Guest post: Saved by the Fire Fairy

While I’m on vacation until Aug. 9, I’m featuring several guest bloggers. Today’s post is from Stacy of Mama-Om.

Saved by the Fire Fairy
by Stacy
Originally published on Mama-Om.

The other day I was talking to a friend about her young daughter’s Waldorf-inspired daycare. Each day for their lunch, they light a candle and eat together. The candle flame is a “fire fairy.”

For the last month or so, our family has been having a candle at our evening meal. My son Orlando (four and a half) always wants to blow out the candle, often before we are finished eating.

I have struggled, almost daily, since the birth of my second child, to remain patient and compassionate with my kids; to parent in the way I believe.

And here I am, being impatient, uncompassionate, and definitely not peaceful.

“No.”

“I wanna blow it out!”

“No! We’re still eating.”

All the while he is trying to lean closer and I am moving the candle away. I am saying NO. NO. NO.

Everything about me is saying NO, and not in that firm no-nonsense way of a mother that usually, as a result of its own clarity, gets an immediate response.

It is NO in a desperate attempt to revert to the past or some ideal time when no child of mine would try to blow out a candle before dinner is done.

Really smart.

And so not effective.

The more I say NO in this clenching rather than clear way, the more crazy he gets to blow it out. We are literally fighting over fire.

Then I start feeling sorry for myself: Why is everything such a struggle? An immediate battle?

Um.

Because I make it that way?

Suddenly, inspiration strikes.

“But if we blow out the candle now, the fire fairy won’t have time to get back home!”

“The fire fairy?”

“Yes,” I say, and I look my child in the eye. “The fire fairy is in the flame -– let’s have her stay with us a bit longer.”

His eyes are wide. His face is solemn. “The fire fairy is inside the flame?”

“Yes,” I say. “Yes.” Then I pause. “Will you wait and blow out the candle when we are done eating?”

”Yes!”

And just like that, we are no longer fighting. We’ve gone from No to Yes.

Orlando sits back down. We continue eating, and stay at the table for a long time.

I feed him bite after bite. He leans against me (he scoots his chair as close as possible to my chair during meals, which I have lately been responding to with stress, yet tonight I am grateful for this mellow closeness). We are as relaxed as if we were sitting in front of a roaring fireplace.

Finally, it is time for the fire fairy to fly away home. Orlando and I blow out the flame.

+ + +

Stacy is the mama behind Mama-Om, where she writes quirky, vibrant, honest and insightful posts about (trying to) parent peacefully.

Guest post: ‘Poo-free hair care – no bubbles required

While I’m on vacation until Aug. 9, I’m featuring several guest bloggers. Today’s guest post is from Jenny who blogs at Babyfingers.

‘Poo-free hair care – no bubbles required

Do you already have a hair care army living in your kitchen?
I had never heard of ‘poo free hair care until some friends at our local babywearing group brought it up at a meeting. One lady mentioned how pleased she’d been with the condition of her hair since she quit using shampoo. Perplexed, several of us asked “what do you use?” The answer was simpler and cheaper than I expected: baking soda and apple cider vinegar!

Because I’d been told some people experience shampoo withdrawal I placed the commencement of my ‘poo free hair care on the back burner. Shampoo was working okay for me. Still, I often looked in the mirror to see a brown mop of unruly hair which was three times as voluminous as I desired. The frizz was worse on wash days (I only shampooed every other day) and was especially bad during times of high humidity in the summer or high static in the winter. I identified with Hermione Granger in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and had my shampoo to thank for it. When it dawned on me that quitting shampoo could possibly remedy my lifelong hair troubles, I got started.

For about five dollars I purchased a half-gallon of apple cider vinegar and a box of baking soda. I looked around my kitchen for containers and found two sippy cups. Squirt bottles of some sort (recycled, if possible; you might use your old shampoo bottles) are best because they make it easier to coat the hair without wasting materials or accidentally pouring into your eyes. After a little trial-and-error, I now put about a tablespoon of baking soda in the first cup and fill the rest of it with water, then put the cap on and shake it. I fill the second cup with about 3 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar (ACV) and fill the rest of it with water. There are exact measurement suggestions here. I massage the baking soda solution into my wet hair. Next I add the ACV solution, leave it in for a few seconds, and rinse. It smoothes my hair out and makes it easy to brush. I end with a cold rinse. My friend Julie, who got me started on ‘poo free hair care, also recommends using lavender water in a spray bottle. I use locally made lavender linen spray (not just any lavender linen spray works; it must be made with real lavender oil and water). You can also buy your own lavender oil and mix it with water. Spraying this on freshens up ‘poo free hair between washes. For the first couple of weeks you may need to do more frequent washes or rinses. Alternatively, you could skip the extra washes and wear a hat, scarf, or ponytail.

Eventually my hair began to feel dry, probably because I was using too much baking soda. I tried a deep conditioning treatment of mayonnaise and avocado, which came highly recommended by several sources. To make this treatment you mix one mashed avocado with ½ cup of (real) mayonnaise. Squish it through your hair, put on a shower cap and leave it in for 30 minutes. Rinse well. After this treatment my hair was a little too moist! It became limp and stringy, and it didn’t smell like a rose either. If you try this one, I’d recommend applying it only to the ends of your hair on the first try. Also be careful not to leave it on too long! Another similar treatment I’ve read about and would like to try is half of an avocado mashed with an egg rather than the mayo. It’s similar, because mayo does have eggs in it, but using an egg instead eliminates a ton of oil, which is the first ingredient in mayo. Therefore, it may be better for all but the driest hair. I have used a beaten egg on my hair as a mask and have been pleased with the results even when I was still using shampoo. Besides, if you have extra, the vitamins in eggs (and possibly avocados) will also work wonders as a mask on your face!

My favorite occasional treatment is the sugar scrub, suggested by Julie. It’s useful if you have dandruff or hair that feels dirty or stiff near the roots. For this one you need honey and brown sugar (it doesn’t dissolve as easily as white). Get a small handful of sugar and squirt approximately the same amount of honey on top of it. Rub your hands together, lean over so the length of your hair is hanging down, and massage it into your scalp. It works best if your hair is wet but the shower is off; you don’t want the sugar to dissolve too quickly. It’s the perfect exfoliant because when you are finished the warm water melts the sugar and it rinses out in seconds! This scrub feels wonderful and restores bounce to hair. Follow it with your regular baking soda and vinegar routine.
There are many other inexpensive, natural treatments with which to supplement your baking soda and ACV. If your hair is dry you can condition it with sweet almond oil, coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil (see details here). Some people choose to continue using regular conditioner sparingly; I still have a bottle of conditioner I bought at Whole Foods but haven’t had to use it yet.

Of course, where there’s a need, there’s a product! Terressentials, an organic body care company, makes delicious-looking Pure Earth Hair Wash, which was honored in 2004 as a top product in the Green Guide. I’m hoping to try it soon; although baking soda and vinegar are easy on our budget, sometimes I long for a yummy scent such as lavender or mint. I’ve also read that this hair wash adds shine and makes hair softer. (If you’ve tried it, please tell us how you liked it!)
‘Poo-free hair care is individualized just like shampoo. How many people can say they’ve used the same kind of shampoo their whole life? I can’t; I’ve been through dozens of brands! In the end, though, I have been happier after a month’s experience with baking soda and ACV than I have in years and years of shampoo-sampling. The hardest part of the ‘poo free experience is getting over the idea that bubbles are required to clean hair. Not only are they unnecessary, but they wash out your hair’s natural oils! The ultimate goal is to gently clean dirt and impurities out of your hair while leaving the oils your hair needs. Once I stopped trying to shampoo and blow-dry my hair into submission, I was able to find a balance and embrace its natural body and texture.

For more information on ‘poo free hair care and other reasons giving up shampoo is a good idea, visit this informative post at Babyslime.
Are you ‘poo free? What techniques have worked for you?

Jenny lives in South Carolina with her one-year-old daughter Suzi and husband Jordan. She enjoys practicing attachment parenting and is especially interested in babywearing and breastfeeding. She blogs (and sometimes rants) at Babyfingers.

Guest post: Gradually Going Local

While I’m on vacation until Aug. 9, I’m featuring several guest bloggers. This guest post is from Ami who blogs at Writing: My Life.

I first heard about Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) several years ago in a magazine article. I immediately loved the idea of paying a local farmer in exchange for a weekly share in whatever he or she produced. What better way to really know where your food is coming from? Unfortunately, by the time I’d learned about CSA the deadlines to sign up with any of the local farms had passed. I planned to check into it again the next spring, but kept letting those deadlines pass me by.

The desire to start eating more locally kept building, though, as memories of homegrown tomatoes and carrots straight from the garden came back to me. Then, in the spring of last year, I read a book that changed my perspective on food tremendously. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle reacquainted me with the natural order of food. It reminded me that eating a tomato in January (unless it comes from a jar you put up in August) is not natural. It made me take a second look at my banana-eating habits. And it taught me that local eating can be healthy, good for the environment and really flavorful, too.

After reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, I started running into articles on local eating and Community Supported Agriculture everywhere, and I began thinking much more consciously about where my food was coming from. Yet again, I was too late to join a CSA for the year, but I shopped mainly at the farmer’s market that spring, summer and fall. I spent my weekends prepping and cooking fresh produce. I did some freezing and drying to preserve a bit of what I brought home. I even tried growing my own tomatoes, which unfortunately succumbed to the beaks of the pigeons and blackbirds before I could enjoy them. I also did a little local-eating experiment, and I learned a lot about how difficult our current food system and lifestyles can make eating locally.

The difficulty didn’t discourage me, though. I did my best, and this year, I was a little more prepared. I joined that CSA and was at the farmer’s market on opening weekend ready to eat with the seasons again. I got a newer refrigerator, with a freezer that could hold more produce for the winter months. I joined the One Local Summer Challenge, with the goal of eating at least one completely local meal each week. I planted an herb garden in my tiny backyard.

One day I hope to have a garden to tend with berries, squash, peppers, juicy tomatoes and more. But for now, I support my local farmers and try to keep my eating as local as possible. Sure, my behavior hasn’t completely changed. I still spend money at the grocery store and I haven’t started canning and root cellaring yet. And eating local certainly isn’t the easiest eating option. But I feel good knowing that my money is supporting local agriculture. I’m happier knowing the farmer that grows my vegetables at the CSA. I see him regularly when I pick up my share and he sends us a farm and harvest update every week. Even the farmers at the market are open about their growing practices and I’ve come to know several of them by name. These days, I know where my food is grown and I trust that it’s being done with conscious concern for the land and the people who will consume it. Of all the benefits of eating local, I think that’s the best one.

Ami is a technical and freelance writer trying to live a healthier and greener life—and some days she succeeds. Read more about her local eating escapades at Writing: My Life.

Guest post: Shot from the Heart

While I’m on vacation until Aug. 9, I’m featuring several guest bloggers. This guest post is from Stephanie of Adventures In Babywearing.

Shot From The Heart
By Stephanie Precourt, Adventures In Babywearing

My decision to not vaccinate my children is something I get asked about a lot. This seems to be one of the hardest subjects to “agree to disagree” upon. Whether it is with your doctor, your mother, or your friend. I get the impression that when someone hears we do not vaccinate, they feel like they must put up their defenses and explain why they do. And all too often they think not vaccinating is neglectful and alarmist. But most of these people have never met someone with a vaccine-injured child. And many times they have not really researched- both sides or any side at all.

I do not vaccinate for a few different reasons that include adverse reactions immediately after vaccination for one of my children, neurological issues in my oldest son, as well as several years of research on the subject.

But I would never criticize those that do vaccinate. I understand that neither choice is easy. I am so glad that we at least have a choice and I hope everyone is making an absolutely informed choice- one made on their own and not only with the help and instruction of their doctor.

Some of the most common false assumptions parents have about vaccines are based on fear, and not on truth. They think their child won’t be able to attend school. You can see your state’s laws regarding that right here. Many parents think that since the mercury has been removed from vaccines, there’s nothing to worry about anymore. But not all mercury has been removed. You can see the CDC (Center For Disease Control) vaccine ingredient listing here. And one of the scariest thoughts of all is that your child will die if they get the chicken pox, measles, or tetanus. If you do your research on all the diseases children are “immunized” for and see the true statistics and treatment options, it’s not so scary anymore. To people like me, the ingredients alone in just one shot is what is frightening.

When we all are informed, aware, and concerned, then good changes can start happening. Until then, why shouldn’t they just continue giving your baby shots with formaldehyde, aluminum, and thimerosal if no one’s complaining?

Doctors and the men and women running our government are human. They can be helpful, but they are not God. They do not know everything- how something will turn out tomorrow or in five years. In the end, only you as the parent are the one who will be held accountable. Go with your heart, your gut, and your instinct, and above all, make your choice an informed one.

Stephanie blogs daily at Adventures In Babywearing. You can also read more of her posts on the subject of vaccines in depth here.

Guest post: Surviving Your Four Year Old

While I’m on vacation until Aug. 9, I’m featuring several guest bloggers. Today’s guest post is from Alicia who blogs at Magic and Mayhem.

Surviving Your Four Year Old!
Originally posted Jan 26th, 2008 by Alicia

Lately Jack (age 4) has been really pushing my buttons! He’s been argumentative, angry, bossy, defiant and just plain trying. He’s told me he hated me (which neither of his big sisters have ever done!), threatened me, made mean faces, you name it.

I have read enough parenting books and been through enough parenting to know that children act bad when they feel bad. Still, it is very hard to take when a small boy keeps shouting at you and saying mean things! There is only so much of the Mary Poppins hat you can put on before you feel like beating him with it.

I know what the conventional wisdom is. Spank, yell, punish, show him who’s boss. Be meaner back to teach him how to be nice. I’m not a fan of conventional wisdom. Conventional wisdom was once that the world was flat and you should own slaves. That doesn’t mean I didn’t lose it and yell and act mean a time or two during this phase, but it wasn’t my goal.

The behavior has been going on for several weeks and it was a long few weeks.

In order to get through it, I read Your Four Year Old again to remind myself what was age appropriate and what works for the age, modeled handling my own anger well, firmly told him that he could not treat me badly and left the room if he was nasty to me, offered lots of hugs, talked about his feelings and healthy ways to express them, dramatically increased his mama time, gave him more choices, read extra books, smiled lots, told him I loved him lots, complemented his good behavior and waited.

Of course I also lost it and yelled, told his dad to take over, vented to friends, and acted rotten myself a few times! I’m human, after all. :)

Fast forward to the past few days. I have my old Jack back now for the most part, just a little older and wiser. Today he greeted me with “Hi mom, how ya doin’?” and then made up a poem for me later (You may be big, you may be small, but you’re my bestest friend of them all). The past few days he has presented me with artwork, told me many times how much he loved me, helped out when asked, apologized when he was rude to his sister…. He’s been a mature, sweet, helpful, funny little boy.

This is a big time in Jack’s life. He stopped being the baby in the family 8 months ago when his brother came along. He is learning to read and write and add. He is growing and changing. He’s stuck inside during a very cold winter and not able to run and move the way his body needs to. He’s got to share, compromise, negotiate and be patient many times a day, which are skills a lot of grown ups never master.

It can be so hard when little ones (or big ones!) go through stages that make us nuts. I can just imagine what it will be like around here when we have a bunch of teenagers! I am so glad that I had faith in him and kept working at helping him through it, instead of turning us into enemies.

And with that, I’m off to go play with said four year-old! Have a great day all!

Alicia Bayer is an Attachment Parenting, homeschooling mother to four fabulous kids ages 1 to 10. She runs the website A Magical Childhood (www.magicalchildhood.com) and a parenting/homeschooling blog (http://magicandmayhem.homeschooljournal.net/).

Guest post: The World You Want is at the End of Your Fork

While I’m on vacation until Aug. 9, I’m featuring several guest bloggers. Today’s guest post is from Tiffany who writes at the Natural Family Living Guide.

The World You Want is at the End of Your Fork

Most people spend a lot of time thinking about food. They think about meals they need to plan for their families, food they need to add to their grocery list, new restaurants they need to try, and the carb and calories counts of the foods they love. They have a lot of opinions about their food and what they like and dislike. But many are still not thinking about food in a meaningful way. They are not thinking about where their food comes from, how it gets to them, under what circumstances, and at what cost. There are social, environmental, and ethical considerations that often go unnoticed. The food you eat is important and it does have an impact on the world around you.

One particular quote that seems to sum it all up is taken from John Kinsman, a Wisconsin organic dairy farmer, who said “Every time you spend money on food you are voting for the world you want.”

So what can you do to make your dining experiences more ethical and sustainable? I have a few ideas about that.

Eat Organic – It is a sustainable method of food production and helps to ensure that our farmlands will be rich and productive for future generations. Most times when you hear any mention of organic food it is in relation to healthful eating and chemical exposure. It is usually a health related issue. This issue is actually much deeper than that. Organic agriculture is a strict form of sustainable agriculture; a way of producing food products without harming the land. Its main goal is to work the land without preventing future generations from being able to use it as well. Organic farmers try to conserve water and preserve the soil. They also sell locally many times helping to conserve energy and fossil fuels. Organics are a health issue AND an environmental one.

Eat Local – Eating local is better for air quality and pollution. Let’s face it…if your food has to travel thousands of miles to you then the planet is being needlessly polluted. Estimates on how long the average food travels from pasture to plate range from 1200 to 2500 miles. A lot of energy is expended freezing, refrigerating, and trucking that food around. Eating locally grown food means less fossil fuel burned in preparation and transport. Also, Supporting local farmers, especially organic farmers, means supporting sustainable agriculture.

Eat Less Meat – You don’t have to go vegetarian if you don’t want to, but it does help the environment to reduce meat consumption. We feed more than 70 percent of the grains and cereals we grow to farmed animals. Our taste for meat is also taking a toll on our supply of fuel and other nonrenewable resources: about one-third of the raw materials used in America each year is consumed by the farmed animal industry. In my opinion the problem is not that we eat meat or animal products but the volume to which we consume them and the way we go about producing those foods. A good book that discusses this is Full Moon Feast which talks about eating according to the phases of the moon and eating the way we did hundreds of years ago.

Eat Whole Foods – Eating foods that have not been processed and packaged helps the environment by reducing the amount of garbage going into landfills. Shop the outer section of the grocery store to avoid the processed foods.

Garden – Eliminate the middle man all together and grow your own food…organically of course. It is one of the most rewarding things you can do.

Try It Out! Tips for Sustainable Eating:

  • Try your hand at organic gardening. If you have no space for an actual in-ground garden then try to do container gardening. There is nothing like homegrown food!
  • When planning your weekly menus try to see if you can incorporate at least 2-3 meatless meals a week. Reducing your meat consumption is a great leap towards greener living.
  • Don’t just change what you eat: change how you package and store your food to. Reusablebags has a great selection of reusable food storage containers such as bento lunchboxes, wrap-n-mats, grocery totes and stainless steel water bottles.

So pick up your fork and join the revolution of people who want to change food and farming, creating better health and a better world.

You can read more from Tiffany at her blog, the Natural Family Living Guide, where she writes about green family living, parenting, natural health, safe children’s products, and homeschooling. Subscribe to her blog here.