Friday, January 29, 2010

Things for you to do

post-it notes with pencilIsn't this sweet? I'm going to write you out a little reminder list.

What's sweeter is you don't have to do any of the items on here; they're more like an invitation.

Why am I writing a reminder list and not a Real Post, you ask? Because it is once again excise tax time, my friends. I have only a couple days left to navigate the horror that is the Washington state revenue code, that same code that got me audited the last time I attempted.

But let's think happy thoughts, shall we?

  1. Send in your submission for the February Carnival of Natural Parenting. This month, we're asking you to fill out this short web form as well as email your blog post to mail {at} and CodeNameMama {at} Submissions are due Feb. 2, and we want to hear about your experiences, good or bad or in between, with a co-parent.
  2. Enter to win an inflatable potty seat from On-the-Go Inflatables. The giveaway ends Feb. 11. There are some amusing (to me) captures of Mikko over yonder, so enjoy. If you have any ideas for improving the potty seat, I'll be passing those along to Michael, the inventor behind the seat, so continue to leave those in the comments on the giveaway post or the Hobo Mama post.
  3. If you like entering carnivals, the fourth healthy birth carnival is accepting submissions over at Science & Sensibility until Feb. 1.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

It's not about the milk

This is another in a series of guest posts by other bloggers. Read to the end for a longer biographical note on today's guest blogger, Cave Mother from the blog of the same name. Cave Mother figures out that her toddler has three distinct nursing styles at this age, and that all three are more about connection than calories.

toddler holding hands with parent

Guest post by Cave Mother

When my daughter took her first wobbly steps in pursuit of our cat, I cheered with glee at her achievement. A few days later I realised that not only had she officially attained the title of "toddler," but that I was now "nursing a toddler." This is something that, 15 months earlier, I would never have imagined happening.

There are two attitudes to toddler nursing in our culture. The most common one is that it is a vice to be avoided, particularly the cardinal sin of allowing a baby to associate breastfeeding with going to sleep (god forbid!). We are encouraged not to submit to our toddlers' desires to nurse, and to limit feeding to night-time if we are really too soft to wean our children off the breast completely.

But there is another attitude, one which is surprisingly common among groups of women who are aware of the benefits of breastfeeding. This attitude says that is natural to continue breastfeeding beyond a year (the WHO even recommends it!) and that nursing can actually be used as a tool to help a toddler negotiate the emotional ups and downs of growing up. It is obviously a tool that can only be used by the child's mother, but toddlers are already used to receiving a different style of care from their fathers, and continuing to nurse does not have to mean that other family members are unable to care for the child.

I have purposely avoided books on toddler nursing because I wanted to find out what it was like for myself, without any hopes or misgivings. What I am about to say is all based on my experiences alone. So here it is: the key thing that stands out to me about nursing my toddler is that is absolutely not about the milk. Yes, the milk still provides untold benefits to my daughter, but they are more like bonus extras nowadays. What really matters now is the comfort, the closeness and the familiarity of breastfeeding.

Nowadays nursing happens for a variety of reasons, none of which really have anything to do with hunger or thirst. First up is the "just checking in" nurse, where my daughter takes a short break out of her busy day to nurse for just long enough to check that I'm still there, watching and looking after her. She is usually on the breast for just enough time to stimulate a let-down, but she's gone before any significant amount of milk has time to flow. This feed is all about touching base.

Next we have the "upset/tantrum" nurse. I have many ways to deal with crying due to pain or frustration, and one of them is to let my toddler feed for a couple of minutes. It is as if she has a reset switch — when she's allowed to nurse to calm herself down, she can go from wailing banshee to smiling angel in a matter of minutes. Of course I don't always put her to the breast; if I'm in a crowded café it's not exactly my first resort. But it works, and it works for a reason (think hiding cavewoman, dangerous animal, crying baby). And it is not about suppressing emotions. Nursing is a known tension-reliever for babies, and it seems to me that it is perfectly sensible tool to have in my arsenal of methods to deal with tantrums.

Finally there is the "going to sleep" feed. As with the "tantrum" nurse, I don't always use the breast to put my daughter to sleep. But we share a bed and our whole sleeping format is geared around using the breast to settle her, so I have no hesitation in conditioning my daughter to fall asleep when nursing. The "going to sleep" feed is one of my favourite times of the day, not least because it gives me a break from the constant activity of chasing after a toddler. It takes only a few minutes and I know when she is sufficiently deeply asleep to be left because she lets my nipple fall out of her mouth. It is also the only time when she actually drinks a significant amount of milk. The "going to sleep" feed is a time of peace, relaxation and closeness, and I love it.

Though I have thought long and hard about my daughter's motivations for nursing, I can't help coming to the conclusion that these three reasons really do account for almost all of our feeding sessions. They vary wildly in frequency, from every few minutes some days to only two or three times on others. But what every day has in common is that my daughter knows that the comfort of nursing is available to her when she requests it. Not everyone can provide this, but I am fortunate enough to be able to stay at home with my child and while I can breastfeed her, I will. In the stormy ocean of toddlerhood, it can't fail to be a wonderful anchor.

Cave Mother logoFollowing stints in teaching and the civil service, Cave Mother is now a full-time mum to her 16-month-old daughter. She is also a breastfeeding peer supporter and a passionate advocate of attachment parenting. Read more of her writing at

Photo courtesy Adrian Yee on stock.xchng

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Pirate breastfeeding

Surrender the booby pirate onesie

Spotted on a walk down the waterfront today

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Giveaway of an inflatable potty seat at Hobo Mama Reviews!

potty time
We're gonna need more paper.
I am hosting my first honest-to-goodness review and giveaway from a real, live company (after my previous giveaway of a handmade treasure) over at Hobo Mama Reviews — the On-the-Go Inflatable Potty Seat. I am so excited to bring you a pottying tool that will be useful for the potty-learning toddlers out there as well as those parents doing elimination communication with their babies.

Click over to Hobo Mama Reviews to read the full review and enter the contest for one of FIVE inflatable potty seats being given away! I talk about the seat's features and show some delightful pictures of pottying in action, which is incentive enough, really.

Below is a little background on how I came to be doing a giveaway for On-the-Go Potty Seats, in case you're wondering what my connection is.

I've told you a little bit of our elimination communication (EC) journey with Mikko. We did part-time EC with cloth diapers for backup. Just before two years old, we said sayonara to the cloth diaper service and went with pottying full time.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Full-term breastfeeding posts and pages

Welcome to the January Carnival of Breastfeeding: favorite posts and pages

This month, we're sharing the best breastfeeding blog posts and website pages we've found on specific topics. Be sure to check out the links at the end for the other participants' excellent posts! I'll be adding more throughout the day Jan. 25.


I've decided to collect a few posts about the breastfeeding topic that currently occupies my days: breastfeeding a toddler.

A note on the terminology: Some people call nursing beyond infancy "extended" breastfeeding, as I have in the past. I now prefer the term full-term breastfeeding, because "extended" suggests beyond the norm, when really the biological and historical norm for breastfeeding is well past any arbitrary modern cut-off of one year of age. I actually wanted to link to a post or webpage to summarize that line of thought on the terminology and haven't yet found one, so point me to it if you know of one so I can link up!

Here's a selection of some of my favorite posts and webpages on full-term breastfeeding:

From Hobo Mama, here are some of my own favorite posts on breastfeeding a toddler:
Here's my collection of full-term nursing posts in Hobo Mama's breastfeeding posts by category! You can also read a selection of posts on topics such as newborn nursing, book reviews, lactivism, humor in breastfeeding, pumping and supplemental feeding, product reviews, and art in breastfeeding. I'd intended to have it fully updated before this carnival but, alas, it is not. But it's a good way to delve into the archives if you're curious about a specific subject.

Finally, here are some of my favorite breastfeeding blogs. Feel free to click on over to search for any full-term breastfeeding goodness. I picked ones that had a lot to do with breastfeeding, though there are plenty more I read where breastfeeding plays a role. Check out my blogroll for more!

This is just a small sampling, and I'd hate to miss any other great articles, so I'll turn it over to you. What are your own favorite posts and most inspiring websites on the subject of full-term breastfeeding?


Enjoy these posts from our other carnival participants:

Photo courtesy Women's Health Action Trust in New Zealand,
a poster that was the subject of its own controversy
as outlined in "Storm in a D cup"

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Calling for submissions for the February Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Our first Carnival of Natural Parenting was filled with astounding writers and inspiring parenting stories, so we hope you'll join us for the second carnival in Feburary! Your co-hosts are Lauren at Hobo Mama (that's me!) and Dionna at Code Name: Mama. There's a new web form to fill out this month, so please scroll down!

Here are the submission details for February 2010:

heart made from pebblesTheme: Love and partners: How has a co-parent supported your dedication to natural parenting — or not?

Deadline: Tuesday, Feb 2. Email your submission to us by 11:59 p.m. Pacific time: mail {at} and codenamemama {at}

Carnival date: Tuesday, Feb. 9. Before you post, we will send you an email with a little blurb in html to paste into your submission that will introduce the carnival. You will publish your post on Feb. 9 and email us the link if you haven't done so already. Once everyone's posts are published on Feb. 9 by noon, we will send out a finalized list of all the participants' links, to generate lots of Valentine's link love! We'll include full instructions in the email we send before the posting date.

Please submit your details into our web form: This is new for this month, and it will help us as we compile the links list. Thanks for your help! If you don't want to scroll sideways, you can enter your information at this webpage instead: February Carnival of Natural Parenting participant form

Please do: Write well. Write on topic. Write a brand new post for the carnival. And just a note for this topic in particular — we don't want the carnival topics to be exclusionary. If you don't have a co-parenting partner or don't experience love in that relationship, your story is just as valid as someone who does, so we welcome all perspectives. Please also feel free to be creative within the gentle confines of the carnival structure. If you're feeling so inspired, you could write a poem, a photo essay, a scholarly article, or a book review instead of a regular blog post (though those are welcomed, too!), as long as what you write is respectful of the carnival's intent. If you want help determining that ahead of time, please talk with us.

Please don't: Use profanity of the sort that might be offensive to more sensitive readers, or their children. Submit irrelevant or argumentative pieces contrary to the principles of natural parenting. You don't have to agree with all our ideals — and certainly you don't have to live up to them all perfectly! — but your submission does have to fit the theme and values of the carnival.

Editors' rights: We reserve the right to edit your piece or suggest edits to you. We reserve the right to courteously reject any submissions that are inappropriate for the carnival. Please also note that since there are two co-hosts, on different schedules, conferring over email, that our personal response to your submission might seem delayed. Don't be alarmed. We also reserve the right to impose consequences if the responsibilities of the carnival are not fulfilled by the participants.

If you don't have a blog: Contact one of us (mail {at} and codenamemama {at} about potentially finding you a host blog to guest post. Please write your piece well in advance of the deadline in that case, so we can match you up with someone suitable. But if you really have something amazing to write — why not start your own blog? If you want advice, I find Scribbit's free Blogging in Pink ebook to be a very helpful and down-to-earth guide, for beginners on up.

If you have questions: Please leave a comment or contact usmail {at} and codenamemama {at}

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaIf you are a (former or current) participant or supporter and want our delightful button to put in your sidebar, grab this code and proclaim to the blogosphere that you are a natural parent!

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In the meantime, stay in touch with us to make sure you get the latest news on the Carnival of Natural Parenting:

Photo courtesy plrang on stock.xchng

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Bilingual carnival at Bilingual Readers!

alphabet lettersI'm pleased to announce there's a bilingual blog carnival on today at — Let the carnival begin! and ¡Que empiece el Carnaval! — and that I have two articles featured.

If you're interested in raising your kids multilingually, head on over to read the participants' posts! They really sound great, on topics such as adding a fourth language, questioning the "critical period" for learning language, mixing languages creatively, and strengthening the minority language.

Since I wasn't sure old posts were preferable, I wrote a new (well, found an old but unpublished) post to submit to the carnival, a book review of 7 Steps to Raising a Bilingual Child, but when I went to email my submission to the carnival-powers-that-be, I started re-reading the directions and wondering if my blog showed enough of a bilingual bent to be included. I've meant to write more about our bilingual journey, and I still do, but I don't have a great deal up right now. So I added, as a reference, my original long post (with a super-long title) on speaking German with Mikko: "Monolingual raising a bilingual baby, or why we're choosing a German immersion preschool."

And then I waited. And Tweeted my anxiety. And someone pointed out that I, too, run a carnival and am scary. It's true. Except for the scary part.

And when I heard back, the email started "We finally decided..." and I drew in a deep breath to temper my disappointment and then continued the sentence to find out...oh, wait, you already know. Both the links are in there! Right, I kind of killed the suspense on that one, didn't I?

Do you want to see what I look like referenced in Spanish? I know you do!

Lauren, de Hobomama, nos hizo llegar un interesantísimo post titulado Monolingual Raising a Bilingual Baby, en el que comparte las razones por las que su marido y ella decidieron enseñar alemán a sus hijos, aunque ninguno de ellos es un hablante nativo de ese idioma. Además, Lauren escribió una magnífica reseña del libro 7 Steps to Raising a Bilingual Child, de Naomi Steiner, que puede ser de gran ayuda para los padres que están buscando respuetsas a sus dudas.
Cool, huh? En Español, I wrote a reseña magnifica, which sounds pretty impressive, I think.

I mentioned this on Twitter, but I didn't share it with everyone else, so I will cram it in here. I took Mikko to a Mexican restaurant to get him out of the house while Sam cleaned for the impending Visit of Doom (i.e., his mother-in-law coming to visit...yes, you can do the math and figure out it's my mother), and the waitress spoke to us only in Spanish. She started off with asking Mikko if he wanted leche to drink, so I translated that for him. Well, from then on, I guess she decided she could keep up the Spanish, so she did. I didn't get any sense that she was unaware of what she was doing or that she couldn't have spoken English to us if she'd wanted to; I think she was operating a little Spanish-immersion restaurant experience. She came by at intervals to lob me high-school Spanish softballs, asking how old he was and what his name was. I think I got all the answers right! It was fun, and it made me think Mikko should maybe tack on another day at his preschool, but in the Spanish section! Wouldn't it be great to have so many places available to absorb the spoken language and the cultural aspects as well?

Trilingual, here we come...

Read the carnival posts this month at Bilingual Readers, and to participate yourself, get the carnival schedule and sign up for the newsletter at Bilingual for Fun!

Photo courtesy Stephen Tainton on stock.xchng

Wordless Wednesday: Mystery breastfeeding

Here's a visual representation of yesterday's post about breastfeeding a toddler — and an admission of multi-tasking while nursing. But, hey, it was a good book!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Should a toddler breastfeed in public?

I love that the caption on this Lesotho postcard is “Mosotho woman weaving a basket.” Now there's a culture where the subject of this blog post would not even be discussed.
I wrote the December before last about "Hiding a nursing toddler," and seeing as it's over a year later, and I still have a nursing toddler, I thought I'd revisit the conversation.

Mikko is now 2.5 years old (31 months), and he was 18 months old when I was musing aloud about whether it was appropriate to continue breastfeeding him while we were out and about.

In case you were wondering, I still am nursing him in public, but I keep thinking about the issue.

I wish it weren't an issue. I wish everyone believed, as I do, in the unquestioned benefits of full-term breastfeeding and accepted child-led weaning (although I have nothing against mutual or mother-led weaning per se, and that's not my argument here). I wish the society in which I lived wasn't so scared of boobies (e.g., nip slip! the horror!), particularly when said breasts are fulfilling their intended purpose.

But it's not that way. Lactivists are fighting for the right to breastfeed a tiny newborn in public, even with a blanket. Am I hurting the fight by nursing a gangling toddler in full view, sans cover-up?

Mikko still nurses a lot. Every time I read a blog post of someone who's nursing a toddler, it's the same story: "We're down to two feedings a day, morning and night," or "only before naptime," etc., and so nursing in public is not even relevant to the discussion. Whereas Mikko still nurses like a wee thing. He picks at solid food (see, it sounds ludicrous even to call it "solid food" in reference to a 2.5-year-old who weighs 36 pounds; I don't call what I eat "solid food," I just call it "food") but will take nummies whenever they're around. I heard once that the technique of "don't offer, don't refuse" is a weaning strategy, but for us, it just seems to be life. I don't need to offer, because he's always doing the asking.

I started counting up the number of times we nursed one day a few months ago, and it was over 15 before I lost track. That's a lot of nursing! So, just as with a newborn, I have these options:

  1. Wean or cut down on nursings.
  2. Stay home.
  3. Nurse my toddler in public.

I would never tell any mother to wean a young infant or keep her baby hungry just so she could go shopping or out to eat. I would never tell her she should just stay home until the baby could take a bottle or had weaned. I would never tell her she had to supplement her baby's breastfeeding with expressed milk or formula, or solids in the case of a slightly older baby.

So why do I feel like what I'm doing is toeing the line of what is acceptable?

If Mikko could choose, he would choose #3, unhesitatingly. He frequently asks to nurse in situations where I'm not comfortable. I wish I were comfortable everywhere, but I'm so aware now that what I'm doing is aberrant for this culture.

For instance, the other day we went to a birthday party for another little boy, and I was sitting on a straight chair next to the child's grandmother, with an uncle standing in front of me. Mikko wanted to nurse. I imagined the gasp of horror from the grandmother, the wide eyes of the uncle as he got a view down my opened shirt. I picked Mikko up and went into the birthday boy's bedroom. Mikko got distracted by the toys there, so that ended the desire.

Mikko doesn't need to nurse all day, in some sense. He could get nutrients from other foods. He could sate his thirst by drinking other beverages. He manages fine without me when I'm not available, as when Sam takes him out for hours at a time to the zoo or on errands. Mikko will ask for nummies when I'm not around, but he doesn't dissolve into tears or faint from hunger without them. I could see some saying that his breastfeeding is more of a habit, a comfort sucking now. It's not that I don't agree, just that I think it's a tricky thing to separate a child's needs from a child's wants. I'm not the one who can prioritize what's important to him. In breastfeeding throughout these past two and a half years, I've always trusted him to know when he needs to nurse and how much. It put me in good stead when he was a newborn, and I don't want to stop now.

But I find myself hesitating when he asks for nummies in public. I weigh the situation. Are we among friends? Are we among friends who would approve? If there are strangers around, is anyone near enough to see what's happening?

I try to breastfeed discreetly, just because I am so aware that what I'm doing is unusual and I don't want to draw negative attention my way — particularly not if that attention lands on my defenseless son's head. But I can't breastfeed as discreetly as I used to, because Mikko won't stand for fabric near his face anymore. If I try to lift up my shirt to feed, he protests. "No. Big nummies," is his demand. He wants the full deal, out of the top of my shirt. I have large breasts, so I cover up the extra skin with my free hand — but not too near his mouth, or he'll push my hand away and a scrabbling battle will ensue. He'll then pop off the nipple to berate me for daring to intrude on his space, and I figure that sort of scene is more likely to attract attention than quiet nursing with a little bit of boobage showing.

Along the same lines, could I refuse his request for nursing in public? Sometimes. Maybe. As with the situation with the toys, sometimes something can distract him. But sometimes not. And then screaming ensues. And I wonder if the screaming, followed by nursing, might not attract more attention than just quietly giving in for a few sips.

Here's my biggest fear about nursing a toddler in public, apart from any negative comments we might receive but have so far been lucky to avoid. (For what it's worth, we haven't garnered any positive ones, either, at least from strangers, but I'm all right with people just ignoring us.) My biggest fear is that I'm setting the breastfeeding-rights movement back. I worry that far from normalizing breastfeeding, my breastfeeding a toddler sends a signal that breastfeeding is only for extremists. It is so bizarre by the current cultural standards that I fear anyone seeing us who's on the fence won't think, for example, "Well, I should at least breastfeed my newborn, then," but something more along the lines of, "Ugh, breastfeeding is so weird and primal and crunchy, and that's never going to be me."

So that's where we stand. I breastfeed my full-fledged toddler in public. Frequently. But with a side dish of waffling.

I don't even want to come to a conclusion here about where I think I should go with this, because I want (I think) to hear your opinions and experiences about nursing a toddler in public. I mean, I love hearing from you all, but I was a little leery to post this. I'm afraid all the comments will function as a sort of poll, and I'll have to abide by the group decision or suffer the emotional consequences. I don't want to be heaped with guilt and shame if we continue to breastfeed in public if, for instance, the informal poll tells me we should stop and I should day-wean him.

But, you know, a blog post's a blog post, and this has been swirling in my head for some time. I am interested in hearing what you have to say. Have at it.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Book review: 7 steps to raising a bilingual child

This post was written for inclusion in Bilingual for Fun's Blogging Carnival on Bilingualism, hosted this month by Bilingual Readers.

7 Steps to Raising a Bilingual ChildNever skimp on steps when raising bilingual children.
This is a review of the book 7 Steps to Raising a Bilingual Child, by Naomi Steiner MD with Susan L. Hayes.

[I found this draft from May 2009 in my Edit Posts list and clicked on it, thinking it would be a random set of hastily scrawled notes. But, I don't know — it looks like a full review to me. Why I didn't publish it before is anyone's guess. Hey, free post!]

Here's another book in raising multilingual children that I found helpful. It gave a solid foundation for what bilingualism is and what it is not, and then it moved into creating a strategy that will work for your family. Naomi Steiner talks you through a program of setting goals for the level of bilingualism your child will achieve, determining which language you will add to your family and who will speak it, and even setting a firm start date, and then helps you create a "bilingual action plan" that includes maximizing language input at home, taking advantage of community resources, and finding support in formal education.

One helpful aspect of the book is that she provides tables and worksheets throughout. The tables help if you like to see something visually to learn it or to refresh your memory, and the worksheets help you organize your thoughts and make concrete plans for your bilingual journey.

She also gave a wide sampling of resources that might be available to bilingual families, from TV shows to summer camps, babysitters to Saturday schools.

I also appreciated that her approach of letting the parents complete the worksheets and think over what's available to them means that she's not advocating a one-size-fits-all plan for every multilingual family.

Steiner also devotes a whole chapter to reading and writing, and gives suggestions for each age range. She points out that reading and writing in a weaker language will always take longer than in a stronger one, so to allow for that and look for ways to make reading and writing fun. She also reiterates the helpful tip to have your children formulate thoughts in their second language and then write them down, rather than formulating it in the stronger language and then translating. I've actually found that a helpful tip as I speak to Mikko! If I try to translate something specific, I start floundering. But if I speak a thought from scratch in German, it might be simpler but it usually flows more freely.

Another thing I admired about this book is how in depth she goes into potential roadblocks and in suggesting ways through or around them. Some of those obstacles are the standard ones of parents who think they're not speaking the second language well enough or children who start refusing to speak the second language. But others were more unexpected and helpful: "I'm self-conscious about speaking my language to my child in public," "Because I'm the one who speaks a second language, I feel like I'm the one doing all the work to raise our child bilingual," and "My work schedule has become really hectic, and there's little time for my child's bilingualism."

Along the same lines, as a behavioral and developmental pediatrician, Steiner also is able to go in depth into developmental difficulties your child might face and how they relate to bilingualism, such as speech delays, difficulties with reading and writing, and even being gifted and, therefore, bored. This is primarily in a section about schooling and the bilingual child so might or might not be of as much use if you intend to home or free school. If you are intending on traditional schooling, she gives tips for how to find good bilingual programs in the public schools, and how to beware of programs labeled bilingual that are really all about mainstreaming immigrants. (And my wrath on that is a post for another day...)

One con of the book for me is that I didn't enjoy the writing style quite as much as The Bilingual Edge, but that might be just personal preference. It seemed a little more didactic in tone, sort of "Well now, children, let's learn about bilingualism, shall we?" It might be the very fact that Naomi Steiner is a developmental and behavioral pediatrician who works with multilingual families, so presumably she is both a teacher of the young and, perhaps, used to speaking from a position of authority. Heaven knows I have issues with the medical establishment and with formal education, so those might be just my hang-ups! At any rate, don't let that spoil the usefulness of the book for you.

All in all, it's a strong book that's well organized and easy to read. It has all the essentials of bilingualism covered, and it goes in depth into unique obstacles multilingual families might face. The worksheets and steps to follow will help you craft a clear plan going forward in your bilingual journey.

For more of my posts on how we're raising our 2-year-old son, Mikko, bilingually in German and English, please see:

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Taking pee & peacocks in stride

I am fulfilling so many resolutions right now you'd be shocked.

I am taking Mikko to the zoo, because he wants to see the peacock, and the peacock he shall see. If we play our cards right, which we usually don't, we will have more than an hour to enjoy the majestic bird before the zoo closes.

Sam said to me the other day that he noticed I hadn't exploded in anger recently. It was the day I'd woken up soaked in pee from our purportedly potty-trained, cosleeping two-year-old. (I'm currently writing a review of a potty seat, and I think anytime you talk about how your toddler is potty independent, there is some balancing of the cosmos and you get peed on.) Sam went on to say, Like getting peed on this morning — you didn't even swear.

Now, to be honest, I think I was just too sleepy to think up any good ones. And maybe I've just been lucky lately on the emotional front. And there was a certain part of me that thought Sam was patronizing me, laying it on thick so that I would "keep up the good work!" — not unlike Mr. March and Marmee (which Swistle reminded me of). But I looked more closely, and Sam was being sincere, so I decided to take it as a compliment and not an excuse to, you know, get angry to prove I hadn't changed.

We started talking about how, when we're taking full-time care of our son, we can actually be more patient, more understanding, more even-keeled — for the most part, you understand! — because, well — why? Maybe because we're exposed to Mikko more and therefore understand him better. Maybe we adjust our expectations to reasonable levels. Maybe we just bond and feel connected and feel more like partners, parent and child, than antagonists, parent vs. child.

Now that I've said that, of course, the same gods who caused Mikko's bladder to erupt prematurely will cause me to let loose a tornado of swears at the zoo. I've got to watch for that.

And the peacock. Beautiful bird. Lovely plumage.

Off we go!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Drunken photo meme

If you're in a completely Wordless Wednesday mood, stop here. Otherwise, read on for why this photo was chosen.


You'd think Wordless Wednesday would be one of those no-thought-required posts. But when I saw it was Wednesday — again — I felt a little panicky.

Fortunately, I came across this photo meme from Melissa at Our Suburban Homestead. Structure. Phew!

No, she didn't tag me, and I'm not up for tagging other people, either. I say: If you want to do it, if it makes your Wordless (wordy...) Wednesday easier, then go for it.


  • Open the 2nd picture folder in your computer.
  • Open the 3rd picture in that folder and post it on your blog.
  • Explain the picture.
  • Tag 4 other bloggers to do the same. (You can notify them in their comments section.)

Explanation: Sam and I took this picture back in our cool, pre-baby days of ferrying over to an island for a wine tasting. Far from being tiny sips, the "tastes" were half-glasses of wine. We had six. We were on the South Beach Diet at the time and very low on carbs. Combine these two, and see why we were killing time until we needed to take the ferry and drive our car (safely) back home. Fortunately, we had our camera with us to capture the transition into twilight, the first stars and planets coming visible.

I've always loved this picture.

As long as I'm being unapologetically wordy, remember to enjoy the Carnival of Natural Parenting posts. They're all active now. I have read them all already, of course, but I'm making my way back through again to comment. In honor of the recent International Delurking Week, feel free to do the same on one or a bunch. And if you want to join the fun next month, jump on in! Submissions will be due the first Tuesday of February.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

January Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting resolutions

Welcome to the January Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting resolutions!

This is the first monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month we're writing about how we want to parent differently — or the same — in the New Year. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


I've gotten a lot of comments from people who don't do resolutions but who wanted to participate in the blog carnival. If you need someone to blame for choosing that theme, I'm your target, because it just seemed so January-approriate that I couldn't resist.

I'm of two minds about resolutions. On the one hand, they used to be an important yearly ritual for me. On the other hand, I never actually lived up to them. This year I (mostly) let them go and haven't yet missed them.

That said, I think you can have the spirit of New Year's resolutions without making a list of very specific and very unattainable goals. There are times when I need to stop, look back at what I've done or what I am currently doing, think about what I wish I were doing now or look forward to what I hope to be doing in the future, and then make some choices and some plans. That sort of life evaluation doesn't have to come on January 1, but it's a handy reference point in our Gregorian world.

So, here begins my reflecting.

Last year my resolutions were as follows:

Let's just get those first and third points out of the way right here with a big hearty chuckle so we can move on. I honestly wasn't even going to bring up that third one but thought someone might call me on it at some point, so I'll admit here and now that I did absolutely nothing to achieve that goal. And, I don't care.

The first one was just wistful musing, the sort of optimism that comes over you in late December when you're considering the approach of January 1 but still enjoying the excesses of the holidays, that crystal-clear uplift of "Yes, I will stop eating sugar tomorrow!" as you stuff another chocolate truffle in your mouth.

But the middle one still stands. The idea of "taking responsibility" actually sounds really grim, but I didn't mean it so. I meant that I had control over what I got done, and that if I didn't accomplish something I could have worked on (like doing the splits!), that was my choice and not someone else's fault.

"In the past, I've excused myself from doing something I want to because no one else was doing it, or I've blamed someone else's lack of participation on why I couldn't follow through.
"... There have been parenting ideas and ideals that I've had that I've been half-hearted about. I haven't talked about it much, but I have a goal to raise Mikko bilingual in English and German (along with the sign language!). Since Sam speaks kein Wort Deutsch, he's understandably not been able to support me in that vision. I've let that corrode my own ambition to follow through, but that's my problem, and only I can resolve it."

As I mentioned, I didn't make New Year's resolutions this year. And somehow, in my mind, the only resolutions from last year that I remembered were the ones I didn't do, like the being perfect part (no junk food, keeping the place spic and span, maintaining an even keel emotionally, etc.) and the still-no-splits thing. What a trip, then, to look honestly and see that I actually did a pretty good job at the most important of all the resolutions — the one about taking responsibility.

Not that you care about the splits thing, but I am closer to doing the splits this year than last. My right forward split is relatively close to the ground. Bear with me as I explain the relevance to something more important. I took no specific time outside of ballet class to work on my splits, but I did go to class most every week, and we stretched in almost every class. Turns out, the more you practice something, the better you get at it. Yes, my very own oh-duh moment.

It doesn't matter if you don't practice it as frequently as you'd hoped. It doesn't matter if you've not yet achieved perfection. You can still look back at where you were and look at where you are now and see your progress.

In terms of parenting resolutions, this is where I am, not perfect but somewhere better along the journey.

     • Take my example from last year where I was bemoaning the fact that I was not speaking enough German with Mikko. This is an ever-present temptation for me, to wimp out and speak (my native) English, but I can see that I speak much more German with him now than last year. He's been enrolled in his German preschool, and he answered me correctly when I asked him what color the number forty-four bus was, even though I don't remember having counted up to forty-four with him in German and we weren't in eyesight of the bus in question. I'm even composing some bilingual songs so that I'll have more of a repertoire to sing! (Yes, one's about riding the forty-four bus!)

     • Doing more sign language with him is another one — he's a signing whiz now. I actually recently had a resolution, not tied to New Year's in particular, to continue signing with him now that he's becoming so verbal at two and a half. I'd like for him to retain all of this knowledge he's worked so hard to build, and perhaps let it blossom into full-fledged ASL learning.

     • Another example of taking responsibility I'm pleased with is that, instead of just whining about how I don't have a tribe around me, I've actually taken a couple steps to create a community for us. Our first babysitting co-op meeting is upon us, and aside from that, our little threesome has made some new, Mikko-friendly contacts with both families and non-parents. (Don't worry — I won't let that stop me from whining. It's too much fun.)

     • I've also been thinking again (constantly) about the idea of taking responsibility for my emotions. Having a toddler pushes me over the edge more times than I care to admit. Sometimes I take this out on Mikko, sometimes on Sam, sometimes on the cat, sometimes on inanimate objects. I would like to not take it out at all, if possible. I don't mean that in some unhealthy, holding-it-in sort of way. I mean, seriously, I would like to stop being so darn angry. To just chill, to let things be. No one else can do this for me, so I'm going to have to try.

     • Along the same lines, I need to stop swearing already. It might seem from that last paragraph with my quaint "darn" that I'm an aw-shucks, gee-whilikers kind of girl. Sadly, I could teach a sailor a thing or two. And I have taught Mikko some interesting terms. Whoops. I don't actually care if he grows up to swear; I feel like that's his choice. It's too long a tangent to include in this paragraph, but I was brought up to believe swearing was one of the worst things ever, and I really think it was an unhealthy fixation and something that distanced me from people. I wouldn't even read swear words in my head, and I judged anyone who used them, thereby missing the point of what they were saying. I had to grow up and out of that to let those words lose their power over me. That said, having my two-year-old swear at my mother when she visits this month: not cool. So I'm going to try to curb my tongue until Mikko's old enough to understand swearing, if that makes sense.

     • My last resolution is half-practical and half-mental. Sam and I have been trading off childcare duties. And when I say "trading off," I mean mostly Sam's been taking Mikko so I could write.
But it's time for me to step up to the plate and really give this trading-off thing a go. When it's my turn, I need to seize it, take Mikko elsewhere if Sam needs his space, and just enjoy the time I have with my son. It's hard for me, I won't deny it. Playing trains with a toddler for hours is akin to sitting in a doctor's waiting room, only without a magazine to distract me. Here's how Mikko plays trains: "Hello, Thomas. How you? Hello, Puwsy [my take on his pronunciation of Percy]. How you? Go store?" Then they drive to the store (Mikko's leg), and I ask what they will buy. Every time, they buy monkeys and bananas. "Hello, Thomas. How you?" he says when they bring back their loot to the other trains. "Ride back?" Which, to the uninitiated, means one wants to ride on the other's back, as in, be hooked up like a train and tool around for a bit. Repeat. Same script every time. It's charming the first five times, death by Thomas the Tank Engine the next fifty. If I show a break in concentration, say to scratch my nose, he grabs my hand and pulls it back to a train. "No!" he reprimands. "Play choo-choo tracks!" (For some reason, this is what he calls "trains" now.)

So it's dull, and cute, and boring, and adorable, and I want to focus on the good and let the bad just not bother me so much. There'll be time enough to work on posts and goof around on Twitter and run the laundry and write thank-you notes. I'm going to try to turn off my brain more often; acknowledge that playing, as shown in Playful Parenting, is how our children communicate with us, how they work through their own emotions and experiences, and how we show our love to them by speaking their language; and enter into the spirit of being a mother to a two-year-old.

Because, you know, it strikes me even now: He'll be turning three this year, so it doesn't last forever.

I've been thinking a lot recently about whether I'm a failure as a mother. I look at pictures of Mikko smiling and wonder if he's smiling because we told him to, or because it's a natural reflex for unjaded children to smile, or if it's because he's truthfully happy. If he could remember his toddler years, would he look back on this time with affection, or would he point out everything I've done wrong?

That was kind of a downer thought when I had it, but it served as a wake-up call. January or not, there are things in my parenting and my life that I need to change, and if not now, when? I realize that I can't make Mikko happy (since he's in control of his own emotions), but I can make the choices in my own parenting that are most likely to lead to his happiness.

Like playing choo-choo tracks. "Hello, Topham Hat!"

What are your parenting resolutions this year? If you don't believe in resolutions, in what way are you still looking back and looking forward and reevaluating?

Photo courtesy Mateusz Stachowski on stock.xchng


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: 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 updated by noon EST Jan. 12 with all the carnival links. All the links below will be active by then.)

•  To Yell or Not to Yell — Lactating Girl at The Adventures of Lactating Girl wants to stop yelling. You can find Lactating Girl on Twitter at @LactatingGirl.

•  It Is All About Empathy: Nurturing a Toddler's Compassion Potential — Paige at Baby Dust Diaries gives us a comprehensive post on how to help our children develop empathy. You can find Paige on Twitter at @babydust.

• To my babies: this year… — Alison at BluebirdMama has written a letter of resolutions to her children. You can find Alison on Twitter at @Childbearing.

• Mindfully Loving My Children — Melodie at Breastfeeding Moms Unite! has found that determining her children's love language is helping guide her in parenting compassionately. You can find Melodie on Twitter at @bfmom.

• January Carnival of Natural Parenting: Resolutions — Dionna at Code Name: Mama resolves (among other things) not to freak out if her toddler isn't sporting Thomas undies in 2010. You can find Dionna on Twitter at @CodeNameMama.

• Imperfect Mother — Sarah at Consider Eden looks back at the goals she had for herself last year to see how close she came to her ideal — and finds some unexpected accomplishments as well. You can find Sarah on Twitter at @ConsiderEden.

• Resolutions — Craphead (aka Mommy) will work on emptying her grumpy battery more often in 2010. You can find Craphead (aka Mommy) on Twitter at @ahippygirl.

• FC Mom's Parenting Resolutions 2010 — Kristine at FC Mom is arguably the most ambitious among our group – she has resolutions in just about every area of her life! You can find Kristine on Twitter at @TheFCMom.

• What’s in a Resolution? — Chrystal at Happy Mothering is due soon with baby girl #2! Chrystal resolves to be as fully present for two daughters as she was when she had only one. You can find Chrystal on Twitter at @HappyMothering.

• January Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting resolutions — Lauren at Hobo Mama is surprised she didn't do everything wrong last year. You can find Lauren on Twitter at @Hobo_Mama.

• Natural Parenting Resolutions — Mrs Green at Little Green Blog has found a simple way to take a break before reacting emotionally to a tense situation. You can find Mrs. Green on Twitter at @myzerowaste.

• This year, I will mostly... — Ruth at Look Left of the Pleiades reminds us that small changes can help overcome big struggles. You can find Ruth on Twitter at @brightravenmum.

• Parenting Resolutions — Darcel at The Mahogany Way resolves to enjoy the journey. You can find Darcel on Twitter at @MahoganyWayMama

• I Resolve to Breastfeed In Public More Often — Summer of mama2mama tips resolves to breastfeed in public to help make breastfeeding normal. You can find Summer on Twitter at @mama2mamatips.

• Moving to Two Kids — Megna at Megna the Destroyer is expecting baby #2 any day! Megna has been reading Siblings Without Rivalry for some advice on how to navigate being the mother of two children.

• Use Love — Kate at Momopoly resolves to “use love” in her relationship with her toddler. You can find Kate on Twitter at @Momopoly.

• My parenting resolutions — Mamamilkers at Musings of a Milk Maker has found a parenting class and a counselor to help her five-year-old work through her anxiety issues. You can find Mamamilkers on Twitter at @mamamilkers.

• Talkin' 'bout My Resolutions — NavelgazingBajan at Navelgazing is committing herself in public to cloth diapering, baby signs, bedtimes, and book reading.

• Parenting Resolutions — Sarah at One Starry Night is helping her older son heal from time away from her and keeping her newest addition happy while recovering from a challenging pregnancy and birth. You can find Sarah on Twitter at @starrymom.

• Invitations, not resolutions — Arwyn at Raising My Boychick doesn't have resolutions, but she invites and intends. You can find Arwyn on Twitter at @RaisingBoychick.

• No more multitasking during kid time — Jen at The Recovering Procrastinator will work on consistency and focusing on one thing at a time. You can find Jen on Twitter at @jenwestpfahl.

• I need to slow down, smell those roses AND the poopy diapers — Joni Rae at Tales of a Kitchen Witch Momma wants to slow down to smell the roses and the poopy diapers. You can find Joni Rae on Twitter at @kitchenwitch.

• Resolutely Parenting in 2010 — Jessica at This Is Worthwhile would like an early warning system for “Mommy Meltdown.” You can find Jessica on Twitter at @tisworthwhile.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Breastfeeding PSA, baby girls, trampolines, & crunchy carnivals

Well, hosting a blog carnival* and, you know, parenting a two-year-old has taken all my juice the past several days.

Herewith are a few links I've been saving up and my comments on the same.

*Yes, I've noticed my co-host is not having this problem. What can I say in my defense?

Best for Babes breastfeeding ad -- Life-saving devices     • If you're a blogger who supports breastfeeding (and why wouldn't you?), put the Best for Babes ad campaign on your site. The ads were designed pro bono thanks to Frank About Women and are absolutely charming and inherently meaningful. In a world where f*rmula gets all the advertising dollars, give breastfeeding a boost and help mamas beat the booby traps!

     • In the comments to my post on whether we should have another baby, Cypress Sun reminded me of a post she wrote titled "Only One" that I had meant to highlight. (Yes, please do prompt me about your wonderful posts in comments so I won't forget!) Go read it so I don't spoil the ending. Chills! The good, tingly, heartening kind.

     • Here are a couple published articles to complement my post on things to do away from home but still inside with kids in a Pacific Northwest winter.
     "Rainy day destinations: Seattle dry spots that provide entertainment for the whole family"
     "Rainy day diversions: Good ideas for what to do when the weather is wet"
     I know these compilations are specific to Seattle, but I post them as inspiration: Maybe you could poke around online for a similar list for your area. Keep those ideas coming, for whatever challenging clime you're in!
     The Arena Sports Fun Zone sounds like the bouncy house playplace Planet Jump that Jamie of Blessed With Full Hands mentioned in the comments.
     That reminds me of an indoor trampoline center (full trampoline trampoline children jumpingfloors and walls!) in Bellevue called Sky High Sports, which would be a blast for slightly older children. I know there's a special court there for little kids, but I can't find on the site exactly how little they can be. For very much older kids (i.e., us), there are even trampoline aerobics classes, which would be a hilarious way to raise a sweat. Oh, I'm sorry, AIRobics.
     [ETA 10:59 p.m.] I just remembered one more, but it's on the pricey side, so we've never been. Baby Loves Disco is an indoor dance-and-hang sort of event for little ones and their families, at various locations around the US and elsewhere. I know about it because BabyLegs is always giving out pairs for free at the dances. The problem is, tickets are...oh, wait. I just looked at the website, and it's indefinitely postponed/canceled everywhere due to economic woes. Sigh. All right, never mind.
     Ok, I'll try one more thing. Your local community centers might have (ours do) free/cheap-o family or toddler activities, like board game nights or craft nights. Check it out, yo. If you go to your local community center, there'll usually be a paper catalog to grab; if you can find the website, there's usually a PDF one to download, or you might even be able to register online. There. Hope that soothed the wound I opened by promising baby disco and then taking it away.

     • I meant to post about this even before we started a carnival ourselves and think I haven't yet: Melodie at Breastfeeding Moms Unite! has compiled an awesome list of "Carnivals For Crunchy Mamas." So if you love writing for blog carnivals (or if you host a relevant one that isn't listed), head on over there! They're divided by category, so you're covered if you want to write on themes such as homeschooling, green parenting, feminism, birth, breastfeeding, and more.

And that's all I've got for now! Stay tuned after midnight for the first Carnival of Natural Parenting! It's an astonishing collection of incredible writers — and, no, I'm not overselling it.

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaBy the way, if you're a participant or supporter and want our delightful button to put in your sidebar (that's Mikko's starfish hand in the grass — I keep having to check it to make sure there aren't six fingers), grab this code and proclaim to the blogosphere that you are a natural parent!

<!-- begin button -->
<center><a href="" target="_blank" title="Carnival of Natural Parenting"><img alt="Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama" src="" /></a></center>
<!-- end button -->

That should work! Let me know if there are any coding problems. Thanks!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Ten places to amuse kids during bad weather

I want to point you to a guest post I wrote that went up today at a very cool online magazine some friends of mine run: Catapult Magazine. It's an article giving you ten ways to amuse your children indoors but away from home, perfect for the rain I hear hitting the skylights even now.

Read it here at Catapult Magazine. A foretaste:
... But then winter — and reality — struck. We live in Seattle. It rains a lot here. ...  I mean, sure, we still spend time outdoors — going on walks and bike rides — but there’s only so much time you can spend in 40-degree drizzle before you start feeling waterlogged.
girl watching penguin at aquariumSam and I, therefore, have had to get creative in finding locations to bring a rowdy toddler that are shielded from some of the worst of the winter weather but are away from home and affordable to us.

It's an extension of my previous article, Rainy-day movement ideas for toddlers, which gave options for moving within the four walls of a house. This winter, Sam and I find ourselves needing to move Mikko outside the house so that the other of us can get work done in our home business, but the weather has been less than considerate. In that vein, we've had to get creative, and these are ten of our best ideas so far, including memberships to the zoo, running errands (hey, whatever works!), and public swims (my choice for today, in fact!).

This article is part of the Ten Things issue, which is an annual event at Catapult. This is why there are ten items in my list, though to be honest — well, it's me. So I kind of cheated and shoved some more in there. And now that I look around at the other articles, I'm realizing I'm super wordy. Oops.

And yet, and's not even enough.

Please, if you have more ideas for things to do, please tell me. Please. Sam was reading this article over for me before I sent it in, and he was saying, "Gee, with so many things we have to do, you'd think we wouldn't always be running out of ideas to fill the time."

If you can, leave the comments on the Catapult site to make me look popular. Wouldn't that be nice of you!

Catapult Magazine is part of the insightful and innovative nonprofit organization Culture Is Not Optional, run by Rob & Kirstin Vander Giessen-Reitsma. Check 'em out. My thanks to them and *cino for letting me post.

Photo courtesy marsy from stock.xchng