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Food

Mammals and Their Mammary Glands, a Post About Breastfeeding

I have no recent nursing photos of my own, so I borrowed this one from Hobo Mama, via Flickr.

I have written before about the fact that in all my days of nursing anytime and anywhere, I have never once received a rude comment. For the most part, I have seen nothing but support for breastfeeding. Unfortunately, last week I received a reminder of the fact that some people are still hung up, confused, or ill informed when it comes to breastfeeding. I was on the phone with a nurse who called me for a telephone consult. I prefaced my question with a bit of background information on Annabelle, which included the fact that much of her nutrition comes from breastmilk. This nurse stopped me mid-sentence and asked, incredulously, “She’s still nursing? At 19 months!?” Of course this could be interpreted as positive or negative, but her tone said it all. She was far from supportive, and it really upset me. This slightly (okay, very) snarky post has been bouncing around in my head ever since.  Continue reading

Kids in the Kitchen: Finding the Right Tools

Welcome to the November Carnival of Natural Parenting: Kids in the Kitchen

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 shared how kids get involved in cooking and feeding. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


I get silly excited when I find large and small versions of the same thing.


Of course no specialized gear is required for the family looking to include their kids in the kitchen. Everyday items do the job just fine, but finding tools that are scaled to the child’s size can make things a bit easier, and help to empower children who might otherwise struggle with items that are made for adults to handle. Long before my daughter was born, I developed a keen eye for child-sized gadgets and cooking utensils. I often joke that the reason I worked a second job while teaching was to pay for all of the things I would buy for my classroom. Of course the school would always provide me with the funds for things I truly needed (and then some), but when you happen upon a miniature cheese grater while out grocery shopping, you don’t wait for the school to approve your purchase. You just buy it.

I was always surprised by how difficult it could be to find items designed with children in mind, so I was constantly on the lookout for things to add to my ever expanding collection. When my daughter became interested in working with me in the kitchen, I already had plenty of tools on hand, but I have made new discoveries along the way and continue to compulsively grow my collection, so I thought I would share some tricks of the trade for those who are still preparing a space for their own kids in the kitchen. Continue reading

Dinner, Montessori-Style: An Update

A couple of weeks back, I mentioned that I was changing things a bit with respect to our mealtime routine. I got some great advice and feedback from a few of you and subsequently changed things even more. Here’s a little update on how that’s going.

Family Style Meals

Serving our food “family style” has made a huge difference. We waste less food, because Annabelle serves herself and starts with a small amount. In the past I gave her a good bit to avoid several trips to the kitchen, but now she controls her own portions. She is also more interested in her food, since the process involves her more. Dinnertime is far more pleasant, because Annabelle is busily involved, filling her plate, pouring her water, sprinkling things, dipping things. Whereas the husband and I used to rush through, hoping we could finish our meals before we had reached the end of Annabelle’s ability to sit still, we’re now finishing up and then enjoying more time to sit and chat as she finishes her food. Of course the whole thing is rich with opportunities for fine motor practice, too. Continue reading

The Toddler Pumpkin Extravaganza

Scraping the bowl after making the cookie icing

After reading my bloggy friend Jessica’s enthusiastic plans to host a pumpkin themed toddler Halloween party, I couldn’t get the idea out of my head. I pushed my nerves aside, and decided to throw a party for the toddlers and moms who attend the weekly play group I organize. Generally, we meet at different parks around the island to give the children a chance to run and enjoy some fresh air, but it is the rainy season, so I thought I would invite everyone to our house to eliminate the need for a contingency plan. Our party was on Friday, and I was thrilled that almost everyone we invited was able to make it. On an average Friday, we have no more than half a dozen moms at play group, but we had eleven moms at the pumpkin party. It was a bit chaotic, but it was tons of fun and totally worth it.

Of course my planning was inspired by Montessori, so I felt it only appropriate that I share the details for Montessori Monday with One Hook Wonder and Living Montessori Now.

The Activities

My goal was to make sure that everything was edible and safe to explore. I also wanted to offer a few different things to do so that the toddlers could choose whatever appealed to them. There was no schedule of events – I just set up the activities and the food in advance so that the kids could lead the way. We did: Continue reading

Spending, Saving, and Finding a Balance

Welcome to the October Carnival of Natural Parenting: Money Matters

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

***
Snacking on a homemade graham
cracker. Cheaper than store bought,
and shaped like a cat to boot!

Long before becoming a parent, I made the switch to a vegan diet and got used to comments like, “Shopping for vegan food is so expensive!” Back then it really wasn’t, and I managed to eat fairly well on the cheap, but now that I have a family and healthy food is a much higher priority – it is expensive. Of course now we make all sorts of seemingly wacky lifestyle decisions, so veganism seems like nothing in comparison and many seem to think that our entire lifestyle is expensive. The thing is, many of the choices we make actually save us money, and in the long run, our choice to prioritize wholesome food is just one part of what I feel is a pretty well-balanced financial puzzle.

Choice Number One: Staying Home
I have been staying home since our daughter was born, rather than working and bringing in an income. This is not an inexpensive choice, but it has a great many benefits, some of which actually do save us money. The obvious area we’re saving in is child care: I don’t have to pay someone else to care for our daughter. Of course we also save on the cost of gas to and from work, and until just last month were managing fairly well with a single vehicle, another choice that we simply would not have been able to make if I had a job to show up for.

On top of that, I have the luxury of time, which allows me to prepare a lot of our food from scratch. Cooking my own beans from dried and baking my own crackers, muffins, and other snacks is much cheaper than buying these things prepared. If we don’t want to, there is really never a reason to buy prepared food or go to out to eat.

Staying home also allowed me to breastfeed our daughter exclusively, without the use of bottles. Because her food came straight from the source, we didn’t have to spend money on bottles, nipples, sanitizers, warmers, storage bags, breast pumps, or anything of the like. She ate completely free1 for seven months.

We’re also hoping that my choice to stay home during this season will pay off in the long run by giving me the chance to work on things that will increase my earning potential for the future. Not working gives me time to take a few classes, and to do resume building volunteer work. Staying home may not be the best thing for our finances right now, but it is not without its benefits, and is certainly worth it to us. I’m thankful that I have this option.

 Choice Number Two: Eating Well

This is, for us, one of the most expensive lifestyle choices, but when it comes to our overall health, we think it’s worth it and the hope is that we’ll save a lot of money in the long run by being exceptionally healthy. When it comes to food, we do buy ten dollar bottles of organic extra virgin olive and coconut oil every few weeks, rather than the three dollar jug of “vegetable oil” that would probably last us a month. We buy the seven dollar bag of organic whole wheat flour instead of the three dollar bag of white flour2. These things add up, and our food bill is higher than your average family’s, but we save a few dollars on food here and there as well. We buy as many fresh fruits and vegetables as we desire, and skip on a lot of convenience foods, for example. We also buy a single bag of dried beans instead of four jars of the already cooked kind, saving money and missing out on additives and BPA at the same time. An onion, some herbs, and a pound of fresh, local tomatoes gives us two jars of sauce way tastier, and way cheaper than the stuff on the shelf.

Those with green thumbs can save much more on food, and I’m slowly but surely working toward joining their ranks so that we can save on our grocery bill even more – and eat fresher while we’re at it. Of course Annabelle’s food has been super cheap, since nursing was free and we didn’t buy baby food or any extra gear for making our own. Thanks to Baby Led Weaning, her introduction to food cost us no more than a few spoonfuls off our own plates at each meal, and she has been thriving. She eats larger quantities now, but we don’t have to buy anything for her that we weren’t already purchasing for ourselves. That helps tip the scales back in the money-saving direction!

Truthfully, too, we could eat in nearly the same way for much less money, and we would probably (ahem, definitely) be healthier in the long run. A good bit of the money we spend at the grocery store is on little treats like dark chocolate and organic teas, coffees, beers, and wines. We definitely don’t need these things, but because we’re careful in other areas – both with our health and our money – we allow ourselves to indulge here and there. A small amount of these things can be good for you!

Choice Number Three: Avoiding Toxins in the Home
Fortunately, we balance out our budget by saving a whole lot of money on personal care and household products. We do not buy: baby shampoo, grown-up shampoo, conditioner, body wash, face wash, facial moisturizer, hair detangler, toothpaste, mouthwash, tooth whiteners, or lotion. We also don’t buy any household cleaners, with the exception of dish soap, toilet bowl cleaner, and laundry detergent – all things I expect I’ll start making myself eventually. Not only does the cost of these items add up, but many contain chemicals that we just don’t feel comfortable having in our home or on our bodies. While safe options do exist, they’re often far more expensive than the popular brands they replace.

For substitutes or homemade alternatives, I use varied combinations of liquid castile soap, vinegar, baking soda, coconut oil, essential oils, and the occasional bit of hydrogen peroxide. Some of these items are on the pricey side, too, but they last a surprisingly long time. I’ve been using the same bottle of lavender essential oil for roughly four years now, and the jar of coconut oil in my medicine cabinet has been there for at least two or three months, despite being used daily for a number of purposes. Not only do these products save us money, but they give me peace of mind. I know that there’s almost nothing in my medicine or kitchen cabinets that’s not safe to eat.

It may sound like I’m a dirty hippie, but truly I have never felt fresher!

Choice Number Four: Elimination Communication
While we did not go completely diaper free with elimination communication until very recently, we have still saved a fair amount of money by avoiding the use of disposable diapers and wipes. We managed with a dozen prefold diapers and three white covers for a few months, and then I’ll admit to spending a bit more than I needed to on cute backup options. Still, this was much cheaper than buying ‘sposies all the time would have been, and we’re now totally diaper free well before the national average. We’re also set for our next child, even if elimination communication doesn’t work quite as well for him or her as it did for Annabelle, so the money saving benefits will really start to add up in the future.

Choice Number Five: Montessori-Style Attachment Parenting
Our parenting style definitely falls in line with Attachment Parenting on most things, and my previous life as a Montessori teacher has factored in quite a bit as well. Our family’s way of implementing these two philosophies has eliminated the need for common baby gear like cribs, bassinets, or play yards. The same goes for baby gates, a stroller, an exersaucer, a walker, and a swing. All of this has saved us quite a bit of money – much more than the cost of a good sling!

Balance
In the end, it all comes down to what we value as a family. Some things cost a bit less, and others cost a bit more, but we find creative solutions to make it work. At this point in our lives, we spend a lot of time together doing things that are cheap or free, so we don’t spend much money on entertainment. We prefer to keep the tv out of our living space, so we don’t pay for cable. We also share one cell phone, which I bought back in 2007 or thereabouts, and it doesn’t even have a text message plan3. We have two cars now, but the newest of them is a 2002. Most of Annabelle’s and my clothes are secondhand, and I DIY some of her toys. We splurge on a few things, but save on a lot of others. When I look at the bigger picture, I’m sure that the choices we’re making are the right ones for us (most of the time), and if they’re any more expensive than the alternatives, it’s worth it to me. I have a vibrant, healthy family and we get to spend a whole lot of time together – and that’s what matters to me!


1 Save for the cost of some extra calories for me, of course!

2 We live on a tiny island in the middle of nowhere, so food prices are exceptionally high, and I’m estimating anyway since I don’t commit these things to memory. You get the picture, though, yeah? 
3 Apparently chocolate is more important to me than frequent texting. Hadn’t thought about that!


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

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
  • Money Matter$ — Jenny at I’m a full-time mummy shares her experiences on several ways to save money as a parent.
  • A different kind of life… — Mrs Green from Little Green Blog shares her utopian life and how it differs from her current one!
  • Show Me The Money! — Arpita of Up, Down & Natural shares her experience of planning for parenting costs while also balancing the financial aspect of infertility treatments.
  • Material v Spiritual Wealth – Living a Very Frugal Life with Kids — Amy at Peace 4 Parents shares her family’s realizations about the differences between material and spiritual wealth.
  • If I Had a Money Tree — Sheila at A Gift Universe lists the things she would buy for her children if money were no object.
  • Financial Sacrifices, Budgets, and the Single Income Family — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama looks at the importance of living within your means, the basics of crafting a budget, and the “real cost” of working outside of the home.
  • Overcoming My Fear of All Things Financial — Christine at African Babies Don’t Cry shares how she is currently overcoming her fear of money and trying to rectify her ignorance of all things financial.
  • Confessions of a Cheapskate — Adrienne at Mommying My Way admits that her cheapskate tendencies that were present pre-motherhood only compounded post-baby.
  • Money MattersWitch Mom hates money; here’s why.
  • Money? What Money?! — Alicia C. at McCrenshaw’s Newest Thoughts describes how decisions she’s made have resulted in little income, yet a green lifestyle for her and her family.
  • What matters. — Laura at Our Messy Messy Life might worry about spending too much money on the grocery budget, but she will not sacrifice quality to save a dollar.
  • Making Ends Meet — Abbie at Farmer’s Daughter shares about being a working mom and natural parent.
  • Poor People, Wealthy Ways — Sylvia at MaMammalia discusses how existing on very little money allows her to set an example of how to live conscientiously and with love.
  • The Green Stuff — Amyables at Toddler In Tow shares how natural parenting has bettered her budget – and her perspective on creating and mothering.
  • Jemma’s Money — Take a sneak peek at That Mama Gretchen’s monthly budget and how Jemma fits into it.
  • 5 Tips for How to Save Time and Money by Eating Healthier — Family meal prep can be expensive and time-consuming without a plan! Dionna at Code Name: Mama shares five easy tips for how to make your cooking life (and budget) easier.
  • Belonging in the Countryside — Lack of money led Phoebe at Little Tinker Tales towards natural parenting, but it also hinders her from realizing her dream.
  • Total Disclosure and Total Reform — Claire at The Adventures of Lactating Girl gets down to the nitty gritty of her money problems with hopes that you all can help her get her budget under control.
  • Save Money by Using What You Have — Gaby at Tmuffin is only good with money because she’s lazy, has trouble throwing things away, and is indecisive. Here are some money-saving tips that helped her manage to quit her job and save enough money to become a WAHM.
  • Two Hippos & Ten Euros: A Lesson in BudgetingMudpieMama shares all about how her boys managed a tight budget at a recent zoo outing.
  • ABBA said it — Laura from A Pug in the Kitchen ponders where her family has come from, where they are now and her hopes for her children’s financial future.
  • Money vs. TimeMomma Jorje writes about cutting back on junk, bills, and then ultimately on income as well ~ to gain something of greater value: Time.
  • An Unexpected Cost of Parenting — Moorea at MamaLady shares how medical crises changed how she feels about planning for parenthood.
  • 5 Ways This Stay at Home Mom Saves Money — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama shares 5 self-imposed guidelines that help her spend as little money as possible.
  • Frugal Parenting — Lisa at My World Edenwild shares 8 ways she saves money and enriches her family’s lives at the same time.
  • Conscious Cash Conscious — Zoie at TouchstoneZ shares her 5 money-conscious considerations that balance her family’s joy with their eco-friendly ideals.
  • Money, Sex and Having it All — Patti at Jazzy Mama explains how she’s willing to give up one thing to get another. (And just for fun, she pretends to give advice on how to build capital in the bedroom.)
  • Money could buy me … a clone? — With no local family to help out, Jessica Claire at Crunchy-Chewy Mama wants childcare so she can take care of her health.
  • Spending IntentionallyCatholicMommy loves to budget! Join her to learn what to buy, what not to buy, and, most importantly, where to buy.
  • New lessons from an allowance — Lauren at Hobo Mama welcomes a follow-up guest post from Sam about the latest lessons their four-year-old’s learned from having his own spending money.
  • How to Homeschool without Spending a Fortune — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares tips and links to many resources for saving money while homeschooling from preschool through high school.
  • It’s Not a Baby Crisis. It’s Not Even a Professional Crisis. — Why paid maternity leave, you may ask? Rachael at The Variegated Life has some answers.
  • “Making” Money — Do you like to do-it-yourself? Amy at Anktangle uses her crafty skills to save her family money and live a little greener.
  • Money On My Mind — Luschka at Diary of a First Child has been thinking about money and her relationship with it, specifically how it impacts on her parenting, her parenting choices, and ultimately her lifestyle.
  • Spending, Saving, and Finding a Balance — Melissa at The New Mommy Files discusses the various choices she and her family have made that affect their finances, and finds it all to be worth it in the end.
  • Accounting for Taste — Cassie at There’s a Pickle in My Life shares their budget and talks about how they decided food is the most important item to budget for.
  • Money Matters… But Not Too Much — Mamapoekie at Authentic Parenting shares how her family approaches money without putting too much of a focus onto it.
  • Parenting While Owning a Home Business — In a guest post at Natural Parents Network, Lauren at Hobo Mama lays out the pros and cons of balancing parenting with working from home.
  • Crunchy Living is SO Expensive…Or Is It? — Kelly at Becoming Crunchy talks about her biggest objection to natural living – and her surprise at what she learned.
  • Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems — Sarah at Parenting God’s Children shares how a financial accountability partner changed her family’s finances.
  • The Importance of Food Planning — Amanda at Let’s Take the Metro discusses how food budgeting and planning has helped her, even if she doesn’t always do it.
  • Kids & Money: Starting an Allowance for Preschoolers — Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings discusses her family’s approach and experiences with starting an allowance for preschoolers.
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