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    Secular Mealtime Prayers

    When we sit down to eat as a family in the evenings, there’s often a rush to the table – kids leaving their play or work in the middle of what they were doing and Adam & I shuffling plates and pots and spoons to get food to everyone.  Once we all sit, inevitably someone needs to immediately use the bathroom or grab the catsup or take their socks off, and everyone wants to talk about their day all at once. It can be pretty hectic.

    Family meal is a great time to connect with each other, talk about our days, and relax together for a bit.  Still, sometimes wish we had a prayer of sorts to start off each meal.  Saying a mealtime grace is a nice way to call attention to everyone being settled at the table, and reminds us all of the importance of being thankful for what we have. It can set the tone for a peaceful meal, and help us all feel even more connected with one another and the task at hand (eating as a family).

    The graces I grew up with were very religious, as are most of the ones I’ve heard when out eating with others. Since we are a secular household, the mealtime thanks I’m looking for are ones which don’t thank a specific god.  After an extensive search, I’m pleased to present a list of non-deity-specific graces! I’m hoping to incorporate one into our family meals each evening:


    We love our bread.
    We love our butter.

    But most of all,

    We love each other!

    (source: http://www.retrojunk.com/tv/quotes/1688-madeline/ [Madeline series])


    For what we are about to receive
    let us be truly thankful
    to those who prepared it and those who served it.

    (source: www.secularseasons.org/celebrations/graces.html)


    Earth we thank you for our food,
    For work and play and all that's good,
    For wind and rain and sun above,
    But most of all for those we love.

    (source: http://www.confectionique.com/2010_11_01_archive.html)


    Thank you for green grass under me
    Thank you for blue skys over me
    Thank you for good friends beside me
    Thank you for good food in front of me
    and peace all over the world.

    (source: http://www.weddingguideuk.com/articles/wordsmusic/poems/lovepoems6.asp)


    Blessings on our meal, on everyone here and everyone dear.

    (source: http://eringoodman.wordpress.com/2007/10/25/meal-blessings/)


    Thank you for the food we eat
    Thank you for the friends we meet
    Thank you for the birds that sing
    We give thanks for everything!

    (source: http://www.users.ms11.net/~gsong/Graces/nondom.html)


    May the food we share feed our bodies
    May the words we share feed our minds
    May the love we share feed our hearts

    (source: http://www.mothering.com/community/forum/thread/358703/mealtime-prayer-of-thanks)


    We give thanks for the plants and animals who have given themselves so that we can enjoy this meal together.
    We also give thanks for our friends and family who have traveled here today.
    May this meal bring us strength and health.

    (source: http://www.secularseasons.org/celebrations/graces.html)


    Earth who gives to us this food
    Sun who makes it ripe and good
    Dearest Earth, Dearest Sun:
    Joy and Love for all you have done.

    (source: http://eringoodman.wordpress.com/2007/10/25/meal-blessings/)

    Do you have a mealtime prayer that you say?  Please share!

    Posted: Jul 31 2011, 15:05 by kelly | Comments (9) RSS comment feed |
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    Peace Like the Wings of a Butterfly

    The life I touch for good or ill will touch another life, and that in turn another, until who knows where the trembling stops or in what far place my touch will be felt.

    ~Frederick Buechner


    My 6 year old daughter: Mom? Since everyone in the world has a mom or a dad or a sister or brother or a friend… and their friends have moms and dads and friends… then isn’t it like everyone in the world is one whole giant family?


    Me: Yes, it is like that. And because it’s like that, that’s what makes me so upset when people in the world are so angry with each other, and fight with one another, and try to hurt each other. Since we are all of us part of one big family on the earth, we should all try to include each other and be kind to one another, not always fight.


    My daughter nodded. She understood, completely.



    For my daughter, what I said wasn’t a stretch. My words weren't Pollyannaish (even though as I said it, I worried, am I being too "out there"? Too positive?); it was, for her… just natural. Just as it naturally occurred to her that everyone is linked, it also naturally made sense that being linked would mean being kind and empathetic and inclusive.


    We are all – all of us – one big human family (and as a vegetarian with non-theistic Buddhist  tendencies, I’ll add that we are also part of the greater living earthly family – animals, plants, people – all organisms, intertwined). We are like the giant redwoods in Northern California: without their giant canopies, entire species of plants and animals that live hundreds of feet up in the air in their elevated ecosystems, or down on the ground in the fertile shade, might not exist at all; and without those animals and insects, the redwoods’ seeds might not be dried and dispersed as necessary to continue their propagation.  Without our entire earthly family, where would all of us be (insert appropriate Twelve Monkeys, Matrix, or Wall-E scene, here. Yikes.)?



    As easily as my daughter can see the world as one big family, I am moved to try to do the same. If we are all interconnected, then the things I do and say to my children affect the things they do and say to other children; which in turn can affect the way those children treat others; so I will pay greater attention to my words and actions. I’ve always believed the love and empathy I show my children will reverberate through generations (it’s one big reason I believe so strongly in attachment parenting); so why show anything but? Her simple and certain acknowledgment that all people are one is so inspiring!


    So, in an effort to celebrate our connectedness, I want to thank you, my blogging family, for reading. I’m sending you all joy and peace for the days ahead, and hoping you’ll pass it on (Remember that all of our seemingly tiny words and actions can be like the proverbial butterfly’s wings. Who knows what a small kind gesture might do for the future?)!



    The Car Seat Screamer Blues

    Neither of my babies liked driving in the car. Maybe a better (read: more accurate) way to state that would be: Both of my babies hated driving in the car. We were lucky to get about ten minutes of contentedness before the full-bore screaming began. When we had only one baby, we were living up in rural Maine. The closest mall was a 45 minute drive. O_o


    Let’s just say we didn’t go out much in those days.


    If you have a baby who hates the car… well… you know how a 10 minute car ride with a screaming baby can feel like an hour. It's the car seat screamer blues. As a parent you feel helpless to do anything because you can’t move baby from her seat – which is, essentially, all she’s trying to say to you (GET. ME. OUT. NOW!) over and over increasingly louder and more urgently.  Throughout a normal day of caring for baby, you are so connected with her, then suddenly she’s placed in a situation where she’s out of your reach, and you’re out of her sight. You understand she’s communicating discomfort, and in all other instances, you’d go right to her and help her figure out how to feel better. But when she’s in a car, screaming, and you have to be somewhere, and there’s no good place to pull over, or you just pulled over ten minutes ago, and she’s screaming again, you just can’t safely help her while you’re driving. I remember it felt at times like I was leaving my baby to “cry it out”. I felt so tortured in those early months with my carseat screamers. I hated every second of so many car rides because I felt like I was DOING IT WRONG.



    I have realized over the years, that I really wasn’t doing it wrong. A crying baby in a carseat is not the same as deliberately ignoring your baby’s signals in an effort to be more “hands off” in your responsiveness as a parent or training her to self soothe. It’s simply a matter of living the kids of busy high-tech lives we are in. You have to get places in your car, and the safest way to do that is with baby strapped into a car seat in reverse. Sometimes you have to drive. And baby has to scream. It's her job to let you know she's unhappy with the situation. But when you're driving, it's your job to do so as safely as possible. You are doing the best you can do at the time.


    Now, while that reassurance may or may not help you feel better, I know that what did help me was feeling like I was doing something to help communicate with my screaming baby while still safely driving. Here are some of the ideas that worked for us (and baby.)…


    Tips for Soothing A Fussy Baby in the Car

    (and I’m using the word fussy lightly. Feel free to change that title to read: How to Help Soothe a Screaming-Like-Mad-There-HAS-To-Be-Something-Sharp-Currently-Stabbing-My-Baby- In-The-Car-Seat-For-That-Level-Of-Screaming-To-Come-From-Such-A-Tiny-Being Baby in the Car):


    Check the Basics. I often found myself in a situation where I had to put baby in the car seat and get out the door quickly. Sometimes I’d realize after we got on the road, and baby started ramping up the volume, that I’d forgotten to check the basics: diaper, belly, clothing. Is baby’s diaper clean & dry? Is baby’s belly recently full of milk and empty of gas? Is baby’s clothing both weather-appropriate, and not too tight once strapped in the carseat? In the middle of winter in Maine, it was a challenge to go from a warm house to negative outdoor temps, to a cold car which becomes warm, to freezing outside, to warm again. Once I got in the habit of warming up the car ahead of time and removing baby’s outer layers after getting in the car, but before getting in the car seat, things improved a bit.   


    Talk. Talk to your baby. I often felt like my babies were screaming in the carseat because they felt disconnected. They were used to being worn in a sling or carried around or nursed, and being put down, anchored to a non-human seat, and unable to see me, was an unnatural and unfamiliar situation. Crying was just their way of letting me know: HEY, this isn’t what I’m USED TO and I DON’T LIKE IT.  So, in order to help my baby know I heard what he was saying, I’d simply talk to him & let him know. Even if you think he can’t understand what you’re saying, or maybe doesn’t even hear you through the screaming, just talk. By keeping an even, calm, soothing, and understanding tone of voice, at the very least, you will help yourself feel better and connected to your baby. At the best, baby will hear your voice, and feel comforted, even when he can’t see or reach you.


    Music. Music was the most consistently successful soothing mechanism we discovered. Music soothes the savage beast, right? It was NOT, however, the type of music you’d expect, which best soothed my children: not lullabies or soft crooning.  No way. My kids liked a beat. They liked to rock out. They liked repetition. And they liked it LOUD. I encourage you to keep experimenting with different types of music until you hit on something that works. Try making mixes on your computer of different genres – you never know what will attract baby’s attention the best. But when you find that one song that works? Make an extra copy of that CD because you will wear out that one track, trust me.


    Air. I’m not sure if it was that my kids were HOT or if they liked the feel of the wind on their faces/bodies, or if it was the change of pressure, or just the sound of white noise, but changing up the air in the car was a relatively sure bet, at least temporarily, to change the mood in the car. It wasn’t always good for the long haul, but rolling down the windows or turning the fan on high, often paused the screaming long enough to intervene with another type of distraction (like a pacifier or silly faces from the backseat).


    Back Seat Company. Having a person in the backseat stationed next to the baby was often helpful – while baby was in a wakeful, alert state, even if the wakeful alertness was also accompanied by fussiness.  It should be noted that it the helpfulness of a person in the backseat was magnified if that person was NOT me. As we found when it WAS me, all baby wanted was OUT, in my arms, and nursing, not to be strapped into a car seat with me nearby, but not holding. The person next to the baby can make faces, sing, pick up dropped toys and pacifiers, even offer a bottle (note: my babies did not accept a bottle on a trip, and in retrospect I am glad, as any eating by babies in a carseat, where I can’t be immediately responsive, makes me nervous – in the event of choking or vomiting. Follow your instinct here.).


    Pacifier. Although neither of my children would happily or reliably take a pacifier in the car, I still kept a variety of shapes & sizes on hand in the car, in the event that something would change, and suddenly a soothie would be soothing. At the very least, it’s something “new” for baby to manipulate for a few minutes.



    Black & White. We all know babies interest’s are held by black & white. But it’s hard to find soft car-safe toys in those colors. We solved that problem by strapping a vinyl card holder to the back seat (like the kind you’d use to keep collectable cards organized in a binder). We’d swap out pictures periodically – like at every car ride – to hopefully keep baby interested. I will say that while it seemed to work wonders for short periods of time, once baby’s hand and/or feet could reach the back of the seat, it lost its functionality because the paper pictures weren’t baby-proof. The best choices we found were black and white graphic patterns (like a bullseye), and pictures of faces. Which brings me to number 7: 


    Mom’s Face. Tape an enlarged black & white picture of Mom on to the back seat where baby can see. While I never personally tried this, I understand the appeal! Mom is unavailable in the car while driving, and being the embodiment of comfort to baby, it would seem to make sense that a photo of Mom for baby to look at when he can’t see ACTUAL Mom might help baby stay calm. I do wonder, however, if it might have the opposite effect – continually reminding baby that Mom is nearby but out of reach. It may be worth a try.


    New Toys. Once baby can hold & manipulate toys, I did find that things got a bit better in the screaming department. I could quickly pass back a new toy and have a few minutes of non-screaming drive time. Unfortunately, toys can get thrown, and the most interesting toys are often too big/bulky for an infant to manipulate safely in the car seat.  Keep in mind any toy you choose should be soft and light. In the event of an accident you don’t want anything heavy or hard or with sharp edges flying through the car.


    Take Breaks. On long trips, it helped to understand right off the bat that we’ll have to stop a lot more often than when we didn’t have a fussy baby with us. When we acknowledged the increased travel time ahead of the trip, it made the trip more enjoyable and relaxed. It’s okay to stop (safely, well off the road) regularly and check diaper, fix a pacifier, nurse for a few minutes. Be patient, and be prepared to make your trip longer than usual. It may not help baby to stop for frequent cuddles and quick nursing sessions, but on long trips, I know it helped ME feel better about subjecting my babies to long car rides! Plus, if you’re not the only one in the car, the other passengers will appreciate the break from the screaming!


    If all else fails, remember my numero uno parenting mantra: THIS TOO SHALL PASS. (It may suck royally in the meantime, but eventually, this stage will pass, I promise. For us, it was right around 18 months with each of my children.)


    Peaceful travels.

    Posted: Jul 22 2011, 23:11 by kelly | Comments (19) RSS comment feed |
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    Heart Attack and Women

    Hello readers; it's been a while. Today, I’m going to talk about something serious.
    1 in 3 women will develop cardiovascular disease in their lifetime and 1 in 17 women in the US will have a heart attack or hospitalization for heart disease before the age of 60.
    Heart disease is the leading cause of death in women, regardless of race.
    While waiting somwhere recently, I read a magazine featurette of a woman who had experienced symptoms of fatigue, shortness of breath, and dizziness. She mostly brushed them off, and continued on with her day. As they got progressively worse, her husband encouraged her to see a doctor, who then advised her to head to the hospital because the tests seemed slightly off. She waited at the hospital. (And waited.) While waiting, a man presented with a “typical” heart attack symptom of chest pain and was rushed ahead of her. After hours of waiting she was finally seen by a doctor, where, after more testing, determined that yes, indeed, she had a heart attack.
    After doing a bit of research online, it appears that this woman’s story is not unusual. Women are less likely to report heart attack symptoms, and when they DO report them, they are less likely to be diagnosed with a heart attack. Even when presenting with the same symptoms as men, women’s symptoms are more often diagnosed as “anxiety” than as heart disease.
    In a study at Weill Medical College of Cornell University, 230 doctors were given cases of men & women with identical symptoms; only half of the cases included “feeling anxious” or “having a stressful experience”. In the cases where stress/anxiety was included, doctors diagnosed heart disease in 56% of men compared with 18% (just eighteen percent!) of women. Men were referred to cardiologists twice as often as women and cardiac meds were prescribed to half the men, vs. 13% of the women. Gender bias at work, folks.
    A big part of the problem may be that men’s & women’s heart attack symptoms can differ dramatically. Fewer than 30% of female heart attack suffers reported having chest pain prior to their heart attack, and 43% reported having no chest pain during any phase of their heart attack. NO CHEST PAIN. And yet, according to a study done by the National Institue of Health (“Women’s Early Warning Symptoms of Acute Myocardial Infarction” Circulation. 2003) MOST doctors still consider chest pain as the most significant symptom of a heart attack in both men AND women.
    I’m not sure what to make of this. Is it possible that the popular culture belief that heart attack = chest pain (watch any TV show or movie where someone is suffering a heart attack – they immediately grab their chest & collapse, right?) is so ingrained that even doctors don’t know the facts? Yikes.
    There was a recent survey of 500 doctors, in which only 8% of family doctors were aware that men’s & women’s heart attack symptoms differ. And (are you ready?) only 17% of CARDIOLOGISTS (you know, HEART doctors) were aware of the fact that more women die from heart disease than men. What?
    Ladies, we have a problem here. Women are dying of heart attacks because they aren’t recognizing they’re having them, the people around them aren’t recognizing they’re having them, and even their doctors aren’t recognizing they’re having them.
    It’s time for some education.
    Women, men, doctors, everyone needs to be aware that the symptoms of heart attack in women can be DIFFERENT than the symptoms of heart attacks in men. We need to change the perception that chest-clutching is the main indicator of heart attack.
    Here’s how the symptoms stack up:
    Women’s Top Three Heart Attack Symptoms
    Shortness of Breath
    Unusual Fatigue
    Women also commonly experience these symptoms leading up to & during a heart attack:
    Cold Sweat
    Sleep Disturbance
    Men’s Top Three Heart Attack Symptoms
    Chest Pain
    Discomfort or pain in the arm or back
    Shortness of Breath
    If you experience ANY of these symptoms, don’t ignore them. Tell a loved one, call a doctor. Don’t shrug it off, don’t just soldier on. It may not be anxiety or indigestion. 1 in 17 of you will have a heart attack before you turn 60. That’s less than 25 years away for me, and I don’t particularly like those odds.
    So, now you know the differences. But what can we do to improve our odds at suffering cardiovascular disease? While heart disease is the number one killer of women, it’s also one of the most preventable. The basics:
    Stop smoking. (21.2 million US women smoke. Seriously?)
    Lower your blood pressure. (33% of US women have hypertension)
    Exercise. (at least 20 minutes a day; even walking counts – just move)
    Eat healthy foods. (Lots of fruits, veggies, nuts, and beans. Ditch the meat & dairy.)
    Maintain a healthy weight. (62% of women are overweight, including 33% who are obese)
    Control your diabetes. (7 – 10 million US women have diabetes)
    Don’t drink too much. (limit yourself to one alcoholic drink/day)
    Reduce stress. (Meditate. Write. Yoga. Do something you like, just for you.)
    For more information on heart disease in women:
    Posted: Jul 13 2011, 08:55 by kelly | Comments (3) RSS comment feed |
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    Filed under: Natural Health

    English Muffin Pizza Recipe

    So what do you do when you have hungry kids, not much time, and a lot of stale english muffins? Make english muffin pizzas, of course!
    These are super-easy & fun for small hands to help make. We had so much fun, in fact, that I forgot to take photos of the preparation phase! There’s plenty to do for all levels of skill – splitting the muffins, slicing veggies, spooning sauce, sprinkling cheese, shaking on spices. Makes a perfect, quick, vegetarian lunch or dinner!
    Stale English Muffins (or fresh… but seriously, if you have fresh, just toast & enjoy with butter & jam, as they are meant to be enjoyed!)

    Your favorite tomato sauce

    Shredded mozzarella (or vegan mozzarella) cheese
    Sliced veggies for toppings (we only made cheese this time, but you can add peppers, tomatos, onions, mushrooms, artichokes, olives... get creative!)

    Garlic powder, black pepper, & oregano
    Cut english muffins in half & place on a pizza pan or other surface which allows air to circulate beneath the muffins – if you like crispier crust pizza. [Note: We don’t have a pizza pan, so I baked ours on a cookie “cooling rack” which was set on a cookie sheet. You can also crumple aluminum foil, then uncrumple & line a pan (the wrinkles allow air to flow underneath)] If you like your pizza with softer crust, you can bake directly on a cookie sheet. Spoon 1 – 2 Tbs of sauce onto each muffin – spreading it out almost to the edge. Add veggies or other toppings. Top each with mozzarella cheese – remember to keep the cheese towards the middle of the muffin as it will melt & spread! Shake on garlic, pepper, and oregano to taste. Bake at 450 F for ~10 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly & pizzas are browning lightly on the edges & top. Remove & allow to cool for a few minutes. Then… enjoy!
    Posted: Jul 04 2011, 00:06 by kelly | Comments (9) RSS comment feed |
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