedtime nursing session, so for those couple of weeks, your father took over the bedtime duties. When he put you to bed, you were perfectly content to skip nursing, but if I was involved in bedtime, you always asked.

On Wednesday night, the week before what turned out to be your final taste of mama's milk, your father returned from putting you to bed to find me a bit emotional and weepy. When he asked what was wrong, I told him that you hadn't asked to nurse since that Monday morning, and that I was having more mixed feelings about weaning. He gently reminded me that there was no rule saying that I couldn't offer to nurse if I was so inclined, and gently cautioned me that I should be prepared for you to decline the offer if I made it. (As a side note, I can't say enough about how supportive and wonderful your father has been throughout our nursing journey. It was he who helped me position you to nurse for the first time in the recovery room when the unhelpful nurses started mentioning formula. From the moment you started nursing to the moment you stopped, he has been thoughtful, kind, gentle, and caring as he did his best to understand what I thought and how I felt every step of the way.)

The next morning, once again, you didn't ask to nurse. I was feeling weepy and emotional and my boobs hurt, and I was very confused about what I should do. I turned to one of my most trusted group of friends, many of whom I knew would understand how I was feeling; the amazing bunch that make up the Natural Parents Network volunteers.

With their kindness and support, I decided to go ahead and offer to nurse you at nap time. I was terrified that you would want nothing to do with it. My fears were unwarranted; when I offered, your face lit up in a huge smile and you started smacking your lips, saying, "Num-num!" Rather than end the nursing session after a few minutes as I'd grown accustomed to doing, I let you nurse until you decided you were done. If this was the last time you nursed, I wanted it to end when you were ready for it to end. Several times, you popped off and looked up and smiled at me, saying, "Num-num!" before enthusiastically returning to my breast. While you nursed, I talked to you about how much I had loved making milk for you, and how you would soon be all done with Mama's milk. I gently stroked your hair and cheek and thanked you for the beautiful nursing experience we'd had together.

When it came to an end, I wasn't sure if I'd offer again or not. I felt very at peace, knowing that we'd had a very mindful and meaningful nursing session together. I knew that if that was the last time you nursed, I'd remember it, and fondly. One of my fears in weaning was that one day, I'd up and realize that you hadn't nursed in weeks, and that I wouldn't be able to remember the last time you'd nursed.

As it turned out, you nursed one more time after that lovely afternoon. The following Monday morning, you woke up earlier than usual, as your father was getting ready to leave for work. I was certainly not ready to get up yet, so your father tucked you in bed next to me. You immediately asked for milk, and nursed off and on as we both drifted in and out of sleep. Those lazy mornings nursing were always my favorite, so it was significant to me that you chose this as your last request for my milk. Also significant to me was the date: February 20. The third anniversary of the date of your conception. Three years, to the date, from conception to weaning. The best three years of my life so far.



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Monday, March 19, 2012

Meatless Monday: Starting Seeds

One of the best ways to increase your vegetable consumption (and by extension, decrease your meat consumption) is to grow your own vegetables. Not everyone has the garden space that we do (and some have much more!) but even a small patio or balcony can host a modest container garden that can provide quick and easy produce for meatless meals. (Check out this tour of Amy @ Anktangle's garden, including her bountiful container garden!)

Starting vegetables and herbs from seed is an easy and inexpensive way to start a garden growing. In addition to being a useful activity, seed starting is a fun way to get kids involved in gardening, and to start teaching them about where their food comes from. Depending on your climate, you may be able to start seeds outdoors in early Spring. If you live in a cooler climate, but still want a head start on growing those veggies, you can start seeds indoors, like we do! Indoor seed starting helps scratch my gardening itch when it's not practical to do any planting outside.

You don't need any fancy equipment to get started. We used a seed starting greenhouse kit like this one, but some dixie cups with small holes poked in the bottom for drainage filled with dirt work just fine!

Follow the instructions on the packets for planting the vegetables you're growing. Depending on the veggies you choose, you might start to see some little green sprouts poking through the dirt within a week (our broccoli babies are peeking their heads out after just 3 days). Make sure to keep the growing medium/dirt moist, but don't over-water! When it's time to transplant the seedlings into the garden or containers, the best strategy is to "harden" the seedlings, or gradually transition them to the outdoors by putting them outside for a few hours a day, gradually increasing the time they spend outside until you leave them overnight for a day or two before they move into their permanent homes.

The hardest part of starting seeds is choosing what to plant! This probably isn't the time to start experimenting with new vegetables that you aren't sure you'll like. Plant things you already know you love and use often; save the experimentation for the farmer's market! This year, we started tomatoes, broccoli, lettuce, spinach, sugar snap peas, bush beans, squash, bell peppers, cucumbers, and green onions. We also started some herbs, including basil, oregano, and cilantro. Of course, seed starting doesn't have to be limited to edibles, you can start flowers from seed too. After all, you're going to want some pretty bouquets to adorn your table when you serve delicious meatless meals!

If you don't have the space to grow your own veggies, consider CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) shares, weekly trips to farmer's markets, community garden plots, or offering to work in a friend's garden in exchange for some of their produce or space to grow your own.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Our First Sensory Bins!

I've been lusting after some of the ideas for sensory tables that I've seen on Pinterest and various blogs, but alas, a sensory table isn't very practical for us. Sensory bins, on the other hand, can be manageable for any budget, skill level, and space! I picked up a couple of large, shallow storage bins with lids, then took a trip to the grocery and craft stores to find things to fill them with. Dollar and thrift stores are other great places to find items for sensory bins on a tight budget!

The first bin I made was so simple, I was afraid Delilah would be bored with it. The theme for this bin was "scoop, measure, and pour":

Scoop, Measure, & Pour Sensory Bin
This bin contains 4 bags of dried beans, a large liquid measuring cup, a set of dry measuring cups, and a set of measuring spoons.

It doesn't look like much, and I was skeptical about how much fun Delilah would have with it, but she had a blast using the spoons to scoop beans into the measuring cups, and then pouring the cups into the larger liquid measuring cup. Of course, the very first thing she did was to scoop up a spoonful of beans, toss it in the air, and then watch them hit the floor around the bin. All I did was say "Uh-oh! We want to keep the beans inside the bin!" and from that moment on, she was great at keeping her play within the boundaries of the bin. Any time a bean went astray, she'd exclaim "Uh-oh!" and immediately put it back in the bin.

Despite my fears that this bin was too simple to be much fun, she requests to play with it frequently, and it keeps her happily occupied for upwards of half an hour. She even added muffin cups to it for another item to pour into!

For the second bin, I was going for an "In the Garden" feel:

"In the Garden Sensory" Bin
This bin has rice as the "base", and contains silk flowers and leaves (pulled off of the larger stems), mini terracotta pots, plastic bugs, decorative birds (like you'd put on a wreath, if you were into that sort of thing), garden tools, and a magnifying glass.

 She loves shoveling and raking the rice, putting flowers in the flower pots, and looking at the bugs with the magnifying glass. This bin is perfect for "playing in the garden" when the weather makes playing outside in the actual garden impractical.

I'm certainly not an expert, but now that I've got a couple of them under my belt, here are some tips for making sensory bins:

  • Keep it simple! While I was afraid that the "Scoop, Measure, & Pour" bin was too plain, it was perfect. On the other hand, the amount of stuff in the "In the Garden" bin was almost overwhelming for Delilah. When I get my hands on another bin, I might take out the bugs and birds and do a separate "Birds and Bees" bin to simplify the garden one.
  • Offer guidance, but not too much. Rather than instructing kids on how to play with the items in the bin, let them be creative! Limit instructions to guiding safe play, such as "Please keep the beans in the bin" "This rice is for playing but not for eating", etc.
  • Play with the bins on a hard surface such as a table or non-carpeted floor for easier clean up. I found that the rice was messier than the beans, since beans are easier for little fingers to pick and put back in the bin when they find their way out.
  • Involve your kid(s) in creating the bins! Delilah picked out the flowers and birds at the craft store and was excited to see them in her garden bin. Also, let kids add appropriate items as they sit fit! In the middle of playing with the "Scoop, Measure, & Pour" bin, Delilah got up, went to the kitchen, and got some muffin cups to add to it. I would have never thought of them, but she loves having them in there for another option to scoop beans into.  
Have you made sensory bins? What have you put in them? I'd love to hear about them or see photos! :)

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Monday, March 12, 2012

Meatless Monday: Vegan Green Chili

When I saw that the recipe of the month at our Chiropractor's office was "Vegetarian Green Chili", I couldn't wait to try it! I easily veganized it, and the results were delicious. This Green Chili is flavorful and filling, with just the right amount of kick. This recipe makes about 8 servings (more if you serve it over rice or pasta, like we did) and takes about an hour from gathering the ingredients to serving time (about 30 minutes prep, 30 minutes cooking).

What You'll Need:
  • 2 Tablespoons cooking oil of your choice (choose coconut!!)
  • 1 bunch of green onions (about 1/2 cup chopped)
  • 6 cloves (or more!) of garlic, minced
  • 2 green bell peppers, chopped
  • 3-5 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 2 12-oz. packages of frozen shelled soybeans (edamame)
  • 1 can of chopped green chiles (Original recipe called for a 4.5 oz can. I used a 7 oz can. I don't regret it.)
  • 1 Tbsp. cumin
  • 1 can each navy and cannellini beans
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 jar of salsa verde (green salsa)
  • 6 cups fresh spinach, chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 3 avocados, peeled, pitted, and diced
  • Optional: yogurt or sour cream to top with
What You'll Do:

  • First things first, chop everything that needs to be chopped. I'm serious. I tried to do as I usually do and chop as I go, and it almost resulted in an anxiety attack burned chili because I couldn't keep up.
  • Do you have a dutch oven? Well go ahead and use it, fancy pants! If your pants are less fancy, like mine, just use a large (6 Quart or larger) sauce pan. Heat your oil in it, then add the onions and garlic and cook and stir for about 2 minutes over medium-high heat. Add the bell peppers and celery and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. 
  • Add the edamame and green chiles and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. 
  • Add the broth, salsa verde, and cumin. Bring it all to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for about 15 minutes. 

  • Stir in the spinach and canned beans. Cook for about a minute, until spinach wilts. 
  • Remove from heat and stir in the cilantro and 2 of the diced avocados. Use the remaining avocado to top each serving. Since I knew I would be freezing about half of this, I didn't stir any avocado into the pot of chili, because the idea of freezing and thawing avocado makes me squeamish. I just stirred some into each serving and then added some on top. 
  • ENJOY!

Thanks to Allied Health Chiropractic Center for the great recipe!
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Monday, March 5, 2012

Meatless Monday: Pinterest Recipe Board

I'm cheating today in a major way. I promise to make it up to you next week with an amazing recipe, but between a jam-packed weekend, a house full of sickies, and preparing for a 50 hour work week, (What was I thinking when I agreed to cover a co-worker's vacation? Oy.) I didn't have time to get a recipe put together for today.

Instead, I give you my Pinterest Recipe Board. It is chock full of vegetarian (or easily adapted) recipes, some of which you might recognize from right here! ;) I haven't tried all of them yet, so if you happen to try any, please leave me a comment and let me know how they turn out!

Stay tuned next week for a recipe you won't want to miss! Seriously. I made it last night, and I can hardly wait until it's lunch time and I can chow down on a heaping serving of leftovers.

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