Wednesday, November 19, 2008

My happy cloth diapered dog

When we got our sweet little puppy six years ago, I was a little overwhelmed with the idea of potty training a dog. The more I got to this particular dog, the more I become overwhelmed. From day one he would pee right next to puppy pads, but never on them. He would go outside and use the bathroom. Then come right back in and pee on the bathroom rug. Over the years we have grown used to his messes, but lately I have grown very tired of cleaning up pee stains all over my carpets. The solution to my problem? Cloth diapers for my dog. Our happy little chihuahua is now sporting our nine month old's diaper doublers inside a stylish wrap. A little more laundry, but lots let scrubbing the carpet.

Saturday, October 25, 2008


To many, parenting or life choices like co-sleeping, extended breastfeeding, cloth diapering, natural birth, a diet free of what many call staples, a simplistic approach to holidays and birthdays, a school-free child, a child vaccinated less then usually recommended- the list is endless- is just crazy. To some it's harmful, to some simply a little off or misguided.

I've learned (eventually) to choose battles when questioned. Whipping out facts has a place, for sure. Sometimes. A wise mother suggested to me once, "It's what we feel is best for our family" as a peaceful, simple response to "...but WHY?!". i've used it many times- often through gritted teeth.

Something in us longs to please, to feel accepted. After making a big, very un-mainstream decision recently , my husband and I sat staring at our pros/cons list. The one con was pissing off family. This mattered so much I pitted it against the whole list of pros. How ridiculous when what is best in our opinion should always have the most weight, and it did, but my reluctance surprised me. To be laughed at, to have eyes rolled, to feel DIFFERENT. This bothers me more than I care to admit. Being in the minority on the vaccine debate among friends, informing people I don't eat meat bothers me more than I care to admit.

How proud we should feel for keeping our choices OURS. How high we should feel knowing we're an important drop in the bucket of change. These feelings conflict with desire for acceptance and understanding and bubble inside, along with a loathingly admitted tendency to judge people *I* think have made silly or stupid choices.

How toxic this is for our children!

May they, and may we, grow to treat all others- regardless of views, beliefs or preferences-with consideration and above all, with respect.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

It's that time of year again....

...and I don't mean Christmas. Every year, when we get to mid-August, I get a little giddy, thinking of all the canning I'm going to do, all the lovely jars lined up in my shelf, waiting for a visit sometime in the deepest part of winter. Why do my husband and I do it? (for he's just as much of a harvest addict as I am) Part of it is practical: it's cheaper to can produce that has been given to us (or picked by us - gotta love Freecycle for that!) or even bought, rather than buy the finished product. But part is sentimental: I love to think of the many generations of women who came before me, doing (almost) exactly the same thing. For them, it was a matter of survival, whereas we have the luxury of canning by choice. But in this day and age, where talk of "food security" and "victory gardens" is cropping up everywhere, I'm glad I have my many glass jars, each to be filled with something exciting. There's the applesauce made from my parents' Yellow Transparent apples, the dilly beans and pickled beets fresh out of the garden, the 80 lbs of peaches (and the several pounds that ended up in our stomachs!), and the pears yet to come.
This year, I tried something new: pressure canning.
OK, that didn't sound risky enough. How about this? I tried pressure canning with my in-laws' pressure canner from the 70's that hasn't been used in 10 years. I flirted with death and dismemberment, certain that the hissing pot could explode any moment.
But it didn't. And I have the delicious tomatoes to prove it.

Friday, August 29, 2008


We're all about improvement here at AL. Which is why I'm totally watching To-Fu's 'poo-less experience with great interest. To be free of shampoo's bonds!!

On my own improvement front, here at Casa Beany we've broken up with the television. We're on break at least.

It started Wednesday morning when I opted for a no TV morning after some sibling squabbling. They whined a while and then things got amazing. Seriously. They played with each other better, played outside more, were calmer and had better attitudes. This is after skipping just their regular morning hour of PBS. I decide I hate children's programing at this point and we skip their afternoon hour also in favor of playing samurai. I can't express enough how just skipping these two hours made them CALMER. And this is Curious George we're talking about. I can't imagine if they regularly viewed super hyper shows.

We've gone three full television-free days now. I am thrilled that I stumbled on this challenge. I really thought of the TV as a sanity saver and considered their 2 hours quite moderate. As I step back and look, it caused more harm than good in our house. We've collectively decided to keep er off weekdays and enjoy favorite cartoons and movies on weekends only.

I want to state that I do not think TV is evil and it does have great value. I think it's a tool and easily gets used as a necessity. There have been countless articles and reports on the damage to children by the telly. Most of which, to be honest, I ignored. We don't have the TV on all day long, we don't put on weird shows for our babies, we don't watch during meals, we monitor closely the content of their programs, they spend only a couple hours in front of it, we spend time reading and playing together has well, I have three kids at home! I don't have time to read these reports that aren't for me. They were. Are. The proof has been in the pudding, as it usually is.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The No-Poo Hair Solution

Hey, y'all, I'm de-pooing! My hair, that is. I've stopped using shampoo and conditioner, but never fear: I still wash my hair. I just use baking soda and apple cider vinegar (ACV) instead.

Why ditch the 'poo? The two biggies:

1--To avoid harmful/toxic ingredients in many shampoos and conditioners

2----To achieve a natural oil balance (your scalp--like your boobs if you're breastfeeding--works on demand, meaning that it makes as much oil as is required. Shampoos strip your hair of oil, so if you wash frequently your scalp is constantly trying to make up for what's stripped by cranking up the oil production... which causes you to have to shampoo more often. See where I'm headed here? No-pooing gently corrects the problem over time and returns your scalp to a natural oil-producing cycle.)

And I bet I save a ton of money, too, considering I was buying a chemical-laden and high-end vegan brand of shampoo/conditioner (Pureology). $50 for a pair of bottles! Ow, my wallet.

This is just Day One for me, but my hair smells and feels great! (Don't worry, the ACV rinses right out and there is no lingering smell.) It's shiny, full, and not oily in the least. But don't freak out if you have a detox period during which your mane is less than marvelous--it's totally normal and not permanent.

HOW TO DO NO 'POO: I simply made a paste from baking soda and water in a refillable plastic bottle, and in another plastic spray bottle I used a 1:4 ratio of ACV to water. A good scrub/massage with hot water and the baking soda paste helps dislodge any gunk. Then I liberally sprayed my hair with ACV, let it sit for a few minutes while I went about my other shower business, and rinsed my hair with cold water to help keep things shiny and healthy. I'll probably do the ACV 2-3 times a week and the baking soda paste slightly less often (I've heard it can be a bit drying). If you want a nice smell, consider adding small amounts of essential oil to the mix.

For photos of other no-pooers, click here. To see one woman's no-poo photo progression, click here. By the by, the No 'Poo Community on LJ is a great source of information and support if you're thinking about taking the plunge or are just curious.

I'll be back with an update in a while. In the meantime, let us know if you're taking the no-poo challenge!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Third Way

I’m taking a couple of minutes to share a few short reflections on some parenting I observed last night that has really left an impression on me.

My husband and I were making dinner (he more than I, admittedly), and as had happened for most of the day, my two older boys started fighting over a particular train, again. It was Henry. He had been missing around the house for a few weeks, but showed up in a basket of animals the other afternoon, and since then, he's been in high demand. On that old chestnut of “Sharing,” we're still trying to work through things.

So the screaming started. And the screaming has been pretty frequent lately, and it's an annoying kind of angry elementary school girl scream that kind of curls your toes and leaves an after-ring in your ears. Not cool.

My husband ran into the living room. I kept working in the kitchen, and listened to what was transpiring in the next room.

My secondborn was distraught that his older brother had the train. #2 was angry and wanted everyone in this part of the state to hear about it. My eldest was not interested in giving up the train; after all, his brother had managed to scream his way into playing with it for most of the last 48 hours. Why shouldn't he have a turn? Now seemed as good a time as any. Yes, he certainly wanted a turn with Henry, and wasn't about to let his little brother get his way by screaming, again. I could feel the tension building all the way around the corner, and I wondered what would happen when their father stepped in.

What are the options here, really? Let it work itself out? Surely, all children have to learn how to manage their differences at one time or another, right? Except that we don't want them hurting one another, and we want to help them recognize the needs and feelings of one another in the process, and young children, full of love as they are, are also developing a keen sense of self, and sometimes that overshadows their empathy. It's an ego they can't help, really, and respectful, nurturing intervention helps them see the position of their friend/brother/competitor-for-toys. The passive let-it-work-itself-out tactic didn't seem called for in this situation.

So should my husband do the swooping-in-parenting move? Take the train away from my firstborn and give it to his younger brother? Well, we don't really know how it all started, since we were in the kitchen to begin with. Maybe #2 had the train and #1 swiped it. Or maybe #1 was playing with it and #2 remembered that he's kind of had a thing for the train lately, and thought this was a good time to rekindle that most intimate relationship of a train and its lover. Or should we just take the train away from both of them, cause we're the parents, and we're entitled to do whatever we want to do? (Though admittedly, if we really just wanted the crying to stop, this was only going to product the opposite result: two screaming kids.) Would Daddy just walk in and do something authoritative to solve the problem?

But my husband did something totally different than either of these two options. He walked into the living room, saw the situation, and with a sense of (almost) excitement in his voice, asked, "Hey, why don't you let Daddy play with Henry? Can I play with you guys?" The boys couldn't have been more thrilled with that arrangement, and gladly surrendered their train to Daddy, who showed real enthusiasm in playing together with them around the train table for a few minutes, while their feelings of competition quelled and they remembered how much fun it was just to play together.

This decision reminded me of what writer and theologian Walter Wink calls “The Third Way,” as a means of breaking cycles of violence without resorting to passive resignation— finding a way to turn the conflict on its head with creative love.

I think that what my husband did was brilliant. It didn't make a decision about the conflict, choosing one child over the other, or sweeping authoritarianism in place of throw-up-your-hands passivity. Instead, it found a playful response that reminded the boys of the point of their trains- to enjoy them together. It creatively infused my husband’s love and his participation into the situation, and his engagement with them was the answer to the whole problem. Rather than be “right” or get to play with the trains themselves, my boys were happiest with getting to have their daddy involved in what they were doing.

So much of child-led living revolves around this idea- not of being passive as parents, just permissively letting our kids walk all over us. And not parenting with the "Because I say so" or "Because I'm the Parent" argument. Child-led living is treating our kids and each other as autonomous people, worthy of respect and open-minded compassion. Of being engaged, interested, and involved in what they are doing and thinking, rather than just observing and judging or controlling it from the sidelines. Yes, it involves a lot more time than other conventional forms of parenting, what sometimes feels like infinite amounts of energy, patience, and creativity, but it's the kind of love that I believe we are called to demonstrate to the world, starting with our own children. It's treating one another as human beings and working as peacemakers in our own homes.

Thanks to my husband, for reminding me of how creative love is really the best answer.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Lessons of Okinawa

I remember reading this article shortly after the birth of my now 5 year old. It has lingered with me since (a rarity for me), flitting in and out of my thoughts often when they turn to child rearin'.

When I saw it in my inbox this afternoon, tucked in my new AP newsletter, I took it as a sign to pass it on. Some afternoon food for thought!

The Lessons of Okinawa

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Layout giveaway!

Looks like Ruby & Roja are giving away a free blog design. Check here for details.

They've got their dirty fingerprints all over one of my favorite mama blogs (Adventures in Babywearing), so I thought I'd pass it on.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Telling It Like It Is: Being Honest About Body Parts

A few days ago, while sitting with a group of mothers at the beach, we were all captivated by one of the babies. He was naked, tumbling around in the sand. He was dancing, rolling, laughing, and then, he grabbed his penis. He was just so at home with his nakedness. He knew nothing of shame, and he did not know that some of the other mothers looked away when he grabbed his penis. He was not embarrassed. Another little boy pointed and said to his mama, “Wee-wee.” I absolutely loved it when the first little baby’s mama said out loud “OH, you are grabbing your penis!” It was a joyful statement. It was an honest statement.

I am a strong believer in calling body parts by their proper names. My 4 year old daughter knows she has a vulva, a vagina, breasts. We have openly and honestly called her body parts by their proper names since the day she was born. She has always been an asker, and I have been an answerer. She has seen me menstruate and she has asked. I have always answered her questions about her body and about my body. She once asked for a mirror to look at her vulva. I handed her a mirror and answered her questions.

I want my daughter to OWN her body. I feel she can best own her body when she has words to name her body parts. If something hurts, she needs to know the proper names to tell me or her doctor what is hurting. If there was ever an abusive situation I want her to have words to use to explain what happened. I want her to be empowered. I feel that giving her the proper names to her body parts empowers her.

World Breastfeeding weeks brings the word ‘breasts' to mind. I don’t often hear women and mothers using the word 'breasts.' I hear a lot about 'boobs.' I remember when I learned that a boob was an ignorant and foolish person. My breasts are not foolish, nor are they ignorant. They are beautiful, very intelligent, life sustaining breasts. I no longer call my breasts 'boobs.' I want my daughter to have a healthy relationship with the word 'breast.' I want her to love and respect her breasts so that one day her breasts will be life sustaining as well.

As for the second little boy at the beach who called a penis a "wee-wee”: why not teach him the word penis? He is still at the age where he is one with his body. I like to see honesty. I want my son to know he has a penis and a scrotum. I feel that what is not said becomes a secret. Secrets often lead to shame. Babies and kids have no shame with their bodies. But they are like sponges and they can easily soak up ours. We as parents should be proud of our bodies, our kids are learning from us. I want both my daughter and my son to be proud of their bodies.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

[Guest Post] Success or Failure: A Mom Who Couldn't Breastfeed Honors World Breastfeeding Week

Attachment Living wishes to celebrate World Breastfeeding Week by welcoming guest bloggers to talk about their breastfeeding experiences. Today's post comes to you by way of E:

August 1 began World Breastfeeding Week. We all know breast is best, and we recognize the value of the breastfeeding relationship. Even formula cans remind us that breast milk is best. But what about when it doesn't work?

I wanted to breastfeed. I planned for it. I looked forward to it. I bought the books, went to La Leche League, and met with a wonderful lactation consultant before my daughter was born all in hopes of circumventing the issues that can come from PCOS and hypothyroidism. I took the appropriate medications and learned about the ways to increase supply. I went in with an attitude focused on success.

And then my daughter was born. She was put to the breast quickly. She had a beautiful latch without much work. We had great support once we were out of the hospital. We were doing all the right things. And we worked so hard. But there wasn't milk. Not enough. We battled with the low supply, doing all the right things, staying skin to skin, breastfeeding as often as possible, pumping after, using the SNS, taking the herbs and the drugs. It still wasn't enough. We had to supplement...and we're so very lucky to have wonderful milk donors, but it just isn't the same. When feeding my daughter became more of a battle than a joy, I had to make some tough decisions. When one or both of us ended up in tears every time, when she started to refuse to latch, we switched to pumping and bottles.

And all the breastfeeding advocacy around me is so hard to deal with. Well meaning people who provide their suggestions for increasing milk supply..."have you tried?" Yes. All of it. And probably some things you haven't thought of. I want to embrace this week, celebrate it, honor it and it hurts too much. I've cried more tears than I want to count over the World Breastfeeding Week stuff I've seen.

I went to a party with my daughter not long ago, and when I was offered a seat someone asked if I would need the chair that was better for nursing. I cried inside as I explained our breastfeeding challenges. I've started to avoid gatherings where the default assumption is that mothers are breastfeeding-the local AP groups, for example. I wanted to be one of those mothers who celebrated the looks they got for nursing in public, and instead, I mourn what I don't have. I have the so called convenience of bottles-I need to pack them in our bag when we go out, find a place to warm the milk she drinks, deal with the extra gas, the uncertainty about whether she's getting the right nutrients for her needs right now. And I know in my heart that I am judged harshly for the way I feed my daughter.

Like many of us, I try and incorporate the eight principles of attachment parenting in my life. I read the page that says "Feed with Love and Respect." How can I feed with love and respect when the act of feeding my daughter causes me to cry over what I can't do for her? How can I honor myself and the nurturing loving role that I am supposed to play in this part of her life when what I feel overwhelmed with failure. And then I look at her, I cuddle her, I watch her sweet face as she dozes off in my arms and I'm reminded deeply of how much I love her, and that in the end that love overwhelms everything.

I know whatever I've given my daughter is good for her. I know that every bit of milk she gets from me is good for her, and I know that the milk she's gotten is far more than some other babies get. But I will forever carry sadness and guilt about not being able to provide the most basic thing that a mother is supposed to provide for her baby.

Celebrate World Breastfeeding Week. Enjoy and cherish the nurturing and loving breastfeeding relationship you have. Share extra breast milk if you can-there are wonderful networks of mothers in need, both through formal and informal means. As a recipient of donated milk, it means more to me than I could ever express, and I honor and celebrate the success and joy and love that you've found in nursing your own children. I wish I could do the same for myself, and for the relationship I have with my daughter.

I hope that in your travels you remember there are mothers like me who would love to have what you do. I hope that someone, somewhere out there remembers to honor and respect the mothers like me who have really and truly done it all, who eye you nursing your children and envy what you have. I will never have the beautiful nursing relationship that I dreamed of with my daughter, the sweet nursing moments that you don't remember but that I wish for. I will work hard to make up for it in other ways. I will work towards a loving and respectful relationship with her, and despite my mother's reminders that "She'll never thank you for that" one day I will tell her that I tried very hard to breastfeed her and I will share the story of her milk Mamas, and make sure she knows how much she is loved.

In her pre-motherhood days, E worked as a social worker, with a focus on public health topics like sexual health. Now she is learning to navigate the new and crazy world of motherhood as a guide to her daughter, Nacho, born in April 2008. Check out her new blog, Evolution of Mom.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

AP and Veganism: Peas in Pod

Today yours truly was a guest blogger over at Crunchy Domestic Goddess. I wrote a little bit about how I feel veganism and attachment parenting go hand in hand. Here's an excerpt:

If I look at the world from the eyes of a child as I often try to do now that I have a babe of my own, I can’t imagine a child saying “I want to eat dead animals,” or “I want baby cows to be taken away from their mamas so I can have their milk,” when given the choice. Children tend to feel a natural fascination and connection with other animals and, I would argue, they intuitively understand on a very basic level that the difference between the family dog and the veal calf in a factory farm is an arbitrary one. After all, anyone who lives with companion animals knows that they are sentient and have feelings, moods, desires.

I figure that’s why a lot of APers are veg*ns, too. Learning to see the world through our children’s eyes lays at our feet the great and terrible potential for a larger sense of compassion and empathy. As a friend on another forum said, “Without embracing compassion for my son, I would never have moved my sphere of compassion beyond our family and beyond the human family.” It’s a fantastic joy, and it comes with its share of responsibility.

Of course, you'll have to read the rest over here.

AP Dads

One of us recently brought up in conversation the fact that her husband was having a hard time embracing attachment parenting the way she had. This comadre really wants to co-parent with her husband and hopes fervently that he will come round.

Like many of us on the road to the AP lifestyle, her husband has these shining moments of tenderness with their baby when it seems like he’s acting intuitively and listening to his innermost voice about how he wants to parent; he also has a lot of other moments when it seems as though he’s fighting a losing battle with the parenting style in which he was brought up and with the loud voices of family and bossy baby trainers that don’t seem to have an off switch. My friend wants to know what she can do to help her husband feel confident about tapping more completely into his intuition and doing the AP thing full time.

Sound familiar?

As a subscriber of Mothering, a participant in the Mothering Dot Commune forums, and a reader of many AP blogs, I’ve often seen variations on the same story: a woman wants a home birth, but “DH” isn’t into it, how can she convince him? A woman wants to practice attachment parenting with their new baby; how can she get DH on board? A woman is vegetarian and wants to raise her child as same; how can she—well, you get the idea.

Maybe it’s the circles in which I spend most of my time running, but it sure seems to me that things like having a home birth, practicing attachment parenting, eating a meatless diet made up of healthy whole foods, and generally living in a conscious and attached fashion somehow become campaigns for many women. Many of our male partners need convincing, and it seems a lot harder for them to fall into the lifestyle.

Part of it might be as simple as upbringing. As one AP dad says in his blog (bolding mine):

I grew up in a household that was a combination of strict and detached, where my parents unquestionably loved me, but in a distant and pretty much uninvolved way. As a consequence, while I have always been determined to not be this way with my kids, it's tough because there's a sort of behavioral destiny in this vein that I've had to fight on and off for years. I think we all have to be very conscious parents if we don’t want to just fall blindly into the patterns our parents used in rearing us, actually, and that’s not very easy to do, particularly in stressful situations.

Yet, it’s an argument any woman could make as well, isn’t it? I’d argue that it’s because we live in a sexist, patriarchal society that women get “permission” to “dote” and practice attachment living whereas men have it the other way around. It’s “natural” for us to be nurturing, intuitive, and attached to our children, for us to be demonstrative toward them with our emotions and affections. In fact, some of us may even feel pressure to perform as the perfect AP mama according to those "natural" expectations. Dads have traditionally experienced different parenting pressures, most of which allow for (and expect) distance.

I know plenty of women who are harangued by strangers and even family/friends/partners over their decision to practice attachment living, but it seems the men generally get one of two reactions, depending on the crowd: either they’re criticized for deviating from script society has handed them about how to live up to their masculinity, or they’re given a standing ovation.

The other day, my partner and I went to an outdoor music festival with our 6-month-old son. I toted him around in the Beco most of the time and no one seemed to bat an eye, except for a few smiles (at his big blue headphones) and a couple disapproving grimaces (“concerts are no place for babies!”).

When my husband strapped him on, however, it was an entirely different story. Women stopped him on the street and begged to take his photo, not even noticing I was there! They cooed and complimented him and generally became puddles of goo on the pavement. These well-meaning passersby might as well have said, “Good job being an involved and attached father! You don’t have to do that, you know. You’re really going above and beyond! You obviously don’t care about looking masculine, and that’s so cool.”

Traditionally, men have been kept out of pregnancy, birth, and child-rearing, only advised to play supporting roles. Bradley (and later Sears) began to bring men back into the parenting picture again in a big way; Bradley advocating for childbirth to be “husband-coached” (don’t get me started—his heart was in the right place), and the Sears franchise encourages fathers to enjoy such things as skin-to-skin time with their babies and not to balk at strapping on a sling.

Attachment parenting amounts to practicing “feminine” ways of knowing. It asks us to get down on our children’s level, to intuit and anticipate their needs, to tune into them emotionally and otherwise. It asks us to be tender, to ask instead of tell or explain. It asks us to share our beds, our breasts, our hearts. It’s not a “method” to which you can subscribe, and it’s not always convenient. It’s demanding and it’s hard work. It’s enriching, too, and even better when both parents are into it.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, take your pick), for many men AP means giving the proverbial finger to typical ideas of masculinity. It’s hard for some of us to overcome ideas we might have learned about gender when we’re learning to parent our own children. Co-sleeping and extended breastfeeding are areas of the AP lifestyle that often raise the most eyebrows among non-APing men. After all, doing those things must preclude any kind of sex life, right? For a guy to agree to such a thing must mean he handed his wife his man card on a silver platter.

My partner is a computer guy and I’m an academic, so we both appreciate a factual and logical approach. During my pregnancy, we pored over books and articles together, with me taking the lead. I dog-eared pages and sent him links and we both quickly arrived at most of the same conclusions. I see many other women doing the same thing: preparing to do battle over home birth or AP, stockpiling research for The Big Conversation. Hey, whatever works!

So I get why it’s hard for some of our partners to get behind AP at first. It seems to require peeling back a lot of complicated layers. But by setting new examples for masculinity—especially for our sons—we show our children a broader spectrum of gendered and parenting behavior. I think I’m pretty lucky to (e-)know a lot of men—like my partner and Jeremy Adam Smith, for example—who are proud to be AP dads.

So, tell us about your partners and your (shared?) journey to attachment living!

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Mama Shape

Conversations amongst my fellow AL bloggers (my Baby Ladies!) often turn to post baby body talk. It's something that seems to weigh on the mind, even if lightly, of even the most down to earth of us.
I am in awe of my body. It grew into a beautiful shape while developing crazy powers inside. It truly is a temple- housing, knitting, birthing, nourishing three healthy humans relatively effortlessly.

It's still hard not to balk at the changes that hit so fast as we enter Motherhood. I'm back to my before children weight again but no longer will I slide into those butt-cleavage jeans without a hearty muffin top lapping over. No longer can I slip off my bra to be greeted by perkiness- they almost groan as they settle, weighted by milk and motherhood. My thighs could kill a man and pink ribbons adorn my hips.

Biologically it makes sense. We have no need for a flawless body to attract a mate anymore. We do need milk bags, hearty baby lugging limbs and that handy pooch to sit that clinging child on.
Truly beautiful. And hard to remember. As I strive for perfection I often lose the meaning in the process. In my mind I see my 20 year old body as ideal. But how ignorant that body was- of housing, of knitting, of birthing, of nourishing.

Tell us your thoughts on the Mama Figure!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

What's the Rush?

Hey, sleeping through the night? Started solids yet?  Is he rolling? Sitting up? Potty trained? Well, the last one might be a bit of an exaggeration, but I swear someone will ask me that question before my son's first year is over.   It is so easy for us to get sucked into the rat race of "citius, altius, fortius" style parenting with the focus on the next milestone, the next accomplishment, eyes always aimed on the upcoming challenges.  

Rocking my son to sleep is where I challenge this pressure each day. Sometimes my mind dwells on why I still have to rock him so much, and when will he go to sleep on his own, but I am trying to resist those thoughts.  I think about how rocking my son is such a wonderful privilege that will be over before I know it.  Instead of looking at the clock in frustration as my mental to-do list gets longer and longer, I absorb the feelings of the moment.  My arms ache as I hum along to the lullaby cd that has wormed its way into the deepest recesses of my mind.  I stand and sway back and forth, sometimes doing plies just for variety.  I exhale and listen to his slow, even breath.  I catch glances of us in the mirror I use to see when his eyes are closed.  Head resting on my shoulder. One arm thrown around my neck, the other hanging limply.  Little legs and toes resting at my waist.  I inhale the downy baby scent rising off his fine hair.  

All this will be gone so quickly, to be replaced by toddling steps, bikes with training wheels and perhaps a "My room!  Keep Out!" sign in messy crayon.  My little newborn has already become a 5 month, 20 pound dynamo.  I see frazzled new parents in the baby aisle of Target, with the teeniest little ones mewing like kittens, and I get a bittersweet twinge inside at the thought of how far I've already come as a mother.  Instead of racing through each day, attachment parenting is helping me savor the journey.   While my arms feel like they might fall off some days from all the rocking, I try to drink in each moment, knowing that snuggled in my arms is exactly where he should be.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Good-Bye Girls I'm Going To Boston

For two days I've had Arlo Guthrie's twang in my head, reminding me that I want to write this post. I can't go to bed without telling you that I adore Arlo, sure, but I'm really in love with Pete Seeger.

My four-year-old recently learned how to take charge of the cd player. She has a cd by Woody and Arlo Guthrie, and her favorite song on it is "I'm Gonna Mail Myself to You". Arlo sounds like he fell into the bottom of a well, which makes his voice that much more chipmunk-y on this catchy tune. "This Land is Your Land" follows "I'm Gonna Mail Myself to You" and it is sung by Woody. He always gets cut off after the first verse or so, when my daughter realizes "This Land is Your Land" has nothing to do with sticking bubble gum in anybody's mouth.

I started thinking about Arlo, Alice's restuarant, box car jumping, Wilco and Billy Bragg, musical storytellers, activism through art, and Pete Seeger. About this time last year I checked out a cd from the library entitled A Child's Celebration of Folk Music. The whole album was enjoyable, but I was drawn to the sounds made by Pete Seeger. I searched my library's database to find that Mr. Seeger worked hard to entertain children and adults, and I put holds on several of his cds, all of them excellent.

Sometimes I think of the songs as a musical version of waldorf-inspired toys: simple, natural, well-made and open-ended. Enduring. They invite the listener to interact, imagine and explore. A man and his banjo, sometimes whistling or clapping his hands, always singing with inviting joy. If you like folk music, maybe even if you don't, you can't go wrong with Woody, Arlo or Pete, but my heart belongs to Mr. Seeger.

I'm Gonna Mail Myself to You
(written by Woody Guthrie, but sung by Arlo in my house)

I'm gonna wrap myself in paper
I'm gonna dot myself with glue
Stick some stamps on top of my head
I'm gonna mail myself to you

I'm gonna tie me up in a red string
I'm gonna tie a blue ribbon too
Climb up inside my mailbox
I'm gonna mail myself to you

When you find me in your mailbox
Cut the string and let me out
Wash the glue from off my fingers
Stick some bubblegum in my mouth

When you find me in your mailbox
Wash the glue from off my head
Fill me up with ice cream sodas
Tuck me into a nice warm bed.

I'm gonna wrap myself in paper
I'm gonna dot myself with glue
Stick some stamps on top of my head
I'm gonna mail myself to you

Sunday, July 6, 2008

The Best of the Breast

To be absolutely honest, there have been times when I have felt stinging bitterness while reading statements such as, "Oh, I LOVE nursing my baby!!! I want to breastfeed forever!!" Red faced and shamed, I have thought, with my baby latched to my breast, "oh please let this end soon, oh please let this end soon. Deep breath. How much longer? Baby, why aren't you full yet?" That was during a postpartum phase when my certified nurse midwife was ready to write me a prescription for "something" because I had filled out a questionnaire with a few too many indicators for possible post partum depression. "I'm in pain," I exclaimed to her, "every time he eats I'm in pain. He's six weeks old, so he eats all the time!" At times with blood dripping from me, blood dripping from his mouth. The feeling akin to hundreds of nails shooting into my nipples and through my breast. Cringeing through moments that were supposed to be special.

With both of my children I have gone through nearly every problematic issue possibly related to breastfeeding. I won't catalogue them all here, I don't really want to dwell in that space right now. Right now I want to gloat and dance the dance of someone who has come through the other side and witnessed the beauty that all of those other lucky women have beheld. I want to revel in those moments of breastfeeding that have not hurt, and have brought joy to my children and myself.

I am grateful for every chance I have had to feed my child from my body. In all of my reading on the topic (obsessive and exhaustive, stimulated by those hyper-focused new mama hormones), oh the stories I found out there! The discouraging, sad stories of pain, frustration and so much worry. Our new mama job is to Keep The Baby Alive. Everything else can go to hell, but Keeping The Baby Alive. When you plan to keep the baby alive via breastfeeding, but breastfeeding is not the simple, beautiful joy that surely nature must have intended... betrayal, heartbreak, fear, shame, anger.... but wait, I said I was not going to go there!

Instead I'll go to Mt. Tabor, the extinct volcano near my house in SE Portland. I was there just today, with my daughter, my partner, and my baby. While my daughter and her father explored the hillside, my sixth-month-old was ready for a meal. I nestled my back into the V bottom of a douglas fir, exposed roots supporting my arms. Stretching my legs out in the green grass, I released the straps of the baby carrier and positioned my baby gently in my arms, at my breast, where he latched easily. It was probably 80 degrees, blue skies, a gentle breeze ruffling the branches of the maples and doug firs surrounding me. A couple walked by. One of the pair, a woman in her 50s, strong and healthy and smiling happily, but not intrusively, at me. I smiled back, the exchange between two women who know how precious it is to do what I was doing. Gentle encouragement. Looking down I saw my baby, eating contentedly. Looking up I saw sky, clouds and the life of the trees. Looking outward I saw the vista of my favorite city, my home, my view. It was one of those special moments seemingly designed to erase the pains of a few short months ago. A moment to remind me of other breastfeeding moments that were particularly poignant: in the California Redwoods (pictured above), soothing my daughter simply and easily through a few different plane flights, sitting on river rocks as a cold Cascade Mountain Range runoff bubbled by, and that time I fed my son at my breast again, after a day of formula and pumping so I could heal enough to cope through more newborn feedings.

If you have had a special breastfeeding moment (or moments) that you would like to share, please do!

Thursday, July 3, 2008


I bought a bunch of peaches and spinach with the intention to really DO this challenge. I forgot to call dibs on the peaches and they were gone by the end of the day. For real. So I improvised with strawberries and blueberries. The strawberry mix was pretty delish, but the blueberry/spinach was really, really yummy. I did add chocolate soy milk which may be cheating. My blender is very sorry so that made for some chewiness. No notable difference in my health yet but it feels nice to have a heaping serving of leafy veggie under my belt at 9 am. For what it's worth.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

The best peaches are ripe and bursting, with juice that runs all over the place. Messy sweetness. I live in the Pacific Northwest where it's been cold and rainy until last week, so the peaches I procured were tender to the touch, but turned out the be firm, even a little crunchy. Despite that disappointment, for my first green smoothie of the challenge I used three medium- to large-sized organic peaches, peeled and chunked into the blender, a generous dollop of local honey, two handfuls of small-sized fresh spinach leaves (organic, local, and fresh from the farmer's market), and a handful of ice cubes. The result was a bright green slushy that tasted sweeter and more delicious than a slurpee from 7-11. I made it in the evening, and when I took it into the dusk-filled living room to drink, my daughter and my mate both wanted sips. Their sips were long and frequent, becasue they couldn't see it was green. It was a family hit. (I liked it in light and dark rooms.)

The smoothie pictured above has a banana in it, maybe some apple too. I'm using the smoothie challenge to finish off remains of forgotten fruit my daughter leaves throughout the day. Our compost bucket is lighter, but it's a better habit I'm sure. Over the past week I've slurped rainbow chard, spinach and kale in various proportions with strawberries, peaches, bananas, apples, honey, ice cubes, cranberry juice and chocolate hemp milk. I don't think I've had the same smoothie twice, unless I'm drinking leftovers. The best smoothie was the purest, the one described above. Of those I tried, the easiest green to drink, if you're afraid of drinking your greens, is spinach. It tastes light and sweet when blended with fruit.

In the original green smoothie challenge a health improvement was promised. This past week has not seen a change in my health. I'm still combating some annoying airborne allergies, my back is still tight from all this baby carrying, and I've developed some mouth sores (too many strawberries? chocoloate sensitivity? something else?) Mentally, I am proud of the fact that I'm definitely consuming more raw, leafy greens. Otherwise, no health changes yet. It should be noted that being the mother of a teething infant is more physically challenging than some other lifestyles, so it might take more than a green smoothie to get me feeling top notch. One day I will sign up for the "Sleep 8 Hours in a Row Challenge", but for now I'm growing a baby and sleep will come later. I'm still open to the idea that drinking my greens will improve my health, but so far no changes.


Friday, June 27, 2008

My Home Education

My 5 years as a parent has taught me more, I'm convinced, than could ever be taught in a course. Like the Hungarian gypies who teach their children music by simply handing them a violin and admitting them into the band, we're tossed into Motherhood and nothing teaches us the notes like simply doing it.

My children have taught me far more than tangible gifts like washing my hair while holding a baby, or keeping my bag stocked to Mary Poppins proportions. They've showed me slow down, and to speed up. They are total zen masters- soaking, clearing, being.

They've taught me that I have far less patience than I thought, and that patience is a muscle; built by being worked. They are beautifully complex, irresistibly gentle, wildly manic, intensely intelligent and wrap it all effortlessly in saintly humility.

Children remind me my most productive days are the days I laugh the most, not how much I get done. They show me my every action, word, breath is a stitch in the quilt of their childhood. They keep me in the wonder of nature, of learning, of newness, of simplicity. They are ridged teachers but quick to forgive and never hold a grudge.

I've learned to do all with gusto, remain in the moment, use every sense, and remember it. Like Hungarian gypsies are known for being amazing violinists, children are known for creating great mothers. Here's to striving toward those ranks, and to finding what else there is to learn!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Our First Challenge - 30 Days of Green Smoothie

It's not a slumber party without snacks, and when everyone at the slumber party is lactating the snacks need to be thirst-quenching, nourishing, healthy and easy. It doesn't get easier than throwing some ingredients into a blender and hitting a button, something I can do with a baby in my arms. To-Fu started talking about smoothies and several of us leapt on board, gulping back piles of pureed fruit, exchanging ideas and recipes, and pulling our families into our jones.

Then BeanyMama pointed us towards this green smoothie challenge. It's a challenge to drink a green smoothie daily for 30 days, preferably for breakfast, and see what difference it makes to our health. The site contains some recipes to get started with.

A few of us have started to dabble in green smoothies, but starting Tuesday we're going whole leaf and taking on the challenge en masse (sans one). Over the next 30 days we'll be checking in from time to time to share our smoothie experiences as we go green from the inside out. Our access to food varies, based upon climate, schedules, and funds, so we'll all have a different take on this challenge. Each week we'll have a Smoothie of the Week, with suggested ingredients for us to play with and report back on. This week our smoothie will be based loosely on the Peach and Spinach recipe from the linked site.

Any and all readers are welcome to join us. We would love to hear about your experiences as well. Let's drink our veggies together!


Saturday, June 21, 2008

Mothers of Intuition

Attachment parenting is really just permission to parent intuitively.

It's about closing your eyes and sitting in a dark room and letting all those books stuffed with parenting/baby-training advice go up in flames. Because, really, what would you do without all the (culture-specific, mind you) expectations and pressure? You would feed your baby when he's hungry. You would pick him up when he cries. You would be in tune with his needs and wants because that's what feels right. Only it seems that our intuition is crushed in the deafening stampede of (often well-meaning) advice from friends, relatives, and the (not-always-so-well-meaning) baby trainers.

There's no list of items you must check off to ensure you're practicing attachment parenting (although there are touchstones); you simply follow your baby's lead. It's beautifully simple, although that doesn't make it easy.

To be fair, it is easier on some levels: being so in tune with your child allows you to know him better than anyone else, allows your intuition to kick into high gear so that you know when things are wrong or right in his world. But always being in high gear, always switched on--even in the dead of night when your body is "sleeping"--can be exhausting. It also means your orbit shifts, probably irreversibly: you learn to fit with your baby; he is not an inconvenience to be inserted into your old pre-parent life.

Attachment parenting, for us, is part of a larger way of existing. It follows that attachment living means being connected not just with your child, but with everyone and everything around you. It means listening a little harder, tuning in to new frequencies and lower rumbles.

Attachment living is living gently, compassionately, consciously, with purpose. Harmonizing. Being thoughtful. It is not, as another AL mama so incisively observed, a disposable lifestyle.

In case you're wondering, the AL blogging mamas met on a crunchy forum back in April 2007. We were all flying the attachment parenting banner, pregnant as heck, and due to have our babies at the same time (January 2008, if anyone's taking notes). When our babes were Earth-side, we all felt the pang of separation and decided to continue our community even after our old forum was archived and started collecting dust. I felt like a newborn myself, flung ungracefully into the brave new world of motherhood. I longed to connect with my old e-friends--some of whom were having their second, third, or fourth babes.

For many of us, our small group is the only place we have to go to connect with other mamas and get support around attachment living/parenting issues. I know that for me, it is a lifeline. Motherhood can be an isolating experience, even more so when you're radically (in the case of some of us) AP/AL.

We share recipes and links to BPA-free teethers. We seek each other out at two in the morning when we can't go back to sleep after a long nursing session or a teething explosion. We talk each other through tough parenting moments, through mastitis and cantankerous in-laws. We start posts about birthday parties that evolve naturally into conversations about consumerism. We talk about healing our bodies and hearts after the transformative experience of giving birth. We share our joys and trials with each other. It's a never-ending virtual slumber party!

During the course of our time together, we've had some thoughts, ideas, and challenges (most notably, the green smoothie challenge--more on that very soon) that we wanted to share beyond the intimate e-walls of our forum. And that's why this blog is here.

Whether AP is old hat or a novel curiosity for you, we hope you'll pull up a chair, enjoy a green smoothie with us, and join in on the conversation. Welcome to AL!


Friday, June 20, 2008

Why attachment living?

Attachment parenting, as aptly put by my fellow Mama bloggers below, can be seen as "being present, mindful and connected" in our dealings with our children. Following that thought, attachment living, in the way I see it, is feeling connected not only to our families, but to our larger communities and communities around the world. This touches every aspect of our lives, from protecting our children from the mind-sucking allure of TV advertising, to choosing organic produce because of the benefits to the earth (not to mention the workers whose living depends on it). Every day is full of decisions, and your choices say a lot about you and your priorities. Apathy seems to reign supreme with members of my generation (and I'm not that old - only 32!)...people really feel disconnected with the world, like their voices can't possibly change their reality. Online communities like this one (thanks, ladies!) help to combat the helplessness - you can only feel "attached" if you feel supported. It's nice to know there are others out there that feel the same.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Why everyone thinks I'm crazy...

Attachment living, and specifically attachment parenting, is as Rachel said sometimes easy and sometimes more difficult. I think that what it brings to your life is more valuable than I know how to express. It has brought me closer to my husband, and family, and the world (past, present, and future) than I ever could have imagined, but at the same time following the principals of attachment living makes me feel very disconnected from many of the people around me.

I sat alone (this doesn’t often happen) in the chiropractor’s office several days ago with nothing to do, so I picked up a copying of Parenting Magazine that was sitting on the table. I haven’t looked at a Parenting Magazine in years. As I flipped through it I was pretty disgusted by most of everything I saw. It was shocking. I often realize that my parenting and living philosophies are different from those around me but I guess I had forgotten how completely different they actually were. The magazine was full of encouragement for parents to not respond to their children’s needs for this and that reason and assured the parents that in the end this was really the best thing for the child. How sad. To me it seems like a lot of nonsense that will make life a little easier for the time being. I forgot that the life that the dominant culture is living is so different than mine. I knew there were differences between my friends’ and my own choices in things like diapering, co-sleeping, feeding, shopping, etc. but I it really hit me hard to realize how fundamentally different I was from many of my closest friends and family members and all the other people reading writing and reading Parenting Magazine.

It really saddens me to think about the closeness, understanding, love, affection, security, trust, friendship, oneness, etc. that people are missing out on with their children and families. It also saddens me to think that our culture is encouraging us not to be attached. I don’t suggest that you are either part of attachment living or you are something else that is evil. My own journey to attachment living has been gradual and often a slow work in progress. It is something that seems very natural, and like what my family most needs, but it has not always been the easiest choice to make. I continue to make choices that are in opposition to what I see attachment living to be, but I try to go on and make better choices next time. I think that my greatest challenge right now is that I often feel like my family is the only family on this path. That everyone around me is criticizing our choices, and that opposition surrounds us.

That is why I find this online community so valuable to my sanity! These women are a great resource for ideas as well as encouragement. Thanks guys! I think the reason that attachment living is so easy is because everyone in the world has something within them that resonates with these values. It can be so difficult because we are constantly surrounded by images, attitudes, and suggestions that tell us otherwise. I want to welcome everyone to our new blog, and I hope that the entries here can help all of us sort out our feelings and continue to grow “attached” to each other and the world we are living in.


Well, Hello There

Can I start? I can't bear the thought of a blog just sitting there, unposted, unread. There is a whole group of Baby Ladies with wonderful things to say about everything, and here we have a great place to share our ideas with others.

Last night, in between nursing my teething five-month-old, comforting my stuffed up four-year-old and pumping some milk for my final days of working before summer vacation, my head was buzzing with all sorts of ideas about attachment parenting and attachment living. In a recent conversation, one of the Baby Ladies put it best when she described her feelings about crying it out: "I see it as disconnected with your life, with your child. Not being present, not caring, not even caring to know what you are missing. Not thinking, not thinking for yourself, not listening to your heart." Crying it out or CIO is athe practice of letting a baby cry, uncomforted, in the name of training them to comfort themselves to sleep.

Attachment parenting and attachment living is the opposite of that. It is being connected with life, your child, where you live, where your fellow human beings live, and where your decendents will live. It is following your heart and your intuition to create and maintain those connections for more than fleeting moments. It is not a disposable lifestyle.

For some, disposable equates with enjoyable and easy. Truthfully, with some practice, attachment living is more enjoyable. Sometimes it's easier, sometimes not, but always worth it.