The highs & lows of nature and my Earth Day Challenge

Last night the kids, Jody and I enjoyed a show put on by Mother Nature. A rain storm complete with lightning streaking across the sky and rattling thunder was our pre-bedtime entertainment. Thunderstorms are somewhat of a rarity here (or at least it feels like it lately), and I love sitting in the upstairs window seats watching them with the kids. Lightning is nature’s perfect fireworks.

Image credit: Flickr – PeWu

Seeing my kids get excited about the storm – “Oooh, that was a big one!” – made me enjoy the experience all the more. I love it when they appreciate nature, and after being cooped up inside all winter, I’m so glad that spring is here and more nature discovery is on its way.

Earlier this week I read on Mama Milkers Facebook page that her daughter’s class took an impromptu field trip to see the dead gray whale on a beach in West Seattle. What a great opportunity for those children to see a whale up close like that, but also so sad that it died.

Image credit: West Seattle Blog

While the cause of death of the 37-foot near-adult male whale is still unknown, it turns out that he had quite a bit of trash in his stomach, including a pair of sweat pants, a golf ball, 20 plastic bags, small towels, plastic pieces, surgical gloves and duct tape.

How are these two things – the storm and the whale – related? Well, they aren’t directly, but they are both part of nature, part of this planet Earth that we are celebrating today with Earth Day. There’s so much beauty in nature, but there is also so much pollution that is, literally, trashing and killing it. The whale’s death may have had nothing to do with the garbage in his stomach, but many animals’ deaths *are* a direct result of the trash they ingest.

Today on Earth Day, let’s set our differences aside. Regardless of how you feel about climate change, politics or President Obama, perhaps we can all come together to do something positive that makes us feel good about ourselves. We humans have a lot of power. Let’s use it for good.

“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” – Native American Proverb

I challenge you to give some thought to your daily habits and routines and find one positive change you will make (no matter how small). Do it not to save the Earth – because the Earth is going to be just fine regardless of what we do – but to save ourselves, our children, our grandchildren and all of the animals that have no control over the way humans treat their environment.

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated… I hold that, the more helpless a creature, the more entitled it is to protection by man from the cruelty of human kind.” – Gandhi

Will you accept my challenge? What will *you* do?

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Dyeing Easter eggs naturally – a tutorial

Easter is right around the corner and since I’ve been totally immersed in house prep/selling stuff for the past month and I haven’t had time to do much blogging, I’m going to recycle this egg dyeing post from last year. Hope you give it a try! :)

Originally posted: 4/4/09

So you want to dye your Easter eggs naturally – without chemicals and artificial colors? While it takes longer than the commercial egg dye kits you buy at the store, dyeing your eggs with natural foods is better for you and your child(ren)’s health, produces much more interesting colors and is, quite arguably, more fun!

Why dye with natural colors instead of artificial?
According to, “Many food colorings contain color additives such as Red No. 3 and Yellow No. 5, which, according to a 1983 study by the FDA, were found to cause tumors (Red No. 3) and hives (Yellow No. 5).” I wrote about the drawbacks of artificial colors a while back if you’d like to read more on the topic.

It is more time-consuming than using a store-bought conventional egg dye kit (and I highly recommend preparing the egg dye baths a few hours before you plan to dye the eggs with the kiddos), but it is healthier for your kids and the environment. “Dyeing eggs the natural way gives you the opportunity to spend more time with your family, teaching kids to use alternative project methods that are healthier for them and the environment.” I think it will be a lot of fun and a great family project.

To get started you will need:

  • Hard boiled eggs (preferably white eggs since they take on the dyes better than brown eggs)
  • Ingredients to make your dyes, which I will discuss in more detail below – As a guideline, use up to 4 cups for vegetable solids and 3–4 tablespoons for spices per quart. Mash up fruits.
  • White vinegar (2 Tablespoons for every quart of water)
  • Several pots and bowls
  • Optional: stickers, rubber bands, and crayons for decorating the eggs and making interesting patterns
  • Egg cartons for drying the dyed eggs

Natural egg dyes can be made from a variety of ingredients. Here’s a list of what I used last year along with comments on the colors that resulted.


  • 3 cans of beets in cranberry juice (instead of water) – produced a dark reddish hue


  • Frozen cherries – made a very light pink


  • 3 tablespoons of chili powder produced a nice reddish-orange color


  • 3 Tablespoons of tumeric produced a great yellow


  • A mix of spinach leaves, canned blueberries and their juice and a few tablespoons of tumeric produced a gorgeous earthy green color – I think it would work without the spinach leaves, but I happened to have some that were wilting so I threw them in.


  • 3/4 of a head of red cabbage (chopped) made a beautiful blue


  • 2 cans of blueberries and their juice made a grey-blueish color


  • Frozen cherries mixed with blueberries yielded a grey color (not the purple I was going for).

Last year I found a couple great web site with tips on “Natural Easter Egg Dyes” and Natural Dye from The natural dyes come from spices like paprika, tumeric and cumin; vegetables like spinach and red cabbage; fruit juices and even coffee. All of your dye ingredients can (and should) be composted after you are done.

On, there is a boil method (which produces darker results) and a cold-dip method, which is suggested for children or if you plan to eat the eggs, which is the method we used last year.

The two methods are:

Method 1—Hot
Place eggs in a single layer in a large, nonaluminum pan. Add the dyeing ingredient of your choice—it’s best not to mix until you are comfortable with experimenting. Cover the eggs and other dyeing “agent(s)” with one inch of water. Add 2 tablespoons of white vinegar per quart to help the color adhere to the egg, and bring to a boil. Next, simmer for 20–30 minutes or until the desired shade is achieved. If you cook the eggs longer than 15 minutes, they will become rather tough.

Method 2—Cold
The cold method is the same as the hot method with the following exception. Once ingredients have simmered 20–30 minutes (depending on desired shade), lift or strain the ingredients out of the water and allow the water to cool to room temperature though you may wish to try keeping the ingredients in the colored water to give the egg more texture as the dye will become concentrated in areas where the vegetable touches the egg. Submerge the eggs until the desired color is achieved. You may keep the eggs in the solution overnight as long as it is refrigerated.

The longer the egg stays in the dye, hot or cold, the deeper the hue will be. Using vinegar will also help the color deepen.

Definitely feel free to experiment and try out other foods and spices. For me, that was a big part of what made it so much fun, trying out different things to see what colors would come from them. For example, the dye from the spinach, tumeric, blueberry mix looked orange or brown, but the eggs came out green! And the red cabbage dye was purpley-pink, but the eggs came out blue. It was like a fun science experiment that the whole family could get involved in. Happy egg coloring! :)

The process of making the dyes:

The egg dyes on the stovetop Beets in cranberry juice
Red cabbage Tumeric

And the results:

Red and pink eggsYellow and orange eggs
Green eggsBlue eggs

Links to other people’s natural egg dyeing results:

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Addiction, choice and serenity

It’s a new year and a new decade, so I figure why not jump in with both feet and tackle a heavy, possibly even taboo, topic? :P Sometimes ya gotta strike while the iron is hot. And right now? It’s smoking hot.

I mentioned the word addiction to my 5 1/2 year old daughter Ava the other day. I can’t remember exactly what I was saying at the time (probably grumbling about my husband Jody and World of Warcraft), but I wondered later if using that word with her was the “right” thing to do (not to mention that I was grousing about her dad – a whole other issue).

Ya see, addictions have been a part of my life since I was born. In one way or another I’ve been exposed to them throughout my entire life. If I wasn’t around someone who had an addiction, I had one myself.

My addictions have varied over the years, but I just recently discovered how far back my propensity toward addictive behavior goes, think a little older than Ava’s age. And now here I sit nearly 30 years later, on my computer (another addiction), typing about it. Ironic, huh?

Jody and I were talking a couple nights ago about the excessive computer use in our household and he said something like, “I wonder what our lives would be like if we didn’t have the computers?” And the first thing out of my mouth was, “That would make a great blog!” :P So then we joked that I’d have to write my blog entries in a notebook – old-school style – and then take a picture of the page and post it on the ‘net, presumably all from my iPhone since computers would be out of the picture. (Though I’m not sure how I could justify having an iPhone if I was swearing off computers, but anyway…) We got a good laugh out of it, but seriously, my life revolves so much around computers.

I’ve been feeling kind of depressed about my computer usage lately too. It’s not that way when I’m writing and actually feeling productive, but it’s when I sit here for a stupid amount of time and walk away not having accomplished anything and not having made any real connections with anyone other than “liking” someone’s status on Facebook or commenting on a random Tweet or two. I’ve started feeling like I’m being sucked into an abyss and I’m not sure how I’m going to get out of it. It’s not having a blog that sucks me in. The blogging, the writing, the researching, and reading thought-provoking/entertaining posts, etc., is all of the stuff I enjoy. The things I’m proud of. It’s the mindless drivel that’s been sucking the life force out of me. The hitting refresh waiting for someone to say something. Waiting for someone to talk to me. Waiting for anything. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting.

And the irony (there’s that word again) is that Jody and I are trying to work on our marriage. In the evenings, at least, I have another adult here in the house (Jody) who I could be interacting with. We could be speaking to each other instead of interacting with the “internetz.” Yet we both feel this pull to the internet. After all, as we talked about at our couple’s therapy session yesterday, it’s because of the internet that he and I met in the first place. Here’s that word once again. This time say it with me – irony!

I digress. The point is I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching the past several weeks and discovering a lot about myself. Some of those things make me proud of myself, while others make me feel pretty craptastic.

Life is all about choices. I want to make smarter choices, not only because I think the future of my marriage depends on it, but I believe my children’s futures depend on it too. (Oh and there’s also that pesky thing known at my happiness – another thing I’m still learning about.)

That brings me back to talking about addiction with Ava. There’s a history of addiction on my side of the family and some tendencies on Jody’s side as well. However, I want the cycle to end with Jody and me. I don’t want my children to have to carry it on (in whatever form they may) as they get older.

Right now I know that I need to find the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, but I also need to find the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference. By changing what I can – what I actually have control over right now, which is only me, myself and I – I have hope for the future. My future. My family’s future. I can’t change the past, but I can change the present. And I’m going to work on it one. day. at. a. time.

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Reducing holiday stress for your kids

The holidays are supposed to be “the most wonderful time of the year,” yet for many people they might as well be known as “the most stressful time of the year.” We often think of stress as something that only affects adults, but it can play a significant role in the lives of children as well, especially around the holidays.

There are a lot of changes to children’s routines during the holidays, from visits from unfamiliar relatives to traveling, from an influx of sweets to over-scheduled days and late bedtimes. All of these things can take a toll on the wee ones.

Rather than accept that tears, tantrums and troubles (which are all normal child reactions to stress) are a necessary evil of the holidays, you can follow some tips to keep your kids (and yourself) feeling a bit more carefree. I can’t guarantee there won’t be any tears or tantrums, but it will be less likely to be from stress and more likely to be your typical childhood tears and tantrums.

10 Ways to Reduce Kids’ Stress has some helpful tips such as:

  • Stick with the routine as much as possible. Keep stressful holiday shopping and eating out to a minimum; start preparing for Christmas early to avoid holiday anxiety.
  • Talk to your children about traditions and spirituality. If you believe in Christ, focus on the real meaning of Christmas – and trusting God. If you have traditions, explain why they’ve stayed in your family.
  • Bring a favorite blanket or stuffed animal if you’re staying with family over the holidays. A bit of home will reduce your child’s holiday anxiety.

Another tip they add that I think is really important (and often difficult to do) is:

  • Give ’em time – Allow lots of time so you don’t have to rush from point A to point B, unnecessarily stressing everyone out. Allow time for potty breaks, diaper changes, unexpected car sickness, getting out to stretch, etc.
  • Keep ’em fed – Pack lots of healthy snacks for the kids to eat while you drive/fly.
  • Keep ’em entertained – Pack a variety of toys, games, books, coloring books, markers (Crayola Color Wonder markers and books are great for travel because the color only shows up on the special paper). You can even wrap small presents for the child to unwrap on the way. You might also consider investing in a portable DVD player so the child(ren) can watch a movie here and there.
  • Keep a good attitude and your sense of humor and your children will likely follow suit.

There are more Tips for Airplane Travel with Small Children at Mother Words.

Another tip that I really like is to learn relaxation techniques with your children. This will serve you both well during the holidays and throughout the year. The article Holiday Stress! Are children affected? states:

Colds are contagious and so is stress. Children are affected by stress of their own and pick up on family stresses. This includes holiday stress. So how do we promote calmness in our family and increase our chances of staying healthy during the holidays?

The Mental Health Association recommends counteracting stress by maintaining a positive outlook, focusing on activities that take your mind off your worries and taking time to relax.

Instead of telling your child to go “calm down” this holiday season, I invite you to give them the tools they need to manage stress and anxiety. Introduce your children to breathing, visualizations and affirmations during this holiday season.

All you need to do is read a relaxation book to your child that shows them how to manage their own energy, stress and anxiety. Play a guided imagery CD that’s creates calming images. Sit down and write affirmations with your child. Make it fun by hiding your positive, calm statements in your pockets or under your pillows. Take time to look in your children’s eyes as they speak to you. Try it for 10 minutes a day. Sit still and hold their hand as you listen to holiday music. Watch the ripple effect of calmness as it makes its way through your family.

In Midwest Moms’ post How to Avoid Thanksgiving Stress, she has some suggestions on how to make introductions between your kids and unfamiliar relatives a little less stressful for the kids.

I have found it is best to give children a chance to “make friends” with new relatives in whatever way they are most comfortable. Sometimes that means that it will take time to warm up to someone new.

When you are introducing someone to your child, do so in a way that reveals important information about the new adult — not potentially embarrassing information about your child. Saying, “Aunt Doris used to fly airplanes!” can intrigue your child and get them to ask questions.

We usually make the introductions easier on our kids in two ways. We arrive early, so they’re meeting people one-at-a-time. And we arrange to meet relatives we know well and all walk in together. It can be a lot less intimidating to meet people when you are already surrounded by friends.

In Jolene Park‘s recent guest post on Mile High Mamas called Beat the Holiday Stress, she suggests the use of Rescue Remedy both for adults and kids (and even pets). Jolene notes, “Rescue Remedy is part of the Bach Flower essences, which are extracts from flowers and used to balance emotions. They can be purchased in any health food store.” Personally, I’ve used Rescue Remedy for both myself and my children and highly recommend it.

No matter what your plans are this holiday season, try to remember to keep your own stress level down and your sense of humor up and your kids will benefit as much as you will.

Cross-posted on BlogHer.

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Why I’m trying to let go of the mommy guilt & focus on myself & my marriage

Tomorrow I am dropping off my son Julian at his first day of preschool. He’s not even 3 yet – he’ll be 2 until the end of November. Sigh.

Although my heart wants to home school or unschool Ava, I’m not giving in and instead am leaving her in public school for kindergarten (in a class of 25 kids) this year. Sigh.

Why am I doing these things and going against my heart instead of following it? Because my head tells me they are the right things to do – for now.

I’ve spent the past five-plus years of my life pouring myself into my kids. They have been my world. Although intellectually I knew having balance in my life was important, I always seemed to neglect the idea. Instead of taking care myself or my marriage (things that would have required a good deal of effort), I distracted myself with my children. That’s not to say I regret putting my kids first because I don’t, but I wish that I would’ve found a way to make myself and my marriage a priority during this time too. My mental health has suffered. My marriage has suffered.

Many of you know I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder earlier this year. I’ve been going to individual therapy for months, as well as on a low dose of Zoloft. My husband Jody and I have also been going to couple’s therapy off and on for a few months. We both have a lot of work to do, and while I’ve doubted in the past whether or not we can make it, I’m feeling more confident that we can. It’s not going to be easy, but the things worth fighting for never are.

All of this to say that I’ve decided, after talking to my psychiatrist and doing some serious soul searching, that it’s time for me to stop focusing only on my children and time for me to focus on myself too. That means Ava will stay in public school this year and Julian will attend preschool (the same Waldorf home-based preschool Ava attended) one day a week. It will give me a little time to myself. I know the temptation to catch up on housework or waste the day away sitting on the computer will be great, but I hope to use some of that time every Wednesday to nurture myself (as well as volunteer in Ava’s classroom for two hours every other week – see, I can’t give up focusing on my kids that easily).

While this might not be exactly what I wanted or envisioned, it is what I believe will work best for us – for now. I will try to put my mommy guilt aside and focus instead on getting myself healthy and my marriage to a better place – both of which will benefit myself AND my children in the long run.

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Babies come out of where?! Explaining childbirth to kids

I was due to give birth to my son when my daughter Ava was 2 1/2 years old. Since my husband and I were planning a home birth, we felt it was important to discuss with Ava how the baby would be born. Because she would be within earshot if not in the room when Julian was born, I wanted her to know what she may see as well as hear.

One of the ways I prepared Ava for what would happen was by reading “Welcome With Love,” a beautiful children’s book about natural childbirth. We also watched some childbirth videos (natural and water births) together, including “Giving Birth: Challenges and Choices” by Suzanne Arms. I made sure to explain what was going on and reassure her that although the mommy might make some loud or funny noises, even yell, she was OK. In “Welcome With Love,” the older brother speaks of his mother’s noises during labor but he’s not afraid because she had told him beforehand that although she “might make a lot of noise,” he mustn’t worry because “that’s what it’s like when babies are being born” and that she’ll feel better if she yells and screams.

I kept things fairly simple, but because she was likely going to be present, told her what I felt she needed to know to feel safe and secure during Julian’s birth. It worked well for us. Ava was never scared even though mommy made some very loud noises while giving birth to her brother.

I realized the other day that Julian is now older than Ava was at the time he was born, but because I am not pregnant (and have no plans to become so) and the subject hasn’t come up, he has no idea how babies are born. I will probably remedy that soon by reading Welcome With Love to him and another book I recently received to review called We’re Having a Homebirth!

A friend (who is expecting) recently pondered on Facebook how she will explain childbirth to her 5- and 3-year-old daughters, and I began to wonder how others handle the subject.

I came across a discussion on a BabyCenter message board where the original poster posed the question How do you explain childbirth to a child? Here are some of the responses:

  • One person admitted that she has been “skirting around this issue” even with her 9-year-old. She said she has told her most of the details, but doesn’t “want to freak her out too much or gross her out for that matter.”
  • Another said, “I tried to skirt the question by answering…that the doctor takes the baby out.”
  • Another said, “I have a child psychology book called The Magic Years. They say to be truthful, but give as few details as necessary.”
  • Yet another said, “I found it was quite easy to explain things using the correct words at a young age. And I’d rather explain it while my kids aren’t embarrassed by it and will ask questions instead of having a 10-year-old blush or roll her eyes and not wanting to ask questions about things she doesn’t understand.”
  • From another, “better he hears it from me than his peers at school.”

After I browsed the ‘net, I asked my favorite audience (Twitter) and got some more answers.

Many feel that honesty is the best policy.

@OneFallDay said: If my 7-year-old asks, I answer. I’ve always felt if they are old enough to ask they deserve an honest answer.

Jackie from Belen Echandia said, “[I] don’t have personal experience. But would like to think I’d tell the truth in a beautiful, non-frightening way.”

Penny from Walking Upside Down said, “[I] told mine they came out of a hole between my legs. :) Honesty is the best policy. Did not show them said hole tho’. ;)”

Jessica from Peek a blog said, “I spoke to the doctor about what to say. We told my 3-year-old that mommies have a special place where babies come out when ready. Just enough info with more details on an as-needed basis, but totally truth.”

Cate Nelson said, “I told my then-2.5-year-old that baby was going to come out of Mama’s yoni. (our term for it) I also told him his own birth story, bit of the pain, but how it helped Mama push him out. He loved his (natural) birth story!”

Others think along with being honest, it’s important to use proper terminology with children.

@ColletteAM said, “I always tell the truth about bodily functions and use proper terms. I don’t want my kids to feel ashamed of their bodies.”

Mandie from McMama’s Musings said, “My 4-year-old can tell you about ovaries, eggs, sperm, uteri, birth canals, and c-sections. He calls egg+sperm a ‘seed.’ LOL”

@JenniferCanada said, “I got great advice from @babyREADY to prepare son [for] our home birth. We watched a lot of birthing shows. We talked about what would happen. He can tell you babies come from vaginas and you push them out. He has actions. He is 3 years old.”

Others prefer a more vague approach:

Lee from CoupleDumb said her son was 3 and “I told him that his brother would come out of me when I went to the hospital. That’s it.”

Kristie from Tilvee said she was asked how babies come out last night by her 6- and 3.5-year-old daughters. She “didn’t lie, just told them we would talk about it in 5 yrs?!”

One person thinks explaining a c-section is easier than explaining vaginal birth:

Beth from I Should Be Folding Laundry said, “I’m up for a c-section, so that makes the explanation very easy.”

Another thinks a c-section makes it more complicated:

@Loudmouthedmom said, “I haven’t been pregnant again but have always been honest with son, either vaginally or c-section. He took c-section much harder. Learned the hard way not to tell a 4-year-old a c-section involves mom being ‘cut open.'”

The reactions kids have about childbirth are often amusing:

Kailani from An Island Life said, “My 3-year-old thinks the baby will come out of my mouth. :-)”

Krista from Typical Ramblings, Atypical Nonsense said, “When I was pregnant with E, my older kids were 11 and 8 when he was born. I told them how the baby came out. My daughter asked if it hurt, I said yes but once it’s over the pain is gone. She says she is adopting kids. ;)”

Ann-Marie from This Mama Cooks said, “[I] told Nathan how babies got out when he was 7. He told me he wasn’t having kids. Truth is good birth control.”

Childbirth education props: Dolls and Children’s Books

If you are looking for some props to help you explain childbirth, you might be interested in these dolls. Thanks to Kellie, I learned about this childbirth education doll that can be custom ordered or the experience crocheter can make it herself. There’s also a Waldorf doll that gives birth and nurses. According to Droolicious, instead of just sitting there looking pretty, this doll “gives birth complete with placenta, and she nurses too. This Waldorfian handmade plush doll comes from Brazil where it is used to teach girls about natural childbirth.”

There are also lots of books that tackle the topic of explaining childbirth to kids. From books about home birth like Welcome With Love and We’re Having a Homebirth! to more mainstream childbirth books like What to Expect When Mommy’s Having a Baby, How You Were Born, and How Was I Born?: A Child’s Journey Through the Miracle of Birth, there is likely a book out there for your family. And for parents who are looking for some age-appropriate information about “the birds and the bees” check out It’s Not the Stork: A Book About Girls, Boys, Babies, Bodies, Families and Friends and a review of it over on Punnybop.

There’s more information on how to prepare siblings for the birth of a new baby over on babyReady where they suggest: make a game out of the kinds of strange noises that you may make when you are in labour, try not to make too many changes to your child’s routine close to the delivery, let your older child open the baby’s gifts, and take your older child to your doctor (or midwife) visits, and more.

Ultimately your childbirth explanation to your child has to be one that you feel comfortable with. I think it is important to answer children’s questions – about childbirth, puberty, dating, sex, etc. – as honestly as possible while making sure it is age-appropriate. Mactavish said to me on Twitter, “I can’t imagine not being old enough to know how babies are born” and I have to agree. Candace concurs, “I generally assume that if she’s too young, she won’t ‘get it’ anyway and if she ‘gets it’ then she’s old enough for truth.” Sounds like a good philosophy to me.

Cross-posted on: BlogHer

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