No-Toxins
Stuffed Giraffe Magic Cabin

   

 


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Summer 2012


 

















Sunday
Jul082012

Letting Kids Be Kids In An Era of Barbies & Bratz

by Avital Norman Nathman 

photo: sabrina helas

Last summer, Anne G. Sabo and her family were enjoying a local public pool in their southern Minnesota neighborhood, when she was approached by a staff member who instructed her to cover up her three year old daughter, who had been splashing around sans bathing suit top. Sabo was taken aback, wondering why her toddler, who had nothing more to cover up than the little boy playing next to her, was being targeted by the pool’s staff. In a letter to the editor which was published in her hometown’s paper, Sabo took the pool’s staff to task for essentially sexualizing her little girl, and effectively creating scandal where there was none: 

“Giving young girls the message that they need to cover up even before they show any signs of breast development is to perpetuate our culture’s warped attitudes to young girls’ bodies and sexuality. We have the opportunity and responsibility as parents and as a public to support our community’s girls to feel comfortable with their budding bodies.” 

Fueled by this experience, Sabo has since written much more on the topic of sexualization and young girls, and she’s certainly not alone. From parents to experts, more attention has been given to just how and why our society has allowed for the sexualization of young girls to occur so brazenly. 

The American Psychological Association (APA) understands just how serious the situation is, and has created a task force to study it. Their report goes into exact detail about what exactly sexualization of girls is, and how both parents and girls can combat it. According to the APA, sexualization is set apart from the notion of healthy sexuality, and must be differentiated as such, since the consequences and results of sexualization can be severe. The APA notes that sexualization occurs when: 

●  a person’s value comes only from his or her sexual appeal or behavior, to the exclusion of other characteristics;

●  a person is held to a standard that equates physical attractiveness (narrowly defined) with being sexy;

●  a person is sexually objectified—that is, made into a thing for others’ sexual use, rather than seen as a person with the capacity for independent action and decision making; and/or

●  sexuality is inappropriately imposed upon a person. 

Find yourself in a kids’ clothing store and you will be confronted with mini skirts and push-up bikini tops that would feel more at home in the adult section of a department store. Flip on the television and odds are you will land on shows aimed at kids that portrays girls (fairies, princesses, etc...) with come-hither, “bedroom” eyes, hyper-sexualized body types, and clothing that seems more fit for the club than a cartoon. Browse through the toy aisle and find yourself faced with Bratz and Monster High dolls, pink purses with lipstick, cell phones, and credit cards. Taken individually, each of these things might cause frustration, anger, or an eye-roll or two. But together? They are symptomatic of a much larger, systemic problem within our society. 

One woman is who taking the challenge of sexualization head on is Melissa Wardy, founder of Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies, an online store and blog that focuses on “redefining childhood.” After navigating life with two young children, Wardy found herself exasperated at the messages being made about and for children, especially girls, that were only compounded by the lack of actual choices when it came to things like clothing, toys, and media. Since starting her company in 2009, Wardy has actively worked to provide alternatives to things like shorts aimed at young girls that say “Juicy” on the back, or crotchless panties sold at a kidsclothing store

Beyond clothing, the intersection of media and marketing is where most of the challenges occur as images are shared and then reinforced via toys. Even when there’s a glimmer of hope, the notion of sexualization is not far behind. Wardy notes, “There has been much celebration over Disney/Pixar's new "Brave" heroine Merida, and her non-traditional princess, I'll-have-more-of-that-girl-power ways, yet Mattel still managed to create a doll of her with "come hither" make-up lined eyes and sexy, vamped up hair and lips. [...] We don't need our little girls focused on being sexy.” 

photo: deidre caswellWardy’s point about not wanting little girls to be focused on being sexy is key. One result of sexualizing young girls is that we rob them of their childhood. Companies that market to children in a way that is much more fitting for adults (if at all) are taking adult ideals of beauty and sex and foisting them upon young girls, who should instead be running around in bathing suits that allow them to swim and play like their male peers. 

While many parents understand the severity of sexualization of young girls, others tend to dismiss it as just a small part of childhood, perhaps not understanding the very real ramifications. Part of the APA’s study was to look at the impact that early sexualization has on the development of girls. The well-documented results are frightening and include a range of effects, of the physical, emotional, cognitive, and behavioral variety. Over-exposure to sexualization can create lasting effects on girls, from low self esteem to poor body image, eating disorders, poor school performances, depression, anxiety, and a skewed and unhealthy view of their own sexuality. Wardy, who is currently writing a book that delves into this topic, reminds parents that, “sexualization leaves girls with the very unhealthy message that their worth is their beauty and their sex, to the exclusion of other more meaningful characteristics. Sexualization turns girls into sex objects, taking away from them who they are as a whole being.” 

So what is a parent to do? It can feel daunting to raise a young girl in a culture that has messages of sexualization woven in from many different sources. From television screens, magazines, clothing lines, and toy aisles, it can be hard for both parents and children to escape the seemingly-constant barrage of sexualization when it comes to girls.

Wardy, who deals with these issues on a daily basis, suggests that parents start questioning what they’ve been taught is the status quo: 

“Parents need to question everything: Why is that doll's make-up and outfit making you uneasy? Why is the backless, off-the-shoulder dress on your five year old neighbor girl seem off and maybe too grown up? Why does it bother you that in so many animated movies the female characters do little more than use their wily feminine ways to manipulate and seduce male characters? Why is this little girls' dance class doing moves like that? Parents need to start listening to that little inside voice that is telling them, "this is a little off" or "this is a little too grown up". Children are not grown ups, and when we impress upon them adult sexuality we interfere with the child's right to develop their own healthy sense of sexuality, we sexualize them.”

Copyright Michelle Levy 2012. http://mommytheorist.wordpress.comOne of the most important things to remember is to keep an age-appropriate dialogue going with your children. While we, as parents, want to protect our children from everything - and this of course includes sexualization - we also need to provide them with the tools to protect and speak up for themselves. Explain to both your daughters and sons why certain clothing may be too “grown up” for them, or why a certain TV show or movie might not be sending a healthy message. 

While we may not be able to protect our children from all the messages they will absorb out in the world, we can do our best to provide them with the strength, confidence, and security by encouraging their thoughts and actions instead of how they look or dress all the time. Create balance in their lives by offering positive and healthy examples of what it means to be a girl or boy. Champion, as Wardy as coined, the notion of redefining childhood - where girls can be carefree children and not forced to grow up before their time. 

 

 

 

 

 Resources

 

In addition to Melissa Wardy’s company, Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies, check out these other websites, books, and companies that offer alternatives in a world saturated with questionable messages aimed at both young girls and boys: 

A Mighty Girl - “The world's largest collection of books and movies for smart, confident, and courageous girls.” An excellent resource to find various forms of entertainment that will inspire and encourage girls, rather than weigh them down with tired stereotypes and questionable messages. 

Adios Barbie - Saying “adios” to narrow beauty and identity standards, Adios Barbie tackles sexualization of girls, as well as offering frank discussions on gender, race, beauty, sexuality, and more. 

Hardy Girls, Healthy Women - A non-profit organization that creates opportunities, develops programs, and provides services that help empower girls and young women. 

New Moon Girls - An advertising-free magazine and website aimed at girls and dedicated “to helping girls discover and honor their true selves.” Offering material for girls, from girls, New Moon Girls strives to be an alternative by providing a safe space where readers can find all sorts of opportunities for self-discovery. 

Parenting Pink - Offers a range of ideas on how to raise a strong girl, from birth to the teen years. 

So Sexy, So Soon - Author Diane E. Levin’s blog where she took the overall message of her book, So Sexy, So Soon and created a site that offers articles, resources, and more on raising healthy children in a “mad world.”

SPARK Summit - This organization began in response to The Report of the APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls. SPARK engages girls as part of the solution, rather than protecting them from the problem, using education, advocacy, and coalition building. 

Shaping Youth - Shaping Youth takes deep dives and critical analysis to new levels as it uses the power of the media to create positive change between media, marketing, and the influence on youth. 

 

photo: deidre caswell

 A former teacher and lifetime learner, Avital Norman Nathman is a play-at-home mama, freelance writer, wife and feminist (and not necessarily in that order). When not gardening, cooking or dancing around the house, you can catch her musing about motherhood and feminism at www.TheMamafesto.com.


Saturday
Jul072012

{Conscious Close-Up} An Interview with Elisabeth Rohm

by Lauren Schnell Davison

photo: robert evans

Many assume that becoming an actor is all about fame and fortune, but there are some celebrities who see it a little differently. A small number of public figures take advantage of their status in the limelight as an opportunity to set a positive example, inspire and empower. Actor, author and People Magazine blogger, Elisabeth Rohm, has done just that. Perhaps best known for her role as District Attorney Serena Southerlyn on Law and Order, Elisabeth gives much of her time advocating for causes such as Healthy Child, Healthy World and the Red Cross, among many others. I had the opportunity to chat with Elisabeth about some of her insights and the action she has taken to not only contribute to the overall betterment of society but also to help make parenting and motherhood more conscious.

 

How do you balance your work as an actor with being a mom? 

 

I live my life either at an insane pace where I’m working my butt off and I‘m not as available or I am totally available. I beat to two totally different rhythms.  Both the movie I just finished and The Client List [television drama series airing on the Lifetime network] are filmed in LA and so as my daughter, Easton, gets a bit older I am also making choices that make me available as a parent.  That is not to say that if a great opportunity came up I wouldn’t go after my own dreams.  But when I am not working I am totally  present with her.  I always joke, and say that when Mommy goes to work I feel like I am a painting that has been loaned out from a museum for a week or two to do my work and then I return.

 

As a successful actor living in Los Angeles, how would you react if your daughter came home and told you she wanted to start acting and step into the limelight? Would you be supportive of that?


That is a tough one. I am not from a family of entertainers.  It gets me a little nervous to think of Easton pursuing something like that.  I think children should be as innocent as possible … you spend enough of your life worrying about things and it would be nice for children to have 14 years of play. I want her to be successful, and personally, I’m a big fan of sports as it gives children discipline and a sense of responsibility. I think having a passion as a kid can be wonderful.  I think the arts are challenging;  [it is] either feast or famine: one minute you are working, the next you are not.  I think it would have to come from her, is the answer.

 

Tell us about your work with Healthy Child, Healthy World. In what ways has the organization influenced you and your family to lead a nontoxic lifestyle?

 

I was raised by the quintessential hippie chick. I grew up eating Tiger Bars instead of Twinkies and my mother used lemon and vinegar to clean instead of chemicals.  My mother was living a sustainable life probably before anyone was.  So it was really great for me to meet an organization that was focused on the same mission and just further educated me on how to do it.   My mother was a natural and I guess I am too by osmosis. There are people that are really into it and others that try their best to be into it.

I feel that Healthy World Healthy Child stepped into the shoes my mother wore in my life -- of being conscious and caring towards others and the planet -- by leading a nontoxic life and promoting others to do so. There are so many things we are putting into our bodies that we don’t even know we are putting in and the education they provide people and the fight that they tirelessly pursue is to benefit all of us. It is something I believe in and am devoted to in my own household and want to educate others to make good choices for themselves and their families. 

Children are innocent and why should they have all these toxins and all these chemicals in their body just because they are being washed by Johnson and Johnson or their mom is giving them soup from a can that has chemicals in it? Or the nanny or mother is innocently cleaning the counters with 409 and the child is breathing in all these chemicals that are going to stay in their bodies when there is no need for it. There are such great alternative products and choices out there that are so much gentler to our systems.

 

Tell us about your relationship to American Red Cross. 


When I was in college my mother’s house burned down and she didn’t have the money to replace her roof and the Red Cross was there to help her rebuild it. So she said to me that if I volunteer and get involved with an organization that it should be the Red Cross. My mother was such an inspiration to me and I feel so grateful to the Red Cross.  I love them and the work they have done. I have traveled with them internationally and have been working with them for almost a decade. I have dug people out of forest fires and helped on rescue teams in New York to people’s homes after fires. I’ve visited wounded warriors in DC and I’ve done incredible things with them. Their reach is so massive -- [they have] such a powerful international community.

The Red Cross is based 99.9% on volunteerism and they are the only volunteer organization that after an earthquake, fire or tsunami that shows up, or after 9-11 says to all the people standing there, “we are here for you,” and [they have] such an incredible mission. I love them very, very much -- I am totally a part of the Red Cross.    

 

At Bamboo we honor a woman's informed choice in how she decides not only to give birth but how she decides to conceive. I have read that you did IVF with your daughter. Would you mind sharing a little about your experience with that whole process (also upon learning of that diagnosis) as well as with your pregnancy/birth?


I had a very unnatural pregnancy and birth because I was in a medical crisis.  I was in Cambodia with the Red Cross when I decided to start a family. When I got back to LA and started the process, we discovered that I had extremely high FSH levels and that I needed to perhaps get some assistance with fertility treatments. So we decided to go that route and luckily I got pregnant on the first try.  My pregnancy was very delicate because of that.  I was unable to exercise for the first three months and then I had a great pregnancy -- it was easy once I got pregnant but little things like not being able to exercise and afterwards, towards the end, I was on bed rest.

It was a delicate pregnancy, as it cost a fortune and I had to be careful with it. It was an emotional pregnancy because it was one that I fought for. So I really have an understanding and compassion out there for any woman that is fighting for the right to have a child.

 

How has being a mother affected your acting and other creative pursuits? 


I think when becoming a parent you start to ask yourself questions, like “What should I do with my time now that I am a mother? Because I have this human being that deserves and needs my time.” So then you have to try and achieve balance so that you can have your own individuality but also totally live up to your child’s needs and expectations. So then you don’t want to waste any time at all ... and you begin to think that your time is precious, which you never thought before. And you ask yourself big questions like; “Do I like my job?” “Do I like this friend?” “ Is this person worth my time? Because really I would rather be home with my baby.”  I ask myself, Do I really love acting? Is that what I want to do with my time? And yes, I do love acting but it is not as glamorous as everyone thinks it is; [it’s] just a job but it has great perks and it also has its hills and valleys. So I decided that I love it enough that I still want to pursue my own dreams, but not at the expense of [Easton’s] needs. In others words, I had to get very clear that I was never going to make her feel neglected or second place. But after that, if I know my daughter feels loved and nurtured and she knows I miss her when I am not with her and she knows she can come with me when I go to work and doesn’t have to wonder -- if I can try to pull it off in a way that includes her -- then I can have interests, I can have a career, I can have friends. I don’t want anyone in my life to feel second place, including myself.  

Lauren Schnell Davison is the founder and president of OrganicGreenMommy.com and Nutrition Works at YogaWorks, NYC. She is a board certified holistic nutritionist, yoga instructor, writer and life coach. Lauren resides in Los Angeles, CA with her husband and two girls. www.laurenschnell.com


Friday
Jul062012

{Wellness, Naturally} Of Sunburns and Sunscreens: Natural Sun Protection from the Inside Out

by Katie the Wellness Mama

With summer here, protecting our skin (and our children's' skin) from burning is an important priority. Many people just slather on the SPF without a second thought, and I used to, too.

Unfortunately, almost all commercial sunscreens contain harmful ingredients including a synthetic form of Vitamin A that has been linked to increased cancer risk. Sunscreen not only blocks the skin from burning, but it blocks the body's ability to make Vitamin D. While burning is definitely harmful, completely blocking sun exposure has its share of risks, too. 

Even low SPF sunscreens almost completely block the body's ability to manufacture vitamin D, and low vitamin D levels have been linked to various diseases including some of the more deadly forms of cancer. Skin cancer is not typically a deadly form of cancer, so avoiding sun exposure to reduce skin cancer risk has the inadvertent affect of lowering Vitamin D levels which ups the risk of other cancers. On top of that, skin cancer rates have been steadily rising (especially melanoma) despite increased use of sunscreens and the majority of all melanoma cases occur in areas that don't often get sun exposure.

In fact, though there is evidence that sunscreen prevents burning, there is no solid evidence that it actually prevents skin cancer

As with anything, it is important to consider the cause (of skin cancer and burning) rather than just treating the external symptom (how easily one burns). Sunburn, as with other kinds of burns, are a type of inflammation. Everyone will burn at a certain point, but this point can be extended by minimizing the factors that contribute to inflammation. My background is in nutrition, so when I first started investigating this relationship between inflammation in the body and sunburn, I looked at the role of diet.

What Causes Sunburn?

Well, the sun, obviously, but I noticed that some people (even those with semi-light skin tone naturally) had a higher sun tolerance while others were quick to burn. I'd also noticed that my family and clients I'd worked with had a noticeable increase in sun tolerance after adopting certain dietary principles which were geared toward reducing inflammation in the body.

I've always had naturally fair skin and burned really easily. Even after a summer of careful moderate sun exposure, I would only be able to stay out in the sun for 30 minutes or so without protection or I would burn ... until I switched to a real food diet. Suddenly, I was able to garden for several hours in the heat of the day without burning, and I noticed I was actually tanning and my skin tone seemed darker.

After further research I realized that this change was due to several dietary factors including:

  • Increase in consumption of antioxidants in the form of wild caught fish, leafy vegetables, grass-fed meat and herbs/spices
  • Increase in consumption of healthy saturated fats in the form of grass-fed meat, coconut oil and products, and grass-fed butter
  • Improving the body's Omega-3 ratios by eating wild caught fish and taking Fermented Cod Liver Oil/Butter Blend which is high in Omega-3s and Vitamins A, D, and K (which have a protective role in the body)
  • Avoiding foods that cause inflammation in the body, including grains, sugars and vegetable oils

How I Avoid Sunburn

My family and I very rarely use sunscreen, and when we do, it's homemade sunscreen or sunscreen bars, which are both made from natural ingredients and don't have the chemical ingredients in many store-bought sunscreens. More often, I just make sure to extend sun tolerance slowly and to cover up with hats or clothing if I am in the sun for longer than that.

Supplements

There are also some specific supplements that I've found to be helpful in reducing inflammation and preventing sunburn:

About this time of year, I also start taking a specific regimen of supplements that help reduce inflammation and improve sun tolerance. The supplements I take are:

Sunscreen Bars

 

If there are times you will be in the sun for longer than your skin can handle, a recipe that has been very popular with my readers is homemade sunscreen bars. They are really easy to make using natural ingredients and the SPF can be varied according to your needs. They are like a bar of soap, but can be applied to dry skin, leaving a thin layer of protection. The coconut oil is moisturizing and has a natural SPF of about 4. The shea butter, cocoa butter and mango butter and highly moisturizing and also have a small SPF. The zinc oxide is the most protectant and will bring the SPF up to about 20 with the amount used. 

Sunscreen Bar Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup coconut oil (I get mine here)
  • 1/2 cup shea buttercocoa butter or mango butter (or a mix of all three equal to 1 cup)
  • 1/2 cup beeswax + 1 tablespoon (I get mine here)
  • 2 tablespoons (or more for higher SPF) of Zinc Oxide (available online or in many stores in the diaper aisle -- just make sure it is pure zinc oxide-- for those concerned about contaminants or nano-particles, this version has larger particles)

How to Make:

Melt all ingredients (except zinc oxide and essential oils if using) in a double boiler, or a glass bowl over a smaller saucepan with 1 inch of boiling water in it.

When all ingredients are melted, remove from the heat and stir in the zinc oxide and essential oils. Whisk quickly or use an immersion blender to make sure well mixed. 

Pour the mix into whatever molds or shape you want them to take when hard. I used silicon baking cups, but even an old (small) box lined with wax paper or a glass baking dish will work. This recipe fills about 6 muffins tins or the bottom of a glass loaf pan.

Let the bars cool completely before removing them. You can speed this process up by placing them in the fridge. Remove from molds and store in plastic bags. If you used a baking dish or box, cut the hardened bars into smaller shapes for easy use. 

Sunscreen bars last several months at room temperature or warmer, but last indefinitely in the fridge or freezer. 

 

Protect Your Skin from the Inside Out

We can all agree that burning is harmful to the skin and should be avoided, but perhaps it's time for a new approach to natural sun protection. Giving the body the nutrients it needs can help reduce inflammation and reduce the risk of burning. Along with natural means like homemade sunscreen and protective clothing, we can get healthy sun exposure each day, optimize our Vitamin D levels, and avoid burning without the chemicals.

Perhaps the best sun protection comes from the inside out, not the other way around!

photo: jatawny m. chatmon

Katie, the "Wellness Mama" is a mom of four with a background in Nutrition. Katie is a real food crusader, lover of books, kettlebell junkie, scuba diver, and coffee addict who can finally do a pull up.  She blogs at WellnessMama.com about health, fitness, natural living, healthy recipes, and motherhood. You can find her on facebooktwitterPinterest and Google+.



 

Thursday
Jul052012

{Conscious Kids} Once Upon a Car Trip

by David & Lisabeth Sewell McCann

Summertime!  Adventures!  Trips to the mountains.  Trips to the lake.  Trips to Uncle’s house, and Sister’s swim meet, and Brother’s summer camp.   There are so many good things to do in the warmth and sunshine.

Summer adventures often mean car time.  If your adventures are far flung, it can mean a lot of car time.   And if your household is anything like our household, this can try the patience of any and all family members. 

When we look at the reality of car time, it is no wonder that our children get antsy.  They are strapped down to their seats, and in many cases, next to the one person who knows how to push all their buttons:  their sister or brother.  It is a recipe for conflict. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So we have a challenge:  how to get to the beach, the waterpark, the county fair, Grandma’s house, the zoo – without driving ourselves crazy?

One solution is distraction.   You can line up a string of children’s audio books, or an mp3 player full of music.  You can pack the crayons, the drawing tablet, the etch-a-sketch, the picture books, and the modeling beeswax.  These work beautifully, and keep kids in their own imaginative world for the duration of the trip.   

There is also another optionFamily car time.  You can use the time in the car to connect and enjoy each other for an hour or two. But how?

In our household, we love games – particularly games that involve imagination.  Imagination games can be funny, engaging, surprising and often insightful to the parents in the car.  They are a fun way to share and get closer – no matter how old your passengers may be. 

Here are a couple of our favorite imaginative car games.  Both are simple, and both can be played by ages 4 and up.

 

 Spot it Story

We all know the group story game where the story unfolds word-by-word, person after person.  “Once” “Upon” “A” “Time” “There” “Was” “A” “Duck”.  Many a winding and silly tale has been born from that game.  The game “Spot it Story” follows that model, but is based on the changing scenery outside the car windows. 

It works like this:  

Someone starts the story by seeing something outside the car and incorporating it into the tale.  “Once upon a time there were two crows sitting in a tree.” 

 

 

Then the story passes on to the next person who continues the narrative but now weaves something into it that he or she sees.  “The two crows were brother and sister, and they lived in the top of a big red barn.”  

It then passes to the next person who continues in the same way.  The story can spread out quickly, but with the artful crafting of the adults in the car, it can turn into a dreamlike fairytale involving mailboxes, red trucks, billboards, a field full of cows and whatever else inhabits the landscape.  

If the game begins to feel unruly, you can either gently nudge it in the direction you’d like, or simply let go and allow it to get silly.  Either way, invite yourself to revel in your children’s creativity.  And laugh.

 

Treasure Hunt

This is a searching game where everyone in the car chooses something they want to find. 

For example, I might say, “I would like to see a man with a red hat.”  And Big Brother might say, “I want to spy a hawk!”  And Little Brother might say, “I want to find a purple flag.”  

Now, here’s the trick:  you don’t want to pick anything you are absolutely sure you will see – like a yellow bus as you pass an elementary school.  The fun part is not knowing if you will see it or not.  It needs to be something possible but perhaps not likely.  

 

Then, once everyone has picked something they want to find – you all work together to find them.  Everyone looks for the orange cat.  Everyone looks for the green lawn mower.  Everyone looks for the pointy church steeple.  

This very simple game builds teamwork and can keep a car of children quite focused for some time.   And the whole car wins the game when you find them all! 

Happy summer travels!  

David & Lisabeth Sewell McCann are the creators of Sparkle Stories, an online resource for high-quality audio stories for children and families.  David is a storyteller, teacher and artist, Lisabeth is a playwright, and together they produce delightful weekly audio stories for subscribers around the world.


 

Wednesday
Jul042012

{Tuned In} 6 Reasons to Go Gluten Free

by Ashley Ess

The American diet is packed with inflammatory foods. Meat, dairy and grains (especially those with gluten) all have the potential to cause mild to severe inflammatory responses in the body. As a nation primarily embracing the western model of healthcare and nutrition, we tend to put “band-aids” over certain physical symptoms, often overlooking the possibility of nutritional root causes. Many times diet and nutrition play larger roles in one’s physical suffering than one might expect. Gluten has been found to be a possible root cause of many conditions, giving rise to the prevalence of gluten free diets.

Critics condemn the gluten-free lifestyle as a fad, sloughing it off as simply the latest diet craze created by processed food corporations in order to get rich. But what they don’t realize is that it is imperative for a large number of people to eliminate gluten from their diets, specifically the gluten-sensitive and those with Celiac disease. Instead of a fad, perhaps the gluten-free diet should be viewed as a common necessity; a new awareness and healthful coming-of-age, so to speak.

This gluten-free “coming-of-age” undoubtedly has staying power. One simply cannot argue this if he/she has experienced reduced adverse symptoms once going gluten free.  True, there will always be processed food brands capitalizing on popular diet trends, with their obnoxious, colorful labels touting “fat free,” “sugar free,” “carb free” and now “gluten free,” but this is a lifestyle that goes well beyond processed food labels. It’s a wonderful thing “gluten free” has made it onto these labels and into the mainstream; now the reality of its benefits can reach the minds and bodies of so many who have been suffering without relief in sight.

If the above hasn’t convinced you yet, below you’ll find six reasons (of many) why you might consider going gluten-free:

 

1. Gluten may cause inflammatory conditions in the body.

Oftentimes an inflamed digestive system is the most immediate effect of gluten’s inflammatory potential. Other conditions such as eczema, joint inflammation, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases may, in large part, be caused by the inflammation gluten sensitivity or intolerance produces. Inflammation weakens the immune system; eliminating gluten is one possible way to help avoid immune distress.

 

2.  You may have gluten intolerance or Celiac Disease and not even know it – although your body does! 

Celiac Disease is an inherited autoimmune condition that causes a toxic reaction in the sufferer’s small intestine. Those with Celiac Disease must stay away from gluten entirely, for the rest of their lives. Symptoms may include irritable bowel syndrome, abdominal pain, weakness, constipation, vitamin deficiencies, fatigue, bloating, failure to thrive (in infants) and much more. Surprisingly, Celiac Disease affects 1 out of 133 people in the U.S. and approximately 97% go undiagnosed. If left untreated, Celiac Disease may cause GI cancers, early onset osteoporosis, gall bladder malfunction, pancreatic insufficiency and more. The good news is that if you do have Celiac Disease, it is treatable by following a strict, lifelong gluten-free diet.

3. Most grains (especially processed) tend to have high-glycemic properties.

Foods with a high glycemic index can cause blood sugar irregularities and should be avoided by those with diabetes, hypoglycemia and insulin resistance. Those who crave grains, gluten-containing or otherwise, tend to also crave sugar (grains turn into sugar in the body). Eliminating or reducing grains (especially processed) may help insulin levels and, who knows? It may even help start you on your way to kicking that sugar habit!

 

4. Aren’t convinced of gluten’s propensity for adverse symptoms? Here’s something to consider: the FDA has placed wheat on its top eight allergens list.

Although having a wheat allergy does not necessarily mean gluten sensitivity, gluten intolerance or Celiac Disease, an allergy to wheat can present similar effects to these conditions and, therefore, wheat must be avoided. Humans have only been ingesting wheat and grains since the Agricultural Evolution (about 10,000 years ago) -- our genes have only changed a small fraction since then, hence we have not adapted to grains yet. So there may actually be something to another “fad” diet making the rounds these days, the Paleo Diet, which suggests that grains/gluten (as well as dairy) should not be consumed. This is guided by the fact that our predecessors survived on lean meats, fruits/vegetables and nuts/seeds and did not see the types of diseases, inflammation and autoimmune disorders we see today.

 

5. You might just feel better in general!

A gluten free diet may have a positive effect on depression, anxiety and energy level. People who remove gluten from their diets tend to eat more fruits and vegetables and less processed carbs. Gluten has been found to cause depression and anxiety as well. The result of going gluten free may be more energy, possible elevated mood and a happier gut!

 

6. Going gluten free is not as difficult as you may think.

Whether you’re going gluten free/grain free out of necessity, because you want to try to lose weight or because you just want to feel better, it may feel like a jail sentence at first. But it doesn’t have to be. Sure, it will take some adjusting while you get used to reading labels and learning what hidden ingredients contain gluten but once you get that down, you are set! Furthermore, you’ll find that you will eat more whole foods, less processed ones and there can’t be anything simpler than that – for your body as well as for your shopping routine.

 

Foods that contain gluten:

Wheat

Barley

Rye

Spelt

Kamut

Derivatives of these grains

Oats (generally, by way of cross-contamination with gluten grains)

 

 

Foods and additives that have “hidden” gluten:

Soy sauce

Beer

Imitation meats

Soups

Gum base

Natural flavorings

Maltodextrin

Blue cheese

Hydrolyzed protein

A more extensive list can be found here: http://www.healthcastle.com/gluten_hidden.shtml

 

Resources 


Celiac.com

Celiac.org

PeerTrainer.com "Should You Remove Gluten from Your Diet?"

Gluten Doctors: "Keeping It Simple - Truths About Gluten"

Study: Gluten causes gastrointestinal symptoms in subjects without celiac disease

KalishResearch.com "Gluten Sensitivity"

The Gluten File

Sign of the Times: "New England Journal of Medicine: Gluten Can Cause 55 Diseases"

Celiac.com: "Gluten Sensitivity and Depression"

 

*The information contained in this article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. If you have a medical problem, see your licensed health practitioner.

Tuesday
Jul032012

{Mindful Pregnancy} Traditional Chinese Medicine: An Approach to Women's Health, Pregnancy and Fertility

by Susan Minich CNM, MSN, MSOM, LAc 

Photos by Deidre Caswell

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is an ancient healing art and one of the oldest forms of healing, dating back to over 3,000 years.  TCM is based on ancient Chinese Theories that focus on the whole body, by stimulating the body's own innate healing abilities.  Acupuncture is a natural approach to diagnosing, treating, preventing disease and promoting our well-being as well as addressing the causes and symptoms of illness.  This occurs by supporting the body's healthy energy called "Qi" and blood. 

The TCM Practitioner determines the patterns of disharmony within the body based on certain examinations, such as the tongue and pulse.  Acupuncture regulates the flow of blood and Qi within the body by inserting fine, thin, sterile needles at certain points, "acupoints" on the body.  This flow of Qi and blood is carried throughout the body by a system of pathways called "meridians" or "channels" that cover the body, similar to the blood vessels and nerves.  The flow of Qi and blood in the body is adjusted by the acupuncturist using the needles to increase the energy flow to areas of deficiencies or taking it away if any excesses. 

By enhancing the health and balance of the body's internal organs with acupuncture, chinese herbs, moxibustion and lifestyle changes, a woman can improve her overall health and wellness.

 

 “Tibetan Physicians have always considered a sound mind as a prerequisite for a healthy body”
- His Holiness the Dalai Lama



Acupuncture and Pregnancy + Childbirth 

During pregnancy and childbirth, acupuncture is safe and comfortable and is effective in reducing the incidence and severity of common pregnancy symptoms. In Chinese Medicine theory, our spiritual energy manifests in the heart. The heart energy is the center of love and creation.  All the acupuncture points have an emotional/spiritual aspect to them as well as the physical, connecting the mother's powerful energy to her baby.  Acupuncture is used to promote maternal and fetal health.

 

The first trimester: 

Women are seen for weekly acupuncture treatments to increase blood flow to the uterus, promote and regulate hormonal balance and prevent miscarriage and threatened miscarriage.  Also, to prevent and control morning/daily sickness, spotting/bleeding, fatigue, back/hip pain, sciatica, edema, carpal tunnel, itching, cholestasis, migraines/headaches, heartburn, constipation, indigestion, hemorrhoids, psychological issues. 

 

The second trimester to 34 weeks: 

Women are seen one to two times a month to maintain a healthy pregnancy balance and treat and prevent the common symptoms that develop.  Breech presentation is addressed at this time using moxibustion to help with turning the baby.

 

Pre-Birth treatments:

Beginning at 35 weeks to birth, treatments are to prepare the woman for childbirth.  The physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of the mother and baby are still being addressed. Studies show that weekly acupuncture at this time helps with softening the cervix, increases energy and improves stamina for labor, relaxes the uterine ligaments, increases optimal positioning of the baby, decreases medical intervention and increases the effectiveness of uterine contractions.

 

Labor Support

Acupuncture promotes cervical effacement and dilatation, decreases fatigue, initiates contraction and relaxes the mind and body.

 

Postpartum care

During this time, acupuncture is very helpful in restoring energy and promoting a quicker recovery after birth, increasing milk production and increasing stamina. It is also useful with healing mastitis, insufficient lactation, perineal pain, post-partum depression and also promotes quicker recovery of the uterus returning to the pre-pregnant state.

 

 

Acupuncture and Fertility + Conception 

TCM successfully enhances the fertility process by bringing the body into a state of balance and harmony. Acupuncture helps to reduce stress and tonify and nourish the reproductive organs in both women and men. Fertility is not just about the physical state of being but about overall health and wellness of spirit.  Our inner harmony and peace carries us through life's challenges, especially the stresses connected with fertility issues.

Significant improvement of fertility has been documented in patients who receive TCM.  Acupuncture increases the chances for a natural conception, improves hormonal balance, increases the success rate with Assisted Reproductive Technologies and increases blood flow to the pelvic organs. It helps to create better quality of cervical mucus, regulates ovulation, promotes a regular menstrual cycle, enhances egg development, increases blood circulation to the uterine lining and improves sperm quality. 

Acupuncture treatments are recommended for at least 3-6 months to optimize conception and having a healthy pregnancy and baby.  Chinese medicine theory believes that we must "nourish the soil before planting the seeds."  TCM is a patient medicine, taking time to support our health and wellness.

Susan Minich CNM, MSN, MSOM, LAc, Diplomate, Oriental Medicine has been a Certified Nurse-Midwife working in Women’s Health for 31 years. With her many years of experience in Western Medicine, Susan now integrates Eastern Medicine into her healing methods. In addition to her busy practice, Susan is a noted author, lecturer and teacher. She has been on Clinical Faculty in the Graduate Nurse-Midwifery Program at UCLA and the University of Pennsylvania. Currently, Susan is on the Clinical Faculty at Cal State University Graduate Nurse-Midwifery Program as well as mentoring Nurse-Midwife, Nurse-Practitioner and Nursing Students. She is involved in education and training for normal labor and delivery for the OB/GYN and family practice residents at Kaiser Permanente Hospital in Los Angeles and is on Clinical Faculty at USC Keck School of Medicine.

Susan’s interest and passion for Eastern Medicine has led her to pursuing acupuncture humanitarian service work for women and children in Bali and providing care to the Tibetan women and children refugees living in Dharmshala, India. She will be going to Myanmar (Burma) in January 2013 to perform humanitarian work and acupuncture training in women and children's health.

Monday
Jul022012

Communicating Effectively With Your Children

by Kia Imandel

 

It’s now 7:45 in the evening; it has been a long day and it is slowly coming to an end. You have shared many conversations back and forth with your children in the course of your day. Some, effective. Some, valuable and energetic. And others… well, let’s just say, not so effective.

 

"The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that is has taken place."
~George Bernard Shaw

 

As a parent, I know how challenging it can be to communicate and connect with children at times. Life is hard enough with all its ups and downs, twists and turns. But it doesn't have to be hard! Your children are just waiting for you to guide them to their happiness, be it with you, their peers, their teachers or their team members. They wake up each day to new experiences and challenges. They use their own knowledge, abilities and "perception" to work through them everyday. How would it be to know exactly how they perceive the world so that you can be right there behind them, with guidance and understanding? Can you imagine loving them the way they want to be loved?

 

Effective communication begins when we treat others NOT the way WE want to be treated, but the way THEY want to be treated. 

 

The Process Communication Model® (PCM) is a wonderful way to achieve this. It is a phenomenon, in my opinion. PCM is a tool that can help you transform into a powerful observer of human behavior and become more understanding of others and their downfalls. Most importantly, it can help you to better understand your child and his/her behaviors. 

 

"PCM is a comprehensive framework for transforming how we communicate with each other. It offers perspectives and strategies to honor individual differences, positively influence behavior, and empower individual gifts."
~Nate Regier
PCM Trainer

 

Process Communication provides a reliable and validated method of identifying and understanding personality structures, the impact of life events, and communication dynamics. Based on a scientific award–winning clinical discovery by Taibi Kahler Ph.D. in the early 1960s, Process Communication has been researched for over thirty years and experienced by almost a million people on five continents in such applications as sales, business, education, politics, religion, medicine, parenting and personal relationships.

 

Parents say they learned a lot about their own children through PCM, specifically, how to talk to each of them in a different way

 

Dr. Kahler observed that there was a process involved in verbal communication: identifiable sequences by which people interacted with one another. These included specific speech patterns that were associated with both positive and negative interactions, all sequential, measurable and predictable. He found that by listening for these patterns, interactions could be identified, objectively, literally second-by-second, as being either productive (communication) or non-productive (miscommunication).

Through PCM, Dr. Kahler has identified six different personality types based on each individual's perception of the world.  In other words, how we take in and process information. He found that each person prefers to communicate in different ways depending on his or her personality type. In order to communicate effectively then, Kahler suggests that we learn to "speak" the "languages" that other people prefer.

 

“I use PCM everyday in my classroom. It helps me speak all the wonderful and unique languages of my students. I also find it helps me to see and understand each child’s needs – who would benefit in that moment from a hug, a high five, more direction, or just some space to be alone.”
~Stacey Porterfield, MUSE School
K-1 PCM trained teacher

 

We all perceive the world differently…

According to Dr. Kahler, each and every one of us is born with our very own preferred perceptual filter that we carry with us, from birth through life.

The following are the six perceptions that Dr. Kahler has identified (along with each perception’s North American population percentage):

Feelings (30%)
Thoughts (25%)
Opinions (10%)
Reactions (20%)
Actions (5%)
Inactions (10%)

The Six Kahler Personality Types (Perceptions)[1]



_____________________________

[1] Excerpts from “Here’s How To Reach Me” by Judith A. Pauley, Dianne F. Bradley and Joseph F. Pauley  

The beauty of PCM and the awareness it represents, is that we are all born with one "base" perception, but we each carry bits and pieces of every single perception in different values and in different orders throughout our lives. Not one of these is better than the other in any shape or form. And with the right training we can learn when, where, and how to use them in order to have effective communication with another person. 

PCM allows you to get to know your children and help lead them in a positive direction. It helps create an ever-lasting bond between you and your children, and a newfound respect for each other’s point of view.  It will bring peace and harmony to your home. It’s fun and powerful! And it works!!! 

Life is about evolving... use the resources available out there. There are many; PCM is one of them. Now go communicate!

 

"Process Communication is a framework for appreciating, respecting, and developing the uniqueness and dignity of others, because it allows you to be exactly who you are, it gives you ways to differentiate yourself"
~Suzy Amis Cameron
PCM trained parent


 

**Next Element is offering Bamboo readers a 20% discount on all open-enrollement PCM trainings. Please contact Kia@next-element.com for more information.**

www.facebook.com/nextelementwestcoast

Kia Imandel is an enthusiast who is committed to creating communities of integrity, contribution, and wisdom that transform life and leave a legacy of love for future generations. With a background in early childhood development and various life-changing workshops, Kia is dedicated to helping people find their authentic self and live their true purpose. She has found herself in the role of a leader, trainer, and a salesperson for most of her life, with a passion towards positive thinking and optimism. She leads her life full of love and excitement ... and it is her goal to share this with the universe! Contact Kia: Kia@next-element.com or (818)448-5114. 

Sunday
Jul012012

{Bamboo Baby} Transitioning into Motherhood: Identity Shift and the Power of New Friendships 

by Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser 

photo: robyn s. russell photography

The other day, a friend of mine with a three month-old son said, “I know people told me that parenting goes on all the time, and I thought I was prepared. I didn’t realize, not really, that the baby does not go away, ever.” I nodded. I was one of the people who’d mentioned parenting goes on all the time to her. “It’s so much more intense than I imagined,” she added. 

She’s a besotted mom, with a sweet little boy who sleeps pretty well and a very supportive husband. Their support network is bountiful. Even with every single thing in your favor, this conversation reminded me about how parenthood reshapes not only your daily routine, but also your sense of self. While there are many tutorials on all things baby, there is not necessarily a ready space or forum with support available for the seismic shift that is to go from caring primarily for one’s self to obtaining complete responsibility for a helpless, small and cute and always needy infant. As my friend reflected, “I thought babies sleep 20 hours a day at first, so really I’d have eight to work without a hitch. I was so wrong.” 

She added, “It’s really helpful to talk to other moms.” 

How can new parents help themselves and each other? That’s the question I set out to ask, one that really cannot be posed without a stop-take-deep-breath acknowledgement of how profound a transition it is to become a parent. 

 

“What you thought about yourself and even what you knew about yourself ... it’s all different than you knew or you imagined. Adjustment to parenthood is one big practice in embracing this giant change.”  


***


photo: jatawny m. chatmonIn her psychotherapy practice, Hilary Callan has worked with new moms, individually and in groups. She frames becoming a parent as a life-changing moment because a profound identity shift takes place. She explains, “What you thought about yourself and even what you knew about yourself—who you were before you had a baby, what kind of parent you thought you’d be, what your baby might be like—it’s all different than you knew or you imagined. Adjustment to parenthood is one big practice in embracing this giant change.” 

She explains that friendship, too, is different in the early parenting era. “This common interest—babies, parenthood—trumps what you had in common with other people. You want to talk about diapers and sleep and teething. The other things that were important aren’t always quite so critical during this period. So, you may be surprised about those new friendships.” 

Despite a rosy ideal of new babies bringing joy, Callan is quick to point out that the reality is never solely rosy. From a place that includes exhaustion and stress, with new friends experiencing the same, it’s possible that no one has huge amounts of energy to offer up. She says, “You are so tired and so preoccupied and so challenged by this new responsibility that you do want to lower expectations about what friendship looks like. You’re looking for people that nourish you as you adjust to the most major life change you will likely ever experience.” She adds, “When you are tired and stretched thin, it’s hard to take the time and the energy to notice what feels good in your friendships and what doesn’t. It’s a very vulnerable time.” 

 

***

 

Author Elizabeth Mosier looked at the critical role friendship plays for new mothers in her novella, The Playgroup. Here’s an excerpt from her novella: 

"Motherhood is like a second adolescence, a time when the self a woman thinks she owns is repossessed by so-called authorities ... At times we seemed less like mothers than like insecure teenagers at a beer keg tapping liquid courage, though at playgroup we swilled coffee while we sought each other's advice."

Mosier says, “My experience was that motherhood breaks you; you have to put yourself back together in a new, more adaptive, form.” She recalls, “Before I had kids, I would see this group of women gathering with their babies and toddlers in my neighbor's backyard every Thursday morning; I studied them from my kitchen window like an anthropologist would, wondering Why do they get together when their children aren't really old enough to play?  Then, when I had my first child, I suddenly understood.” She also joined a playgroup. 

She says, “Perhaps it was the startling realization that I would never again be a singular being that made me more aware of how we are connected to each other as women, as community members, as humans. I dedicated my book to my compadres in my real-life playgroup because they were essential to me while I rebuilt myself without losing my mind.  These women taught me, learned with me, and (most important of all) helped me to laugh at myself.”

 

"Motherhood is like a second adolescence, a time when the self a woman thinks she owns is repossessed by so-called authorities"

 

***

 

Finding fellow parents sometimes is as simple as a babies’ group run through the local hospital or Parents’ Center.

Swansea Benham Bleicher runs such a drop-in center for parents. She’s been the director for seven years. There, small kids have a safe place to play together and parents have a safe place, too, to talk. It’s work that she finds exceedingly meaningful, in large part because new parent friends meant so much to her when she became a parent. She says, “When my kids were babies, my friendships to other moms going through the same thing at the same time were critical to my getting a handle on parenthood. My oldest is a teenager and my moms’ group still gets together without the kids every couple of weeks for dinner. These are key relationships for me. The relationships happened to begin because we all cared about diapers leaking.”

Her identity shift felt dramatic, as so many externals had changed around the time her first child arrived. She’d moved to a new place and she’d decided to let go of her career, in order to be home with her new baby. She was primarily at home for nine years. 

She says, “Our parents center has always had some dads attend, it being a college town and a pretty progressive place, but these days, with the weak economy, there are more dads serving the primary caregiver role with babies and toddlers. It’s important for them to have the chance to find other dads also serving as primary caregiver.” She continues, “Everyone comes here, the dads, the moms, with a great range of circumstances economically and in terms of age and religion, race and class. Parenthood really is the common denominator here. These conversations and the space to have conversations is a lifesaver for so many people, and it’s a sanity saver most especially in the winter when it’s much harder to connect to other parents with small kids casually.”

photo: cgindy.com

 Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser is a graduate of Hampshire College and the MFA for Writers Program at Warren Wilson College. Along with a personal blog Standing in the Shadows, she writes for such publications as Babble, Huffington Post, Brain Child magazine, Literary Mama, and Preview Massachusetts magazine. As a writer and mama to four, she is pretty constantly busy. http://standshadows.tumblr.com/


 

Saturday
Jun302012

Parenting Through Your Child’s Developmental Changes: Religion and Belief Systems

Part Two of a Three-Part Series

by Hannah Ruth Wilde

photo: lauren rosenbaum

As parents, we may wish to impart our spiritual or religious beliefs to our children. We hope that our faith will provide a strong foundation for our children to rely upon throughout their lives, during hardship and happiness.  A younger child will naturally experience family beliefs and practices from a different perspective than an older child.  As such, each benefit from tailored experiences. I hope the following article will offer you insights into sharing your faith in new and meaningful ways with your child as he grows.

 

Birth to Three Years

 

photo: andrea smith of andrea renee photographyVery young children live through the senses – seeing, hearing, smelling, touching, and tasting.  Faith-based practices involving the senses will no doubt be engaging. Celebrations are typically accompanied by special foods – wonderful tastes and smells.  Children will love sacred objects and traditional decorations that you allow them to touch and hold.  (Check to be sure they are safe for your child’s age.)  Spiritual or religious music with simple rhythms and language is wonderful as well. 

Beginning traditions while your child is young and continuing through all of their growth years develops not only precious family memories, but also a strong foundation of family beliefs.  Which holidays, if any, or spiritual events do you plan to celebrate?  What kinds of activities will you include?  Do you pray at home or at another location?  Would you like to join a synagogue, church, or spiritual community?

No Worries! 

If you have started or plan to start faith-based practices later than early childhood – no worries! Lifestyles and circumstances are unique to each family.  Our parents’ beliefs and traditions may be different than our own – leading to the need to reinvent. Your partner may have different beliefs than you.  Or, if you are like me, your own beliefs may change over time.  Experiencing our journey is natural and essential to our humanity.  Sharing is a powerful way to bond with our children – at any stage of a child’s development!

photo: andrea smith of andrea renee photography

Three to Seven Years 

 

Children in the age range of three to seven have active imaginations, are sometimes regarded as being open to metaphysical experiences, and often begin to talk about the world in insightful ways.  In some faiths, such as Buddhism, children are regarded as being closer than adults to the spiritual world.  Observe your young child and listen to his statements or questions. Your child may ask, “Where is God?” or “What happens to Grandma when she dies?” or may even predict future events. Answer your child in the simplest manner possible, honoring his question or statement and infusing your beliefs.  Expect that your answer will only lead to more questions!  This is normal.  It is ok to say you don’t know or that you are learning too.  

Introduce stories that deliver a message or hold a moral – such as stories from religious texts, fairytales or selected picture books.  Ask a leader in your community for resources.  The Children’s Book World in Los Angeles has an excellent, knowledgeable staff and can recommend books for children on almost any topic.  (Great for older children, too!) Find them at www.childrensbookworld.com or call (310) 559-2665.  Alexandria II in Pasadena, CA is a bookseller that specializes in a comprehensive collection of faith-based books including some for children.  Find literature on world religions, metaphysics, and spirituality here.  Go to www.Alexandria2.com or call 626-792-7885.  Both establishments ship – or look for a similar independent bookseller in your area. 

By age five, most children can participate in prayer, reciting your traditional verse or offering their own words.  Remember that the world of a child at this stage is immediate, and accept whatever prayers he offers.  Perhaps the primary breadwinner has lost her job, but your child is praying that his goldfish gets well.  Share your prayers and allow him to share his, even if they seem less important.

 

Seven to Eleven

 

photo: lauren rosenbaumChildren continue to experience through senses and story, and once in elementary school, will begin to notice more about the everyday world around them.  A child may have questions about why things happen.  And, depending upon your community, a child may notice and question why others have different beliefs and practices.  At this stage, direct responses infused with respect for others and your own belief system are appropriate. For example, Johnny asks, “Mom, why does Sue celebrate Hanukah and not Christmas?”  You might say, “Every family has their own way of living in this world, and no one way is better than the other.”  Or, “We celebrate Christmas because that is when Jesus was born. Sue celebrates something that is special to her.” For some faiths, now is a wonderful time to expand your child’s overall knowledge of your including its basic principles, history, and the meaning behind holidays. Just remember to keep things fairly simple and use concrete examples as much as possible.  Many practices have a timeline of study, prayer, meditation, or rituals (Jatakarma, Upanayana, Baptism, Confirmation, Bar/Bat Mitzvah, Shinbyu, etc.)  built into its principles according to the age of the human being. Become aware of the guidelines for your faith and consider what will suit your family and child best.

 

Twelve to Young Adulthood

 

Around this time, many faiths mark a child’s transition to adulthood with a ‘coming-of-age’ ritual accompanied by greater responsibilities within the faith.  This can be a great source of pride and accomplishment for your child, as well as a wonderful celebratory time. 

photo: jatawny m. chatmonFrom a developmental viewpoint, in pre-adolescence and adolescence, children begin to experience new cognitive abilities including reasoning and abstract thinking.  Now your child can understand more complex ideas as they relate to faith and apply these to real-life situations. (Examples include forgiveness of wrong doings; inner strength in the face of adversity; and why it seems bad things happen to good people.) Share and discuss these.  Listen to your teen’s concerns.  Offer beliefs that may help with personal issues and experiences. Help relate faith to everyday situations. (Warning: Pushing or mandating ideas to a teen may likely result in the opposite of the desired effect!) 

It is a normal part of development for an adolescent child to evaluate the world around him and make independent judgments.  He may live by or grapple with idealism.  He may begin to question religion and ‘try on’ new ideas.  It is common for teens to look to peers for answers.  Parents may see new thoughts and behaviors as challenges to family practice or a form of disrespect.  Though not easy, it is helpful to recognize that healthy children begin to develop a true sense of autonomy.  Allowing a child to explore his or her own curiosities with parental support; providing information; and participating in lively family conversations will help prevent a child from straying too far.  You may also wish to find a faith-based youth group – though be aware that it may only be effective if your child truly enjoys it.  Community or charity work can be very impactful at this time.  Adolescents gain important perspectives about their own lives by being aware of the lives of others, and often develop new self-worth through personal contributions.  

Ultimately in adulthood, your child will make a choice about how intentional religious or spiritual practices fit into his life.  An experience of faith that has been joyful throughout the child’s life may lead him to choose the same.  Even so, a young adult may decide that another faith works better with his lifestyle. This can be difficult at first, but acceptance and understanding will be the key to maintaining a close relationship.

*** 

Future Topics in Parenting Through Your Child’s Developmental Changes include media and money.

If there is another topic you would like addressed in this column, or if you have a specific question, please feel free to email Hannah.  Indicate Bamboo Family Magazine/Question in the subject line.  Hannah will be happy to offer parenting suggestions or refer you to other resources, as needed. 

Hannah Ruth Wilde is an experienced educator and parenting consultant, having worked with children for over twenty years. Hannah specializes in supporting children who experience academic difficulties and social challenges; and who confront family transitions such as divorce.  Contact Hannah at WildeRhymes@gmail.com.


Friday
Jun292012

{Peaceful Parenting} The Power of a Parent's Touch: Adding Tenderness to the Routine Tasks of Childcare

by Kara Fleck

Touch is a powerful thing, especially a parent’s touch. It is likely you’ve seen the power of a parent’s touch in action.  Babies are soothed when folded in loving arms, tears are chased away with a hug, a gentle squeeze of the shoulder that reminds an antsy child to sit still just a while longer, or how a parent’s large hand wrapped around a child’s small one can provide an extra boost of courage. We know that touch matters. 

So, let me ask you a question I recently asked myself:  when was the last time you slowed down enough to connect with your child, not just through words, but through a loving, intentionally tender touch? 

We touch our children often, of course.  But how many of those connections are made on auto-pilot?  What if we put more intention into our tasks as loving caregivers?  How can we add tenderness to the routine tasks of childcare? 

I look back on my time as a new mother and those first days of my oldest daughter’s babyhood and every touch seemed so special and singular in time. Moments were strung together like so many precious gems.  It seemed that I spent hours caressing her soft cheeks, holding her tiny hands, and memorizing everything about her from her little toes to her soft, wispy hair. 

photo: cgindy.comphoto: cgindy.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eventually those singular moments we have as parents give way to the routines we develop as we care for our children.  Baby grows and the days blend together and stretch into months, years, and before we know it, neither children nor moments stand still in time any longer, but instead rush by us.  All too soon the hours spent rocking our child, caressing the backs of their chubby baby hands, linger only as memories. 

Being mindful of every single interaction is, of course, a pretty tall order and not possible or necessarily practical (something I readily admit as a mother to four children, three of them under the age of five).

Yet, those moments are still there, precious treasures buried in our days, and if we can make it a habit to unearth and savor even just a handful of them each day, we’ve gained so much as parents and given so much more back to our children. 

Hugs, kisses, chubby baby belly zrrrrrrrbrrrrts are all wonderful ways to shower your child with affection, and I do hope you are indulging in these as often as possible.  However, I would also like to encourage you to be mindful of the host of other small opportunities to be tender toward your kids each day. 

When I give extra thought to a simple, repeated task such as braiding my daughter’s hair every morning or giving the baby a bath each evening, I am more careful to slow down and focus on that moment, that time together.  These moments become anchors in our day, even a sort of family ritual.  Even though I have given hundreds of baths, each becomes its own special moment observed with focus and intention. 

When I carry out those tasks focusing on tender touch and feeling the love I have in my heart for my child, that seemingly mundane moment becomes a gift to us both. 

photo: jatawny m. chatmon

Consider these opportunities to be mindful in your touch as you care for your child:

  • brushing their hair
  • cleaning their face
  • getting them dressed, putting on their pajamas
  • lifting them into their high chairs or booster seats
  • tucking them into bed
  • tying their shoes, helping their feet into their boots 

It can be easy to overlook these chances to show affection as so many of the activities involved in the care of our children are repeated (and repeated) until we can go on auto-pilot doing them. 

Instead, think about what might happen if we choose to let these moments become another chance to nurture our children. Just as you make efforts to prepare wholesome meals for their bodies, make a conscious effort to perform these routine tasks with love. 

This doesn’t just apply to babies and toddlers. Big kids and teens need that connection, too – a gentle squeeze on the shoulder, a tussle of their hair, holding their hand: much can be conveyed through a simple gesture. 

One of my favorite ways to end a busy day is to sing to lullabies to my children as I’m tucking them into bed. Can you imagine how safe and wonderful it must feel to a child to be sung to as they drift off to sleep, perhaps with a caress of the cheek or a back rub? 

As the Chinese expression goes, the days are long but the years are short.  These years with our children as so fleeting.  Finding moments in the day to slow down, connect, and mindfully touch our children will leave an impression that will echo throughout their lives. 

This mother hopes that when I am no longer there to hold their hands or sing them to sleep, the moments will still be there for them, treasures buried not just in our days together, but deep within their hearts.

photo: lauren rosenbaum 

Kara Fleck is the editor of SimpleKids.net  She lives in central Indiana with her husband Christopher and their four children.  

 

Thursday
Jun282012

A Simple Summer

by Andrea Danneker, M.A.

photo: lauren rosenbaum

Summer – ahh – a time of relaxation, a time to unwind, to breathe out.  Schools take a break, days get longer, and the weather gets warmer. The world around us is inviting us to take it easy, giving us a chance to recover from the busyness of the school year and enjoy the summer days when time moves a little more slowly. 

Yet nowadays so many of us find our kids' summer breaks packed full of back to back summer camps, swim lessons, play dates, sporting events, and so much more.  Gone are the lazy days of summer; making mud pies in the backyard, running through the sprinklers, selling lemonade to the neighbors, and daydreaming under the shade of the old oak tree. 

 

photo: tricia krefetzYou may be saying, “But my kids love all the summer activities!”  Or “I’ve got to keep them busy.  I can’t stand them underfoot complaining that there is nothing to do!” Today’s fast paced, competitive world has convinced us that it is our job as parents to stimulate our child’s brain and enrich their learning – even during the summer break.  But the truth is that actually letting your child get bored – slowing down and allowing space for a child’s own creativity and imagination are essential for a child’s cognitive and emotional development and will serve them their whole lives.  Creative people generate new ideas, are flexible in their thinking, experiment and seek variation, and strive for originality.  And maybe even more importantly is that when a child engages in self-created play she is developing self-regulation – an ability to focus her attention and control her behavior.  More and more parents and teachers alike are struggling with children who are anxious and have little or no impulse control.  Reducing the amount of fixed prearranged summer activities and increasing the amount of unstructured downtime not only gives children the break summer was meant to give, but it teaches them self control!

Kim John Payne, author of the popular book Simplicity Parenting, gives parents a prescription for the summer and all year round.  Payne recommends dividing your child’s time in thirds; one third busy, one third creative, and one third downtime.  Its balance we’re aiming for here, not a complete shutdown and removal from the world we live in.  Consider slowing things down a bit – give your kids the gift of taking it easy.  Give them the break that they need and deserve. 

But how, you ask?

Do what you can to keep things rhythmic (both daily and weekly) and keep it simple.  Try giving each day of the week its own special name, for instance…Monday – beach day, Tuesday – baking day, Wednesday – cleaning day, Thursday – friend or family day, Friday – park day.  Be sure that your child has a time every day to play outside, to play inside, to play with someone else, to play alone, to eat, and to rest.  And when a special fun filled day is planned, as it will be, consider balancing these active days with a low key, unstructured day before and after.  Keep in mind, downtime doesn’t necessarily mean quiet and calm (although it can).  Downtime just means a child’s own time – to do with what they want. 

Summer can be a great opportunity to do things as a family that you don’t normally have the time to do during the school year.  But it doesn’t have to be a full menu of activities.  Just remember to keep it simple.  Here are a few ideas to get you started.

  • Cook outdoors
  • Start a chapter book together
  • Plant pumpkin seeds for fall and watch them grow
  • Ask Grandma to be a pen-pal
  • Make time for family stories – young children love to hear stories about when you were a kid
  • Camp out in the backyard – eat breakfast out there, too
  • Make homemade popsicles
  • Eat breakfast for dinner
  • Designate a screen free night each week and break out with the board games

So the next time your child says “I’m bored” simply say “Oh.  You know, there is something fun to do right around the corner.  I wonder what it is?”  And then wait.  You’ll be amazed at what they come up with!

 

Andrea Danneker, M.A. has been working with young children and families for over 14 years.  Early on in her professional career, Andrea found that sharing her understanding of children and supporting parents as they navigate through their own personal journey with their family was not only well received, but also extremely rewarding.  Her hope is to provide the information and support needed to allow parents to become the parent they want to be, have the kind of relationships they want with their children, and bring joy and peace into their homes.  Andrea is a skilled educator, practiced parenting coach, and experienced group leader and case manager with additional expertise in working with families who have children with special needs.  She is a certified Simplicity Parenting Coach and Group Leader through the Center for Social Sustainability.  She has a bachelor's degree in Psychology from Allegheny College and a master's degree in Human Development from Pacific Oaks College.  Andrea lives in the Los Angeles area, has been married to her high school sweetheart for 11 years, and has three beautiful children.


 

Wednesday
Jun272012

{Body + Mind + Spirit} Conscious Parenting: Maintaining Balance and Connection with Children in the Era of New Technology

by Annie Bunside, M.Ed.

photo: lauren rosenbaum

In the modern age of texts, tweets, and status updates, it is of utmost importance that parents maintain open lines of face-to-face, soul-to-soul communication with their children. This does not mean resisting a highly technological world that is not going away, but rather continually exploring new ways to connect with one another both on and beyond the keyboard. The new technology in and of itself is not detrimental to children and can be quite useful to them in many ways, but it must be coupled with daily opportunities for personal reflection, creative inspiration, and heart connection with others. It becomes the parents’ role to both monitor technological use as their children’s sole means of communication and to provide the space and encouragement for life-affirming communication and choices. 

Today’s children often become immersed in a world of technology and friendships that may seem quite foreign to parents. The more attuned parents are to their children’s interests other than technology, the better able they are to utilize those interests as opportunities for expanded connection. Parents can view all interests as possible pathways to enhance real life interactions. Parents must observe closely what truly brings their children joy, where they are most authentic, and what makes their eyes sparkle. To light the path of infusing deeper meaning into everyday life, parents must continually assess whether they are offering a true understanding of core concepts like authenticity, self-love, connectedness, gratitude and presence in tandem with their children’s inevitable foray into a fast-paced and ever-changing technological world. Parents must not only teach these concepts but also model ways for their children to integrate them into life experiences and relationships. 

photo: lauren rosenbaumThe invitation for all parents is to actively participate in as many areas of their children’s lives as possible without decreasing their natural move towards independence. Children’s passions when viewed from an expanded perspective offer rich material and opportunity to connect with them in deep and joyous ways. Songs, movies, and all veins of creative expression (even technology) provide optimal entry points into daily conversation and in-depth discussion. Parents can utilize everyday life to dissect and review the core concepts mentioned above to expand perspective and enhance the parent/child bond. The space and opportunity to discuss the touchstones of the day can be created through a weekly family discussion, a nightly chat at bedtime, the family dinner, or time spent together in the car with technology off. Parents must be continually on the lookout for a bridge into their children’s world, while at the same time enforce time-outs from computerized communication. 

Due to the fact that the new technology is here to stay, to resist it outright will create a backlash for parents and children alike. Instead, the best strategy is to discuss often and enforce expectations regarding appropriate use. Parents must explain to their children why balance in this area is vital to their overall well-being. The capacity to be inspired to create in any venue requires downtime, reflection, openness, and connection to the deeper space within. It is important for children to understand that there is a place for multi-tasking and technological communication, but it is the relationship with their own interior and life itself that ignites their highest potential. 

As parents give their children permission to be authentic in their choices, they must also offer them the parental insight that there are multiple angles to every choice. Parents can encourage transparency and honesty by creating a family structure that helps children monitor their choices—such as computer use on the first floor only and no hand-held devices allowed during meal times, family outings, or after 8pm. Parents should not be afraid to expect and enforce accountability, while at the same time remain open to the child’s new world. It is imperative that parents take the time to teach children that current choices affect future reality. In other words, parents should assist them in coming to understand that they are the source, not the effect—joy begets more joy, inspiration begets more inspiration, and also the opposite. 

photo: sabrina helas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conscious parenting requires active participation in all aspects of family life including the explosive use of technology. Parents must remain extremely aware of their own technological use and their presence within the family. As parents feel their way in regards to their own relationship to technology, they can begin to intuitively reach for the openings to interact richly with their children that occur naturally rather than push too hard at the wrong time. The teenage years are fast and fleeting. There is much sharing, laughter, togetherness, and JOY to be had. As parents model balance, authentic living and deep connection, their beloved children will follow suit in their own way, through not only their face-to-face, soul-to-soul interactions, but through their inevitable online interactions as well.


 A modern bridge between the mainstream and the mystical, Annie Burnside, M.Ed. is a soul nurturer specializing in parenting, conscious relationships and spiritual development. Her spiritual support practice created in 2005 assists others in balancing the exterior world with an interior focus. Annie teaches workshops, speaks publicly and writes a Soul to Soul Perspective blog for the Chicago Tribune and ModernMom, as well as the family column for Evolving Your Spirit Magazine. Her first book, Soul to Soul Parenting, won the 2011 Nautilus Silver Book Award and the 2011 Next Generation Indie Book Award. She lives with her husband and three children in Wilmette, IL. www.annieburnside.com


Tuesday
Jun262012

A Conversation with Gwendolyn Sanford from Gwendolyn and the Good Time Gang

by Ashley Ess

 

We were delighted to sit down with Gwendolyn Sanford from the popular children’s musical group Gwendolyn and the Good Time Gang. Gwendolyn is a creative talent to be reckoned with -- her music covers a wide spectrum of genres, from children's music to acoustic-psychedlic-folk to TV composer. A homebirther and RIE (Resources for Infant Educarers) proponent, Gwendolyn shares a tidbit of living an authentic life as a mother and musician.

 

As a singer-songwriter tell us how you balance so many musical genres and how each may inspire the other.

 

For the most part, I do the work that is in front of me. When the opportunity to make music shows up, whether it's a children's song, a pop song, a classical music piece, a fun comedic television theme ... it's all part of what has presented itself, what I choose to participate in and honestly. I'm so grateful for the diversity. It keeps things interesting!

 

You were a musician before giving birth. How does being a mother inspire your career and creative inspiration?

 

Becoming a mother has given me immeasurable insight and perspective on my life ... and I imagine my art is a reflection of that. I'm inspired to create more because I have more to say, more to share... 

 

How does your career affect your parenting?

 

I find myself singing to my daughter a lot. It keeps things fun... You know - "whistle while you work". Great song.

 

You studied Magda Gerber and RIE. How has this philosophy shaped your relationship with your child?

 

Respect For Infants by Magda Gerber was my favorite book early on. I recommend it! It helped me to observe more, to interrupt less, to allow my daughter to be who she is naturally -- at 2 weeks, 4 months, a year, etc ... and today she beams with a strong and growing sense of self.  

I continue to trust my instincts on what is best for my daughter all the while reading and searching for tools that can help guide me. I have wonderful parent and teacher mentors at my daughter’s preschool. They've adopted their philosophy from The Echo Center. http://www.echoparenting.org/


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What inspired you to create Gwendolyn and the Good Time Gang?


I had written a children's song for a movie and my friend encouraged me to write more, so I did. Then we put together a band and played for the kids in the neighborhood. They liked it, and we had fun doing it -- so we just continued down that path. Today we have four albums, a handful of videos and we've always got a gig somewhere!

 

What types of themes do your children's songs usually incorporate? What are your children's music performances like?


The themes we incorporate are things kids can relate to... like dancing, having feelings, riding bikes, using manners, animals, reading books, coloring, acting silly - you know, the usual. Our performances are super fun! We're a seven-piece band for preschoolers - and our mission is to ROCK.

 

What's on the horizon for Gwendolyn and the Good Time Gang?
  

We're planning a Saturday morning concert series called The Pajama Jam! It consists of different musical acts every week all beginning at 9am. Roll out of bed and come in your PJs -- our hope is to help mom or dad get the kids out early without much hassle. Hey, maybe one parent can stay behind and sleep in!

You can check out our website for more details - www.gwendolynandthegoodtimegang.com

Sunday
Jun242012

{In Reflection} Recognizing the Default Parent and Rebalancing the Family

by Tara Lindis-Corbell

photo: lauren rosenbaum

This generation's fathers are more active in the lives of their families than in preceding generations. They are more affectionate with their children, participate more in the activities that populate children's lives, read more about parenting and are more conscious about the choices and issues facing parents than ever before. I know this is true. When I talk to women of my mother's generation or my grandmother about their lives in early parenthood, I am reminded of a time when only mothers got up in the middle of the night to comfort a child having a bad dream, that men were not allowed in the delivery room, nor did they change diapers. I am then told I have no idea how good I have it.

Indeed. My husband gets up in the middle of the night when my son wakes up. He was present and active at both births of my children and attended pregnancy midwife appointments with regularity. He changes diapers and even helps with the toilet training. He takes his children out on outings, on bike rides, to the park or museum, or spends an entire weekend out on the front sidewalk turning a refrigerator box into a subway car with the neighborhood children.

Yet nonetheless, my husband and I have been having an ongoing argument. To sum up, we've been discussing gender roles and how we both feel we have found ourselves -- much to our own shock and surprise – trapped in traditional gender role definitions. The realization came one day when my husband reminded me of how much I love being a mom. I shot back, “I do LOVE being a mom. I HATE being the default parent.”

photo: deidre caswellNeedless to say, this is an argument that – like the layers of an onion – keeps unfolding and unfolding, and this has become an argument that no one has won. However, it has evolved into a discussion and yielded a constructive conversation. We note with curiosity that the US Census Bureau, in its most recent report, still, too, assumes the mother to be the “designated parent” while a father who watches the children when the mother works is “a childcare arrangement.” We comment and rant how it's not just paid maternity leaves that are insufficient, but paid paternity leaves as well. Rather than complain about how I'm the one researching summer swimming lessons and babysitting options, we both talk about how the current corporate culture of expecting employees to work 80 hours a week and penalizing them if they don't certainly doesn't make it easy for anyone to be a good parent or spouse. We point out that we both do more around the house and with the family than we give each other credit for, and this is a sad truth of many of the marriages we know. We ponder, surely there's a way to provide for our family while still getting what we need for ourselves and being available for our children and spouse?

I caught myself off guard when I declared I was tired of being the default parent, but suddenly, clarity about the stem of my frustration started to emerge. I started to vocalize some of my irritation, about why I felt taken advantage of, even when my husband thanks me often for being a great wife and mom. I found myself able to point to the gray areas of our life about where we allowed some implied ideas about parenting and gender to dictate how we did things, and mostly, just out of habit or without thinking. I started listing those grey areas and began to understand why I felt worn down, when my husband didn't. I noticed it in the details, that when I pack for a trip, I pack the clothes for everyone (except my husband - though I'm guilty of setting aside his clean clothes out of the laundry) and the toiletry items and I do it while being responsible for both children, whereas my husband just packs his suitcase. All by himself. No children unfolding his clothes as he puts them into the suitcase or anything.

How else was I the default parent?

Traditional places like while my husband attended pregnancy midwife appointments without fail, he had met the pediatrician only once (when my daughter was three days old) and the dentist never. My husband could call on the way home from work and say he was going to stop for a drink with friends, while if I wanted to do something sans children, it had to go on the calendar weeks in advance. If my husband said he was going to work on dinner or do some other chore around the house, I automatically took the children. If I was going to work on dinner or some other chore around the house, I automatically took the children.

Admittedly, this is an age-old argument. We have stopped arguing mid-sentence to lament that the whole thing feels like a complete cliché. As a breastfeeding mother of children who don't take bottles, I'm not able to leave for more than a day at a time, though my husband can travel for a week. To be fair and honest in disclosing our lifestyle, while I used to teach university English Composition and Literature, I no longer work outside the home. Any writing I do happens during “off hours” (aka when the children are sleeping). My husband works hard, and, as an engineer, can support a family of four, something that would be much harder for me to do on a writing and teaching income. My husband also wants a break and time for himself – where he's not working or having to be responsible for children. This is fair, and I agree necessary for overall happiness, but how to fit it into the schedule? When the workday is already long and I too want a break?

When I tell my friends that we've been having this argument-turned-discussion, they gather around, curious, fascinated, then describing similar default parenting tendencies in their own households: their husbands just jump in the shower, while they have to announce they would like a shower and make sure someone is watching the children and stove before finally departing for the bathroom, or on a father's mid-week day off, he assumes he won't be responsible for children, yet a mid-week day off for us means we find someone to watch the children or we hang out with our kids. Or that our husbands view their work as work, but when we go back to work after having children, our husbands view our work as a hobby – even when the income it provides contributes to the support of the household.

My husband and I have realized that it's not that our marriage or home isn't working, but that we're in the family dynamic change (aka growing pains) that occurs after the birth of a second child. We've realized we're not the only ones with these complaints, that many people share the same concerns. What started as an argument – likely when one or both of us were overtired, frustrated, under-showered, hungry, or worn down after a three-year-old's meltdown – has become an inquiry: like how is it my husband just commits himself to something and assumes we'll just work out the schedule while I check it and arrange for all the details first before saying I'll do anything sans children? Are these differences just specific to us or are they implications of gender differences? Do they reflect socialized ideas about expectations of each gender?

photo: robyn s. russell

I don't know. But I'm finding that now that we've recognized we're both tired and frustrated, we're able to talk more about what we want and what we need for ourselves and our family. We've realized that the current attitudes and expectations around work and family make it difficult for everyone to feel like they are getting their needs met. I've realized that while it's easier to point the finger at my husband for “taking advantage” of me, I assume that I'm supposed to be with the kids just as much as he does. And in fairness, while I may complain about being the Default Parent, he is the Default Breadwinner, and the expectations of that role can feel just as confining and exhausting. My husband and I are getting better at asking for what we want and need as well as negotiating the schedule, so we both feel like we win and get what we want; he goes to a concert one weeknight, while later in the week, I go sit and have a glass of wine with my sister.

Most of all, we are learning that our argument about the roles we've found ourselves in can become a conversation about how to create the roles we want. We've started exploring a variety of options for our working lives as well as our family life; maybe my husband increases his free-lance fee for when the work goes past 6pm and ends up taking away from family time, maybe we take on making some meals ahead or meal planning to simplify our evenings, or maybe my son can hang with the neighbor kids for a few hours during my daughter's nap time so I can catch up on the things I didn't get to when the kids were sleeping. The family/work dynamic can look a lot of different ways; we just forgot we have a say in how it works for us.  

Tara Lindis is a former English Professor, and now a mom and writer. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children. Visit her at her blog, Occassional Observations.


 

Saturday
Jun232012

{Root + Stem} Making Practice Poi: Creativity in Motion

by Ruth Blanding

 

Summer is a time is for adventure, a time for fun and a time to spend lazy days with family. At our house, summertime is also a time for imaginations to run wild with ideas for crafting, creating and learning from each other. It is a time to build community and friendships that will last a lifetime.

As a homeschooling family, we spend a lot of time together and sometimes it can be tricky finding a way to make summertime seem different and special. It is our goal to get out of the house and into the sun every day. On the days when we don’t leave the property, though, creating new fun activities is the way to keep smiles on our faces and fun in our hearts. I love involving my children in nearly everything I do, and one of the things I do is spin poi.

Poi is a form of dancing that is exciting and challenging. Poi dancing originated in New Zealand among the Maori people. Though, in New Zealand, poi dance is mostly performed by the Maori women, the Maori men also use poi to build strength and coordination. There are two types of traditional poi; one is short stringed with the length going from fingertips to wrist and the other is long stringed from fingertips to shoulder. Poi can be made from many different materials. Some people fill their poi with tennis balls others use glow sticks or glowing LED balls specially made for poi dancers to practice with. Poi dancers put tails made from fabric or ribbons on their poi to show them the path that flames would take if they were practicing with fire. And, yes, there is the glorious art of fire dancing, my favorite, where your poi are lit on fire and you dance with them leaving amazing trails of light everywhere they flow. Fire poi is very dangerous and a person should have lots of practice before attempting to do this. There are some dance studios that offer poi dancing education and you can find lots of wonderful tutorials on the internet; my favorite site for tutorials and safety information is Home Of Poi. There is no age limit for non-fire poi; so long as you can swing them you can enjoy them.

When I started dancing with poi, my oldest son, Loki, was immediately enthralled. He would take my poi and swing them rapidly through the air with wild abandon. He loved them so much that I couldn’t practice without him sitting and waiting for his turn. I got him his very own set and he was thrilled. When they finally fell apart, I decided it would be much more fun to make our own practice poi. My kids all thought this idea was a hit and so did their friends. Before I knew it we had a Practice Poi-Making Party on our hands!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to make poi…


Making practice poi is fun, inexpensive, and easy. All you need are a few materials, a place to make them and some open space to try them out.

Materials Needed:

 

-Fabric (I use fat quarters)

-Ribbon (for the tail)

-Cotton Filler Cording

-Small Keychain Circular Loops (we found ours at the local hardware store near the key cutting counter)

-Duct Tape (there are many colors so go wild!)

-Sewing Machine and Thread

-Rice

-Large Bowl

-Scissors

-Spoons

-Cardboard Circle (slightly larger than you wish your poi to be when completed)

 

Instructions:
  • Fold your fabric in half wrong side out. Trace the card board circle, twice, and cut out (this should give you four circles). 

  • Cut your ribbons. I cut mine twice as long as the length I want and then fold them in half; this makes it easier to sew them into the poi. 

  • Place the ribbon between the two circles centering the looped part and hold it in position with a straight pin. Sew the outer edge (using a 10cm seam allowance), making sure to sew over the ribbon twice to ensure it is securely in place, and leave a 1-1.5 inch opening.

 

  • Turn the circles right side out. Fill with rice. The amount of rice you use is up to you; the less rice used the lighter the poi. However do not fill the poi too much or you won’t be able to sew them shut. 

  • Tuck the fabric, on the opening of the poi, into the poi and set aside.
  • Cut two 22inch lengths of the cotton filler cord. (For adults 24-30 inches long depending on how long you want the poi to swing.) 
  • Take one of the circular rings and put the cotton cording through it. Fold the cotton cording about ½ inch and tightly wrap around it with a piece of duct tape; connecting it snugly to the longer strand of cording (repeat with the other cord). 

  • At the other end of the cording, make a loop big enough to put one or two fingers into comfortably and tape the lower end of the loop tightly with duct tape (repeat with the other cord).

  • Using scrap fabric cut two rectangle pieces that are 1x3inches. Fold these in thirds so you have two long thin strips. Take the fabric strip, place it through the circular loop on the end of the cotton cording, and fold it in half so the ends meet. 
  • Take the poi, put the strip ends into the opening, and hold in place with a straight pin (repeat with the second poi).

  • Sew the poi closed making sure to go over the cotton cording several times to anchor it into the poi securely.

  • Go outside and give them a whirl!! 

 Adapted from the upcoming book Front Porch Summer Camp

Ruth Blanding is a freelance writer, doula and bodyworker who specializes in pregnancy massage and reflexology. She loves crafting, writing, cooking and spending time with her beautiful family. Ruth is the proud mother of three wonderful children (Loki 7, Azure 4, and Bodhi 1) as well as an avid unschooler/homeschooler. When she is not working on one of her many projects or playing with my kids, Ruth can be found on her blog at JoyInMomming.blogspot.com, on Twitter  and on Facebook.


 

Friday
Jun222012

{Conscious Harvest} Savoring Nature’s Ponzi Scheme

by Lisa Kivirist and John Ivanko

 John D. Ivanko/farmsteadchef.com

Garlic planters have thrived thanks to the largest Ponzi scheme ever conceived – more than Bernie Madoff’s billions and perhaps more than the US Federal government’s escapades with Social Security, issuing IOUs to Paul (into the future) to pay Peter now.

That’s what happens when you plant a head of garlic, which usually consists of about 6 cloves. We harvest our garlic in June, curing them in our straw bale greenhouse.  When it comes time to plant garlic late in the fall, we break apart the bulb and separate out each of the cloves: our seeds.  By the second season, that head of garlic has produced six heads.  By year three, as many as 36 bulbs (6 heads multiplied by 6 cloves each).  In year four, there are 214.  You see where this is going.  By year ten, more than 10,000 garlic bulbs.  We’ve just created a vampire-free zone, without a doubt.

Unless we suffer a catastrophic crop failure, pretty uncommon for garlic crops, it’s practically impossible to go bust -- nature is hardwired to cover itself, reproductively speaking.  For proof, try counting the blossoms on an apple or cherry tree in the spring.  Some blossoms become apples or cherries, others don’t (blame it on the bees, a late frost or some other weather calamity).  The point here is that nature, more often than not, goes overboard on abundance.  And if you tend your own orchard or garden, it doesn’t take long to realize that the bushels of apples don’t cost a penny.  Just your time and some labor. 

Co-author, Lisa Kivirist, raising a carrot to farmstead independence and interdependence. Without the wind and sun, Lisa and John's Inn Serendipity Farm and B&B would not run or grow food. Photo: John D. Ivanko/farmsteadchef.comIt’s this fresh abundance that allows us to gorge on or process (for later use) the produce grown on our small farm from late May through early November in our northern climate in southwestern Wisconsin.  Fresh means selecting the freshest ingredients, fruits, vegetables or herbs found a hundred feet from our back door and not ones that have traveled for thousands of miles. In general, the more an ingredient arrives on your table resembling what it was in the field, the better its nutrient value and fiber content.  The harder part is figuring out what is both fresh and ripe -- there’s nothing more disappointing than biting into an unripe apple or watermelon! 

Some things are always tasty, regardless of size, like carrots.  Baby carrots often featured at high-end restaurants are selected because they’re more tender and flavorful.  And the corollary, bigger is not always better for vegetables like zucchini (you can’t enjoy the skin since it’s too hard), cucumbers (they can get bitter or seedy) or beets (they get tough and woody). 

For the rest of our fresh produce, however, we consult neighbors, books, the Internet and seed catalogs to determine, for example, when the abundant muskmelons we grow are ready to eat.   Is it color, smell or the magic touch or tap?  We looked like ostriches, butts in the air and heads bobbing up and down, bending close to the ground in our attempts to catch a whiff of the sweet smell of sunshine from a ripe melon.  We learned that our cultivar of melons, when ripe, should “slip” off the spot that they’re connected to the vine with a gentle tug -- a more reliable method.  So for each of our fruits, vegetables and herbs, we learned the telltale signs of ripeness.  For those who shop the farmers’ markets, receive a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) produce box or ply the fresh produce aisles, this quest for fresh and ripe has been largely done for you — often masterfully.  

So savor the best flavors and realize that the most nutritious foods you can eat are also the freshest, assuming you don’t boil, steam or sauté them into mush.  Depending on the vegetable or fruit, the minute they’re harvested their enzymes that help in their ripening also make them rot.  When eating fresh, you’re on the clock, even with the benefit of a refrigerator.  Some foods, however, like garlic or potatoes, can be stored for months. 

Liam and Lisa savoring fresh strawberries. Photo: John D. Ivanko/farmsteadchef.comSince summer is best for savoring everything fresh, we share a colorful salad recipe below, paired with a delicious balsamic honey dressing.  Like with many of our salad recipes in our cookbook, you’ll notice the ingredient lists and recipes sometimes appear short.  Nothing skipped, just quality ingredients added.  We’d be ruining your meal if we’d suggest otherwise.  Also worth noting, there’s no iceberg lettuce, since there are far more nutritious and flavorful greens from which to choose.  It’s ironic that the crunchy iceberg is among the top three vegetables consumed by Americans. (The other two being but a variation on one, potatoes, in the form of either French fries or potato chips).  

For anyone who snips some lettuce, pulls a radish or two, and plucks a vine ripened tomato in order to toss up a salad, the fresh ingredients steal the show and demand simple recipes to spotlight and highlight what’s already the rock star.  When the garden and fresh flavors peak in abundance during the growing season — when salad greens jump 100 feet in five minutes from the garden to our plate — just a sprinkle of homemade salad dressing brings out their subtle flavors.

 

Garden Fresh Salad 

Kids know fresh when they see it – and taste it.  As parents, we relish the fact that our son can plop himself in our strawberry patch for a snack every June, since nothing we grow is sprayed with poisons or doused in chemical fertilizers.  Often, when we’re busy working away in the spring, Liam – unnoticed by us -- takes a break from climbing trees or hanging out on top of our chicken coop to prepare a fresh salad for us for dinner, enjoyed after we’re forced inside on account of darkness. It’s easy to lose track of time when there’s compost to be spread, rows to be tilled and weeding to be done (as if we’re ever done with the last one).  When we arrive inside, perhaps after taking a quick solar shower outside by the greenhouse, we’re greeted by his smile and a proud nod toward the front porch where three perfect salads sit waiting for us, complemented by some fresh lemonade (another recipe in the Farmstead Chef cookbook); it’s made with real lemon juice.  With a little Balsamic Honey Dressing, this salad is like eating sunshine.  That it’s prepared by our son, all the better.

 

Ingredients:

½ c. sweet pea tendrils (young, green tops of sugar snap sweet peas)

1 c. tender mesclun salad mix (small, young leafy lettuces, chervil, arugula, endive)

½ c. sugar snap sweet peas, strings removed

¼ c. young Swiss chard leaves

¼ c. young dandelion greens

¼ c. nasturtium flowers (edible)

¼ c. bee balm flowers (edible)

¼ c. homemade croutons (in the Farmstead Chef cookbook)

 

Directions:

•  Wash the delicate salad greens and give the edible flowers a quick shake, checking for insects that might be hanging on.  Pat dry the mesclun greens.

•  Arrange, with the creativity of a child, the delightful colors and textures of the ingredients on the plate, topping with a few croutons and a drizzle of salad dressing.

Yield: 4 servings.

 

Balsamic Honey Dressing

With just the right amount of kick, this dressing showcases summer salad greens.  Store any leftover dressing in a glass canning jar in the refrigerator, but use it up within about a week or two.  Give the jar a shake before serving to ensure the ingredients blend nicely.

 

Ingredients:

½ c. balsamic vinegar

¼ c. onion, chopped (1 small onion)

1 T. soy sauce

3 T. honey

1 T. sugar

2 cloves garlic, minced

¼ t. crushed red pepper flakes

½ c. extra-virgin olive oil

 

Directions:

•  Purée the vinegar, onion, soy sauce, honey, sugar, garlic and red pepper flakes in a blender on high.

•  Gradually add the olive oil.  Continue puréeing until thick, about 2 minutes.

 Yield:  1 cup salad dressing.

 

Lemonade, with real lemons (or juice from real lemons)

We blush with embarrassment every time someone asks for our “secret recipe” for lemonade. Um, lemons, sugar, water?  Due to this high request demand, here are more specific proportions.  You’ll never go back to the mix stuff again.

 

Ingredients:

1 c. lemon juice (3 to 4 fresh lemons, juiced)

1 ½ c. sugar, or less to taste

8 c. water

 

 

 

Directions:

•  Combine lemon juice, sugar and water in a large pitcher.  Mix thoroughly.

•  Add more sugar or lemon juice to taste.

 Yield: half gallon

 

This essay is adapted from Farmstead Chef, by Lisa Kivirist and John Ivanko.  Farmstead Chef is the first cookbook to capture the return to our nation’s farmstead roots of independence, self-sufficiency and frugality.  Whether you’re a dedicated urbanite or live at the end of a country road, Farmstead Chef serves up homegrown and homemade cooking, sidebars on preserving the harvest and stocking the pantry, all while seeking to bring Americans back together again around the kitchen table.

Lisa Kivirist and John Ivanko are national speakers and co-authors of Farmstead Chef (www.farmsteadchef.com), Rural Renaissance (www.ruralrenaissance.org) and the award-winning ECOpreneuring (www.ecopreneuring.biz).  With their young son/junior chef Liam, they also operate the acclaimed Inn Serendipity Bed & Breakfast and Farm (www.innserendipity.com), completely powered by the wind and sun -- and serving vegetarian breakfasts prepared with organic ingredients harvested less than 100 feet from their back door. John Ivanko has co-authored six award-winning multicultural children’s books including To Be a Kid and Be My Neighbor. Lisa Kivirist also directs the Rural Women’s Project of the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service and is a Food & Community Fellow.  They don’t watch TV.

 



Thursday
Jun212012

Bamboo Book Recommendations

Reviewed by Joli Forbes

All titles are available for purchase in the Bamboo Shop

 

Nature’s Art Box

By Laura C. Martin

 

Vines, twigs, cones, moss, sand, clay, shells and flowers … these are the earthly tools used by Nature’s Art Box. Budding artists and experts alike will find hours and hours of art projects and art lessons among the pages of this wonderfully illustrated book.

A total of “65 projects for crafty kids” fill the pages including cantaloupe seed necklaces, dried flower gardens, magic wands, gourd buffalo rattles and Spanish moss houses and woodland creatures.

Intertwined into the projects are sections on “nature skills” and “art skills” which contain words of wisdom for artists everywhere. Whether you’re looking to occupy a fun-filled afternoon, or create a beautiful gift, this book is sure to have a little something for every age and every level of artistic ability. 

 

Sparkle Stories

 

Teaching our children to read is a modern necessity and is reinforced in school, TV programming and libraries across the country. But where do we teach our children how to listen to stories and to keep attention to a single subject matter in a fast-paced world? SparkleStories.com has figured out a modern-day solution by implementing an age-old answer.

SparkleStories.com is an online story website that is aiming to expand upon the daily ritual of reading to your children by exposing them to the timeless ritual of storytelling. We are able to teach our wee ones (and ourselves) to sit still, use our memories and our imaginations by listening to stories with them.

A subscription to Sparkle Stories offers a way to show by example the art and learned qualities of relaxing, snuggling and listening with your children. Every week new stories are put into your subscription folder in your onlineSparkleStories.com account and you can follow any one of the five stories into its next chapter or pick up a sixth series that offers songs and games as well.

Gentle stories about fairies, nature, adventure and life fill the audio with exciting and soft subject matter that is appropriate for all ages. Bamboo is a big fan of Sparkle Stories!

 

Vegan Pregnancy Survival Guide

by Sayward Rebhal

 

The Vegan Pregnancy Survival Guide walks the reader through life before, during and after breeding and covers preparations; vegan nutrition before, during and after pregnancy; “troubleshooting the trimesters;” and postpartum issues and wonders.

When I was pregnant I had a giant book full of scary possibilities associated with my body and the body of the baby. This small paperback is written by a woman of consciousness for women of consciousness and it’s in plain talk—not sugar coated, I should warn you—and wouldn’t you know, it’s not scary at all! Imagine that! Author and mother Sayward Rebhal has a clear and concise way of putting things straight-up and filled with hope!

Oh how I wish I’d had this book while still having babies! And having had babies, let me tell you how true and educational this personably-written memoir and advice book is! It is an amazing resource for all women sustaining a plant-based diet, and especially if they’re planning on being breeders! 

 

 

make your place: affordable, sustainable nesting skills

Written and Illustrated by Raleigh Briggs

 

This book is like the “good hippy’s anarchist cookbook!” And the lowercase title conveys the humble nature of the learned author.

After using all your harsh home chemical products for spring cleaning, recycle those bottles or reuse them to fill them back up with homemade tinctures, cleansers and salves; and this book will teach you how. (As a reference book it will also make a great resource for those of us who are inclined to begin planning for and making homemade gifts for the holiday season!)

Forthright writing and universally fundamental information on every page makes this a must-have for humans in the modern world! Recipes for first aid, house and body cleansers, and a back section on planting herb gardens for use in these recipes—are just some of the wisdoms contained within the short and sweet paperback published by the eccentric and prolific, Microcosm Publishing out of Portland, OR.  

 

 

Summer Nature Activities for Children

By Irmgard Kutsch and Brigitte Walden

 

The Rudolf Steiner College Press has published this wonderful German book (this is one of four seasonal books) in English for families who are teaching their children the ways of the natural world. Based on the teachings of the Children’s Nature and Garden Center in Germany, this book aims to strengthen children’s will while teaching life skills and connecting little ones to the summer season.

With big projects like building spiral herb gardens, breeding butterflies, building a clay oven and baking bread, this book is full of hands-on, old-world know-how that keep our kids happy and healthy through the summer months. 

And, as any Waldorf-inspired book would, there are seasonal poems, songs, and activities that use the entire mind, body and spirit. These are the kinds of summer behaviors that remind parents that their children are physically able and willing to do much more than watch TV or play video games during the warmest season of the year! Get ‘em outside, direct them safely into a supervised project and watch ‘em grow tall and strong like a garden flower! 

 


To Be an Artist

By Maya Ajmera and John D. Ivanko

 

Scared to choose becoming an artist over a desk job like I was? To this day I’ve longed to call myself an artist. However, I was taught by my parents and society that becoming an artist was an option for the wealthy and/or the whimsical…not someone poor and practical like me. Choosing to live as an artist seemed a luxury as opposed to a way of life and that’s where this lovely book comes in.

This beautiful children’s photo book teaches the world who an artist is and what they do. Pictures from Mexico, the United States, China, Columbia, Slovak Republic, Africa, and all over the world show young artists blowing flutes, painting canvases, sculpting with twig and with clay and dancing jigs and ceremonial dances from all over the world. Co-written by innkeeper and eco-author John D. Ivanko, the book is one of several Global Fund for Children books in a series and part of the proceeds are donated in support of global children’s organizations.

The photos remind readers that art is a part of everything we do and the traditions and celebrations we all come from. It is not at all a luxury reserved for the privileged but it is all around us and it is all that is beautiful in everything we do.