Thursday, 29 December 2011

Visual family journal

On Mother's Day this year, I sat down with a blank journal and a new pack of pencil crayons to record the day's events. It wasn't anything extravagant - the boy and I had completed a dragon puzzle together, I had done some sewing for an upcoming birthday, and I had reflected on both those who were mothers to me and those who had made me a mother - but I put it to paper anyway.

(All names removed from all photos.)

The year is ending and I look fondly through the pages. I am amazed at how strongly the recorded memories stick, no matter how little and unremarkable they seemed at the time. Some weeks I recorded daily, while busier weeks were summarized on a page; it is the detailed daily entries that best capture those ordinary moments. If I don't write it down, I will forget.

Our trip to the farm, where the boy sheared a sheep.

An unexpected soak in the local splash park.

A friend's fifth birthday party.

But it's not just my journal; it's our family's journal. Often the boy joins in, drawing his own memories of the day. Sometimes he labels them, asking me for help with the spelling; other times I record his descriptions and commentary.

"It's smaller because it's far away."

The day's fort.

Our trip to Playland, including riding the helicopters and the log water ride.

Sometimes even the husband can be persuaded to lend his artistic talent to our journal;
my dinosaur would have been far less impressive than his.

Collages of family vacations record our favourite memories of our time together. Little things, like a shared conversation over a cup of coffee raspberry dark chocolate latte, are recorded alongside the big things, like trips to the amusement park, as they are equally treasured in our hearts.

Thanksgiving with the in-laws.

A week with my mother-in-law, including some mountain climbing.

Summer vacation with the in-laws.

Summer vacation with my parents and sisters.

But as valued as those times together are, the silence upon our return can be just as golden.

Sometimes the unexpected happens, and the entries become even more precious than I initially imagined they would. Only hindsight reveals the true importance of an enjoyable yet seemingly unremarkable day.

Our last visit with Granddad, only a week before he passed away.

New favourite recipes are occasionally featured, memories of not only the ingredients and steps, but the time spent together making and then eating them.

Delicious pretzels, along with the boys' collaborative city.

Some days, Mommy just needs chocolate.

The most precious entries to me are reminders of the lessons these boys of mine have taught me. I seek to raise them in the knowledge and love of God, but it is they who teach me, opening my eyes to wonder and beauty and oh, freedom.

Quotes, verses, and summarized blog posts remind us of the things that had been on our hearts and minds.

"...what he most needs from me then is...strength and clarity..."

"He guides me along the right paths for his name's sake."

"...proclaim the excellencies of him who called you..."

"Seek peace and pursue it."

I am no artist, but the memories remain anyway.

Truly, the boy wasn't leaning precariously off the edge of the stool,
nor does he have a hunchback, nor are our countertops bright purple.
But he sure was proud of himself for making breakfast for the family on his own that day.

Pictures and words, hopes and prayers, achievements and gratitude, menus and quotes, tragedy and comedy, daily celebrations of our life together - this family journal of ours is our place to get it all down. We collect these bits of our lives between the white pages, seeking, as always, to find the extraordinary in the most ordinary of moments.

I would love for you to share: How do you record your family's most precious memories?

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Natural Parents Network: Best of 2011

As a volunteer editor with the Natural Parents Network (NPN), I have been blessed to find a wonderful community of natural-minded parents and parents-to-be that seek to inform, empower, and inspire. When you visit NPN’s website, you can find articles and posts about Activism, Balance, Consistent Care, Ecological Responsibility, Family Safety, Feeding With Love, Gentle Discipline, Healthy Living, Holistic Health, Natural Learning, Nurturing Touch, Parenting Philosophies, Practical Home Help, Preparing for Parenting, Responding With Sensitivity, Safe Sleep, and so much more!

The volunteers who dedicate their time and energy to make NPN the outstanding resource it is also spend countless hours informing and inspiring others on their personal blogs. To close out 2011, the NPN volunteers have come together to provide you with some valuable reading material. Each volunteer has selected either their most viewed post of 2011 or their favorite post and shared the link here. Please take a few moments to visit each post. Our intention is to expand our reach as bloggers and informed parents and parents-to-be who are still growing as we move through our own journeys. Each volunteer has provided links to other social media sites where you can follow them as well.

We hope you enjoy reading these posts as much as we enjoyed writing them. We are always looking for new volunteers, so please contact us if you are interested. Just a few hours per month can help other parents in a huge way!

Abbie at Farmer's Daughter shares her Christmas Cookie Swap Blog Hop, which is her fourth annual virtual cookie swap and most popular post of the year. Please stop by and link up your favorite holiday recipe until Dec. 31. You can find Farmer's Daughter on Facebook and Twitter.

Adrienne from Mommying My Way shares Fear vs. Faith, one of her favorite posts about how often living a life of faith can look like a life of fear, but the two are really quite different. You can also find Mommying My Way on Facebook.

Alicia of Lactation Narration retells the story of her oldest daughter's 5 years of nursing and weaning in her favorite post of 2011, The Weaning Party. You can find Lactation Narration on Facebook and Twitter.

Amy of Toddler In Tow shares Finding My Mommy-Zen, her most viewed post of 2011. In this post, she shares her desire to balance her own self-esteem by choice in order to parent with peace and compassion. You can also find Toddler In Tow on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter, and follow Amyables (Amy W.) on Google + and Ravelry.

Arpita of Up, Down, and Natural shares one of her most popular posts titled Reflections. This is a beautiful look at the type of mother she wants to be. You can find Up, Down, and Natural on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Charise of I Thought I Knew Mama shares Why Do Children Have More Food Allergies Than Ever Before?, her most viewed post of 2011. This post explains the shocking info that one unsuspecting mother discovered when she started researching why her daughter had a violent allergic reaction to eggs. This is a must read post for ensuring the health of your family. You can also find I Thought I Knew Mama on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Stumbleupon.

Christine of African Babies Don’t Cry shares The Best First Food for Babies, one of her favourite posts of 2011. This well-researched post delves into the healthiest and most nutritious food to feed your baby. You can also find African Babies Don’t Cry on Facebook, Twitter, Google + and Pinterest.

Cynthia of The Hippie Housewife shares Gentle Discipline for Toddlers, her most viewed post of 2011. This post describes five gentle discipline tools for parenting toddlers. You can also find The Hippie Housewife on Facebook, Google +, and Pinterest.

Darcel of The Mahogany Way shares how Babywearing As a Way of Life one of her favorite post of 2011. This post showcases some beautiful woven wraps that she has purchased, traded, borrowed, and sold over the years. Darcel also talks about the benefits of babywearing from the newborn through toddler stage. You can also find Darcel{ The Mahogany Way} on Facebook, Twitter, Her Community for Mothers of Color, and Pinterest.

Dionna of Code Name Mama shares 50 Healthy Snack Ideas for Kids Plus Fun Serving Suggestions, her most viewed post of 2011. Most of these snacks are quick to fix and portable, so you can pack them to send with your child on play dates, at preschool, or to just have handy in the refrigerator for when your child wants to grab a bite to eat “all by himself.” You can find Dionna on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube.

Erica at ChildOrganics shares a post that is not only close to her heart, but also her most viewed post for 2011 titled Attachment Parenting in the NICU. This post shares her top 10 tips for parenting should you find yourself with a baby in the NICU. You can also find Erica on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Gretchen of That Mama Gretchen shares her personal experience of returning to work, expressing milk, and the ups and downs in between in her 2011 most viewed post, Mama's Milk. You can also find Gretchen on GFC, Blog Lovin', Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Isil of Smiling like Sunshine shares how to make an autumn tree using pumpkin seeds, her most popular post in 2011. This post features a lovely craft activity that you can do with your kids! You can also find Isil on Facebook and Twitter.

Jennifer of Hybrid Rasta Mama shares 80 Uses For Coconut Oil, her most viewed post of 2011. This comprehensive post provides background information on the benefits of coconut oil as well as outlines 80 uses for it. You can also find Hybrid Rasta Mama on Facebook, Twitter, Google +, and Pinterest.

Jennifer of True Confessions of a Real Mommy shares her most popular post of 2011, Weekly House Blessing (Otherwise Known as Cleaning Once a Week). This post outlines a once per week cleaning routine for busy moms. You can also find Jennifer on Twitter.

Joella, the mama behind Fine and Fair, shares An Unusual Gripe with Bebe Gluton, one of her most popular posts of 2011. In it, she discusses the controversy surrounding a "breastfeeding doll" and offers her take on the gender role implications of dolls in general. Fine and Fair can also be found on twitter and facebook.

Julia of A Little Bit of All of It shares the story of how her co-sleeping relationship ended with her daughter, her most viewed post of 2011. This post shows how her daughter transitioned to her own bed on her 2nd birthday and the emotions involved for her mom. You can also find A Little Bit of All of It on Facebook, Twitter, Google +, and Pinterest.

Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment shares True Blessings: White Noise and Grandparents, her most viewed post of 2011. In this post, Kat talks about how she maximizes getting sleep and how grateful and blessed she is to have her parents be so involved in helping and spending time with her kiddos.

Kelly of Becoming Crunchy shares That Cup Does What?, her most viewed post of 2011. This post is one of a series of reviews and information on switching to all natural menstrual products - having heard so many different options and recommendations, Kelly decided to give a whole bunch of them a try and pull all the reviews together in one week for anyone interested in making the switch. This post in particular covers the ins and outs of the Diva Cup. You can also find Becoming Crunchy on Facebook, Twitter, Google + and Pinterest.

Kristin of Intrepid Murmurings shares a popular post from 2011, something she and her husband made for their girls for Christmas, great for open-ended play and construction: Handmade Tree Blocks. You can also find Kristin on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.

Lani of Boobie Time shares Helping a Fellow Breastfeeding Mom, her inspiration for starting to blog. This post discusses the importance of fellow moms supporting each other and some tips on having a successful breastfeeding relationship. Lani can also be found on Facebook.

Laura at WaldenMommy: Life Behind the Red Front Door writes about finally entering "spring" when her child with special needs begins preschool. After battling post-partum mental illness (post tramatic stress disorder) after the preterm birth of her third child, she finally begins to feel healthy and whole again in "It's Fall, Ya'll-Again."

Lauren of Hobo Mama shares On not having an AP poster child, her (OK, second) most viewed post of 2011. Lauren's first child shook her certainty that attachment parenting meant babies never cried and toddlers grew independent — and that's all right, too. You can also find Hobo Mama on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest.

Luschka of Diary of a First Child shares Lactivism, Breastfeeding, Bottlefeeding and Mothers at War, one of her most viewed posts of 2011. This post discusses how the breastfeeding/bottle feeding debate causes a division between mothers, leading to the alienation of women and babies, while divisive companies prosper. You can also find Diary of a First Child on Facebook, and Twitter.

Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children shares how With Privilege Comes Responsibility, one of her most viewed posts of 2011. This compelling post explains her strong felt desire to stand up for those less privileged. You can also find Living Peacefully with Children on Facebook.

Melissa of Vibrant Wanderings shares a Montessori-Inspired Checklist for Choosing Toys, her most popular post of 2011. The article outlines some important Montessori principles and how they relate to children's toys, translating that into some simple guiding principles. You can also find Melissa on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest.

Melissa of White Noise shares Modern Day Wet Nurse, her most viewed post of 2011. In this post, Melissa shares the benefits of human breast milk and human milk sharing. You can also find Melissa at Mothers of Change.

Momma Jorje shares Amniocentesis - What is it *really* like?, one of her most viewed posts of 2011. This open and honest series offers not only the technical process of amniocentesis, but also the emotions involved in awaiting (and receiving) the procedure and a diagnosis. Momma Jorje can also be found on Facebook.

Moorea of MamaLady: Adventures in Queer Parenting shares Fluoride: Another Reason Breast Is Best, her favorite post of 2011. This post provides research on the harmful effects of fluoride in drinking water for babies and toddlers and ways to limit fluoride consumption in your home. You can also find MamaLady on Facebook and Twitter and her Parent Coaching Site.

Rachael at The Variegated Life is Calling the Muse in her most viewed post of 2011. In this post, she describes how she uses ritual to help her tap into her creative spirit. You can also find Rachael on Twitter and The Variegated Life on Facebook.

Rebekah and Chris from Liberated Family shares Using Cloth In a Disposable Society, their favorite post of 2011. This extensive post provides a lot of information regarding the varied uses of cloth as well as the many benefits. You can also find Liberated Family on Twitter.

Sarah at Parenting God's Children shares her most viewed post: Confessions of a Breastfeeding Advocate: I Couldn't. She confesses her struggles with breastfeeding her daughters, but shares why she'll continue the good fight. You can also find Sarah on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Seonaid of The Practical Dilettante offers a science- and reverence-based meditation on The Living Earth, her most viewed post of 2011. This meditation was originally written for Earth Day, but it provides a way to reconnect with your place in the living breathing planet at any time of year. You can also find Seonaid on Facebook, Twitter, and Google +.

Shannon at Pineapples & Artichokes shares I Recommend (But Moira Likes This Book Too), her most viewed post of 2011. This post is a review of a wonderful book that talks about all the different ways that families can be made up, along with some of why this topic is so important to her family.

Sheryl at Little Snowflakes shares her experiences with tandem nursing in Tandem Nursing – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, her most viewed post of 2011. You can also find Sheryl on Twitter.

Stay tuned for some amazing posts from all of these tremendous bloggers in 2012!

Thursday, 15 December 2011

A Quiet Joy: Inwardly Expressive

You can find me over at Introverted Church today, guest posting on the topic of observing the Advent season in a quietly joyful way:

I remember being sad. I was so unbearably sad, and yet there were no tears. I berated myself for the lack of visible emotion; what was wrong with me? Everyone else at the funeral was crying.

I remember being happy. I was blissfully happy and felt at peace with the whole world. My blissful calm was shattered with a single comment from a random stranger: "Cheer up, love, it can't be that bad!"

I remember being excited. Oh, I was excited. I tried to show it, but it felt forced, fake. The bearer of good news noticed as well. "I thought you'd be excited about this."

Always the refrain: What is wrong with me? Why am so woefully inexpressive? I feel so deeply on the inside but it just doesn't show on the outside. A fault, a flaw, a personal shortcoming. How hard can it be to just show what I am feeling...

Read the rest over at Introverted Church!

Introverted Church is run by Adam S. McHugh, author of Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture. He is an ordained Presbyterian minister, spiritual director, hospice chaplain, speaker, and retreat leader. He is currently working on a second book, tentatively entitled "The Listening Life," to be released in 2013. Be sure to follow along with the rest of the "A Quiet Advent" series.

Saturday, 10 December 2011


Today I am guest posting at Up, Down & Natural on the topic of routine infant circumcision.

"There are so many myths out there, from physical to emotional to cultural, it's easy for a woman to allow her son's foreskin to be cut off without giving it a second thought. After all, it's just what's done.

I remember thinking that at one point..."

Read the rest over at Up, Down & Natural!

Arpita, the writer behind Up, Down & Natural, is a postpartum doula who blogs about trying to conceive, eco-friendly living, organic eating, ayurvedic medicine, alternative medicine, natural parenting, attachment parenting, and more. In her words: "Sometimes the world of trying to live greener and switching to chemical free organics is enough to turn you upside down. However, when these changes are made for our children and the earth we bring them into, it only seems natural."

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Never-ending cleaning

I scrub house, even though everything just gets dirty again.

Never-ending dishes.

Never-ending laundry.

Never-ending sweeping.

But I do it and it is good and holy work, because all is worship when does as worship.

I scrub heart, even though it just gets dirty again.

Never-ending repentance.

Never-ending forgiveness.

Never-ending sin-scrubbing.

But I do it and I cling to the promise that He will complete this good work He has begun in me.

Never-ending cleaning of home and heart: This, along with my ceaseless thanks and praise, is my daily offering to You. May it bring You glory.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Keeping Christ in Christmas

Uploaded by user via Jan on Pinterest

"Keep Christ in Christmas!"

"What is Christmas without Christ?"

"Don't let them take Christ out of Christmas!"

...And so begins the Christmas season.

Instead of fighting to keep Christ in Christmas, be Christ this Christmas.

Instead of complaining, be His hands and feet here on earth.

Instead of condemning, let His love shine through you, bringing glory to Him.

Let go of your righteous indignation and do, be. Volunteer, donate, serve, give, love. Christ is not Someone to lobby for, He is Someone to live for, Someone to live as!

Is this not a season of joy? Then be joyful! Is this not a season of love? Then be loving!

If you want Christmas to be about Christ, then be as Christ.

Here. Now. Today and every day.