Wednesday 29 June 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Ocean

Monday 27 June 2011

Lead by example

I'm excited to be over at Dulce de leche today, guest posting on the topic of leading by example:

Lead by example.

It's well-worn advice, but well-worn for a reason: It's good advice. We should never underestimate the power of our example. Our children, our husbands, and others can all be affected - positively or negatively - by what we model in our lives.

There is perhaps no area this applies to more than that of parenting, particularly for those of us who choose to use gentle discipline as we raise our children. How might this play out in our lives?

We can lead our children by our example. Our children look to us for cues and guidance. What do they see? Would we want them to model their lives after our own? Consider these three major areas...

Read the rest over at Dulce de leche!

Dulce is a sweet mom of three who is passionate about gentle discipline, breastfeeding, and parent-child relationships. Her mission is to help turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the hearts of the children to their parents. Be sure to check out some of her other excellent posts while you're there (such as my personal favourite, A Lesson from my Petite Chef)!

(Don't forget to follow along with the Carnival of Gentle Discipline this week. I've included an article on gentle discipline for toddlers, and I'd love for you to come share your tips as well!)

Gentle Discipline for Toddlers

This post was written for inclusion in the 2nd Annual Carnival of Gentle Discipline hosted at Parenting Gently. All week, June 27 - July 1, we will be featuring articles and posts about alternatives to punitive discipline. See the bottom of this post for more information.


Now that my youngest is 18 months old, I am reminded daily - hourly - of both the joys and challenges of raising a toddler. It's a fantastic age. Everything is new and exciting, filled with squeals and exclamations. I love it.

But it is also, for him, filled with frustrations, and he doesn't yet know how to express those frustrations without a lot of yelling and crying.

Since this is my second time around the toddlerhood block, I have the benefit of being able to look back on those days with my first. I can see the areas where I took things too seriously, and I can see that many of my worries were unfounded. Toddlers really do grow out of normal toddler behaviour.

But at the same time, we all need tools to help our children (and our sanity!) make it through this tumultuous stage. So here they are, my top five tips for toddlerhood, with the hope that you'll share your own toddler-related gentle discipline tips in the comments below.

Don't take it too seriously

Take a deep breath. This is just a stage; it will pass. They shriek because they can't talk. They melt down because they don't know what else to do with these huge feelings. They persist because they want what they want and don't yet have the developmental ability to reason much beyond that. The more worked up you get, the more they feed off of your negative energy, so take that deep breath and stay calm.

Give them the words

Yes, they shriek because they can't talk - so give them the words. Reflect their feelings and give names to them while describing what you see.

"You are MAD! You WANTED to play with that!"

"You are crying. You wanted to go with Daddy. You are very sad."

"You threw your toy because it wasn't doing what you wanted! You wanted to stack it and it kept falling over. You were frustrated."

"You fell and bumped your head. Ouch! That hurt!"

As they get older, encourage them to use these phrases themselves, coupled with other appropriate means of expressing their feelings.

Give them alternatives

Instead of focusing on what they shouldn't do, teach them what they should do. Show them better alternatives to undesirable actions. Be calm and consistent in enforcing the alternative.

"We don't hit. Be gentle with your hands. Show me gentle." Stroke your cheek with his hand.

"Be calm. Deep breath. Calm." Take an exaggerated deep breath.

Look for the need behind the action or the cause behind the behaviour. Can an acceptable alternative be offered, allowing us to say "yes" to the driving need instead of "no" to the action? Can the root cause behind the behaviour be solved, such as a nap for the tired toddler or a snack for the hungry one?


Along with teaching appropriate alternatives, redirection is a major tool during the the toddler stage. "Not that...this." You can't play with Daddy's book; here's one of yours. This is not for you to play with; let's go play with that.

Say it and then do it. Calmly and consistently follow through by picking them up, removing them from the situation, and moving them to a more acceptable activity. Distraction can be a great co-tool here - "hey, let's go check the mail!"

Keep it short and sweet

Give them words, but keep your sentences short. No big speech necessary, just short, simple, and to the point. Include a brief explanation with your requests. Teaching the why behind the what is one of our main discipline goals, allowing our children to understand and internalize the rule for a lasting impact.

As their understanding and verbal skills expand, they can be given brief options. "Hold my hand. If you can't hold my hand, I will help keep you safe by putting you in the stroller/up in the baby carrier." If they don't hold your hand, carry through - they go in the stroller/baby carrier. Short and simple. No discussion, no arguing, no endless admonitions. Just make it happen.

The phrasing itself can often be the difference between punishment (which is intended to cause pain) and discipline (which is intended to teach). It is the difference between angrily snatching a toy away with a "this toy is going away since you can't treat it properly!" and calmly telling a child "I see that you are having a hard time treating that toy properly, so I will help you by putting it away until you are calm enough to take care of it." It may sound like semantics, but in my experience, children react very differently to the two types of phrasing. Repeated use of a calm "I will help you by..." was met with understanding by my toddlers, and "help" was often requested on their own part rather than imposed by me. An off week of a more demanding tone was soon met with resistance and anger rather than cooperation and understanding. Phrasing and tone are important.

Reserve a sharp tone for dangerous situations such as hot stoves. This is your startled "danger voice", and it will cease to be so if used for commonplace situations. A loud sharp "OUCH! HOT!" as they get close to the stove will get the message through quickly for most toddlers.


Calm consistency is key with our children, who grow and thrive in the safety of age-appropriate boundaries. For toddlers, consistently give them words, consistently teach appropriate alternatives, consistently redirect, and keep it all short and simple.

Additional Resources:
The Hows of Discipline
Gentle Discipline for Babies
Attachment Parenting Series

What's your favourite gentle discipline tool for toddlers? Do you have a persisting situation you'd like to brainstorm a solution for?

Welcome to the 2nd Annual Carnival of Gentle Discipline!

Please join us all week, June 27-July 1, 2011, as we explore alternatives to punitive discipline. We have collected a wonderful array of articles and essays about the negative effects of punitive discipline methods, like spanking, and a myriad of effective alternatives. Please visit our other writers each day of the Carnival. Click on the links below to see each day’s posts - new articles will be posted on the following theme days:

June 27 - Practical Tips for Getting Started with Gentle Discipline
June 28 – It's All About Feelings: Respecting Emotions and Consensual Living
June 29 – A Fork in the Road: Turning Points in Gentle Discipline
June 30 – Gentle Discipline Recipe: Love, Patience, and Cooperation
July 1 – Gentle Discipline Resources

Saturday 25 June 2011

Weekend Reading: Double edition

Since it was a quiet week around here, and I have so many excellent blog posts bookmarked anyway, I thought I'd share twice the usual this weekend. I'll be back to posting next week. Have a great weekend, everyone.

Thursday 23 June 2011

In memory

April 30, 1932 - June 20, 2011

We miss you.

Wednesday 22 June 2011

Sunday 19 June 2011

Happy Father's Day

(Many thanks to Simply Montessori for the Printable Father's Day Interview Poster
from which I took the questions and design layout.)

Saturday 18 June 2011

Weekend Reading

And another bonus this weekend, because you know what? It just needs to be said:

Ahem. I'm sorry. I'll stop with the bad language on my blog now.

Thursday 16 June 2011

Spice Mixes

Need a last minute Father's Day gift? Spice mixes are perfect for the father who likes to cook, especially now that BBQ season is here.

I put together three spice mixes and sent them off to my dad for Father's Day. Of course they won't actually get there in time now, thankyouverymuchCanadaPost, but hopefully they'll arrive safely at some point.

I kept my labels simple, but you can make yours as fancy as you like. I included an instructional label on the back of each as well.

Want to make your own? Use your favourite spice mix, search through the countless mix recipes available on the Internet, or choose from mine below:

Herbed Sweet & Sour Spice Mix

1 part allspice
1 part cayenne pepper
2 parts black pepper
3 parts thyme
3 parts paprika

Instructions: Mix 5 tsp of spice mix with 6 Tbsp olive oil, 6 Tbsp soy sauce, 6 Tbsp honey, and 3 Tbsp vinegar. Pour mixture over chicken pieces and bake at 375F until done. Adapted.

Dry Rub for Ribs

1/4 part cayenne pepper (I used 3/4 tsp)
3 parts salt (I used 3 Tbsp)
4 1/2 parts paprika (I used 4 1/2 Tbsp)
4 1/2 parts black pepper (I used 4 1/2 Tbsp)
12 parts brown sugar (I used 3/4 cup)

Instructions: Rub mix into ribs. Brush liberally with barbecue sauce. Wrap in greased foil and refrigerate for 8 hours. Place foil packets on baking sheet and bake at 300F for 2 1/2 hours. Open packets and broil for 10 minutes. Adapted.

Dry Rub for Chicken

1 part black pepper
1 part cayenne pepper
2 parts thyme
2 parts paprika
4 parts salt

Instructions: Rub mix into whole chicken. Place quartered onion and 2 cloves minced garlic inside cavity. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 5 hours. Bake uncovered at 250F for 5 hours. Adapted.

Do you have a favourite spice mix you use often? What do you have planned for Father's Day?

Wednesday 15 June 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Firetrucks

Aaaaalmost big enough!

Tuesday 14 June 2011

Rerun: Advice for the first year

I'm working on a few big upcoming posts this week, so today I'm cheating with a post from the archives: Advice for the first year. This was written when the boy was 18 months old. The toddler will be 18 months old on Sunday, and I still hold to every word of this. I'd love to hear your best tip for the first year too!

My baby is 18 months old today. It's such an interesting age - some days more baby than boy, other days more boy than baby, most days a combination of both. So far I've said the same thing with each passing month: "This is my favourite age yet." It just keeps getting better.

His transition from baby to boy (coupled with an influx of newborn babies in our church and amongst some friends of mine) has had me thinking about his first year and the things that really made a positive difference during that time.

The first, likely, was that I completely ignored 90% of the advice I received.

(The best advice I ever received, on the other hand, was from an old man in the elevator. He told me to "just give that child lots of love, 'cause it's a crazy world out there." Truer words have never been spoken.)

In the spirit of being offered unsolicited advice and immediately dismissing it, here is my advice for the first year:

Baby Advice #1: Stay Calm.

Seriously. Do it. Stay calm.

Just relax.

Deep breath in. Now let it out.

You know how they say animals can sense fear? Well, that squalling little bundle of perfection in your arms can sense it too. Along with frustration, and anger, and "holy crap, I don't know what I'm doing!" And she will respond to that.

I see it so often - she cries, you bounce, she cries harder, you bounce harder, she cries louder, you shush louder, and soon you're both worked up in a crazy frenzy and things are going bad fast.


Stop bouncing and start swaying. Stop shushing and start cooing. Quietly. Whisper words of comfort and songs of peace. She might stop crying. She might not. But either way, your blood pressure will be lower, your breathing will be slower, you will be calmer. And nine times out of ten, she'll respond to that more than anything else.

I've found this to be true right from birth, through babyhood, and into toddlerhood - and I'm guessing it'll be true right on through the rest of the stages. When Mom's calm, the rest of the household just seems that much calmer too.

I've found this to be true in all manners of situations as well. Crying newborns, frustrated babies, angry toddlers - everything goes better when Mom stays calm. Go about doing what you need to do to take care of the situation - but do it calmly.

What's more, the things being stressed over often aren't worth stressing over in the first place. It's okay if your six month old isn't eating three square meals a day. It's okay if you have a stretch of sleep issues - they often resolve themselves in short order. It's okay (and quite normal!) if your baby isn't sleeping through the night by the time she's a month old - or six months old, or even nine months old! It's okay if your baby doesn't roll over, sit, walk, or talk as early as your friend's baby did. It's okay, there's no need to stress over every little bump and sneeze and waking.

It's okay. Relax.

Just stay calm.

Baby Advice #2: Baby Your Baby.

Because, well, they're babies. It's what they're made for.

Baby your baby. Save independence for later. Give them the foundation they need for independence now.

Your baby will not become spoiled if you carry him often and if you respond to his cries. Those are the very things that will give him the security he needs now to become a healthy adult later.

Consider co-sleeping with your baby. Snuggle him while he nurses. Invest in a good carrier and wear your baby.

Most of all, just hold and comfort that little one - your touch and reassurance is what he needs.

Bonus Advice: Have Fun!

That's all - just have fun. That first year will go by so fast. Enjoy your baby - which, really, is half the point of the first two pieces of advice! Stay calm, don't stress, hold your baby, and comfort your baby - enjoy your baby.

Saturday 11 June 2011

Weekend Reading

And a bonus this weekend, because ohmygoodness, this just described my entire life:

Gosh. I can't believe I wrote "Bitchface" on my blog!

Thursday 9 June 2011

Gender: Neutral or different?

Once upon a time, I believed that, for the most part, gender differences and stereotypes were pushed on children by the culture they grew up in.

And so it surprised me when my older boy became very attached to his cars despite being offered a wide variety of toys. It surprised me to see the differences in play between his girl friends and his boy friends. It didn't surprise me that people were taken aback by his long hair, but I was surprised by the extent to which people became confused, upset, or angry over it.

But nothing surprised me more than the day I said to my son, before turning him loose in the mall's play center, "if you want to play chase with a girl, you should ask her first. Lots of girls don't like to play that way."

The lady beside me gave me a curious look, and as I thought back over what I had said, I couldn't believe those words had just came out of my mouth.

Of course I should have replaced the word "girls" with "children" (hindsight is always 20/20), and yet my words hadn't been entirely without merit. We had had a run of incidents with girls - all minor, but no one likes their child to be looked at as a bully or a troublemaker. The problem was that when he played with boys, they all ran around, roared a lot, crashed into each other, and laughed like crazy. It's the funnest game in the world to them. But then he would do the same thing with girls and it would inevitably end in tears and wails of "Mooooommy, he HIT me!" or "Daaaaaddy, that boy is CHASING us and YELLING at us!"

And my boy would be left standing there looking confused and ashamed.

Now sure, there are girls who like to play rough-and-tumble like that, and there are boys who don't like it all. We just hadn't met any at that point, and it was that stretch of crying girls and glaring mothers that led to the "ask before you chase" rule. I'd like to say it resolved everything, but it's an ongoing learning experience for both of us, mother and son. When all the kids build a castle together, and the girls in the group want to play in it while the boys want to knock it down, who gets their way?

But this isn't about that. This is about the bigger picture. Is gender neutral, or are there inherent differences between the two?

During a discussion on a post over at The Parent Vortex, Michelle shared this tidbit that I thought really summed things up:
Much like race, gender is one of those things that people like to say, “It doesn’t matter!” but the fact remains that people from different races look different from each other, and people of different genders look different too. Pretending that it doesn’t matter doesn’t make those differences go away.

"Pretending that it doesn’t matter doesn’t make those differences go away."

There has been a lot of talk lately about the parents who are keeping their baby's gender a secret. If I may speak to the idea, simply for the sake of discussion and not standing in judgement of the parents, it seems to me that an attempt to raise a “genderless” child actually draws more attention to the child’s (unknown) gender. The parents want to negate the effects of gender and yet in trying to do so, they make gender a far bigger deal than it need be. It seems it would be very confusing for the child and siblings in question.

Speaking in general terms, I feel as though gender neutrality is so heavily pushed now, particularly in certain circles, that kids are actually discouraged from being interested in traditionally “gendered” activities. I question the health in that, as I feel it promotes a lot of unnecessary shame. Letting a child choose his or her activities, clothing, toys, and so on is a far cry from pushing him or her towards or away from an activity just because it considered “boyish” or “girly” – whether that activity be traditionally associated with the same sex or the opposite sex.

I actually see a strong parallel to religious fundamentalism, only instead of “avoid all appearance of evil”, there’s a push to “avoid all appearance of gender”. Instead of seeing sin in everything, they see “gender” in everything. It’s a strange paradox, that the desire to encourage gender neutrality often results in an unnatural hyperfocus on gender itself. I see it, like religious fundamentalism, leading to a great deal of unnecessary frustration and confusion for children – girls feeling like they have to apologize for liking pink and frilly things; boys who feel pushed away from traditionally “boyish” pursuits.

There is also the other side of the same coin, where children who like things that don’t traditionally “match” their sex are held up as examples in the gender versus sex debate. Mothers pat themselves on the back for accepting their “cross-gendered” five year old, usually boys who like pink or want to wear dresses. And yet for the boy who hasn’t had it shamed or bullied out of him, it’s completely normal. Lots of boys like to dress up in princess dresses. It’s sparkly and bright and fun. It’s not gender exploration, it’s just childhood. Making a big deal out of – whether to encourage or discourage it – is entirely unnecessary.

I think there is a great deal of merit in allowing your children to choose their own activities, hairstyles, toys, clothes, etc, without regard to traditional gender lines. Absolutely. My boys play with cars and carry their dolls around in baby slings. My older one has only recently decided his favourite colour is no longer pink, but it's definitely still up there. He's absolutely insistent that he's going to be a Mommy when he grows up. It's not because he's "gender confused", it's because he identifies most strongly with me and wants to be able to have babies and breastfeed just like I do. He had hair longer than mine at one point, and is currently growing it out again because he wants it long. No big deal. He’s not gender confused, he just wants long hair. My aunt who teaches kindergarten often talks about the little boys who are so excited over all the pink princess stuff they get to play with at kindergarten – not gender confused, just enjoying the fun.

Allowing kids that sort of freedom is awesome. Making a big deal out of it or hyperfocusing on the issue? Not so much.

What do you think about the topics of gender neutrality and gender differences?

Wednesday 8 June 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Sheep Festival

"Mammy! That goat looked at me funny!"

The boy helps shear a sheep!

Monday 6 June 2011

Elusive lasts

Most nights I fall asleep with my husband on one side of me and the baby curled up against my other side. The preschooler, if he's joined us already, snores softly from his pallet on the floor. It's a peaceful feeling, having the three of them right there, knowing we're all safe and content and tucked in for the night.

Many nights I wake up to rustling followed by a whispered question: Can I snuggle with you for a minute?

Yes, come on up.

He does, careful not to wake his baby brother. He curls up on my stomach and I kiss the top of his head, breathe in his delicious scent. Perfect.

Eventually he gets heavy. Joints begin to ache and I shift. He accepts that as his cue to return to his pallet. Good night, I whisper, and the two of us fall asleep again.

Sometimes he sleeps all night and it is light when I hear that rustle, that whisper. His brother rarely sleeps through that snuggle, and the two of them leave a few minutes later, off to play together and share a yogurt while I doze a few minutes longer.

I join them, get their breakfast, and tell the boy how nice it was to snuggle with him for a few minutes last night. I grin at his inevitable reply, eyes wide, hopeful, but with a cheeky grin of his own: Would you like it if I snuggled with you ALL night?

I don't have to answer; he knows that as lovely as that sounds, none of us sleep well in a bed with four people.

As I was awoken again earlier this week for a middle-of-the-night snuggle, I thought of how, in time, he's not going to want to snuggle with me anymore. I won't get to kiss his soft hair and inhale his sweet scent. He'll be too big to curl up on me, and far too much of a "big boy" to even want to.

My baby's going to grow up, and one of these snuggles, one of these nights, will be our last.

And I won't even know it.

I find myself wanting to hold on to those precious lasts. The firsts are easy. I can write those down in their baby books, send out excited emails to grandparents, blog about how proud I am that my baby did this amazing new thing - just like every baby before him.

But these lasts...they're not so easy to catch, and far more bittersweet when I do.

I remember when the boy truly weaned. His brother was tucked in my womb, my milk had long dried up, and his nursing sessions had been getting shorter and shorter each night. Minutes...seconds...then less than a second, not even a real latch. I mused that he was just "kissing them goodnight" by that point. One night, instead of wanting milk, he asked to lay on them, leaning against my bare chest for a short while before climbing in bed. Then...nothing. He was truly and officially weaned.

I hold that precious last close, grateful for the sweet memory. But so many other lasts go by without my even realizing it. How many have I missed?

The realization makes every moment that much more precious to me, for who knows what last it holds.

Saturday 4 June 2011

The Saturday Evening Blog Post

It's time again for the Saturday Evening Blog Post, hosted by Elizabeth Esther. Elizabeth collects the "best of" posts on the first Saturday of every month, an opportunity for bloggers to gather and share their favourite post from the previous month.

From May, I've chosen Mothering as an introvert. If you've written something you'd like to share this month, swing by her blog and add your link!

Weekend Reading

Thursday 2 June 2011

God's message for...?

I was enjoying a leisurely browse through the bookstore today when I came upon the Bible section. Always interested, I browsed the varied spines until one jumped out at me: The Green Bible.

No. That can't be what I think it is...can it?

Oh, it was.

The Green Bible: Understanding the Bible's powerful message for the Earth is a "green edition" of the Bible that highlights - no, literally highlights, in green - passages of Scripture that relate to creation care.

From the Preface (page I-15):
Many Bibles, called "red-letter editions," have Jesus' direct statements printed in red. We have adapted this practice to introduce the "green-letter edition." In it we highlight the rich and varied ways the books of the Bible speak directly to how we should think and act as we confront the environmental crisis facing our planet.

As an example, the sample page on Amazon highlights a passage from Psalm 8:
O Lord, our Sovereign,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.

Psalm 8:1

This is "green"? Because it has the word "earth" in it?

What a disheartening marketing ploy and a particularly shameful attempt to capitalize on the "go green" bandwagon.

According to the Introduction, "creation care is at the very core of our Christian walk." Here at The Hippie Housewife, creation care and social justice are two of our priorities. These priorities are born out of a love for God and a love for His creation, earth and mankind alike.

Creation care should come forth from a Christian walk, but to say it is the "Bible's message" is to put it exactly backwards. The Good News does not preach creation care. Creation preaches the Good News!
The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge.
There is no speech or language
where their voice is not heard.

Psalm 19:1-3
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
Romans 1:20

I can appreciate what The Green Bible is saying as far as the importance of creation care and social justice. Consider the fourth (of five) "Green Themes" outlined in the book (p. 1229):
Theme 4: Creation Care as Justice
Caring for creation is an act of social justice. Because humanity is part of creation, and because we are designed for interdependence with the whole of creation, caring for creation means caring for humanity. Caring for humanity, in turn, demands protecting and restoring creation.

I agree. I wholeheartedly agree. Creation care and social justice are intertwined both with each other and with our devotion to God. But these themes do not replace the Gospel.

With its "green" essays written by notable Christian scholars and leaders, would this be good as a guide to creation care? Yes. Is creation care important? Absolutely. Is creation care the Good News? Absolutely not.

God's message is for you.

Yes, you.

And you, love.

And you too.


God's message is sin forgiven, relationship restored, healing begun.

And out of that, creation care? Oh, yes please!

Out of that.

Not instead of that.

Giveaway winner!

Congratulations to Melody who was chosen via as the winner of our giveaway! Melody blogs at Ramblings of a Lovesick Mommy.

Melody shared with us her Etsy shop, melodyjoy1983, where she sells knitted cowls, hats, and jewelry. I am in love with this scarf/hat combo, and how adorable is this mama bird's nest necklace?

Melody has won a $25 gift certificate to the Etsy shop of her choice. Melody, you can email me at thehippiehousewife [at] gmail [dot] com when you have chosen your shop and I will contact the shop owner to arrange your gift certificate.

Thank you to everyone who participated! I loved browsing through the Etsy sites you shared. The shops, in order of submission, included:

Batty's Bath
Busy Little Hands
Shay Aaron Miniatures
Mommy's Cloth Treasures
Summerland Bath & Body
Emily Burger Designs
Katidids Handknits & More
Elgarbo Art
Old New Again
Sparkles Kitchen
Urban Prairie Girl

Congratulations again to our winner and I look forward to doing this again soon!

Wednesday 1 June 2011

Little miracles

The boy has been fascinated with bugs since receiving a set of books from his Oma. He delights in sharing the new facts he's learned and exclaiming over how incredible they are.

"Some ladybugs are orange instead of red! I didn't know that!"

"Did you know that grasshoppers rub their legs against their wings to sing?"

"Butterflies taste with their feet!!! Isn't that silly??"

Yes, darling, it's silly. Just as silly as the last twenty times you told me.

We were playing outside recently when he came up to me and said wistfully, "I wish I could see an orange ladybug. I would really like that. Orange ladybugs are my best ladybugs."

I told him that when I was a little girl, our yard was full of orange ladybugs. Unfortunately, I'd never seen an orange ladybug here.

As I was finishing my sentence, what should happen to catch my eye?

An orange ladybug.

God is good.