Saturday 30 June 2012

Weekend Reading

Wednesday 27 June 2012

Gentle Discipline Basics: Teaching Skills

While punishment and praise may be effective as a means of modifying a child's external behaviour, gentle discipline seeks to provide children with the tools they need to better manage the situation in the future. One of the primary methods of doing so is placing the focus on teaching the child what to do rather than imposing a punishment for what was already done.

This idea of teaching skills applies throughout childhood. For example:
  • babies can be taught to touch gently rather than hitting,
  • toddlers can be taught how to express and work through their big emotions rather than being sent for a time-out, and
  • children can be taught the skills of conflict resolution and making amends rather than having an arbitrary privilege removed as punishment after an altercation.

These future-oriented solutions provide the child with skills that will be used throughout and beyond childhood. The focus is on developing the child's own internal control rather than on managing behaviour through external control, thereby assisting the child in navigating life in a way that keeps their dignity intact.

This often requires that the parent first reframe their own view of their children. Rather than viewing their behaviour as "naughty", "bad", or "defiant", accept that they are immature beings who have yet to learn the skills necessary to handle the situation in a more socially-acceptable manner. Once that perspective is in place, we can move on to providing them with those skills in a respectful and consistent manner.

Teach emotional awareness

The first step in teaching skills is to give the child the words needed to name their feelings as well as the tools needed to handle, rather than suppress, those challenging emotions. Reflect their feelings and give names to them while describing what you see. As they get older, encourage them to use these phrases themselves, coupled with other healthy and appropriate means of expressing and working through their feelings.

Look for the need behind the action or the cause behind the behaviour. Can an acceptable alternative be offered, allowing the parent 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, snack, or moment of reconnection? As the child grows, a healthy emotional self-awareness will allow them to recognize these driving needs for themselves.

Use scripts

Expanding on the idea of providing children with the necessary vocabulary to name their feelings, the use of scripts provides children with a more appropriate way of making their needs known. Scripts are simple sentences provided by the parent that rephrase the child's less acceptable way of expressing themselves. The scripts will increase in complexity along with the child's verbal abilities.

In the beginning stages, the parent will simply state the script while carrying out the action. Eventually, the child will be prompted to repeat the script. In time, the prompting will become a requirement, where, for example, a request will not be carried out until it is restated in a polite manner. In its final stages, a simple reminder will be offered.

There must be an acceptance of the fact that children will require repetition in order to form healthy habits. "Try again" is a useful phrase to use as a reminder that what the child just said was unacceptable, providing them with an opportunity to restate things in a more appropriate manner.

Provide alternative actions

While scripts provide children with alternative phrases, they will need to be provided with alternative actions as well. Instead of focusing on what they shouldn't do, teach children what they should do. Show them better alternatives to undesirable actions, and be calm and consistent in enforcing the alternative. As the child grows, involve them in brainstorming these alternatives and putting them into place going forward.

Give them ownership over the situation

Children grow in maturity and responsibility when they are given ownership over the situation. Depending on the specifics, this may involve fixing the resulting problem, making restitution to the wronged party, seeking reconciliation, or determining a better course of action for the future. This acknowledges the wrongdoing but then shifts the focus away from the mistake and places it instead on finding a solution, thereby empowering the child and allowing them to develop their own sense of inner discipline. Punishment, which requires the child to pay an arbitrary penalty of some form in order to deter the behaviour from being repeated, removes this problem-solving opportunity and leaves the child feeling powerless.

Brainstorm with the child what this restitution may look like, but leave the bulk of the responsibility (increasingly so as they get older) on their shoulders. The parent is there to guide, advise, and support the child, but not to rescue them or punish them.

Giving the child ownership over the situation allows the child to acknowledge their mistakes, accept responsibility for finding a solution, and develop the capabilities to then put their plan into action - not out of fear of punishment, but rather because doing so is the respectful and compassionate course of action.

Model appropriate behaviours

Children learn what they live. The way we treat our children becomes the basis upon which they view themselves and interact with others. When a parent seeks primarily to control the child, the child learns both to be controlled and to control others. Alternatively, when a parent treats the child with respect and grace, the child learns to treat others in a similar manner and to refuse to allow others to treat them poorly.

Children also learn from the way we treat others and the way we allow ourselves to be treated. Lead by example, modelling essential life skills and appropriate behaviour: respectful manners, non-violent conflict resolution, healthy boundaries, emotional awareness, time management skills, and more. Model humility through sincere apologies when a difficult moment has gotten the better of you. Model careful decision making and problem solving by narrating the processes out loud for the child to overhear.


Each of the above will need to be modified according to the age, stage, and personality of the individual child, but the basic principles remain the same throughout. Teach the child healthy emotional awareness, appropriate ways of expressing themselves, and acceptable alternatives to undesirable actions. Increasingly guide them to a place where they can acknowledge their mistakes and take ownership over correcting the situation. Finally, model those same healthy and appropriate behaviours in the way you treat the child, the way you treat others, and the way you allow others to treat you.'

Please join us all week, June 25-June30, 2012, as we explore the world of gentle, effective parenting. We have new posts each day by talented authors providing us with insight into why gentle parenting is worth your time and how to implement it on a daily basis.

We are also giving away several parenting book and other goodies from our sponsors this week. Please stop by and enter to win!

This year's beautiful motherhood artwork is by Patchwork Family Art. Visit the store to see all her work.

Tuesday 26 June 2012

The Gift of a Sibling

I watch them playing together, these two boys of mine. They build a city across the living room, each adding pieces here and there, a twisting mass of rails and roads and animals and vehicles. They talk and laugh, oblivious to the rest of the world.

I watch them come to a disagreement. I don't step in, not yet. I wait, and there it is, the boy's calm defusing: "We're starting to fight again. Can we find something else to do together?" Little brother agrees and their play resumes in peace. It doesn't always work out that way, but when it does, it is so very good.

I watch them later. The boy wants some quiet time in his room, so I gently steer a heartbroken little brother away. I know how the boy feels; I often crave that alone time myself. But, tenderhearted boy that he is, he hears his little brother's cries and opens the door, invites him in. They snuggle together on a bed and page through books. It's only quiet for a short time before the giggling and play begins again.


Once upon a time, two pink lines told me my long-desired second child was beginning to form within my womb. I celebrated joyously.

I also doubted.

What was I doing to my firstborn by bringing another child into our home? Would he resent his big-brother role? Suddenly I was tired and sick; how unfair to him that we no longer spent our days as we once did! I was, for the first time, snapping impatiently at my beautiful little boy; would I ever be the same patient mother I once had been?

Little brother arrived and the boy was enthralled. He held his brother, snuggled with him, touched his fingers and peeked under his hat to see his ears. He was soon making his brother smile, then laugh. He cheered his brother on through each new stage.

And still I doubted.

I was too tired, too impatient, too worn out. I spent too long putting the baby to bed while the boy waited patiently on the other side of the door. Our old habits had been replaced with a new life; no longer did we bake together every week or take a walk every day. I no longer tackled the big projects with the energy I once had; instead I accepted them reluctantly, half-heartedly, or pushed them off altogether. There was so much guilt and I worried. Had he lost out when we took away his only-child status?


Two more pink lines later and once again my energy was sapped, my patience lowered. Again long-awaited, again much-celebrated, and again the doubt and guilt.

Only now the doubt and guilt were doubled. Just look at them, playing together, loving each other, hugging and wrestling and laughing and best friends, these two are.

What have I done?

What will a third child mean? How will it change their relationships? How will this little one fit in; is someone always going to be the third wheel, left out, feelings hurt, tears falling?

Will my big boy, so responsible, so willing to do for others, grow to feel that we asked too much of him? More responsibility, less responsibility, I never know what's right. He's so small, this oldest of my babies. So big and so small.

His little brother will become a middle child. I don't know what that means; I was the oldest and only know the good and bad of that role in a family. I don't want my affectionate little boy to feel forgotten, overlooked, invisible is his position as neither oldest nor youngest.

And what will it mean for me? More children than hands, myself spread yet more thin. I don't want to be the impatient mother, the too-tired mother, the no-not-today-maybe-tomorrow mother, lacking both time and energy. I am afraid.


I watch them. I watch and fears begin to fade, because such brotherly love and joy can only be a gift. One more can only be an addition, not a subtraction. Maybe their lives would be different if they were onlies - maybe we'd do more, explore more, travel more, tackle more, I don't know - but this gift of each other is something I could never wish away.

Their excitement over the new baby is infectious. The older one can hardly wait. The younger one pokes and prods my growing belly, asking question after question - is the baby sleeping? eating? pooing? ready to come out now? - and finishing with a hug and kiss before pulling my shirt back down. These two, they have no doubts, no fears. They simply embrace and I have so much to learn from them.


It is late and I open their door, wait for my eyes to adjust to the dark. There they are. Even in sleep, they are touching, always touching, and I know: this is a gift. Always, always, a new sibling is a gift. This new little brother or sister will only add to their joy.

They are all three so very blessed.

Monday 25 June 2012

A Day in the Life of a NPN Volunteer

It's that time again! You may remember the great post in December 2011 that highlighted the Natural Parents Network Volunteer's most popular or favorite posts from the year, or the March 2012 post which featured DIY projects, how-to's, recipes, and more. Well, we're back! This time we are bringing you a collection of posts that focus on what our lives really look like!

Today we are giving you a sneak peak into our days: a typical day in our life, a special outing, or photos which show what motherhood looks like for us. Basically, we are keeping it real!

There are a lot of really wonderful posts here that show that even though we blog about our parenting ideals, we really are just regular moms, getting by one day at a time. So enjoy our typical day in the trenches!

Laura at WaldenMommy: Life Behind the Red Front Door shares "Just Another Monday." This post appeared in March of 2012 and is a typical busy day with the Herd. You can also find Laura on Facebook.

Cynthia at The Hippie Housewife shares a typical day in her life, complete with a blood test, a stop at the thrift store, and lots and lots of books. You can also find The Hippie Housewife on Facebook, Google+, and Pinterest.

Melissa at Vibrant Wanderings shares A Day In The Life: Two Years Old, a photo journal commemorating her daughter's second birthday by attempting to capture a sense of the daily routine at this busy stage. You can also find Vibrant Wanderings on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Networked Blogs.

Laura at Pug in the Kitchen shares A Busy Day in the Life of her family. This post is a whirlwind look at life two children under the age of 3. You can also find Laura on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Momma Jorje: a slightly crunchy mommaMomma Jorje shares Typical Visit to the Pediatric Cardiologist + Results. Read her post to see what it is like to take her infant son for regular visits to a cardiologist. You can also find Momma Jorje on Facebook.

A Little Bit of All of It shares Our Last Days as a Family of Three as she, her husband and 3 year old daughter wait for baby #2. She also wrote A Day in the Life of This Mom when her daughter was 2 and she watched a 5 month old. You can also find A Little Bit of All of It on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Networked Blogs.

Hybrid Rasta Mama: A reggae loving mama’s thoughts on Conscious Parenting, Natural Living, Holistic Health and General MindfulnessJennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares A Hot Day In The Life of Jennifer. This post appeared on a friend’s blog and is a humorous look at a typical summer day for Hybrid Rasta Mama and her sidekick Tiny. You can also find Hybrid Rasta Mama on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Networked Blogs.

Emily at Embrita Blogging shares an Ordinary Day with a pre-crawler from almost two years ago. You can find Emily on Facebook, Pinterest, and on Twitter.

Gretchen at That Mama Gretchen showcases A Day in the Life of her busy summer as she waddles around with a baby in her belly and a toddler in tow! You can also find That Mama Gretchen on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Shannon at Pineapples & Artichokes shares A day at the Solstice Parade, a picture post about her trip to one of the local summer parades in Seattle. You can also find Shannon on Google +, Flickr, Pinterest.

Hobo Mama: A Natural Parenting BlogLauren at Hobo Mama shows what unschooling looks like in her house through Meetups and play dates. Far from staying indoors or isolated, you can find Lauren or Sam and their kids out at one or other fun and educational activity several times a week. You can also find Hobo Mama on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google +.

Kat of Loving {Almost} Every Moment wrote this post after having One Of Those Days. She was pregnant, exhausted and had a lot of errands to do with her two older kiddos in tow. In the end she was reminded of a thing or two...especially to always keep her chocolate stash well stocked!

Fine and FairJoella at Fine and Fair shares A Summer Sunday in Our Life. This day in the life photo project shows a busy Summer Sunday filled with gardening, friends, family, and shared parenting. You can also find Fine and Fair on Facebook and Twitter.

Erica at Childorganics shares And The "Play" Goes On. This post takes a peek of what a whole day of play looks like at their house. You can also find ChildOrganics on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Visit Code Name: MamaA day in the life of Dionna at Code Name: Mama and family in downtown Independence - from 6 month old EC'ing to the farmer's market to nursing at the Main Street Coffee House. By the way, join us for the August Carnival of Natural Parenting when our topic will be Farmer's Markets!


Amy at Anktangle shows
us (through photographs) a glimpse into a typical week
in her world. You can also find Amy on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google +.

Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children shares The School Bus Comes Early. She speaks of how unschooling allows her family a flexibility in their lives to accommodate learning. You can also find Living Peacefully with Children on Facebook.

Visit African Babies Don't CryChristine at African Babies Don't Cry shares "A Week With Jesse, in Pictures." This post is one in a collection of posts, where Christine shares the weeks happenings with her son Jesse with a picture for each day. You can also find African Babies Don't Cry on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Networked Blogs.


Lyndsay at OurFeministPlayschool shares "Day in Our Life..." This post looks at her family's day and their trip to a museum. You can also find Lyndsay on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest.

Friday 22 June 2012

Embracing summer

Ah, summer. So far you have not disappointed.

What was the best part of your day, Mommy?

Oh, what indeed?

The strawberry picking, with red hands and sticky faces and tubs filled with glorious red summer,
was definitely the best part.

The tidepool exploration, with crabs and seaweed and a coating of sun-bleached shells,
had to have been the best part.

The waterpark, with shivering children and cozy towels as afternoon became evening,
was the best part too.

It was all my favourite. Yesterday was good.

Today we're gorging ourselves on fresh strawberries while nursing our various
scrapes, sunburns, and sore muscles.

Today is good too.

Wednesday 20 June 2012

Ready, Set, Run! 5 Variations of Tag for Small Groups

Summer is here at last, and what better way to celebrate than by getting outside and running around?

While most of my kids' time outdoors is spent in free play - digging in the dirt, taking pictures of flowers, creating sidewalk chalk works of art, making dandelion roadways for their cars, or picking buttercups (affectionately called "yellow chin flowers" around here, so named for the way they turn your chin yellow when held underneath) - they love a good family game of organized tag, too.

I play these games with the boy (five years old), the toddler (two years old), and sometimes the two-year-old daycare child and/or the husband. You might think 3-5 players is too small for some of these games, but they love our slightly modified versions all the same. Today we're celebrating the hope of warmth and sunshine by sharing some of our favourite variations of tag!

(Drawing from our visual family journal.)

1. What Time is it, Mr. Wolf?

This counting version of tag is one of our most frequently played yard games. It is suitable for our range of ages, allows full participation for all the children at the same time, and the build-up as the game progresses is thrilling for them.

The wolf (typically myself) stands at one end of the yard while the other players line up at the other end. One or all of them calls out, "what time is it, Mr. Wolf?". The wolf answers in one of two ways:

  • For the first few times, the wolf replies by calling out a time ("three o'clock!"). The players then take that many steps towards the wolf before repeating the question.
  • Eventually the wolf calls out "dinner time!" instead, at which time the wolf chases all of the players back to the starting line. Either the wolf tags them before they reach the line, or they reach the line first and are "safe".
Traditionally, the first child tagged on the chase back to the starting line becomes the new wolf. Because of the makeup of our small group, I usually remain the wolf and the game begins again.

2. Red Rover

This classic playground game was my favourite as a child, so I was thrilled when it immediately became the most requested variation of tag after introducing it to my own boys. While this game is typically better suited to a large group, we find it works just fine with our own group of 3-5.

In our small group version, the kids take turns being the person who will be called over. The rest of us line up on the other end of the yard, holding hands, and call out the familiar chant: "Red Rover, Red Rover, we call [name] over!" The child called then runs across the yard towards us and tries to break through our linked hands. He either succeeds or he doesn't; either way, he joins the line and the next child heads across the yard to await his turn. We cycle through the children in this way until they're ready to move on to something else.

3. Red Light, Green Light

The person who is the street light (usually myself, for this game) stands at one end of the yard while the other players line up at the other end. The game then begins:

  • The street light turns their back on the other players and yells "green light!", an invitation for the other players to begin running towards the street light as fast as they can.
  • The street light then calls out "red light!" and quickly turns around. The other players must freeze as soon as they hear "red light"; any players still running when the street light turns around are sent back to the starting line.
  • Play is repeated until a player reaches the street light and tags them. This player then becomes the street light for the next game (or, in our case, the street light remains the same and the kids go back to the other end of the yard to begin another round).

4. British Bulldogs

Another childhood favourite of mine, British Bulldogs places the person who is "It" in the middle of the yard. The other players line up at one end of the yard and, when given the signal, attempt to run en masse to the other end of the yard without getting caught by the bulldog as they pass by.

With a large group, the players who are caught become bulldogs themselves, and play continues until only one person remains free. With our small group, the first person caught becomes the new solo bulldog for the next round.

5. Full-Contact Tag

Perhaps more appropriately called "wrestling", this is the boy's favourite version of tag. The object, if there is one, seems to be to tackle or otherwise knock each other to the ground. There is no single person designated as being "It"; everyone simply chases and wrestles with each other.

Because there are no rules, every round is unique, but they all typically involve a great deal of running, lunging, dodging, chasing, grabbing, tickling, and roaring. The toddler is, unsurprisingly, not a fan of this game, but he loves it when I hold him in my arms while chasing (and being chased by) the boy.

Linked up at the "Summer Fun for Children" NPN blog hop at Child Organics.

Tuesday 19 June 2012

I am your safe place

I can tell by the way you slip into my room when you wake during the night, sniffling as you shuffle down the hallway and then, having arrived, breathing that deep sigh of contentment.

I am your safe place.

I can tell by the way you run to me, crying, holding out a hand or lifting up a knee for me to kiss better. Like magic, it works every time. The tears stop and you run off, just like that, and I wish I could cure the world so easily as I can soothe your bumps and scrapes.

I am your safe place.

I can tell by the way you curl into me when you're scared, pressed hard against me, certain that I can protect you. One day you'll realize that I can't always keep you safe, but for now you rest secure in your belief that I am omnipotent.

I am your safe place.

I can tell by the way you reach for my hand when you're feeling uncertain or overwhelmed, sometimes wrapping both arms around my leg or hiding your face against my neck. I understand, sweet child, and I will allow you the time you need to feel comfortable stepping away.

I am your safe place.

I can tell by the way you tell me a hundred times a day, I like-a be wif you. I reply in kind each time - I like to be with you too - and I mean it so very much.

I am your safe place.

I can tell by our late-night conversations, my night owl, when you ask your big questions and explore your fears. I don't always know how to answer, but I hope that I can consistently lead you to God, our true safe place in this world.

I am your safe place, but I don't always understand it. Most days I feel like a child myself, pretending to be a real live grown-up but waiting all the while for someone to discover the truth. One day you'll realize that I don't know as much as you think I do, that really I'm just stumbling along, doing my best, like everyone else on this planet.

I am your safe place, but I don't always deserve it, this I know. I lose my temper, criticize, shame, and I see the confusion in your eyes. But more than that, I see the acceptance: I am your safe place, so what I say must be true, there must be something wrong with you. Oh, but there's not, sweet child, and one of my most fervent prayers is that you will always remember my apologies above the thoughtless words that prompted them.

I am your safe place, but I know it won't always be so. One day you'll find a new safe place and it will be someone else who strokes your hair as you confess your worries into the quiet darkness of night.

But for now, for whatever crazy reason, I am your safe place.

And I am honoured.

Just writing along with The EO...

Thursday 14 June 2012

Loving the Pharisees

Somehow it has always been easy for me to love the outcasts, the marginalized, the broken, the scandalous, the "tax collectors and sinners" among us. It has been easy for me to love those who have rejected the church just as so many in the church have rejected them, the ones the holier-than-thou want nothing to do with. Don't hang out with the likes of them, they warn. Sure, Jesus might have, but we're not Jesus.

We're not Jesus. It's okay to turn our backs on them, to mock and scorn them, to blame them for society's every failing, because we're not Jesus.

I love those outside of the church - the ones who have never known Christ, the ones who have known Him and turned away, and the ones who see how very true it is that we're not Jesus and turn that justified anger on Christ Himself - but those inside the church? That's much more difficult for me.

Not all of them, mind. There are so many beautiful followers of Christ, kind, compassionate, and servant-hearted. They are humble and human, imperfect yet sincere. They love God and love others because in the end that's all that was asked of us. Those dear ones are so very easy to love.

But loving those modern-day Pharisees, who value rules over love and letter over spirit...that's hard. I struggle to love those who preach hate and violence over love and peace. I don't know how to love those wolves in sheep's clothing who would lead Christ-followers astray with their distorted doctrines. Loving those who impose their man-made burdens, heavy yokes instead of the light one offered by Christ? That's hard.

Yet Christ has not given me permission to withhold that love. Quite the opposite, rather: Christ tells us to "love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" and "do good to those who hate you" (Matthew 5, Luke 6). If I only love those for whom my love comes easily, what good is that?

Don't you know how difficult that is, Jesus? Don't you know what these people are doing to those inside of your Church, to those outside of your Church?

In response, He laughs gently. Oh yes, He says. I love you, don't I?

And it's true. Too often have I overlooked the needs of others in my own selfishness, built walls in place of bridges, and hurt those both within and outside of the church. I confess that I have left undone those things which I ought to have done, and I have done those things which I ought not to have done. There is no health in me.

Once again I am faced with my own pride, my own hypocrisy, the log in my own eye. I adore the story of the prodigal son and yet truly I am the older brother. I love to point out that Jesus dined with sinners, broke all the rules and saved his harshest words for the Pharisees, and yet it is far more difficult for me to acknowledge that he dined with those same Pharisees as well.

I call for grace, but grace for whom? Only those I deem worthy? In that case, it's no grace at all. Love God and love your neighbour, I say, and yet here I am picking and choosing my neighbours. Everyone is my neighbour, and I am called to love.

I don't always know where to start, but this time I do. I pray. I pray for softened and changed hearts, my own above all else. I acknowledge sincerity in the hearts of those I would condemn, remembering my own past firmly-held beliefs that now leave me ashamed. I seek wisdom and guidance as I write, speak, and act from a place of compassionate love rather than animosity.

Again and again, daily, hourly, I pray.

Tuesday 12 June 2012

Memories of Birth: Calm Amidst the Storm

Welcome to the June 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Embracing Your Birth Experience

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have written about at least one part of their birth experience that they can hold up and cherish.

With the newest little one's arrival quickly approaching, I find myself thinking more about what his or her birth will be like. Will it be the gradual unfolding that was my first son's birth? Will it be fast and crazy like the unexpected arrival of our second? I imagine it being somewhere in between, but then when do our children's births go quite the way we imagined they would?

Despite their births not being quite what I pictured - the first because I didn't know what to expect, and the second because who could expect that? - I have fond memories of each of them. And with each, there is one moment that stands out from the rest.

Labouring in Confidence

My oldest was delivered naturally in a teaching hospital, as witnessed by an unexpectedly large crowd of residents and nurses who wanted to observe what was for them a rare opportunity, a woman birthing without the use of pain medication. His labour was 10 hours long, with half spent at home and the second half in the hospital. It was during the five hours I laboured at home that one memory particularly stands out.

When my contractions began at one o'clock in the morning, I quietly moved out of our bed and settled myself on the floor with my laptop and a book. I tracked my contractions on my laptop while attempting to concentrate on Cornelia Funke's Inkspell. I had adored the first book in her Inkheart trilogy but just couldn't seem to get into this second one. I spent the next three hours like this, getting up when I needed to stretch or use the washroom.

Around four o'clock in the morning, I remember sitting there feeling a wonderfully peaceful sense of calm confidence. I felt intimately connected with this child who was about to make me a mother. The city was asleep; it was just the two of us there labouring together in the silence of the predawn morning. His delivery was getting closer. My body was doing what it needed to. I was content to wait and breathe through the continuing unfolding.

It was then that one of our cats ran through the room and across the bed, waking up the soon-to-be daddy. He saw me sitting there on the floor and asked what I was doing. I'm in labour, I replied, but I'm doing fine. Go back to sleep.

Five years later, he still teases me about that. 'Go back to sleep,' he scoffs. As if I could go back to sleep and leave you labouring on the floor by yourself. And a good thing, too, as it was not long after he awoke that the contractions intensified and I began to need both his emotional and physical support. It was the excruciatingly painful drive to the hospital two hours later - easily the worst part of the entire labour, delivery included - that first made me consider the idea of a homebirth for any subsequent children.

Cherishing the Peace

We did indeed end up planning a homebirth the second time around, although fortunately my reasons for choosing one had by then extended far beyond simply avoiding the painful drive to the hospital. I looked forward to his birth, picturing low lights and quiet music as I laboured in our tub with my husband, son, and midwife close by.

Reality, however, was a far different picture. This child would have been born at home whether I'd planned for it or not, so fast and unexpected was his birth. One contraction-filled week past his estimated due date, I ignored some more mild contractions in favour of going to bed. I went into the bathroom to get ready, but was instead hit with a sudden hot flash and an excruciatingly intense contraction that broke my water. Thinking that the labour process was finally beginning, I called for my husband to phone the midwife and let her know.

While he was on the phone, a second intense contraction hit. Immediately after calling for my mother-in-law to prepare the tub, I realized that it was wholly unnecessary; the baby had just descended through the birth canal and I could feel his head beginning to emerge. I managed to get myself onto the floor on my knees, leaning on the bathtub, as the rest of the head pushed through. By this point, the midwife had instructed my husband to hang up and phone 911.

One more intense contraction and the rest of the baby was delivered into my mother-in-law's hands. (I don't think she has quite yet fully forgiven me for this. She was there to watch our older child, not to deliver a baby, and hadn't even wanted to be in the room when it happened! Poor woman.)

If things had been crazy up to that point, they were about to get even crazier. The paramedics arrived. The firefighters arrived. Two very large paramedics crowded into our very small bathroom. This wasn't what I had envisioned! Where was the soft music? the peaceful quiet? my midwife??? Instead I was on my knees in my now very messy bathroom, trying to ward off a nervous paramedic who wanted me to lay down, of all things, on the cold hard bathroom floor.

And then the moment happened. The paramedics stepped out of the bathroom. My husband and mother-in-law were busy talking with them. It was just me and my new son, alone together at last. I looked him over, adoring him and his newborn perfection. There you are, I thought. It's good to finally see you. I felt another small contraction and my body delivered the placenta in the quiet peace of that room. I savoured the calm for another moment, gaze locked with that of the pink baby in my arms. Through all the craziness, I hadn't yet let him go.

Then I allowed the moment to pass. I called the paramedics back in to let them know that the placenta was here and I was ready for them now, but I carried that quiet peace with me until, at long last, everyone was gone and we had settled into the familiar comfort of our silent bedroom. The craziness was over and we were now a family of four.

Wild child

They say the third child's birth is a wild card; personally, I think they're all wild cards. We plan for this one to be born at home with our midwife present, but things will happen the way they happen. Que sera, sera. I don't know what this child's birth will be like, but I know that however it happens - fast or slow, gradual or unexpected, at home or in a hospital - there will be one such moment to hold onto and cherish.

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

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

Saturday 9 June 2012

Wednesday 6 June 2012

When there's pain in the blessing

"Weeping may last for the night, but joy comes with the morning."
Psalm 30:5

Once upon a more naive time, I believed that blessings were the good things that happened to us and that to feel anything less than entirely enthusiastic about them at all times was a failing of sort. What right did I have - did anyone have - to complain about a blessing? How ungrateful that would be!

Life, in its usual messy way, has not proven to be so straightforward.

So many of the greatest blessings in our lives are also the sources of deepest pain. Marriage, children, callings, wisdom, all blessings that bring both joy and sorrow.

For those of us raised in certain Christian cultures, however, happiness is the only acceptable emotional response to any of it. From the time we could be left in Sunday School, the same two themes were repeated over and over: Be happy because you know Jesus, and be good because God is watching. "I'm inright outright upright downright happy all the time," we would sing enthusiastically. Some messages sink down deep and cling tightly to our hearts even as we try to cast them off. What, after all, does the beautiful Gospel story have to do with being happy or good? It is so much more than that.

When we're raised under the belief that only happiness is acceptable, though, these moments of pain can become deep struggles. I'm not happy! I'm not being grateful enough! How wrong of me! I have to do something about this! Try harder, be better, pray more!

As I've struggled through a pregnancy that has taken its toll in ways that neither of my other pregnancies have, I have at last found peace in acknowledging pain in the midst of our blessings. This life within, this child, is a blessing, wholly and completely, without reservation. But there is pain in it too, much of it quite literally. There has been exhaustion beyond anything I have ever experienced. My level-headed self has been humbled by the uncharacteristic emotional upheaval I have struggled with. I have faced deep fears in seeking chiropractic care as a last-ditch effort to relief unbearable sciatic pain. I have been discouraged by smaller things that, when added together, feel far bigger.

But it is still a blessing. Oh, it is, and I know it's true even as I face those darker and more challenging emotions. Feelings come and go, but truth simply is. Acknowledging the pain in the blessing does not negate the blessing.

There is, as always, such comfort to be found in Scripture. The Psalms are filled with laments that resolve into praises, the same pattern throughout so many of them: "God, this is so hard! Yet still I will praise You." The Bible contains innumerable examples of godly individuals who freely expressed their challenging emotions - anger, sadness, doubt, fear, loneliness, and more. Jesus Himself weeps in sadness, overturns tables in anger, and sweats blood in agony. Where do we get this idea that happiness is the only acceptable emotion of a godly person? Why is our every less-than-cheerful thought blamed on our sin or lack of faith or ingratitude? What makes us believe that our pain and challenges should be hidden or denied?

Maybe we simply use the word "blessing" too casually, referring merely to the good and easy and light things in our lives. Or perhaps, rather, we don't use it freely enough, for even our trials and weaknesses are blessings (James 1:2-4, 2 Corinthians 12:9). There is often pain in our blessings, and yet blessings they remain. It is only when we embrace the freedom to acknowledge pain, difficulties, and challenges without guilt or self-condemnation that our eyes are opened to far more blessings than we could otherwise hope to see.

This is hard, God, yet still I will praise you.

Tuesday 5 June 2012

Preparing for Baby the Natural Way: NPN Blog Hop Summary!

Each month, one volunteer with the Natural Parents Network hosts the NPN Blog Hop, giving you a chance to discover new natural parenting blogs as well as to link up and share your own favorite posts.

May's blog hop featured the topic "Preparing For Baby The Natural Way". Today we're wrapping up the hop with a categorized summary of this wonderful collection of links. Enjoy!


Healthy Pregnancy

Preparing for Birth: Classes, Books, and Preparations

Care Providers and Birth Support

All About Siblings

Baby Needs and Registries

Birth Plans

Packing the Bag

The Big Moment: Childbirth


June's hop will take place over at Child Organics later this month, featuring the topic "Summer Fun for Children". Be sure to prepare your posts, new or previously-published, and look forward to another excellent collection of links!

Monday 4 June 2012

Preparing siblings for a new baby

With less than three months to go, preparations are beginning in earnest for Mystery Baby. Then again, our preparations are rather basic; there's not a lot we need for a third baby and much of the work will be done closer to his or her expected arrival. Preparing the two boys, however, has been a process that begun the day we told them we were expecting and will continue in a different manner even after the baby has arrived.

Because each of our children were a month shy of two years old when I became pregnant with their younger sibling, we've been able to have conversations at a more detailed level than we otherwise may have. While some of the specifics have been a bit fuzzy or mixed up in their young minds, the basic concept has been relatively easy for them to grasp. These are some of the ways we introduce the children to the idea of a younger sibling; as always, I look forward to your additional suggestions in the comments.

Who do you love?

Talking about the people we love is one of our primary ways of introducing siblings to the idea of Mommy and Daddy loving the new baby as well as them. These lists take various forms, including "I love...", "who do you love?", and "who loves you?".
"Mommy loves you. I love your brother. I love Daddy. I love the new baby growing in my tummy. I love Grandma and Grandpa. I love Oma and Opa. I love..."
These conversations are casual, spontaneous, filled with laughter (and often tickles), and take place even when we're not expecting a new baby. They are one of our bedtime calming games and a fun way to bond while remembering loved ones both near and far. We've found the "new baby" is soon added to their own lists after hearing our lists grow to include him or her.

What will you do?

Two more casual conversations we use to introduce siblings to the idea of "life after the new baby" center on brainstorming things they can do with the baby and things they can do while the baby nurses/sleeps/etc.

"What will you do with the baby?" focuses on ways they can help care for the baby (assisting with diaper changes, for example), entertain the baby (such as singing songs or reading books to him or her), and gently show the baby love (soft touches, kisses, and so on).

"What will you do while the baby _____?" focuses more on them instead of on the baby. What can they do while the baby is nursing? They can, for example, snuggle beside me while I read to them. What can they do while the baby is sleeping? We can play board games or do puzzles together. What can they do when the baby is crying? Maybe sing quiet songs, make silly faces, or help Mommy get ready to feed the baby.

We talk about these things as they naturally arise in our day-to-day conversations, and the kids enjoy brainstorming with us. When they're done talking about it, no problem; we simply move on with our day.

Making it concrete

Interact with the baby

Both of the boys love feeling the baby move around inside of me. It gives them a chance to interact with the baby. Other interactive things they enjoy include putting their ear on my belly to "hear" the baby, assisting the midwife during our prenatal appointments, seeing the baby during ultrasounds, and speculating about what the baby is doing in there right now.

Look at the baby

While they can't see our own baby (aside from ultrasounds), looking at photos of babies in utero helps them to better understand how things work. For example, our toddler had become convinced that the baby was already drinking Mommy's milk; sitting down to look at a baby in the womb allowed me to point out the placenta, the umbilical cord, and give him a basic two-year-old-level introduction to the way baby receives nutrition while inside of me. Similarly, when the boy wanted to know how the baby got out, being able to point to the birth canal and show how the baby would move from the womb out into the world made things clearer than my initial verbal explanation had.

Our absolute favourite resource is the University of Maryland Medical Center's interactive fetal development slide. Both of the kids love seeing the baby grow bigger and smaller, bigger and smaller, over and over and over again. Personally, I just cringe at the visual of my organs being squished up towards my lungs; suddenly the heartburn and shortness of breath make complete sense.

Touch the baby

In addition to looking at photos of babies in utero, having opportunities where they can interact with real live babies has been excellent preparation. We are blessed to have many friends with little babies right now, so the toddler especially has had a great pre-introduction to the concepts of touching gently and not jabbing the baby in the eye.

Hold the baby

Finally, providing them with their own baby dolls gives them the chance to nurture their "baby" and experiment with the concepts of giving birth, nursing the baby, and caring for the baby. While girls are often given dolls automatically, boys too benefit from this opportunity to nurture a "baby" of their own, regardless of whether another little sibling is on the way. Our boys enjoy swaddling their babies, giving them "mommy's milk", putting them to sleep, carrying them in a child-sized baby carrier, and occasionally throwing them across the room or driving trucks over them.

Preparing for baby

Including children in preparations for the new baby is another way to help them feel involved with and connected to their soon-to-be sibling. Such involvement may include, for example:

  • choosing a new outfit or small toy,
  • offering name suggestions,
  • selecting "baby's first outfit",
  • setting up a nursery,
  • putting together baby equipment,
  • sorting through clothing,
  • stocking a diaper change area, or
  • painting a picture to be hung near the baby's sleep space.

Making transitions

Often some transitions will need to be made in preparation for the new baby. Many parents find pregnancy an opportune time to potty train, night wean, move the older sibling out of the family bed, or teach skills that will increase their independent activity. Such transitions, of course, will depend on the readiness of the individual child and the particular needs and desires of the family unit. When such transitions are undertaken in preparation for the new baby, it is preferable to make them well in advance and to avoid linking them to the new sibling. This decreases the likelihood of sibling resentment and jealousy as well as feelings of being displaced by the new baby.

With each pregnancy, we have moved the older child out of the family bed in preparation for having a new little one join us there. (Other parents choose to co-sleep with both the older child and the new baby. This is a great option that, with planning, can be done both safely and enjoyably.) This nighttime transition is done in gentle stages over the course of the pregnancy and is never framed in terms of "making room for the new baby"; likewise with other such preparatory transitions.

These types of preparations, along with a large dose of good fortune, helped ease our transition from one child to two. Our first child showed no signs of sibling jealousy, resentment, or regression upon the birth of his little brother. Whether we will have the same experience with the move from two children to three remains to be seen. So far, their excitement is encouraging! In the meantime, we will continue to prepare the boys for this new cherished member of our family while hoping for the smoothest possible transition for each of us.

How do you prepare older siblings for the arrival of a new baby?

Saturday 2 June 2012