Tuesday, 18 December 2012

When the small things are really the big things

He's three tomorrow, my toddler-boy, the one with the impossibly long eyelashes and the built-like-a-tank body. He's a sweetheart, that darling child of mine. He loves to snuggle. He loves babies. He loves to fall asleep with his head on my lap.

He also loves to rip the heads off his Lego people.

Make of that what you will.

But his clumsy toddler fingers make it challenging for him to accomplish his violence on his own, so he does what most three year olds do when faced with such a difficulty: he asks his Mommy for help.

"Can you take his head off for me, Mommy?"

"I don't know...what if he doesn't want his head ripped off?"

"He does!"

"Okay, here goes. Ahhhhhhh! Hmm. Sounds like he didn't like that very much."

He grins, walks off, silly Mommy.

Always the same thing, until recently. He brought over his Lego person and asked me to rip his head off. I silently obliged. After I handed him back his now-decapitated tiny man, he stood still for a few seconds. Then he looked up at me.

"Why didn't you say 'ahhhhhh' this time?"

"I'm sorry! Ahhhhhhhh! Better?"

He grinned his approval and returned to his playing.

The next time he asked me to help him remove a head, I remembered our last encounter. I gave the obligatory scream as I handed him the body parts.

"You said 'ahhhhhh'!" he exclaimed, pleased that I didn't have to be reminded again.

It's always the little things, isn't it? The things we think are just silly, unimportant, until a child looks up at us with those big eyes and asks why we didn't do it this time. It's important to them. Those brief moments of engagement, those miniature rituals, those unexpected moments of meaning that tell them hey, I see you, I'm here with you, I care about you, they all matter.

It matters to my little boy that I pretend his minifigs are screaming as I rip their heads off. It lets him know that I'm there, really there, fully engaged in the present moment and the task (as it were) at hand.

I'm grateful for his reminder.

So I'll keep on screaming. I'll keep on being silly until he tells me I'm so uncool, Mom. And then we'll find new ways of connection, and maybe he'll concede that I'm not entirely uncool after all. Maybe.

(Only by then he won't actually need me to rip off his minifigs' heads for him, but that's beside the point. Somehow. I don't know what I'm talking about. I misplaced my brain, remember?)

Today I'll be watching for those little moments of connection, because it turns out they're some of the most important moments of all.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Natural Parents Network: Best of 2012




As a volunteer with the Natural Parents Network (NPN), I have found a community of natural-minded parents and parents-to-be who are passionate about being informed, empowered, and inspired.

When you visit the 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!

Today I would like to share some bookmark-worthy posts that highlight several wonderful posts from 20 volunteers with the Natural Parents Network. These posts were featured on the personal blogs of the Natural Parents Network volunteers and are some of the best of 2012.

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 mamas in a huge way!



Most Viewed Post: Why I want to Homeschool / Why I Don't Want to Homeschool
Personal Favorite Post: Hello Mornings
Post I Wish More People Saw: Eating Healthy on the Road




Visit Code Name: Mama


Dionna from Code Name: Mama

Most Viewed Post: 32 Natural Remedies for Colds, Congestion, Coughs, and Fevers in Infants (Newborn to 6 Months)
Personal Favorite Post: Crying Does Not Equal Manipulation
Post I Wish More People Saw: Why Nurse A 4 Year Old?






Laura from WaldenMommy:Life Behind the Red Front Door


Most viewed post: Ten Reasons to Revoke my Natural Parent Card
Personal Favorite Post: The AP'd Child Speaks Out
The Post I Wish More People Would Read: Having A Child With Special Needs...







Jennifer from Hybrid Rasta Mama

Most Viewed Post: 333 Uses for Coconut Oil
Personal Favorite Post: You Will Understand When You Are A Mother
Post I Wish More People Saw: Constipation In Children and What You Can Do To Help









Most Viewed Post: Potty Learning the Gentle Way
Personal Favourite Post:Gentle Weaning and Play
Post I Wish More People Saw: Rape and Attachment Parenting








Abbie from Farmer's Daughter

Most Viewed Post: Maple Cinnamon Swirl Bread
Personal Favorite Post: The Birth Story of David Joseph
Post I Wish More People Saw: A Farm of My Own












Gretchen from That Mama Gretchen


Most Viewed Post: Crockpot Yogurt
Personal Favorite Post: 100 Days Old
Post I Wish More People Saw: A Fresh Perspective | Jemma's Beautiful Birth





 

 

Christine from African Babies Don't Cry


Most Viewed Post: I Breastfeed My Toddler For The Nutritional Benefits
Personal Favorite Post: From Full-Time Formula To Exclusively Breastfed
Post I Wish More People Saw: How To Minimise The Chance Of A (Genetically Prone) Child Being Diagnosed With ADHD






Charise from I Thought I Knew Mama


Most Viewed Post: My Misdiagnosed Miscarriage Story
Personal Favorite Post: A Poem for My Baby Girl
Post I Wish More People Saw: How Does Attachment Parenting Foster Independence?








Mandy from Living Peacefully with Children


Most Viewed Post: Attachment Parenting: the Renewed Face of Feminism
Personal Favorite Post: Different Rules for Different Families
Post I Wish More People Saw: Introducing: Attachment Parents Get Real!





Amy from Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work


Most Viewed Post: Censored at the Beauty School
Personal Favorite Post: Let Them Have the Last Word: Demonstrating Peace For Children
Post I Wish More People Saw: Talents of the Heart








EarthMamasWorld.com

Angela from Earth Mamas World


Most Viewed Post: The No 'Poo Method: Homemade Shampoo And Conditioner
Personal Favorite Post: It's Okay...I Actually Enjoy Spending Time With My Kids!
Post I Wish More People Saw: Gentle Discipline And Our Family




Cynthia from The Hippie Housewife


Most Viewed Post: Winding Down at Bedtime: Three calming games
Personal Favorite Post: While the nights are still precious
Post I Wish More People Saw: Those days don't define you








Fine and Fair Joella from Fine and Fair


Most Viewed Post: Teen Pregnancy: Not Caused by Makeup
Personal Favorite Post: A Letter to my Son: The First of Many
Post I Wish More People Saw: 25 Lessons for my Children







Megan at The Boho Mama


Most Viewed Post: Coconut Oil: Nature's Baby Magic
Personal Favorite Post: When They're One
Post I Wish More People Saw: Using Relaxation and Visualization to Support Breast Milk Supply








Julia from A Little Bit of All of It


Most Viewed Post: 10 Things I'd Like New Moms to Know
Personal Favorite Post: My Mother Blessing
Post I Wish More People Saw: Why Should You Wear Your Baby?







Amy from Anktangle


Most Viewed Post: Growing Sprouted Onions
Personal Favorite Post: Dear Daniel, (On Discipline and Love)
Post I Wish More People Saw: Garden (Time Out) Meditation








 Lauren from Hobo Mama


Most Viewed Post: Where to find cute maternity clothes
Personal Favorite Post: Getting used to having kids
Post I Wish More People Saw: On having two kids & not playing fair








Isil from Smiling like Sunshine


Most Viewed Post: DIY Alphabet Boxes
Personal Favorite Post: Children's Books About Breastfeeding
Post I Wish More People Saw: 7 Tips for Breastfeeding in Public







Jorje from Momma Jorje


Most Viewed Post: Family Cloth... Really??
Personal Favorite Post: I did not Birth a Syndrome
Post I Wish More People Saw: "Good Baby"

Friday, 14 December 2012

With trembling heart

I am sitting at the end of the boy's bed. The toddler has long been asleep; baby girl just woke up and is snuggling in my arms. It's good to be with all of them like this, whispering in the light of the boy's lamp.

"What was the best part of your day, Mommy?"

"Hmm...seeing what painting looks like with feathers. It was neat to watch you try that."

"Oh, that was my favourite part of the day too! Can you tell me a bad day story, please?"

"Alright. What should it be about?"

"No you pick! What should it be about, Mommy?"

I think. One day a young man walked into an elementary school...

Children? No. It's unthinkable. It's unimaginable evil and sickness. Who wants to tell a bad day story on a day already stained with too much blood and tragedy?

"What should it be about? Mommy? Mommy! What should it be about?"

I blink back tears, leave my thoughts behind, return my attention to the eager boy in front of me. Oh, child, so full of blessed life.

"Okay, here goes. I woke up in the morning and there was a dinosaur sleeping on the end of my bed..."
_____________________

My thoughts and prayers are joining with all of yours as we remember the lives taken in Connecticut and the children wounded in China today.

Do not lose hope, dear ones.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Humble Love

As Christmas approaches, I find myself missing the churches of my past more than ever. Anglican churches with their beautiful liturgy, always the same, faithful, rooted. Steeples and stained glass windows, church choirs and Christmas pageants, purple candles in green wreaths and a child holding that long rod with the flickering flame at the end. This week we light the candle of Love, oh how we all wanted to be the lucky child chosen to light the candle each week.

It's Christmas and I want all the bells and whistles of my youth, give me a beautiful building with beautiful decorations and all the pageantry of the season! I want the grateful familiarity of long-held traditions. I miss it all.

But Jesus...I think of His own birth.

He didn't even get an inn, much less the high ceilings of a palace. No, he was born in a rough cave hewn in the rock, with animals all around him and dung below. He was lain in a feeding trough, for goodness sake, and I want pews and candles and long robes?

I think of this as I sit in our home, surrounded by a church family far more gracious than I could ever deserve. Stained carpets below us, dust on the shelves, dirty baseboards. (Do people look at baseboards? Please don't look at my baseboards.) I did my best but it's still merely our humble home and I am blessed to have it filled with those dear to us. We sing of holy nights and silent nights and I remember holy nights of my own. This, this is good. It's not the service of my youth but I need to stop longing, trying to recreate, wanting something more than what I have. This might look more like a stable than a palace but it is Good.

Because all of it, wherever we are, whatever it looks like, it's always the heart that matters most. Maybe this year my heart needs fewer steeples, less liturgy, and different traditions, because all of those things are fine but why do I desire them so strongly? What is it that I'm really searching for here?

I'm not sure. But I do know that when Love came down, He chose the stable over the palace. As I shed palaces of my own, I see more clearly than ever that Love remains, always the greatest gift of all. The stable may not look like much on the outside, but that love fills the inside with beauty.

Maybe these year I need something a little quieter, a little more humble, a little more intimate and vulnerable.

Maybe this year I need a stable.


with Katie, Emily, Caris, and Brenna...

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

3 Ways to Respond to a Toddler Who Won’t Listen (and a Giveaway!)

Today I am pleased to have my friend Michelle Carchrae from The Parent Vortex sharing some words in this space. Michelle is the author of the newly-released book The Parenting Primer, a guide to positive parenting in the first six years. She describes herself as a "freelance writer, a homeschooling mama, avid knitter, spinner, sewer, crafter, reader and lover of the outdoors."

Today Michelle is sharing her tips on how to respond to a toddler who won't listen, as well as giving away a copy of The Parenting Primer. Look for details below!
_____________________


We’ve all been there. The toddler grabs something she shouldn’t. You step in and say, “No, Christmas trees/Aunt Maud’s crystal/the cat’s tail isn’t for playing with. Come play with the blocks over here!” Your toddler half-heartedly plays blocks for three seconds until you look away, then is right back there pulling at the Christmas tree/crystal/cat’s tail again. Why won’t she listen? And what do you do next?

Toddlers are a curious bunch. One minute they want to cuddle, nurse or sweetly stroke your cheek. The next they’re blatantly charging ahead with their own agenda, regardless of your rules. Toddlers are naturally growing into a stage of increasing independence, and part of that experience is learning where their new independence can take them, and where it can’t. A toddler’s refusal to listen is normal, not a reflection of her lack of respect for you or a sign of your lack of parenting skill.

What’s the best way to deal with a toddler who won’t listen? Empathize, Distract and Remove.

1. Empathize. First, empathize with your toddler. Tell him that you understand how fascinating the forbidden object is. Tell him you understand how much he wants it. Really try to feel what it would be like to be your toddler, and keep that empathy in mind when you’re setting boundaries. Of course, just because he really wants to pull the cat’s tail and you can fully empathize with how tempting it must be doesn’t mean it’s ok for him to pull the cat’s tail. Empathy usually  needs to be paired with either distraction or removal to be effective with toddlers.

2. Distract. Toddlers can be amazingly single-minded, but this can actually work to your advantage if you succeed in shifting their attention elsewhere. After you empathize and reflect their feelings back, shift immediately to something else. Pull out a bag of pom poms and a plastic cup. Bring out the kitchen pots and pans. Play “This Little Piggy” or have a silly face competition. Go for a little walk. Read a story. Toddlers will almost always be attracted to an activity that lets them spend time with their important adult, so be prepared to get down on the floor and play for a bit until they forget about the forbidden object.

3. Remove. If empathy followed by distraction doesn’t work, you’ll need to remove either the forbidden object or your child from the situation. This doesn’t have to be a big production, and it’s better if you can keep it as kind and matter-of-fact as possible. “Time to put the crystal away!” is all you need to say to your child, then ask Aunt Maud if there’s somewhere safe for her breakables to go while you and your toddler are visiting. If your toddler repeatedly hits or takes a toy from another child at a party or playdate, it’s time to either leave the party or take some time to calm down together in another room. Chances are he’s either overtired, hungry or overwhelmed.

When my eldest was a toddler, I found it so hard to deal with her independence and refusal to listen. I felt very frustrated, tried so hard to make her listen and I took it personally when she didn’t. Now I know that most toddlers don’t listen at times, and that’s ok. It’s normal. After I understood this, it became much easier to deal with the inevitable toddler challenges.

The Parenting Primer


I’ve gathered up many of the other things I’ve learned about parenting with gentle discipline in the first six years and published them in an e-book called The Parenting Primer. The Parenting Primer starts out by looking at how love and limits influence our parenting, then explores other topics that affect our relationship with our child, such as information on brain development or personality, communication skills, lifestyle choices, creativity and self-discipline.

I've included references to a lot of the parenting resources and other parenting books that I found helpful, and each section ends with some questions to inspire reflection and something to actually try in your real life. Stories and tidbits from my own personal experience struggling to improve my parenting skills are woven throughout the book.

You can buy a copy of the book for yourself or to give as a gift here, or enter the giveaway to win a free copy!

To enter, simply leave a comment below. The giveaway is open worldwide until Friday, December 14th at 11:59 pm PST. The winner will be chosen via random number generator and announced the following morning.

Giveaway closed. Congratulations Nathania!

Rocking horse photo credit: John-Morgan on Flickr, used with Creative Commons license.

Monday, 10 December 2012

More joy is always worth it

We're leaving soon, another year of holiday travels, and sometimes it's hard to get into the season. There are lists to be written and things to gather and gifts to buy and then it will be time to pack.

No, I don't think we'll bother with a tree this year. Keep the season simple. What's the point, anyway?

But the kids - oh, it's always those kids, drawing eyes up and hearts open because they see the worth in this sort of thing. Please Mommy? Pleeeeease can we put our tree up? We're not leaving yet!

And they're right. Why shouldn't we enjoy a bit more holiday sparkle before we pack ourselves into the car? Do I really have any reason to deny a request for more beauty, more joy, more light in our lives?

So I say yes.

They cheer, clean the living room in record time as I bring in the tree from the garage and dig out the decorations from the back of the closet. It's not much, our tree. Just a little half-sized artificial thing, but it fits our small space perfectly.

I unwrap treasures and hand them to eager boys. This one, I tell them, this one was from our first home. And this one was from your first Christmas, and here's yours too. And this one was from my first Christmas, when I was just a little baby like your sister...

I hand over an elf missing both his legs, a tall St. Nicholas in flowing robes, a train, some snowflakes. If you look closely, you can find some bits of mirth here and there: a flying cow, Chewbacca with a Christmas tree, a walrus with a Santa hat, it's good to laugh and we do, heartily. We top it with a star, plug the tree in, light the whole thing up.

It's beautiful.

I love its white lights and the way they sparkle off the ornaments. I love the string of red beads the boy added; you'd never know it was actually his necklace, sacrificed for the season. I love the star on top and the nativity below. And I love these boys for knowing beforehand that it would all be so worth it if I would only let it happen.

And why not? The world could always use more simple beauty and joy - bright lights to chase away the darkness, warmth in the midst of cold, smiles and laughter and delight, time spent together, reckless foolishness that casts off doubts and worries and why bother's.

Why bother? Because more joy is always worth it.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Weekend Reading

Raising kids that craft (or not) @ FIMBY
We create because it brings us joy. We make useful things, and some not so useful things, and we learn important skills. We make time for creativity in our homeschool curriculum because it is one of our family's core values.

Does this mean you have to craft with your kids? Not at all. Maybe you bake with them instead, or play musical instruments together, take dance classes, or spin wool from your own sheep. Maybe you speak Japanese in the morning and conjugate Latin verbs in the afternoon.

If this is what you love, what brings your family joy, and is inline with your family values - then do it! And do it with gusto. Do it well, do it often. Do it to the glory of your creator.

Our hearts are stone and flesh, all at the same time @ Mama:Monk
“It means I’m asking God to make your heart soft so you can hear God’s voice and so God can make you more and more like Jesus. If your heart is hard like stone you forget how to love and you forget how to listen to God.”

He rolled away from me to face the wall, whispered, “Mommy, I’ve got both those hearts in me.”

I whispered, my hands tickling his back. “I know, honey, we all have both those hearts. That’s why we need Jesus.”

“Not Presents but His Presence” and Other Christmas Cliches @ A Deeper Story
It’s Christmas again, that season where Truth gets sentimentalized and made into tacky d├ęcor.

As if always, you are one or the other. As if you have either shut God out or you’re experiencing the fully majesty and miracle of his presence.

So often, life is lived in the in between. You have chosen the baby in the manger. You’ve chosen Immanuel, God with us. But it doesn’t feel like he’s here. It feels like you are wandering the cold dark streets of a strange town alone.

In which it’s a two-part invention @ Sarah Bessey
I keep secrets because my family and my friends didn’t sign up to have their lives aired publicly.

I keep secrets because I like having my own life, tucked away, just for me, or just for my husband, or just for my tinies.

I keep secrets because it’s good for me, for my family, for my spirituality, for my sanity, for my soul, for me to keep secrets.

I feel like my truest self is expressed here but it’s not my whole self either.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Hope

Funny thing, the idea of hope has been on my mind and now here it is, the first week in Advent with it's theme of the same. It's nice when life works out like that.

I'm a planner. Goal setting, lists, five-year plans, I want it all, control, give it to me. And yet here we are at this place in our lives where I can see only a few months down the road. After that, nothing. The husband graduates (at long last; I can scarcely remember life without school) and then, degree in hand...what? A job, we hope. A good one, even better. But where? When? Move? Stay? Buy? Rent? Broke?

It's like I can see my life up until the end of May, and then there's nothing but an endless cliff. It doesn't matter how hard I squint, I can't see the answers at the bottom.

(And what folly, truly, to say I can see that far down the road, for I do not know what even tomorrow will bring.)

And so, Hope. It is all I can cling to, this Hope that brings with it a calm peace and the assurance that whatever happens, it will ultimately be for Good.

Henri Nouwen says it best:
Hope is trusting that something will be fulfilled, but fulfilled according to the promises and not just according to our wishes...saying, "I don't know what this all means, but I trust that good things will happen."

And that is where I find myself. I have given up peering over that cliff, squinting, trying to predict the future below. What will happen, will happen, and I trust that it will ultimately be good.

That is the micro.

Then there is the macro, the far bigger picture than my own tiny life. In that there is the Hope that the perpetual advent, coming, of this age, will one day find its fulfillment in God's Kingdom here on earth. What begun with the birth that we are preparing to celebrate will one day, in God's good time, be completed. We can try to imagine what that will be like, but we don't know. We don't. We couldn't possibly imagine it, and what sort of God could be so easily pinned down anyway?

I am reminded, again, that whatever tomorrow looks like, He is already there. And I will forget again and I will be reminded again and then yet again I will forget, this I know of myself.

This is why we need community, to remind each other, over and over.

Again, Nouwen, emphasis mine:
Christian community is the place where we keep the flame alive among us and take it seriously, so that it can grow and become stronger in us. In this way we can live with courage, trusting that there is a spiritual power in us that allows us to live in this world without being seduced constantly by despair, lostness, and darkness. That is how we dare to say that God is a God of love even when we see hatred all around us. That is why we can claim that God is a God of life even when we see death and destruction and agony all around us. We say it together. We affirm it in one another. Waiting together, nurturing what has already begun, expecting its fulfillment - that is the meaning of marriage, friendship, community, and the Christian life.

As we wait together, let us wait in Hope. "I don't know what this all means, but I trust that good things will happen."

Good things from a good God.


with Katie, Emily, Caris, and Brenna...

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Clarity

I find myself, frustratingly, in that place again. I am the sort of tired where having to get up makes me want to whimper and cry. I'm tired, just let me sleep, I'm too tired.

I don't like being in this place. I don't like being this person.

I can't even pin it on the baby; sweet girl sleeps well at night, most of the time. No, it's just an utter bone-deep exhaustion. It makes everything feel infinitely more difficult. Pain in the blessing and all that.

Worse, the children have eaten my brain. I was intelligent once, as I recall. Now I walk into a room and forget what I needed. I think of something and it escapes me just as quickly. I stand up to change the baby's diaper and find myself, a few minutes later, folding laundry. How did this happen? I was on my way to fetch a clean diaper. Why am I folding laundry?

I don't know.

It's frustrating, this brain fog, and only compounds the challenges of exhaustion. Nothing is clear, nothing seems easy.

Then I hear the baby's cry. Sweet girl has woken up. I go to her, pick her up, kiss the top of her fuzzy head, witness her wide toothless smile...and suddenly everything is clear. This warm baby in my arms, that sweet toddler on the couch, that beautifully creative boy painting pictures at the table, they are all so very worth this. I may have misplaced my brain right along with my ability to stay awake through an entire day, but I get them instead.

Worthwhile trade, if you ask me.

Yet still, I know this isn't a good place to stay in. I know my body, and it has spent these past couple of weeks telling me, loudly, that it needs care too. I am working on things, finding ways to get rest, to nourish my body, to supplement where needed, to ask for help, oh why is that always the hardest? But necessary, I remind myself.

Here's to hoping I will soon return to the post-children normal of only being moderately exhausted and brainless, instead of completely.

Cheers.

Friday, 30 November 2012

What I Am Into - November 2012

What I Am Into :: NOVEMBER 2012

On My Nightstand:

I'm slowly working my way through N. T. Wright's "Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church". It continues to be both beautifully hopeful and deeply illuminative. Sadly, my current brain fog prevents me from making faster progress.

For Advent, I am reading through the daily devotional Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas, which includes daily writings from individuals such as C. S. Lewis, Kathleen Norris, T. S. Eliot, Dorothy Day, Henri Nouwen, Madeleine L'Engle, and more. It has proven to be an excellent Advent resource so far.

Want to Read:

When I finish Surprised by Hope, I have N. T. Wright's follow-up book, After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters, waiting for me. I am also looking forward to a quick but meaningful read-through of Kathleen Norris's The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy and "Women's Work".

On the screen:

Only 26 more days until the next episode of Doctor Who! (And also, you know, Christmas. But Doctor Who!) Very excited about that.

I've been filling my brain-fogged evenings with a nostalgic rewatching of the entire Boy Meets World series. I'm currently finishing up Season 4. Also, did you hear??? They're making a sequel, Girl Meets World, in which Cory and Topanga are happily married and raising their 13-year-old daughter, Riley! Is that not the best news you've heard all year? I thought so.

In My Kitchen:

Okay, so the first thing you do is make this incredible pumpkin custard. Serve chilled along with whipped cream. Savour. Eat it for breakfast. And lunch. Lick out the pie dish when you're finished.

Next, realize that you now have nine egg whites sitting in your fridge. Jump on Google to figure out what you can do with nine egg whites. Discover a recipe for coconut chocolate macaroons.

Next, spend an entire afternoon making said macaroons. Dip their delicious coconutty bottoms in melted chocolate. Share some with your guests. Eat the rest yourself while watching Boy Meets World. Enjoy every sweet and gratifying bite.

Finally, go to the grocery store to buy more pumpkin and heavy cream. Come home and repeat the entire mouthwatering process from the beginning.

You're welcome.

In My Ears:

I've been spending the past couple of weeks choosing a CD for each child's stocking.

The baby will be receiving the beautiful folk collection Rain for Roots, with lyrics by Jesus Storybook Bible author Sally Lloyd-Jones and music by Sandra McCracken, Ellie Holcomb, and more.

The toddler will be receiving Volume 1 of the Questions with Answers series by Dana Dirksen. We all love her Songs for Saplings ABC album, which has taught me as much musical Scripture as it has my children.

The boy will be receiving one of Renee & Jeremy's albums. I've ordered both "A Little Love" and "It's a Big World". Actually, I might give him the latter and keep the former for my own stocking! Love this duo, and many thanks to my friend who recommended them to me.

What I'm Looking Forward to in December:

We will be driving (driving!!) to northern Manitoba to visit my family for Christmas. While I am not looking forward to approximately 60 hours in the car with three children, I am looking forward to Christmas with my sisters, parents, and adorable little niece.

Plus, Christmas!!! Music, decorations, pretty twinkling lights, wrapping paper, Advent observances, candles, carols, all of it. I'm so ready. Bring it on.

Well, friends, that is What I've Been Into this past month. What about you?


Linking up to What I'm Into with HopefulLeigh...

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Observing Advent while Travelling

During these early years of forming our family's annual traditions, we've have some hits and some misses. Our biggest challenge, however, has always been the holiday travel season. On the one hand, we want to be with our extended family, celebrating with those whom we don't get to see as often as we'd like. On the other hand, we feel the need for both our own traditions and a focused observance of the Advent season, yet find that our travels often interrupt our attempts.

We have our traditional Advent wreath, but those last candles never get lit. We have our beautiful Advent/Lent candle spiral, but again, it doesn't travel well and poor Mary never quite reaches her destination before we leave. We never get everything hung on our Jesse Tree; the story is often left unfinished.

So what does work? Fortunately, we've had some happy successes.

Activity-based Advent Calendar

Two years ago, we strung our wall with bright red envelopes, each one containing the day's preparatory activity. The events ranged from decorating to baking to service and more. When the time came for us to leave for our holiday travels, we simply took the remaining envelopes along with us. Because we knew in advance when we'd be leaving, we included those days in our envelopes, along with a simple activity for each day we'd be away.

Another fun yet portable Advent calendar is this Advent in a jar idea. Write your Advent activities on slips of paper, glue a colourful felt ball or pom pom onto each paper, then fold and keep in a jar. Easy to assemble, easy to bring along on your holiday travels.

Portable Jesse Tree

A Jesse Tree is a type of Advent calendar which combines daily readings with corresponding symbols, walking through the Story from the garden to the birth of Christ.

One of our most valued gifts has been a felt Jesse Tree storyboard handmade by the children's Oma. Rather than hanging the Jesse Tree story pictures on a tree, as is traditionally done, the felt pictures stick onto a large pocket of felt. The felt pocket houses the daily readings and extra pictures, making the entire package simple to bring along as we travel.

Other portable Jesse Trees could be made with individual pockets, envelopes, magnets, flaps, or velcro. Ann at A Holy Experiences offers a beautiful free Advent Family Jesse Tree devotional (both readings and the corresponding illustrations), which can be used as a basis for creating a portable system that works for your family.

Forgo the tree, keep the Story

Another option is to forgo the tree altogether. While we do enjoy our portable Jesse Tree, some years even that feels like too much. Fortunately, Geraldine McCaughrean has written a lovely book, The Jesse Tree, which tells the Jesse Tree stories within the larger narrative of a conversation between a carpenter and a boy.

The aforementioned Advent Family Jesse Tree devotional could also be used sans ornaments, as well as several other Advent and Jesse Tree devotional narratives. Make it a family read-aloud as you drive to your destination, a nightly bedtime story, an after-dinner ritual, or whatever works best for you and your family.

Another treeless and portable Advent family observance is this Advent reading plan designed for use with the Jesus Storybook Bible (our favourite children's Bible). With twenty-one Old Testament stories (each ending with a paragraph that points to Jesus) and three stories encompassing the birth of Christ, this is the perfect twenty-four day plan to encompass the Advent season.

There are also, of course, countless adult-oriented Advent devotionals, which afford high portability for your own personal Advent reflections. This year I am reading through the Advent devotional Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas, which includes daily writings from individuals such as C. S. Lewis, Kathleen Norris, T. S. Eliot, Dorothy Day, Henri Nouwen, Madeleine L'Engle, and more. Find one by your favourite author, or choose an Advent Bible reading plan instead of (or alongside) a separate devotional.


Above all, keep it simple! However you choose to observe Advent, let the season be a time of calm focus and inward preparation rather than another source of stress and busyness amidst your holiday travels.


Do you have a favourite Advent devotional? unique method of combining Advent observances with holiday travel? other travel-friendly holiday traditions? Share your ideas or links below!

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

A Tale of Two Mall Trips

Mall Trip #1: The boy, the baby, and the mama.

The baby sleeps.

The boy skips along cheerfully beside me. Occasionally has to be reminded to watch where he's going. Asks for things, accepts the no without complaint, thanks me repeatedly for the Lego MiniFig I buy him.

Return home, make labour-intensive supper, happy happy joy joy.


Mall Trip #2: The boy, the toddler, the baby, and the mama.

The baby sleeps.

The boy skips along cheerfully beside me. Occasionally has to be reminded to watch where he's going. Asks for things, accepts the no without complaint, thanks me repeatedly for the special snack I buy him.

The toddler flops down to the ground, all 30+ pounds of him, for no apparent reason. Does this approximately twenty more times. Misses the toilet both times we stop at the bathroom. Pees all over his pants and boots instead. Thinks that having to hold his mother's hand is an insult to his independence. Tries to pull away every few minutes. Stops walking when he doesn't succeed. Decides today is a good day to start randomly biting his brother. Grabs at things as we walk by. Roars occasionally, for good measure.

Return home after picking up Starbucks, sit down for the next hour, eventually find enough energy to make eggs for dinner. Determine never to take the toddler to the mall again.


In short: It gets easier.

And then the next baby becomes a toddler.

Also, I'm exhausted.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Weekend Reading

A Lovable Feast @ Elizabeth Esther
Here’s what I’m sensing: Christians are living a Great Divorce. Our parents – Protestant & Catholic – divorced hundreds of years ago and we, their children, have been picking up the broken pieces.

It’s time, I think, to remember what we already are: we are ONE in Christ.

...love conquers all. All of our divisions, all of our brokenness, all of our defenses, all of our walls. Love unites. Love heals.

It’s time for us to feast on this love.

Love and marriage @ The Not-Ever-Still Life
"So the steps of getting married are to find someone you love who loves you back just as much and then to throw up and see what happens?"

"Pretty much, yes."

Storms and Half-Truths @ Living Free
Looking back, I realize that she only shared half the story. She shared the bad news, without proclaiming the good. Yes, all of those things are true. God is just, and right, and holy. We do need that spotless righteousness to replace our sinful, dirty rags. The best part of the story was missing--she left out the God-made-man that took the sins of the world and the whole of our punishment on His back.

God is gracious, and kind, and good. As we encounter those who have hard living written from head to foot, let's share the wild grace of God unabashedly. Let's share it just as enthusiastically with those who hide their scars well. Don't let the voices telling the half-truths carry the narrative. Let's tell the whole story.

Panicking About Preschool @ Christian Unschooling
No lessons, no practice or pressure on our part. No fancy printable tracing letters from a fancy printable preschool website. He’s just a sponge. Who took the time to learn his own name because he wants to, because it’s his name and he takes pride in it and he enjoys learning new things. Not because we doll it up and make it fun for him.

Just because the real reward in learning is the unpressured joy in learning itself.

Don’t let the pressure of mastering the basics stress you out. Preschoolers eat and breathe the basics. If you create an environment of creativity and availability your preschooler will pick up the skills they need simply by living.

Entertaining Angels Unaware: Serving the little angels in my home @ I Take Joy
It is not the indoctrination of theology forced down daily that crafts a soul that believes, it is the serving and loving and giving that surrounds the messages where souls are reached.

A truth, without love and grace, is a truth that is rejected, because Jesus’ words without Jesus becoming the servant king who washed feet and fed thousands and took children into His arms, would not be God incarnated.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

These hands

It's the end of the day and I rub aloe into my dry hands.

And is it any wonder. These hands endure being washed after every diaper change, every bathroom trip, every request for Mommy, come wipe me! They change the cat litter, clean up accidents, and scrub down the toilet. They spend an inordinate amount of time far too near someone else's bodily waste. More soap, more water.

These hands hold the broom, the vacuum, the rag. They wash dishes in hot soapy water. They do laundry - sort, carry, transfer, fold - and then put clothes and towels in their respective places, begin again, never ending.

These hands stir soups and knead dough and chop vegetables. They endure burns and cuts in their effort to fill and nourish. Yesterday I slipped while dicing the squash; the dark red blood ran down my finger as I fumbled with the bandage.

These hands wipe messy faces and wash sticky hands. They bathe and dry and clothe. They fix owies and wipe noses, pull warm blankets over sleeping children.

These hands turn pages in books, type words onto the screen, write down scribbles - grocery lists, reminders, little things. They write letters to loved ones, press a stamp onto the corner and drop them in red mailboxes.

These hands lift tiny babies and growing toddlers and big boys. They stroke hair, cup chins, rub backs. They cradle and soothe and comfort and love.

Come evening, these hands wash away the day's troubles. They bring cool water to my lips, satisfy my physical thirst, then open God's Word and satisfy another thirst entirely.

They nurture myself, my family, others, my home.

It's the end of the day and these dry hands? They have earned their aloe.

Monday, 12 November 2012

In the quiet of the evening

This place became my evening home in the days after she was born. I rested in here with water and food, books and music, blanket and laptop, tiny baby at my breast. The soft blue walls were soothing, the bed comfortable, and sometimes I think I could stay in this peaceful room forever.

It's been twelve weeks and each evening is the same. The boys go to sleep - sometimes I sit with them, sometimes their daddy does - and then I settle myself in for a quiet evening. Laptop, tea, dim lamp. Exhale. Peace.

Baby girl nurses for a while. I catch her eye and she pauses to grin back at me. (Why do these beautiful moments bring with them an unexplainable ache? So perfect it hurts. I don't know.) We coo at each other when she's done. She giggles now, did I tell you? I lean forward and kiss her cheek, nuzzle her chin - deep inhale - and for now there is no one else in the world aside from us.

Eventually her giggles turn to small cries. I change her diaper, give her one last kiss, then lay her on her side of the bed. She calms beneath the warmth and weight of her grandma-knit blanket. One hand grasps the blanket's edge; the other works its way towards her mouth, our first bona fide thumb sucker. Minutes later, she breathes the soft rhythm of sleep.

I watch her from the other side of our bed. The rest of the evening is mine. I wander through my favourite online sites, read the words others have written. Sometimes I add my own; sometimes I keep silent, wondering what I have to offer amidst all these other voices. Some nights demand the mindlessness of a movie or the escapism of a book. Music, tea, hot chocolate. Laundry. Work, tickmarks on the unending to-do list. It doesn't matter just as long as I can sit here in the quiet of the evening, surrounded by these soothing blue walls. My evening home.


Just writing along with The EO...

Monday, 5 November 2012

Breathing it in

I skipped summer this year.

Too pregnant, too sore, too tired, and then a new baby, that tiny precious girl who so utterly captivated me. It was good but somehow summer slipped quietly by in the background.

Now it's fall and I'm getting my bearings again. Has it been eleven weeks already? But it's a beautiful fall. The Japanese Maple has burst into bright red outside our door and the grass is carpeted in its jeweled leaves. The air is so very perfect, crisp and cool and pure delight to breathe in.

We spent two hours at the park this afternoon and it felt good. It feels good to walk.

It feels good to leave behind the not so loud's and not so fast's and just let them run, wild boys out there in the open.

It feels good to leave behind the computer, the heaviness of watching too much anger and criticism fly back and forth and would we ever say these things in person, do we forget the reality of people on the other side of those screens? If only we could all sit down together, have tea in pretty cups, see eyes and hear hearts and maybe then it would be different, I'm almost certain.

It feels good to leave behind the long list of Things That Must Be Done. Catching up in one area inevitably means falling behind in another. It is blessing, all of it, this home and its demands, acts of worship all of them, but some days it all begins to feel like burden instead of blessing.

So I go out and I forget, forget unswept floors and harsh written words and too much noise. Everything feels lighter out there. I miss the warmth of summer sunshine and the dense bright green everywhere, but I embrace instead the smell of fall and the impossibly colourful mosaic of leaves under my feet and I declare along with the Creator that it is indeed good, praise Him always.

We return home chilled, warm up with mugs of hot chocolate and if we're lucky we top it off with a handful of marshmallows.

We may have missed summer this year, but we're breathing in every moment of this beautiful fall.


Just writing along with The EO...

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Natural Parents Network Holiday Gift Guide

Natural Parents Network Holiday Gift Guide

Welcome to the Natural Parents Network Holiday Gift Guide!

If you need to complete your holiday shopping, find a birthday present for a friend, or just treat yourself to something special, the NPN Holiday Gift Guide has something for everyone. But what's even better, the NPN Holiday Gift Guide is a great opportunity to shop consciously and to support many naturally minded small businesses. The companies that have provided items for review and giveaway are almost exclusively made up of small businesses or work-at-home families.

Below you will find information on 74 companies from 25 of our NPN volunteers. The companies are giving away 89 products and gift certificates, for a total combined value of $2,550.

As you scroll through the Gift Guide, we encourage you to click on the links for each of the reviews — look for the links to our volunteers' blogs in each heading (i.e., "From ABC Company via Blog Name" — the "Blog Name" has the link to the review). Our volunteers have crafted thoughtful posts on each participating company with pictures of and links to products that are simply perfect for our natural parenting families. And while we've split our Gift Guide into sections ("Perfect for Kids" and "Family and Home"), you'll discover that many of the stores offer goodies that people of all ages will enjoy.

You can enter to win every giveaway by using the Rafflecopter system below. Please note that every review post has the same Rafflecopter script, but you may enter only one time, at one site.

Even if you don't win one of our fabulous prizes, please consider spending part of your gift-giving budget at one of these small businesses. By supporting small businesses, you are helping families, boosting local economies, and supporting ethical practices of manufacturing, production and selling. We know that budgets are tighter and finances may be difficult, but by purchasing from small, family-owned businesses, you know you will be receiving quality items made with appropriate business practices and personal customer service, all while supporting another family's endeavors.

Many of the companies have included coupon codes — take advantage of them! You can find the coupon codes in the heading of each company/giveaway listing. (Please note that coupons are not good on shipping fees unless otherwise stated.)

Without further ado, here is the NPN Holiday Gift Guide. We've broken the Gift Guide down into two sections (click the links below to jump to either section):

Perfect For Kids

Family and Home


Perfect For Kids


From Earthslings via Code Name: Mama — Win a $35 Gift Certificate toward pouch slings, dolls, dress-up costumes, and more
Shop now with coupon code KIDS2012 and get 10% off through December 31, 2012!

Earthslings began as a pouch sling company; Sam has since expanded to make pouch slings for you and your child, dolls, children's dress-up goodies, and much more! All of Sam's products are handcrafted from eco-friendly 100% natural fabrics, and where possible, she upcycles vintage fabrics into her creations. Our "attached family doll set" is soft, sweet, and just right for little hands. If your holiday shopping list includes mamas of little ones, be sure to take a look at the many pouch sling patterns and colors for mama and child, the sweet selection of dolls, and the other toys and accessories Sam creates. Then swing by Code Name: Mama and read how to wear your little one in a hip carry in your brand new pouch sling.

Be sure to like Earthslings on Facebook and comment on 30+ Ideas for Activities Advent Calendars, one of the informative posts at Code Name: Mama!






From Pip & Bean via Hobo Mama — Win a Superhero Kit: Reversible Cape, Mask, and Arm Bands (ARV $25)

Visit Pip & Bean for customized capes and adorable dress-up costumes. You can buy birthday party kits or sets just right for siblings — or even weddings! My five-year-old put on his cape, mask, and armbands — and then would not take them off, even to sleep. He loves flying around like the mini superhero he is! Stop by Hobo Mama to learn more about daily life with a superhero.

Be sure to like Pip & Bean on Facebook and follow Hobo Mama on Pinterest!






From Wild Arbutus via Anktangle — Win a Handmade Baby Hat or Plush Crocheted Toy (ARV $25)
Shop now with coupon code NPNGIFTS10 and get 10% off all orders through December 31, 2012!

Visit Wild Arbutus for handcrafted crochet children's toys and knit baby and children's hats and headbands. Daniel and I love the knit hat Melissa custom created for him; it's adorable, functional, and fun and whimsical to boot! I keep eyeing the growing selection of toys in this shop, and I just know Daniel would love to play with his very own snuggly nudibranch. Stop by Anktangle for gluten-free recipes to keep you going through the holiday season.

Be sure to like both Wild Arbutus and Anktangle on Facebook!






From SoRad via ourfeminist{play}school — Win a Ninja Sleep Set (ARV $40)

Head over to SoRad to check out the eco-chic and totally wearable baby and kid's clothes - you will most definitely fall in love. Like the rest of her creations, the ninja outfit is made from bamboo fabric and is a great example of the many stunning pieces made by this Toronto designer who focuses on making clothing that is sustainable, local, trendy and comfy for our kiddos. I love the range of SoRad's designs: hoodies, yoga pants, sundresses, and kimono-style onesies with the most adorable images and colours. Come by and visit me at ourfeminist{play}school where I hope to lighten your holiday load by offering a variety of tutorials for making some quick but cute DIY holiday gifts for baby, toddler and adults!

Be sure to like SoRad on Facebook and follow ourfeminist{play}school on Twitter!






From Serious Puzzles via Momma Jorje — Win a Jumbo Numbers - 20pc Wooden Puzzle By Melissa & Doug (ARV $20)

Serious Puzzles started as a small company in the basement and has grown to have 17 employees, but they still pride themselves on having that same personalized care they offered from the beginning. The Jumbo Numbers puzzle we received is proving to be educational, honing mental skills as well as fine motor skills. The thick chunky pieces make the puzzle very versatile for play. Serious Puzzles has every type of puzzle you could imagine, and you can shop for them by brand, theme, type, and number of pieces! Check out Momma Jorje.com for minimalist holiday gift ideas.

Be sure to like SeriousPuzzles.com on Facebook and like Momma Jorje on Facebook!






From The Enchanted Cupboard via Hybrid Rasta Mama — Win a $20 Gift Certificate!
Shop now with coupon code NPN and get 10% off your purchase through November 25, 2012!

Visit The Enchanted Cupboard, where you will find wonderful wooden toys, custom wedding cake toppers, wooden dolls, and playsets that work wonderfully with Waldorf nature tables, and a few enchanting things for the young at heart. My daughter and I have spent far too much time shopping at The Enchanted Cupboard and love everything we have ever purchased. The nature table items (especially the beautiful trees) are some of our favorites. I recently purchased this Thanksgiving Playset and cannot wait for my daughter to enjoy it! Stop by Hybrid Rasta Mama to read more about our seasonal/nature table!

Be sure to like The Enchanted Cupboard on Facebook and tell us which recipe you'd like to try from Hybrid Rasta Mama's recipes!






From Ergobaby via A Little Bit of All of It — Win one of two Ergobaby Doll Carriers (ARV $25 x 2)

Visit Ergobaby for their award-winning baby carriers and other babywearing products. I'm excited they have a doll carrier version of their beloved carrier that my daughter got to try! It's a super cute replica of the real thing so she can be just like Mommy and Daddy. I personally have two Ergobaby carriers and and love them. You can read about my Ergo Love Affair and see why I'm such a fan!

Be sure to like Ergobaby on Facebook and like A Little Bit of All of It on Facebook!






From Born at Home Toys via That Mama Gretchen — Win a Fishing Set (ARV $20)
Shop now with coupon code THATMAMA and get 10% off all orders through November 25, 2012!

Are you looking for home-crafted goodies for your little one this holiday season? Look no further than Born at Home Toys! Non-toxic and all-natural, the Under the Moon Fishing Set is a real delight. It offers a great launch for children to imagine, play, and explore: the perfect ingredients for educational play. Born at Home Toys also offers beautifully crafted animals, teethers, and cars. That Mama Gretchen (and the little ones that made her a mama) are big fans of Born at Home Toys!

Be sure to like Born at Home Toys on Facebook and like That Mama Gretchen on Facebook!






From Intuition Physician via Mommying My Way — Win a Set of 2 Attachment Parenting-Related Children's Stories (ARV $34)

Visit Intuition Physician for high-quality, beautifully illustrated, creative stories, as well as many other medical resources. The cosleeping book, Together We Sleep, is an excellent story that my son and I love to read together. We both enjoy seeing all the animals and people of different cultures sharing sleep. Not only can you buy more books of this nature from her shop, but you can purchase for yourself, or as a gift, a personal consultation with Dr. Laura Koniver, Intuition Physician! Stop by Mommying My Way to read more about why I love cosleeping and, therefore, why this cosleeping book was so meaningful to me.

Be sure to like Intuition Physician on Facebook and like Mommying My Way on Facebook!






From Sophisticated Play Apparel via Living Peacefully with Children — Win a Matching Set of Toddler Wrist Warmers and Cowl (ARV $34)
Shop now with coupon code livingpeacefully and get 15% off all orders through January 5, 2013!

Sophisticated Play Apparel uses natural fibers to make wearable art. Check out their Etsy shop for other products such as the little kimono baby booties. Stop by Living Peacefully with Children and start making some quick and easy ribbed wrist warmers for friends and family.

Be sure to like Sophisticated Play Apparel on Facebook and subscribe to Living Peacefully with Children via RSS!






From Desert Dye Works via Hybrid Rasta Mama — Win a $30 Gift Certificate!

Visit Desert Dye Works where you will find some brilliantly dyed play silks in all sizes, large play canopies, silk dress up items, and prayer flags. I recently received the Ocean Playsilk Set of Three and have been enjoying watching my daughter find creative ways to turn these gorgeous silks into an elaborate deep sea adventure! Stop by Hybrid Rasta Mama to read more about some of my favorite resources including Desert Dye Works playsilks!

Be sure to like Desert Dye Works on Facebook and follow Hybrid Rasta Mama on Twitter!






From Jupiter's Child, via Downside Up and Outside In — Win a beautiful hand dyed, hand spliced rainbow colored jump rope (ARV $25)

We have had so much fun relearning to jump rope and teaching our daughter the art of it with this beautiful toy. This is a toy that yes children outside and moving, plus it is great for helping develop coordination and is more fun when shared! Jupiter's Child offers their gorgeous jump ropes in a variety of hand dyed colors, and carry many other exquisite toys, such as their beautiful carved wooden animals set which my little one will be getting for Solstice this year.

Be sure to like Jupiter's Child on Facebook and follow Downside Up and Outside In on Networked Blogs!






From LeoandLola via Firmly Planted — Win a $50 Gift Card!
Shop now with coupon code NPNFREE and get free domestic shipping through November 25, 2012!

Ashley at LeoandLola creates the sweetest onesies, t-shirts and dresses, but what I really love her for is her upcycled dresses, made from old t-shirts. We’ve collected a few of her items over the years and have never been displeased. They’re high quality and made with love. Ashley’s newest endevor is these amazing seed packet tees! Visit Anktangle for a whole list of different DIY tutorials.

Be sure to like both LeoandLola and Firmly Planted on Facebook!






From Anktangle Creations via A Little Bit of All of It — Win a $20 gift certificate

Visit Anktangle Creations for high-quality, handmade gifts for baby, home, and family. I've been so pleased with the baby leggings that Amy created for me. They are so versatile, adorable, and I use them all the time on my infant son and preschool daughter. The next thing I plan on buying from Amy is a pair of her awesome ear warmers for the winter months! Stop by A Little Bit of All of It to learn how I cloth diapered my daughter.

Be sure to "favorite" Anktangle on Etsy and subscribe to A Little Bit of All of It via email!






From Howells Natural Wood Products via Hybrid Rasta Mama — Win a set of solid, natural building blocks (ARV $33)
Shop now with coupon code HRM10 and get 10% off your purchase through November 25, 2012!

Visit Howells Natural Products where you will find wonderful natural wood block sets in all sizes, wooden puzzles, and even some gorgeous wooden drink coasters. I have had my eye on this 18 Piece Roof Set! I think it makes a great addition to any block set! Stop by Hybrid Rasta Mama to read some of the guest posts I have written about the importance of simple, natural toys like these blocks!

Be sure to like Howell's Wood Products on Facebook and subscribe to Hybrid Rasta Mama via RSS!






From Moby via A Little Bit of All of It — Win a Mini Moby Doll Carrier and Knot Hat (ARV $21)
Shop now with coupon code blogger2012 and get 10% off one item through November 25, 2012!

Visit Moby for the popular stretchy wrap that millions of moms love. The Mini Moby is a really neat way for my daughter to play with her stuffed animals. And I love putting the super soft Moby Knot Hat on my son now that the weather is cooling off. I'd love to also get him one of the retro knit ball caps! Stop by A Little Bit of All of It to see why I love my Moby Wrap.

Be sure to like Moby on Facebook and follow A Little Bit of All of It on Twitter!






From Wise Daughters Craft Market via ourfeminist{play}school — Win a set of wooden play money! (ARV $20)

Visit this shop in Toronto to grab everything on your crafty holiday gift list; among the wares of over 75 hosted artists and crafters, you are bound to find an array of treasures and treats in this studio-esque shop. We have enjoyed many a treasure from Wise Daughters, but these wooden coins and dollars made from The Woodlot are insanely adorable, so much fun, and top of our list of current favourite learning toys. Toys that inspire learning and imaginative play can only be made even more amazing when they are constructed from reclaimed wood! Wise Daughters is brimming with handmade goodies such as stuffed owls made from reclaimed sweaters, stunning silk screened t-shirts, men's ties, and some lovely handmade notebooks. Come and visit me over at ourfeminist{play}school and I will show you how to make a few toys for your own lovely kiddos just in time for the holidays!

Be sure to like Wise Daughters Craft Market on Facebook and follow ourfeminist{play}school on Pinterest!






From Z-Man Games via Living Peacefully with Children — 2 Winners will receive a copy of the board game Mondo (ARV $40 x 2)

Z-Man Games has a history of making quality games and Mondo is no exception. Families will enjoy spending time together as they play this fun tile game. I know we have! Next on our list is Z-Man Games' Agricola. Stop by Living Peacefully with Children and read about some ways to give the gift of presence!

Be sure to like Z-Man Games on Facebook and like Living Peacefully with Children on Facebook!






From RainbowSouffle via A Little Bit of All of It — Win a $20 Gift Certificate
Shop now with coupon code FREESHIP and get free shipping on any item through November 25, 2012!

Visit RainbowSouffle for a variety of colorful items for your little ones. The ring sling doll carrier is a beautiful hand-dyed cotton gauze piece perfect for your child to carry their playthings. The lovely wooden whirlydoll is such a fun, unique toy that's a blast for kids to run around with. RainbowSouffle also carries costumes, clothing, vintage items and handmade forager baskets! Stop by A Little Bit of All of It for my thoughts on the Maya Wrap, an adult ring sling.

Be sure to like RainbowSouffle on Facebook and follow A Little Bit of All of It on Pinterest!






From Knot Genie via Living Peacefully with Children — Win a Knot Genie Detangle Brush (ARV $20)
Shop now with coupon code living and get $4 off all orders through November 25, 2012!

Visit Knot Genie for tips and tricks on how to get out the tangles without tears. Those tricks, along with our new Knot Genie detangling brush now have both my children and myself tear free. Stop by Living Peacefully with Children an read about the eight gifts of kindness.

Be sure to like Knot Genie on Facebook and subscribe to Living Peacefully with Children via email!






From Stubby Pencil Studio via Vibrant Wanderings — Win $60 worth of Eco Friendly Art Materials. (ARV $60)
Shop now with coupon code SAVE15 and get 15% off of your purchase through November 30, 2012!

Stubby Pencil Studio, an online company founded and run by a mom of twins, sells a variety of safe and eco friendly art materials, stationery, school supplies, and unique gifts that kids love. Stubby Pencil is offering a great sampling of their eco friendly art materials, including: colored pencils, crayon rocks, watercolors, botanical paints, sidewalk chalk, and a set of eco highlighters. What's so great about these products is that they're safe enough to give even to the youngest artists - some are even vegan and gluten free! Stubby Pencil Studio is a great place to shop around the holidays because they offer an amazing variety of creative and eco friendly gifts for under $10. Vibrant Wanderings is a blog about living, learning, and parenting with a Montessori twist.

Be sure to like Stubby Pencil Studio on Facebook and like Vibrant Wanderings on Facebook!






From Wooly Topic via Our Crazy Corner of the World — Win a set of 6 Wool Rock Pods (ARV $36)
Shop now with coupon code celebration10 and get 10% off your purchase from October 26, 2012, until December 30, 2012!

Wooly Topic is a Canadian-based company making home decor and Waldorf-inspired toys out of locally purchased, hand-dyed wool. They are dedicated to making eco-friendly and natural products for the home (such as their lavender dryer balls), as well as safe toys for little ones. The wool rock pods are colorful and bright, very eye-catching to any child. They are great at encouraging imagination and creativity through play. Visit Our Crazy Corner of the World for a review and giveaway of this great toy!

Be sure to like Wooly Topic on Facebook and Our Crazy Corner of the World on Facebook!






From Dominna via Code Name: Mama — Win a $30 Gift Certificate toward handmade Latvian toys

Dominna is full of beautiful, handmade toys from faraway Latvia. Each piece is crafted with love in brilliant colors and quality materials. Dominna's owner, Katrina, hand picks each toy to engage your child's spirit and her brain - creativity and learning are very important to Katrina. We love our ladybug wooden toy, but I also recommend that parents of toddlers and preschoolers check out the cheerful wooden caterpillar, the rainbow of counting sticks, and the many beautiful block games available at Dominna. If you're looking for more fun educational activities this holiday season, check out the themed activity series at Code Name: Mama for a variety of ideas.

Be sure to favorite Dominna on Etsy and follow Code Name: Mama on Twitter!






From Lucy Locket Creations via The Artful Mama — Win a Dragon or Dinosaur De-tachable Tail (ARV $20)
Shop now with coupon code HANDMADE and get 15% off your purchase until November 30, 2012!

Visit Lucy Locket Creations for high-quality, handmade pillows, sheets, kitchen items, and other delightful fabric creations. Little Man has had so much fun with the detachable tail from Lucy Locket's. He plays non-stop with it and we've even enjoyed dressing Little #2 with it for photo opportunities. The next thing I plan on buying from Lucy Locket's is a Children's Cloth Counting Set! Stop by The Artful Mama to see a few of the handmade items I'm gifting this holiday season.

Be sure to like Lucy Locket Creations on Facebook and The Artful Mama on Facebook!






From Kid Culture via ourfeminist{play}school — Win a Superhero Cape for your Lil' Superhero! (ARV $20)

Visit Kid Culture in Toronto for an outstanding collection of hand-curated clothes, crafts and toys for your hipster family. My 3 year old son is in love with his repurposed superhero cape - not only is it eco-friendly, it sparks so much imaginary play! This fanciful and comfy cape is made by Play Me Mama Crafts and is one of the hundreds of treasures to be found in this magical shop - one of my absolute favourites in Toronto. We have so many fun things from Kid Culture, including some underpants from the candi factory, a great little coin purse, a wooden car, and a variety of the kitty buttons and cards from Toronto designer Cathy Peng. After you've visited Kid Culture, come on over to ourfeminist{play}school to check out the great 'make and take' tutorials I am sharing to help you gear up for the holiday season.

Be sure to like Kid Culture on Facebook and ourfeminist{play}school on Facebook!






From Nushkie via Hybrid Rasta Mama — Win a 54 piece Jigsaw Puzzle of your choice (ARV $24)

Visit Nushkie where you will find Waldorf-inspired needle felted wool angels, fairies, gnomes, elf figures, wall hangings, decor and wearable art for the child at heart! Perfect for Steiner nature tables, holidays, birthdays, teacher gifts, baby showers and blessing ways, and memorials. This is one of my favorite shops on Earth! So many pieces of art from Nushkie adorn our walls and our nature table. I recently purchased this Custom Ocean Playscape and can honestly say that it is so beautiful that is made me cry when I first saw it! Since Nushkie's works are Waldorf inspired, be sure to stop by Hybrid Rasta Mama to learn more about the Waldorf birthday traditions. Keep Nushkie in mind for unique birthday gifts.

Be sure to like Nushkie Design on Facebook and leave a comment on 333 Uses For Coconut Oil, one of the informative posts on Hybrid Rasta Mama!






From Playful Planet via Presence Parenting — Win a Storyland Yoga DVD (ARV $15)
Shop now with coupon code NPN20 and get 20% off of your purchase through November 25, 2012!

Playful Planet blends the excitement of stories and the benefits of yoga with conscious living practices to nurture families worldwide. The kids and I love following along with the stories to help a beached whale and momma bird who has lost her eggs while exercising our bodies. Sharing yoga with the kids helps me get in a good stretch while we build healthy connections (and habits) together. If you would like something to help you and the kids relax during all of the commotion, check out Playful Planet's very reasonably priced ebooks. And while you're at it, stop by Presence Parenting for some ideas on how to enjoy busy times moment by moment this (or any) holiday season.

Be sure to like Playful Planet on Facebook and subscribe to Presence Parenting via email !






From Mama May I via Code Name: Mama — Win a Story Starters Game (ARV $25)
Shop now with coupon code NPNHOLIDAY and get 10% off through December 31, 2012!

Each piece in Mama May I has been thoughtfully designed to nurture children's development through open-ended play. Our Story Starters game was created to develop storytelling prowess and encourage your little one to stretch her imagination. Jessica creates colorful, quality toys from natural materials, and she is inspired by Montessori, Waldorf and other learning-through-play philosophies. Fall in love with her balance birds, color squares, little people rainbow world, and more. Once you have your new Story Starters game, stop by Code Name: Mama to find creative ways to encourage little ones to tell stories and capture those stories as keepsakes.

Be sure to like Mama May I on Facebook and follow Code Name: Mama on Pinterest!






From BirchLeaf Designs via Hobo Mama — Win 2 Hand-Dyed Playsilks (ARV $26)
Shop now with coupon code NPN and get 10% off through November 25, 2012!

Visit BirchLeaf Designs for hand-crafted and whimsical playthings made from natural materials like wood and fabrics. The high-quality playsilks they sent me are gorgeously deep colors, and my kids love the creative ways they can play with them! My sons would also get a kick out of BirchLeaf's wooden dagger and leather sheath. Stop by Hobo Mama for ideas on how to organize those glorious playthings and my family's play experiences.

Be sure to like BirchLeaf Designs on Facebook and Hobo Mama on Facebook!






From Cashmere Cuddles via Amy Willa: Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work — Win a Cuddles for Kids Doll Carrier (ARV $25)

Visit Cashmere Cuddles for high-quality, lovingly handmade baby carriers, doll carriers, and kids' whimsy items. My four year old daughter loves her Cuddles for Kids Doll Carrier, and I love how imaginative play with the carrier promotes responsibility and a sense of nurture within her. Easy to use and easy to wash, what a great gift for a child - for the holidays or anytime! Stop by Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work to read about creating for the family this holiday season and everyday!

Be sure to like Cashmere Cuddles on Facebook and subscribe to Amy Willa via email!






From MonCherPug via The Artful Mama — Win a Organic Miniature Pug (ARV $45)

Visit MonCherPugs for high-quality, handmade pugs made by artist A. Nichelle. Little Man has had so much fun with his pug that he named Hungry. He plays non-stop with it and we've taken it everywhere. The next thing I plan on buying from MonCherPug's is a matching Organic Miniature Pug for Little #2! Stop by The Artful Mama to see what other fun we are having this holiday season.

Be sure to like MonCherPug on Facebook and comment on "Breastfeeding & Babywearing - It's Awesome!" at The Artful Mama!






From Snapdragon Fortress via Anktangle — Win a Knit Wool Kitten (ARV $20)!

Visit Snapdragon Fortress for eco-friendly wooden toys, teethers, knit wool stuffed animals, quality natural Waldorf dolls, and more! Daniel has enjoyed playing with his sweet little knit wool kitten! I like little toys like this one so much because they foster imaginative play, and it's really nice to know that it's made of all-natural materials. I know Daniel would also enjoy playing with one of the beautiful Waldorf Dolls available from this shop. Visit Anktangle to learn more about how easy and beneficial it can be to cloth diaper with wool.

Be sure to like Snapdragon Fortress on Facebook and follow Amy of Anktangle on Pinterest!






From Yarns and Storys via Our Crazy Corner of the World — Win a store credit worth $30, for an item of your choice at Yarns and Storys
Shop now with coupon code NPN10 and get 10% off your purchase until November 25, 2012!

Yarns and Storys is owned by Robyn, SAHM mother of two, selling hand spun and hand-dyed fibers, as well as hats, scarves and other clothing items. Her products are hand made and use with local fibers. Robyn sent me a beautiful hat, knitted specifically for the cold South Dakota winters. It's warm, soft and the colors are bright and perfectly suited for fall and winter. Please stop by Our Crazy Corner of the World to get details about how you can win a $30 giftcard to Yarns and Storys.

Be sure to like Yarns and Storys on Facebook and leave a comment on What AP Looks Like, one of the honest posts at Our Crazy Corner of the World!






From Yellow Elm via Mothers of Change — Win a handmade felted flower headband (ARV $20)
Shop now with coupon code HANDMADEHOLIDAY15 and get 15% off all orders through December 31, 2012!

Visit Yellow Elm to find beautiful felted pieces: handcrafted art that you can wear everyday. Yellow Elm specializes in headbands, hair clips, and brooches, and also offers other beautiful items such as necklaces and wool dryer balls. We love the attention to detail in our handmade felted flower headband!

Be sure to like Yellow Elm on Facebook and Mothers of Change on Facebook!






From Barefoot Books via Downside Up And Outside In — Win a book of your choosing from independent children's book publishers, Barefoot Books! (ARV $25)

We absolutely love the book they sent us, and it has helped us talk to our daughter about diversity, why we try to prevent wastefulness, and the meaning of family. You could pick This beautiful book called The Barefoot Book of Mother and Daughter Tales, and discover stories of mothers and daughters from cultures around the world, or The Barefoot Book Of Earth Tales, and learn about different families and cultures and the ways they love the planet. Whatever you chose you are sure to find a new book that your children will love and you enjoy reading to them for years to come.

Be sure to like Barefoot Books on Facebook and follow Rainbosouffle on Twitter!







From Prima Princessa via Hobo Mama — Win one of 3 copies of Prima Princessa Presents: The Nutcracker kids ballet DVD (ARV $7 x 3)

Visit Prima Princessa for engaging DVDs that bring real ballets and ballet moves and language down to a kid's level. We have the complete set now: The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, and Sleeping Beauty. I love how the DVDs combine footage of children dancing freely with class sessions showing the steps, examples of the steps in the real world, and a summary of an actual company stage production of a famous ballet. Stop by Hobo Mama to find out why I want my son to take ballet classes and why I take ballet myself.

Be sure to like Prima Princessa on Facebook and follow Hobo Mama on Twitter!






From Elemental Handcrafts via Hybrid Rasta Mama — Win a personalized wooden ball/spoon set with a magnet (ARV $33)

Visit Elemental Handcrafts where you will find some incredible felted wool breastfeeding dolls, wool sculptures and treasures, magnets, knitting needles, play mats, suncatchers, and much more. I have had my eye on this Breastfeeding Toddler Doll which I think makes a special weaning remembrance! I am also loving the personalized wooden spoon with my daughter’s name intricately engraved on it! The wood is gorgeous as is the craftsmanship! Stop by Hybrid Rasta Mama to read some of my breastfeeding posts!

Be sure to favorite Elemental Handcrafts on Etsy and follow Hybrid Rasta Mama on Pinterest!






From Averylee Kids via That Mama Gretchen — Win Baby Booties and an Owl Taggie (ARV $35)
Shop now with coupon code FREEKIDS and get Free Shipping through November 25, 2012!

"Made by Moms, for Moms" is the tagline of the adorable shop, Averylee Kids. Their sweet lil' boots and sensory owl taggies are sewn with great care. Plus, Averylee Kids accepts custom requests for all their products so don't hesitate to check out the quilts, doll clothes, and apron sets. There is no doubt That Mama Gretchen's little Max is a big fan - he knows these boots were made for crawling and he's taken his owl taggie on the journey too!

Be sure to like Averylee Kids ton Facebook and Follow That Mama Gretchen on Twitter!






From The Sugar Cone Shoppe via A Little Bit of All of It — Win a Mei Tai Doll Carrier (ARV $32)
Shop now with coupon code 2012NPN and get free domestic shipping through November 25, 2012!

Visit The Sugar Cone Shoppe for eco-friendly and safe teethers and nursing necklaces. My daughter looks adorable in the handmade mei tai we received. The quality of this doll carrier is top notch and I love that it's reversible. I've already purchased one of the natural wood and cotton teething necklaces for my little teething babe! Stop by A Little Bit of All of It for a whole series on babywearing.

Be sure to like The Sugar Cone Shoppe on Facebook and subscribe to A Little Bit of All of It via RSS!





Family and Home


From Destany Fenton Fine Art via Code Name: Mama — Win an original 12x16 portrait (ARV $220)

For a unique heirloom gift that you will treasure for a lifetime, have Destany Fenton paint a portrait of your child or family. As a natural parent herself, Destany understands and can relate to attached parents; this allows her to convey this specific aspect that might otherwise be ignored or glossed over by other artists. An original portrait by an accomplished artist conveys so much more than a picture ever can - most importantly, emotion. Destany's prices start at only $60, but her paintings are priceless - we love our portrait of our children! Let Destany help you capture a moment in time - these moments are fleeting. As Dionna at Code Name: Mama once wrote, "All of those instances – the challenges of the present – they will soon be such distant memories. Someday, you will long for them."

Be sure to like Destany Fenton Fine Art on Facebook and follow Code Name: Mama on Networked Blogs!






From Glass Dharma via Living Peacefully with Children — Win a $25 Gift Certificate

Each year, enough disposable straws are made to fill 46,000 full size school buses. Help protect the environment with these beautifully functional glass straws. Our family loves Glass Dharma straws and the fact that each straw comes with a lifetime guarantee! Stop by Living Peacefully with Children for a recipe perfect for those holiday get togethers.

Be sure to like Glass Dharma on Facebook and follow Living Peacefully with Children on Networked Blogs!






From Kangaroo Care via Firmly Planted — Win a Nursing Necklace (ARV $25)!

Visit Kangaroo Care for beautiful nursing necklaces, teethers, and necklaces for little girls. I couldn’t be happier with the nursing necklace I received from Varja! Even at two months, Lydia has been extremely handsy, pulling out her SNS during every nursing session. Now, she has something to occupy those little fingers while she nurses. Next on my list from Varja’s shop is a teething toy! Check out Firmly Planted for more on our breastfeeding and supplementation journey.

Be sure to like Kangaroo Care on Facebook and subscribe to Firmly Planted via email!






From KR Dyeworks viaDownside Up And Outside In — Win a $25 gift certificate!
Shop now with coupon code NPN20 and get 20% off your order November 1-30, 2012!

I chose a medium skein of this lovely rainbow yarn so that Little Berry and I could make a gift together for her grandmother. I deeply believe in the value of involving children in making useful, lovely, keepsake gifts that teach them the value of handmade items, to show the recipient how special they are and that we truly thought of them in making it. Visit Kimberly's shop and see her other lovely yarns and knitted items, such as this skein of Affection Neutral Rose that you could make into the world's dearest baby hat or booties!

Be sure to like KimberlyR Designs & KR Dyeworks and comment on Easy Peasy Kid Friendly Marbling, one of the informative posts at Downside Up and Outside In!






From Texture Clothing via very, very fine — Win a Comfy Skirt (ARV $72)
Shop now with coupon code veryfineship and receive free shipping on all orders November 29, 2012!

Texture Clothing combines comfort, style and ecological responsibility to amazing ends. When owner Teresa Remple's says, "this is how the story will go when you buy [the Comfy Skirt]: you will wear the ‘comfy’ for 5 days in a row" - she isn't lying; it's now a go-to piece in my wardrobe. Perfect for gift-giving are Texture's warm and hip Knit Mitts or Scrappy Scarves, made from a blend of hemp, organic cotton and lycra fabrics. For more holiday gift ideas and seasonal treats, visit very, very fine.

Be sure to like Texture Clothing on Facebook and like very, very fine's Facebook page!






Win from Terramor via ourfeminist{play}school a jewelery gift set (ARV $30)
Shop now with coupon code npn10 and get 10% off your Etsy purchase through November 25, 2012!

Who doesn't love to receive jewels and gems that have been crafted by hand? The earrings that Terramor crafts are much more than your simple baubles found at a mall stand; these earrings are made to draw the eye with their natural and simple lines. There is an obvious concentration on natural elements and the colours of nature. The earrings perched in my ears aren't heavy, and the sterling silver means that my sensitive skin is safe. The pair that I now have in my collection are only one example of the copious designs and combinations that Terramor hand crafts from the west coast of Ireland. Don't forget to stop by ourfeminist{play}school where I am always up for chatting about beauty and adornment - from a feminist's perspective.

Be sure to like Terramor on Facebook and Subscribe to ourfeminist{play}school by Email!






From Rock Paper Tree via Vibrant Wanderings — Win a $50 gift certificate good toward handcrafted items made with precious metals, crystals, and gemstones
Shop now with coupon code TEN10TEN and get 10% off your purchase through November 25, 2012!

Rock Paper Tree is a unique and beautiful store offering handcrafted art, both wearable and for display, made using precious metals, crystals, and gemstones. The review showcases a one of a kind pendant, called a Birth Goddess, made using gemstones and sterling silver wire. This pendant can be worn or hung for decoration, and makes a great gift for pregnant moms or your favorite childbirth professional. Not only does Teresa of Rock Paper Tree craft these unique and beautiful necklaces, but she also creates sword and cross pendants, pendulums, and the most wonderful Spirit Friend Dolls that would truly lift any spirit. Vibrant Wanderings is a blog that documents the life of a young family of four that touches on issues from elimination communication to Montessori to finding balance in everyday life.

Be sure to like Rock Paper Tree on Facebook and follow Vibrant Wanderings via Twitter!






From Monkey Mama Necklaces via I Thought I Knew Mama — Win a twiddle buster or twiddle teether pendant nursing necklace, a safe and distracting necklace perfect for little nurslings (ARV $20)
Shop now with coupon code ITIKM10 and get 10% off your purchase until November 30, 2012!

Monkey Mama Necklaces are beautiful, safe, functional, and ethical necklaces created with nursing and babywearing mamas in mind. My baby girl and I love my twiddle buster pendant nursing necklace. My four month old loves playing with it while she nurses or goes for carrier rides on Mama, and I love it because it is not only a gorgeous piece of jewelry, but also that the shape of the pendant is reminiscent of a pregnant woman - an empowering reminder of my daughter's VBAC birth story. Monkey Mama Necklaces offers pendants that are gorgeous and handmade, and non-toxic and highly durable, as well as fairly traded on every step of their journey to you. Nursing and babywearing mamas, be sure to stop by I Thought I Knew Mama for a window into one mama's adventures in natural parenting and green living!

Be sure to like Monkey Mama Necklaces on Facebook and I Thought I Knew Mama on Facebook!






From Two Pink Hearts via Code Name: Mama — Win a $20 Gift Certificate for a fashion camera strap cover
Shop now with coupon code holiday10 and get 10% off through December 31, 2012!

Fancy up your camera with a fashionable camera strap cover from Two Pink Hearts. The camera strap covers are 25” X 3" and fit over a standard DSLR digital camera strap. You can find just the right color, print, and fabric to suit your personality, from cotton to minky, ruffles to polka dots. They are comfortable and stylish - we love our rainbow and Batman prints! Once you have your new camera strap cover, grab your camera and your little one for a photo scavenger hunt - what a fun way to connect during the holiday season.

Be sure to like Two Pink Hearts on Facebook and subscribe to Code Name: Mama by email!






From Easy Lunchboxes via Firmly Planted — Win a Set of Food Storage Containers and a Lunch Bag (ARV $22)!

Visit Easy Lunchboxes for a great solution to figuring out lunch time! With a new baby at home, lunch time around here can get out of hand quickly! I love being able to prepare lunch the night before and let my big girls get it out when they are hungry. The only thing we need to complete our set is the Mini Dippers! Check out this post from Laura at Natural Parents Network for some great on the go dinner ideas!

Be sure to like Easy Lunchboxes on Facebook and follow Firmly Planted on Pinterest!






From moksa organics via ourfeminist{play}school — Win a $30 gift certificate!
Shop now with coupon code naturalparenting and get 30% off your purchase through November 25, 2012!

There is nothing like the luxury of a body butter or aromatic soap - unless of course they are also organic, carbon neutral and totally free of chemicals. This company has it all: an amazing global mission and a stunning set of products all with a goal of taking care of our bodies and well-being. I tried out some of their amazing soap, their to-die-for Organic Lavender Bergamot Body Oil, and the Kilimanjaro Body Butter, and I can say without a doubt that I won't ever buy from another company. moksa organics actually made me spend more time in the bathtub, because I just couldn't get enough of their heavenly scents. I want you to try the Iceland Mint Organic Soap or the Mint Rosemary Body Butter and then try to tell me you aren't in love. Pop over to ourfeminist{play}school to take a relaxing break from your holiday DIY-gift list!

Be sure to like moksa organics on Facebook and subscribe to ourfeminist{play}school via RSS!






From Libre Tea via The Hippie Housewife — Win a Libre glass ’n poly Original Tea Glass (ARV $24)

Libre Tea Glasses are an innovative all-in-one system that allow you to brew and drink loose leaf tea while on the go. I was drawn to both the beautiful style and practical functionality of these glasses, and they did not disappoint. With two ways to brew and your choice of three sizes (original, large, and mug-style), Libre Tea glasses are an ideal holiday gift for the tea drinker in your life. Stop by The Hippie Housewife to read about some of my own everyday "tea moments."

Be sure to like Libre Tea on Facebook and subscribe to The Hippie Housewife via RSS!






From Dirty Diva Soaps via Hybrid Rasta Mama — Win a set of three soaps (ARV $20)
Shop now with coupon code Hybridrastamama and get 10% off your purchase through November 25, 2012!

Visit Dirty Diva Soaps where you will find all natural, vegan, handmade soaps, shampoo bars, conditioners, laundry detergent, aftershave, lip balm and cuticle balm, perfumes, and lotions. I was fortunate enough to test out the Imagine shampoo bar! Not only is it so beautiful to look at but it got my hair unbelievably clean, shiny, and smelling great! Stop by Hybrid Rasta Mama to learn more about her love of handmade personal care products!

Be sure to like Dirty Diva Soaps on Facebook and follow Hybrid Rasta Mama on Networked Blogs!






From A Mother's Boutique via Hobo Mama — Win a $75 Gift Certificate for Nursing & Maternity Wear
Shop now with coupon code HOBO10 and get 10% off virtually any item in the store (certain exclusions apply) through November 25, 2012!

Visit A Mother's Boutique for high-quality, unique clothing for pregnancy and breastfeeding, as well as slings, breast pumps, and other mothering essentials. Judy's Virtual Bra Fitting gave me the perfect nursing bra for my hard-to-fit size and shape. I am so happy with the Elomi Smoothing Underwire Bra she helped me discover, and I'd love to see the Ivana Tie Dress over it next! Stop by Hobo Mama to see some of my other recommendations for cute maternity clothes.

Be sure to like A Mother's Boutique on Facebook and subscribe to Hobo Mama via RSS!






From Anointment via MomeeeZen — Win Baby Balm, Baby Oil, Calendula Soap and a Soap Scrubbie (ARV $30)
Shop now with coupon code npnreview and orders over $50 get free shipping to US/Canada and a free gift through December 31, 2012!

Visit Anointment for purely natural care products for the whole family. I have been a fan of Anointment for several years because they truly use all natural and safe ingredients. I am so pleased to recommend these safe and natural care products to you. This trio of Anointment favorites nourishes even the most sensitive skin. Check out Anointment for their nourishing selection of soaps, lip balms, baby care products, and much more. Stop by MomeeeZen to see what I'll be doing for my kiddos' holiday stocking!

Be sure to like Anointment on Facebook and like Momeee Zen on Facebook!






From Flying Bird Botanicals via very, very fine — Win a $25 gift certificate!

Flying Bird Botanicals' artisan tea blends, rich drinking chocolates, and organic body and baby care products are handcrafted from 100% organic locally-sourced and fair trade ingredients, providing you with luxury you can feel (really, really) good about. The teas I sampled were delicious AND nutritious, and the packaging is beautiful enough to leave on the counter! For the outdoorsman on your list, try the Mountain Spice Shaving Soap and Bay Rum Aftershave; around the office, a tin of Vanilla Rose Cacao drinking chocolate might win you the title of Best Secret Santa Ever. Celebrate the holidays with our family at very, very fine.

Be sure to like Flying Bird Botanicals on Facebook and subscribe to very, very fine via RSS!






From Lauren Wayne via ourfeminist{play}school, win 1 of 2 copies of Poetry of a Hobo Mama: The First Three Years (ARV $10 x 2)
Shop now with coupon code SAP84AYJ and get 20% off all orders of the trade paperback at the author's store through December 31, 2012!

Poetry of a Hobo Mama is a moving and essential collection of poetry that captures the journey of mothering from inception and loss, to birth and child development. Lauren Wayne uses poetry to play with the raw experiences of life and the humour that can be found in the role of a mother. Using various forms of poetry, and a language that is simultaneously accessible and sophisticated, the poems speak to all who have connected with any aspect of pregnancy, birth or mothering. Readers of Hobo Mama's blog will sense the voice of Lauren Wayne while at the same be invited to view her personal life experiences through a very different lens. Sensual, funny, heart-wrenching and soul lifting, these poems stand apart as a unique and honest look at moments in the life of one woman, while managing to speak to so many.

Be sure to like Lauren Wayne on Facebook and follow ourfeminist{play}school on Networked Blogs!






From Dionna Ford via I Thought I Knew Mama — Win 1 of 2 copies of For My Children: A Mother's Journal of Memories, Wishes and Wisdom, a beautiful way for a mother to pass along her memories (ARV $15 x 2)

For My Children: A Mother’s Journal of Memories, Wishes, and Wisdom is a beautiful and unique way for you - or a special mama in your life - to pass down her life story. This book's thought-provoking prompts have reminded me of how much I still want to learn about my own mother, as well as how much the intricacies of my own life will matter to my children. I love the fill-in-the-blank prompts, because they make the process of sharing something seemingly immeasurable not only possible, but actually fairly simple. The author, Dionna Ford of Code Name: Mama and cofounder of Nursing Freedom and Natural Parents Network, clearly cherishes the awe-inspiring complexity of motherhood as she lovingly gives mamas a hand in sharing their own voices with their children. Visit I Thought I Knew Mama for a window into the beauty of green and natural motherhood.

Be sure to like Code Name: Mama on Facebook and follow I Thought I Knew Mama on Pinterest!






From Job Description: Mommy via Code Name: Mama — Win 3 Pairs of Handmade Earrings (up to $45 ARV)
Shop now with coupon code NPNJDM and get 15% off your purchase through December 15, 2012!

Visit Job Description: Mommy for unique, gorgeous earrings (and other jewelry coming soon). These earrings are gorgeous enough to be worn with classy business attire, yet fun enough to dress up a night-on-the-town outfit or to wear casually with jeans. Most of the jewelry in Jessika's shop is made from natural stones, shells, and other materials direct from Mother Nature. Jessika's shop is stocked right now with hematite, Czech crystal, amber, turquoise, and many more. Treat yourself to one of these beautiful pairs of earrings - mamas deserve to indulge!

Be sure to like Job Description Mommy on Facebook and subscribe to Code Name: Mama via RSS!






From Kid Culture via ourfeminist{play}school — Win a family set of Play Me Mama Crafts' organic hankies! (ARV $24)

If there is one thing you can be certain of, especially when you have kids, it is the presence of snot. And nothing cleans that mess up like these lovely organic hankies made by PlayMeMama and stocked by my favourite kids store: Kid Culture. This family pack of hankies can meet all of your on the go mess needs and fits perfectly in a purse, diaper bag or back pack; they wash with no problems and the fabric is glorious! But, of course, hankies aren't the only bits of lovely you will find at Kid Culture. I need to get my hands on the vintage NHL t-shirts, and I adore the wool pants from Sew Oiseau that Clare carries in this stunning little shop. Don't forget to stop by ourfeminist{play}school where I will be sharing a quick and easy tutorial for making a felt hand-sewn shape matching set for your youngest gift recipient this holiday season!

Be sure to follow Kid Culture on Twitter and leave a comment on What Is Your Parenting Support System?, a wonderful post on ourfeminist{play}school!






From Soapie Skyes via Living Peacefully with Children — Win a bottle of All Natural Balancing Shampoo (ARV $20)
Shop now with coupon code NATURALCHRISTMAS and get 25% off all orders through January 5, 2013!

Visit Soapie Skyes for high-quality, all natural bath and body products. Their All Natural Balancing Shampoo is my new favorite shampoo, leaving my family's hair clean and silky smooth without any harsh chemicals. I'm looking forward to trying some of her All Natural Bubble Bath, perfect for the little people in my life. Stop by Living Peacefully with Children and learn how to make your own luscious bath bombs to pamper yourself or someone you love this holiday season.

Be sure to like Soapie Skyes on Facebook and leave a comment on Attachment Parenting: the Renewed Face of Feminism, one of the thoughtful articles on Living Peacefully with Children!






From The Tea Spot via A Little Bit of All of It — Win a Steeping Cup and an Organic Tea Sampler (ARV $44)
Shop now with coupon code naturalparents and get 15% off their order from November 1-25, 2012!

Visit The Tea Spot for unique steepware and Fair-Trade certified organic estate teas and signature blends. The Steeping Cup is a wonderful way to enjoy loose leaf tea and gives the same convenience as using a bag. The sampler is a perfect mix of teas and comes in 6 stylish mini tins. I'm dying to try their chocolate cherry bomb tea as well! Stop by A Little Bit of All of It for a delicious banana bread recipe to enjoy with your tea.

Be sure to like The Tea Spot on Facebook and leave a comment on Baby-Led Solids - No Purees for Baby, one of the excellent posts on A Little Bit of All of It!






From Dysfunction Designs via The Hippie Housewife — Win a $20 Gift Certificate
Shop now with coupon code NATGIFTS and get 5% off all orders through December 31, 2012!

Visit Dysfunction Designs for handmade necklaces and bracelets for women and men. From vintage-inspired to tribal, skater to bohemian, Dysfunction Designs offers handmade jewelery for free spirits of all kinds. I enjoyed the variety in her jewelery, which include polymer clay beads, wooden beads, and carved bone beads. I am in love with this vintage-inspired purple and green bracelet with the bronze leaf clasp closure! Stop by The Hippie Housewife to see how this free spirit is learning and growing in the midst of unexpected community.

Be sure to like Dysfunction Designs on Facebook and like The Hippie Housewife on Facebook!






From Earthfaeries Homebrewed Soap via Firmly Planted — Win a $20 Gift Card!

Earthfaeries home-brews some amazing soaps and perfumes as well as other handmade goods. I am absolutely in love with the soap and perfume I received from Earthfaeries. The fragrances are so unique and lovely. My favorite scent continues to be ‘Happy Hippy,’ but I’m also thoroughly pleased with ‘Mint Duet.’ Stop by Firmly Planted to see bath time at the Firmly Planted home!

Be sure to like both Earthfaeries Homebrewed Soap and Firmly Planted on Facebook!






From Hybrid Rasta Mama via Diary of a First Child — Win one of three copies of the eBook 'Coconut Oil For Your Skin'(ARV $7 x 3)
Shop now with coupon code NPNHOLIDAY and get 15% off all orders through December 31, 2012!

Jennifer Saleem from Hybrid Rasta Mama is NPN's resident Coconut Oil Expert - and one we all turn to every time we have a coconut question! This eBook contains 40 fantastic recipes for coconut-based bath and beauty products that are simple and practical to make at home. There's also a really handy guide to essential oils and their uses. Jennifer is currently working on her next book, Cooking with Coconut Oil, out later this month. I can't wait! On Diary of a First Child, I'm trying to learn to eat and live closer to nature - if you are too, this is a perfect place to start!

Be sure to like Hybrid Rasta Mama on Facebook and like Diary of a First Child on Facebook!






From Raising Green Kids via very, very fine — Win a $25 gift certificate!

Raising Green Kids aims to help parents make eco-friendly choices toward healthier families and a healthier world. Cutting drying time (and energy consumption) and eliminating the need for gnarly chemicals are just two of my favorite perks of using Raising Green Kids' simple felted wool dryer balls. Adding a few drops of a fragrant essential oil to your dryer balls has even made laundry pleasant for a change! Looking for a thoughtful but practical gift? Try the ThinkSport Safe Yoga Mat and Stainless Sport Bottle set. Holla "yay!" for the holidays at very, very fine.

Be sure to like Raising Green Kids on Facebook and leave a comment on a brief interlude at very, very fine!






From Poppy Soap Company via Fine and Fair — Win 1 of 3 a Mix & Match Organic Soap Sets (ARV $30)
Shop now with coupon code delilah and get $10 off your purchase through November 25, 2012!

Poppy Soap Company is an eco-conscious, carbon neutral, mother-owned company making handmade specialty organic soaps for every skin type while giving back to local women's shelters. Poppy Soap Company's soap bars come in a variety of heavenly scents and each bar is beautifully detailed. The quality of these soaps and their ability to cleanse, moisturize, and nurture face and body cannot be beat! In addition to their environmental responsibility, women's shelter advocacy, and gorgeous high-quality soaps, Poppy Soap Company uses packaging that is both reusable and biodegradable-no plastic! Visit Fine and Fair, a blog written by a mother to and for her children about the ups and downs along the journey of raising them as a responsible citizens of the world with the values of compassion toward all living things, environmental responsibility, conservation, and celebrating diversity in all of its forms.

Be sure to like Poppy Soap Company on Facebook and like Fine and Fair on Facebook!






From Worts and Cunning Apothecary via Living Peacefully with Children — Win a Happy Homestead Remedy Kit (ARV $20)
Shop now with coupon code NATURALWORT and get 10% off all orders through November 25, 2012!

Worts and Cunning Apothecary specializes in fully enchanted herbal care and homeopathy. With fantastically named products and attention to detail, customers are certain to find may wonderful gifts. Stop by Living Peacefully with Children for ideas on the perfect wreath to make with children, perfect for any celebration.

Be sure to like Worts and Cunning Apothecary on Facebook and follow Living Peacefully with Children on Pinterest!






From The Babywearing Workout via MomeeeZen and True Confessions of a Real Mommy — Win 1 of 5 copies of Mama's "Little" Personal Trainer (ARV $10 x 5)
Shop now with coupon code NPN2012 and get 15% off your purchase between November 5 and December 24, 2012!

If you and your baby love babywearing AND you want to exercise, then this video is for you! Get the best of both worlds when you strap on your favorite carrier and join Kelli Roschak, Mama and creator of the workout, in her Babywearing Workout. Kelli has carefully and thoughtfully prepared this workout and made it accessible to all ages and all levels of exercising experience. Exercising has so many benefits (not just weight loss) and can help Mamas feel refreshed and replenished, so they can be at their best! Enjoy getting your sweat on while keeping baby happy, and maybe even getting them to sleep, right in the comfort of your own home! Check out The Babywearing Workout website to learn more and to read safety tips on babywearing.

Be sure to like The Babywearing Workout and True Confessions of a Real Mommy on Facebook and subscribe to Momeee Zen via email!






From Bent River Bobbins via Firmly Planted — Win a $20 Gift Certificate!

Heather at Bent River Bobbins creates high quality, reusable bags and sandwich wraps as well as sweet baby toys and other useful items. My girls absolutely love their meal time sets. It’s so wonderful to be able to pack their lunches for day trips to the zoo or museum and not have to use plastic bags. I also really love Heather’s tissue totes, perfect for the winter months especially! Check out Firmly Planted for other ways to go green!

Be sure to like Bent River Bobbins on Facebook and visit Firmly Planted to read about going paperless and leave a comment!






From Presence Parenting via Anktangle — Win a 60-Minute Nurturing Presence Session(ARV $50)!
Shop now with coupon code NPN50 and receive 50% off your own Nurturing Presence Sessions through November 30, 2012!

Check out Presence Parenting for practical parenting information, insights, and parent-to-parent support to experience peace and create true personal, family, and world harmony. I benefited greatly from my nurturing presence session with Amy Phoenix. She is centered, caring, and intuitive: a combination of qualities that lends itself well to helping others uncover insights about ourselves and grow from there. Visit Anktangle to learn more about seeking to find balance in daily life.

Be sure to like Presence Parenting on Facebook and follow Anktangle on Twitter!






From Wooly Moss Roots via Hybrid Rasta Mama — Win your all natural Tooth Powder, Magical Healing Salve, and a Smudging Bundle (ARV $34)
Shop now with coupon code HYBRIDRASTAMAMA15 and get 15% off your purchase through November 25, 2012!

Visit Wooly Moss Roots where you will find wonderful wooden buttons, herbal goodness, and wooly delights. I adore everything in this shop but am especially loving the Peppermint Tooth Powder and the Magical Healing Salve. My teeth have never felt so clean and the salve is the ultimate healer! Stop by Hybrid Rasta Mama to read more about Wooly Moss Roots (and their other shop Mystic Orb and check out some photos of all of the gorgeous items in these shops!

Be sure to like Wooly Moss Roots on Facebook and subscribe to Hybrid Rasta Mama via email!






From Olive Shoot Institute via Firmly Planted — Win Extreme 18X Soap Nut Liquid Concentrate and a Guinea Pig Doll (ARV $40)!

Cindy at Olive Shoot Institute has a plethora of soap nut products as well as sweet handmade dolls. I didn’t think I would ever ditch my traditional soap nuts, but the soap nut liquid concentrate that Cindy sent me is amazing and so easy to use! It takes only a small amount of the concentrate to clean even my husband’s super dirty work clothes AND our stinky cloth diapers! My girls have also loved their new Guinea Pig Doll, Ruth! Stop by Firmly Planted to see our new cloth diapering solution!

Be sure to like Olive Shoot Institute on Facebook and follow Firmly Planted on Twitter.






From Sacred Rose Tea via A Little Bit of All of It — Win 1 box of Holiday Blend Organic Tea and a Tea Infuser (ARV $27)

Visit Sacred Rose Tea for hand-crafted, premium quality, all natural and healthy herbal infusions. Their Holiday Blend is a perfectly delicious way to enjoy this holiday season. And all of their teas are ready for gifting as they come packaged beautifully. I would love to try all of their 9 offerings! Stop by A Little Bit of All of It to find out about a great Christmas CD you can listen to while drinking your festive tea.

Be sure to like Sacred Rose Tea on Facebook and follow A Little Bit of All of It on Networked Blogs!






From doTERRA via MomeeeZen — Win a $20 gift card & a free phone consultation with Patti Tinholt to help you learn which Essential Oils are right for you!
Shop now and for any purchases over $100, receive $50 towards your next purchase.

If you are looking to reap the benefits of using Essential Oils, but just don't know where to start, doTERRA is the place for you! doTERRA Essential Oils are Certified Therapeutic Grade and free from fillers, artificial ingredients, pesticides and harmful chemicals. All you get is 100% pure natural goodness! I discovered the benefits of many tried and tested uses for my Lavender, Lemon and Peppermint Oils, plus some surprising uses I had no idea about, but which I am now a big fan of! Visit doTERRA for more info and to see the selection of products they offer, such as products for the home, workplace, skin care and much more!

Be sure to visit doTERRA and stop by and leave a comment on Where Are All the Heroines?, one of the wonderful posts at Momeee Zen!






From Maggie’s Naturals via Hybrid Rasta Mama — Win a 6-pack Variety Food Coloring Package (ARV $60)

Visit Maggie’s Naturals where you will find a food coloring made from all natural and organic plant, fruit and vegetable extracts. Maggie’s Naturals come in 6 brilliant colors. I was fortunate enough to test out the natural dyes and am beyond impressed with their quality and ease of use. Best of all, I know that they are safe for me and my family! Stop by Hybrid Rasta Mama to find some great recipes that you might even be able to use Maggie's Naturals with.

Be sure to like Maggie's Naturals on Facebook!





You're intrigued and enchanted by all these fabulous natural-minded gifts, aren't you? Then you'll want to enter to win our spectacular giveaway! You can win any one of the products featured on this page.

You can enter on this page or any of the participating blogs. The Rafflecopter script is the same on each, so you need to enter on only one site. That said, please do visit and enjoy all the reviews at the participating sites!
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