Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: All Dressed and Ready to Go!

She took "You can just wear leggings today" literally!

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Monday, February 27, 2012

Meatless Monday: Banana Coconut Chocolate Chip Muffins

Okay, so I'm totally I'm cheating. I mean, duh, muffins are meatless. You don't need me to tell you that. But I am anyway, because this simple base recipe for banana muffins (well, the original recipe was for banana bread...details, details) is so moist and delicious and can be changed up in so many delicious ways! This time around, I added chocolate chips and coconuts. It's fabulous even without add-ins, but you can add just about anything you'd want in a muffin. Except meat. Don't add meat. This recipe yields 2 dozen muffins or one loaf of bread. Prep time is about 15 minutes; baking time is 20-25 minutes for muffins, 75-90 minutes for bread. The muffins freeze well. I'm sure the bread would do, but I've never had a loaf last long enough to find out.

What You'll Need:

  • 1 Stick of Butter (softened)
  • 1 Cup of Sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 3 Tablespoons Milk (I used whole milk this time, but have used soy milk in the past with good results)
  • 4-5 "very ripe" bananas. The browner, the better! If you're like me and always end up with one or two bananas that are too ripe for your liking, throw 'em in the freezer and save 'em up until you have enough. Just take them out a few hours ahead of time so they can thaw out.
  • 2 Cups of Flour (I've used anything from regular ol' white flour to super brown whole wheat flour.)
  • 1 Teaspoon of Baking Soda
  • 1-2 Cups of "Add-ins" Limit it to 1 cup if you're doing bread, otherwise you might overflow your pan. I used 1 cup chocolate chips and about 3/4 cup shredded coconut. Chocolate chips alone are also excellent; raisins, craisins, and nuts are good too. It just occurred to me that pineapple and coconut would make an amazing combo. I might just try that next time.
What You'll Do:
  • Preheat oven to 350F.
  • In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar, then add the eggs and milk.
  • In a separate bowl, mash the bananas, then add to the mixture in the large bowl and mix together. The batter will be lumpy. That's okay. In fact, it's better that way. Stir in your add-ins with a spoon.
  • Grease or cooking-spray the muffin tins (or bread pan) or use paper liners in the muffin tins. Fill the muffin cups (or bread pan) about 3/4 full.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes (muffins) or 75-90 minutes (bread). After shortest baking time, check with toothpick. When toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, your muffins (or bread) are done.
  • Turn out from pan and cool on a wire rack. I'm serious. I know it's tempting, but if you eat them too soon, you'll burn your mouth. It might be worth it. I'm just saying.
  • Enjoy!

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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Minus Ten Crunchy Points

Welcome to the "I'm a Natural Parent - BUT..." Carnival
This post was written for inclusion in the carnival hosted by The Artful Mama and Natural Parents Network. During this carnival our participants have focused on the many different forms and shapes Natural Parenting can take in our community.
If you're a parent and have access to the internet, you've probably heard of "The Mommy Wars". While online parenting communities can be invaluable resources for support and information, unfortunately, they can also be full of judgment and exclusion if you don't do everything "perfectly". In "natural" parenting circles, I sometimes see a "crunchier than thou" attitude, even in the most inclusive communities. Sadly, this most often comes out when parents are seeking support or advice, or beginning to research difficult decisions. Instead of being met with answers to their questions or fingers pointing them in the right direction, they are met with judgment and fingers pointing at them, asking "How dare you call yourself a natural parent if you would even consider __________?"

What has been perhaps the most fascinating to me in these crunchy mommy wars is that the very things that would get me kicked out of the crunchy club online are things that make me seem almost too crunchy to many of my family and friends in "real life". I consider myself a Natural Parent, even though I don't do everything by the Crunchy Bible, whatever that may be. I think Dr. Sears (whose work I love! don't get me wrong!) probably wrote it.

So yes, I'm a natural parent, BUT...

C-Section babies can choose their birthdays too.
I had a planned (but not scheduled) c-section. Due to complications at the end of my pregnancy and breech presentation, I had a c-section. I refused to schedule it, since there was no immediate danger, and I wanted to go into labor naturally so that I knew my baby was ready to be born. It was difficult for me to come to terms with after researching and preparing for an unmedicated waterbirth, but after trying everything (and I mean everything) to turn my baby, alas, a surgical birth it was.

  • IRL (In Real Life) Reactions: You should just schedule it! You could pick her birthday and know for sure when she's coming! Why would you want to go through the pain of labor if you know you're having a c-section anyway? What kind of hippie are you?
  • OCMC (Online Crunchy Mama Clubs) Reactions: You should consider an unassisted birth at home! Minus 10 Crunchy Points!
We transitioned our daughter to her crib in her own room by 6 months, and only co-slept part time after that. My daughter and I are both pretty light sleepers, and we were constantly waking each other up with the slightest movement. When she started sleeping on her own, nights were better for all of us. When she woke up in the night, she was (and still is) welcome to join us in our family bed.

Alone in her crib.
Clearly traumatized.
  • IRL Reactions: Why would you have your baby in bed with you at all? She should have been in a crib on her own from the beginning! I can't believe you still let her into your bed! She'll never learn to sleep alone! What kind of hippie are you?
  • OCMC Reactions: Your baby belongs next to you. Bed-sharing at least through preschool is the only acceptable option for attached parents. Minus 10 Crunchy Points!
I work part-time. My daughter is in daycare 1-2 half days per week. After a four month maternity leave, I returned to my part-time job. This past summer, I added another part-time job to the mix. (I work fewer than 30 hours per week at both jobs, combined.) Between the way my husband and I have arranged our schedules and my very helpful mother, we have managed to minimize the time that Delilah spends at the in-home daycare run by one of my best friends.
  • IRL Reactions: How will she get proper socialization if she spends so little time at daycare? Wouldn't you rather be getting paid more and earning benefits by working full time? How sheltered she must be! What kind of hippie are you?
  • OCMC Reactions: Babies must have a stay-at-home parent in order to form proper and healthy attachments. You are damaging your child by leaving her in the care of others. If you really cared about natural parenting, you would find a way to stay home with her. Minus 10 Crunchy Points.
I began a mother-led form of weaning (don't offer, don't refuse) when my daughter turned 2. While I feel strongly that child-led weaning is ideal, I also feel strongly that a nursing relationship should continue only for as long as it is mutually desired. My desire to continue breastfeeding was waning, so I began to gently lead the weaning process.
She asked, she received.
  • IRL Reactions: You're still breastfeeding your 2 year old? GROSS! What kind of hippie are you?
  • OCMC Reactions: Children must be allowed to continue breastfeeding until they feel ready to stop. You are disrupting a natural process by leading the weaning process and denying your child her birthright. Minus 10 Crunchy Points.
We vaccinate selectively, and on a delayed schedule, never giving more than one shot at a time. We did thorough research and weighed the risks of vaccine reactions against the risks of the diseases they protect against. With our doctors help and support, we came up with a selective and delayed vaccination schedule that we're all comfortable with.
  • IRL Reactions: You are endangering your daughter's life by not fully vaccinating her according to the CDC recommended schedule. Every rash or illness or undesirable behavior she has is a direct result of not being fully vaccinated. Forget hippie, you're insane!
  • OCMC Reactions: You are endangering your daughter's life by giving her any vaccinations at all.  Every rash or illness or undesirable behavior she has is a direct result of having been vaccinated. Forget Crunchy Points, you are kicked out of the club!

Am I perfect Natural Parent? Nope. Not by any stretch of the imagination. I do the best I can, and make adaptations for what works best for my family. By some standards, I'm far too crunchy. By other standards, I have no right to call myself a natural parent at all. By my standards, and from what I can tell, by my daughter's standards, I've struck just the right balance for us, and to this hippie, that's worth all the crunchy points in the world!

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I'm a Natural Parent — But … Blog CarnivalThis carnival was created by The Artful Mama and Natural Parents Network. We recognize that "natural parenting" means different things to different families, and we are dedicated to providing a safe place for all families, regardless of where they are in their parenting journeys.
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

It Just Keeps Getting Better

Dear Delilah,

Your Grandma Bev comes over to watch you once a week (sometimes more) while I work. She and I don't often get much time to chat when she comes, since I'm usually rushing out the door to get to a meeting on time. A couple of weeks ago, we had a bit more time, and we were talking about how so many parents "repeat the cycle" of parenting the way they were parented.

When I was pregnant with you, one of the themes that I saw coming up over and over again in parenting communities and among my parent friends was poor boundaries between parents and grandparents. I read tale after tale of Grandparents undermining new parents, brushing off their parenting philosophies as silly, or insisting that that they know better. It occurred to me that this tendency of Grandparents to insist that they know better than parents might play a big part in the phenomenon of "repeating the cycle". As a group, generally speaking, new parents aren't known for their confidence and assertiveness in regards to their parenting skills and philosophies. So when people who have already raised children offer their advice or admonishment, it's easy for new parents to assume their instincts are wrong and defer to those who've done it before.

Anyway, back to that chat with your Grandma. As we were talking, she talked about how she did things very differently than her own mother. She knew that she wanted her children to experience some things differently than she had, so she made some changes. She didn't repeat the cycle. I got a little nervous as she went on to say that she sees how I am doing some things differently than she did. But what she said next surprised me. She put her arms around you and smiled and said "It just keeps getting better."

That simple statement was quite possibly the most meaningful piece of praise I've received as a parent. It's true, I'm doing some things differently than my mother did. Does that mean she was a bad mother? Not at all. In fact, some of the really important stuff, I hope I'm able to do half as well as she did. I hope that you are always as comfortable talking with me about uncomfortable topics as I was with her. I didn't hesitate to go to her to talk about sex, birth control, drugs and alcohol, and a variety of other things that many kids avoid discussing with their parents at all costs.  I hope that you will always feel as loved, supported, respected, and appreciated as she has made me feel. I hope that I will instill in you the importance of living according to your values, the way she instilled it in me, even if those values are different than mine, the way some of mine are different than hers.

Now that I'm a parent myself, I realize that one of the most important things I've learned from her is that being a parent doesn't stop at some arbitrary cut off point. Parents don't stop being parents when their children turn 18, or when they move out, or when they graduate college, or when they get married or when they become parents themselves. The way they parent changes, but the role of parent doesn't end; it simply evolves. If you become a mother yourself, I hope that I will follow in my own mother's footsteps in mothering a mother. She has led by example, by respecting my choices, by trusting that I make informed decisions that work best for my unique family, by offering advice or suggestions only when they're asked for, and by demonstrating that the other half of "you'll always be my baby" is "you'll always be mother".

You'll always be my baby Delilah. I hope you'll let me always be your mother. If you become a mother, I hope that you'll take from me what served you well growing up, and I hope you'll improve on my parenting in any way you can. So that it just keeps getting better.


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Monday, February 20, 2012

Meatless Monday: Basic Breakfast Scramble

This basic breakfast scramble is a morning staple at our house. I end up making it twice a week, and there are usually leftovers that reheat nicely the next day. This is a vegetarian dish containing eggs and dairy. The dairy ingredients could be substituted with non-dairy alternatives or left out. If you're already comfortable "scrambling" tofu, the eggs can be replaced with tofu. This makes 4-6 servings. This breakfast takes about 40 minutes from gathering the ingredients to serving time, so it's best for mornings when you have plenty of time.

What You'll Need:

  • 4-6 Eggs (I like mine less eggy, so I use 4, but you can use 6 or even more if you'd like!)
  • 4-6 Small potatoes (or 2-3 large potatoes)
  • 2-4 Vegetarian "Sausage" patties
  • Veggies of your choice (I used mushrooms and a green bell pepper this time around. Zucchini also works well, as do onions, asparagus, or broccoli.)
  • Milk of your choice (about one tablespoon per egg)
  • Cooking oil of your choice (Choose coconut!)
  • All purpose seasoning of your choice. (I like Bragg Organic Sprinkle)
  • As much shredded cheese of your choice (I use sharp cheddar) as you can stand.
What You'll Do:
  • Heat a few tablespoons of cooking oil in a large skillet or frying pan over Medium-High heat.
  • Cut the potatoes in half, then in half again lengthwise, then thinly slice them. When the oil is heated, add them to the pan, tossing or stirring to coat. If you're using an onion, dice the onion and add that to the pan first. Allow the potatoes to cook for about 5 minutes, tossing or stirring occasionally. 
  • Dice up the green pepper (or whatever veggies you're using). Add them to the pan. Toss or stir to coat. 
  • There are few different ways to handle the "sausage". You can either add the frozen patties to the pan, using a wooden spoon to break them up as they cook, or pre-cook them. I prefer to zap them in the microwave for about 20 seconds, then flip and zap another 20 seconds, then cut them up into small pieces and add to the pan. If you prefer not to use mircrowaves, you could also precook them in a separate small skillet, but at that point, you might as well just head back to the beginning of this bullet point and add the frozen patties right to the pan.
  • Allow the veggie/sausage mixture to cook for 5-10 minutes, until sausage is heated through and the potatoes begin to soften. Reduce the heat to Medium-Low and allow the pan to cool down before...
  • In a bowl, combine the eggs, milk, and all-purpose seasoning, using a fork or whisk.

  •  When the pan has cooled down, scoot the veggie mixture over to one side and pour the egg mixture into the now-empty half of the pan. Allow to cook for a few minutes (more if you've let your pan cool enough, less if you didn't and like eggs with a brown crust on them) until the eggs start to firm up.
  • When the eggs start becoming firm, begin to "scramble" the eggs together with the other ingredients. Continue to cook until the eggs are cooked thoroughly.
  • Smother with as much cheese as you'd like. Cover the pan and keep an eye on it, it will take a minute or two for the cheese to get melty and awesome.
  • Serve immediately and enjoy a hearty, filling, delicious way to start your day!

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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Baby Shower Games (or lack thereof)

Last weekend, I hosted a baby shower for my beautiful sister whose first baby is due in April. Thankfully, she, like me, is not much into silly shower games, so I was off the hook with having to fill disposable diapers with melted candy bars, or have string on hand for people to guess the size of her gorgeous baby belly, or...whatever else people typically do at baby showers. One game we've enjoyed at various showers, however, is the clothespin game.

The clothespin game is simple. Each shower guest is given a clothespin to clip on to their clothing. A words is designated for the game. If you hear someone say the word, you take their clothespin(s). If someone hears you say the word, they take your clothespin(s). At the end of the shower, whoever has the most clothespins wins a prize! The word we designated for Auntie Nay-Nay's shower was "cute".

Even though we weren't doing games, per se, I wanted to do something special to "shower" my sister and her daughter with love and good energy. Something to welcome her daughter into the circle of women there to celebrate my sister's journey into motherhood, and her daughter's journey into life. I thought of asking each guest to bring a bead that represents something about their relationship with my sister, or motherhood, or birth, and then having each guest present the bead, explaining its significance, and then adding it to a string that my sister could wear as a necklace or just hold on to during labor and birth. While I liked the idea, I knew it might seem a little too "woo-woo" for some of the guests, and perhaps even the guest of honor!

Image Source
My sister mentioned that she had "pinned" a cute shower idea, so I went looking through her Pinterest boards and found these fill-in-the-blank "Wishes for Baby" cards. It took a little while to get everyone gathered to pass out the cards. There were a few kiddos in attendance, so their moms got them situated with Delilah and her Daddy for play time down stairs so the ladies could focus on the mama-to-be. Once we were all situated with food and beverages, I passed out the cards, explaining that when we finished, we'd all read them out loud.

The room got quiet as we all thoughtfully wrote out our wishes for my sister's daughter, my niece. Suddenly through the silence, there was a burst of laughter and song from down stairs, where my husband had supplied all the kids with Ukuleles and was giving a bit of a music lesson. We all laughed, and I had a moment of pride as people commented on what fun they must be having, on how good my husband is with kids, on what a good Daddy he is. I'm pretty sure at least one person lost their clothespin in that moment.

When we finished our cards, we went around the circle introducing ourselves and reflecting on how we know the mama of honor before reading our cards. Some sentiments were silly, some were serious, some witty, some wise. All were filled with love and positivity for the new life joining our family. The room was filled with laughter, tears, and a few more lost clothespins as we made our way around the circle.

Auntie Nay-Nay & Mama
While celebrating my sister as a mother, I couldn't help but wonder if one day, I might be sitting in a similar circle, celebrating my niece's own journey to becoming a mother. Little Harper, you are already so loved by so many. I am so honored to help support your mother as she brings you into the world, and I can't wait to be your Auntie and watch you grow. I hope I'll be as good an Auntie to you as your Mama is to your cousin!

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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Accentuate the Positive

Welcome to the February 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Respectful Interactions With Other Parents
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 focused on how we can communicate with other parents compassionately.

Given the nature of my work as both a Parent Coach and Substance Abuse Counselor, interacting with those who parent differently than I do is a near daily occurrence. As a Parent Coach, I work with parents who have CPS (Child Protective Services) involvement, usually due to allegations of abuse or neglect. Most parents don’t abuse or neglect their children by virtue of their commitment to gentle, nurturing parenting practices, so it’s safe to say that nearly every parent I work with has a different parenting philosophy than I do. While my work as a Substance Abuse Counselor isn’t so directly focused on parenting, parenting issues certainly come up as people work to change their lives.

One thing that serves me well in maintaining compassion for those I work with is using a strength-based approach. Rather than focusing on what I think parents might be doing wrong, I seek out something they’re doing right, no matter how small, and I work to amplify and build on that strength. By finding a skill or value that I can affirm or praise, I help to build confidence in the parents I work with while strengthening my relationship with them.

When parents I work with say or do something that could potentially jeopardize the health, safety, or well-being of their children, I try to pause long enough to remind myself that a) my values are not universal values and b) that they are likely parenting the way they were parented. Many of the parents I work with were raised with different values than the ones I maintain. Many of them suffered horrible abuse and neglect at the hands of their own parents. Many of them suffer from addictions that cause them to say or do things that they’d find atrocious if they were sober. I try to remember that most parents are doing the best they can with what they have, and that “what they have” is not just material possessions or financial resources, but skills and knowledge. “When you know better, you do better,” so I work to gently guide them into learning better, so that they have the resources to do better.

Let's say I'm working with a parent who uses spanking as their primary disciplinary technique. Rather than jumping in with "spanking is bad, here's why, do this instead", I first ask the parent how spanking serves them. What do they see as the benefits of spanking? Why did they decide to use spanking? What are the drawbacks?

The answers to these questions can help me choose some alternatives that might bring about similar results and might be even more consistent with their values than spanking. But first, I ask permission. In the absence of immediate safety threats, I don't give advice until I've been invited to do so. I start by affirming something about the way they've been doing things (as difficult as that can sometimes be). For example, I might say "It's clear that you care about your children and want them to grow up to be responsible and well-behaved." Then, I ask permission: "Would it be alright if I made some suggestions? There are a few things I've tried/other parents have tried/I've learned about that might be just as effective but might feel better for both of you." Then, if they invite me to do so, I share my advice. I model some different techniques. I invite them to talk with me about what they like and dislike about what I'm suggesting. If they'd rather not hear my suggestions, then I back off and work on another angle to come back to later.

It can be a slow process, to be sure. Even so, I've found that people are more likely to make changes when they are willing participants in those changes, rather than having them forced upon them. People are rarely motivated to change by being shamed, chastised, or accused. I make them the experts about their own family; I'm just someone who has some helpful tools and knowledge that might help them further develop that expertise. I allow them to teach me, too, and always affirm those lessons, no matter how small they might seem.

By building a foundation of trust and compassion, I’m able to help parents improve their inherent strengths and develop a body of new skills and knowledge. By listening, without judgment or interpretation, I’m able to discern their primary values and help them parent in a way that is consistent with those values. I’ve found that people are more open to consider making changes when they don’t feel they’re being judged or ridiculed for the choices they have made.

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be live and updated by afternoon February 14 with all the carnival links.)
  • How to Respond Respectfully to Unwanted Parenting Advice and Judgment — At Natural Parents Network, Amy (of Peace 4 Parents) offers some ways to deal with parenting advice and criticism, whether it's from your mom or the grocery store clerk.
  • Judgement is Natural - Just Don't Condemn — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shared her views on why judgment is unavoidable and why the bigger issue is condemnation.
  • Four Ways To Share Your Parenting Philosophy Gently — Valerie at Momma in Progress shares tips for communicating with fellow parents in a positive, peaceful manner.
  • When Other Parents Disagree With You — Being an attachment parent is hard enough, but when you are Lily, aka Witch Mom, someone who does not enforce gender roles on her kid, who devalues capitalism and materialism, and instead prefers homeschooling and homesteading — you are bound to disagree with someone, somewhere!
  • Mama Bashing — Lucy at Dreaming Aloud reflects on the hurt caused on the blogosphere by mama bashing and pleads for a more mindful way of dealing with differences.
  • Accentuate the Positive — Joella at Fine and Fair shares how she manages interactions with the parents she encounters in her work as a Parent Coach and Substance Abuse Counselor by building trusting relationships and affirming strengths.
  • The politics of mothers – keys to respectful interactions with other parents — Tara from MUMmedia offers great tips for handling the inevitable conflict of ideas and personalities in parenting/mother's groups, etc.
  • Trying to build our village — Sheila at A Gift Universe tells how she went from knowing no other moms in her new town to building a real community of mothers.
  • Internet Etiquette in the Mommy Wars — Shannon at The Artful Mama discusses how she handles heated topics in the "Mommy-space" online.
  • Parenting with Convictions — Sarah at Parenting God's Children encourages love and support for fellow parents and their convictions.
  • How To Be Respectful Despite Disagreeing On Parenting Styles... — Jenny at I'm a Full-Time Mummy shares her two cents' worth on how to have respectful interactions with other parents despite disagreeing on parenting styles.
  • Public RelationsMomma Jorje touches on keeping the peace when discussing parenting styles.
  • Navigating Parenting Politics — Since choosing an alternative parenting style means rejecting the mainstream, Miriam at The Other Baby Book shares a few simple tips that can help avoid hurt feelings.
  • Hiding in my grace cave — Lauren at Hobo Mama wants to forget that not all parents are as respectful and tolerant as the people with whom she now surrounds herself.
  • Carnival of Natural Parenting - Respectful Interactions with Other Parents — Wolfmother at Fabulous Mama Chronicles explores how her attitude has changed regarding sharing information and opinions with others and how she now chooses to keep the peace during social outings.
  • Empathy and respect — Helen at zen mummy tries to find her zen in the midst of the Mummy Wars.
  • Not Holier Than Thou — Amyables at Toddler in Tow muses about how she's learned to love all parents, despite differences, disagreements, and awkward conversations.
  • Nonviolent Communication and Unconditional Love — Wendylori at High Needs Attachment reflects on the choice to not take offense as the key to honest and open communication.
  • Respectful Parenting As a Way of Life — Sylvia at MaMammalia writes about using her parenting philosophy as a guide to dealing with other parents who make very different choices from her.
  • Homeschooling: Why Not? — Kerry at City Kids Homeschooling shares how parents can often make homeschooling work for their family even if, at first glance, it may seem daunting.
  • If You Can’t Say Something Nice… — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells her philosophy for online and offline interactions … a philosophy based primarily on a children’s movie.
  • Different Rules for Different Families — Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children discusses how differences between families affect our children, and how that can be a good thing.
  • Respectful Interaction With Other Parents — Luschka at Diary of a First Child shares the ways she surrounds herself with a like-minded support network, so that she can gently advocate in her dealings with those whose opinions on parenting differ vastly from her own.
  • Parenting as a mirror — Rather than discrediting others' parenting styles, Kate Wicker discusses why she tries to focus on doing right rather than being right — and why she’s also not afraid to show others that she’s a heartfelt but imperfect mama just trying to be the best mom for her family.
  • The One Thing {Most} Parents Have In Common: They Try Their Best — Christine at African Babies Don't Cry finds interacting with other parents easier once she accepts that they are all just trying their best, just like her.
  • Finding your mama-groove: 5 ways to eliminate judge/be judged metalityMudpieMama reveals 5 ways of thinking that have helped her find her mama-groove and better navigate tricky parenting discussions.
  • Speaking Up For Those Who Can't — We've all had those moments when someone said something hurtful or insensitive, or downright rude that just shocks you to your core, and you're stunned into silence. Afterwards, you go home and think "Gosh, I wish I said…" This post by Arpita at Up Down, And Natural is for all the breastfeeding mamas who have thought "Gosh, I wish I said…"
  • Thank you for your opinion — Gaby at Tmuffin shares her go-to comment when she feels like others are judging her parenting style.
  • Mending — A playground conversation about jeans veers off course until a little mending by Kenna at Million Tiny Things is needed.
  • The Thing You Don't Know — Kelly at Becoming Crunchy talks about what she believes is one of the most important things you can consider when it comes to compassionate communication with other parents.
  • 3 Tips for Interacting with Other Parents Respectfully When You Disagree with Them — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama shares what she has learned about respectful interactions on her parenting journey.
  • Peacefully Keeping My Cool: Quotes from Ana — How do you keep your cool? Ana from Pandamoly shares some of her favorite retorts and conversation starters when her Parenting Ethos comes into question.
  • Kind Matters — Carrie at Love Notes Mama discusses how she strives to be the type of person she'd want to meet.
  • Doing it my way but respecting your highway. — Terri from Child of the Nature Isle is determined to walk with her family on the road less travelled whether you like it or not!
  • Saying "I'm Right and You're Wrong" Seldom Does Much To Improve Your Cause... — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment writes about how living by example motivates her actions and interactions with others.
  • Have another kid and you won't care — Cassie of There's a Pickle in My Life, after having her second child, knows exactly how to respond to opposing advice.
  • Ten Tips to Communicate Respectfully, Even When You Disagree — What if disagreements with our partners, our children or even complete strangers ultimately led to more harmony and deeper connections? They can! Dionna at Code Name: Mama shares ten tips to strengthen our relationships in the midst of conflict.
  • A Little Light Conversation — Zoie at TouchstoneZ explains why respect needs to be given to every parent unconditionally.
  • Why I used to hide the formula box — Laura at Pug in the Kitchen finally talks about how judgement between parents changed her views on how she handles differences in parenting.
  • Assumptions — Nada at minimomist discusses how not everyone is able to nurse, physically, mentally, or emotionally.
  • Shushing Your Inner Judgey McJudgerson — Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction knows that judging others is easy to do, but recognizing that we all parent from different perspectives takes work.
  • Respectfully Interacting with Others Online — Lani at Boobie Time Blog discusses the importance of remaining respectful behind the disguise of the internet.
  • Presumption of Good Will — Why — and how — Crunchy Con Mommy is going to try to assume the best of people she disagrees with on important issues.
  • Being Gracious with Parenting Advice — Tips for giving and receiving parenting advice with grace from Lisa at My World Edenwild.
  • Explain, Smile, Escape — Don't know what to do when you're confronted by another parent who disagrees with you? Amy at Anktangle shares a story from her life along with a helpful method for navigating these types of tricky situations (complete with a handy flow chart!).
  • Balancing Cultures and ChoicesDulce de leche discusses the challenges of walking the tightrope between generations while balancing cultural and family ties.
  • Linky - Parenting Peacefully with Social MediaHannabert's Mom discusses parenting in a social media world.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Meatless Monday: Seitan Stroganoff

I'm going to be frank here. I have no idea what "Stroganoff" actually means, so I apologize in advance if I'm grossly mistaken in applying it to this dish. I tend to think of it as anything with egg noodles and a mushroomy sauce, hence, Seitan Stroganoff. This dish is vegetarian, but could be made vegan with some substitutions. This yields 6-8 servings, and leftovers freeze well. It took about 40 minutes to get from gathering the ingredients to the table.

What You'll Need:

  • Egg noodles, or a suitable substitute. Rice would work just fine. Another type of pasta would do in a pinch.
  • Cooking Oil of your choice. I think you should choose coconut. ;)
  • An Onion and as much garlic as you like. I used 3 cloves.
  • Seitan.  Most traditional grocery stores should carry it these days. If you're not sure where to find it, ask someone who works at the grocery store. If they don't know, ask them where the tofu is. The seitan is probably right next to it. If you can't find it, tofu, tempeh, or a meat analog would work fine.
  • Mushrooms. Pretty much any standard, run of the mill mushroom will work. I like mini-portabellas.  I get the pre-sliced ones, because I'm lazy efficient.
  • Any other veggies you might like to add. Peas, broccoli, and green beans are all good choices. I had limited options this time, and used canned peas.
  • For the sauce: A can of cream of mushroom soup, vegetable stock (not pictured), soy milk (or plain milk of your choice) and Bragg Liquid Aminos or soy sauce. Ignore the Worcestershire sauce in the photo. I pulled it out of the fridge in a brain dead moment, thinking, "Hey, maybe I could use some of this up that we've had since a super bowl party a few years ago that we made bloody marys at" and then remembered that it's not vegetarian! (It has anchovies in it.) 
  • Seasonings. That's not terribly helpful, is it? I used, salt, pepper, Bragg Organic Sprinkle, oregano, Italian seasoning, and celery salt.
What You'll Do:

  • Start boiling water in a large (at least 6 quart) sauce pan or stock pot. It takes forever to boil enough water to make a whole package of noodles, so seriously, do this first. If you're going to make it tomorrow, start boiling the water now. :p
  • Heat 2-3 tablespoons of your cooking oil over Medium-High heat in a large skillet, frying pan, or wok. 
  • Mince your garlic and dice your onion. When the oil is hot enough, add the onions to the pan. If you toss an onion in the oil and it dances with delight, the oil is hot enough. If it just sits there all sad and motionless, wait a little longer. As the onions start to soften, add the garlic. Stir/toss frequently.
  • Take the Seitan out of the package. Yes, it's supposed to look like that. Cut it up into small pieces, like so: 

  • Add the Seitan to the pan and toss or stir to coat and incorporate. If you're adding any fresh or frozen veggies, add those now. Canned veggies can wait til later.
  • At this point, I hope your water is boiling. Throw your egg noodles in and cook according to package directions. 
  • If your mushrooms are not pre-sliced, slice them up, fancy pants. If they are sliced, but not small enough for the pickiest eater of your choice, cut 'em up some more, like I do. (The pickiest eater of my choice is ME.) Add them to the pan with the Seitan and toss or stir.
  • If your noodles aren't done already, they probably will be shortly. When they are, drain them, and let them chill in the sink for a little bit. When I say "chill", I mean hang out without causing a ruckus, not decrease in temperature. Use the pot you cooked them in to mix up the sauce. Add the soup to the pan, then about half a can worth of soy milk (or milk of your choice) and half a can worth of vegetable stock. Add a squirt or two of Bragg (or soy sauce) and your seasonings, including salt and pepper, to taste. Whisk it all together until blended.
  • Add the sauce to the Seitan mixture and stir. Add any canned vegetables at this time. Cook over Low-Medium heat for 5 minutes. Stir in the noodles and cook together for another 5 minutes. Taste test and add seasonings if necessary. If the sauce is too thin for your tastes, you can add a little cornstarch or flour to thicken it. (I like it thin, the noodles soak it up nicely!) 
  • Serve and Enjoy!

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Sunday, February 12, 2012

One Word 365: Health-Week 6

My One Word 365 for 2012 is Health. To help me stay focused on taking better care of body, mind, and spirit, I am completing a daily health-themed photo project. Please enjoy these photos from Week 6! Please forgive the missing Friday and the late post, the end of the week got busy preparing for my sister's baby shower this afternoon! :) 


This beautiful rainbow of peppers made its way into a delicious healthy chili on Superbowl Sunday.


I fell prey to a bug that's been going around; Traditional Medicinals Organic Throat Coat and Gypsy Cold Care teas helped nurse me back to health!


It wouldn't be a "this week in health" post without evidence of smoothies! :)


After dinner snacking is one of my biggest obstacles. I put this little sign on the fridge to help remind me to make healthy choices!


I was planning on stopping for fast food on the way to work, but thought better of it and packed myself a healthy dinner to go!


Fake turds. Because laughter is healthy! :D

Have a happy and healthy week!

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Thursday, February 9, 2012

More babies? How? When? Why?

Welcome to the first Family Size Blog Carnival!
This post was written for inclusion in the Family Size Blog Carnival hosted by Kerry at City Kids Homeschooling and Patti at Jazzy Mama. Today our participants share their decisions on family size and whether or not to grow their families. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

Dear Delilah,

Since early on in our relationship, your father and I knew that we wanted children. How many? Well, that was a question for another day. I always thought that I’d have one child biologically, and then adopt if I wanted more. It seemed like a good balance between my desire to experience pregnancy and birth and my desire to limit the extra burden on our planet and help children in need of loving families.

Well, then along came you, and things changed! Within a week of becoming a father, your daddy said he couldn’t wait to another baby with me. Maybe two!

Whoah. That was a conversation I wasn’t ready to have at the time, but as I settled into motherhood, I became more open to discussing expanding our family.

In deciding how many children to have, there were a number of factors to consider. For a long time, I wasn’t sure I wanted any more children. Our life feels so complete with you in it! The challenges of parenting one child in the newborn days were almost too much for me at times, how could I possibly manage a newborn and remain an attentive and nurturing parent to my beloved first born daughter? Of course, I’m blessed with ample support, and learned so much about parenting babies with you that the thought of another baby started to seem a little less scary. So then, how many more babies?

One of the first factors I considered was my age. I was 30 when I had you, and I wanted to be done having babies by age 35, give or take a year, for a number of reasons. Those reasons were primarily my plans for my own future. I was working on my undergraduate degree when you were born, with plans to continue to the graduate and maybe even doctorate level. Knowing how I struggled to balance my school work with my parenting philosophy, I decided to put off further education until I was done having babies, and ideally until those babies were in school themselves. Having my last baby at age 35 would put me back in school at age 40, which I’m comfortable with.

Another factor was how apart in age we wanted to space our children. Since I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t cut out for nursing through pregnancy, I knew I wanted to wait until you were at least 2, the earliest age at which I’d consider weaning. I also wanted you to be old enough to understand that there was a baby on the way. Well, now you’re two, you’re getting close to weaning, and you seem to understand that your aunt has a baby in her belly…so what are we waiting for?

Another consideration is the season we want to have a baby in! You were a winter baby, and being home with a baby all winter long was very isolating for me. Don’t get me wrong, I will never regret your February conception and November birth, because they resulted in you!  On one hand, it provided the opportunity for a strong bond between us, and for that, I will always be grateful. On the other hand, I would love to have a late spring or early summer baby next time, so that I could I spend more time enjoying my maternity leave outdoors, being active with you and your little brother or sister!

All that said, our plan is to conceive your sibling later this year in hopes of a birth next spring or summer. By that time, I’ll be close to 34, and since I’m definitely not planning any Irish twins, it seems likely that two babies will complete our little family. Of course, we don’t use hormonal birth control, and aren’t perfect in applying the Fertility Awareness Method, so there’s always a chance things won’t go according to plan. In that event, we’ll embrace whatever happens as what is meant to be, just as we did when we made the exciting and surprising discovery that you were on your way!



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Visit City Kids Homeschooling and Jazzy Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Family Size Blog Carnival!
Please take some time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants below:
  • The Perfect Family The family at Living Peacefully With Children isn't perfect, but the size is just right for least for now.
  • Family Size Carnival Zoie at TouchstoneZ discusses how she loves the extremes of being happily child-free for life to being a mom of several. And on knowing when her family is just the right size.
  • Is Adoption for Me? Christine at African Babies Don't Cry shares why she would consider adoption as the socially responsible way to have a large family.
  • Getting Used to Having Kids Lauren at Hobo Mama went from "probably one, maybe two" to wanting a handful, but not without some major struggles and soul searching along the way.
  • Magic Number For a while, Phoebe at Little Tinker Tales has wondered what the magic number will be for their family, but now thinks she's finally settled on an answer.
  • How Did You Get That Size Jorje explains how she "chose" her family size and why they aren't planning to grow again on Momma
  • Family Size On A Per Kid Basis Sarah at Parenting God's Children shares how plans change as families grow.
  • More Babies: How, When, Why Joella at Fine and Fair writes to her daughter about when, how, and why she might get a sibling.
  • Family Size Kelly at Becoming Crunchy shares how she has no idea what size her family will end up being; though she used to be sure, a few factors have recently come up to change everything.
  • Thy Will Be Done CatholicMommy hasn't decided how many children she'll have. And she never will. Because, you know, she's Catholic.
  • Sanity and Health Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment talks about sanity and health considerations when deciding on her family's size.
  • Love Comes In All Sizes Melissa at Mothers of Change shares her family's journey to becoming a family of six!
  • Family Size Liz at Homeschooling in Buffalo discusses how this carnival occurs less than two weeks after "closing up shop" by way of vasectomy.
  • Family Size Blog Carnival Billy, a single mother by choice, writes about the size of her family at My Pathway to Motherhood.
  • Creating Your Perfect Family Size Dr. Alan Singer shares insights from his new book, Creating Your Perfect Family Size.
  • Our Family Size You might not be surprised to learn that Patti at Jazzy Mama can't find any reasons NOT to have more babies.
  • Economics of Family Size Kerry at City Kids Homeschooling uses an economic cost-benefit analysis to determine her family's optimal size.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Truth in Advertising

Some of you may remember our Play-don't disaster from a few months back. (If not, here's the Cliff's Notes version: I made home-made play-dough using what turned out to be the world's worst recipe.) After being burned by that experience, I've been a bit gun-shy to try again, though I did pick up some cream of tartar for when I was ready to jump in again.

When I came across a play-dough recipe on Pinterest this weekend proclaiming to result in the "softest, squishiest, longest lasting play dough EVER", I was...skeptical. When I told my husband I was going to try again to make some play-dough, he raised an eyebrow and asked "are you sure?" I wasn't, but I had the ingredients on hand and the recipe looked easy enough, so I figured, why not? At least I didn't have to save coffee grounds for a week or try to figure out ambiguous instructions!

You guys.

It came out perfect.

Play-dough "breakfast"
I only made one color to start, but when I had beautiful, squishy, soft play dough in about 10 minutes, I immediately made up another batch in another color. It was so close in texture to store bought play dough that I couldn't believe it. My husband marveled. Delilah was more interested in opening and closing the containers I put it into at first, but she came around eventually.

Next time you want to pass an afternoon playing with delightfully squishy and soft play dough, use How Does She's Recipe. You won't regret it.

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Monday, February 6, 2012

Meatless Monday: Tofu-Tater Stir Fry

This basic vegan stir-fry recipe is versatile and can incorporate a wide variety of vegetables! The veggies I most recommend for this dish are: the ones about to go bad in your crisper or on your counter. This recipe, as I made it, yields approximately 4 servings. Need more servings? Add more veggies! This took about 35 minutes to get from gathering the ingredients to the table.

What You'll Need:

  • A grain or grain-like substance to serve it over, prepared as directed. Rice is a popular choice. I used quinoa this time.
  • Cooking oil. I use coconut. For everything.
  • Toasted sesame oil. Optional, but highly recommended.
  • Garlic. As much you can stand. I used 4 cloves. I would normally use an onion, too, but didn't happen to have one this time.
  • Potatoes. I used 3 medium ones. You can use more, bigger, smaller, different colors, whatever.
  • Tofu. I used a package of Teriyaki marinated baked tofu. If you're less lazy more ambitious than I am, you could marinate your own!
  • Veggies! I used mushrooms and broccoli, because that's what we had. Can you tell I made this on a "Boy, we really need to get some groceries." kind of day? Other suggestions: carrots, peppers, cauliflower, zucchini, asparagus...pretty much any vegetable will work! Fresh is best, but frozen or canned works just fine!
  • Not pictured: prepared (or made from scratch) sauce of your choice such as soy sauce, teriyaki, or my choice, Bragg Liquid Aminos
  • Oh, do I need to tell you that you need, like, a pan or something to cook it in? I used a Wok, but any large skillet or frying pan would do, I'm sure.
What You'll Do:
  • If your grain or grain substitute isn't already prepared, start with that. Prepare as directed.
  • Heat your cooking oil of choice over Medium-High heat. 2-3 Tablespoons of your main cooking oil and a splash of toasted sesame oil, if you're using it. While it heats up, mince your garlic and dice your onion if you're using it. Cut your potatoes in half, then in half again, then thinly slice them. When the oil is sufficiently heated, toss in the garlic and onions. Don't burn them, like I did. Instead, pay attention to them, stirring or tossing, until the onions start looking translucent. 
  • Add the potatoes, stirring or tossing to coat. Continue stirring or tossing until they start getting soft, in the neighborhood of 10 minutes. If you're using carrots, add them at this time; they take a while to cook, too!
  • Add your other veggies, with the exception of mushrooms, if you're using them. Those cook fast, so you'll add them last. Unless you like them really, really soft, in which case, GROSS. Again, stir or toss to coat and incorporate. If things seem too dry at this point, you could a bit more oil or other liquid, such as vegetable stock.

  • While that cooks, cut your tofu into cubes. I cut them about 3/4 inch size. I wouldn't go much smaller than that, but you could go a little bigger, if you'd like. Add tofu to pan, add mushrooms if you're using them, and stir or toss. Add a bit of the sauce of your choice, but not too much. You can always add more later! There are few things worse than too much soy sauce. Continue stirring or tossing occasionally until the tofu is cooked through, 5-10 minutes.
  • Serve over rice, quinoa, or whatever you've chosen. Alternately, eat it as is! The potatoes make it heftier and more filling than traditional stir-fries, so it would stand alone just fine!
  • Enjoy!

Questions? Comments? Think it looks delicious? Disgusting? Let me know! :)

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Sunday, February 5, 2012

One Word 365: Health-Week 5

My One Word 365 for 2012 is Health. To help me stay focused on taking better care of body, mind, and spirit, I am completing a daily health-themed photo project. Please enjoy these photos from Week 5!


We use our steam mop to avoid harmful chemicals found in traditional floor cleaning products.


Cloth pads from Mimi's Dreams and the Diva Cup are healthier for my body and for the planet.


My favorite way to start the day: a fruit plate to snack on while I prepare breakfast and throughout the day!


Are you sick of smoothies yet? I'm not! This one was made with a banana, fresh strawberries, chocolate soy milk, greek yogurt, coconut oil, and ground flax seed. It was delicious!


There have been a lot of yucky viruses going around. Emergen-C helps boost my immune system and keep me well enough to care for those around me who aren't so lucky.


A dish to pass. I made a light and refreshing pasta salad with bell peppers, artichokes, and black olives for a gathering with co-workers.


We took advantage of the unusually beautiful winter weather to get some fresh air and exercise on a nice walk with Auntie Nay-Nay.

Have a happy and healthy week!

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