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    Seeing With New Eyes

    The real voyage of discovery
    consists not in seeking new landscapes,
    but in having new eyes.

    ~Marcel Proust

    We spend a lot of time driving.  Often while driving, you don't get to spend much time really observing the scenery. This weekend the weather was beautiful, so we decided to stop and take a closer look at the things we usually speed right by. It's interesting to see how different things look at zero miles per hour: 

    Fading weeping willow. One of the few trees still with leaves...

    This swampy area is right off the road. It reminded me of Neverending Story...

    I was a little leary of being so close to this aging barn...

    A "retired" orchard. Rather creepy, even in broad daylight as we were...

    Posted: Nov 23 2010, 23:47 by kelly | Comments (8) RSS comment feed |
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    The Santa Dilemma

    “Is Santa real?” That is the question of the season. On its heels: “Does he really come down the chimney?” “Do reindeer really fly?” “Is the same Santa that makes all the presents the one who is at the mall?” “What are elves?”

    And thus, the dilemma presents itself to parents each year: to tell the truth or not.

    (Credit: Norman Rockwell  Source: 


    In six Christmases, I’ve chosen to stand on the literal side of the fence. Santa Claus isn’t a real man that comes down your chimney (okay, that’s just a bit creepy of a thing to have children thinking anyway, isn’t it, really?), living in the coldest place on earth, with a bunch of small workers called elves, riding an enormous magical sleigh pulled by flying reindeer all around the world in one night to every child’s home and leaving them presents based on his determination of year-round childhood “badness” or “goodness” (heck, we even avoid those judgment calls in our daily parenting).  I just don’t like to tell my kids that he IS, when – he’s not.


    Now, I don’t say things to my children things like, “Other kids’ parents tell them that Santa is real but it’s really just THEM giving their kids presents”.  I don’t want my kids to be the “revealer of parental untruths” to children whose parents may be riding the Santa-is-real train. I’m not out to squash the spirit of Santa. Really, the spirit of Santa is okay with me. It’s more the concocting layers of false “evidence” (cookies half eaten, left by the fireplace, “footprints” in the snow, etc.), in order to convince children (who by their very nature are very literal and want to believe their parents) of the really realness of Santa, that rubs me the wrong way. I prefer to just treat him as part of the holiday landscape that he is, without creating stories; without eroding trust. 


    When direct questions about his realness come up, I turn the conversation to them – allowing them to formulate their own opinions, like:

    Question: Does Santa deliver all the presents in one night?

    Answer: Do you think that’s possible to do? How many kids are there in the world? How big is the world? How fast would he have to fly to make that possible? 

    Question: Does Santa come down everyone’s chimney?

    Answer: Does everyone have a chimney? What about kids who don’t?


    Don’t get me wrong; I’m not a Scrooge. I really do love Christmas; it’s my favorite holiday. I enjoy decorating, putting up the tree, singing Christmas songs, buying and making gifts for people, and baking cookies (especially baking cookies!). Christmas is warm and magical and wonderful.


    But what I don’t like about Christmas is the untruthful-business surrounding all-things-Santa: the acceptance, even expectation, that lying to children at this time of year is appropriate and encouraged (I’ve had strangers come up to my children and warn them they’d “better be good this year, or Santa won’t bring them anything for Christmas”, followed by a knowing wink to me).  I’m simply not comfortable with telling my children that being truthful is important – only to lie to them about Santa.


    Telling children Santa is real might be festive, magical, fun, or even helpful to shape behavior around the holidays, but to me, the cost of wrapping the fun of the holiday in a package of deception isn’t one I’m willing to take on, just for the sake of not killing the magic.


    Christmas IS magical because of actual, real things: picking the most perfect present for someone you love and watching their eyes light up when they open it on Christmas morning. Christmas IS magical when you’re listening to Enya singing O Come, O Come Emmanuel and you get chills.  Christmas is magical when you’re walking around in the crisp, frosty air, look at the Christmas lights twinkling in the newly fallen snow. Christmas IS magical when you wake in the morning to beautifully wrapped presents under the tree and the smell of cinnamon.   


    I don't want my children to experience the let down of “finding out the truth”. I want them to always have real reasons to look forward to Christmas morning, even beyond the age of Santa belief, real reasons to behave, and above all, real knowledge that when their parents tell them about something, they can trust it, and believe it. So this year, like others, I’ll treat Santa as another adornment of Christmas – just like the tree, the lights, the stockings, the presents, and the music.  All of these things can be magical – are magical – without the baggage of untruth.


    So, how do you handle the Santa dilemma? Are you a Santatheist? Or do you convince your children that Santa is real? 

    Posted: Nov 20 2010, 20:29 by kelly | Comments (25) RSS comment feed |
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    Filed under: Children | Parenting | Seasons

    Autumn Bliss

    Delicious Autumn!  My very soul is wedded to it,
    and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth
    seeking the successive autumns. 

    ~George Eliot

    Autumn in the sky...

    ...and Autumn on the ground.


    Posted: Nov 17 2010, 17:49 by kelly | Comments (4) RSS comment feed |
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    Natural Treatments for Eczema

    My daughter has battled eczema for the better part of 6 years – since she was a teeny tiny baby.  Over the years, we’ve tried many remedies – from the natural to the over-the-counter to the prescription.  Some things have worked better than others, some seemingly not at all.  Eczema is a frustrating ailment and the “cure” is elusive – even to doctors.  With time, and lots of experimentation, her eczema has improved dramatically, though it’s never completely gone.  I’ve found that the prescription “medications” work no better than the natural remedies, and so we avoid the toxic stuff as much as possible in favor of the natural solutions. Here are some natural-minded treatments which have worked best for us - divided by things that go on the skin, and things that go in the body. 

    (Artist: Orrling  Source: Wikimedia) 


    Things that go ON the skin:


    #1 – SOAP (don’t use it!) – One of the most simple and effective changes was eliminating soap from the bath. As a baby, just water, with a bit of baby oil (NOT Johnsons & Johnsons – they use mineral oil & artificially sourced fragrances – go with something simple like jojoba oil, or baby oil by Badger brand) on a washcloth was enough to keep clean, and gentle enough not to irritate her sensitive skin.  As our baby grew into toddler who gets into everything, having some kind of cleanser started to become more of a necessity.  Enter colloidal oatmeal.  When added to the bath water, it helps with cleansing, as well as moisturizing, and soothing. Aveeno makes a colloidal oatmeal that is 100% colloidal oatmeal (they also make one that’s loaded with other stuff, so read the labels carefully – the plain oatmeal is all you need). Once my toddler graduated into a little kid, we had to make the leap into:


    #2 – SHAMPOO & BODYWASH – Hair just doesn’t get that clean with colloidal oatmeal & baby oil (though we did try!).  After experimenting with many brands of shampoos and body washes, the best thing we’ve found for balancing cleaning with keeping sensitive scalp & eczema-prone skin irritation-free is California Baby’s Shampoo & Bodywash. The one (significant) downside is the price.  It’s expensive to the extreme – but – it’s the only thing that doesn’t irritate or sting, even an active eczema outbreak, so we continue to use it. 


    #3 – OILS – After bath, especially in the winter, it’s so important to moisturize. Not just ON the eczema patches, but everywhere on the skin, to lock in the moisture. Under the guidance of pediatricians and dermatologists, we’ve tried the Eucerin and the Aquaphor and the Uber-expensive-designer-prescrition lotions, yet the gentlest solutions we’ve found for moisturizing eczema are the simplest:

    1)      Coconut Oil – you can buy this in small bottles for a small fortune… or… if you’re not turned off by the presentation (i.e. a glass jar with a metal lid instead of a pretty plastic bathroom-styled bottle), go to the cooking section of your natural food store and get some organic virgin coconut oil.  The upsides: It smells heavenly, and is completely non-irritating.  The downsides: it needs to be warmed before every application – though we found that floating the jar in the sink filled with warm water while we were bathing, gave the oil plenty of time to soften. Also, it is quite greasy, and doesn’t absorb well… so this is best applied in the winter, when PJs will be put overtop, to keep the oil from getting all over the bedsheets.

    2)      Jojoba Oil – you can also buy this in small very expensive bottles, and I’ve yet to find it in larger bottles for much savings. The upsides are that it is unscented (so you can add essential oils if you’d like, or just leave it be) and that it’s already liquefied, so goes on smooth without any preparation or roughness which is helpful when eczema is very irritated.  The downside, aside from the cost, is that it too is quite greasy – though it absorbs more quickly than the coconut oil.

    3)      Badger Baby Balm – This is a soothing, good-smelling, pretty basic balm made from olive oil, castor oil, beeswax, and essential oils. The only downsides are that the tin is very small for the price, so we went through it quickly, and because of the thickness, application is pretty limited to small areas.  Coconut or Jojoba oil is much better for larger areas of application – like all over the legs. The balm is better for hot spots (like behind the knees).


    #4 – DETERGENT – Clothing detergent is a tough one. I’ve found that using NO detergent helped most with cutting down on the irritation, but, of course, clothing can only stand it so long being washed in water only.  I’ve tried many of the natural brands, even ones made specifically for cleaning cloth diapers (thinking they would be more gentle; this didn't seem to be the case).  The best result I’ve gotten – meaning, clothes are clean, smell fresh, and no irritated skin – comes from ECOS brand. ** 


    #5 – FABIC SOFTENER – DON’T USE IT.  Just that. It is highly toxic and downright nasty. For information on fabric softener, and why you shouldn’t use it, read this 


    #6 – CLOTHING – Choose cotton over synthetic materials, as much as possible; particularly organic cotton if you can find it. Acrylic & polyester don’t let the skin breathe, and in my opinion are just more rough on the body.  My daughter’s eczema definitely became more irritated when she wore fleece.


    Things that go IN your body:


    #1 – ALLERGENS – identify and avoid them! We discovered through trial & error with our daughter that she was sensitive to several different foods as a baby (even in my breastmilk), some of which seemed to exacerbate her eczema. When we cut out those allergens, her flare-ups were less dramatic.  The allergens which seemed to trigger her eczema most were the proteins: milk, eggs, and soy. When she was about 9 months old, I started an elimination diet for myself, and she went back to a breastmilk-only diet. The results were rather dramatic – she was far less fussy, and her itchy, dry skin was much improved.  I followed Dr. Sears’ recommended elimination diet (amended for my already vegetarian diet), started with a very bland, basic diet, and added one food every few days back into my diet, and then to hers. I kept a detailed food log – recording the date, what I ate, what she ate, any skin reactions, overall skin condition, and any change in her demeanor. It was tough, but well worth it as we were able to identify some items that seemed to aggravate her eczema.


    #2 – HYDRATION – drink lots of water. If you are well-hydrated, your body, and your skin will be less dry overall. It can be difficult to get little ones to drink a lot of water, so we do things like special cups, straws, and bottles for water. Sometimes adding a splash of juice to the water makes it more appealing to little ones. I also think it’s important to keep the AIR hydrated – particularly in the wintertime – by running a cool mist humidifier. We also have a lot of houseplants which increase the overall humidity level and remove toxins from the air.


    #3 – PROBIOTICS – probiotics are my go-to for everything, really. The easiest is unflavored powder which, if you’re breastfeeding, you can apply right on your nipple before latching baby on. It also easily mixes into baby’s bottle, or sprinkles unnoticed over food. Finally, I’ve mixed probiotic powder with a bit of oil and applied directly to the very dry spots – it’s balancing, and healing.


    #4 – OMEGA 3s – increasing healthy fats in the diet really helps with skin condition and dryness (not to mention it is good for your heart and brain too!). Vegetarian sources include flax seed (which you can grind & add to your oatmeal or baked goods) and walnuts.  Fish like salmon and herring also have high levels of omega 3s, and eggs from hens that are fed a diet which includes flax seed.


    We’ve read that eczema gets less severe as children get older, and becomes more easily managed.  So far, we have found this to be true, though it’s not gone completely for my daughter. I’m hoping with more time, she’ll outgrow it completely!


    Have you tried anything I haven’t mentioned here? I’d love to hear more natural suggestions!

    **I'd like to try Soap Nuts - which seems the most natural detergent of all, but once I find something that works for eczema, I'm loathe to change things up! If anyone has tried soap nuts, please let me know your experience.

    Posted: Nov 16 2010, 18:04 by kelly | Comments (14) RSS comment feed |
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    Natural Parenting, Following Our Instincts, and Keeping Our Son Intact

    Two roads diverged in a wood, and I
    I took the one less traveled by,
    and that has made all the difference.

    ~Robert Frost (from The Road Not Taken)


    Parenting naturally means following your natural instincts when it comes to parenting. Over the years for us, parenting naturally has meant co-sleeping in a family bed, breastfeeding, delayed/selective vaccinations, baby led weaning, using gentle discipline, eating natural, organic, vegetarian foods, and following our childrens' lead when it comes to education. But more important than the whats in natural parenting is the whys: listening to what we know, what we feel, naturally about our children – following that innate urge we have to protect: to nurture them, to keep them safe, away from pain, out of harm’s reach. It is keeping our babies close to us, feeding them when they root, responding when they cry – realizing that even before they know how to speak they are communicating with us – and doing what we can to help them get comfortable again.  This instinct is natural and primitive; keeping our babies safe keeps our human species alive.


    But following our instincts, particularly in this time of super-access to information, can sometimes be difficult. Often we’re led to believe something we read or hear – even if it goes against what we might feel deep down inside.  Maybe it’s because a doctor or our mother or a friend we trust said it; or it's something we read in a magazine or book or on a website we respect.  It’s a challenging task to try to extract bits of the mass amounts of information available to us, balance it with our own feelings, beliefs, and understanding of the world, and then, take that mix and apply it to the sensitive, complex, and sometimes confusing realm of parenting; all without losing sight of the very important natural instincts and sense of rightness, justness, and goodness towards our children that we all develop when we become parents. Our own sense of protection, justice, and connection to our children can be lost in the noise of what everyone else says & thinks. We may come to feel that our instinctual reactions towards our children are less than necessary to care for them because it may fall outside of the cultural norms of the day (think things like: letting babies cry it out or sleep completely separately). Our instinct can be drowned out when we’re constantly told, “You’re doing it wrong”.

    newborn baby
    (Photographer: Kathy Phillips     Source: Flickr) 

    This is a dangerous trend, because instinct is the key to raising comfortable, confident, secure, healthy children.  Without it, our children can be at risk; at the very least, without following our instincts, we put our children at a disadvantage.  As parents, we need to learn to tune more clearly into our own natural nurturing skills, and turn down the volume on everything else; to trust ourselves, to take the road less traveled, even when it’s difficult to do so…


    When my son was born early, our natural parenting instinct kicked into full gear. Our baby was tiny. He needed protection. Against the policy of the hospital, we insisted he be put on my chest while the doctors were sewing up my birth incision. Against the urging of the nurses, we insisted that he not be separated from us for testing. When he developed severe jaundice, we insisted on a biliblanket instead of the traditional method of incubator light treatment, so that I could continue to keep him skin to skin and nursing around the clock, and could bring him home from the hospital earlier. We also insisted that he not be circumcised.


    Why did we insist on leaving our son intact – a decision “less popular” in our area? Why did we choose to say “No” to the nurses and doctors in the hospital who asked (several times) if/when we’d be circumcising? Why did we choose not to circumcise even when people reminded us that he won’t “look like his daddy”, or regaled us with stories of people who had to have a circumcision later in life because of an infection, or scared us with concerns that it’s “hard to clean” (Which, its not; it’s actually very easy. See here.)?


    Well, there are two answers.

    1) The information-laden one, in which we read and studied and looked at all of the reasons why circumcision is not necessary: 

    -         The American Academy of Pediatrics doesn’t recommend routine infant circumcision (in fact many health organizations around the world do not recommend circumcision as a routine procedure)

    -         The foreskin serves several vital purposes like immunological defense and sexual function (Dionna at Code Name Mama does an excellent job of detailing each of the functions the foreskin)

    -         Circumcision is a painful surgical procedure which brings with it (just like any surgery), the possibility of infection, blood loss, and even death

    -         Circumcision can negatively affect normal sleep patterns of the newborn, bonding of the newborn with his mother, and difficulties breastfeeding (due to the fact that many babies react to the intense pain by “shutting down” or going into a post-traumatic state of shock)

    -         Circumcision is not the norm in the rest of the world, and is fast becoming not the norm in the United States (in 2009 the circumcision rate in the United States was only around 33%).



    2) The instinctual one, in which we just did what felt right:

    -         We didn’t want to hurt our baby.

    -         Our newborn trusted us completely to protect him, nourish him, and keep him safe and healthy.

    -         Our baby was born perfect. He didn’t need elective cosmetic surgery.

    -         Our son's body belongs to him; it isn't ours to alter.  


    Circumcising him, which would have meant exposing him to severe pain and permanent alterations to the most sensitive part of his body (and in doing so taking away his right to control the look and function of his own body), would have violated his trust in us, and gone against our mama- & papa-bear instinct to protect him and keep him from harm.  Above all else, even beyond the information reassuring us that it was the right decision, and even amidst the people telling us it would be a harder row to hoe, we listened most clearly to our instinct: protect our baby.  I am grateful we chose that path, I hope that others will choose the same path as the tide of infant circumcision is changing and more children are kept intact because parents are listening to their instincts. 


    It isn't easy to listen to our instincts, and we don't always get it right.  Sometimes we make choices based on the information we have at the time, and come to realize later, we wish we'd made a different choice.  It happens in parenting, and in life, but I try not to dwell on things I wish I did differently as a parent.  Instead, I strive to continually work on learning to trust myself to continue to make more right decisions than wrong ones when it comes to my children.  When the noise of the information of the world gets loud, I am learning to lower the volume, and tune more clearly into what my instinct is telling me is right for my own children, and I try to walk that path, even if it is the more difficult one. I’m not talking about completely ignoring advice or facts or studies or opinions, or eschewing research or medical advice.  I am saying that before we make important decisions affecting our children, particularly permanent ones, take that information in and measure it critically against the most important tool we have in our toolbox to care for our children – our instinct.  No, it’s not always easy! But then, the things that are most difficult are usually the things most important; most worth doing.


    Here’s to trusting your instincts, and taking the road less traveled.



    For more information on infant circumcision please read:



    Ten Reasons NOT to Circumcise Your Baby Boy



    The Effects of Circumcision on Newborn Boys:



    Where is My Foreskin? The Case Against Circumcision



    A Case Against Circumcision:



    This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our Carnival coincides with the launch of Natural Parents Network, a community of parents and parents-to-be who practice or are interested in attachment parenting and natural family living. Join us at Natural Parents Network to be informed, empowered, and inspired!


    Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaStop by Natural Parents Network today to see excerpts from everyone's posts, and please visit a few to read more! Visit 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. Three of the participants below will instead be featured on Natural Parents Network throughout the month, so check back at NPN!

    This list will be updated November 9 with all the carnival links. We've arranged it this month according to the categories of our NPN resource pages on "What Is Natural Parenting?"

    Attachment/Responsive Parenting

    Attachment/responsive parenting is generally considered to include the following (descriptions/lists are not exhaustive; please follow each link to learn more):

      • "Attachment Parenting Chose Us" — For a child who is born "sensitive," attachment parenting is more a way of life than a parenting "choice." Dionna at Code Name: Mama shares her experiences. (@CodeNameMama)
      • "Parenting in the Present" — Acacia at Be Present Mama parents naturally by being fully present.
      • "Parenting With Heart" — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment parents naturally because healthy attachments early in life help our little ones grow into healthy, functioning adults.
      • "Sometimes I Wish We Coslept" — Sheila at A Gift Universe has started to add cosleeping into her sleep routines and has found frequently unspoken benefits. Watch for her post, which will be featured on Natural Parents Network on Tuesday, November 30. (@agiftuniverse)
      • "Unconditional Parenting" — The philosophy of Alfie Kohn resonates with Erin at Multiple Musings, who does not want to parent (or teach) using rewards and punishment. (@ErinLittle)

    Ecological Responsibility and Love of Nature

    Holistic Health Practices

    • "Supporting Natural Immunity" — If you have decided against the traditional vaccination schedule, Starr at Earth Mama has some helpful tips for strengthening your children's immune systems naturally.

    Natural Learning

    • "Acceptance as a Key to Natural Parenting" — Because Mrs. Green at Little Green Blog values accepting and responding to her daughter's needs, she was able to unravel the mystery of her daughter's learning "challenges." (@myzerowaste)
    • "Let Them Look" — Betsy at Honest 2 Betsy makes time to look at, to touch, and to drool on the pinecones.
    • "Why I Love Unschooling" — Unschooling isn't just about learning for Darcel at The Mahogany Way — it is a way of life. (@MahoganyWayMama)
    • "Is He Already Behind?"Ever worry that your baby or toddler is behind the curve? Danielle at born.in.japan will reassure you about the many ways your little one is learning — naturally — every day. Watch for her post, which will be featured on Natural Parents Network on Tuesday, November 16. (@borninjp)
    • "How to Help Your Child through Natural Learning" — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now offers tips on how to understand and nurture your child's natural learning style. (@DebChitwood)

    Healthy Living

    Parenting Philosophies

    Political and Social Activism

    Posted: Nov 08 2010, 23:41 by kelly | Comments (20) RSS comment feed |
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