Friday, April 22, 2011

Parent and Guardian

I remember reading a permission slip on my walk home from school.  It was for a field trip, and at the bottom, it said "Signature of Parent or Guardian."  I knew what parent meant, obviously, and I contemplated the word Guardian with a mind filled with Narnia and Middle Earth.

My brain came up with something like this:

And I thought, that kid with a Guardian is so lucky!

I promptly told my mom that I wanted a Guardian.  She explained what the word actually meant, that some children don't have parents and a guardian is someone who takes care of them if their parents can't.  I decided I didn't want a guardian after all.

noun /ˈgärdēən/ 
guardians, plural
  1. A defender, protector, or keeper
  2. A person who looks after and is legally responsible for someone who is unable to manage their own affairs, esp. an incompetent or disabled person or a child whose parents have died

  3. The superior of a Franciscan convent

Now, as a parent, I'll get to sign that "parent or guardian" line.  I'm going to cross out the "or" and replace it with "and."

A guardian is a defender, protector and keeper.  Not owner, not king.  A guardian holds the gate, standing between their charge and the evils of the world.   "You shall not pass", he cries to the beast of flame, not while he can stop you.  His mere presence implies that what he guards is valuable and precious, worthy of protection.  His sword is never directed toward his charge, but outward.

I am my son's parent and guardian.  I am not his owner or his master.  It is my solemn duty to protect him from harm, no matter the cost.  He is precious and fragile, and the world is not always kind or safe.  I may not have a sword (well, ok, Dave has a cool Claymore for Highland festivals...) but I would still give my life to keep him safe.  It's not my job to "make him into a man" - that will happen on its own.  I am powerful, but I do not need to wield power against him.  I won't even let the little dragons in (well, maybe the nice dragons).

Are you also your child's guardian?  What does that mean to you?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

And some are very, very bad.

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish...

"Who is the bad fish in this picture?"

...I asked my husband, with a pit in my stomach, as I read to our 13-month old son.

He raised an eyebrow and said, "Uh, the red one, obviously."

I always thought it was the yellow one.

My whole childhood, in the thousands of times I've read Dr. Suess's wonderful book "One Fish Two Fish", I thought the bad fish on this page were the little yellow and blue fish.  The red fish, in my child's eyes, was their father.  The yellow fish was in trouble and had been "very very bad."  The little blue fish was smug because he'd gotten away with it and his sibling was taking the blame. The red father fish was spanking the little yellow fish.

I saw this page last night through adult eyes and decided, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that our home will never be a spanking home.

I was not raised in an abusive house, by any definition.  My parents are wonderful, kind, and supportive people who I am honored to have in my life.  As I have said before, they made the best decisions they could with the information they had, and always did what they believed to be right.  So, in keeping with the times, our home was a spanking home.  We weren't spanked for minor infractions; it was rare and reserved for only the worst offenses - things that could cause us real harm, like playing with fire or messing with dangerous tools, running away from our parents in an amusement park, darting out into traffic.  Offenses that, by conventional logic, were "deserving" of a spanking. We were only spanked if we were "very, very bad."

Spankings were never doled out in anger; they were measured, explained, and followed up by a hug.  Once the spanking was over, it was over and the world continued to turn.   My parents never left marks or bruises, and, presumably, the harm of the spank was less than the potential harm of the offense.  A spank certainly hurt less than an abduction or 3rd degree burn could have.

Spanking has an interesting history in the United States, but not as far back as you'd think.  While there are ancient historical examples of young adults being physically punished by their parents, the concept of disciplining small children "by the rod" is a relatively recent phenomenon.  Ancient Jewish law in particular is very clear in its opposition to causing harm to children.  The New Testament is even more definitive. Throughout history, spanking has been reserved for adults only, as a method for removing sin and allowing penance.

Spanking as a form of discipline for little ones seems to have come into fashion during the Victorian era (1837-1901), first in Europe and spreading to the USA, along with the notion that children should seen and not heard.  It began first with spanking young men and women to punish for sexual deviance (aka, masturbation), and slowly moved backward in age.  Spanking on the rear end was preferred because it could not accidentally cause harm to the internal organs, and on the naked bum because it would help the child associate pain with sexuality (sound familiar, intactivists?).

Books were published about the right way to spank, and the oft-used and always misinterpreted bible verse "Spare the rod and spoil the child" was used to support spanking small children for any offense.  This verse has many, many different translations depending on the version of the Bible.  While revisiting the earliest versions, the word discipline is a more accurate translation, and the rod is more like "Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me" than "thy rod beats me when I mess up."

Notice that He is not swinging the rod at the wayward sheep....
The rod is hooked so the Shepherd can gently pull his flock into safety.

Spanking is seeing a gradual decline in popularity, but a majority of Americans still believe it is an appropriate and effective form of discipline.  In a 2000 poll, 61% of parents believed that regular spanking is acceptable, even beneficial to children.  An astonishing 37% believed that spanking a child younger than 2 is acceptable.  Not surprisingly, 56% thought that a 6-month old baby can be "spoiled" by too much attention.  More than 90% of parents report that they have spanked their children.

Frankly, these parents either haven't kept up with research or are ignoring it.  The American Academy of Pediatrics not only states that spanking can cause damage, they further illustrate that it doesn't work, long-term.  They are especially vocal about spanking children under 18 months of age, citing an increased of physical injury.  Children who are spanked occasionally as small children need to be spanked more and more often to "behave" as they age, and parents are left with very few disciplinary options with teens,

Another recent study by Pediatrics reported that children spanked at a young age were much more likely to be aggressive in the years following: ""The odds of a child being more aggressive at age 5 increased by 50% if he had been spanked more than twice in the month before the study began." 

Additional research has shown that children who are spanked are more likely to have social and emotional problems, are more likely to commit violent crimes, and are more likely to be involved in abusive relationships as adults.

For an in-depth review of corporal punishment studies, click here

Spanking emotionally harms the child and the parent, and can damage an otherwise trusting relationship.  Children who are spanked are less likely to confide their troubles to a parent, for fear of reprisal.  Instead, spanked children learn to be better liars to avoid consequence.  They learn to avoid being caught, not to make good choices.

9 Alternatives to Spanking

So, here is my question for you.... which fish is the bad fish?  Which fish will you be? 

More importantly, when your child reads the book, which fish will they think is "very, very bad"?

For more information about preventing child abuse, visit
To learn more about positive (non-hitting) discipline techniques, click here.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

"Essential" baby stuff that might not be!

Despite recent media reports, kids don't actually have to be very expensive at all.

This particular article isn't advice - truth be told, we have a ton of baby stuff, most of the baby stuff on this list.  What can I say, I like to shop! However, I've discovered that a lot of the stuff we bought, we didn't use...and some families don't use any of it.  Basic things, that "everyone" told you was necessary to have before you have a baby - well, turns out, you might not need it after all.  If you *want* it, or it makes you and your baby happy, awesome.  Enjoy! You're not a bad parent if you have and adore any of these items.  Just don't feel like you have to rip out the credit cards and go bankrupt to prepare for your little bundle of joy. 

Stuff you can skip (if you want to)

#1 The Crib

Yep, that's right.  You can skip the crib.  Your kid probably won't want to sleep in it anyway.  Most babies would rather be curled up in your arms or on your chest.  Cribs are expensive!  You can skip the crib, mattress, mattress protector, sheets, mobile, crib toys, sound machine that attaches to the crib, bumpers (they're bad anyway), mesh fluffy stuff that goes over the crib - all of it.  $500+ saved!  

#2 Stroller
I dig my umbrella stroller, but use it mostly to carry groceries.  We bought one of those ginormous mega-strollers, and it's hanging in my mom's basement.  Just like the crib, my baby vastly prefers to be carried (and you can make your own baby carrier for about $5).  There's no law that says you have to have a stroller. 

#3 Bottles
Well, if you're me, you might need these.  If you work and pump, you're going to need them.  BUT, Boobs are cool and require no sterilization.  Even if baby isn't drinking directly from the tap, they can actually drink out of a cup.  Yep, a cup.

#4 Diapers
This one sort of blew my mind.  There's this super-cool movement a-foot called "Elimination Communication".  If you pay close enough attention to your little one's cues, you start to find patterns to their pooping and peeing...and you can hold them over the toilet.  For realz!  There are babies who have never worn a diaper in their lives.  Additional plus side... no toilet training!  Wipes... you will still need.  :)

#5 Baby Food

Again, cool but very basic idea.  Babies are people, and they can eat people food.  You don't need to give a baby purees.  When your little ones starts reaching for the food on your plate, just let him have some. My little guy has a deep appreciation for steamed broccoli, pasta, and blackberries. Bibs strongly recommended.

#6 Baby Bath Tub
When they're teensy, a sponge and the sink works perfectly.  After their umbilical stump falls off, you may discover the wonder of co-bathing.  Mommy + Fussy Baby In Tub = Happiness.  You figure out how to handle a slippery baby very quickly.  Wrapsody sells a water wrap that works for co-showering too, plus instructions.   Another note... you totally don't need the adorable baby hoodie towels; regular towels work just fine.  I have to say though...nothing's cuter than a baby in a hoodie towel.


#7 Swing, Bouncer, Vibrating Chair etc.
Now, I'm not going to say these aren't nice to have.  For some babies and parents, they might be a necessity.  BUT, from my observation, kids only like one of them and dislike the others.  You should go for some trial-and-error here.  Some kids don't like any of them.  None of them are "must have or CPS will be called."

Stuff you might consider spending real money on:

#1 A high-end convertible carseat.
Infant "bucket" seats have the bonus of keeping a sleeping baby asleep, but they will be outgrown quickly.  A convertible carseat can serve you from the first car ride through kindergarten.  Get one that rear-faces to the highest possible weight (Radian sells one that rear-faces to 45 pounds).   If you spend the money now on a good one, you won't have to replace it later.
Why you should rear-face as long as possible

#2 A King-Sized Bed
No, you don't "need" this, especially if you're a single parent or a set of smaller parents.  BUT, if you or your significant other are a substantial person (in my case, both), this will improve your life.  You can get a cheap one from Ikea for less than you could spend on the crib.  AND, you'll be using it long after your child has graduated to their own bed.  For extra safety, consider a bed that is low to the floor, or even on it!

#3 A nice baby carrier
Yes, you can make a stretchy wrap for $5.  I recommend doing so!  But for long-term use, a nice soft-structured carrier (Ergo Sport is my fav), a beautiful woven wrap (Girasol = Love), or a Mei Tai (ala Babyhawk)...or all three....will be worth it for you.  Especially if you skipped the stroller and the swing!  Like the carseat, a nice baby carrier will last you well into toddlerhood.

To learn more about baby wearing options, check out

 #4  A nursing pillow
This isn't a huge investment, but it's worth every penny.  A nursing pillow prevents stiff necks and arms that fall asleep while baby is at the boob.  You can use it as a floor pillow later on (for those moments when you definitely do need to put the baby down!), for "tummy time", or even for a nice neck pillow while pregnant.  I love my Boppy and have used it often, despite having to stop breastfeeding.

#5 A rocker-recliner
If you have a gorgeous wooden rocking chair from your grandmother in the baby's room, stick with it.  If you were debating on purchasing one of those expensive gliders from Babies R Us, consider this.  Get a rocker-recliner, ala La-Z-Boy.  Bob's has them for $299, or drop by your local Salvation Army.  Comfy factor cannot be beat.  You are going to spend a lot of time in this chair - and no fingers will be pinched!  .  Move it into the "man room" when baby's grown, or they can take it to college.

That's what I can think of for now... I'll add on more to either list if more come to mind - or if YOU add them in the comments!  Do you agree/disagree?  Are there more items that need to be in the "must-have" department?

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Human Milk for Human Babies

"Breast milk is not a scarce commodity, it's a free-flowing resource."
Emma Kwasnica

I've recently become involved with an amazing group, Human Milk for Human Babies, formerly known as Eats on Feets Global.  This is one of the most amazing movements, and I am incredibly honored to be a part of it.

There are mommies like me who can't breastfeed their babies, or mommies who breastfeed but don't make enough milk.  When I was hospitalized, my breastfed baby needed food.  Formula is food, but not the food I would have chosen for him - breast milk is a superior food, made for baby humans.  Cow's milk is made for baby cows, and doesn't offer the same benefits, especially in a baby's GI track - which is of particular concern to me, since IBD can be hereditary.  I reached out to my local milk bank - but I found out that not only is the milk $4 per ounce ($120 a day!!), we couldn't have it, even if we wanted it.  My baby was healthy and full-term.  So, David got formula - and I'm glad it was there.  It was not an easy transition - his tummy was upset, and he really hated the taste.  But, food is food, and he eventually adjusted.  He's done well on formula - he's healthy, strong, and smart.  As my readers know, I don't have anything against people who choose formula as their baby's food.

If I'd had a choice at the time, though, I wouldn't have chosen to feed my son formula.

I learned about Eats on Feets through you, the readers of this blog.  I became friends with Emma Kwasnica, the group's founder on Facebook, and I was blown away by her passion and dedication.  At one point, she posted an amazing photo - a friend of hers was suddenly hospitalized, and she nursed her friend's baby while she was incapacitated.  The picture brought me to tears.  One image encapsulated the philosophy of milk sharing - that in an emergency, women could rely on each other.

Emma nursing a hospitalized friend's baby.  Don't like to see boobs?  Read this.

This is the heart of milk sharing and milk donation - that in an emergency situation, mothers who want their babies to be exclusively breastfed have that option, even if real life circumstances don't allow for it.  If a mother wants to use formula, fine by me - but if she doesn't, there should be a way for her to find an Emma!

Eats on Feets has become "Human Milk for Human Babies", a name that better describes its mission and can be translated across the globe (there's even a chapter in Kuwait!).   Mothers like me can meet local mothers like Emma, who have a surplus of milk to provide.  Not necessarily boob-to-mouth; most donation happens with the help of a pump and a freezer.  Some mamas overproduce, and they have mountains of bags of milk stored, more than their baby can consume before it expires.  Thanks to HM4HB and other milk-sharing connections, that milk can find its way to a local baby in need.

One of the coolest things about this is that HM4HB is not just getting babies milk, it's helping women connect and become friends.  While you can use milk sharing networks to just get milk and move on, I'm amazed at the real life connections that are happening.  Donor and recipient mommies are getting to know each other, having coffee, setting up playdates, visiting each other's homes.  There is a community growing as a result of the sharing.  Unlike donating to a milk bank, donor mommies can often hold the babies their milk is feeding, watch them grow and thrive on the precious gift of liquid gold.  In a world where technology so often distances, this is creating a village where none existed.

Are there risks to milk sharing?  Yes, of course.  There are risks to everything in life.  There are risks to formula-feeding (I fed my kid bugs, thank you Similac).  HM4HB isn't promising a risk-free solution, just a forum in which parents can have a choice - an informed choice.   Previously, the only choice moms like me could make was which brand of formula to buy.  Now, we can choose if we want to go check things out on the donation road.

As a recipient, ultimately, you trust that the woman who is donating is healthy and living a healthy life.  If she's breastfeeding her own child, you simply trust that she cares about her own baby enough to avoid things that could make her milk dangerous.  You can pasteurize the milk at home (instructions here), and many recipients ask for copies of their donor's prenatal medical records or request additional screening for safety.

Check it out!  If you have milk to donate, wouldn't it be nice to know exactly where that milk is going?  If you really hate feeding your baby formula, why not explore donated breast milk as an option?

Human Milk for Human Babies - Website
Find your local chapter here
Frequently Asked Questions

Friday, February 18, 2011

Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep

Tomorrow, we're going to be having David's 1 year photos taken with our awesome photographer, who is doing some special sessions to benefit an organization that is near and dear to my heart.  There are a lot of wonderful causes to support in this world, and limited time, money and attention to give to everything that needs it.  I have a few charitable organizations that I support and care deeply about, but none that touch my heart quite like this one.

Not all babies get to celebrate their first birthday.  For parents who lose their precious angels too soon, Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep helps to support them in their darkest moments.

"Imagine a photo shoot where each moment is a last moment, where there will be no second takes, where what you're doing means everything."

I pray you never need them; in my perfect world, nobody would ever need them.  I also want to ensure that everyone who does need them, knows that they exist, and understands the importance of the precious gift they can give to a family in the most desperate time.

Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep photographs babies who left this world too soon.  Volunteer photographers go to grieving families, to document their beautiful children with magnificent, professional images, free of charge.  The families have these photos for a lifetime, forever captured - a tiny hand or foot, the shape of their baby's eyes, things that time can erase from memory, even though the pain never fades.

Here's a video about NILMDTS (please have your tissues ready):

How you can help:

Donate Your Time/Services
If you are a professional photographer, you can volunteer your time.  There is a screening and application process to ensure that families receive the highest-quality images from experienced photographers.  There are a number of upcoming training sessions for photographers.

If you are a musician and you own the rights to a song that might fit a slide show, you can provide the rights to that song.

People with services or products that support photography (including those who may be able to edit images) may also donate their time to NILMDTS.

Spread the word
If you work as a doula, midwife, nurse, prenatal teacher, LC, or some other health-related field, just make sure that you spread the word.  Make sure that local hospitals know about NILMDTS.

If you know someone who is experiencing the loss of a child, tell them about NILMDTS.  This is something you can do - it's so hard to know what to do, what to say.  Offer to contact this organization for them.

To make a donation to Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep, click here.

Thank you.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Babywearing through the ages

David and I went to the local Farmer's Market on Saturday, and as usual he was sitting pretty in the BabyHawk on my back.  If you ever want to see babywearing in action, go to a farmer's market - I counted over a dozen other worn babies. 

A random woman in line commented "Those things are all the rage".  An old (80+) lady with a strong accent replied, "Eeet was da rage when I lived in Moscow too!"  She went on to tell me about how she always wore her babies, and how it helped to keep them warm during the long Russian winters.

Babywearing's not trendy, it's normal.  It's practical.  It's beautiful!  Below is a collection of beautiful babywearing pictures from around the world and through the ages, from a friend's presentation to her high school Spanish class.  Enjoy!

Not sure where, but nice Mei Tai!

South Africa

Ancient Egypt







Congo (Way to get some work done, mama!)

Czech Republic - love the basket!

Czech Republic




French Daddy on a bike (not recommended lol)




More Guatemala!  Beautiful pattern

Inuit - such a beautiful photo


Mary and Jesus

Dark ages?  I think not!

Mexico, rockin the Rebozo Superman toss!

Morocco - babies wearing babies


Roma (Gypsy Mama anyone?)

Slovakia - what a happy baby.

Southern USA

Modern Day Texas