Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sunday Surf: Happy Halloween!

Welcome to the Sunday Surf! Here are some of the best links I've read this past week.

Yesterday we went trick-or-treating in our local business district, and today we're going trick-or-treating at the mall. Because you can never have too much candy. Or something.

I think it's more just that it's fun. Who doesn't like to see a little kid dressed up in costume — especially one's own little kid?

3 year old in firefighter costume on Halloween

I picked out about three million links to share, so to narrow it down, I'm going all Halloween-themed. Ohhhh, yeah.

(P.S. I might still be high on candy.)

  • "Pumpkin and Winter Squash Recipes" from Farmer's Daughter: These looked too yummy and orange not to share. We love butternut squash, and I'd never even heard of a twice-baked squash. Must try.
  • "trying to raise free range children" from sesame ellis: This slightly applies to Halloween, because we got thoroughly rained on trick-or-treating yesterday. (Hence, our indoor mall plan for today.) I can remember so many Halloween costumes ruined by having to put a giant parka or raincoat over them. Also, all my memories of trick-or-treating are of going out with friends by ourselves, after dark. I'm sure a parent must have come with us when we were really young, but I don't even recall when that was. It made me wonder when I would be "allowed" in our current fear-based culture to let Mikko trick-or-treat door-to-door with his friends and no adults. But that has barely anything to do with the article. Enjoy the pictures; enjoy the sentiment.
  • "Scary Muslims In Their Nerve-Wracking Muslim Garb" from Escaping To My Happy Place: This made me think of costumes, and how we've assigned some people to the scary group and some to the friendly. How we see the costumes and not the people. Just watching the faces on this video made me smile.
  • "Tricks and a Treat" from Better After: On Photoshop costumes, and their effect on how we view ourselves in the mirror.
  • "boo!" from Bliss: I saw almost this exact picture when we were trick-or-treating.
  • Submissions for the November Carnival of Natural Parenting on "What is natural parenting?" are due this Tuesday, November 2. Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaWe're asking participants to explore one aspect of natural parenting and what it means to them — from cloth diapering to breastfeeding, learning at home to gentle discipline. You pick the topic. We'll arrange them by theme and write up some nice introductory posts on Natural Parents Network to link back to yours throughout the month of November. It's going to be fun!
  • Speaking of Natural Parents Network, our official launch is tomorrow! Click over tomorrow to enjoy the start of a month of original content, fun giveaways, supportive forums, and other natural parenting fabulousness.

I have so many more I could share, but I'll save them for next week and try not to read so much this week… Meanwhile, Mikko's trying on my nursing bra as a belt, so I guess that's his cue that it's time to get his actual costume on and go get the supplies to be more hyper.

You can find more shared items during the week at my public Google Reader recommendations feed.

Check out Authentic Parenting, Baby Dust Diaries, Maman A Droit, Navelgazing, pocket.buddha, Breastfeeding Moms Unite!, Enjoy Birth, A Domesticated Woman's Adventures, and This Adventure Life for more Sunday Surfing! (If you also participate in a regular link list, whether on Sunday or not, let me know and I'll add your link.)

Feel free to add your recommendations in the comments. Happy reading!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Parenting and the fear of loss

As I approach my miscarriage-iversary date (10 weeks into my first pregnancy, and I am nine weeks into this one), my thoughts turn, again and again, to potential loss. I passed the six-week mark, which is when I began bleeding with my first pregnancy, but I have a sort of superstitious certainty that if I get past the 10-week mark, which is when the full-on hemorrhaging and cramping began, that I will be safe. That this pregnancy cannot be touched. That all will be well.

Only, I know from my second pregnancy, the pregnancy with Mikko, and his subsequent three years on earth, that this is not the case at all.

Not because anything untoward has happened, but because of continued awareness that something could. There is no time, ever, when a parent can sit back, relieved, and know that all danger is past. There are reminders everywhere.

I have entered a phase where my morning sickness mysteriously disappears in the morning, leading me to wonder if my pregnancy hormones have plummeted, heralding a miscarriage to come. The queasiness returns in the afternoons and evenings, when I am both miserable and relieved.

I speak with a friend, who tells me of her unexpected and unexplained miscarriage at 13 weeks. A full 3 weeks past my meaningless all-is-well date.

I read an article in Mothering about an accidental stillbirth — one I had passed over while pregnant with Mikko, when just the first paragraph terrified me. I make myself go back and read it after he is born, to acknowledge the frailty that is life and birth.

I read online of babies and children lost, some in the womb, some in birth, some as infants, toddlers, others as nearly full-grown teens. I grieve for these people, most of whom I don't know, and I try not to let them know of my presence beyond some first whispered words of condolence, because I fear my interest might be seen as ghoulish. But I want to assure them here, anonymously, it is not. I do not know what they are going through, but I know it is not a case of I-am-blessed-and-you-are-not. There is no fair. There is no protective curtain to keep me on the safe side and them on the grieving side. We are all in this together, and I mourn with them for these losses that affect us all.

I remember there was a man at our former church who died of a brain tumor at 36. He left behind a wife and two young children, and I forgot the exact ages of his children and wanted to find out, to know the enormity of the loss and to pray for the family. I typed his name into Google to search for his obituary. All I could find was a relentless list of all the people who had died on the same day he had — some sort of log done by an official record-keeping office. Beside each name was an age, and my eye was drawn to one male name with the age 15 years in parentheses after it.

I copied and pasted that name and found his CaringBridge site. This young man had been diagnosed with cancer four months previously and, now, like that, was gone.

I was really mad. I mean, how mean is that? To have raised your child to 15 years, and you're thinking, We're past the worst. We're past the uncertainty of pregnancy, the potential traumas of birth, the tender infancy, the illness- and accident-prone toddler years. To have gotten all the way to 15 must have seemed like a triumph for his parents — and then cancer takes him in four months.

Just today, it occurs to me. The 36-year-old man's parents? Must be thinking the same thing.

Once you're a parent, until you die, you can never fully exhale.

This post is not meant to be morose — no, I guess it is. Sorry about that, I guess. I think death is shuffled away in our culture, sterilized and glossed over, and we're not meant to think of how, sometimes, children die. If you want to see something heartbreaking yet also, somehow, more real than we are about death despite its superficial artificiality, check out Victorian death photography. There was a time when people knew for certain that life was fragile, that there was a good chance not all of your siblings would make it to adulthood.

Since we're so close to Halloween, let's think of this as a sort of Day of the Dead post, where we're allowed to celebrate and think about those who have left us while acknowledging that our hold over our own lives and those of our loved ones is tenuous.

For now, I'm going to appreciate this baby in me, even if our time together is fleeting (and I suspect it will be as long and lush as I hope), and I'm going to appreciate my loves who surround me much as I surround the little one inside.

To those who are grieving, I send you my deepest wishes for time to mourn, and time to heal. To those who are blissfully unaware of danger, I envy you even if I can't understand you. And to me, I say, Peace. Make peace with death. How else can I let go and live?

Painting is Her First Born, by Robert Reid, 1888.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Seesaw on the strand

Boy on driftwood seesaw on the beach with father

Boy on driftwood teeter-totter on the beach

Prima Princessa Presents Swan Lake DVDDo your kids long to leap and pine for pirouettes? Enter to win the DVD Prima Princessa Presents: Swan Lake, which is open to anyone with a Region 1 player (formatted for U.S. & Canada) and ends November 10.

Find sites to link up your Wordless Wednesday post
at my super-cool collection of Wordless Wednesday linkies,
and let me know if you have one to add.
You can also link up a thumbnail from your post below!

This linky list is now closed.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Say "boo" to Nestlé this week!

It is the international week to boycott Nestlé, October 25-31. It coincides with Halloween on purpose, since Nestlé makes so much candy.

Here's some information on the boycott, on Nestlé, and on why you should consider joining in this week.

Nestlé produces, besides a host of other products, three specific types of products that are the subject of controversy:

There are other issues with the corporation as well, and the boycott seeks to point them out to bring the public's attention to Nestlé's practices and to put pressure on Nestlé to (maybe, someday, we can hope) change.

As Birthing Beautiful Ideas so eloquently explains in a fabulous article titled "What the Nestle Boycott is—and isn't—About," the boycott is against Nestlé; it is not against you, no matter if you've used Nestlé products in the past, no matter if you like them still, no matter if you formula feed. As Baby Milk Action, the organization spearheading the boycott, has on every page on its site, the mission is "Protecting breastfeeding — Protecting babies fed on formula." The boycott calls Nestlé to account for its role in undermining infant health, fair labor practices, destruction of the environment, and promotion of unwholesome food.

To take probably the most controversial Nestlé-relatd issue, because of its apparent reflection on parents who use formula, Nestlé's practices where infant formula are concerned are as dangerous for formula-fed infants as they are for breastfeeding itself. Nestlé unscrupulously promotes artificial milk substitutes worldwide, but in developing countries it has a particularly devastating impact. The estimate is that 1.5 million babies die every year who could have been saved through appropriate breastfeeding — if companies like Nestlé hadn't used insidious methods to convince parents who could have breastfed to switch to formula. In developing countries, water to mix with formula is often tainted with disease. Formula itself is too expensive for many families, so once they use up their free samples, they're forced to dilute the formula so it will last longer. Simply put, Nestlé has put intentional practices into place that kill babies. In the industrialized world, formula is still unethically marketed as being the same as breastmilk, or given out as samples to expecting parents and to healthcare workers — and you'd better believe that has an effect on breastfeeding success rates. Are there other formula companies doing the same things? You betcha. But Nestlé has been the most egregious, and the other companies look to Nestlé to see what they can get away with — apparently, it's a lot.

So, if you think Nestlé sounds pretty reprehensible but a year-long boycott and keeping track of all those Nestlé brands on a regular basis is too much for you, consider Nestle free zonesetting aside Nestlé products for just this one week. You don't have to get rid of the Nestlé products you already have; just make an effort not to buy any new ones right now. Buy other brands of candy for Halloween celebrations. Instead of popping in a Stouffer's or Lean Cuisine, cook a slow meal with your family. Try a different brand of cookie dough or chocolate chips. Skip the Häagen-Dazs and Dreyer's; there are other ice cream brands out there, or maybe you can do without for a week. Feed your pets some non-Chow. Indulge in better coffee than Nescafé, and in better juice for your kids than Juicy Juice. Make some pasta that's not Buitoni. And invest in a reusable water bottle so you don't have to use bottled water. Refuel with real food instead of a Power Bar. And trust me — you look fabulous; you can stop with the Jenny Craig. If you're feeding a baby, see if you can do without any Gerber or Nestlé formulas, baby foods, and accessories for a week. As far as solids go, I'm a big fan of child-led solids, where you give your baby or toddler (over six months old) food from your own plates. Try it this week if you haven't before. And if your baby must use a brand-specific formula, you can still participate in the boycott in the other ways.

Yup, Nestlé's all over the place. And they're powerful enough that they think they can throw out placating double speak and we'll ignore what they're doing to children and adults and nutrition and the environment in other countries and in ours. But we won't. We demand better, and the boycott will continue until they listen to us.

Boo, Nestlé.

Who's with me in boycotting?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Photo Card Creations giveaway ends tomorrow!

Photo Card CreationsIf you want a chance to win 25 chic, custom photo cards for holiday greetings (or birth announcements or thank-yous, or whatever you want!), head on over to Hobo Mama Reviews by tomorrow night. Because my giveaway of 25 free photo cards ends at 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday, October 26! (That's Pacific time for you last-minute contestants.)

Also check out my post letting you know about a discount if you order your holiday cards this month. Might as well get it done early and take advantage of the coupon!

If you pre-print an inside message, you could save a lot of time as you're preparing your mailing list. You can have your kids decorate the inside or envelope with markers and stickers to add that personal touch! See, I'm looking out for you and your holiday enjoyment.

Happy entering, and good luck!

Disclosure: Photo Card Creations sponsored a giveaway
and gave me 15 free custom photo cards for review.
See my full disclosure policy here.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sunday Surf: The itsy-bitsy baby

Welcome to the Sunday Surf! Here are some of the best links I've read this past week.

We usually have our family fun day on Sundays, but we chose yesterday instead: 40% chance of rain yesterday instead of 100% today. Yes, my friends, we have entered fall in Seattle. It's going to be all drizzle, all the time, from here till the baby is born.

I was talking to Mikko about the baby, whom I described as the size (currently) of a grape. He made the shape with his finger and thumb and said, "Like this, Mama?" Yes, like that. "The baby come out now?" No, I said, the baby will be inside until June. "What Joooon, Mama?" It's a month, I said, clearly in over my head now. It's when summer comes. It's fall right now, and then it will be winter, as it gets colder and colder, and then spring, and then the baby will come when it's almost summer. Mikko looked blank, so I continued. Fall and winter are when it rains and rains. He considers this, watching the rain streaming down our windows. "And the rain wash the baby out?" Hmm. I guess.

  • "Your Impact" from Code Name: Mama: Dionna's been hosting a Joys of Breastfeeding Past Infancy series that I've been glad to participate in and read. Dionna shares one mama's response to the series, a newfound confidence to continue nursing her baby past a year, even though she has no local support. It brings tears to my eyes when I think of the community and support we can offer each other online.
  • "Hiring Community" from
    "The reality is that I’m not going to magically become super-productive while two kids scale the back of the chair I’m trying to work in. If I want to get something done, I need help. And so I decided to hire some. We put an ad on Craigslist, and found Wonder Nanny. She comes two mornings a week and plays with my children while I work. …

    In a different time, I would live in a multi-generational community, where I would trade childcare with other adults and have back-up when I needed it. Here and now, I don’t have that. So I have hired my ‘community’. I will admit, I feel sort of awkward. …

    I do need the help, though. I’ll admit it. This is my life, working at home with two kids, and I am doing my best."
    As someone who trades off working and parenting time with my husband, mourns the dearth of alloparents, spearheaded a babysitting co-op among her friends, and still has fits of guilt over sending her son to preschool twice a week, all I can say is, Yes. It is so hard for attachment parents (particularly mothers) to let go of the idea that we can or should be our child's only caregiver. I don't think it's even natural in the sense of historically normal. But when we don't have volunteers handy, we have to pay for the privilege of giving our children more trusted adults to attach to and experience life with. To Amber, I say, Go for it, and enjoy! To myself, in my own mind, I wish I could wholeheartedly say the same thing. I'm getting there.

  • "Homebirth Hypocrisy" from Connected Mom: When I was growing up, it was the norm for people to die in hospitals or nursing homes. Now I've watched several older family members choose to spend their final days in their own homes, with the support of family and hospice workers. After millennia where dying at home was the expected thing, we've come around to allowing people once again to make that choice — or at least feeling that they should be able to. I can only hope the same acceptance comes back around for home birth.
  • "PILAM 2010: Why I write about miscarriage" from Tales of Minor Interest: October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. As someone who has lost a baby to miscarriage, I appreciate the mission here:
    "I write to give voice to those who cannot speak without their feelings being invalidated. I write for those who cannot or will not, for whatever reason, write for themselves. I am not so pretentious as to claim to know what all women feel, for we all experience loss differently and process it uniquely in our own due time, but I write to pay homage to all my sisters in pregnancy loss and to honor and validate their experiences."
  • "What Everyone Needs To Know About Infant Formula Ingredients" from Breastfeeding Moms Unite!: Melodie's done a great job of researching some of the stickier ingredients that go into infant formula. This post is not meant to condemn those who use formula but just to offer information that's hard to find out as a sort of informed consent that pediatricians typically are not offering.
  • "The worst epidemic you know nothing about" from mamapundit:
    Drug overdoses typically do not end up in police reports or broadcast by the media, even though these injuries and deaths are happening all the time.
    "Accidental drug overdose is currently the leading cause of injury-related death in the United States for people between the ages of 35-54 and the second leading cause of injury-related death for young people [after motor vehicle accidents]."
    I know Henry's sad experience has inspired me to be as aware and proactive as possible when it comes to drug use and my children. I hope it's enough.
  • That was depressing, so now I want to end on a silly note. I laughed hard enough at "The 7 Most Useless Skymall Products (Reviewed Accordingly)" from Cracked that I cursed it as my choice of reading material while trying to soothe Mikko to sleep. That said, like all Cracked articles, it's juvenile and filled with bad language and sexual humor. So, you know, you're warned. Of course, that's why I like them.
  • I have two giveaways up at Hobo Mama Reviews:
    • You can win 25 custom photo cards from Photo Card Creations if you enter by this Tuesday, October 26. These chic, designer cards are worth about $62 and would be perfect for holiday greetings. Contest is open to U.S.
    • Prima Princessa Presents: Swan Lake DVDPrima Princessa: Swan Lake from Prima Princessa. My son lurves this preschool-friendly ballet DVD that introduces key vocabulary and dance concepts, shows and explains a professional production, and gives lots of time to twirl around in tutus and tiaras. My review was featured on TutuZone this week, so that was pleasant! This is a Region 1 DVD appropriate for U.S. and Canada. Enter by November 10.
You can find more shared items during the week at my public Google Reader recommendations feed. Check out Authentic Parenting, Baby Dust Diaries (on hiatus), Maman A Droit, Navelgazing, pocket.buddha, Breastfeeding Moms Unite!, Enjoy Birth, A Domesticated Woman's Adventures, and This Adventure Life for more Sunday Surfing! (If you also participate in a regular link list, whether on Sunday or not, let me know and I'll add your link.)

Feel free to add your recommendations in the comments. Happy reading!