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Archive for January, 2010

Bed Sharing and Intuition


Much of how we parent our daughters is led by intuition.  My generation (the end of GenX) has yet to outgrow the strict and controlling rules and parenting philosophies of our parents and rediscover the ease (and challenges) of intuition-based parenting and its natural consequences.  Recently I’ve rediscovered the joy of co-sleeping and bed sharing (co-sleeping: sleeping in the room with or within arms reach of a child; bed sharing: well, sharing a bed with a child).  Though many people find it proper to ridicule or scoff at, I find it unsupportive of parents and undermining of truly intuitive parenting.  When my youngest was 2 months old, she only slept well in my arms.  So, I slept with her in my arms.  For 6 months.  It was helpful for both of us getting the sleep we need and it also helped us navigate another, older bed sharing 3 year-old.  At 8 months, the youngest was done with sleeping in arms and the oldest spent more of the night in her toddler bed, beside ours.  Now, our wee ones are almost 5 and 18mos and both still co-sleep or bed share.  A couple of nights ago, I was reminded of why.  Why we as parents endure children’s limbs tucked into our limbs or under our bodies, children breathing and coughing in our faces, sacrificing sleeping next to one another for years on end.

As I was sleeping in bed with the wee’est and my partner was up doing chores, Em sat up in her toddler bed, threw up, and started crying.  I was able to get up immediately, call my partner and go to our daughter to help clean her up, cozy her and strip the bed.  Who knows how long it would have taken her to cry in her sick state until we had heard her in her own room?  Sick children don’t sleep well and want more comfort than ever.  So, having her able to cozy up to Mama allowed her body some much-needed sleep and allowed me to monitor her fever through the night, getting more sleep myself.

There is much commentary about how co-sleeping and bed sharing contribute to breastfeeding success and duration, reduced SIDS rates and better sleep for everyone in the Family Bed, but after suffering limbs under my body for nights on end, sometimes I need these fresh reminders of why we bed share and choose to nurture our children instead of manipulating them with fear into sleeping alone in a dark room.

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I was a successful mama yesterday. After many days of seemingly constant head-butting and stubbornness on both of our parts, my 4yo, Em, and I jived for a day.  Success!  She was able to find the space to take care of her need to play independently and was enthusiastic about helping with dinner, even though what we were preparing wasn’t her favorite dish, to say the least.  I’m proud of being able to navigate peace and harmony while satisfying my own agenda, making dinner, which is a feat seldom accomplished around here.  To boot, her younger sister was teething to some cruel degree, so I had her in the carrier on my chest, nursing and bouncing for 30 minutes straight to keep her content through it all.  During times like these, though hectic, I try to pause and appreciate how everyone was getting their needs met and in a painless way.  Em received the one-on-one attention doing something her sister couldn’t have access to, the wee’est was soothing close to mama, and I got dinner made in time for my partner’s return home after a late day.  So rare, yet worth remembering often.

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To help us reduce the expense of feeding our family healthily, cleaning our home with non-toxic materials and living as holistically as we can, I am constantly in search of ways to get what I need on the cheap.  I haven’t yet made the leap into making my own cleaning supplies, though to do so would be the cheapest.  A home with a stash of white vinegar, lemons, salt and baking soda can easily be as clean as a home with chlorine bleach–and much, much healthier.  However, we do purchase “green” cleaning supplies, mostly through a wholesale buying club.  But, sometimes I can even beat that with a little creativity.  For example, I recently needed 7th Generation cleaning spray.  I like their company’s mission and products.  My local co-op sells it for $5.50, my wholesale club sells it for $3.50, but my local Target sells it for $2.99 and the 7th Generation website allows consumers to print coupons for $1 or $2, so I scored a bottle of general cleaning spray and another of glass cleaner for $1.99 each.  Almost half of the wholesale price.  And, while I’d rather shop at my local co-op for everything that I can (and avoid WalMart no matter what the savings), I draw the line at saving 64% elsewhere.  What are your creative money-saving techniques/tips/cheats?

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Yearnings

Yearning is ingrained in my personality. No matter how much I try to take time to live in the moment, appreciate what I have or smell the proverbial and literal roses, I yearn for more and better.  Sometimes I can justify this constant yearning by thinking that those things for which I yearn are worth yearning for: peace, quietude of soul, independent gardening to feed our family, better playthings for my children, time to learn a new craft (time to craft at all), most of all “time”.  However, after pouring over beautiful Waldorf-inspired mama blogs, I find that I spend more time reading about the life I want than living the life I want, and all that time goes away.

I’m a lifelong learner.  I suck up information and try to keep it all at a convenient place in my brain to be called up at the perfect time.  Like parenting advice when I’ve locked horns with Em and haven’t found a way out yet.  Or, when I have some spare time and need the perfect little craft to start with her.  But, by nature, I’m also not so creative or resourceful, so I blank until the next time I read something that’s inspiring and file it away again.

So, I have amassed the resources to be creative and join in with imaginative play.  I have saved the websites so I can peruse them at a different time and use the good times to do productive things.  We are putting together plans to move out of the heart of our small city and on to  7 acres of woods that we will have to work for years to fine-tune our homestead.  And, because it’s still winter and the magic of the holidays is long past, we fantasize about moving to coastal california.  Since the rest of it isn’t enough to preoccupy my stay-at-home-with-two-children self. (I’m hoping the sarcasm was obvious there.)

However, despite all my hopes and dreams and plans for the future, I did manage to capture a moment of peace and happy reading: 

And I also repurposed my mother-in-law’s discarded skirt into a “wedding dress” that Em has been clamoring for for ages.  I simply cut off the elastic waist, corrected the height, sewed in a little pink and green ribbon accent at the top and used the elastic waist to fashion straps.  Ta-Da.  Wedding dress.

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Clam Dip and M&Ms

It’s pretty disgusting and shameful, but that was an actual lunch I had the other day.  Clam dip and chocolate candy.  Well, there were potato chips involved, you know, to scoop the dip–and to avoid feeling like I was just having dip for lunch.  I struggle between philosophy and logistics.  If it were up to me, we would eat entirely organic, local food in this house, with minimal red meat, a lot of fish (I know, not local) and vegetarian meals and more beans and legumes.  But, we are a family of four on a single income (a woman’s to boot–still 78 cents to the man’s dollar) with so many priorities in health, home–life, that I often feel like I can’t keep up.  And, my family has input in the menu.  And they aren’t always healthy requests.  But, little by little, our diet gets better…at a dear price.  Let’s be honest, this house spends several hundred dollars a month on items from the grocery store, co-op, or at the farmer’s market, not including eating out (which is a nasty habit for our bodies and our wallet).  As the principle grocery-shopper with occasional requests from the rest of the family, I try to get the best food I can.  I still can’t be honest with myself that we over-shoot our budget by at least $100 every month because of mid-week grocery shopping for initially forgotten things.  But, when we learn about how to eat better, we try to apply it. 

I started trying to correct our chicken nugget and instant potatoes diet right before I got pregnant with Em 5 1/2 years ago.  It got better while I was nursing and even better when she started eating solid food and we wanted to avoid her ingesting things like pesticides and hormones from the get-go.  We avoided all unnatural or added sugars before she was more than 2 (and I consider that a remarkable feat, considering our personal tendencies as parents and our respective extended families…).  Then I conceived again and was put on a sugar- and carb-free diet.  I did it for the sake of our second child’s and my pregnant body’s health, but was unhappy about it, having been brought up on pasta and ice cream.  My energy soared and my weight plummeted (though not in an unhealthy way for me or the baby).  So, it turned into more of a habit that I occasionally slip out of to this day. 

I started reading Michael Pollan, books like Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal Vegetable Miracle and Moosewood cookbooks.  We joined the local natural foods co-op and I volunteered and shop on discount days to give us a better price.  I buy fresh produce (which, even organic fresh fruits and veggies out of season is cheaper than any meat).  I dialed down our red meat in-house preparation and only buy local, grass-fed, free-range and otherwise happy and organic meats.  I use coupons for natural foods and household products.  And, we’re healthier.  Last fall/winter we were sick all or in part from the end of October through January.  And again in February.  This past and current season, we’ve staved off all but one nagging earache that Em had for 2 weeks.  I firmly believe it’s because we eat better, use less- and non-toxic cleaners and incorporate all of the healthy eating tips we can.  And, we experiment for dinners.  We are by no means a picture of healthy eating all around, but we have made awesome improvements.  Here are a few moves we made to make eating healthier more affordable:

~Coupons – but not for prepared food.  They’re hard to find, but there if you look often.
~Buy in bulk.  this doesn’t mean buying a ton of something, but only what we need for that week or a certain recipe, which makes the price tag for organic or specialty items much less ghastly.
~Cook from scratch or with actual ingredients.  I make my own granola bars.  I have no patience for recipes that call for condensed soup or already-prepared items like “cooked chicken.”
~We experiment.  We use wheat germ and brown rice and bulgur and more.  Which we never would have 5 years ago.
~ We pack lunch.  And snacks.  And water bottles.  Every time we get in the car.  This avoids the stops at convenience stores for snacks that are loaded with fat, sugar, salt, GMOs, chemicals, hormones and all sorts of other crap.
~ We seek to learn every day.  I seek out ways to make something instead of buying it.  I plan on learning how to make cheese, butter, bread and all sorts of other things. 
~I purchase bulk coffee beans at the co-op and grind the amount I need right there in the store and make my coffee at home.
~I start a new commitment every day.  Clam dip and M&Ms happens all too often, but my commitment to eat better and be a better example continues to remain strong, and I get a little closer everyday.

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Patience, I Beckon You

We try our best to follow attachment parenting principles in this house.  It doesn’t all come naturally for us, since most generally parent as was modeled for us, and it was a rare breed to raise children in an AP way in the 70s and 80s.  A recent intense blog post about “crying it out” has me thinking of all the ways we parent purposefully and compassionately.  We do our best, and still are far from perfect.  For me, for my personality, it is hard to be compassionate and patient when there are many tasks swirling in my head and all my littlest wants to do is be held for no obvious reason.  With my oldest, I too often rely on manipulation through threats and disconnected consequences.  When she refuses to complete a task in a timely manner (if she decides she wants to do it at all) it really comes through–say taking away bedtime books when she’s “winding up” at bedtime instead of putting on pjs.  Lately I feel as though the fun of life and childhood is whisked away with demands, rules, safety monitoring and messes, all created or prioritized by me.  I want to be the parent who takes time to go to my child, place my hand on her shoulder and offer to share the task.  Or, who can put down everything in my hands (and in my mind) to personally help my four-year-old put on her boots since she wants to wear sandals in 15-degree weather.  Last week, in the mall, I heard a mother call her three-year-old a brat and she wouldn’t tolerate him being a brat.  No other explanation of his actions and what might have been inappropriate or unacceptable about his behavior.  Just name calling and threats.  If we don’t treat each other as adults this way, why do we feel it is appropriate for children?  I felt for the boy, who looked unaffected, like it was an everyday occurence.  Separating actions from a person is a difficult task, especially when that person is a child and has an entirely different way of understanding the world and the general inability to understand adult logic, let alone anticipate it.  Only on a couple of occasions have I ever resorted to this and I am ashamed that it happened at all.  I try to explain my requests and how they relate to my children’s lives (“If you can help me pick up this mess, we may have time for all our books at bedtime” instead of “if you don’t/can’t pick up this mess you will lose a book at bedtime”).  I try to explain why being late in certain circumstances is rude or otherwise unacceptable and follow through with natural consequences.  However, when I’m backed against a wall between a stubborn child and a goal, I don’t always quite hit the mark.  With a bit of understanding for myself, I’ve been missing that mark all too often lately.  Being a parent is exhausting.  Dealing with life while parenting around-the-clock is indescribable.  But, I’m trying to take time at the beginning of each day and sometimes during the day to visualize better skills on my part and more cooperation on my childrens’ part.  And, I’m hitting that mark more often.  And, they’re responding.  Now, it’s about making this kind of gentler, more compassionate parenting resource more habitual rather than an after-the-fact “Doh!” moment.  A little closer everyday.

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Success!

Let’s celebrate the small things in life.  Where I am, there are no roses in bloom to stop and smell on a leisurely walk, so I’ll start with some things that are more season-appropriate.  This morning, both of my girls decided to sit down at the table and do puzzles while breakfast was prepared.  This is usually such a hectic time, it was nice to see them both with calm bodies and focus.  Of course Gee, the wee’est is usually game to do whatever her older sister, Em does.  It was a beautiful sight!

I had the opportunity to start a sewing project from start to finish in one day!  I cannot remember such an occasion–even if it meant patching a pair of pants with fusible web.  The cold weather (think single digits) was enough to inspire quick work for a new pair of cozy overalls for the youngest.

I’m also pleased that we made it to the YMCA to do some semi-impromptu swimming despite the aforementioned single-digit temps combined with snow and bone-chilling winds.  It felt great and both girls loved it.  I forget how strong I feel in the water and how satisfying it is to see the girls master new things every time we are in the water.  I’d like to make it up there at least once a week to keep that feeling fresh in my mind. 

I’m a pretty pessimistic person by nature, but today was  a great day!  Let’s have more of them!

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