Mama Miti: Wangari Maathai and the Trees of Kenya is both a children’s biography of the Kenyan Nobel Peace Prize and a work of ecological and humanitarian inspiration that shows children that you can make a difference one person, one family, or one tree at a time. Read More
The push to normalize breastfeeding isn’t intended to embarrass or minimize the ways that any parents feed their babies. There are important reasons to normalize breastfeeding: breastfeeding can improve health in babies and mothers, can decrease infant mortality, and can ease poverty.
Another in my series of themed costumes for babywearers. This post highlights costumes with the baby as an inanimate objects. You would be surprised at the possibilities when you start brainstorming, and hopefully the pictures of these creative families will get the wheels turning for you! And be sure to submit a photo of your babywearing costume to my contest to possibly win a wrap!
I loved this photo of Heather so much that I had to make a blog post just for it. I think it embodies how we all have felt when a much anticipated wrap came to our door, or when we tried it out and found out how happy it made ourselves and our babies!
The giant smiles.
The patented flash in the mirror/toilet in the background shot.
David & Cassidy a couple of months before he turned 2.
My baby turns 2 years old tomorrow. This time two years ago I was quietly sitting in bed and smiling because I knew I was having a baby. My husband’s mother came over to stay with our sleeping girls, and David and I sneaked out of the RV, where we lived, and into the living room of our house that was for sale, where he set up a birth pool, my mother and the midwife were called, and baby and I got on with the business of birth. (Would you want to know if babies were born in the house that you are buying? 3 babies were born in this one.)
When the sun came up, and the baby came out, he was a little boy named Cassidy. It took a few months for things to settle down enough to start to get to know him. Is that awful? It was crazy trying to coexist with a newborn and a 1 year old, plus the 6 year old, while David was releasing a CD (I missed the CD release party when Cassidy was 2 days old) and still working his full time day job while we transitioned to living on the road like a pack of wild dogs or dirty gypsies. Thank goodness for family, in which David and I, and our children, have all been particularly blessed.
But I’m getting distracted by reverie. You can read his birth story here (I don’t have to write it again). My point was that Cassidy is two years old, and I don’t expect to have any more children.
We did a photo shoot a couple of months ago to get some wrap shots for our family business and I am so glad we did because the artist at Remarkable Photography (also known as Lee Anne) captured some of the best shots of our family, the only professional photos we have, and I didn’t know it at the time, but only a few weeks later Cassidy would become too grown up for wrapping.
My family, photographed by Remarkable Photography.
He’s so grown up now, his big sister (3 years old) is more likely to let me wrap her up. “Please,” I’ll say. “Please let me wrap you up–we can make a wrap video!” Nope.
big sister Annabelle, 3 years old
He was sick this week though, and that won me permission to wrap him a couple of more times. This morning we were going to go for a walk and he just wasn’t up to walking. “David,” I said, “Cassidy’s asking me to wrap him up–I think we’d better make a video. Quick, before he changes his mind!”
Cassidy not feeling well, wrapped up in the Breeze Ada wrap
But over the past month, I have rarely wrapped at all. I celebrate every moment of his independence (at least, the ones that don’t make me want to cry or tear my hair out), but I do feel a twinge about the fact that wrapping is slipping into my history. And it got me thinking about my wraps. What should I do with them?
Grandbabies. Yes, once your youngest turns two, it is officially time to think about becoming a grandmother. I don’t want to sell or give away my wraps. I want to give them to my children to wear their babies. And I will absolutely be borrowing them when I babysit. I am suddenly in exuberant anticipation of something that is about 20 years in my future. Oh, the future is bright and cuddly!
EllaRoo Mary was my first wrap, and I have wrapped all three of my children in it. That one’s a legacy wrap for sure.
Cassidy and I wrapped up in Mary EllaRoo
Annabelle takes a break from nursing to let me gaze at her 3 years ago.
Ada, age 4, taking a break on daddy's back at Busch Gardens
My Breeze Ada, the fairy wrap that my daughter Ada and I designed together. That one has been used to carry Annabelle and Cassidy, and that one will go to one of my children.
Cassidy on my back in Breeze Ada, in the North Carolina woods
Annabelle and I in our fairy wrap
And…the Inka Storchenwiege that I sold to a friend a few months ago because I didn’t need so many wraps anymore. How could I? What was I thinking?
Nursing Ada at the beach 8 years ago in Inka
It’s not the same Inka that I wore Ada in 7 or 8 years ago. But when I had my second baby, I missed having a gorgeous Inka and I bought another one–one that I wore both Annabelle and Cassidy in countless times. Interestingly enough, the first Inka I had was bought used, and then I sold it back to the original owner who had seller’s remorse for sentimental reasons. Hmm….
I emailed Lynnde, begged her to trade me, and today, just in time for Cassidy’s birthday, Inka came home, complete with the note you see in the picture.
Inka comes home!
One day I will go through all of our digital pictures (and all our actual photo albums when it comes to Ada’s baby pictures from before we had a digital camera or phones that took pictures) and do a tribute post to Inka, because that wrap has been present for so many wonderful family moments.
Annabelle loves Inka, too!
Cassidy and I swinging in an Inka swing Easter 2012
Cassidy snoozing in Inka while the girls play in the Mississippi mud
In the meantime, Happy Birthday darling Cassidy, sweet little gentleman. I love your curls and your laugh, your face when you’re being tricky, and your voice when you tell me you love me. I love the way you talk to your sisters, your agreeable nature and sunny disposition. I love your little round nose and your little round toes, the songs that you sing, and the way you flap your arms when you run through the house. I love to wrap you up, and I love to nurse you down. I love putting your shoes on while you sit on my lap and kick your legs. I love dawdling through the parking lot so you can read the letters and numbers on every license plate. I loved bringing you into this world, and I love every day we spend together.
Do you have an opinion on what sort of mom is best? Live it. Be the change you want to see in the world. Ooze your ideals as you nurture your babies and raise your children. Unashamedly act on your convictions at home and in public. Let your confidence subdue imagined criticisms and allow you to smile compassionately at the real ones. No need to defend yourself or explain yourself, and no need for others to defend or explain themselves. Your quiet confidence, your peaceful demeanor and happy family will speak for themselves. And sometimes strangers will look in and see the madhouse that your family often is, but if you know that happiness and peace underlie the madness, then wave cheerfully at the strangers and stride forward with your family, unafraid or abashed. There is no one else fit to mother your children. No one else knows the intimacies of your family, no else cares as much about the daily happiness or long term success of your family. No one else is qualified. Happy Mothers Day, Mama!
I have a baby, a toddler, and a seven year old. This spectrum of ages gives me some perspective that I didn’t have when my eldest was younger, and it occurs to me that these concepts compliment and build off each other:
When your baby cries, realize he or she is communicating a need. He doesn’t have words, and crying is how he tells you something is wrong.
When your toddler cries, screams, or tantrums, realize that he or she is communicating a need. Her emotions are bigger than her vocabulary and sometimes she doesn’t even know what is wrong, just that something is. Even if you don’t know what’s wrong, you can help her by being patient, calm, and loving so that she knows she is somewhere safe while experiencing scary and overwhelming emotions, and that will allow her to come back into the present moment and calm down when ready.
When your young child “misbehaves” or acts out, realize that he or she is communicating a need. His emotions are bigger than his ability to handle them gracefully, maybe because he’s hungry or tired, or under some other physical stress, because too many things have gone wrong today, or even because something has keyed him into some scary incident in his past that he doesn’t realize is affecting him. The same thing happens to me when I’m not at my prime–I react to unruly kids in ways that I resolved not to, ways that are not graceful or appropriate or helpful. I misbehave, too. You can help me at these times, and you can help your child the same way, by staying patient and calm and loving so that we know we are with someone safe until we feel safe enough to snap out of it and join you in civilized behavior. Sometimes if my husband just silently pulls me in for a long, full hug, that does the trick. You can try the same with your son or daughter. Understand that this is not his usual face, that he is stressed. The better you get at being a good listener and the less advice you offer, the less of that behavior you will see because you will have provided a safe outlet for when things are rough.
Likewise, if your baby bites you, or won’t leave the outlets alone, or pulls your hair, you know that she is learning and experimenting and it is your responsibility to keep yourself safe from her, and her safe from everything else so that she can safely explore. When she continues to do these things despite repeated reminders, you know that it is developmentally appropriate 🙂
If your toddler draws on the wall, pulls the cat’s tail, and keeps getting sticks of butter out of the fridge, unwrapping them, carrying them around in his sweaty little hand, then leaving them around the house (What? No, it’s just a random, common example), you can remind yourself that he is learning how to cause effects in his world, practicing how to do things for himself, experimenting with self-determinism and feeling the waters of interpersonal relations. It is your responsibility to set a good example and part of that good example is how to handle unplanned messes and disappointments gracefully. When he fails to stop drawing on the wall when you come in and say, “No, stop that–STOP THAT!” then you remind yourself that this, too, is developmentally appropriate. It is your job to stop him if it’s unacceptable, and it’s also your job to attempt to do it without bruising his self esteem, pride in his work, trust in you, or peace of mind. Because that’s a parent’s impossible job, and the more often we manage it, the sooner our toddlers will grow into responsible and caring children that can be trusted with markers, cats, and the contents of the refrigerator.
If your young child leaves a mess, breaks her possessions, or disobeys direct instructions, remind yourself of how far she has come, how much she has learned, and how much easier she is to live with…than when she was a toddler. Learn to take deep breaths and think before you act. Think back to this blog post when I told you that the more independence you can grant her, the better you can listen to her, the more ways you can find to accept help from her the way she wants to offer it, the more ways you can find to appreciate her, and the more you can refrain from controlling her, the sooner she will improve on all fronts and blossom into the sweet, thoughtful, responsible and trustworthy person you know she is. Every time you put more attention on what she’s doing right, instead of wrong, that’s when you will see her doing more right. And as always, it is your job to set a good example. She will show you respect when she sees you respecting her needs, objections, crises, contributions, explanations, and bright ideas. She will become responsible for her messes, possessions, and obligations as you model responsibility be behaving consistently toward her and in your dealings with others (they are always watching). Your thoughtful and caring actions towards her, will inspire her to think of how you might feel about her actions. Be honest and frank in your communication and in your love. Listen to her, and you will find her listening to you.
And most of all, remember that mothers who blog about how to mother, are subject to all the pitfalls that you are. Lucky for me, this post was about some ideals to operate from, and not about the facts of my parenting wins and fails. These are my beliefs, and when I am calm and all my children are asleep, I think about these ideas and smile peacefully. In the morning I will do my best to operate from them. I think operating with loving intention is an awfully good start.
I don’t like spreading nasty news. I try to avoid it. But when there such heinous crime going unmentioned in our very midst, and when most of us are supporting these companies and using their products without anyone’s bothering to mention the horror that we are contributing to, it is time to spread the word.
Do not think that your Valentines or Easter, or your child’s enjoyment of a holiday are more important than the fact that someone else’s child has been kidnapped and made a slave. Don’t think of the broader issue. Think of that child and how that child’s mother must feel. Think of your own child–full of fascinating and irreplaceable ideas, thoughts, feelings, and purposes–robbed of freedom, and of family.
But you know, there are plenty of sources of chocolate that are not criminal. Please remember them when you purchase your casual or holiday treats. Think of the difference it makes to someone out there.
This week I am indulging in a rich, decadent, Western luxury and sending delicious chocolate to my customers in celebration of a holiday most of us can recognize as a pretty commercial construct. I don’t think anyone should feel guilty about chocolate. Just don’t buy chocolate you need to feel guilty about. Please.
My first little wrapling is now a tall, strong, talkative girl who is about to have her seventh birthday! For those of you who are still in babyland, you might like to know that she is much easier than she used to be, a great help to me with the little ones, and very sweet company. Worth all the sleepless nights! Happy birthday, Ada!
For those that are wondering, I do have the itch to blog many wonderful things now that I have a newborn. And I am doing lots of wrapping, including nursing in the wrap and tandem wrapping with my 18 month old. But I’m so busy and my hands are so full all the time, it’s been tough to get to blog. I probably would manage anyway, but on top of that, I haven’t managed to recharge my camera batteries SINCE CASSIDY WAS BORN! And, btw, he is almost 2 months old. So!
I just can’t bring myself to blog about squishy newborn wrapping without pictures. It’s such a . . . waste.
So, sorry, for the lack of blogging. We’re in a big transitionary phase just now, after which I plan to have my act together and my ducks in a row. No, it’s not a duck act.
I’m going to end off this apology blog and do a couple of real ones now because I have some pictures to go with them. Not pictures of the baby, sorry. My husband has taken some with his phone, though, and when we have a chance to breathe for four seconds IN A ROW, I’ll get him to send them to me and do some retroactive blogging. Deal?
I learned so much and my heart swelled twelve sizes as I read through the comments on my Be Nice To Mommies post. There was so much profound truth to be found in this collection of fifty-some motley experiences!
Marley won a free wrap for her essay (copied in full below), but I benefited from reading every one of the essays, and I can tell I’m a nicer person just for having read them! What I learned:
It turns out that mothers–all mothers–need support, not correction. She knows what’s best for her family, and when you can believe and respect that, then you are in a position to help HER realize it. If you approach other families with the intention of helping them, rather than the intention to change some specific practice, then you have a chance of making a real difference. Be a friend, whether it’s to your sister-in-law, your college roomie, or a stranger in the mall, approaching as a friend will reap the largest rewards. Katie recalls that in one of her desperate mothering moments, her mother advised her thusly: “You know what to do. You’re his mommy.” Katie goes on to say, “It’s hard to explain what that advice meant to me. She had confidence in me even when I didn’t. She knew I could make the right decision. And that even if I didn’t that we’d all learn from the experience and we’d all be okay.”
And simply by being a loving person, and interacting with your own children with ever-present love, causes those around you to want that. Lisa wrote of the person who influenced her parenting, “She showed me how to respect my baby as the person that he was instead of wishing that he could be different.” And Kelly says that the person who influenced her ” taught me that becoming a parent is something honorable and that children are sent to teach US, as much as we are to teach them. She has taught me that in giving through parenting, we are actually receiving, because we develop qualities within ourselves that help us reach our true, whole human potential . . . She has taught me how to love like a river.”
Marley’s essay shows how valuable it is to simply set a good example. Let your loving and happy family be what inspires change in others and in the culture. Realize that the only way people change their minds is by their own initiative. You can be the inspiration, but you can’t change their minds for them:
When I found out I was pregnant in December of 2009, we were so excited! So excited we went out and bought a crib, pack of disposable diapers and wipes, and a couple soothers. I had this idea of what having a baby was in my head. Bottles, sposies, strollers and crying. I was confident because I had watched all of my young friends have babies, and besides seeing them change a diaper or put a bottle in their child’s mouth, it didn’t seem like something I couldn’t do.
Fast forward to the following July and I am three weeks to my due date. My cousin who is nine years older than me invited us to their house for her two year old son’s birthday party. Walking into her house, it was so warm and her little man was such a competant and independant child.
At dinner he drank unassisted out of a cup and asked for help to go upstairs to use the potty. After dinner, my cousin slipped away, and I looked into the living room and GASP, she was breastfeeding him! The look on her face was of pure love as he played with her necklace.
That night I went home and began to really think about what kind of parent I wanted to be to my unborn son. After seeing my cousin, I couldn’t imagine being like my friends from back home who layed their baby in a chair with a propped up bottle. I started to research breastfeeding and stumbled across http://www.drmomma.org That website changed me, my partner’s, and my son’s lives for the better.
Thanks to my cousin just being an attached and intuitive mother, we are now cloth diapering, intactivist, bedsharing, baby carrying, part time EC-ing, babyled weaning, extended breastfeeding fools! I can’t ever imagine making my son cry it out, or missing out on the bond that breastfeeding has given us. Grumpy chap? Throw on the wrap and go for a nature walk! Not to mention not having to change a poopy (cloth!) diaper in months!
I have never told her thank you for what she unknowingly did for our whole family. I couldn’t imagine where we would be if not for my cousin on that one summer day. I am so thankful and grateful, and I’m sure my now nine month old son is too!
This is a message of love. I thought about waiting until Sunday to post it, but I think it’s never to soon to spread a message of love. Let’s not wait—let’s start now!
In honor of Mothers Day I propose that we be nice to all the moms we meet (including the ones we encounter only online). I propose that we celebrate the hard work we’re all doing as mothers, no matter what different choices we’re making because, of course, we are all making these decisions out of love and with the best information we have.
We’re also making these decisions under a lot of pressure because this job uniquely positions us to affect the future of our children, and all of mankind! I know I agonize over it, and I bet the mom who made the opposite choice agonized too.
Make mommy love, not mommy war! I know it can be hard, when you feel passionately about a subject—especially one having to do with the treatment of innocents—not to get into an argument when someone disagrees. But think it through now, and make a strategy of peace so that when you encounter other opinions, you will be prepared to respond helpfully instead of angrily.
Here’s what I want you to think through:
You probably feel passionately because you feel that children are being mistreated. When you encounter someone with a different opinion, do you think your angry words, physiological threats on their children, and name-calling will cause this person to change her mind, thereby resulting in better treatment of children?
When your two year old daughter grows up to be thirty-something, do you want anyone EVER to do or say something to her that makes her feel miserable, stupid, or cruel?
Have you made any parenting choices you would do differently now?
Think of a time someone influenced your parenting. No, don’t just think of it, write it down and send it to me. I want to know how someone has influenced your parenting, whether it was a stranger at the grocery store, a good friend, or a relative. I want to know how they approached you and how it made you feel, how it changed your parenting, and how you feel about that change and the person who inspired it.
It will be a contest! I’m not just making this up as I go. Well, I am, but when you own your own business you can do that. It will be an essay contest and I will pick one essay and send the writer of it:
I’m just copying and pasting from above now, so feel free to skip ahead. Your essay should say how someone has influenced your parenting, whether it was a stranger at the grocery store, a good friend, or a relative. I want to know how they approached you and how it made you feel, how it changed your parenting, and how you feel about that change and the person who inspired it.
Write it as a comment on this blog post.
It can be one paragraph or several.
I’ll choose the winner on Monday the 9th of May…
…so your essay must be submitted by the end of Mothers Day (Sunday, 8 May, 2011).
I’m a big promoter of babywearing while pregnant. What a break for a pregnant mother not to have to carry that toddler in her aching arms, awkwardly on one side or the other of her baby bump! How wonderful for a soon-to-be big brother or sister to get to cuddle with mommy in the days leading up to such a major transition.
That’s not the confession part. The confession is that babywearing has gotten to be too much for me. Don’t get me wrong: it’s always been and still is more comfortable than in-arms carrying. I still toss Annabelle on my back in a quick rucksack for the walk from the car to the store…where I put her in a shopping cart. And I still bring the wrap every time we go somewhere in case she insists on getting out of the cart, or on being picked up. But I try to talk her out of it.
The fact is, I’m in a frail zone that was never a part of my previous pregnancies. I attribute this weakness to the fact that my pregnancies were close together (Annabelle was 7 months when the new baby was conceived) coupled with the fact that I am still nursing. Oh yeah, and chasing after a very adventurous one year old (day AND night).
I’m working on getting my strength back with extra attention to nutrition, supplementation, and rest. I think I’ve just hit the point where I’m drained, but I’m confident I can be replenished.
And I hope to locate and dust off my video camera in the next month and make some pregnant wrapping videos because I think pregnant babywearing is a beautiful, valuable, comfortable thing for many pregnant mommas, and an option they should know is open to them.
I was embarrassed at first when I agreed to use the rented stroller at the zoo last week but not anymore. That’s what I’m here to (finally) say: Babywearing is great and should be comfortable when done correctly. But if it’s not comfortable, don’t do it, and don’t be ashamed. Whether you’re pregnant or not, your body deserves to be treated well and you need to find where babywearing fits into your own family’s balance of caring for babies and caring for parents. It might be a greater or lesser tool than in some other family. And if it doesn’t make your life easier, it’s not a tool at all–more of a hairshirt. I do not endorse hairshirts.
Most often, discomfort caused by babywearing can be fixed with practice or the help of a more experienced babywearer. Sometimes you just need to put that baby down. It’s a good time to play on the floor together, or cuddle with a book on the couch. You’re still a super-mommy. Just ask your kids.
Our Moms Circle is wonderful. It is a circle of mothers who come and bare their souls with love and honesty both in the asking of questions, and the answering, the telling of trials, and the listening. We strive to listen with our hearts, and ask questions of the mother in need, to help her find and say her own truth and answers. Sure, we have advice and compassion for getting bit, sick babies, starting solids and every other mom-topic. But we also have a safe place to cry and heal and share understanding.
We’re open to all moms and babies. We don’t bill ourselves as adhering to a particular parenting style, because parenting styles are too generic–too one-size-fits-all–to be applicable to real families. We do encourage and support each other in listening to our babies and responding to their needs in the best way we are able. So, yes, we do tend towards the crunchy, the natural, and the attached…and the popular tenets that those labels accompany.
A brief discussion of circumcision, in which everyone who spoke agreed it was terrible, suddenly culminated in the confession from one of our moms that her baby is circumcised. She spoke about family pressure and a medical history of one family member. Then another mom spoke up. Her baby is circumcised, too. She spoke of her research while pregnant, her husband’s feelings, and the fact that she is embarrassed to change her baby’s diaper at our group. Mom number three instantly spoke up with the same feeling, and expressed regret about her one year old’s circumcision and told how she cried through the Bris.
As we talked, it became clear that just about everyone there had something they were embarrassed about in their parenting choices. Some felt conspicuous for using disposable diapers. Some were embarrassed to formula feed at the group. And several people would get fast food on the way to group and then deliberately NOT bring it in to our crunchy, natural, mom meeting. So we got to laugh at ourselves some.
It was suggested that Evelyn of the Peaceful Birth Project re-institute her opening statement at each group, that there is a lot of information here, and each of us should take what rings true for us and leave the rest.
But in the main, as we discussed what is making various members feel judged, it wasn’t anything another person was doing or saying. It seems to be internal. When we have regret, and wish we could have done something differently, we definitely perceive judgment because we are judging ourselves. But even those parenting choices with which we are 100% sure about can lead to discomfort when we are alone in those decisions among a group who differs.
In the case of circumcision, we talked about how most of us would have circumcised our sons at some point in our lives, and it was only a question of whether we became informed before or after giving birth to a little boy. We talked about finding acceptance and forgiving ourselves. We talked about how to talk to our little boys about what happened, or how to address it if they have siblings who remain uncircumcised. But the fact is that a mother might still intend to circumcise her next son. All of the understanding seemed based in the assumption that no one would want to do this, after they found out. And those of us who feel strongly about it, cannot imagine a mother who WOULD want to do it. But we don’t get to choose for every mother. We get to choose for ourselves and our sons. And our group is open to ALL mothers.
I know that I don’t feel judgmental of mothers who circumcise their sons. But I do feel that it is entirely worthwhile to passionately spread information for that mother’s next son, and for the other women who might have sons. To forebear out of politeness would be cowardly. I never want to make a mother feel badly about her parenting choices. But we can all benefit from gaining knowledge and experience from which we can make better and better choices. The choices are completely up to the individual, but the knowledge is public domain and every mother is entitled to it.
So, our little moms circle cleared the air. And it was really nice. I wish the internet could follow our example and have Mommy Circles instead of Mommy Wars.
Today’s meeting culminated in a fantastic birth discussion. We went from giving advice to welcoming a baby into your homes, hearts, and lives, to Joanna’s birth story which contained such beauty and inspiration that tears, questions, and observations all flowed freely. Our “new baby” advice was aimed at the expectant moms in the group (both of the pregnant mamas at today’s group will be first time moms) and our mama whose baby will be leaving the NICU soon to come home for the first time. Each mom had specific circumstances worth considering, as each of us is unique in our situation. And we all anticipate bringing our babies home with such eagerness and love!
As someone who recently welcomed a new baby, Joanna contributed her experiences and segued right into her birth. We discussed the emotional issues present in pregnancy and birth, dad’s feelings and often-unaddressed emotions, the impact of the presence of others at the birth (Joanna was alone with her husband when they met their baby), the things that contribute to a peaceful birth, and the things learned from birth that make EVERY birth experience valuable. Evolution has brought birth to what it is
It all makes me reevaluate my own births–in my experience, always a valuable exercise. It makes me think about my births to come, as well. Just listening helps to work through some of my own thoughts and hang-ups, but tossing out thoughts and ideas in our safe and loving circle really moves me forward on my personal discovery process and is so much fun! I can’t wait to birth again!
Dana had an excellent topic that we didn’t get to (I realize now that I am home, sitting at my computer), and I hope that next week we get to discuss parental expectations. . . how to recognize them and change them if need be! As a momma going through a transitional phase right now, this is of great interest to me!
We discussed carseats, cloth diapers, tummy time, and natural cleaning products. We discussed how to mother while healing a sprained ankle and the best kind of footwear. We discussed diaper rash and milk-sharing. We laughed, we cried. It was a meeting of the moms.
Today we attended a La Leche League Enrichment Meeting. Subject: Honing in the Holidays. Off topic, a bit, from baby wraps, I know, but applicable (I’m guessing) to lots of the readers of this blog.
I wasn’t the one taking notes (Joanna should have written this entry), but I wanted to review some of the ideas that might be helpful to other families.
Don’t let your milk dry up by leaving a bottle of expressed milk and going shopping alone during nursing time!
Emphasize tradition, family, and experiences rather than possessions.
Don’t let the way other families (or other people in your family) do Christmas unduly effect you.
Doing an advent calendar? Instead of a trinket or candy each day, plan an event (go to winter festival, put up Christmas tree, etc), schedule a craft (make glittery snowflakes), or have each pocket contain an ornament or decoration. You could also have a special object in each pocket that gets moved to the subsequent pocket each day as a way to count down to the big day without unnecessary acquisition. Or have a big paper Santa and have your children add one cotton ball to his beard each day until he’s got a full beard on Christmas. My friend Christal is wrapping up 25 childrens books and they will open one to read each night–I think that’s a tradition worth adopting whether you’re an advent calendar type or not!
Why does Santa bring so many (or so few) gifts to your house, and so many to your kids’ cousins or schoolmates? Instead of launching into convoluted and desperate explanations (potentially crossing the line between fun make believe and lying to your kids), tell them that in your family Christmas is more about family than gifts, and Santa knows and respects that.
Santa fills the stockings in our house, but presents are meaningfully chosen for and from loved ones. That means my daughter knows that the gift she loves was lovingly chosen by me and her father (ie we get credit). It also means we don’t get into writing lists to Santa of “what I want for Christmas” and expecting a pony because, after all, Santa is magic and can bring anything!
To cut down on expenses, bake artisan bread, cookies, etc for relatives. Make a basket with scones and homemade cocoa mix. Or a box of tea or coffee. Or give a basket with homemade vanilla, almond, and lemon extract.
Big families might want to do the “choose a name from a hat” bit and each grown-up gets one relative to shop for instead of ten. That’ll simplify the holidays!
To cut down on the influx of gifts from relatives, ask for savings bonds for the kids, or memberships to the zoo or museum, or dance or music classes. Local relatives can take your children for a special day at the zoo together instead of something to unwrap.
To prevent you children from drowning in rooms full of stuff, consider having them clear out many possessions for charity in December “to make room for the new presents.” You might even implement a rule that everything that comes into the house means something else has to go. This is a nice rule to live by year-round if you want to keep clutter at bay. Oh, it must apply to the whole family, or it’s just not fair.
Make handmade gifts with your kids for friends and relatives and consider giving your kids some gifts you make yourself for them to emphasize the time spent working in love and de-emphasize the commercial experience. Gifts your kids make can be easy for you, but still thoughtful. Make beads out of clay and give relatives a handmade necklace. Cut your child’s watercolor into strips and laminate (with packing tape) to make bookmarks for friends or family (snazzy them up with a hole punch at the top and tying a bit of colorful yarn through). Make Christmas cookies with your kids to give grandparents as gifts (you can have the kids decorate them too). Have kids paint ceramic mugs at a local pottery store and give coffee mugs as a practical gift. Do handprint gifts (mugs, picture frames, ornaments) with younger tots. When it comes to a child giving a gift, a picture drawn just for Grammy can be done in ten minutes and still be special and heartfelt without any further embellishment.
Stress free crafts with kids:
Have kids paint, glue, or sparkle, then cut the design into seasonal shapes for Christmas cards, sun-catchers, etc. You can also fold them into paper lanterns or other creations. Get an idea and google it for great ideas.
Paper chains for Christmas decoration.
String popcorn and cranberries.
Paint and string beads.
Make jewelry and other things from pipe cleaners.
Cut out and decorate a construction paper frame and glue a photo in the middle.
Have kids cut out and glue pictures (family photos, pictures in magazines, pretty patterned wrapping paper or fabric scraps) to boxes, jars, or other things for a unique decoupage style storage.
Visit craft blogs for inspiration. The Magic Onions is fantastic both for kids crafts, and gifts you can make FOR your kids (love the watercolor board book)!
We didn’t have time for me to discuss it at the meeting (and I couldn’t really talk about stocking stuffers with my six year old present, since Santa is responsible for stockings in our house), but I’ve been pondering how to fill a stocking without resorting to meaningless junk. Here are some ideas I think my daughter would like, but every kids is going to have different interests: crazy straws for drinks, pretty tights (for wearing under dresses this Florida Winter), a bouncy ball (always a hit), maybe punch balloons. And a little fairy figure. Oh, and there must be a candycane sticking out.
And what about my one year old? I need to provide a stuffed stocking, but there’s no point going overboard when she’d be just as happy with wrapping paper, right? I’m thinking of putting some playsilks in her stocking (they’ll take up some room). And maybe one of those weird cylinders that moos like a cow when you turn it over. Because every baby should have one, right? And a super easy homemade cloth doll should round things out.
Keeping kids (and ourselves) from OD’ing on sugar? If you know you will encounter lots of treats around family and friends, at least refrain from adding to it yourself with Christmas baking all month. Instead of leaving cookies for Santa, leave carrots for his reindeer (we leave both, though). Santa could benefit from a few less cookies and a few more carrots himself!
Consider bringing healthier treats for your family so when everyone else is having cookies, you and your kids can have cookies that, at the very least, don’t have artificial coloring! To prevent your family from looking like health freaks, bring enough to share so it isn’t your own private food, but a tray for everyone and that happens to be the tray you sample from.
If you get lots of sugary gifts, maybe it’s the perfect time to practice the spirit of Christmas by sharing with friends, co-workers, or charity.
There are probably endless ways to simplify the holidays. Please share some of your tips in the comments!
I love our group! I so look forward to every Wednesday, I have a blast when I’m there, and I leave feeling like I’ve helped as much as I’ve been helped, with a renewed love for humanity!
Today we talked about sleep (toddler sleep), which led to a discussion of routines (not schedules), and we were able to validate one mommy’s instincts about caring for her distressed baby, rather than teaching her baby to deal with distress quietly by herself. All of this helped me, though I hadn’t asked any questions, by reinforcing my own parenting choices and serving as a reminder that baby challenges are a fact of every parenting style, and that those challenges pass so quickly that today’s disaster is barely remembered next week.
We talked about shy toddlers, why shyness would be equated with low self esteem, and whether loving support of a toddler’s native personality is enough to help foster self confidence. This led to an examination of how a mother’s experiences color her view of her children, and the sorts of things she will be concerned about. Yes, we concluded that babies and children should be supported and encouraged, and that is the best we can do to provide them with a foundation for a happy life.
A mom who is new to our group has a new baby and no milk–due to complications at the birth her own milk had dried up. Several of the other moms shared contact information with her so that they could get together to nurse her baby for her, and someone suggested a supplemental nursing system–wherein breastmilk donated by members of our group can be fed to her baby through a tube running into the baby’s mouth while the baby is latched onto . . . his mother! This will simultaneously provide the baby with breastmilk, promote all of the other benefits of nursing (more of which have to do with the physical act than the milk), AND very likely stimulate the momma’s own milk to return!
And there was babywearing. One mom has a baby with leg in a cast. She had a ring sling, which is not my forte, but I do know enough about it to realize that the little boy’s cast, which covers his knee, is holding his leg in a position not quite bent enough to provide a good seat in a ring sling. So we got out the wraps. Her friend (and member of our group) is going to lend her a do-it-yourself gauze wrap (or simple piece of cloth), so we practiced a back carry, because the mom said her baby wants to be held constantly–even when she has to prepare lunch. A back carry will allow them to stay close while she is able to get things done.
Ideally, in any good baby carrier, a baby’s knees are high and bent. Given the constraints of the cast, one knee will be not quite so bent. However a good double hammock carry supports him well and provides enough security that he will stay well seated and safe.
Alicia wanted a hip carry, so we did the Poppins Hip Carry. Then Michelle showed us her own invented carry which I’m going to have to do a tutorial for because I thought it was SO COOL. Similar to a Poppins, but easier and more poppable, in my opinion.