Saturday, December 31, 2011

Carnival of Natural Parenting: 2011 year in review

For the past two years, I have been proud to co-host the Carnival of Natural Parenting with Dionna of Code Name: Mama. We created the Carnival in January 2010 to bring together the awesome community of parenting bloggers who identify as "attachment" or "natural" parents.

In the past year, our writers have shared how they handle advocacy compassionately, they have opened up about their finances and their parenting philosophies, and they've inspired us with stories of parenting through play and how they've learned from their own children. The compilations of posts are a rich resource — I hope you will look through 2011's themes and articles and get to know some of the writers!

Anyone can write for the Carnival of Natural Parenting, and you can write as few or as many times as you'd like throughout the year. You can read more about how to write for the Carnival as well as details on the topics we have scheduled through June at our main Carnival page. Here are the topics for the next few months: In January we invite you to write about your experiences trying out a new aspect of natural parenting; in February we want parents to reflect on how they can communicate with others respectfully; and in March we want you to share how your life has been touched by a child with special needs.

Whether you write for or enjoy reading the articles written for the Carnival of Natural Parenting, or whether you are simply interested in learning more about natural parenting practices, we want you to join our community at the site born out of the Carnival: Natural Parents Network. NPN is a community that connects, informs, empowers, and inspires parents and parents-to-be. We are thankful for the larger natural parenting community we interact with on NPN's website, Facebook page, and Twitter stream, and we're doubly thankful for the close-knit family of NPN volunteers — we have found true friends.

And for Carnival updates, be sure to look for the #CarNatPar hashtag on Twitter and follow the Twitter list of our #CarNatPar writers. On Facebook, you can get Carnival updates by "liking" the CarNatPar Fan Page. You can also subscribe to all our participants' RSS feeds in one go by subscribing to the shared CarnatPar feed by reader or by email.

We look forward to reading more from our writers — new and old — in 2011. But before 2012 starts, I wanted to sum up our second year and share some of my favorite Carnival posts once again. (Here are the 2010 favorite posts and stats if you want to look back.)

Here are a few quick facts:

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Christmas delight

baby eating wrapping paper on Christmas morning

boy opening Woody and presents happily on Christmas morning

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Last day to start your experiment for the January Carnival of Natural Parenting!

green experiments lab flask for CarNatPar postJust a reminder that submissions to the January Carnival of Natural Parenting are due a week from today, which means you need to start your experiment in natural family living by today to be able to participate!

Details are at these links:

As per our poll agreement, I've been rocking the family cloth, and I'll let you know how that goes. ("How that goes" makes me think that's toilet humor somehow.) Here are the results of the poll:

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Sunday Surf: Merry Christmas!

baby in Santa hat eating wrapping paper

I'm not actually blogging today. I'm preparing this (gasp!) in advance, so I can spend the day with my family and not be a distracted blogger for once. I hope you're all having a merry day yourselves!

The picture is from Mikko's first Christmas at six months. I trust Alrik, at seven months, will be enjoying his own wrapping-paper feast even as you read this.

I got you something for Christmas…

Surprise! It's some links!


How to support bloggers
Want to make your favorite bloggers happy? There are many ways you can support your must-read bloggers and show you value their writing that won't cost you a penny. There are other ways that cost you some money but are cents well spent.
I particularly urge you to sign up on the three linkies so I can support you: (1) blogs on Kindle so I can give you a good review, (2) WAHP businesses so I know where to shop, and (3) affiliate links so I can click through when I do my online shopping.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Be Santa

Toddler in Santa hat at ChristmasIn the midst of this busy holiday season, in the cacophony of gimmes and wish lists, there's a way to turn the focus outward that even a child can understand: Be a Santa.

Mikko waffles between believing in Santa (because how could the jolly old elf not be real when his image and story are everywhere in this culture?) and not (because we've told him the truth when he asks us), but this idea to be a Santa doesn't depend on belief one way or the other, cutting through (or leaving aside) the debate over which holiday-parenting path is better.

We were downtown when we spotted one of those Christmas trees with tags suggesting gifts for low-income families. Sam pulled a couple, one for a baby and one for a four-year-old, just like our kids, and we went shopping as a family.

Mikko flipped out at first. How could we buy such cool presents and not give them to our own child? (The preschooler's request was for a superhero-with-motorcycle action figure, and the baby's parents wanted some sweet books.) I have to admit, I questioned Sam's wisdom at pulling a preschooler's tag instead of, say, a 15-year-old's, where there would have been less envy overlap. (The baby's other request was for diapers, for instance, which went unremarked.)

Reminding Mikko he was getting heaps of presents from his grandparents was not palliative. Reminding him he could save up his allowance to buy a motorcycle toy for himself did no good. Telling him the boy in question did not have stacks of presents coming his way — that this might, in fact, be his only present — didn't quell the complaints.

Mikko came up with suggestions: He would give his old, unwanted toys to the boy instead! We could buy them both the same thing! (Frankly, we don't usually spend that much on any one toy for our kids, and it wasn't a toy we were keen on — no objections to it in theory, just not something we would have chosen for Mikko.)

Sam then figured out what would be the magic formula. We're going to be Santa to these kids, he told Mikko. We're going to buy them some things, not because they need them, not because they deserve them, but just to be nice. We're going to wrap them up and deliver them (back to the tree), just like Santa would do. We're going to do the same with other people in our life we love — buy them things we think they will like, whether they do the same for us or not, wrap them up, and send them off. We are their Santas.

This took a full day to sink in, and I thought it hadn't.

The next afternoon, I was sitting on the bed when Mikko tromped industriously up the stairs, a roll of wrapping paper under his arm. "We're going to be Santa, Mama," he announced to me. "I'll get the presents to wrap." And off he went to find the boys' presents and bring them over for wrapping.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

boy decorating Christmas tree

wedding couple ornament on tree — Christmas 2011

red ball Christmas ornaments 2011

decorated tree — Christmas 2011

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

2011 reading list: Can't-miss posts from the NPN Team

Best of 2011 badgeI am proud and honored to work with the many volunteers who keep Natural Parents Network running — they're not only valued workers but now also good friends. NPN is a community of natural-minded parents and parents-to-be where you will be informed, empowered, and inspired to live your values. When you visit NPN’s website you can find articles and posts about Activism, Balance, Consistent Care, Ecological Responsibility, Family Safety, Feeding With Love, Gentle Discipline, Healthy Living, Holistic Health, Natural Learning, Nurturing Touch, Parenting Philosophies, Practical Home Help, Preparing for Parenting, Responding With Sensitivity, Safe Sleep, and so much more!

Visit Natural Parents NetworkThe volunteers who dedicate their time and energy to making NPN the outstanding resource it is also spend countless hours informing, empowering, and inspiring others on their personal blogs. To close out 2011, the NPN volunteers have come together to provide you with some valuable reading material. Each volunteer has selected either the most viewed post of 2011 or a favorite post from the past year and shared the link here. Please take a few moments to visit each post. Our intention is to expand our reach as bloggers and informed parents and parents-to-be who are still growing as we move through our own journeys. Each volunteer has provided links to other social media sites where you can follow along as well.

We hope you enjoy reading these posts as much as we enjoyed writing them. We are always looking for new volunteers so please, contact us if you are interested. Just a few hours per month can help other parents in a huge way!

Abbie at Farmer's Daughter shares her Christmas Cookie Swap Blog Hop, which is her fourth annual virtual cookie swap and most popular post of the year. Please stop by and link up your favorite holiday recipe until Dec. 31. You can find Farmer's Daughter on Facebook and Twitter.

Adrienne from Mommying My Way shares Fear vs. Faith, one of her favorite posts about how often living a life of faith can look like a life of fear, but the two are really quite different. You can also find Mommying My Way on Facebook.

Alicia of Lactation Narration retells the story of her oldest daughter's 5 years of nursing and weaning in her favorite post of 2011, The Weaning Party. You can find Lactation Narration on Facebook and Twitter.

Toddler In TowAmy of Toddler In Tow shares Finding My Mommy-Zen, her most viewed post of 2011. In this post, she shares her desire to balance her own self-esteem by choice in order to parent with peace and compassion. You can also find Toddler In Tow on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter, and follow Amyables (Amy W.) on Google+ and Ravelry.

Arpita of Up, Down, and Natural shares one of her most popular posts titled Reflections. This is a beautiful look at the type of mother she wants to be. You can find Up, Down, and Natural on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

I Thought I Knew Mama: A window into the adventures of stay at home mamahood, natural parenting, & green and healthy livingCharise of I Thought I Knew Mama shares Why Do Children Have More Food Allergies Than Ever Before?, her most viewed post of 2011. This post explains the shocking info that one unsuspecting mother discovered when she started researching why her daughter had a violent allergic reaction to eggs. This is a must read post for ensuring the health of your family. You can also find I Thought I Knew Mama on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Stumbleupon.

Christine of African Babies Don’t Cry shares The Best First Food for Babies, one of her favourite posts of 2011. This well-researched post delves into the healthiest and most nutritious food to feed your baby. You can also find African Babies Don’t Cry on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest.

Cynthia of The Hippie Housewife shares Gentle Discipline for Toddlers, her most viewed post of 2011. This post describes five gentle discipline tools for parenting toddlers. You can also find The Hippie Housewife on Facebook, Google+, and Pinterest.

Darcel of The Mahogany Way shares how Babywearing As a Way of Life one of her favorite post of 2011. This post showcases some beautiful woven wraps that she has purchased, traded, borrowed, and sold over the years. Darcel also talks about the benefits of babywearing from the newborn through toddler stage. You can also find Darcel{ The Mahogany Way} on Facebook, Twitter, Her Community for Mothers of Color, and Pinterest.

Visit Code Name: MamaDionna of Code Name Mama shares 50 Healthy Snack Ideas for Kids Plus Fun Serving Suggestions, her most viewed post of 2011. Most of these snacks are quick to fix and portable, so you can pack them to send with your child on play dates, at preschool, or to just have handy in the refrigerator for when your child wants to grab a bite to eat “all by himself.” You can find Dionna on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube.

Erica at ChildOrganics shares a post that is not only close to her heart, but also her most viewed post for 2011 titled Attachment Parenting in the NICU. This post shares her top 10 tips for parenting should you find yourself with a baby in the NICU. You can also find Erica on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Gretchen of That Mama Gretchen shares her personal experience of returning to work, expressing milk, and the ups and downs in between in her 2011 most viewed post, Mama's Milk. You can also find Gretchen on GFC, Blog Lovin', Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Isil of Smiling like Sunshine shares how to make an autumn tree using pumpkin seeds, her most popular post in 2011. This post features a lovely craft activity that you can do with your kids! You can also find Isil on Facebook and Twitter.

Hybrid Rasta Mama: A Natural Parenting, Healthy Living BlogJennifer of Hybrid Rasta Mama shares 80 Uses For Coconut Oil, her most viewed post of 2011. This comprehensive post provides background information on the benefits of coconut oil as well as outlines 80 uses for it. You can also find Hybrid Rasta Mama on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest.

Jennifer of True Confessions of a Real Mommy shares her most popular post of 2011, Weekly House Blessing (Otherwise Known as Cleaning Once a Week). This post outlines a once per week cleaning routine for busy moms. You can also find Jennifer on Twitter.

Fine and FairJoella, the mama behind Fine and Fair, shares An Unusual Gripe with Bebe Gluton, one of her most popular posts of 2011. In it, she discusses the controversy surrounding a "breastfeeding doll" and offers her take on the gender role implications of dolls in general. Fine and Fair can also be found on twitter and facebook.

Julia of A Little Bit of All of It shares the story of how her co-sleeping relationship ended with her daughter, her most viewed post of 2011. This post shows how her daughter transitioned to her own bed on her 2nd birthday and the emotions involved for her mom. You can also find A Little Bit of All of It on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest.

Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment shares True Blessings: White Noise and Grandparents, her most viewed post of 2011. In this post, Kat talks about how she maximizes getting sleep and how grateful and blessed she is to have her parents be so involved in helping and spending time with her kiddos.

BecomingCrunchyKelly of Becoming Crunchy shares That Cup Does What?, her most viewed post of 2011. This post is one of a series of reviews and information on switching to all natural menstrual products - having heard so many different options and recommendations, Kelly decided to give a whole bunch of them a try and pull all the reviews together in one week for anyone interested in making the switch. This post in particular covers the ins and outs of the Diva Cup. You can also find Becoming Crunchy on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest.

Kristin of Intrepid Murmurings shares a popular post from 2011, something she and her husband made for their girls for Christmas, great for open-ended play and construction: Handmade Tree Blocks. You can also find Kristin on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.

Lani of Boobie Time shares Helping a Fellow Breastfeeding Mom, her inspiration for starting to blog. This post discusses the importance of fellow moms supporting each other and some tips on having a successful breastfeeding relationship. Lani can also be found on Facebook.

Laura at WaldenMommy: Life Behind the Red Front Door writes about finally entering "spring" when her child with special needs begins preschool. After battling post-partum mental illness (post tramatic stress disorder) after the preterm birth of her third child, she finally begins to feel healthy and whole again in "It's Fall, Ya'll-Again."

Hobo Mama: A Natural Parenting BlogLauren of Hobo Mama shares On not having an AP poster child, her (OK, second) most viewed post of 2011. Lauren's first child shook her certainty that attachment parenting meant babies never cried and toddlers grew independent — and that's all right, too. You can also find Hobo Mama on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest.

Luschka of Diary of a First Child shares Lactivism, Breastfeeding, Bottlefeeding and Mothers at War, one of her most viewed posts of 2011. This post discusses how the breastfeeding/bottle feeding debate causes a division between mothers, leading to the alienation of women and babies, while divisive companies prosper. You can also find Diary of a First Child on Facebook, and Twitter.

Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children shares how With Privilege Comes Responsibility, one of her most viewed posts of 2011. This compelling post explains her strong felt desire to stand up for those less privileged. You can also find Living Peacefully with Children on Facebook.

Melissa of Vibrant Wanderings shares a Montessori-Inspired Checklist for Choosing Toys, her most popular post of 2011. The article outlines some important Montessori principles and how they relate to children's toys, translating that into some simple guiding principles. You can also find Melissa on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest.

Melissa of White Noise shares Modern Day Wet Nurse, her most viewed post of 2011. In this post, Melissa shares the benefits of human breast milk and human milk sharing. You can also find Melissa at Mothers of Change.

Momma Jorje: a slightly crunchy mommaMomma Jorje shares Amniocentesis - What is it *really* like?, one of her most viewed posts of 2011. This open and honest series offers not only the technical process of amniocentesis, but also the emotions involved in awaiting (and receiving) the procedure and a diagnosis. Momma Jorje can also be found on Facebook.

Moorea of MamaLady: Adventures in Queer Parenting shares Fluoride: Another Reason Breast Is Best, her favorite post of 2011. This post provides research on the harmful effects of fluoride in drinking water for babies and toddlers and ways to limit fluoride consumption in your home. You can also find MamaLady on Facebook and Twitter and her Parent Coaching Site.

Rachael at The Variegated Life is Calling the Muse in her most viewed post of 2011. In this post, she describes how she uses ritual to help her tap into her creative spirit. You can also find Rachael on Twitter and The Variegated Life on Facebook.

Liberated FamilyRebekah and Chris from Liberated Family shares Using Cloth In a Disposable Society, their favorite post of 2011. This extensive post provides a lot of information regarding the varied uses of cloth as well as the many benefits. You can also find Liberated Family on Twitter.

Parenting God‘s ChildrenSarah at Parenting God's Children shares her most viewed post: Confessions of a Breastfeeding Advocate: I Couldn't. She confesses her struggles with breastfeeding her daughters, but shares why she'll continue the good fight. You can also find Sarah on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Seonaid of The Practical Dilettante offers a science- and reverence-based meditation on The Living Earth, her most viewed post of 2011. This meditation was originally written for Earth Day, but it provides a way to reconnect with your place in the living breathing planet at any time of year. You can also find Seonaid on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

Shannon at Pineapples & Artichokes shares I Recommend (But Moira Likes This Book Too), her most viewed post of 2011. This post is a review of a wonderful book that talks about all the different ways that families can be made up, along with some of why this topic is so important to her family.

Sheryl at Little Snowflakes shares her experiences with tandem nursing in Tandem Nursing – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, her most viewed post of 2011. You can also find Sheryl on Twitter.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Last-minute holiday gifts

Here are a few parent-friendly Christmas gifts that can be bought or made even now, at the last minute.

Poetry of a Hobo Mama

Poetry of a Hobo Mama: The First Three Years

I have to start with this one, because today is the last day for FREE Super-Saver Shipping if you order the book on Amazon. Poetry of a Hobo Mama is available on Amazon (in various countries). It's also available for Kindle, which means you can download it to your computer or smartphone, making it an even better last-holiday gift. If you have a bit more time to wait, you can save 20% off the cover price at CreateSpace with coupon code SAP84AYJ.

Cozy throw blanket

throw blanket tutorial 10 finished

The easy-sew throw blanket I put together last winter has been our mainstay of snuggliness all year.

3 capping marker — hand turkey thanksgiving holidays

It's the perfect size to throw over the laps of a mama and child. It keeps us warmer than the afghan we had on the couch before. It's also built forts and (above right) traps, Mikko's newest game.

I was hoping to show you my newest project, a quilted carseat size, but it's not done yet and I've officially given myself permission not to finish it by Christmas!

Knotted fabric necklace

I've finally gotten to test out my knotted fabric bead necklace with a grabby baby (huuuge hit), and I've made a new version with wooden beads to be, more specifically, a nursing necklace:

The shiny fabric makes it holiday-festive.

I've also made a couple more non-wooden versions for my mom and mama-in-law, for prettiness:

I was in a children's store today and saw some made from bright calico for little girls. These necklaces are versatile, and so easy to make quickly with scraps and supplies you probably already have around!

Wool dryer balls

I've also been making everyone and sundry my newest laundry obsession. I hope to post a tutorial soon for my method, but for now have a look at Anktangle's. I'm enjoying how pretty mine look — here's hoping they're all felting up nicely. Mikko helped me make one for Grandma:

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Giveaway: Tea Collection Children's Clothing $100 GC {1.18; US}

This is a joint giveaway with Hobo Mama and Natural Parents Network. You may enter at one site only. Please find the section marked "Win it!" for the mandatory main entry and optional bonus entries.

Tea Collection is offering our readers a giveaway of a $100 Gift Certificate.

Tea Collection offers high-quality, modern children's clothes that are internationally inspired, wearable, and unique.

I'm a little bit drooly when it comes to Tea Collection children's clothing. I admired them from afar for a couple years before finally getting my greedy paws on some pieces. I entered giveaways like this (but didn't win, sigh). I was nearly giddy when Tea offered to let me do a review and giveaway of their precious boys' clothing. (Clothes for girls, women, and babies are also available.)

Tea Collection: The Story

Tea Collection picks a particular global region to inspire the clothing line each year: from Japan to West Africa to Hungary. Right now it's Modern Mexico, and I love the south-of-the-border details. The inspiration often turns toward the graphic and the colorful, lending a stylistic and unique touch to your kids' clothes you don't usually find.

The tagline for Tea is "for little citizens of the world." I admire the "fusion of worldwide cultures and modern design," as the About page puts it.

Decorate the Kids: Get Colorful

Let me admit that I'm not a little green when I look at the girls' clothing that Tea offers. As with most children's clothing, it's even cuter. But, I have two boys, and fortunately, Tea has got them covered with delectable options as well.

One thing that often depresses me about boys' clothing is how drab it can be. Tea says no way to boring and came through with not one but two purple shirts for my four-year-old! Mikko loves purple, and it's incredibly hard to find boys' shirts in that color. Yea for Tea!

Matchy Matchy: Range of Children's Sizes

Even better? Mikko loves to match clothing with his new little brother, Alrik, who's six months old. I figure that agreeableness won't last forever, so I try to indulge it as I can. Unfortunately, Mikko wears a size 6 or 7 now, and Alrik is still in baby sizes, of course. This makes finding coordinating clothing very challenging.

Tea to the rescue! Nearly all of the clothing options at Tea Collection start at baby sizes (a Small is 6-12 months) and go up through children's sizes, most up to a size 12. Yup, you could get a baby a romper, big sister a coordinating shirt, and even bigger sister the same one! I can't tell you how excited this makes me.

(They also have newborn size clothing for smaller babies, beginning at 0-3 months up through 6-9 months.)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Think Ahead To The Baby at Up, Down & Natural

newborn crying babyI'm happy to have a guest post on preparing for a new baby at Up, Down & Natural.

Arpita writes about her journey trying to conceive, but she's thinking positive and planning ahead:

I sheepishly have to admit that for quite a long time I was in that blissful unaware stage of not having any idea what comes after the birth other than the soft sweet warm bundle of joy that we'll call our baby, I mean what else matters right? Well, ensuring that little life is respected and treated with no harm would be good too I thought. This is why I love Lauren's guest post on the real what to know!

This was so true for me, too. For a long time before we started TTC, I planned out my maternity wardrobe and toyed around with name ideas. But this post (a reprint from Hobo Mama) will talk you through postpartum interventions, circumcision, breastfeeding, cloth diapering, sleep, and what to expect of a newborn and yourself. Think of it as a checklist to start researching those topics and making some decisions beforehand.

… The mother-to-be might know precisely how to time intercourse in her cycle for the best chance at conception; she might have a handy pocket chart of foods to avoid during pregnancy; she might have toured a half-dozen birth suites and booked the coziest; but when the conversation turns to what to do with the child who will soon come forth, there's a blank look.

I get it, I do. Pregnancy is fun (depending on circumstances). Getting pregnant can be (also depending on circumstances). Whereas raising a child?

Well, it's all a little murky when you're getting into it for the first time.

So I'm going to just put together a little checklist of suggestions for parents-to-be, a few things to think about and make decisions on as you sail into the uncharted waters of having your first baby.

Read more »