Monday, September 28, 2009

Teensy Meansy Halloweensy

Just in time for Halloween, here are a few new designs I have finished. Select one (or more!) and I will hand embroider it on a shirt that you select (see full description below). I still have the uber-cute red monster design for sale too. 

Charming Little Black Cats

Funky Orange Aliens

Simply Frightful Navy Blue Bunnies

Ravenous Red Monsters

Teensy Meansy Onesies/Shirts - $15.00 (+ shipping if applicable)
*$5.00 discount if you buy more than one item!
It’s true that only a mother could love some of the Teensy Meansy faces that grace our onesies or t-shirts, but we think they are so scary they’re cute! I will hand-embroider the face onto a onesie or t-shirt (please specify a size and style).
Teensy Meansy faces are handmade from two layers of recycled t-shirts (machine sewn – turned and top-stitched) and felt. I fuse and then hand-embroider the eyes and mouth on, and then do the same thing when attaching the face to the shirt. (At your request, I can finish it off by putting interfacing on the back). 
You may consider laundering your Teensy Meansy garment in a lingerie bag and/or washing it on a more delicate cycle. While I construct the faces so that they are sure to stay put, a little caution can’t hurt. Each recycled t-shirt is pre-washed, checked for holes/stains/tears, and ships to you from our cat/fish friendly and smoke-free home. 
Onesies and t-shirts are brand new and made of 100% cotton. I prewash and dry them before attaching the faces, so they may have shrunk from their original size. 
*Please select a onesie or t-shirt and specify long or short sleeve. At this time, I am offering white Gerber brand long or short sleeve onesies/t-shirts or Hanes short sleeve t-shirts. I would not recommend sizes under 12 months or over a youth small. I would be happy to use a shirt that you ship me (you pay shipping) – I will even give you a $3.00 discount on the price.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Banana Nut Muffins

I love banana nut bread, but when I make it in a loaf pan, I can never get it to cook through correctly. Either the outside is too done, or the middle isn't done enough. I decided to give it a try in muffin form, and I also changed my mom's tried and true recipe to make it healthier. Below is my modified version; these measurements make a double batch (it made 4 dozen regular muffins and 2 dozen mini muffins). I rarely bake anything in a single batch, it's so much easier to make more and feed the freezer.

I will probably try them next time without the muffin cups - they really stick to the paper. If anyone has tips on how to avoid that, please share them! I will also try them next time with a cup of honey and no brown sugar. Finally, no mini-muffins next time; the big ones are SO much better.

1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup raw honey
2 Tbsp butter (softened)
8 bananas (mashed)
1 cup milk
6 cups flour (half wheat, half unbleached white)
7 tsp baking powder
1-2 tsp cinnamon
4 Tbsp flaxseed meal
1 1/2 tsp salt
Nuts (I used about 1 3/4 cups chopped pecans)
Dried cranberries (I probably used about 1 3/4 - 2 cups)

Mix together brown sugar, honey, and butter. Add bananas and milk (I mixed the bananas in with an electric hand mixer). Slowly add the dry mixture, stirring it in by hand. Add nuts and berries. I gave everything a good mix with the electric hand mixer before putting it in the muffin cups (fill about 2/3 – 3/4 full). Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.


My taste tester approves.

Have a banana nutty day,

Friday, September 25, 2009

It was THIS big!

Some of the ideas Kieran comes up with just amaze me. We have a book that we read daily called "My Grandma and Me." In said book, the grandma takes the grandchild fishing (the text reads: "we like to go fishing without any hooks"). At one point months ago, I casually mentioned that Auntie Shawna (or "YaYa," as Kieran calls her) loves to go fishing.

Two weeks ago, we were playing at a park with a fishing pond. We happened to be on the dock when a little boy and his parents caught a fish. Kieran didn't seem terribly interested, but that night he started grabbing at the page about fishing and saying "YaYa!" while doing the sign for fish. This happened every time we read the book. I would ask him "do you want to go fishing?", and he would practically scream "Yeah! YaYa!", while frantically signing fish.

It got to the point where I hid the book, he was so upset about wanting to fish. It was a classic fixation.

Finally, I broke down and begged Shawna to come fish with us. She fishes all the time, and we already had an understanding that she would be taking Kieran on his first fishing expedition - we just didn't know it would be this soon.

Shawna showed up yesterday with a kid-sized fishing pole. Kieran was fascinated. We drove to the pond and Kieran made a beeline for the dock.

Within minutes of Shawna and Kieran putting the hook in the water, they had their first bite. Whatever was on the line was pulling so hard, I started getting worried that we'd find a turtle.

When we got our first glimpse of what was at the end of the line, Shawna and I squealed so loudly that we drew an audience.

Kieran's first catch was a catfish - and he was a big'un! Probably two pounds or so. We had to walk the line around the dock so Shawna could climb down into the weeds to pull him out of the water. Kieran was not quite as excited. He was pretty hesitant to touch his first fish, but he did manage to swipe a quick finger down the catfish's soft, slimy side.

In the thirty minutes we were there, Kieran caught 6 or 7 fish: one catfish and the rest bluegill. He loved putting the bobber in the water, he was a little reluctant to pull a fish back out.

It was an awesome first experience fishing for him! Of course the first time he ever goes to a different lake, he'll wonder why the fish aren't biting every five minutes.  ;)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

My Response to Your Comments on Simply Divine

My response was so long that I got cut off when trying to post it as a comment, so I'll just make a new entry.

I have good news - I found someone who will act as judge for the contest. Brookie-Lee runs a wonderful store called Happybottomus.  Happybottomus is a green baby store that carries Earth-friendly mama and baby products, including the Diva Cup!
Brookie-Lee is going to give a special discount to anyone who comments on the Simply Divine post: you will receive 10% off of any non-diaper item and 5% off of any diaper item. Be sure to let the salesperson know before you ring up (or include a note in your order if you're buying something online).

Also, please be sure to check back to see if you won - unless I know you personally or you commented using a profile that linked to your own blog, I won't have any way to reach you.


And now my comments to you (to be updated if/when more people comment on the original post):

Wow! I am so honored by all of your responses. I wish we could give a Diva Cup to every one of you! I do hope that of the ladies who don't get a free one, you will still try to scrounge up the pennies to order one of your own. You should get your savings back in 2 months, 3 months tops.

Sara - I know that feeling! The great thing about a menstrual cup is that you can put it in *before* you start your period!! It rocks.

Jill - thank you for giving me some footnote love. I had to restrain myself from "bluebook'ing" my article.

Allison - free is wonderful, but think of how much more invested you'll be in the cup if you have to buy it ;)

Emily - of everyone who reads this, *you* are the person I would most expect to get on the bandwagon ;)

Jessica - I *hate* pads! Hate them. They are so itchy and uncomfortable!

Mae - you were the one who finally inspired me enough to write the post! I remember you pre- and post- Diva Cup, I wanted to help others see the light :)

Angie - I am so glad that I will have an impartial 3rd party judging comments. I cannot be forced to choose from all of you guys!!

Lindsay - Instead cups are definitely better for the environment than tampons, but since they are disposable, you do run into some of the same problems (albeit less so than the alternatives). I hope you can try a Diva Cup (or some other brand of menstrual cup), I bet you'd be pleased.

Tammy - I love you. I'm so happy that you're willing to embrace my weirdness (menstrual cups, pee pads, natural birth with all of its accoutrements, etc.) ;)

Michelle - sizing is really easy!

Mandy - well what the heck are you waiting for? ;)

Aravinda - I think that needs to be Diva Cup's new tagline!

Tonia - the thought of a teenage you listening in shock and horror to your grandma explaining how to use a sanitary belt made me giggle. I'm sorry.

Meghanmongeon - it's so sad to hear stories from women who were not helped to celebrate such a monumental milestone as their first period. Mine wasn't "celebrated," per se, but my mother didn't make me feel ashamed or anything. It just wasn't a big deal. If I ever have a daughter, I am going to plan something elaborate :)

bishoujosempai - I was really surprised at the numbers too. One site that I didn't end up including in the article said that women use over 300 POUNDS of tampons over their lifetime. Yikes, dude.

Stacey - thank you so much for giving one away! Feel free to cut me a check out of your advertising budget too (wink wink! I am *totally* kidding!)

J's Curious Alley - your comment made me choke on my grape, I snorted so hard. The Diva Cup should solve your problem though, I have definitely never wanted to eat mine.

none - Hmmm, I don't have an IUD, so I didn't know that!

Cari - you need to take a break, lady! And I can sympathize with wanting to live a more Earth-conscious lifestyle but not always being able to afford it. By the way, that is one thing I really love about "The Green Book" I cited to - it gives concrete examples of how your small changes can make a big impact. I will be quoting that book in future posts.

broomgrass – I so remember the bulky pads of my teenage years. I was mortified people could see the outlines through my pants!

maileachan – thank you for stopping by!

Monica – I know, the numbers were shocking. Did you see above where I mentioned that women use over 300 POUNDS of tampons over their lifetime?! Ridiculous.

KailaE – thank you :) I’m really pleased that it was educational and fun! That’s exactly what I was going for!!

Jenny Z – obviously, we are sister nerds ;)

AndreiaRFPS – on one of the sites I read while researching this article, it said that some European women didn’t wear any protection 100 years ago – think of the days of the big hoop skirt dresses. It said it would have been difficult to use the bathroom in those things, much less change a tampon or pad. Hmm, I think I would have gone to the trouble. It would have been easier than washing stained clothing!

Heather – what a fascinating connection to the Y2K scare, I’d love to know how this topic came up in that context!

LillyRose – you’d probably be best served by researching the different fits of the menstrual cups, since you are worried about comfort. These sites might be helpful:
I think the Diva Cup is comfortable, but I never had any problem with how tampons fit (I just didn't like the dry feeling or the pain when taking them out).

tepym3 – thank you so much for commenting! Many many hugs and congrats for being good to your body. One thing I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older (and had a miracle baby of my own) is how important it is for women to cherish the intricacies of our bodies and souls just the way we are. My hippie mama friends and I have discussed that one several times :)

heffervescent - thank you for stopping by! I'm in the old-fashioned "there's got to be something beneficial about having periods" camp ;) I also don't like injecting synthetic hormones into my body. So even though the experts seem to think it's no more harmful than taking regular birth control, I won't be doing either. Many wishes for you to have a safe and informed reproductive path (or not reproductive, for now, as the case may be).  :)

Rebecca - how awesome that it's mainstream enough to grace the shelves of Walgreens!

Erica - I would love to hear more about Asia. This would be handy while traveling!

Ginny - if you don't win, be sure to check out Happybottomus's website (linked at the top of this post). They sell Diva cups :)

info - thank you :)

Cheryl - it's your body, don't be ick'd out! Be fascinated ;)

rakshasi - thanks for adding your own experience.

none - I wear a (resusable) liner too, I'd rather be safe than sorry. I totally agree with the ick factor of used tampons/pads - very good point! And I told my sister (who is ordering a Diva Cup) to be sure to trim the stem. That thing was horribly uncomfortable.

Funky Little Earthchild - thank you! And I'm sure the Diva Cup pays for itself faster if you're already using Earth-friendly products. They are pricey!

Naomi - SO much better than pads. No contest!

Simply Divine

My sister's boyfriend groans inwardly every time my sister and I get together, because we inevitably start talking about something related to the female body. We really can't help it, it's all so fascinating! Tom, on the other hand, has either become so accustomed to it that he's no longer affected, or he's now able to tune me out at the mere mention of certain words. It's probably a combination of the two. At any rate, I'll lose both of them with the next sentence:

Today's post is about menses. (I'll wait while several of the male persuasion consult Merriam and Webster about that one.)

Now that we're alone, ladies, let's talk about our periods. (And if you stick with me to the end of this long post, there's a potential reward!) More specifically, let's discuss the subject of tampons, pads, and one of  their alternatives, the menstrual cup. Tom gave me “the look” when I told him I was going to blog about my Diva Cup. But why not? I haven’t seen any widespread marketing campaigns for tampon/pad alternatives, nor is menstruation a subject that most women discuss over lunch, or coffee, or a rum and coke. Or, ever, really.

That menstruation is taboo is not a new phenomenon, it has been this way for generations. In fact, while there is evidence that women have been using homemade pads and tampons as early as the ancient Egyptians in the fifteenth century B.C., the first commercial pad wasn’t manufactured until almost the twentieth century. (1) This first pad (a.k.a. the “sanitary napkin”) failed, because the makers couldn’t advertise it – such a topic was “improper.” (2) Even when Kotex came on the market around 1920, “[m]arketing these products was difficult because of society's squeamishness.” (3) The company that made Kotex was so worried that the pad would ruin its image, it created a separate company to sell only pads. “Stores wouldn't carry [Kotex], magazines wouldn't advertise it, and sales unsurprisingly weren't so hot[,]” until Montgomery Ward took a chance on it in a 1925 catalog. With the blessing of the retail giant, and with the “marketing innovation” that allowed women to buy a box of Kotex without having to ask a male store clerk to get it from behind the counter, the mass produced pad became mainstream. (4)

Early sanitary napkins were awkward things. (5) Women wore a belt that buckled around their waist and threaded a pocket between their legs. The pocket could be stuffed with whatever they chose – cotton, cheesecloth, etc.; almost all were washable and reusable. Women weren’t free of belts until the 1970s, when pads finally featured adhesive backings.

Tampons were available commercially (sans applicators) as early as the late 1920s; the first tampon with a plastic applicator appeared in the 1930s. (6) Surprisingly enough, menstrual cups aren’t new either – the first patents appeared in the 1930s. (7) The first cups were made of rubber; today most are “manufactured from silicone because of its hypoallergenic properties.” (8)

And while the market was slowly catching on to the convenience of more modern feminine products, the guys in charge were still reluctant to acknowledge the products' existence. They were so reluctant that the National Association of Broadcasters banned advertising of sanitary napkins, tampons, and douches until 1972. (9) Today, we are more accustomed to advertisements for feminine products. Unfortunately, we still don’t like to talk about them or our periods.

Menstruation is a big part of a woman’s life. The average woman can have 350 to 450 menstrual periods in her lifetime. (10) Wow! That many periods means we go through a lot of tampons and/or pads. One site estimates that a woman uses almost 17,000 tampons throughout her lifetime. (11)

17,000 tampons. And if you are anything like I used to be, you might wear a tampon and a panty liner, just in case. Let’s stop and ponder the environmental impact of the millions of used tampons and pads floating around our Earth.

One waste consultant estimated “that 6.5 billion tampons and 13.5 billion sanitary pads, plus their packaging, ended up in landfills or sewer systems in 1998. And according to the Center for Marine Conservation, over 170,000 tampon applicators were collected along U.S. coastal areas between 1998 and 1999.” (12) Setting aside the issue of the toxic waste we create by disposing of our sanitary products, consider the environmental impact of the continuous production of disposable products – both the product and the packaging. Not only is there the pollution of the manufacturing process, but there is also the not-so-small matter of the toxins introduced into cotton during the growing process. “No less than 170 insecticides are registered for use on cotton crops[!]” (13) One author predicts that if only one in twenty women chose to switch "to organic tampons, we could eliminate 750,000 pounds of pesticides annually." (14)

In the US, it’s estimated that conventional cotton farms apply about one-third of a pound of chemical fertilizers and pesticides for every pound of cotton harvested. The various chemicals used to treat conventional cotton can harm beneficial insects and soil micro-organisms, pollute ground and surface water, and adversely affect the health of humans and wildlife alike—including fish, birds, and livestock.
Almost half of the chemicals sprayed on global cotton crops annually—an estimated $2 billion worth—are classified as hazardous by the World Health Organization (WHO). Pesticide residues remain in tampons in the form of dioxins and other potentially harmful chemicals. The vaginal walls are made of the most absorbent tissues in the body, so these chemicals are absorbed directly into the blood stream. (15)

That brings me to my second point: the potential health concerns over using disposable feminine products. Aside from the toxins present due to the growing process, tampons can also contain absorbency enhancers, deodorants/fragrances, and chlorine compounds that are used to bleach the cotton. (16) Some of these substances may be carcinogens; others may “cause irritation, allergic reactions and may upset the vagina’s natural microbial balance.” (17)

Tampons also contain rayon, which is a manmade fiber composed of tiny strands of plastic. These fibers may cause “microtears of the vaginal wall when a tampon is inserted or removed, possibly leaving the vagina more susceptible to infection.” (18) And as we all likely know, both tampons and pads can increase your chance of developing a bacterial infection. (19)

As for the menstrual cup?

They are safe. There are no known health related risks to using a cup. (20) They are environmentally friendly: they can last for years, there is nothing to throw away, and they are not disposable (in the sense that tampons and pads are), so the manufacturing process does not have as negative of an impact.

They are cost effective. If you are concerned about your wallet, consider the cost: an average woman will spend approximately $10 each month on disposable feminine products. (21) You can get a menstrual cup for a one-time investment of $20-$30, and it should last you at least a year; some claim that their cups last up to ten years. Let’s say you spend $30 on a menstrual cup that you use for five years – that equals a savings to you of $570 (if you had spent $10/month in the same amount of time). Awesome!

They are comfortable. I’ve used mine for four cycles now, and I don’t notice its presence once I’ve inserted it correctly. (Insertion, by the way, has been my biggest complaint. It is a skill that you perfect over time, but it’s not really complicated.) One complaint many women have about tampons is that they cause overdryness. “More than a quarter of the fluids absorbed by a tampon are, in fact, natural and necessary vaginal secretions.” (22) Because menstrual cups collect, rather than absorb, fluid, you should not experience the feeling of dryness caused by tampons.

They are easy and clean. Menstrual cups hold more fluid than a highly absorbent tampon, so you need to “change” them much less often (normally two to four times on even your heaviest day). All you do when it’s time to change it is (carefully) pop it out, empty the cup into the toilet, give it a rinse (not necessary, but I always do), and reinsert. In between cycles, you should sterilize the cup by boiling it. And because of the secure seal they form, they are more effective than tampons or pads, plus they are perfectly safe for any activity – no leaks. For the record, I also use a thin cloth panty liner, just in case.

There are many menstrual cups to choose from. I use the Diva Cup; the other popular brand in the U.S. is The Keeper, and this Wikipedia page lists several other manufacturers.


I have been so excited to share all of this with you, and if you’ve made it with me this far, (thank you!) there is a possible reward. The makers of Diva Cup are super cool, and they’ve agreed to sponsor a contest. Leave your comment about why you would like to try a Diva Cup. It can be serious, funny, clever, informative, or a straight plea for Diva Cup mercy.
I (and probably an impartial third party) will choose the best comment, and that person will receive a Diva Cup absolutely free! The winner will be chosen on October 1st, so please submit your comment no later than midnight on September 30.
I look forward to reading everyone’s comments. Also, be sure to tune in for an upcoming post on another hush hush topic . . . toilet paper!!

***Be sure to check back on October 1st to see if you are the winner. I'll need to figure out how to contact you so Diva Cup can send you the correct size cup!***

(1) ("The Straight Dope") (quoting Freidman, Nancy, Everything You Must Know About Tampons (1981))
(2) The Straight Dope (citing Delaney, Janice, Lupton, Mary Jane & Toth, Emily, The Curse: A Cultural History of Menstruation (2d ed. 1988))
(3) The Straight Dope (citing Delaney, et al.)
(4) The Straight Dope (quoting Heinrich, Thomas & Batchelor, Bob, Kotex, Kleenex, Huggies: Kimberly-Clark And The Consumer Revolution In American Business (Historical Perspective on Business Enterprise) (2004))
(6) The Straight Dope
(7) ("Wikipedia")
(8) Wikipedia
(9) The Straight Dope
(11) ("E Magazine")
(12) E Magazine
(14) Rogers, Elizabeth & Kostigen, Thomas M., "The Green Book" at 105 (2007) 
(15) ("Green Living") (citing
(16) ("Miacup")
(17) Miacup (citing Armstrong, Liz & Adrienne Scott, "Stop the WhiteWash" (1992), Toronto: The Weed Foundation)
(18) Miacup
(19) Miacup (citing Wroblewski, Sandra Sieler, "Toxic Shock Syndrome" (January 1981), The American Journal of Nursing, vol. 81 (1), pp. 82-85; Neff, Melissa G., "Acute Female Cystitis", US Pharmacist, vol 26 (9))
(20) Wikipedia 
(22) Miacup (citing R. Levin et al., "Absorption of menstrual discharge by tampons inserted during menstruation: quantitative assessment of blood and total fluid content" (July 1986), BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, vol. 93 (7), pp. 765–772)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Kieran never ceases to amaze me. We really don't actively "teach" him much of anything , but he seems to pick it all up (we have actively taught him signs, but now that he's talking we don't focus on new signs like we should).

Tonight he showed me that he could count to 10 all by himself. He can also get most of the way through the alphabet. I'm guessing that he learned to count by playing hide and seek (we count very loudly so he can hear us), and I'm sure he learned the alphabet because we sing it while brushing his teeth.

Of course immediately after he counted to ten, he leaned over and licked the flocked wallpaper in our dining room.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


Today's post is merely to share a few things that have made me smile today.

My sister's boyfriend, Darin, stayed with us last night. He and Tammy are almost as crazy about Kieran as Tom and I are, and we were very excited that he was coming over to visit. We celebrated by taking Kieran to his first miniature golf game, where we got this picture:

Today before Darin left for home (loaded down with leftover pork loin, mashed potatoes, cherry tomatoes from the vine, frozen homemade pancakes, frozen homemade chicken/green chile burritos, and some special things to tuck into Tia Tammy's care package), he and Kieran went out back to play. I got this shot of them blowing bubbles together:


Also, Darin can no longer say that Kieran learned his cheesy smile face from me, as evidenced by this picture:

And finally: Nikki shared a poem today that really made me smile, so I'm passing it along:

God Says Yes to Me
Kaylin Haught

I asked God if it was okay to be melodramatic
and she said yes
I asked her if it was okay to be short
and she said it sure is
I asked her if I could wear nail polish
or not wear nail polish
and she said honey
she calls me that sometimes
she said you can do just exactly
what you want to
Thanks God I said
And is it even okay if I don't paragraph
my letters
Sweetcakes God said
who knows where she picked that up
what I'm telling you is
Yes Yes Yes

I hope you've had your own smiles today, too.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

My Response to Your Comments on Spanking

Thanks for your comments!!  I started to reply with a comment of my own, but it got so long I decided to make it a post instead.

Goodson Family - it is hard to be gentle sometimes. I have recently read about half of Naomi Aldort's book "Raising Our Children Raising Ourselves" and try to keep in mind the simple fact that a lot of my hang-ups and frustrations stem from my own background; they are not Kieran's fault. I'm really trying to practice taking a few deep breaths, stepping back, and letting whatever harsh words I was *going* to say run through my head before responding more gently.

Mindful Life - I love the story about Sofi and Walter. You are doing such a great job mama :)

Mandy - you may not know this, but you've been my inspiration/role model for much of my gentle discipline path. I love watching the way you interact with your kids - it's so obvious how much you love and respect them.

Jill - I do feel spanking is a pretty lazy way out. It takes a heck of a lot more patience and strength to parent gently than it does to be the authoritarian/control figure.

Lilly Rose - isn't it awesome that your girls will someday be the "Brandon" (the one who is "better behaved" ;))?! It could be so easy to see "discipline problems" in the short term and use spanking as a quick fix behavior control, but it's the long term/end result we should all be concerned about.

Abby - thank you :) You are amazing with your daughter!!

Mom - I do think that Grandpa's generation was different in that he might have been more in control of himself, but obviously I don't think spanking is an effective form of discipline regardless. I also think it's really helpful to remember that we can't undo what's been done - we have to remember that our actions leave lasting impressions. Every generation should learn from the previous one, I'm glad that I had you as a teacher.

Rebecca - re: the friends who do different things. I'm working really hard to be in a place where I acknowledge parenting practices that are different from my own as ok for those families (in other words, I'm trying not to be judgmental of different parenting methods). Of course I'd love for everyone to research their parenting philosophies and really use the best things for their families. Spanking, however, is one thing that is not "live and let live" for me. It's abuse, no matter how you look at it. I can't imagine that any decent person could give me valid arguments in favor of spanking. People can argue why they vaccinate according to the CDC schedule, why they use time outs or behavior charts or rewards, why they don't have time or energy to use cloth diapers, etc. But spanking? Whole different ballgame.
And Amelia is such a sweet girl. What an awesome story :)


One more aside, then I'll put the topic to rest for today.

Tammy and I were chatting about this the other day and she said that she hated the "parental right" justification. She said, "well then, does that mean there is a spousal right? Can I beat my spouse because we are married?"  I replied, "funny you should mention that, because there used to be a law that allowed a man to beat his wife, simply because they were married."  So why is it still ok to beat your children?  It's the same thing.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Poor Jack-jow

We are entering the hitting phase. It started a month or so ago, and I cannot wait for it to be over. I've searched several places for help, only to come to the conclusion that hitting seems to be a fairly common part of toddlerhood. I noticed during my reading on the subject, though, that while hitting is a typical phase, the main difference is in how parents react to it.

We are a non-violent family. We do not believe in striking/spanking a child for any reason, just as we wouldn't hit another adult. The studies that have been done on physical punishment are overwhelming in their conclusions that spanking does not work. A blogger I respect compiled a great list of resources on why spanking doesn't work, I'm going to share some of those links along with our reasons for using gentle discipline here, too.

1) It has a detrimental effect on the parent-child relationship. Imagine it from the child's perspective - "mama and/or papa, the most important person in my universe, the one who kisses my booboos, tucks me in, feeds me, bathes me, etc. also chooses to hurt me." It erodes the trust that should be ever present in the parent-child relationship, and gives children lasting memories of pain and heart break. Spanking isn't something that just stays in childhood - both the effects and the memories are forever imprinted on a child's heart and mind.

2) As detailed on this site, spanking can have long lasting effects on a child's (turned adult's) sexual development, brain development, and behavior.

3) Hitting only promotes more hitting (by children and by adults in the form of further and more troublesome abuse) and anger (again, in both children and adults). (The previous link also has a great discussion on why spanking is not biblical. From my upbringing as a Southern Baptist, it makes me ill that any Christian would use Jesus as a justification for striking children. It's also funny to me that there exists an unspoken agreement between spanking churchgoers - I've never heard a pastor preach that violence toward children is part of the path to heaven, but people who believe it sure can point to a few select verses that they *think* support their actions.)

4) Spanking simply doesn't work - it actually tends to increase kids' aggression and misbehavior. So what's the point? And since toddlers/preschoolers haven't even developed impulse control (regardless of whether they've internalized whether a behavior is "right" or "wrong"), spanking just isn't fair. They cannot help themselves! (And let's be honest - teens and even adults sometimes have poor impulse control. Are we going to hit every person who does something we don't approve of? No? Then why hit a defenseless child?)

I have been shocked on more than one occasion out in public when I see a parent strike a child. Too often, it's not only casual (the assault is so ordinary to them that they can do it in front of strangers), but the look on their faces is often one of anger and barely controlled violence. Traditional spanking advocates advise parents not to spank from a place of anger, but when does that ever happen? Anger is the root of spanking a vast majority of the time. And can you imagine how a child perceives the anger twisted onto their parent's face? It must be terrifying.

Anyway - I digress.* Kieran is hitting. And the unfortunate object of his disfavor is usually my sister's cat that we are keeping while she is in Spain for a year. Poor Jack-jow (Jack-jow is Kieran-speak for Jasper) - most of the time he and Kieran are best friends. Kieran is the first one to notice an empty food bowl and make sure I help him fill it, he's constantly going over to give Jasper hugs and kisses and cuddles, he plays with him nonstop . . . and then something clicks and he wants to turn the kitty toy into a kitty whip. "Like a train, Kieran!" is a common phrase in our house - Jasper's kitty stick with feathers attached by a string should always be pulled like a train, instead it is often slicing through the air as an instrument of torture.

Per the above reasons, we refuse to hit our child for hitting. For various other reasons, we aren't planning on using traditional "time-outs" (that's a post for a different day). We've settled on a few different tactics to employ while we ride this phase out.

First and foremost, we are much more vigilant - we try to intercede on Jasper's behalf before anything happens. It can be exhausting, but isn't most of toddlerhood? The same thing goes during play dates - I make sure to watch for signs of frustration and then step in before another child gets walloped.

Along with vigilance is talking about it. We constantly remind Kieran to "use the toy like a train," we explain in plain language why we use gentle touches (hitting is ouch, we like gentle touches, etc.), we talk about Jasper's feelings (or the person's feelings, if he hits someone else), and we help Kieran think of alternatives to hitting ("Kieran, I see you wanted to play with the truck. Let's ask our friend if you can have a turn in two minutes.")

The partner of talking is modeling - we model how to ask for toys/turns, how to use things in a gentle way, how to use gentle hands, etc. 

Those things do the trick, for the most part. If Kieran is especially tired or cranky, they may not. As a last resort, we will have him give us whatever he has hit with (so if he continuously isn't using the kitty toy like a train, we'll ask him to put it up for awhile). Or if he's hitting during a play date and I can't calm him down, we'll move to a different area and play with something new.
And because we're not perfect, we've raised our voices at him; but we're constantly trying to practice a more gentle form of redirection.

Kieran + Jack-jow = BFF (usually)

I hope some of these ideas will help someone else one day when their gentle baby turns into a toddler with a heavy hand. Sometimes the most helpful thing, though, is to remember that "this too shall pass." Things that seem so frustrating in the moment will only be a memory very quickly.

Have a gentle day,

*One more comment about spanking: I understand that discipline techniques are always evolving. I do not condemn the parents of past generations who were taught that spanking was an effective and acceptable form of discipline. I hope that every parent makes educated decisions about how to raise their children in *this* generation. There is no reason to keep making the same mistakes when we now have so much information available to us on the detrimental effects of the practice.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Jedi You Will Be

I saw this picture yesterday and really love it. Tom and I were discussing the best way to caption it, but I am not enamored with any of our suggestions.
Tom: "It should say 'President Obama-Wan Kenobi.'"
Dionna: "No, it should say 'Isn't he dreamy?!'"
Tom: (rolls eyes)
Dionna: "Ok, ok. What about 'Return of the . . .' What's a good word for someone who super kicks butt?"
Tom: "Obama?"
Obviously, we're coming up short. So I'm leaving it up to all of you smart people. Give me your best caption for this picture:

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Roll Over, I'm Crowded!

We have co-slept with Kieran since the beginning. I had a bassinet that I tried to use a few times - he had none of it. Along with breastfeeding, co-sleeping is one of the most convenient things we've done as parents. We have never had to get up in the middle of the night to either make a bottle or leave the bed to tend to a crying baby, and that has been wonderful for our sleep. Now that Kieran is a toddler, however, co-sleeping is becoming more of a challenge.

For some reason, many toddlers have a tendency to flail and spread out in bed.
I am woken up several times each night because I feel Kieran flipping over and kicking Tom, so I wrestle him back over with me. Invariably, Kieran and I both end up crowding Tom by the end of the night, who has to fight for both bed space and the sheet. We have a queen size bed right now, but we have outgrown its usefulness.

Make yourself comfortable, kid!

 Consequently, we have been on the hunt for a king size bed. We think we have it narrowed down to this memory foam bed from Costco, but I hate buying a bed without being able to lie down in it first. If anyone has any experience with NovaForm from Costco, I'm interested in hearing your story. Personally, I wish we could just put another bed down next to ours. We could just have a room full of beds! But Tom is drooling over memory foam.

Why do we continue to co-sleep, you may wonder? Well, for many of the same reasons we started out that way. Here are a few of our reasons:

1) Convenience: like I said before, there was nothing easier than nursing in bed and falling asleep with Kieran. It took me a few months of nursing before I was able to do it in my sleep, but we have it down to a science now. And since we're still nursing to sleep (and many other times each day), it's still convenient to have Kieran in our bed.

2) Bonding: what better way to form a solid attachment to both parents than snuggling up with them every night? I can't tell you the hours Tom and I spent just staring in awe at the little life nestled in bed with us. Along these same lines, Tom can tell you that I hate sleeping without him; my thoughts on Kieran in his own bed are - why would he want to sleep alone either? He's just a little guy! I'm not forcing him into his own bed until he's ready.

3) Health: skin to skin contact is so essential for a new baby; it can act as pain intervention, it can help stabilize heartrate and breathing as well as reduce crying, it is an essential part of establishing a breastfeeding relationship, it completes brain growth/development, and more. I also felt more secure as a new mama having such close contact with my baby.

4) Sleep: all of us have gotten hours more sleep with Kieran in bed. As a baby nurses, the mother produces a special hormone which acts as a sleep aid for both mother and baby. It was easy for us to drift off during breastfeeding! And having Kieran in bed meant never getting up to tend to him when he was sick, wet, or just restless. (For the record, we also do not believe in "crying it out" or "Ferberizing" kids: it is psychologically and physically damaging to babies and is simply disrespectful to babies' needs. This blogger describes my feelings on CIO exactly.) And even though Kieran is in the midst of the toddler nighttime Olympics (a close cousin of the breastfeeding Olympics, by the way), we still get much more sleep than if we had to get up several times a night to go settle him back to sleep in a separate bed. Kieran simply doesn't sleep well on his own - and yes, we envy those parents who have the rare good sleepers. But it is much more common for kids (and adults) to wake up many times each night. (For a really quick lesson on sleep cycles, read pages 41-47 of the No Cry Sleep Solution, available in this Google Book Preview.)

Those reasons have been compelling enough to keep Kieran in the family bed. It may not work for every family, but we are quite happy with it. Well, if happiness includes a toddler's foot in your eye.

Have a restful evening,

Monday, September 14, 2009

My Bookworm

So often in one of my online communities, mamas will ask what books toddler and parents really want to read. I'm going to start a running list, to be updated as we go. For now, here are 10 books that we enjoy on a regular basis:

1) Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You?: Thank you, Auntie Shawna for this one! This was the first Dr. Seuss book that Kieran really loved. It also inadvertently fast forwarded the letter recognition process: one day we realized Kieran recognized most of the sound words from the book (moo, buzz, pop, etc.) when he pointed them out on the inside front/back covers. Who knew?! It definitely helped him become fascinated with letters.

2) If You Give a Mouse a Cookie: I was really excited Kieran liked this one. I used to read this book my preschool class, so I wasn't sure if he'd be ready for it - he is! It's a fun book of silly "consequences."

3) Doctor Dan the Bandage Man: My mom surprised me last year with a copy of several classic Golden Books that I had loved as a child - this was number one on the list. Tom makes fun of me because I often have to change wording in books to align with my parenting/life philosophies (bottles become mama's milk, firemen become firefighters, etc.), this is one of them. (Ok, for those who will ask - when Dan hurts his finger, he cries and runs to his mama. His mama says "Dan, that is nothing to cry about!" I change it to "Dan's mama gave him a kiss and said, 'here let me help make you feel better!'" Per my Toddler Commandments post (#2), I hesitate to minimize Dan's feelings by telling him he's crying over nothing. Let the making-fun-of commence!)

4) Sometimes I Like to Curl Up in a Ball: not only is this a really cute story, but it's got wonderful illustrations. It's one of several that we've checked out from the library for months at a time, and we need to just buy our own copy. The star of the book is a spunky little wombat - Kieran likes to mimic the wombat's actions, and he loves to point out the detail of the other Australian (I assume) animals.

5) Biscuit books: these are actually easy reader books - they are meant for kids who are just learning to read. Kieran just likes the dog and the simple stories; he can "tell" most of the stories from memory. The one we have next to the bed that gets read daily is Biscuit Takes A Walk. Any book with a family member in it is a favorite in our house - Biscuit Takes A Walk is about a grandpa. Kieran alternately tells me that it is either about "Grandpa Hat" (my dad who always wears a hat) or "Grandpa Motorcycle" (Tom's dad who owns a motorcycle). The other family member favorite book is called "My Grandma and I." We also read that one at nap/bed times.

6) Llama Llama, Red Pajama: since I'm on the subject, his favorite "mama" book is this one by Anna Dewdney. It's got great verse, and it's another one that Kieran likes to act out while we are reading it (particularly the part that says "Baby Llama stomps and pouts, Baby Llama jumps and shouts"). It's also on the list of "books we've kept too long from the library and just need to cough up the money for."

7) Green Eggs and Ham, One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, and Hop on Pop: three Seuss favorites that Kieran could have read over and over. These bad boys are LONG, so I try to limit them to one or two readings a day. On a side note, Kieran is a sensitive boy - there are several books that I either have to skip pages or take time to soothe him when we get to a problem page, because he tends to get overly emotional. Hop on Pop has a page where a boy bites a tiger's tail - he doesn't like that at all. My Grandma and I (mentioned in #5) has a page where a boy falls off his bike and cries - Kieran "fake cries" every single time we get there, and I have to stop and say something about how the grandma gives him hugs and kisses. Ah, toddlers.

8) Caps for Sale: this is another one that I loved as a child and I purchased it for half-selfish reasons. Tom teases me relentlessly for it, but he also does really funny voices for the peddler when he reads it.

9) Boynton and Carle: I couldn't pick just one book by either of these authors. Boynton's verse is awesome - we particularly like Barnyard Dance and The Belly Button Book. She's a really fun read. Carle has trippy pictures, but Kieran loves his books, especially The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See?

10) Goodnight Moon: ah, Goodnight Moon. My mom and I started to calculate the number of times I've read this book in the last year or so. It's the last book we read as Kieran is nursing to sleep at nap and bed times, and I usually read it 3 times each time before he's out. He's just now transitioning to one nap/day, and I started reading this book when he was not yet a year old. So let's do a conservative estimate - 9 times/day since he was 12 months old . . . I've read this book almost 2500 times in the last 9 months. Just so you know, Kieran *just* ripped the back binding off last week, so we're in need of our second copy. That's pretty good for a book read that many times! It is a nice way to drop off to sleep though (I've fallen asleep reading it many times!) - she put lots of "shhhhhhh" sounds in, so you can shush your little one to sleep within the verse.

And now it is time for me to go read a little Goodnight Moon to myself. Goodnight, noises everywhere!


Friday, September 11, 2009

Monsters, Inc.

In the relatively small amount of time I get to myself, I've taken up a new hobby - sewing. Yes, it is true. Tom bought me a sewing machine last year, and I've slowly been learning how to use it. I decided to make something fun for Kieran this past spring, and several people have encouraged me to make more with the end goal of selling them.
Here is Kieran modeling the set I made for him.
This is a 24 month Gerber onesie - it fits him confortably now (he is 21 months), 
but he has some added bulk from his cloth diapered bottom.
It's taken me several months, but below is the first set of my one of a kind Teensy Meansy* dolls and shirts/onesies. I'm considering opening an Etsy shop, but I can't get enough "stock" ready to make it look like a real shop! Maybe I can sell a few on here instead.
*The Teensy Meansy name is subject to change. That's the best I could come up with on short notice, and I'm not really in love with it.
The face on the t-shirt is not embroidered on, I just laid it on there to show you what it would look like. I made 3 faces to match, so you  could buy 3 shirts in different sizes (for friends, siblings, or to grow into!). I'd also break them up if someone wanted only a shirt. I don't think I have a red recycled tshirt right now (I could be wrong though) - but if someone wanted me to make another doll to match, we could work something out.
Here are the descriptions I started to write for Etsy:
Teensy Meansy Onesies/Shirts - $15.00 (+ shipping if applicable)
*$5.00 discount if you buy more than one item!
It’s true that only a mother could love some of the Teensy Meansy faces that grace our onesies or t-shirts, but we think they are so scary they’re cute! I will hand-embroider the face onto a onesie or t-shirt (please specify a size and style).
Teensy Meansy faces are handmade from two layers of recycled t-shirts (machine sewn – turned and top-stitched) and felt. I fuse and then hand-embroider the eyes and mouth on, and then do the same thing when attaching the face to the shirt. (At your request, I can finish it off by putting interfacing on the back). 
You may consider laundering your Teensy Meansy garment in a lingerie bag and/or washing it on a more delicate cycle. While I construct the faces so that they are sure to stay put, a little caution can’t hurt. Each recycled t-shirt is pre-washed, checked for holes/stains/tears, and ships to you from our cat/fish friendly and smoke-free home. 
Onesies and t-shirts are brand new and made of 100% cotton. I prewash and dry them before attaching the faces, so they may have shrunk from their original size. 
*Please select a onesie or t-shirt and specify long or short sleeve. At this time, I am offering white Gerber brand long or short sleeve onesies/t-shirts or Hanes short sleeve t-shirts. I would not recommend sizes under 12 months or over a youth small. I would be happy to use a shirt that you ship me (you pay shipping) – I will even give you a $3.00 discount on the price.
Teensy Meansy Dolls - $15.00 (+ shipping if applicable)

Teensy Meansy dolls are handmade from two layers of recycled t-shirts (machine sewn except for a small opening I leave to stuff the doll with Poly-fil, then hand-stitched shut - this leaves a cute little "scar" on the doll's side); the doll’s features are made of felt. I fuse and then hand-embroider the eyes and mouth on. Dolls are approximately 7 inches tall, and each one is unique. 
You may consider laundering your Teensy Meansy Doll in a lingerie bag and washing it on a more delicate cycle before letting it air dry. Each recycled t-shirt is pre-washed, checked for holes/stains/tears, and ships to you from our cat/fish friendly and smoke-free home. 
Interested in being my first customer? Hmmmmm? :)
If you give me a better name than "Teensy Meansy" I'll give you a 10% discount. For life! ;)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

This Is How Our Cookie Crumbles

I have searched for some time for the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe. To date, I haven't found my ideal cookie - at least one that is just plain ole' chocolate chips. I did, however, stumble upon a really close second best. The recipe I found was for pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, but I've added a few things to make them loaded with ooey gooey goodness.
Another benefit of these cookies? You can make a double batch and freeze half. The dough I used today was out of the freezer, and the cookies are just as tasty. I pulled it out because we had a new mama friend and her 2 year old daughter come over for a play date this afternoon, so I baked to impress. (They loved them!)
Kieran loves to help me cook, and baking cookies is a great way to let him work on measuring, pouring, and stirring skills. Baking is also a mini-science lesson for kids - it's so interesting to see what the cookies look like before and after they are baked. I do have to hide the cookies after they are baked though, because Kieran will melt into a sobbing heap if he sees them and can't have one. They really are that good.


Yay, cookies! Mama rocks!

I think I'll take this one.

Here he is saying "mmmmm!"

I could eat these all day!

One tip - the cookies are very cake-like due to the pumpkin, so I never completely close the lid on their container; otherwise, they get kind of soggy. And without further ado, here is the recipe:
Pumpkin (Oatmeal, Cranberry, & Coconut) Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 cups flour (I use half wheat, half white; I slightly overmeasure the flour, oats, baking soda, and cinnamon)
1 1/2 cups oats (quick or regular, either works)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup sugar (I tend to use 1/2 to 3/4 cup though)
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 15 oz can of pumpkin
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup cranberries (raisins would work too)
3/4 cup shredded coconut
(You could also add flaxseed meal, nutmeg, and/or nuts.)

Combine flour, oats, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. In a separate bowl, cream butter then gradually add sugars, beating until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla to the wet mixture, mix well. Alternate additions of dry ingredients and pumpkin, mixing well with a spoon after each addition (if you over-beat with a hand mixer, your cookies will not rise as well - that's true for any cookie!). Stir in chocolate chips, cranberries, coconut. I use a cookie dough scoop to drop heaping spoonfuls onto an ungreased baking sheet. Bake 12-15 minutes at 350 degrees until firm and lightly browned.

If you have the perfect CCC recipe, please share it!