The Big Green Parenting Experiment

raising a healthy family in a toxic world

new for 2013: RIE parenting

The new year has me thinking about goals and perhaps changes for the big green parenting experiment. As a new-ish blogger, it can be challenging to find that perfect niche.

I love writing about sustainable living and parenting in a green way. These are both very important to me and I plan to continue to include those topics. I have plenty more ideas, information and fresh Friday recipes to share when CSA season starts back up again.

For 2013, however, I plan to dive into a parenting concept that is relatively new to me. It’s called RIE (resources for infant educarers). The approach is based on ‘honoring infants and young children as equal members in relationships.’ (RIE.org)

I was introduced to the concept by a friend who recommended that I follow Janet Lansbury on Facebook. After reading some of Janet’s work, I am ready to dive in and put these ideas into action. When my daughter was born I hadn’t really considered what ‘type’ of parent I would be. I stumbled upon attachment parenting after we discovered that Schy had reflux and was sleeping in our bed, on one of our chests at night. From there I started researching co-sleeping and naturally, discovered attachment parenting. This parenting style seemed natural for us and we agreed with most of the prominent ideals involved: co-sleeping, breastfeeding, not wanting her to cry and generally meeting her every need in order to create a loving, trusting bond.

I do still believe in certain aspects of attachment parenting but am coming to resent others. Perhaps it’s just because the principles aren’t working anymore. And maybe they never truly worked and we are just realizing this now that Schy is old enough to start expressing herself. I am falling in love with this RIE approach and am excited to shift my focus from being a slave to my baby to meeting both of our needs.

I’ve just ordered the book ‘Dear Parent: Caring For Infants with Respect’ by Magda Gerber, founder of RIE. I am so looking forward to further understanding her concepts and putting them to use. I feel this is exactly what the big green parenting experiment needs and I am SO excited to share what I learn, what works and what doesn’t. I’ll be starting off with an outline and some basics of RIE so you can familiarize yourself with the principles involved. As always, feedback, advice and experiences are welcomed as I embark on this new parenting journey!

Stay tuned for this exciting addition!

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holidays with toddler: notes for next season

The holidays are such a wonderful, magical time of year. Having a child puts a whole new exciting, and sometimes stressful, spin on things. We had a really great season filled with love, family, baking, delicious food, really delicious wine, toys and celebration. But all good things must come to an end and I am quite relieved that it’s over. At least until next year.

I wanted to make some notes of things that I’ve learned in an effort to have a smoother, even more enjoyable holiday season with toddler next year.

In no particular order:

1. No batteries! I wavered on this for this year, but there were some really great musical toys that we asked for for Schy. And she loves them, especially the woofer guitar. We did only receive a couple of battery operated toys this past year, but next year we are going battery free! Although she loves her guitar, she loves her new bristle blocks even more and they let her own creativity shine. Children learn so much more from toys that involve imagination, problem solving and creativity. Don’t you think that it would be cool to see the gifts people come up with? No list, no rules– just no batteries. Plus, battery free toys are a lot more fun and interesting for us to watch (and join in!).

2. Gender neutrality. Don’t get me wrong, we do own pink things. And Schy does have a particular fondness for bracelets. I was somewhat shocked on Christmas when a family member referred to Schy’s new blocks as ‘girl colors’. They’re just colors: blue, pink, green, yellow. I’d rather my daughter grow up feeling comfortable with any color toy (or otherwise) she chooses without being referred to as ‘girly’ or masculine. I’m not banning pink from the house, just moderation. The gender stereotypes, especially in toys, is outstanding. We try to buy gender neutral toys as much as possible and hopefully we can get everyone else on board too. At least until Schy can voice her own personal choices.

(My favorite color is blue.)

3. Give the child a break. The holidays are overwhelming for us as adults. Imagine how it must feel to a small person who is in the spotlight most of the day. Exhausting to say the least. It’s so easy for our little ones to become overstimulated with all of the people and toys and noise. I found that taking small breaks for a little quiet time were extremely beneficial for us. Schy is still nursing so it gave us an opportunity to slip away into a guest room and have some quiet time together. It gave us a chance to reconnect and for me to let her know how well she was behaving, sharing and interacting. It was peaceful and centering for us both. It’s amazing what a short quiet break can do. I plan to keep this one in my pocket for years to come.

4. Don’t stress. Our children feed off of our energy. When we’re stressed, they are likely to be stressed, which makes us more stressed… and so on. Relax. Enjoy. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Remember the things that are important during the holidays and teach them to your children. No one is going to remember that the ham was a little dry or that you forgot the eggnog. Everyone will remember the quality time spent together. Isn’t that what we want our children to learn? The holidays can be stressful, but we can manage that stress for the happiest holidays possible, for ourselves and for our most precious little ones.

There you have it. My list of ideas for enjoying, not just surviving, the holidays with small children. I’m feeling positive about taking on another round of the holidays! Of course, I would love to have an extra long, sunny summer in between.

Wishing everyone a spectacular new year filled with peace and happiness.

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bring it on 2013! my resolutions

Unbelievable. Here I am, on New Year’s Eve, wondering where 2012 went. This has been a remarkable year for my family and I and I am confident that 2013 will be even better. I am totally one of those people who is looking back, reflecting on the year and thinking of the changes that I want to make for 2013.

Yes, I make resolutions. I do believe that a new year is great motivation to make fresh starts and set goals. Some succeed, some fail. For 2013 I’m going all out and focusing on something that I have been neglecting: ME. These resolutions are important goals that I have set to help me feel like me again, more like a human. As a first time mom, I’ve been completely focused on the happiness and well being of my baby. And while I understand that this is completely normal, I also understand that my mood and energy affects hers also. By focusing a bit more on myself, I can be better for her and for my husband.

So, here they are:

1. Eat clean. (again). I feel so incredible when I am eating a totally clean diet. My biggest challenge is going to be conquering my sugar addiction. My plan is to go cold turkey and try to replace refined sugar with more fruits and clean substitutes. I plan to log what I’m eating and drinking, focusing on fresh, whole foods and plenty of water. I used to do this and I know I can. Also, contuining our crusade to rid our house of GMOs.

2. Scheduled exercise. I used to be fit. I so want to get back there. I used to weight train 4-5 times a week, run 9-10 miles 3 times a week and do yoga every day possible. My goal is to schedule 20-30 minutes of “me time” a day to do an intense workout. My body is really craving it and I know it’ll be the boost I need to gain my self confidence and energy back. I can’t wait to have that “hurts in a good way” feeling again. I am also running the Saratoga half marathon this year so I WILL be ready!

3. Work on time management. Routines work. It can be tough with a teething toddler who may or may not resist a nap and require my undivided attention. But much like she thrives on a routine, I think I will too. Allot time for housework, exercise, meditation, play, husband, blogging (of course) and rest. I would love to try and devote time to all of these things that are so important to me. All of the things that make me ME.

These are some pretty tall orders, I know. But I’ve done them all before and I CAN do them again. The better I am, the better I will be for my family and that is my motivation.

Better me = better us.

Let’s get this New Year started!

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26 acts of kindness: 1 & 2

The Big Green Parenting Experiment observed a blogging day of silence yesterday, December 18, in honor of the Sandy Hook victims. I did, however, stay true to our 26 acts of kindness and will share those with you today.

Kindness: act 1

Yesterday, in honor of Charlotte Bacon (2/22/06), I did a little research and reached out to two local families in need of assistance with Christmas gifts for their children. There are many families out there that could use a hand in making Christmas special for their little ones, so my family and I are doing what we can to help. A little goes long way this time of year. I am very excited to have received some great donations from friends! I will be sure to let these families know when I deliver the gifts this weekend, that they are in honor of little Charlotte. Thanks to her inspiration, three needy children will have a merry Christmas this year.

Kindness: act 2

Today, in Daniel Barden’s (9/25/05) honor, Schy and I went on a mission to find a Salvation Army volunteer. They selflessly stand outside, ringing their bells in the cold December air for the good of others. We thought it would be nice to bring one a nice hot cup of coffee in honor of Daniel. Because of Daniel, that bell ringer is a little bit warmer and is reminded of the good in humanity. He was speechless, by the way.

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Kindness feels awesome!

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top 10 parenting lessons of 2012

I began 2012 with a tiny, helpless 4 month old who has since become a brilliant, silly and passionate individual. I have learned more from her in the past 12 months than I ever could have dreamed. I wanted to share the most valuable lessons that I’ve learned as a parent, the ones that have helped us grow both individually and as a team. These aren’t the only lessons I’ve learned, just what I feel are the ten most important.

Here goes:

1. When she thoughtfully shares a soggy Cheerio from her mouth, you open up, eat it and smile. End of story. Oh, and say thank you.

2. Toddlers understand. Everything. Choose your words wisely.

3. Flexibility is a necessity. If something isn’t working, be flexible. Try something else until you figure out what works for you & yours.

4. Every child is vastly different. Mine is “passionate” and that does NOT make her bad.

5. Respect for your little one goes a loooong way. If you’re going to invade her space (ie- wipe her face, snatch her up), just let her know. You’ll be amazed how well it is received.

6. Be available to help without taking control. She learns so much more when allowed to accomplish things herself. It may be difficult to stand by and watch her struggle at times, but the reward is worth it, for both of you.

7. Put down your devices. Trust me, she would rather all of your attention for some of the time than some of your attention all of the time. This can be difficult, but also extremely rewarding. The difference in behavior is astounding.

8. Hug, hug, hug. Sometimes you’ll get pushed away, but hug anyway. Let her know how much you love her and that it’s ok to show it. Any time, any place.

9. Let her have her feelings. Feelings are meant to be felt, not bottled up. Let her feel, experience and work through her emotions in her own way. It’s healthier for everyone.

10. Have patience. These precious days are few and gone all too quickly. Take a deep breath. Enjoy and appreciate each moment. Someday you’ll long to have it back.

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A river for you, Newtown.

Today I cried. I cried a river. With every reporter that I witnessed choking back tears, the river grew deeper. The moment when it was revealed to Lester Holt that the gunman attacked a kindergarten classroom and he uttered ‘kindergarten’ with tears in his eyes and a shudder in his voice will forever be burned into my memory. I don’t really watch television, but at the first buzz of the horrifying words ‘school shooting’, I had to turn it on. I shared the thought that so many others expressed: ‘oh please no. Not again.’

This is the most horrific thing that I have ever witnessed in my life. 9/11 was awful. This feels worse. Perhaps it’s because as I sit, staring at the television with tears rolling down my face and a hand covering my mouth which just will not close, I am also looking at the image on a small monitor. The image of my own little angel, sleeping soundly. This beautiful image usually makes me feel at peace. It makes me smile. Today it makes me cry harder. It makes me question my ability to keep her safe in a world filled with hate, violence and tragedy. It forces me to wonder if I can ever prepare her, or myself, for the unimaginable. And if I will be there in her greatest times of need.

I am so sick today. Sick with sadness, grief and anger. Sick of humans taking lives, innocent lives that could have changed our world for the better. Sick of excuses. Sick of waiting for the next tragedy and wondering which one will be the last straw. What the hell are we waiting for?

What has happened to America? The world? Why am I dreading the day that I send my child to school, the mall or the movie theatre? Why do I suddenly feel guilty for bringing new life into this world? For fear that some mental defective will mow her down without batting an eye if she happens to be in his path of destruction? Is this really the world that we live in? I feel so sick.

I am sorry, Newtown. Like, really, truly, whole-heartledly sorry. I am sorry for your pain. I am sorry for your loss. I am sorry for what your children have witnessed, for innocence lost. I am sorry that your school, your town, your lives will never, ever be the same. I am sorry for the gifts that will go unopened. And for the sorrow that this date will forever bring. I am so, so sorry.

Please know that we are grieving for you, with you, Newtown. Your children are our children. Your hearts are our hearts. Your pain is our pain. And while things may never, ever be the same, may your souls feel the love and find strength in this river. A river we are all crying for you.

Rest in peace, sweet angels. Rest in peace.

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the four gift rule

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Christmas is fast approaching and there’s one thing that is on everyone’s minds. Gifts. So, what do you think of this four gift rule? Do you think that gifts and wish lists have gotten out of hand?

I don’t ever ask for much, nor have I ever, really. But I guess I do remember feeling jealous over other kids who had been completely spoiled for Christmas. I usually try to go the thoughtful or handmade route and this year will be almost exclusively due to the ol’ budget.

Schy is only 15 months old and doesn’t watch television, so we haven’t yet had to deal with the child who wants it all. But that time will come. And, man, kids want so much crap! I had no idea how much plastic bull$@*# my house would be filled with. Combine this with the ridiculous amount of packaging… ugh. It’s an aspiring green parent’s worst nightmare. So wasteful. All they really want is pots and empty paper towels tubes anyway.

So I read this four gift rule somewhere and I thought it was awesome! People go so overboard and totally miss the spirit if the holidays. Parents literally trample each other on black friday Thanksgiving for the hot toy of the minute, only to be tossed aside as soon as the next thing comes out. It’s madness. Shameful, really.

I’m really considering this rule for our family. I haven’t spoken to the husband about yet, so we’ll see what he thinks. I think it’s a good guide to keeping the gifts in check. And there’s still room for just a little spoiling since those wants can get pretty expensive. (Thanks Apple!) Christmas isn’t about how many gifts you get. It’s about giving, family, spending time with the ones you love. Oh, and cookies!

I’d love to hear some thoughts on this! Do you practice a ‘rule’ for gift giving? How do you help your children understand what the holidays are about without going overboard with gifts? Please share!

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day 28: 30 days of thanks

I am so thankful that my family and I have always had access to health care when we’ve needed it. I know that there are plenty of people in the world who have not been so lucky. Tomorrow is Schy’s 15 month appointment and I am thankful that she is able to see her pediatrician regularly. It gives me comfort as an overly paranoid first time mom that her doctor is just a phone call away, no matter the time of day or night. I’m thankful that this is something that my parents were always able to provide for me and that we can now provide for our little one. Here’s hoping we’ll only ever need routine visits.

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Review and GIVEAWAY: Zenoobi.com

I was very excited to be contacted by Zenoobi.com to do a review of their fabulous site and one of their products. If you’re unfamiliar, Zenoobi is an eco-friendly and organic online retailer offering merchandise that ranges from baby and kids to furniture and household items. After exploring the site I was thoroughly impressed with the variety of merchandise that they have to offer.

At first glance, the site is very well-organized and offers a perfect balance of simplicity and variety. It is extremely easy to navigate and very user-friendly. It is apparent that the website is thoughtfully designed for a pleasant shopping experience. I had a very good first impression of the site.

I loved browsing the various products that they have to offer, from adorable organic baby clothing to my personal favorite, Aden + Anais swaddle blankets! (If you don’t already own at least one of these, now is your chance! Great gift, too!) There are a variety of natural bath & body products including the Earth Mama line, unique toys and crafts and even furniture for your little one or the nursery. And if that’s not enough for you, they also offer a large selection of natural cleaning products, bedding and household items.  Zenoobi.com carries an array of reputable names such as Happy Baby organics, Mrs. Meyers cleaning products, GreenToys, thinksport and many others.

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Zenoobi.com carries a fantastic selection of items for mama’s and mama’s to be. I received a bottle of Earth Mama Angel Baby Happy Mama Spray to try out. I haven’t tried many aromatherapy type products so I was eager to give it a shot. Described as ‘bliss in a bottle’, this spray is specially formulated with a blend of oils to be uplifting during stressful times and to curb pregnancy nausea. As the mother of a toddler, I used it for the former. The fresh citrusy scent is indeed uplifting! A spritz in the air or on the wrist and it really does give a refreshing feeling of calm. I’m sure the deep breath helps too! I obviously didn’t get to test the effectiveness on nausea. I have a hunch that it would depend on the woman as we all have very different aversions during pregnancy. I wouldn’t hesitate to give it a try if I should ever find myself pregnant again. I thoroughly enjoy this ‘bliss in a bottle’ and look forward to having it handy when we get further into toddlerhood and I need burst of serenity now!

Zenoobi.com is a great site for those, like myself, who like to support eco-friendly retailers. Based on my experience thus far, I would highly recommend giving them try. If we all did our part to select environmentally responsible products and support retailers like Zenoobi, the world would be a better place!

HOW ABOUT A GIVEAWAY???

Zenoobi.com is generous enough to be offering one of my lucky readers a $20 gift code for their site! Great time to pick up one of those sweet swaddle blankets I was raving about!

You will get one entry for each of the following:

1. Like Zenoobi on facebook and leave a comment about the giveaway. Bloggers be sure to ‘like’ from your personal FB page for it to be counted.

2. Like the big green parenting experiment on facebook and leave a comment. (Again, from your personal account.) if you already like the bgpe, leave a comment saying so to receive your entry.

3. Sign up for the Zenoobi.com newsletter and mention it in one of the above comments.

All entrants will receive a gift from Zenoobi.com, so please be sure to leave your comments so I can contact you! Who couldn’t use an extra $20 towards gifts right now? I know I could!

Zenoobi.com also states that they plant a tree for every order placed! How sweet is that?!

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day 24: 30 days of thanks

Sleep.

I am so very thankful for sleep! Although I don’t get nearly as much as I did before Schy was born, I still really value the sleep that I do get. It’s amazing how your body learns to adjust to the amount of sleep you’re presently getting. I’ve been pretty sleep deprived for quite some time and some how I still manage to function. I love to lay down and close my eyes and wake up feeling refreshed. I look forward to having that feeling every day again someday. But for now I’ll just be thankful for the sleep that I do manage to get.
Good night all.

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