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 Robert Reid Her First Born oil paintinghemorrhaging 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!

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 Strocel.com:
    "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!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Calling for submissions for the November Carnival of Natural Parenting!

We continue to be delighted with the stories and wisdom our Carnival of Natural Parenting participants share, and we hope you'll join us for the next carnival in November! (Check out January, February, March, April, and May, June, July, September, and October if you missed them.)

Your co-hosts are Lauren at Hobo Mama and Dionna at Code Name: Mama, and this month is a joint venture with our newly launched site, Natural Parents Network.

The way we're organizing the carnival is a little different this month, so read on to find out!

Here are the submission details for November 2010:

Theme: What is natural parenting?: Explore one concept from the natural parenting philosophy – why is it important to you/your family? Why does Newborn baby in wrap on the beachit resonate with you? Or what does it look like in your family?

You can find a list of topics we think are related to natural parenting at our page "What Is NP?" on Natural Parents Network. The links will lead you to more information and resources on each topic. The list includes:
  • attachment parenting (e.g., breastfeeding, babywearing, cosleeping, gentle discipline, balance, etc.)
  • ecological responsibility (including cloth diapering, elimination communication, natural and organic choices, etc.)
  • holistic health practices (e.g., intactivism, delayed or selective vaccinations, natural childbirth, alternative medicine, etc.)
  • natural learning (including homeschooling and unschooling)
  • healthy living (including healthful foods, physical movement, and positive body image)
  • political and social activism
  • specific parenting philosophies (such as consensual living or equally shared parenting)
You are welcome to take a specific or general topic (such as, ecological responsibility as a whole or cloth diapering in particular), or to come up with another that resonates with you as long as it's related to natural parenting. Please stick to just one topic so we will hopefully end up with a wide range of subjects covered. We know it's tempting to talk about everything you like about natural parenting, but instead of each post being comprehensive, we hope we'll be giving readers a full introduction to natural parenting across all the posts as a whole.

Deadline: Tuesday, November 2 (as usual). Fill out the webform (at the link or at the bottom) and email your submission to us by 11:59 p.m. Pacific time: mail {at} HoboMama.com and CodeNameMama {at} gmail.com

Carnival date: This is where things will be a little different this month. Once we start editing posts, we'll be scheduling them to span the rest of November as a month-long exploration of natural parenting. We will select several of your posts to publish exclusively on Natural Parents Network (with your permission), which will include an author bio and a link back to your site. We will feature the remaining posts over several days in November (instead of on one day as we normally do), arranged thematically. Before you post, we will send you an email with full posting instructions, including a little blurb in html to paste into your submission that will introduce the carnival and link to Natural Parents Network. You will publish your post on your scheduled date and email us the link to your post if you haven't done so already.

Please submit your details into our web form: This will help us as we organize the list of posts. Please enter your information on the form embedded at the end of this post, or click here to enter it on a separate page: November Carnival of Natural Parenting participant form

Please do: Write well. Write on topic. Write a brand new post for the carnival. As always, our carnival themes aren't meant to be exclusionary. If your experience doesn't perfectly mesh with the carnival theme, please lend your own perspective. 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: Please don't use profanity of the sort that might be offensive to more sensitive readers or their children. Please don't 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 and conferring over email, 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 us (mail {at} HoboMama.com and CodeNameMama {at} gmail.com) 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, we 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 us: mail {at} HoboMama.com and CodeNameMama {at} gmail.com

Links to tutorials: Lauren and Dionna have written several tutorials for our participants about how to schedule posts in advance, how to determine post URLs in advance, and how to edit HTML — all for both Wordpress and Blogger users. For these tutorials and more, please see this handy summary post at LaurenWayne.com.

Stay in touch:

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaShow off: If 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!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Say cheese

Say Cheese toddler smile


Or, "Never tell a three-year-old to smile."



Square Quad Jigsaw holiday card from Photo Card CreationsBecause I'm all about the promotion, I'll just remind you you can see Mikko leaping about in all his pink ballet glory at my giveaway of the DVD Prima Princessa Presents: Swan Lake. And my giveaway of 25 free custom photo cards from Photo Card Creations ends Tuesday — just in time for your holiday greetings!




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!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Exercising during pregnancy

pregnant woman weight lifting -- Workout With KarenI meant this to be part of my Sunday Surf, because I was reading and liking "Staying Active for a Healthy Pregnancy" from Becoming Mamas, which has some great info on the benefits of prenatal exercise, and wanted to comment on it. But I ended up writing so much that I thought I'd bump it out into its own post.

I've mentioned I'm running the Couch-to-5K plan in my first trimester here. I'm about 8 weeks pregnant and just finished my sixth week in the 9-week program. Which I guess means I started just about the time we got pregnant? Even during these first-trimester queasies, getting outside and getting moving always makes me feel better.

Last pregnancy I kept up ballet class and taking my usual long walks until somewhere in my second trimester, when those stretching ligaments made the hip and back pain way too much for pliés and eventually slowed my walking (with support belt) to a crawl. At that point, it was swimming or nothing, and I did love being weightless in the pool.

This time around, I'm committing to going into my second trimester as fit as possible. (Well, within reason; I'm still the only person among my friends who doesn't have a gym membership.) I'm hoping being active now might stave off pregnancy-related pains for as long as possible.

How to exercise during pregnancy

When we were trying for Mikko, I researched a lot about exercise and pregnancy and found some outdated advice that claimed exercise is always dangerous or put a lot of restrictions on what kind of exercise you can do, most of which is nonsense.

Here's some of the actual practical advice I've gleaned:

  • Exercising for most people during pregnancy is entirely safe. Always check with your midwife or obstetrician and how you yourself are feeling to make sure. If you have had previous pregnancy complications, you might be given advice to limit your activity, and that's fine. But for most, staying active is a good way to feel better, improve your sleep, and even make labor 6 and 1/2 month pregnant yoga Pincha Mayurasanaeasier because you'll be in shape for it.
  • If you were doing an exercise activity before pregnancy, it's generally fine to continue during the pregnancy. So if you were a dancer, you can keep dancing, and if you were a runner, you can keep running. The idea is that it might not be wise to take up a new activity during pregnancy — although I question that wisdom, personally. I took up running, as I said, and I think I'm doing it in a reasonable enough fashion that it's not an issue. I grant that it wouldn't be the best time to try to start training for a marathon that will take place in my third trimester, of course. But I know plenty of women who take up, say, yoga and swimming during pregnancy, and I can't see that that's a problem. If you weren't active before, just ease into whatever it is you want to do and stop if it hurts (or on medical advice).
  • There are various standards for heart rate and core temperature that are given to pregnant women. And then I've heard one or the other debated by opposing camps. For me, I just find it too complicated to track such things. Sometimes I get hot in ballet class, but I'll just move to the window or doorway to get some fresh air. The guidelines would have me leave the class to go take a vaginal temperature (no, seriously), which — well, it ain't gonna happen. So if you want to be ultra-safe, go ahead and look up the guidelines and try to follow them. For me, I ask myself a couple things: Can I talk comfortably at this pace? If yes, then my heart rate isn't too high. Am I feeling overheated? If yes, then I calm my movements and try to find some fresh air to cool down. This isn't a medical guide, note, but I think it works on a practical level. (And the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says there are no studies that currently link exercise with fetal distress due to a rise in maternal heart rate or core temperature; in other words, although impaired blood flow itself can cause fetal distress or birth defects, there's been no link to suggest exercise alone can cause such effects.)
  • Whether you're a serious athlete or just the other side of sedentary, expect your activity level to decline during the pregnancy. Pregnancy is not the time to try to set world records in distance and speed. I'm not saying you couldn't, but — no, you couldn't. Your joints are going to change. Your breathing is going to change. Your blood volume, your center of gravity, your weight — it all affects how well you can perform athletically. And that's OK. You'll be able to pick up again at some point after the baby's born.
  • If you find yourself feeling more uncomfortable in your chosen activity as the pregnancy progresses, try a different type of exercise. One that's universally recommended for pregnancy is swimming, and I can testify that having the water take all your weight away is bliss. I did have to stop doing my favorite frog kick later in pregnancy because of pelvic and hip pain, but I loved doing some slow freestyle laps and then stretching along the side of the pool, underwater. I think I'll try water aerobics if I become pool-bound this time as well. Another treat is yoga, which will give you time to stop and meditate as you stretch. A gentle walk (and/or waddle) might be tolerable. Weight lifting or pilates can give you a more low-impact workout. You might be able to come up with something more original, too, if you think: maybe kayaking (assuming the boat and life jackets are big enough for two)? Spinning? Perhaps belly dancing?
Belly Dancer with child

  • This is up to you and the health care professionals helping you make wise decisions, but I would curtail any dangerous sports during pregnancy, or be really, really careful. While some activities may be fine early in pregnancy, or if done in a very controlled environment, increased risk of physical injury to your abdomen make them less appealing as your belly starts to protrude. Yes, the fetus is protected by the uterine wall and the amniotic fluid, but, come on — you want your baby to be safe. So I'm thinking about things like horseback riding, rock climbing, scuba diving (recommended at no time, due to compression issues), hang-gliding, downhill skiing, water skiing, hockey, boxing…I guess just consider the risks and injuries that you normally incur, and realize your baby will be experiencing that danger along with you.  Even with "safer" activities, be aware of obstacles like slippery or uneven surfaces. For instance, if you normally run or bike outside, during an ice storm, you might want to head for a treadmill or stationary bicycle. And be aware of how your changing body affects the safety of a sport. Tennis, for instance, might be a no-go if your stretching ligaments cause undue stress on your ankles and make you prone to fall.
  • Along the same lines, you'll probably want to step back on how vigorous your exercise is sometime in the second to third trimester. Some of this might depend on your own athletic level and how your pregnancy is progressing. For me, I plan to stop jumping in ballet as soon as I feel it's uncomfortable. I might need to keep tighter hold of the barre for balance and be careful in the center as my gravity shifts. I'll monitor how running makes my body feel and scale back if I feel too jostled. I also want to be careful not to over-stretch as my ligaments loosen, so I'll hold back when stretching during ballet class instead of pushing myself to do the splits. Your midwife or OB might have specific guidelines for you, depending on any risk factors associated with your pregnancy — and your body might surprise you by choosing its own path for when to scale back, as mine did with my pelvic pain last pregnancy.
  • Beware the dreaded back-lying. Ok, I'm being a little facetious with this one, because all over the internet, you'll find dire warnings about lying on your back at all later in pregnancy, since the enlarged uterus can compress the inferior vena cava and reduce blood flow to the baby. That said, you're likely to notice if this is happening and be made uncomfortable by it (such as your legs falling asleep) so that you change positions long before the baby's health would be in jeopardy, and this is true even if you're asleep. (Although don't these warnings make you wonder why doctors prefer women to labor on their backs? Hmmm?) My take on the issue is, don't freak out if you need to perform a stretch or abdominal exercise on your back, particularly earlier in pregnancy. As your pregnancy progresses into the second trimester, cut out vigorous activity that has you lying on your back (such as weight lifting or intense yoga), just in case, and substitute it with something similar in a different position.
    Running on the beach
  • Include the other little ones. If you already have children and don't have access to someone who could watch them while you work out, find ways to bring them along. You can pop a baby or toddler into a wrap or stroller while you take a brisk walk (or jog, if your stroller and older baby are up for it). You can find a mommy-and-me class that lets two of you exercise at once. Some gyms have free nurseries if your child doesn't mind a new environment. There are many DVDs geared for prenatal exercise at home; maybe your child would like to practice maternal yoga alongside you, or else you could save it for naptime or after the kids have gone to bed.
  • Make sure to fuel your activities. Drink plenty of water, and eat when you're hungry. Your body will tell you what it needs.
  • Wear what makes you feel comfortable. First of all, if the girls have gotten bigger and you're doing anything bouncy, make sure you get a decently supportive bra. I have had the worst time finding sports bras that fit my enhanced boobage (due to nursing as well as pregnancy), but I need something to keep my chest from hitting my chin during flying leaps, so I've been squeezing into the largest compression bras I have on hand. As for the rest of your bod, they make some stylish active wear for pregnancy now, so if you need something special, you can likely find it. If price is a consideration, check children's consignment shops for their maternity section. And I scored my maternity leotard off eBay!





Exercise and pregnancy loss

I had a chance to test out my belief that exercise during pregnancy is safe when my very first pregnancy ended in miscarriage — and the initial bleeding started just after my ballet class. I knew then that the ballet hadn't caused the bleeding; it had just sped up its descent. You might have noticed this phenomenon when waiting for your period to begin — sometimes vigorous activity can kickstart the flow. (In fact, that was Sam's and my first improvised pregnancy test this time around: having intercourse to see if my late period would come!) I knew when the bleeding started after my ballet class that the miscarriage was going to happen or not regardless of whether I'd been active that day. Even so, I rested on my left side as much as possible in the coming weeks, and I skipped my ballet classes, out of a psychological fear if nothing else. I did end up miscarrying finally at 10 weeks. When I got pregnant with Mikko, I forced myself to go back to ballet — even though I furtively checked my underwear after each class!

From that experience, I learned a couple things about a comfort level with exercise during pregnancy:
  • If it's uncomfortable to you, you can stop. Even mid-class or -workout, it's all right to say you're overheated or crampy and take a rest or quit for the day. Drink plenty of water and get some fresh air or lie down on your left side as you need to.
  • If you miscarry, it's pointless to blame yourself. Miscarriages happen all the time, usually early on because of genetic defects that can't be helped. No matter what all those old movies show about women who would ride their horses during early pregnancy! That said, if you would feel guilty about a possible connection between a pregnancy loss and your exercise regimen, it's fine for you to slow down or stop your activity level. For instance, if you've had miscarriages or spotting before and it would make you more comfortable to take it really easy your first trimester, you do what you have to, emotionally speaking.

Weight and exercise

Now, I wouldn't normally talk about weight gain when discussing exercise and pregnancy, except that the Becoming Mamas article I referenced did. So I just want to give my own take on the exercise and weight gain connection during pregnancy, and that's not to worry about weight gain at all. I have a perspective of having midwives (in my last pregnancy) who didn't bother worrying about weight gain one bit. I was never weighed by them, and they never asked me for any numbers I'd gotten at home or on the scale that was near the bathroom. I liked keeping track, for curiosity's sake, and I gained 33 pounds, which — if you're playing along at home — is over the recommended weight gain for overweight women. To which I wave my paw and say, bah. I lost it all within 2 weeks after the birth. And I had a healthy, almost-12-pound baby. Clearly, that was the weight my body and my baby needed to gain. I don't give my specific numbers to say you should match those anymore than you should match an arbitrary chart based on averages — I give them to encourage you to eat competently, listen to your body's cues, and let the numbers be what they are.

The only caveat I have is to be cautious if you're losing a lot of weight through exercise. Some women lose weight during pregnancy, or lose net weight, and the baby is fine. My mother, for instance, gave birth to 10-pound darling me but gained only 5 pounds in that pregnancy. Her metabolism simply sped up, and she couldn't get in enough food to combat the increase in calorie burning. Others, particularly in the first trimester, might be so sick they absolutely cannot keep food down. If a symptom is that common, I simply can't believe it to be universally harmful to fetal health. Sometimes people naturally gravitate toward healthier food choices during pregnancy and thereby lower their caloric intake without trying. So I don't want to overstate the risks of low weight gain or weight loss in pregnancy. That said, there might be a risk to the fetus from the release of ketones into the bloodstream, which happens when a person loses fat stores. Another potential risk is that our fat is where toxins build up, and losing fat during pregnancy will release those toxins into the bloodstream as well. Usually, if you lose weight gradually, your body can process these toxins. But, generally speaking, rapid or excessive weight loss during pregnancy (or a presumed net loss like my mom's) is a cause for concern and should be evaluated to make sure you and the baby are healthy. For instance, you might take a ketone urine test. If there are still concerns after testing, it might be a question of slowing down the fitness plan or increasing caloric intake, particularly healthy fats and proteins. If you have a psychological block to gaining weight, you might need a therapist's help.

Remember, fat is good: for you and the baby. A lot of weight gain happens late in the pregnancy as the baby quickly increases in size to be healthy enough to survive on the outside. And a lot of pregnant women will find they don't gain weight on a steady trajectory but through leaps and lulls, and that's OK, too. I barely gained any weight until the third trimester last time, even though my belly grew early on, and after that it was a race as Mikko put on his own pounds. Just check in with a supportive and well-informed health professional if you have a concern over your weight gain or lack thereof.

When exercise and pregnancy might not mix

Based on the ACOG list, and to be thorough, here are people who should definitely seek medical advice before starting or continuing exercise during pregnancy:

  • People with non-pregnancy-related health conditions that affect exercise safety, such as health conditions linked with heart failure or respiratory distress.
  • Anyone at risk for premature labor, particularly with a multiple gestation. Diagnosis might include incompetent cervix, placenta previa, or ruptured membranes. (I can just see someone whose water's broken saying, "No, no! I need to get to my aerobics class! Just hand me a pad.")
  • People suffering from pregnancy-induced high blood pressure.
  • Anyone for whom exercise is going to be tough, such as those who are extremely sedentary, extremely underweight or overweight, or suffering from certain limitations such as high blood pressure, poorly controlled diabetes, severe anemia, swelling, balance issues, breathing issues, etc.
  • I'm also going to add, anyone with an unresolved or reemerging eating disorder or exercise obsession. Being monitored by someone qualified to help you psychologically through the weight gain and body changes of pregnancy will be invaluable, for your health and your baby's.
  • Anyone who displays warning signs during exercise:
    • Vaginal bleeding
    • Severe shortness of breath
    • Worrisome dizziness or headache
    • Chest pain
    • Worrisome muscle weakness
    • Calf pain or swelling
    • Anything suggesting preterm labor or fetal distress, such as preterm contractions, leaking amniotic fluid, or decreased fetal movement

the most beautiful pregnant woman everIn general, exercising during pregnancy is safe and beneficial. Just use your head, find a helpful professional to help you with any questions and concerns, and then go enjoy the burn!

And now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go start Week 7 of Couch-to-5K!

What's been your experience or plan regarding exercise during pregnancy? If you exercised during a previous pregnancy, how did it affect you?

Disclosure: This post is not
intended as medical advice.
Please consult your health care
professional and your common
sense if you have any concerns
about exercising during pregnancy.
Product links might be affiliate links.
See my full disclosure policy here.

Photos of active pregnant lovelies, from top, courtesy
lewishamdreamer, Elsie Escobar, kptice, Ernst Vikne, and Ben McLeod (cc)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sunday Surf: On not judging, with some ballet and cuteness tossed in

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

Random funny stories from the three-year-old files for your pre-link amusement:

     We were at a friend's house, and Mikko spouted his newest favorite line, "I hungry and thirsty." Sometimes he is; sometimes it means, "Pay attention to me." cute preschool boy in a brown chairWhatever — it works, because who can resist? Our friend offered him a slice of bread, which Mikko accepted but then complained that it needed butter. (Three-year-olds are not much for social conventions.) Our sweet friend readily complied, inviting Mikko to follow her into the kitchen, where she brought out the butter and a knife and held it out to him. "Do you want to put the butter on yourself?" she asked. "No," Mikko says, "on the bread."

     A little friend sent Mikko a birthday thank-you note, upon which she had drawn two figures in purple apparently representing herself and Mikko. Mikko looked at this card with growing indignation and suddenly burst out, "I not purple! I not purple!" He looked down at what he was wearing that day. "I red and black!"

     And sweet: If we're eating together, Mikko will turn to me and say, for instance, "The baby like salad, Mama?" "Yes, I think so," I'll respond. "You eat it, Mama, so the baby can share the salad." His nurturing side is geared up and ready to go.

  • "Ballet Jumping" from Motherhood Moments: This one just made me laugh, about a little boy who believes in his ballet future and practices quite vigorously in Prima Princessa ballet with toddler and mama kickingadvance. It also reminded me of my own little ballerino — if you want to see more pictures of Mikko rocking a pink ballet dress (he thinks it's the awesomest thing ever), head over to my Prima Princessa giveaway.
  • "The Post to End All Posts" from Just a Bald Man . . . .: I really liked the tone and message here, in what is purportedly his blog's final post — that we parent as we believe, but that it's helpful not to be too dogmatic about our dogmas. At the end, he gives a list of caveats about his blog posts, and I would love to adopt them as a warning to readers of my own blog: that I often blog out of emotion that might or might not remain static over time, and that even when I sound preachiest, even I know I'm not the only voice on the subject. Other parts of this post were also very reassuring to me as I struggle with whether I can live up the ideals of the unschoolers, because this committed unschooler basically says, "Who cares?":
    "Frankly and lamentably, there are people within the unschooling community who are ready and willing to tell you exactly how unschooling should be done. I have never really understood this. … a 'right' way to unschool? Pish . . . I just don't buy it, especially when it comes from unschoolers who theoretically should be more interested in allowing people the experience of their own journey than in whether or not their choices are conforming to a pre-conceived notion of what 'right' unschooling looks like. At the end of the day, I think we should all be less concerned with whether or not we are 'unschooling' and less concerned with where we are on the unschooling spectrum, and far more concerned with whether or not we are being good parents and helping create an environment in which our kids are happy and joyful. Whether or not that leaves you with a label of 'unschooler' or 'radical unschooler' or 'home schooler' or anything else should be of no concern."
  • "Ending Battles at Bedtime", a guest post from Kellie at Mindful Life for Code Name: Mama: I found this description of reconnecting physically with an older child (of whatever age) incredibly moving and motivating. As we pass through the babywearing, breastfeeding, cosleeping stages, I'm sure it can be easy to think we can leave behind the snuggles and closeness that came so naturally when doing those things. But children don't outgrow the need for gentle, meaningful touch.
  • "I hereby dub thee: 'Intacterrorists'" from True Confessions of a Real Mommy and "Compassionate Advocacy" from Code Name: Mama: On not being a total heartless jerk while advocating for a certain position. A good reminder for all of us, and a slap to those who (mis)use their soapboxes to browbeat and humiliate. I know I sometimes write posts out of an emotional, passionate response to a topic, without thinking of how a person reading it might be hurt by my words. I also sometimes am thinking of the target of my ire as being, say, formula companies or the health care system, when parents reading might feel like I'm targeting them. Regardless, I need to work on being clearer and remember Dionna's precepts:
    "Knowledge, not fear.
    Compassion, not judgment.
    Love, not hate."
  • "Birth Educator Cloth Diaper Kit" from Stand and Deliver: I thought this cloth-diaper demonstration kit was really cool, and a deal at $25. If you're a qualified, registered doula, childbirth educator, midwife, birthing center director, or lactation consultant, this can be a great way to introduce cloth diapering to the parents you work with and show them how far we've moved beyond the age of pins and vinyl pants (though those are fine if you like 'em!).
  • "How to Opt Out of Yellow Book Delivery" from Lifehacker, via @CodeNameMama: Oh, thank goodness. Now if I could only get the Dex opt-out to work for me; I couldn't find it, and they seem to be the most popular. I guess I'll just keep the hangers-on around for improvised booster seats…
  • "Fed-Ex Shipping Sponsorship" for a beautiful little girl who needs shipments of breast milk from Healing Anaya, via Breastfeeding Moms Unite!: Anaya has an illness where she needs breast milk, but her mother's supply has all but dried up. Leave a comment on the post to encourage Fed Ex to sponsor shipments. I'm considering donating my milk again with the next baby, assuming I have some free time and free hands. Last time, I did it out of a randomly sprung sense of obligation, but this time I'd like to make the choice intentionally and perhaps sign up with a milk bank.
  • "Hurting others does NOT make you a better Christian" from Babyfingers: Like Jenny, my take on homosexuality has changed a lot in the past decade or so. (I had a fairly fundamentalist Christian upbringing.) Part of it was the shocking realization that people who are different from you are still people. I know, radical! I want Mikko to know he can be whoever he is, and we will love and support him and be proud of him — and I want to teach him the same tolerance for others.
  • This is from my site but worth a link to, because it's awesome. And I can say that, because it's a guest post from Amy at Anktangle: "Being 'good,'" on the language we use to describe children, where "good" = "convenient."
  • I hope you enjoyed our October Carnival of Natural Parenting, on how we find balance in the midst of attachment parenting. There were so many inspiring experiences and ideas to read — with the overall reassurance that balance is complex and shifting, and we're not all balanced all the time, even if we look like it from the outside.
  • I have two giveaways up at Hobo Mama Reviews:
    • 25 custom photo cards from Photo Card Creations. These chic, designer cards are worth about $62. Contest is open to U.S. addresses. Enter by October 26.
    • 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. This is a Region 1 DVD so is open to U.S. and Canadian addresses. 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, 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!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Drinking water and the families who need it

SDM-LK-127You know my love-hate relationship with drinking water. As in, I hate it and am trying to love it.

As a little update on that front, we have successfully banned all regular soda purchases from our home, though we do occasionally buy some if we're at a restaurant. I mostly drink iced tap water all day now in my water bottle because it's the easiest drink to grab. I find I just don't drink as much as I used to, period, so I'm always a little thirsty.

Let's take a moment, shall we, to mourn over my pain and suffering.

No?

Good for you.

Almost a billion people worldwide don't have access to clean, safe drinking water. They can't disdain the clear water streaming out of their taps, because — they don't have it to begin with. That kind of puts it all in perspective for me and makes me feel grateful that I have the choice to be so picky.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Being "good"

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, Amy from Anktangle. Amy reminds us to watch the language we use to describe our children.

Baby stare

Guest post by Amy from Anktangle

I believe that the language we use to talk about things not only says a lot about how we really feel about something, but also further reinforces those underlying feelings and makes us feel more that way. I think this is why we shouldn't use combative language when referring to difficulties with our children ("choosing your battles" "winning the war"): it sets us up against our children, instead of with them.

I think language is equally important when talking about our kids' everyday behavior—the day in and day out of it. I've noticed that, when it comes to my son, others often refer to him having been "good," when what they really mean is that he has been being quiet or sleeping. ("Was he good last night?" "He's being so good right now!" "What a good baby!") I think it's tempting to talk about those things as being "good," because it's certainly easier when Daniel is sleeping or being quiet when we're out for a meal, appointment, or activity. But I think it's dangerous to be calling those things good, because even though maybe we don't think that a crying baby is bad per se, that is what's implied when we label the opposite or other more desirable actions as good.

My husband and I have gently tried to suggest that others not label our son as good or bad by saying things like, "I think he's always good!" But it seems to be such an ingrained thing in our society to expect "good behavior" from children. What that really means is that we want them to act like little adults all the time, and be able to understand social convention and conform to the status quo. Only when it's convenient for us (and then, is it ever?) are they allowed to act like children.

Just as I wouldn't expect an infant to be able to wait to eat as long as an adult would, I would not expect him to be quiet for hours at a time. In the same way, I wouldn't expect a toddler to be able to make it through the day without testing her limits and getting upset when she can't have her way, or a preschooler to eat a food he doesn't like at someone else's house just to be polite.

The fact is, we would never say that an adult person was being "bad" if he or she was upset and needed to cry. Preverbal children have the added hurdle of not being able to communicate their needs and feelings with words; crying is all they can do. I don't want my son growing up thinking the adults in his life think he's bad when he's crying, that it's bad to cry, or that he should pretend to be happy and sociable and perfect all the time.

Can't we give the same respect to our children that we would expect from another adult friend? I would argue that his expression (through crying) of his desires and feelings has little to say about his character, whether or not he's a good person, no matter how inconvenient it is for us to manage when we're out to dinner. Without getting into too much of a philosophical or theological discussion of human nature, I believe we're all inherently good.

My son is a good person just because. So let's stop labeling our children as "good" or "bad" based on their behaviors.

Amy writes about the things she holds close to her heart: family, delicious food, and many aspects of natural parenting. She is passionate about natural childbirth, breastfeeding, gentle and intuitive parenting, and respecting all people, no matter how small. She's figuring it all out as she goes, following her instincts with her son as her guide. She blogs at Anktangle.

Top photo courtesy easylocum on flickr (cc)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Running route

sunset off the running path

sunset over the water looking at the beach


This is my view when I run. No wonder I'm inspired!

Related links:


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!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Writing as a parent: October Carnival of Natural Parenting

Welcome to the October Carnival of Natural Parenting: Staying Centered, Finding Balance

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared how they stay centered and find balance. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.



When I was pregnant with Mikko, Sam and I were frantic about finishing some writing projects. No, even before then — we had this idea that, since we wanted to write various fiction and nonfiction books, we'd better do so before we added any children to our lives. Because certainly children would sap our productivity, and we'd never write again until they grew up and left home.

But, the thing is — before we had children, we had fun things to do. Writing was there, but it could always be put off till another day. And so it was. We had no real deadlines. We thought having a baby would be one, but it really wasn't.

Well, we had our baby, and three months after Mikko was born, I started a parenting blog. It seemed a little foolhardy, since of course parents have no! time! to! write! — but I did it, and three years later, here Hobo Mama still is.

Baby typing on a laptop computer
Mikko has always been willing to help me write.

The next year, with a one-year-old underfoot, I completed my first National Novel Writing Month, finally — ah, finally! - finishing my first novel. Not as a singleton, not as a carefree, child-free DINK, but as a mother, a mother of a toddler. I even got through an edit of it as that same mother.

The year after that, I did it again.

And this year, Dionna and I are launching a new website, and I hope to tackle NaNoWriMo yet again, all while keeping Hobo Mama humming.

I say this not at all to boast. I make pretty much zero dollars writing, after all, and have yet to finish the editing of my novels and realize my dream to become a fabulous, published author attending press junkets and sitting on conference panels and touring the globe. (That last fantasy is not in any way based in reality, by the way.)

It's just: I thought being a parent would stop what I really wanted to do with my life (besides parenting), and it hasn't. On the contrary, I think it's helped it.

I think parenting honed my focus in life. I knew I needed some basic elements:
  • Spending time with family
  • Making enough money to live on
  • Following my deepest passions
  • Taking care of the daily minutiae
  • Remembering to have fun
Before I became a parent, days and months and years were more lackadaisical and unfocused. I concentrated mostly on the fun aspect, and I wouldn't trade that for the world — but following my passions — well, that could always wait for another day.

With parenting, I have minimal time each day to do anything. The first element, of spending time with family, takes most of our energy. Making money's always important, and that goes along with spending time with family, since Sam and I trade off childcare. We've tried to be intentional about having some downtime every night and one day a week. To be honest, it's probably the minutiae that suffer the most (our poor neglected laundry piles, and when was the last time I showered?). Because I've discovered the necessity of grabbing those small, fleeting moments to follow my passions as I'm able, whether it's music or dance or a hobby or whatever it is.

Right now, that passion is mostly writing. I knew I wanted to be a writer from the time I was about 10 years old. I devoured books, and it was around that age that I discovered the magical power of making my own words tell a story. Throughout school, my teachers and parents encouraged me in my talent. So it's no surprise that I would have become a writer as an adult — what was more surprising is that I hadn't become one before now, before becoming a mother as well.

What does writing have to do with balance? I find that having a passion I pursue apart from my parenting (even though, in much of my blogging, it's still about my parenting) keeps me grounded and fulfilled. It reminds me of the me I am who's not just a mother, not just in this moment of my life with a young child, but the person who is growing and reaching and striving throughout the journey of life.

I know it might not seem like blogging in particular would be so personally satisfying, but it really is. Feeling a connection with my readers, and finding an outlet for my thoughts, has meant more to me than I ever dreamed. It's not the kind of writing I can brag about at family reunions. Believe me, I've tried, and gotten blank looks in return. But it's a writing that feeds my soul and energizes me to go back to the other, larger-looming parts of my life, that would overshadow the real me completely were it not for these breaks just for me, in my own head — my own words and truth and story coming forth.

I hope you have something that keeps you going as a parent, despite being a parent. I hope, if you don't, that you won't let being a parent discourage you from starting a foolish dream. I hope, if you're not yet a parent and fear the transition, that you know that parenting does not have to deprive you of your goals, or even delay them. This isn't a have-it-all sort of lie; you will have to make some compromises and concessions. But you get to choose what you have, and you can choose something that fills your heart and brings balance to your parenting.



Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be updated October 12 with all the carnival links.)

  • The World from Within My Arms — Rachael at The Variegated Life finds balance despite her work and her husband's commitment to art through attachment parenting. (@RachaelNevins)
  • Balancing the Teeter-Totter — Rebecca is rediscovering balance by exploring her interests and passions in several different categories. She shares in this guest post at The Connected Mom. (@theconnectedmom)
  • Balancing this Life — Danielle at born.in.japan is slowly learning the little tricks that make her family life more balanced. (@borninjp)
  • Uninterrupted Parenting — Amy at Innate Wholeness has learned that she does not need to interrupt parenting in order to find balance.
  • Knitting for My Family — Knitting is more than just a hobby for Kellie at Our Mindful Life, it is her creative and mental outlet, it has blessed her with friendships she might not otherwise have had, and it provides her with much-needed balance.
  • Taking the Time — Sybil at Musings of a Milk Maker has all the time she needs, now her girls are just a bit older.
  • Please, Teach Me How — Amy at Anktangle needs your help: please share how you find time for yourself, because she is struggling. (@anktangle)
  • A Pendulum Swings Both Ways — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment found herself snapping with too little time for herself, and then veered toward too much.
  • Finding Balance Amidst Change — It took a season of big changes and added responsibility, but Melodie of Breastfeeding Moms Unite! now feels more balanced and organized as a mama than ever before. (@bfmom)
  • At Home with Three Young Children: The Search for Balance, Staying Sane — With three young kids, Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings knows parents sometimes have to adjust their expectations of how much downtime they can reasonably have. (@sunfrog)
  • Attachment Parenting? And finding some "Me Time" — As a mother who works full time, Momma Jorje wants "me" time that includes her daughter.
  • A Balancing Act — Sheryl at Little Snowflakes has concrete ways to help keep centered with a little one and a new baby on the way, from exercise to early bedtimes to asking for help. (@sheryljesin)
  • Aspiring Towards Libra — Are your soul-filling activities the first to be pushed aside when life gets hectic? Kelly of KellyNaturally.com aspires to make time for those "non-necessities" this year. (@kellynaturally)
  • SARKisms for Sanity — Erica at ChildOrganics has found renewed inspiration to take baths and laugh often from a book she had on the shelf. (@childorganics)