Saturday 31 March 2012

Weekend Reading

Just finishing a wonderful week of visiting with family. Looking forward to being back here next week; in the meantime, enjoy some (truly beautiful) weekend reading!

Monday 26 March 2012

Natural Parents Network: DIY, How-To's, Recipes, and More!

It's that time again! You may remember the post in December 2011 that highlighted the Natural Parents Network Volunteers' most popular or favorite posts from the year. Well, we're back! This time we are bringing you a collection of posts that focus on DIY projects, how-to's, tutorials, recipes, and anything related to a step-by-step guide or informational how-to.

With so many excellent resources here, I hope you will find something that strikes your interest. Enjoy!

Jorje of Momma shares her Family Cloth Tutorial in pictures. She includes step by step photos with some tips for making very neat family cloth. You can find Momma Jorje on Facebook, too!

Lani at Boobie Time Blog shares "How to Help a New Breastfeeding Mom." This post provides some tips on helping a new mom while she is learning to Breastfeed. You can also find Boobie Time Blog on Facebook and Twitter.

Amanda at Let's Take the Metro shares "How I Make Cloth Wipes." This post details how Amanda made all of her cloth wipes. You can also find Let's Take the Metro on Facebook.

Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy shares "Lessons in a Picture Book." A Lesson plan for pancakes and how to make your own butter! You can also find True Confessions of a Real Mommy on Facebook and Twitter.

Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction shares "Tips for Road Tripping with a Toddler." A long car trip with a young child can be a great way to make some wonderful memories if you are prepared to meet the challenges. You can also find Monkey Butt Junction on Facebook and Twitter.

Abbie at Farmer's Daughter shares "Maple Cinnamon Swirl Bread." This recipe tutorial shows you how to make a sweet whole wheat bread with beautiful cinnamon swirls in each slice. You can also find Farmer's Daughter on Facebook and Twitter.

Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares "How To Consume Coconut Oil Plus Coconut Oil Candy Recipes." This post provides some tips on how to get your daily dose of coconut oil down the hatch. It also provides some very tasty recipes for coconut oil candy! You can also find Hybrid Rasta Mama on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google +.

Alicia at Lactation Narration gives some ideas for how to accomplish Partial Weaning for moms who would like to cut down on nursing without completely weaning. You can also find Lactation Narration on Facebook and Twitter.

Cynthia at The Hippie Housewife shares "A Learning-Rich Environment." This post provides a number of suggestions for creating a learning-rich environment and incorporating learning into everyday life, with a particular focus on the preschool age. You can also find The Hippie Housewife on Facebook, Pinterest, and Google +.

Kelly at Becoming Crunchy shares "Kale Chips = Awesome!" This post shares a super easy recipe for making a super easy (and surprisingly tasty) snack from one of the most healthful greens around. You can also find Becoming Crunchy on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Shannon at Pineapples & Artichokes shares "How to Move to California." A silly how-to she wrote while she and her then fiance were driving to their new home. You can also find Shannon on Pinterest, Flickr, and Google +.

Gretchen at That Mama Gretchen shares a recipe for "Homemade Fruit Leather." It's easier than you ever thought and the perfect snack for you and your family. You can also find That Mama Gretchen on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Julia at A Little Bit of All of It shares "How I Cloth Diaper (Part 1)." This post details the way Julia has cloth diapered her daughter along with the products she uses. You can also find A Little Bit of All of It on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google +.

Joella at Fine and Fair shares "Our First Sensory Bins." In this post, she shares how she made a "Scoop, Measure, and Pour" themed sensory bin, as well as an "In the Garden" themed bin. She also shares some tips for making your own sensory bins! Fine and Fair can be found on Facebook and Twitter.

For all of you breastfeeding mamas, Dionna at Code Name: Mama has the ultimate DIY experience with the main ingredient being your breastmilk! 58 Medical, Cosmetic, and Other Alternative Uses for Breastmilk includes a cradle cap remedy, an anti-itch salve, weaning jewelry, lotion, and more. You can also find Dionna on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube.

Melissa at Vibrant Wanderings offers several ideas for "Keeping a Toddler Happily Busy on a Long Flight." The list includes handmade felt activities, among many other things. You can also find Melissa on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google +.

Shannon at The Artful Mama shares "Preparing Toddlers for Birth." This post features MamAmor dolls and shows some alternative ways to talk to toddlers about pregnancy and birth. You can also find The Artful Mama on Facebook and Twitter.

Kym at Our Crazy Corner of the World shares her "Family Binder DIY." This post shows how to put together a family binder, to help organize cleaning, meal planning, shopping and budgeting all in one convenient location!

Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama shares "5 Green Living, Spring Cleaning Tips." This post provides easy ways to keep the toxins out of your home and to freshen up your home for spring. You can also find I Thought I Knew Mama on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google +.

Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings shares "Daily Bread: My Favorite Whole Grain Bread Machine Recipe." This recipe is easy, highly adaptable, and a great starting point for creating your own daily (or almost daily!) homemade bread. You can also find Intrepid Murmurings on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest.

Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children shares "10 Tips for Toddler Carseat Woes." Check out these ideas of dealing with toddler carseat issues without resorting to punishments. You can also find Living Peacefully with Children on Facebook.

Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment shares "DIY Mom's Night In." A somewhat humorous solution, this post provides exhausted Mamas the recipe for the perfect way to recharge!

Stacy at Sweet Sky shares “Ways to Bring More Mindfulness Into Your Days.” This post provides tips and tricks to bring yourself back to the present moment, so you can be the parent you want to be. You can also find Stacy on Facebook.

Amy at Anktangle shows us how to make your own popsicle stick puzzles, a fun and simple "busy bag" activity for toddlers and preschool aged children. You can also find Amy on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google +.

Lauren at Hobo Mama shares "How to sew a mei tai baby carrier." The mei tai is Lauren and Sam's favorite carrier for baby Alrik: as comfortable and simple as it is beautiful. You can also find Hobo Mama on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google +.

Christine at African Babies Don't Cry shares "How to Make Rainbow Coloured Rice (Without Alcohol) for a Toddler Sensory Bin." This post provides a step by step tutorial for making vibrantly coloured rainbow rice for sensory play, includes a printable PDF. You can also find African Babies Don't Cry on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google +.

Luschka of Diary of a First Child shares How To Send A Hug In An Envelope. This post is a creative way to send more than just the standard card to love ones. It literally is a hug in an envelope! You can also find Diary of a First Child on Facebook, and Twitter.

Wednesday 21 March 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Hermies

I had spent several years raising hermit crabs before the husband forgot to water them while I was out of town for a couple of weeks. After a very sad crab-less year, I recently decided to repopulate our tank with four new hermit crabs. (Megan made me do it. Thank you, Megan.) The husband is appropriately apologetic and has promised me that these crabs will not suffer the same fate. I'm considering forgiving him. Tomorrow. Maybe.

Oh, those adorable little eyes! I once had a certain friend-who-shall-remain-nameless (*coughcough*) warn me that if I continued with my hermit crab obsession, I'd end up being the crazy old cat lady, only with hermit crabs instead of cats. (She might not remember saying it, but I can assure you she did. I would still have proof if not for the great crash of 2008 that destroyed the evidence.)

I choose to take her words as a compliment. Bring on the hermit crabs. Besides, now I can totally use the "my homeschooled kids are doing a life-based project on hermit crabs" excuse. Oh, the sacrifices us mothers must make. But I do it for them. Because I love them.

Monday 19 March 2012

One-on-one time

I'm pretty bad at the whole "one-on-one time" with my kids. It sounds so nice in theory, but in practice it tends to involve a lot of sobbing on the part of the child left behind. And then I feel guilty and I let them both come and so much for one-on-one time. Again.

But this weekend I was determined. One-on-one time is important. Good moms spend one-on-one time with their kids. I want to be a good mom. This is going to happen, sobbing be damned. Stay strong, Mama. You can do this.

Saturday afternoon rolls around and I've got some errands lined up. Since one of the errand involves buying (sugar-free! xylitol-based!) chewing gum in an effort to get a certain four-year-old to stop constantly chewing on his clothing and blankets, I decide to take that one along.

The waterworks! The sobbing! The two-year-old is absolutely heartbroken, clinging to my neck like a little monkey. Oh yes. This is good for my kids. Mm-hmm.

I peel him off and leave him crying in his daddy's arms while the boy dances around the front yard waiting for me to hurry up and say my good-byes. I get him buckled in his car seat and we are on our way. Just us! One on one! Success!

(The child left behind, meanwhile, continues to cry for a while, then moves on to angrily muttering my name every few seconds, and eventually falls asleep on his daddy's lap. Great. There goes bedtime.)

The boy and I do our errands. He chooses two gum flavours. I pick up a package. He buys a toy car off a homeless man. I mail some cheques. He runs along the sidewalk, stopping to wait for me at the roads. I huff and puff along behind him. He talks. And talks. And talks and talks and talks. I answers his questions. Somehow the subject ends up on domestic abuse. I'm pretty sure that's an automatic mom-fail right there.

On the way home, I give him the option of stopping at one more place. It's not an urgent stop, though, so I leave it up to him. He tells me he wants to get home because his brother might be sad and lonely. Great! He misses his brother too. And I insisted on one-on-one time why?

But no. This is what Good Moms do, so the next day it's little brother's turn. Big brother, fortunately, knew to expect this, and the toddler and I leave with no waterworks and almost no whining. This is going better! I'm a great mom!

We start at the library to pick up some books I had on hold. Pregnancy-bladder insists that I use the washroom twice during our visit. Fortunately, the toddler only opens the stall door mid-pee on me once, so that's something.

It's only slightly chilly out, so I decide we can walk the two blocks to our other destinations. After all, what's two blocks?

Yeah. Turns out two blocks feels more like ten blocks when your toddler is as slow as molasses. He keeps up a steady stream of chatter the whole way, pointing out every little thing that catches his eye. Fortunately, his chatter requires mostly echos and short responses. We manage to avoid discussing domestic abuse. This is good.

But then it starts.

"Where's [big brother]?"
"At home with Daddy."
"Where's Daddy?"
"At home with your brother."

And repeat. Over and over. For the rest of the trip. Oh yes, this one-on-one stuff is going swimmingly. All they want is each other!

Anyway. We make it to the grocery store and pick up what we need. I manage to prevent him from poking holes in the plastic-wrapped meat, knocking over jars of spaghetti sauce as he walks by with his arm outstretched, and throwing everything that catches his eye into our basket. Whew. The four-year-old was a lot easier the day before. I'm ready for a nap.

But then he bags the groceries for me at the self-checkout and I'm melting all over myself again because gosh, he's just so dang cute. We head to my favourite tea house to share an iced honey jasmine green tea (so heavenly). He squirms all over his chair for a while, then snuggles with me for the rest of the time. The snuggles are nice. I relax.

We make the looooong slooooow two-block walk back to the car ("Where's brother? Where's Daddy?"), which looks positively luxurious when we finally arrive. We're back home a few short minutes later and the brothers are reunited at last.

But I did it. I had one-on-one time with each of them.

And it really was worth it after all.

Friday 16 March 2012

Welcome to Kindergarten

I have this poster hanging on our fridge, and it is blowing my mind.

Oh, I knew this was coming up, this whole "technical start to schooling" thing. I've been looking at our options for a long time now. I expected that we'd flow into it smoothly, without any fanfare, with life-learning simply continuing to be part of our everyday.

But that? That poster up there? It makes it so official.

I didn't expect this to be so incomprehensible to my poor brain. I didn't expect to feel such a crazy burst of pride as we walked out of that school after enrolling in their homelearners program. I didn't expect the boy's bubbling excitement, his huge grin at the prospect. I didn't expect any of it and so I wasn't prepared.

He's growing up, and I am so stinkin' proud of him.

Technical stuff for those interested in BC's homeschooling options and why we made the choice we did (AKA me being slightly defensive because I am a sell-out):

Here in British Columbia, we enjoy what are arguably the most homeschooling freedoms in North America. There are two options for homeschoolers in the province:

  • Register: Register as a homeschooler through any provincial school. Under this option, the parent is considered the sole teacher and no accountability is required in terms of reporting or meeting Provincial Learning Outcomes. No funding or resources are provided.

  • Enroll: Enroll with a Distributed Learning Program approved by the Ministry of Education. Under this option, the child is overseen by a certified teacher, and the school is considered "in charge" of the student's educational program. The student must achieve the Provincial Learning Outcomes; evaluation is based on regular portfolio reviews that provide evidence of learning. Funding and resources are provided.

(More detailed explanations can be found at BC Homeschool Association, BC Home Learner's Association, and BC Minister of Education.)

We have chosen, for the time being, to enroll with a Distributed Learning center. We chose this option because while the reporting requirements are minimal at this level (more accurately stated, the learning objectives are easy to naturally obtain for the average child), the financial benefits are quite significant.

In other words, I am a sell-out.*

I want to be the noble person who turns her nose up at what is essentially the government's bribe to hold would-be homeschoolers accountable to the province's predetermined learning outcomes. I really want to be that person. We've gone around and around on this issue since moving here, but it always comes back to the same thing: turning down that amount of money to do what we'd be doing anyway doesn't seem like a logical move, especially right now with a student husband and a work-at-home wife.

We will continue with this option until such time as the reporting requirements become too stringent/specific (local popular opinion seems to be that this happens around the sixth grade). At that time, we will register as homeschoolers and forgo the extra funding. We are in complete agreement, my husband and I, that it will not even be a question; the additional funding is not at all worth having to force our children down one very specific educational path when the valid options are so incredibly vast.

The particular center we have enrolled with offers two days of optional classes per week (covering specialty programs such as gym, music, art, science, and French), which is advantageous in terms of increased opportunities. We will meet with our learning consultant thrice-yearly for a portfolio review. The program, from all accounts, is very relaxed and unschooling-friendly. It sounds like a very good fit for us at this point in our lives.

I know the government doesn't consider us official homeschoolers because we have chosen to enroll instead of register. I know a lot of homeschoolers don't consider us true homeschoolers either. But for now we're just shrugging our shoulders and doing what we'd be doing either way - only now we also get some funding to help purchase some of our homelearning resources.

I do feel like a sell-out for failing to support the path that grants homeschoolers the greatest freedom and least government intervention, all in the name of money. However, unlike some, I very much consider this path to be fully homeschooling, despite the reporting and accountability requirements. All classes are optional. All curriculum (or lack thereof) is determined by me. All instruction is provided by me. Specific goals are set by me. There are general requirements set forth by the learning outcomes, nearly all of which our soon-to-be kindergartner has already met for his upcoming year, but there is much room even there to allow those learning outcomes to met in a variety of relaxed and life-based ways. As soon as that is no longer the case, we will switch to registration rather than enrollment (provided, as some would quite fairly point out, that freedom is still available to homeschoolers despite the number of homeschooling families who are choosing enrollment over registration).

Well! All said, it will be interesting to see how this first year goes. I currently envision it being quite laid back, especially with the baby arriving mid-August. But most of all, we'll see. We'll see what works for us. We'll see what we think of our Distributed Learning program. We'll see where life takes us.

We'll see.

* Disclaimer: When I say that I am a sell-out, I mean that I feel like I am a sell-out. I do not in away way feel the same towards other homeschooling families who have chosen to enroll. Truly. What can I say, I'm a paradox that way.

Wednesday 14 March 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Rainbow pancakes

This is what I get for browsing Pinterest with the boy looking over my shoulder.

"Coloured pancakes?! I want coloured pancakes for lunch! Can we please make them?"

Coloured with plain ol' food dye. Oh, the shame.

But memories matter more than ideals. And you know what?

It was totally worth it to see his eyes light up at this stack of rainbow prettiness.

Totally. Worth it.

Tuesday 13 March 2012

For His Glory

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name's sake.

Psalm 23:1-3

He leads us down right paths for His Name's sake, because of Who He is.

May all glory be to Him.

Glory. I ponder this; sometimes my life doesn't seem like it brings glory to God particularly well. What do I do? I change diapers and wipe bottoms and wipe noses and wash dishes and I know it is good work, holy work, but some days I forget. I read and I write and I knit and is it glorifying? Worthy? I cook and we eat and I sweep and tomorrow will be the same. I raise boys and I watch and I delight as I read "just one more book" and then another. I love it but sometimes I don't.

But this quiet life of mine, it is good and glorifying and each little moment can be a moment of worship if I would only remember to make it so.

And so I seek to remember.

I seek to glorify Him as I raise my children, always pointing them to the most accurate view of God my growing, learning, human self can muster. I strive to treat them as my brethren in Christ, precious creations of His that they are, and when I forget, I bend low to apologize.

I seek to glorify Him in my marriage, only half a decade so far and yet it already feels like a well-worn shirt, soft and comfortable and oh-so-far from perfect but home just the same. It just feels like home, this two-become-one life of ours. And I serve and he serves, each of us thinking of the other but sometimes the selfish part wins. We forgive and learn and try again, this everyday (woefully imperfect) picture of Christ and His Bride, the Church.

I seek to glorify Him in my relationships with others, speaking words of love and kindness. I forgive hurt and sometimes I forgive over and over again, heart softening a little more each time. I build community and embrace it in all its messiness and joy.

I seek to glorify Him as I create, bringing together beauty and function, my heart finding joy in the very act of creation just as our Creator God found joy in forming the world and all that is in it. I knit and I sew and I carry life within me, reflecting this creative character, image-bearer that I am, that we all are.

I seek to glorify Him in my work, in this endless cleaning and all the rest, so very many hats, because all is worship when done as worship.

I seek to glorify Him in my rest, rest for body and rest for soul, finding renewal and peace in the stillness. I listen for His voice in the quiet, yes, but in the daily noise and movement and chaos of life too. He is there, too, in the midst of it all.

Lead me, Lord, down right paths, that I may delight in Your will and walk in Your ways, to the glory of Your name. Amen.

Sunday 11 March 2012

Thursday 8 March 2012

Cloth Diapers: How to fold a prefold

Now that pins and rubber pants are out and cute easy-to-use styles are in, cloth diapers are beginning to regain popularity. Reasons range from environmental to health to financial to "they're just plain cute!", with most parents embracing a combination of these factors as they ditch the disposables and move to cloth.

Many parents, however, remain wary of prefold diapers. Despite the drastic difference in cost (a dozen prefolds can be purchased for the price of approximately two pocket or all-in-one diapers), the ease of use of the latter often wins out.

After nearly five years of cloth diapering, I can say with confidence that our decision to use mainly prefolds (with a few pockets on hand for alternate caregivers and trips out) has been well worth it. The husband stuck with pockets for a while, but even he can now change a prefold as fast as he can change any other style of diaper. Despite heavy use as our primary diapers, our prefolds have held up far better than our backup pocket diapers have. They are indispensable when it comes to potty learning (sans cover). Prefolds are definitely our workhorse diapers, but just as cute as other styles thanks to our combination of PUL and wool diaper covers.

Folding prefolds doesn't have to be complicated. Below are our two go-to methods of folds, the Newspaper Fold and our own incredibly easy "straight and simple" method.

Method 1: Newspaper Fold

Lay the diaper on your changing surface.

Roll up the bottom edge.

Fold one side over the center piece of the diaper.

Fold the other side over and tuck into the first side.

Ready for baby!

Lay baby on the diaper.

Pull middle section up.

Fold back flap over front piece.

Snappi (or pin) one side...

...and the second side.

Pull the bottom fastener down and hook in place. Done!

Method 2: Straight and Simple

It doesn't get easier than this. While a fancier fold might keep in more of that newborn liquid poop or better fit certain shapes and sizes of babies, this one gets the job done for us.

Lay baby on flat diaper.

Optional step, depending on size of baby: Roll up bottom edge of diaper.

Pull up between legs.

Fold back flap over front piece.

Snappi (or pin) one side...

...and the other side.

Pull down bottom fastener and hook in place.

Optional step: Tuck in sides. This improves fit when using a diaper cover and also helps to contain poop.

See? Just as easy as a disposable. Slap a diaper cover on that baby and you're good to go!

Additional Resources:
Snappi Diaper Fastener
How to Fold a Prefold @ The Diaper Jungle
How to Fold a Prefold @ The Cloth Diaper Connection
DIY Prefold Diapers @ Cloth Diaper Sewing

What's your go-to diaper? Any favourites? Nemeses? We'd love to hear your experiences!

Wednesday 7 March 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Monster Goose

Alternately titled: What Happens When You Don't Pre-screen Your Preschooler's Library Books Well Enough.

All images taken from Monster Goose by Judy Sierra. Which was hilarious for the husband and I to read. After I finished choking in response to my preschooler asking me to read Cannibal Horner to him.

You're welcome. Whether for the laugh or the warning, I'm not sure.

Monday 5 March 2012

God loves me...but so what?

I've been singing about Jesus loving me since I was a little girl in Sunday School, wearing my fancy dress and pinchy shoes.

Thing is, I don't think I've ever truly believed it.

My thought process has always gone something like this:

Sure, God loves me...but so what? God loves everyone, so, well, He sorta has to love me. Right? It doesn't really mean anything.

I don't know how this mindset developed, but it's been there as long as I can remember. God loves me, but only because He loves everyone.

Maybe belief didn't come easy to me because this love wasn't something I could work for. In every other area of my life, I was expected to stand out. From doing the readings in church at five years old to graduating top of my class in high school, there was no room for "good enough". There wasn't even room for doing your best...only for doing the best. Go for gold or don't go at all. Classic overachievers.

But with God, things just didn't work that way. Which is not to say the expectation wasn't there - I had all the right Sunday School answers, sung in the junior choir, helped light the candles, assisted with the Eucharist, knew how to be the shining example of a "good Christian girl". But still - still - God loved everyone. There was no teacher's pet with God, and I knew it.

So sure God loved me, but it wasn't because of my worth or efforts or good behaviour. He just loved me because He loved everyone. He loved me because he didn't really have a choice in the matter. He just kinda had to love me.

I was thinking about this again recently, comparing it to the idea that God loves me the way I love my children (only more perfectly, more wholly, more completely). I love all of my children, from my firstborn to my unborn. I guess, like God, I kinda have to. They're my kids.

But oh, I love them. I love them passionately. I love them so much it hurts sometimes. I watch them sleep, mesmerized by their perfect beauty. I find such joy in watching them grow and discover and become their own people. I truly adore them. I love all of them.

But I also love each of them.

My love for my oldest does not overshadow my love for my youngest. My love for the toddler does not diminish my love for the boy. My love for the baby growing in my womb does not negate the individual love I have for my birthed children. I love my four year old. I love my two year old. I love my unborn child. I love each of them, and I love all of them.

Could it be so with God?

Could it be that God truly loves each of us, just as surely as He loves all of us?

I hesitate to accept this. Goodness knows there is enough individualism within the Western church, too little understanding of the collective, of the Body of Christ, the Bride of Christ. But even so, does my unique, individual love for each of my children at all take away from the idea that we are one collective family? It doesn't, so perhaps I could accept this too, this unique love from my Heavenly Father that is not made meaningless by his equal love for the rest of his human creations.

It only took me a quarter of a century, but I think I can finally believe it: God really does love me.

And He loves you, too.

Saturday 3 March 2012

Weekend Reading