Tuesday, January 31, 2012

10 City Parenting Must-Haves

When I was expecting my first child, I bought all of the wrong things. The things I had, I didn't need or they weren't practical for the city, and the things I didn't have I really could have used. So here's my list of city parenting must-haves. What would you add to the list?

1. Ergo - Really any baby carrier is crucial for getting around in the city, but I tried a bunch and the Ergo is my favorite for its ease, versatility, and durability.

2. Light-weight stroller - When I was first pregnant, I got caught up in those fancy "travel system" strollers that in the end I barely used. I think these would be helpful if you rely on a car a lot, but for primarily pedestrian parenting, go with a light-weight, easily-collapsible stroller for convenient bus and subway rides. I like Maclaren.

3. Subway/bus pass - Here in Boston, the CharlieCard is a city parenting must-have and kids under 12 are free on public transportation.

4. Museum memberships - Choose your favorite museums and buy memberships early to save money later. Most memberships pay for themselves after only two or three visits.

5. Practical diaper bag - Another area in which I made lots of mistakes early on is the "diaper bag." There are oodles of options available to parents, but in the end I have found that a backpack works best for me for our city adventures. I like the large backpacks from Vera Bradley because they are spacious and machine washable.

6. Library books - We bought a LOT of children's books when we were expecting our oldest that quickly consumed our small city space. While we still love owning our favorite books, we now rely much more heavily on our local library.

7. Reusable snack bags - Whether you make them yourself or buy them, reusable, cloth snack bags are handy and helpful for city excursions.

8. Hand sanitizer - With all that scurrying around town, on subways, and through museums, it's helpful to keep some hand sanitizer with you when good old soap and water aren't available. Here's a nice recipe for homemade hand sanitizer.

9. Child-friendly coffee shop - Scope out the neighborhood to find the most spacious, stroller-accessible, child-friendly coffee shop for your daily caffeine jolt.

10. Peekaru - This is my newest city parenting essential, making it easier to continue babywearing throughout the winter. Today is the last day to enter my blog giveaway to win a free Peekaru by Togetherbe! Click here to enter!!

I'd love to hear your comments about you think are city parenting essentials!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Chinese New Year in the City




The city is always magical for kids, but during the Chinese New Year celebration its allure is heightened. Dragon dances, drums, firecrackers, music, and performances fill the streets of Boston's Chinatown in a stunning display of Chinese culture and tradition.

We spent the week leading up to today's parade learning about the Chinese New Year, its origins and modern-day festivities through books and Internet searches. We listened to traditional Chinese music on Pandora and practiced reciting some common Chinese phrases. Our interest is definitely piqued and the kids are eager to learn more. So we will. We'll gather more books, listen to more music, learn more about Chinese history, culture, and language.

This is what city homeschooling is all about: using the city as our classroom, as our launching pad to learn, discover, respect, and admire. We pay attention to the diverse celebrations and vast offerings of the city, its people and its venues, and we use these festivities and events as a springboard for year-round experiential learning.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Birthday Babywearing Giveaway!

Birthdays are a great time for gifts, so for my 35th birthday today I am offering a giveaway of one of my favorite winter babywearing products, the Peekaru by Togetherbe!

Use it to keep baby snug and close in your favorite sling all winter, and layer an outer jacket if needed. My one-year-old stays cozy in her Ergo with the Peekaru on top as we continue our "citying" throughout the cold weather months.

For your chance at the giveaway, enter below by "liking" this blog's Facebook page and post! The winner will be announced on February 1st!


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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Mommying More

With one week left until the submission deadline for the Family Size Blog Carnival (we can't wait to hear from you!!), it has me thinking about my family's size.

One of the things I find most surprising is how much easier and better mommying becomes with more kids. For me, going from no kids to one was the hardest adjustment, and then each additional child got easier to welcome into our family rhythm. We get in a groove, don't we, once we figure out this mommying gig. We gain confidence, we relax, we let go. We learn how quickly childhood passes and refocus our parenting priorities on the things that really matter. We watch as our children's spirits naturally unfold and we realize that our role is not to build perfect people, but to guide and nurture, listen and love. With this pressure off, mommying becomes more fun, more rewarding, more meaningful--better, easier, happier.

With more kids, I see special sibling bonds emerging and the natural desire of the oldest to watch out for the youngest. I see a little one eager for more responsibility, more opportunities to help out with family tasks. I see a littler one learning negotiation, teamwork, conflict management, and communication skills much more quickly and adeptly than his big sister did at his age. I see a littlest one finding her spot in our family, in awe of her big brother and sister and already determined to do everything they do.

I find mommying more kids to be deeply rewarding and think adding to our family would be lovely at some point. What about you? Won't you join the Family Size Blog Carnival and share your thoughts?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Citying




This odd winter, with missing snow and moderate temperatures, at least makes our daily city excursions--our "citying"--easier and a bit more pleasurable-- for mom, anyway. My older kids beg me regularly to check the forecast for our next snowstorm.

With something of a January "thaw" underway, we were able to enjoy much of the day outdoors with a subway ride, birthday party, swim lesson, and errands in the square thrown in for good measure. Given the chance to stroll, rather than race, from one inside spot to the next--a true January luxury--I was able to reflect a bit on our daily citying and the learning that sprouts from it.

During our walk to the T, we talked about what subway musician might be performing today, and my oldest counted her dollar bills to see how much she would have for a contribution. (It was an accordian-player.) We smiled at the new (and free to the public) outdoor ice skating rink on Harvard campus. (Locals should definitely check it out!) We gawked at the brand new subway elevator in the city square and jostled for button-pressing priority. We admired the art installation at one of the subway stops. We watched birds, climbed stairs, read signs, listened to tourists.

We learn so much from citying, from being out and about exploring this urban landscape and its creatures. The city is one large and ever-changing classroom--and today, in January, we were delighted to enjoy much of class outside.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Creating a Culture of Natural Birth

Over the weekend, I organized a first-in-awhile Birth Circle meeting here in the city for local moms and their partners who are passionate about natural birth. We were joined by a Boston-area homebirth midwife who offered her insights and perspectives as each of us shared our birth stories and hopes for future births. Some of the stories were tinged with disappointment, births that ended with invasive hospital interventions that in hindsight may not have been necessary or ideal. Most were inspiring, raw, and beautiful.

One story, in particular, got me to thinking about the true purpose of these Birth Circles. It was from a woman and her husband who had their first baby a few months ago in a natural, peaceful, beautiful homebirth. I am always in awe of women who choose a homebirth for their first child, as it took me until my third to finally catch on. This woman shared that, for her, homebirth was a deep part of her cultural consciousness. She grew up in a culture in which homebirth and natural birth are treated as natural life events, not dangerous medical conditions. Her mother gave birth to her and all of her sisters at home. She saw some of them being born. For her, there was no doubt that her default birth choice would be a natural homebirth.

So why is it that for most American women the default birth choice is a hospital birth? I think it all comes back to culture. For most of us, our cultural messages lead us to believe that pregnancy, labor and birth are scary, dangerous, painful, and wildly unpredictable--events to be closely controlled and managed. Our culture keeps us detached from natural birth; we don't see it, we don't grow up knowing about it, we rely on hearsay and television programming to learn about it. No wonder we're afraid of it.

I see these Birth Circles--in a very small but hopefully meaningful way--as an opportunity to create a stronger culture of natural birth here in the city by bringing together women and their partners to discuss their natural birth hopes and experiences, build community, and reveal the truth about natural birth as a safe, beautiful, powerful, life-changing experience.

Friday, January 20, 2012

{this moment} Snow At Last

{this moment} - A single photo capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.


Visit SouleMama for more "moments" and to share your own...

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Homeschooling Outcomes

My husband and I were once asked by a homeschooling skeptic if we care about outcomes. That is, this person wondered, do we care if our children attend top colleges, get the best jobs, make the most money, and so on. I think this is a reasonable question from someone trying to gain a clearer understanding of our homeschooling--or rather unschooling--approach to education. Our short answer was no, that those outcomes are not the things we care about. But, yes, we do care about outcomes.

We, like most parents, hope that our children live happily, simply, freely. We hope that they discover their passions and are provided the opportunity to achieve their goals. We hope that they treasure family, community, and the natural world and devote much time to each.

Homeschooling doesn't promise these outcomes, any more than traditional schooling promises the outcomes presented by the skeptic. Our hope for homeschooling our children is that it offers them the time and space to recognize and fully realize their unique gifts as both children and adults. If they want to attend top colleges, get top jobs, and earn top salaries, then good for them. And if they don't want that, then good for them.

We see our role as facilitators, helping our children uncover their interests and talents, providing resources to learn and explore, and allowing them the time, space, and love to grow up to be happy, thoughtful, engaged citizens. Those outcomes we care deeply about.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Family Size Blog Carnival: Call for Submissions!

Please join Kerry @ City Kids Homeschooling and Patti @ Jazzy Mama for our first Family Size Blog Carnival!

How do you make decisions on your family's size? What factors do you consider when deciding how many children to welcome into your family? Are your decisions based on choice, circumstance, beliefs? Do you hope to continue to expand your family or are you done and why? When making family size decisions, what factors do you consider when selecting a birth control method? Do you have thoughts on sibling spacing? How do you keep your sanity with lots of little ones?

There are so many interesting angles to approach this topic and we hope you will share your thoughts and insights on family size for what promises to be an engaging, enjoyable and informative blog carnival!

We can't wait to hear from you!

Please email your submissions by THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 2ND to BOTH kmcdonald02138 {at} gmail {dot} com AND ptinh0441 {at} rogers {dot} com. The blog carnival will take place on THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 9TH.

In your email, please include the following information for your post:

Your Name:
Blog Name:
Blog URL:

Facebook Page: (optional)
URL In Advance: (If you don't know how to determine your post's URL in advance, click here for a helpful tutorial.)
Carnival Blurb: (For example - Kerry at City Kids Homeschooling shares her thought process on deciding how many children to welcome into her family.)

We look forward to hearing from you!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Winter Babywearing

With the January chill settling in, I wanted to find a winter babywearing solution that would help keep my one-year-old cozy and not too bulky in the Ergo. We rarely drive our car in general but especially not in winter, and I find strollers can get irritating, particularly in frosty conditions when our city excursions involve dashing in and out from home to playground to coffee shop to museum and so on.

Our frequent movement from warmth to cold to warmth again make babywearing a must for me, and now with three little ones I rely even more on my Ergo to keep a little sister contentedly nursing or enjoying a piggy-back ride while I focus on her older siblings.

This winter, I bought a Peekaru and I love it! Honestly, it is one of the best baby purchases I have made, allowing me to dress the baby in a lighter fleece coverall and then place the fleece Peekaru over me and the Ergo. She stays snug, I can layer a regular jacket over us if necessary, and I can continue winter babywearing without carrying the extra bulk of an infant snowsuit. It's fabulous.

In fact, I love this product so much that I am going to be doing another giveaway in a couple of weeks (just in time to celebrate my 35th birthday!) and will be offering a chance for you to win a free Peekaru from TogetherBe. Visit here on January 28th for your chance to enter!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Afternoon Stillness


With two little ones simultaneously napping, and a big sister off with Daddy to a nearby museum, I found myself unexpectedly free this afternoon. I thought about the laundry I could do, the dishes I could wash, the drawers I could organize, the food I could prepare. I thought about all of that. And then I made a cup of coffee, watched the sunlight move across my kitchen, and soaked in the momentary stillness in an otherwise full day.

It wasn't long, maybe 30 minutes, until my baby girl awoke ready to play, but it was just enough time to relax, take a breath, and re-energize for a busy afternoon in the city with three little ones.

I hope this weekend you can spot some simple moments of still, seize them as moments to just be, to reflect on all the effort and joy of mothering, and recharge for the important work ahead.

Friday, January 13, 2012

{this moment} Puddle-Stomping

{this moment} - A single photo capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.


Visit SouleMama for more "moments" and to share your own...

Thursday, January 12, 2012

More Natural Family Living Ideas

Reading the posts from this week's Carnival of Natural Parenting has been inspiring and informative. The bloggers have excellent ideas on how to work towards creating an increasingly natural, healthy, sustainable home.

After the excitement of our raw milk trial, I am looking for new natural family living experiments and I got some great ideas from the natural parenting bloggers who participated in this carnival. Three posts in particular caught my eye, and I am eager to try out their suggestions:

First, I love the idea of making my own laundry detergent and have been thinking about doing this for awhile now. Some time ago, I replaced all of our household cleaning products with a simple, homemade concoction of vinegar, baking soda, and water. Homemade laundry detergent is the next step and the recipe how-to by Jennifer at Practical Oh Mommy looks worth trying.

Second, I am intrigued by the idea of trying a menstrual cup, as described by Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children (a must-read blog by the way). Like her, I have not had to think much about menses since I have been either pregnant or breastfeeding for the past six years. I have used cloth pads for those post-partum times, which I really like, but this menstrual cup idea is fascinating to consider when I finally do get a period again...

Third, wintertime always does a number on my skin, leaving it dry and cracked, and regrettably my kids seem to have inherited this same trait. Megan at Boho Mama offers a great recipe for homemade, natural moisturizer that will be fun to try.

What are some of your favorite experiments with natural family living? I would love to hear your natural family living insights and ideas!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

My Progression To Raw Milk

Welcome to the January 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Experiments in Natural Family Living

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have reported on weeklong trials to make their lives a little greener. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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In my early days of embracing Natural Parenting, I joked that raw (unpasteurized) milk would be the end of the road, the final frontier for an all-natural family lifestyle. I didn't think I would really make it that far, but looking back it seems like an obvious progression.

Each step I took toward more natural parenting and natural family living led easily to the next step as I learned more and saw the results in my home, with my family.

It all started for me with breastfeeding, which led to co-sleeping, which led to fully embracing Attachment Parenting and its ideals, which led to cloth diapering, which led to homeschooling, which led to homebirthing, which led to more natural, sustainable homemaking, which led to a focus on holistic family health, which led to--you guessed it--raw milk.

I quickly learned that trying raw milk is easier said than done. This extremely healthy, all-natural, time-honored food is outright illegal to sell in many states and in other states, like here in Massachusetts, it can only be purchased directly from one of a few accredited raw milk dairy farms. Last month, we traveled 45 minutes out of the city to a lovely raw dairy farm to try it. In fact, it's easier to buy illicit drugs in the city than it is to buy raw milk. And I can go to any city convenience store and buy tobacco and Doritos which are known to be bad for health, but I can't buy raw milk there. Hmmm, what's wrong with this picture?

Critics cite dangerous bacteria in raw milk that can cause sickness and death, urging consumers not to drink it. I agree that if you drink raw milk distributed from one of the large food conglomerates and the massive dairy farms that supply them, it is possible to get very sick due to the unsanitary and often cruel conditions under which those cows live. That milk MUST be pasteurized. But raw milk from a small, local, pasture-fed dairy farm? Safe, nutritious, tasty.

Now, I'm not sure I'm ready to make the switch entirely to raw milk for my family. (We are partial to our glass-bottled, home-delivered, lightly pasteurized milk from a Vermont organic farm collaborative.) But the larger point is that I should have the unfettered option to conveniently, safely, and legally purchase raw milk here in the city. As I continue on the natural parenting progression, advocating for raw milk rights in particular, and better access to healthy, real, local food in general, will become an integral part of that process.

If you are interested in learning more about raw milk, I recommend the new documentary, "Farmageddon," about the rise in raw milk demand and the obstacles to its distribution, and the excellent book, The Untold Story of Milk: The History, Politics and Science of Nature's Perfect Food: Raw Milk from Pasture-Fed Cows, by Ron Schmid.

***

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

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

Sunday, January 8, 2012

One Year Old




For a little sister's first birthday, we decided to celebrate with a birthday breakfast and ice skating in the nearby square. While I skated with the big kids and Daddy watched with the napping birthday girl, I was struck by how quickly time really does fly. Can two years have passed since it was a napping little brother asleep in that same green stroller with Daddy looking on while I skated with his big sister? Time is funny that way. It sneaks up on us with these milestones and memories.

The fast pace of childhood reminds me that I need to savor each fleeting moment with my little ones. Even when I have sung "Twinkle, Twinkle" for the umpteenth time, even when long winter afternoons seem to drag on, even when they're whiny, and I'm tired, and the laundry pile towers above the bureau. Even then. Especially then. Because a year goes by so fast.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Music in the City



Music is enriching any time of the year, but I find that in winter, especially the indoor days of January, music takes on a more central role in our family. Whether it's the melodies of bluegrass, classical or jazz, big band or opera bellowing continuously from Pandora throughout the day, or the notes of a just-beginning pianist echoing from our music room, music fills and brightens our winter days.

Beyond our home, music filled our city this weekend for the annual Boston Celtic Music Fest. We were entertained by sidewalk bagpipers, Irish and Scottish fiddlers, Celtic dancers, and other performers who left all of us--kids and grown-ups alike--in awe of the talent and skill of these great musicians. The only thing that could pry my little ones away from the performances was the enticement of nearby pizza with good friends, and the promise that tomorrow will always bring more music in the city.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Healing Naturally

With four-fifths of my household now sniffly and sneezy (sparing me for now), it got me to thinking about my natural parenting progression, particularly my shift over the years from relying on conventional methods to treat illness to adopting more natural approaches. When my oldest was little(r), I would quickly reach for Tylenol or Motrin and call the pediatrician.

I learned over time this simple truth: the body has a miraculous power to heal itself of common illness if we let it. Now, while making every effort through good nutrition, hygiene, and lots of outside time to prevent illness, I allow my little ones to heal themselves naturally when the inevitable winter cold virus emerges. I do my part to aid their fierce immune systems with lots of fluid, warm tea and good honey, smoothies and soup, quiet days at home, and an abundance of snuggles. And I avoid using products that could potentially interfere with the body's own natural defense and immune mechanisms.

In his classic book, How to Raise A Healthy Child In Spite of Your Doctor, pediatrician Robert S. Mendelsohn, MD, asserts: "Because most childhood illnesses respond to normal bodily defenses that may be impeded by medical treatment, use of your natural skills is usually preferable to those of a doctor in giving your child the help he needs. Moreover, you will play the principal role in helping your child avoid illnesses by providing the wholesome nutrition he needs and by making certain that he avoids the foods he shouldn't have."

The simple and powerful notion, espoused by Hippocrates, to "let food be thy medicine, and let thy medicine be food," really resonated with me. I began to reclaim control over my family's overall health and well-being through good nutrition and natural remedies for common ailments, and abandoned our traditional pediatric practice for a more holistic family medicine practice that was better aligned with our family's health needs.

Certainly there are times when a doctor's advice or a hospital's intervention may be valuable-- life-saving even--but more often than not, we moms can manage common childhood ailments naturally with classic home remedies, time, and lots of TLC. It's time we start trusting ourselves more, trusting our powerful maternal instincts, and trusting nature's wisdom in helping us to heal.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

January Bulbs




My daughter's good friend gave her an amaryllis bulb for a birthday gift last fall, and as temperatures dove into the 20s today, it seemed like the perfect time to begin speckling our home with harbingers of spring.

As winter starts to feel like winter, as time inside exceeds time outside, we are becoming reacquainted with forgotten books, and puzzles, and crafts. We are nesting more, changing the look-and-feel of certain nooks and corners to make them more inviting in the long, cold days ahead. We are settling in to our winter family rhythm: slower, simpler, calmer.

Yet, even as we enjoy this restful time, even as we plot our winter adventures, our conversations are dotted with reminders of warmer days, spring plans. So as we nestle in for a long winter's nap, our January bulbs keep our spirits bright.

Monday, January 2, 2012

New Year's Resolution

I hadn't thought much about resolutions. I hadn't thought that there was much need to list my small goals for 2012, like learning to knit more than just a scarf or striving to make more time for pleasure reading. But over the weekend, my littlest one who is about to celebrate her first birthday came down with her first cold. It's just your typical run-of-the-mill winter cold, but nonetheless all she wants to do is snuggle and nurse, which of course is exactly what she should be doing and exactly what I want to be doing for her.

These marathon nursing sessions necessarily lead to chores left undone, messes left untouched, and plans left unmet. And you know what? It feels good, this letting go. It feels right to welcome a new year with a new focus on our treasured triad: family, community, nature. And if prioritizing these three important things means letting go of the many unimportant things in our days, then I resolve to do just that.

What about you? What are your resolutions for this new year?