Friday Inspiration

October 31, 2014

Stop wishing start doing
If there’s a quote that guides the life coaching I do, this might be it — or at least this is a big one. So many of us wish something were different in our lives, but get stuck in the wishing and don’t get around to the actual doing. I’m guilty of this myself; I think it’s part of the human condition.

When you allow someone else to begin holding you accountable for what you say you want, you usually discover two things: What’s really holding you back, and whether your wishes are actually true aspirations or simply fantasies and distractions. It’s amazing how many of our wishes fall into that latter category.

I think you can be a do-er and a dreamer at the same time. But no dream will amount to anything without action. It can be scary; but it need not be overwhelming: You can slowly move past your fears and towards something you really want in small steps.

What are you wishing would happen and what’s holding you back? Does this quote give you a little kick in the butt?

Image via Pinterest

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Internet Menagerie

October 30, 2014

Milkweed

It’s time for a trip around the web! Should be something for everyone here. Please share your own finds in the comments — I’d love to hear about them.

  • When Veronika Scott was criticized for giving coats to the homeless, here’s what she did. (via This Blew My Mind)
  • I agree with this take on the “potty-mouth princesses” video making the rounds. (Verily)

 Image: Zoe Saint-Paul

 

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I first heard the term “Elimination Communication” (EC) after talking with others about the lack of diapers in countries like Ethiopia, and how parents and caregivers in developing countries handle potty training. It left me wanting to talk with parents who use this method in their parenting here in North America. In this fourth installment of my series Parenting Against the Grain, I talk with Indira Flores, a Canadian mom who agreed to share her experience using EC with her daughter. Hope you find it as interesting as I did!   Flores Family

Zoe Saint-Paul: Welcome, Indira! Please tell us a little bit about you and your family.

Indira Flores: Our family currently comprises my husband Shawn, our 14-month-old daughter Aurora, and me. We live in Ottawa, Canada’s capital, where Shawn works as a civil engineer and I’m on (extended) maternity leave from my federal government job. It’s very “Ottawa” of us, as a huge chunk of Canada’s public servants are housed here. Shawn and I met through mutual friends about seven years ago near the end of university. Our favorite hobby is eating out — in fact, at this moment I’m in Syracuse visiting a waffle restaurant that was featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives!

ZSP: Elimination Communication (EC) isn’t something most people have heard of. Can you explain what it is?

IF: In short, it’s giving your baby the opportunity to go in the potty instead of in his or her diaper, right from infancy. At the beginning, you observe your baby to learn what signals he gives when he needs to go (some babies cry, others squirm, for example) and as he grows, you try to work with that so that you take him to the potty in time to catch his pees and poos.

The aim is to make your baby aware that you’re trying to meet his need to potty so that he doesn’t have to soil himself. For example, newborns cry when they have a need, and parents react by feeding them, holding them, or changing their diapers. As a result, babies learn that, when they cry, mommy or daddy will come to their aid. What if, before putting on a new diaper, you held your baby over a receptacle/sink/toilet and gave her a chance to pee or poo, with an encouraging “pssss” sound or grunt to boot? It’s an EC parent’s hope that, by repeating this behavior, the baby will eventually hold on for a bit and, instead, communicate (a.k.a. fuss) until they’re taken to the potty. As the child grows and their communication skills improve, so will the process.

Aurora At Music Class
ZSP: How did you discover EC, and why did you choose to practice it in your parenting?

IF: I was early to an appointment with my midwife and began perusing her group’s lending library. As a first-time parent-to-be, the words “Diaper-Free Baby” jumped out at me. I borrowed the book and also did some googling. EC really made sense to me. Prior to that, I hadn’t given this aspect of baby care much thought; I saw myself stocking up on disposable diapers, and that was it. But discovering that little humans do have some control over their systems, I couldn’t stand the idea of my baby basically resigning herself to going in her diaper all the time simply because mom and dad weren’t responding to her. So that’s what triggered it: The idea that, from birth to around two years old, a child is conditioned to go in his diaper. Then “potty-training” is started, where you try to reverse what you’ve been teaching your child his entire life.

In addition, as a Canadian mom, I was afforded a year of (almost fully) paid maternity leave. As such, I had to make the most of it. Not in the sense of martyring myself, but exploring motherhood and trying out different things with my little one. So basically, I had all the time in the world to take my infant daughter to her little potty every 15 minutes as we tried out this EC thing.

ZSP: What does EC look like on a daily basis in your home? Are there set times you place your daughter on the potty? Or are you just trying to notice her need to go and respond from day to day? 

IF: It’s a combination, really. As soon as Aurora wakes up, we take her to the bathroom. Now that she’s 14 months, we don’t always have to take her immediately. Like clockwork, she tends to starts fussing halfway through her breakfast,  so then I take her to the bathroom. Then we go back to the kitchen and finish eating.

If we have anywhere to go, like the library or a coffee shop, I take her to the bathroom just before leaving the house. Depending on the travel time, I’ll take her again upon arrival or about 40 minutes since she last went. I seem more aware of her needs when we are out and about. Throughout the day, if I hear the slightest grunt — we quickly learned that this was the signal for her — I take her to the bathroom and she poops. Sometimes I’m on the money; sometimes not.

Finally, we take her right before bed. If she takes more than 20 minutes to fall asleep or she starts babbling a lot, we either take her to the bathroom again or find ourselves with another wet diaper. Once she’s asleep, we’re good until the following morning. On occasion, we might feel her moving a lot in her sleep. When that happens, either Shawn or I take a sleepy little girl to the bathroom. She pees and then we bring her back to bed, put her diaper on and she continues to sleep peacefully.

Little Potty
ZSP: How about when you’re traveling? Does practicing EC curtail your plans?

IF: Our first long-distance trip was to Montreal when she was eight months old. I found it a bit stressful: On the way there, she started shrieking at one point, and I had a feeling it was because she had to potty. The next pit stop was a long way off, so we ended up pulling over to the side of the road so that she could go in a little potty we packed. Our next trip was a four-hour road trip, but by then she was almost a year old, and I was more confident. We also gave ourselves more time, stopping at nearly every Tim Horton’s along the way. Remarkably, Aurora seems to be able to hold it better when we’re out, whereas at home she has no problems peeing in her diaper. It might be a combination of her being more relaxed at home and me tending to be more alert to her when we are out.

ZSP: Does EC look different from family to family? You mention your daughter wears diapers… does she wear them all the time? Are there EC-practicing parents whose children don’t wear diapers, or only wear them at certain times? 

IF: Yes, families practice EC differently. I have Aurora in cloth diapers most of the day and night. I’d read that cloth was a great option because babies feel when they go, so it helps condition them to avoid going in their diapers. We live in an apartment and have a thick rug in the living room, so if there was an accident, it would limit our roaming possibilities. We also co-sleep and don’t have another bed for the three of us, so the inherent risk of going diaper-free at night is not appealing.

Some parents do some diaper-free time at home and even have their baby pants-less at home. (If we had a backyard, I’m sure I would have tried it out with Aurora this past summer.) Especially when they’re newborns, you can lay them on a few towels and observe their reactions just before they pee or poo. As they get mobile, this does come with its share of accidents, so it’s not something I chose to do. I do notice a lot of parents looking for suggestions on where to purchase tiny underwear to use on their young toddlers (12- or 15-month-olds).

I’d like to add that Elimination Communication is something that can be done on a very part-time basis, especially for parents who work outside of the home full-time and/or have other children to juggle. EC can seem extreme, but the goal isn’t to potty-train, and you’re not judged on your catches and misses; it’s the communication between caregiver and child that matters. So whatever time you can dedicate to this is great, be it a few hours a week or a weekend day.

ZSP: How has EC affected your relationship with your daughter? With your spouse? What have you learned as a parent from practicing it?

IF: It’s hard to say, since I don’t know anything different. I thought it was amazing that she would sleep all night as an infant without wetting her diaper, and as soon as she was up, I would take her to the potty and she would pee. As I mentioned earlier, occasionally there are nights when she starts tossing and turning so one of us gets up, takes her to the potty, and then she pees and falls right back asleep. So she communicates her needs one way or another, which I find fascinating.

I lovingly heckle my husband because although he never opposed it, he thought EC was a bit odd when I brought it up. During my pregnancy, he would joke that he wouldn’t be changing diapers. I was surprised that he didn’t object to it and he won my heart over (again!) by simply adding a trip to the potty to the diaper-changing routine.

Aurora and Dadi
ZSP: What kind of reaction have you received from extended family members and friends? How have you responded to any critics?

IF: We are the first in our group of friends to become parents, so they had no preconceived notions about EC; not to mention that they’re great friends who don’t cast judgment on such things. Our parents were supportive, too — the grandmas especially. We’ve been lucky, as the Facebook forum to which I subscribe has a few moms who have spouses who don’t cooperate and family members who even ridicule the process. Not cool.

Others think we’re potty-training her and are very impressed, so I make sure to clarify that I continue to change at lot of wet diapers during the day. She’s not quite potty-trained yet, and moreover, that isn’t the point of EC. The goal is to try and meet your child’s need to relieve himself, outside of his diaper.

ZSP: What’s the toughest part of practicing EC? Do you recommend it to everyone, or is it very much an individual thing?

IF: EC-ing an infant is time-consuming. Shawn and I would get frustrated (and still do sometimes) when Aurora would wet another diaper after just taking her to the potty six minutes earlier. But then your baby grows, your trips are less frequent, and you suddenly realize you haven’t changed a poopy diaper in months. I’m very happy that we took this route, especially since I’ve only changed a few dirty diapers since we started practicing EC.

One thing I have on my mind is Aurora’s future transition from EC to being potty-trained. Currently, the onus is on us to take her to the potty. She isn’t signaling as strongly as we expected by this point. But parents of 18-month-olds say there can be setbacks due to teething, growth spurts, you name it. Even kids over two can “regress.” I try to take it all in stride, as sooner or later she will do it all, much like we did, much like everyone does.

Aurora and Mami

ZSP: Why would a parent want to practice EC if they feel they’re otherwise attentive to their child’s needs? Are there specific advantages to it, in your opinion? 

IF: Simply because it’s one of a child’s needs — like his need to eat and sleep. Babies going in diapers is such a norm now that parents will watch their babies make their “poop face,” and then proceed to change their diapers. It’s kind of face-palm inducing. Don’t get me wrong: I’m happy diapers are so readily available, and I have depended on their convenience. Sometimes it’s simply not possible to take your little one to the bathroom in time and they can’t hold it for hours like adults can. But the reliance we have on diapers has gone overboard. Twelve-hour absorbency protection? Shudder. When an adult needs to go, he pulls himself out of bed and goes to the bathroom, but a baby’s nighttime fussing goes ignored, letting him soil himself and sleep in it. I know parents need their sleep, but it’s not a shortcut I’m comfortable with.

EC has many advantages besides building the communication between parents and children: It helps babies familiarize themselves with going to the bathroom so they see it as a normal part of life. It’s also hygienic: They go, you wipe them, and because they’re small enough, you can even wash their bum over the sink and dry it off with a towel. It’s environmentally friendly, because you either send less disposable diapers to the landfill or you reduce your cloth diaper laundry. It’s a great health indicator, because you’re very aware of how much your child has pooped, whether the consistency is normal, or if they’re having any issues. In our case, there is no need for a swim diaper during lessons because we’re confident that she won’t poop all of a sudden. There are so many advantages to EC, whether you practice full-time or on occasion. I encourage all parents to give it a try!

Aurora at Park
ZSP: Do you think EC will be the next big trend in “natural” parenting?

IF: I don’t see it happening anytime soon. It’s a big commitment and not for everyone. I couldn’t picture myself attempting this with child number three during a much shorter maternity leave, but my daughter has never had a case of diaper rash on her bum or a urinary tract infection — and so, for health reasons alone, I will do my best to follow through with future children. I hope the next big trend in parenting will be to take your baby to the potty first thing in the morning and before putting them in a new diaper. That would definitely be a game-changer!

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A big thanks to Indira for sharing her experience with Elimination Communication! I”m so glad to know more about it. Friends, have you practiced EC or would you ever consider it?

PS — If you enjoyed this interview, be sure to check out the first three in this series:The Modern Nomads, Going Furniture-Free, and Taking a Family Sabbatical.

Images: Indira Flores

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Friday Inspiration

October 24, 2014

Love is friendship set on fire.
This quote reminds me of my relationship with B. We met as colleagues, became close friends and confidantes, and then one day it dawned on us that something more was going on. It was a surprise to both of us; on paper, at least, we really weren’t each others’ “type.” But love is a crazy thing.

Romantic relationships and marriages come into being in all kinds of ways. Most begin with attraction, and then, over time, a friendship develops. But there are some cases, like ours, when it begins with a friendship, and that leads to an attraction you can no longer ignore.

The best marriages, in my view, are those rooted in friendship. Through the joys, sorrows, struggles, and peaks, it’s what grounds and sustains you as life partners. Of course, keeping the fire burning is important, and you need to put energy there, but it’s the bonds of deep, romantic friendship that get you through the good times and the bad.

Speaking of love, I’ll be witnessing and celebrating the marriage of one of my closest friends today! My job is to be a helpful matron of honor and try not to get too weepy. I was up too late last night thinking about my toast. I’ve got the champagne packed and the bride’s favorite chocolate,  and I look forward to dancing the night away with B and the girls. (I definitely hope to Instagram some of the fun over the weekend!)

So here’s to love and loving friendship. Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you back here on Monday!

Image via Pinterest

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Pumpkin Bread Pudding

October 23, 2014

by Margaret Cabaniss

pumpkin_bread_pudding
Just about this time last year, I posted a roundup of every pumpkin-related recipe that had ever appeared on SlowMama — and even a few that hadn’t. There was one recipe missing from that list, though — one of my fall-time favorites — and the fact that I left it out has been nagging me ever since. So this fall I decided it deserved its own post: pumpkin bread pudding.

I came around to bread pudding pretty late in life: It had always struck me leaden and dense and generally unappealing (plus it usually had raisins in it, to which I am morally opposed). I have no idea if this recipe is like other bread puddings, but this bread pudding is like heaven: It’s custardy but not too heavy, really more like a pumpkin-flavored version of baked French toast — which means that this dessert is totally approved for breakfast use. You’re welcome.

Best of all, it’s dead easy to make: Mix the wet ingredients, pour it over cubed bread, and bake. I use this recipe from Gourmet magazine, but usually with Deb’s tweaks at Smitten Kitchen (she uses less cream but adds bourbon, which is why I love her).

But the trick to taking this recipe right over the top, I think, is serving it with a salted caramel sauce. Again, I like Deb’s recipe, and it’s hardly more work than the bread pudding itself — something you can whip up while dessert (or breakfast!) is in the oven. By a stroke of luck, I happen to have a jar of caramel sauce ready in the fridge; now all I need is the bread pudding. I think I’ll be making it this weekend to properly ring in the season.

What fall-time baking have you been up to lately? Any recipes that officially kick off the season for you?

Image: Romulo Yanes for Gourmet

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Do You Juice?

October 22, 2014

Juicing
It’s no secret that I love my Vitamix and the smoothies we make with it, but my first love was juicing. We juice a lot as a family: Our trusty Omega Juicer above is a mere 17 years old — my husband splurged for it long before we met, and it still works great. (I think we’ve only had to replace the blade once.)

I make whole food juices in the Vitamix every day for myself and the girls. I usually don’t follow recipes and just make things up as I go, depending on what I’ve got on hand. I use bananas a lot as a base, and avocados are a great thickener. I find pineapple and mango add a lot of sweetness, and when I use frozen fruit and berries I don’t need to add any ice. I’m always looking for ways to sneak more greens into my girls’ diet, so I often throw in a small handful of spinach or kale; if the juice is sweet enough, they never know the difference. (Except when it turns a green or brownish color, and then my secret is out.)

Carrots are another common base, and I love adding beets since their juice is so sweet, and they’re known to improve blood pressure – plus it turns juice such an amazing color! You can never go wrong with adding apples, either, which sweeten any recipe. I like to toss in a little ginger, too, which helps with digestion before or after a meal.

S and H generally enjoy the same juices we do, though predictably they prefer sweeter drinks rather than savory ones. On a warm day recently, B made a super simple juice that the girls loved:

The Best Lemonade

  • juice of 3 apples
  • 1 full lemon

Told you it was simple! This is the freshest and yummiest lemonade, and with no added sugar — win-win.

Juicing is a great way to add extra nutrients to your family’s diet, and I’ve found it particularly helpful during periods of fasting, as well as for various kinds of cleanses. For maximum benefit, it’s best to drink any fresh juice immediately after making it — that way you get the live enzymes — but it can still taste good a few hours later, or even the next day, depending on the juice. (I find whole-food juices don’t keep as well overnight.)

For newbies, I always recommend starting with very simple recipes; it doesn’t take much to make a delicious fresh juice. Plus, these days there are so many juice bars where you can sample different combinations and then experiment  at home. I’ve done that on many occasions.

I’d love to know: Do you juice? Any favorite recipes to share? And do you have a preference when it comes to a juicer or blender? Since our Omega still works so well and we have a Vitamix, we haven’t researched the latest equipment, but I know there are some pretty amazing juicers out there these days — these juicers at Williams-Sonoma, for example, are pretty drool-worthy.

Image: Zoe Saint-Paul

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Hiring a Babysitter

October 21, 2014

My Girls
In the two years that S and H have been home, we’ve never left them with a babysitter — except with a friend from church who used to come occasionally on Friday afternoons last spring so I could go upstairs for two hours and get some paid work done. The girls already knew and liked her, though, so it was never a big deal.

During our first year home, I made sure no one else took care of the girls but B and me, but as we began to emerge from our attachment-focused cocoon, I started to leave the girls for an hour or two with close friends here and there, or with my mother-in-law when she was visiting. A stranger was out of the question, though, and I’d still be uncomfortable leaving them with someone I didn’t know.

Still, there will come a day when we’ll need to find and hire a babysitter for one reason or another, and I’ve often thought about the best way to go about it. The toughest part always seems to be locating potentially great people — and then there’s the screening process. Joanna Goddard at Cup of Jo posted eight questions she asks potential babysitters, and I think it’s a handy guide, whether you’re seeking someone to help for an occasional night out or hiring for a full-time nanny position. The best advice, of course, is always to follow your gut: Just like with dating or friendship, you and your kids should ultimately click with your sitter.

How have you handled babysitters in your family? Have you found great people you trust? Do your kids spend a lot of time with babysitters, or none at all? And what’s your favorite question to ask a potential sitter?

Image: Zoe Saint-Paul

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Friday Inspiration

October 17, 2014

Quote about Positive Thoughts

I had high hopes that motherhood would turn me into a morning person, but alas. Which means, many mornings I hit the ground running, already feeling behind. I don’t like starting the day feeling rushed and stressed so I try to pause, even for just a few moments, to pray and breathe and think about my attitude towards the day. Even when I’m running late, taking that little bit of time gives me greater calm as I rise to meet the tasks that await me.

It would be great to have 20 or 30 minutes in the morning to do this — and occasionally, I manage it – but many of us just don’t get that much time. I liked this quote for that reason; it’s a reminder that something as simple as one positive thought can brighten your entire day.

Do you take time in the morning for meditation, prayer, journaling, or some kind of intention-setting? Do you find it makes a difference in your day?

Happy weekend, friends! I’ll see you back here early next week.

Image: Huffington Post

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Helicopters
We’ve talked here before about “helicopter” parenting, and this week I spotted the first article that claims it’s actually not just an American phenomenon but prevalent  in many other western societies who have a robust middle class.

Pamela Druckerman, who wrote Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting, calls it “hyper-parenting” and says in her New York Times piece that the best cure is not to eradicate it but to “reign in its excesses and keep it from getting worse,” proposing 11 tips for modern parents to try. I agree with most of them, though take issue with her advice to not be concerned about over-scheduling: With all the studies out there now about the importance of unstructured time for children’s creativity and well-being, I’m surprised at her take on that.

Mostly, though, I wish she had written more about why she thinks hyper-parenting is so common these days, beyond the fact that many of us marry and have children later in life, making us “richer and more grateful.” To me, the reasons seem complex. A big one in my book is that we have fewer children today in the West — and that changes parenting dramatically. You can’t hyper- or helicopter parent when you’ve got more than a few kids. (Just ask my mother.)

It also seems to me that, for all the books written and information out there, most of us are still pretty clueless about child development. Even though I had a graduate degree in counseling psychology, it wasn’t until I was preparing to adopt that I really came to understand a lot more about healthy child development, including what’s “appropriate” at various stages and what can interfere with or enhance a child’s development. I’m far from an expert, but I wince when I hear parents say that their toddlers need more “socialization,” for example, or any of a number of other tips from the “experts” that don’t take these issues into account.

I’m not really bashing modern parenting, though. I think there’s a lot to be said for the concerns and dedication of today’s parents: They care, and they take parenting very seriously. The answer may be to keep that focus on the well-being of our kids but work on parenting them in a way that fosters their development first, rather than operating from a place of fear. That requires some self-examination and courage, because we all have fears as parents and want the very best for our children.

Any thoughts about what causes hyper-parenting and how to put the brakes on it?

Image via etsy

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DIY: How to Make Lip Balm

October 15, 2014

by Kate Newton

Lip Balm Favors
When I hosted my last brunch for a group of my girlfriends, I decided to make grapefruit lip balms as a party favor. I first saw these lip balms on SouleMama last year. I decided to use her directions but tweaked them a bit, leaving out the lipstick and using less essential oil. I chose grapefruit essential oil (instead of peppermint) since I was throwing a citrus themed brunch, but a slew of different oils could work.

These were a cinch to make – except for the tins; those were hard to track down. But I now know there are many bath and body care online companies that deliver quickly: Mountain Rose Herbs is a great place to start for U.S. residents, and for Canucks like me, I recommend Voyageur Soap and Candle. They’re super helpful and carry a wide selection of products.

Just thinking about all the possible flavors and scents here make me tempted to do another batch. I still have all the ingredients; just need to order more of those darn tins!

Lip Balm Ingredients

So here’s what you’ll need and how to do it:

Supplies

  • Double boiler or saucepan and heatproof bowl
  • Large bowl
  • Spatula
  • ½ oz tins
  • Round stickers to fit tins

Ingredients

  • 8 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 3 Tbsp beeswax *
  • 1.5 Tbsp raw honey
  • 25-30 drops of desired essential oil

*I’m going to admit something embarrassing here: I made a little mistake with my first attempt at these: I thought I could switch up paraffin wax with beeswax. Don’t do this! You’ll waste a whole batch of lip balm when you realize that beeswax and paraffin wax are two totally different substances. Live and learn.

Directions

First, set up your tins (lids off) on some paper towel close to your stove for easy access.

Lip Balm Containers
Using a double boiler or a small saucepan and heatproof bowl, stir the oil, beeswax, and honey over low heat until completely melted. I found chopping the beeswax into smaller pieces helped it melt faster. This entire step will take about 5-10 minutes. (Side note: I bought a large heatproof bowl for a dollar at the local Salvation Army because I didn’t want to use my regular kitchen bowls. I figured I’d use it again for more making other body care products — which I already have — so it was a dollar well spent, I think.)

Making Lip Balm
While the ingredients are melting, fill another large bowl with cold water (I put in some ice to make sure it was really cold) and set it aside. Once all of your ingredients are melted, take your bowl off the stove and mix in the essential oil. Set this bowl into the large bowl of cold water and stir quickly but gently, until the mixture thickens up a bit (about 30 seconds). Working quickly but carefully – you don’t want to spill any of your precious mixture! – fill all of your empty tins.

Filling Lip Balm Containers
Fill them right to the top of the tin. I didn’t do this for all of them at first, and once the lip balm sets, you can’t correct it. They look much better if they’re filled to the brim.

Put the lip balms aside to set for at least an hour, then put on the lids. Top with your label stickers, and voila! You’ve made some yummy, natural lip balm.

Finished Lip Balm
This stuff feels great on the lips — and I think my brunch guests all agreed. They would be perfect for little holiday gifts or for a fall or winter party coming up!

Images: Kate Newton 

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