by Melodie on November 8th, 2011

Welcome to the November Carnival of Natural Parenting: Kids in the Kitchen

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This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared how kids get involved in cooking and feeding. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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My oldest daughter made us very proud a few weeks ago when she cooked us a meal for supper that she’d never made before. It made me realize that there are a lot of things our kids can do that we don’t realize they are capable of until we give them the chance to try. It is certainly apparent to me now that she really can do anything she sets her mind to.


How It Began

She was doing a home schooling exercise in one of her activity books where she had to choose the healthiest foods from a list to make a healthy dinner for a family. From this exercise she decided she wanted to make her own menu for a pretend restaurant. After deciding on the foods she wanted to serve for breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus beverages, she decided she wanted to pretend that our kitchen was a real restaurant. She wanted to be the server and chef, seat us, take our order, make our meal and serve it to us.

I wasn’t sure she could pull it off. I worried that it would be too much for her and that the stress of not being able to do it the way she wanted to would cause a major meltdown. I get scared of her major meltdowns because they are so hard for everyone to recover from, but she was so excited about her idea, and I loved the fact that she had come up with it on her own. So a few days later, after going grocery shopping to make sure I had all the ingredients for her to make anything someone ordered, we gave it a go.


We started around 4:00 PM. She set the table, deciding to put salt, pepper and ketchup on it as well. She wrote “Please wait to be seated” on the chalk board. She greeted us as we “arrived” at the restaurant and showed us to our table. She gave us her menu and told us she was out of pizza (Earlier, I explained the amount of time it would take to make a pizza from scratch so she agreed she wouldn’t try to make this). We told her we’d like water to start, so she wrote it down and came back with three glasses of water on her play cookie tray.

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I quietly talked the rest of the family into having the same thing on the menu to make it a little easier on the girl. She has baked with me many times but has never cooked supper with me (she has never wanted to), and she had never made anything on the menu that she wrote down. We chose spaghetti with tomato sauce and ceasar salad and she wrote down our order.

For the salad she washed and tore the lettuce, put it in individual bowls and put the croutons and dressing on. She chose to garnish the plate with a wedge of lemon which I had cut up earlier. This was our appetizer, which she served to us while she finished boiling the pasta. I did have to tell her to check the spaghetti noodles as she didn’t know to read the package to time it. She drained the noodles in a strainer all by herself. (That was probably the hardest thing I let her do on her own). She kept the sauce part easy by just using sauce from a jar, which she tried and tried to open by herself, but it was one of those stuck ones. She was actually quite upset that I had to help her unscrew the jar, as “customers don’t help the cooks in a restaurant!”, but she knew that she needed my help for that one.

After serving us her food she pretended to arrive at the restaurant and join us as herself. Then, her sister realized that the server hadn’t refilled her water glass so my oldest said “I’ll go get her,” and came back to the table as the server, got the water, and then came back to the table as herself again. Everyone loved the food and she was extremely pleased and proud of herself. She even brought us a bill at the end of the meal. She got to practice some math skills after we figured out a fair price for the meal and then we did a pretend debit card transaction and that was the night!

My proud girl

Since blowing us all out of the water she has learned to sew, and now she is trying to knit. She’s also talking about making us dinner again. I can’t wait to see what she’ll make next.

Have your kids ever made you a meal? How old are they? I’d love to hear all about it.

Photo credits: Author


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon November 8 with all the carnival links.)

  • Baking & letting go — Cooking with kids can be a mess. Nadia at Red White & GREEN Mom is learning to relax, be patient, and have fun with the process.
  • Family feeding in Child of Mine — Lauren at Hobo Mama reviews Ellyn Satter’s suggestions for appropriate feeding and points out where her family has problems following through.
  • Children with Knives! (And other Kitchen Tools) — Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy teaches her children how to safely use knives.
  • “Mommy, Can I Help?” — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment writes about how she lets her kiddos help out with cooking, despite her {sometimes} lack of patience!
  • Solids the Second Time Around — Sheryl at Little Snowflakes recounts her experiences introducing solids to her second child.
  • The Adventure of Toddler TastebudsThe Accidental Natural Mama shares a few things that helped her daughter develop an adventurous palate.
  • A Tradition of Love — Kelly at Becoming Crunchy looks forward to sharing the kitchen traditions passed on from her mom and has already found several ways to involve baby in the kitchen.
  • The Very Best Classroom — Alicia C. at McCrenshaw’s Newest Thoughts reveals how her kitchen is more than a place to make food – it’s a classroom!
  • Raising Little Chefs — Chef Mike guest posts on Natural Parents Network about how he went from a guy who couldn’t cook to a chef who wanted to teach his boys to know how the food we love is made.
  • In the Kitchen with my kids — Isil at Smiling like Sunshine shares a delicious soup recipe that her kids love.
  • Papa, the Pancake Artist — Papa’s making an incredible breakfast over at Our Mindful Life.
  • Kids won’t eat salad? Try this one! — Tat at Mum in Search is sharing her children’s favourite salad recipe.
  • Recipe For a Great Relationship — Cooking with kids is about feeding hearts as well as bellies, writes Hannah at Wild Parenting.
  • The Ritual of Mealtimes — Syenna at Gently Parenting Twins writes about the significance of mealtimes in her family’s daily rhythm.
  • Kid, Meet Food. Food, Kid. — Alburnet at What’s Next? panicks about passing on her food “issues” to her offspring.
  • Growing Up in the Kitchen — Cassie at There’s a Pickle in My Life shares how her son is growing up in the kitchen.
  • Harvesting Corn and History — From Kenna at School Garden Year: The kids in the school garden harvest their corn and learn how much history grows in their food.
  • My Guiding Principles for Teaching my Child about Food — Tree at Mom Grooves uses these guiding principles to give her daughter a love of good food and an understanding of nutrition as well as to empower her to make the best choices for her body.
  • Kitchen Control — Amanda at Let’s Take the Metro writes about her struggles to relinquish control in the kitchen to her children.
  • Food — Emma at Your Fonder Heart lets her seven month old teach her how to feed a baby.
  • Kitchen Fun? — Adrienne at Mommying My Way questions how much fun she can have in a non-functional kitchen, while trying to remain positive about the blessings of cooking for her family.
  • Kitchen Adventures — Erica at ChildOrganics shares fun ways to connect with your kids in the kitchen.
  • Kids in the Kitchen: Finding the Right Tools — Melissa at Vibrant Wanderings shares some of her favorite child-sized kitchen gadgets and where to find them.
  • The Kitchen Classroom — Laura at Authentic Parenting knows that everything your kids want to learn is at the end of the ladle.
  • Kids in the Kitchen — Luschka from Diary of a First Child talks about the role of the kitchen in family communication and shares fun kitchen activities for the under two.
  • Our Kitchen is an Unschooling Classroom. — Terri at Child of the Nature Isle explores the many ways her kitchen has become a rich environment for learning.
  • Montessori-Inspired Food Preparation for Preschoolers — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares lots of resources for using Montessori food preparation activities for young children in the kitchen.
  • My Little Healthy Eater — Christine at African Babies Don’t Cry shares her research on what is the best first food for babies, and includes a healthy and yummy breakfast recipe.
  • Two Boys and Papa in the Kitchen: Recipe for Disaster?MudpieMama shares all about her fears, joys and discoveries when the boys and handsome hubby took over the kitchen.
  • Food choices, Food treats — Henrietta at Angel Wings and Herb Tea shares her family’s relationship with food.
  • learning to eat — Catherine at learner mummy reflects on little M’s first adventures with food.
  • The Night My 7-Year-Old Made Dinner — Melodie at Breastfeeding Moms Unite! shares how her 7-year-old daughter surprised everyone by turning what started as an idea to play restaurant into pulling off making supper for her family.
  • Cooking With a High-Needs Toddler — Sylvia at MaMammalia describes how Montessori-inspired activities and a bit of acceptance have helped her overcome hurdles in cooking while caring for a “high-needs” child.
  • Kids in the Kitchen – teaching healthy food choices — Brenna at Almost All The Truth shares her belief in the importance of getting kids into the kitchen using her favorite cookbook for kids to develop healthy food choices now and hopefully into the future.
  • Make Milk, Not War — Tamara at Tea for Three remembers the daily food fights as she struggled to feed a picky eater.
  • teaching baby birds about good food. — Sarah at Small Bird on Fire writes about the ways in which her family chooses to gently teach their son how to make wise food decisions.
  • 5 Ways to Enhance Your Baby or Young Toddler’s Relationship with Food — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama shares simple ways to give your child a healthy beginning to her lifelong relationship with food.
  • Toddler at the Table: 10 Creative Solutions — Moorea at Mamalady shares tips for preventing meal-time power struggles.
  • How My Child Takes Responsibility During His Mealtime… — Jenny @ I’m a full-time mummy shares how she teaches and encourages her 32 months old son on adopting good manners and responsibilities during his mealtimes…
  • megan — Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings shares six tips for overcoming some of the the difficulties of cooking with multiple young sous chefs, and a recipe they all can agree on!
  • How BLW has made me a better parent — Zoe at Mummykins shares how baby-led weaning has changed her approach to parenting.
  • My Budding Chef — Jenny at Chronicles of a Nursing Mom is no cook but is happy that her daughter has shown an inclination and manages to whip up yummy goodies for their family.
  • Kids in the Kitchen: An Activity for Every Age — Gaby from Tmuffin describes how she keeps her kids busy in the kitchen, whether they are one week old or two years old.
  • The Phantastically Mutlipurposed Phyllo — Ana at Pandamoly shares how Phyllo is used to create enticing dishes at home! Anything can be made into a Struedel!
  • Kitchen Kids — Laura from A Pug in the Kitchen shares her children’s most favorite recipe to make, experience and eat.
  • Independence vs. Connection in the Kitchen: won’t you please get yourself your own snack already? — Lisa at Organic Baby Atlanta wishes her daughter would just go make a mess in the kitchen. But her daughter only wants to do it together.
  • Grandma Rose’s Kitchen — Abbie at Farmer’s Daughter reminisces about her childhood and dreams of filling her kitchen with people, love, noise, and messes.
  • Healthy Food Choices for Kids — Jorje offers one way to encourage children to make their own healthy food choices at MommaJorje.com.
  • Cooking food to thrive rather than survive — Phoebe at Little Tinker Tales is trying to foster a lifetime of good food habits by teaching her children about the importance of avoiding junk, cooking healthy meals, and learning about the whole food process.
  • Evolution of a self-led eater — Sheila at A Gift Universe shares the story of how her son grew from nursing around the clock to eating everything in sight, without her having to push.
  • 10 Ways Tiny Helps In The Kitchen — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama explores the ways in which her toddler actively participates in kitchen-related activities.
  • The Complexity of Feeding a Child — Feeding children a healthy diet is no straight-forward task, but Lisa at My World Edenwild shares some general guidelines to help your child thrive.
  • Lactation CookiesThat Mama Gretchen shares a fun recipe that will benefit both mamas and babies!
  • The Best Books and Websites to Inspire Kids in the Kitchen — Need inspiration to get your kids in the kitchen? Dionna at Code Name: Mama rounds up some of the best books and websites that can serve as a source for ideas, recipes, and cooking with littles fun.
  • A 4-year-old’s smoothie recipe — Jen at Grow With Graces and her son set out to make a smoothie without the usual ingredients. She let him improvise. See how it turned out.
  • Independent Food Preparation (My Toddler Can Do That?) — Megan at Montessori Moments shares simple ways for children to prepare their own healthy snacks.
  • Follow Your Gut — Amy at Anktangle shares her philosophy about intuitive eating, and how she’s trying to foster her son’s trust in his own inner wisdom when he feels hungry.
  • A TODDLER-STYLE LUNCH + RECIPEManic Mrs. Stone photographs how to have messy fun during lunchtime with a helpful toddler.
by Melodie on September 9th, 2011

1.Teachers in British Columbia are set to begin job action in lieu of a full out strike. I can’t imagine sending my child to school right now and I’m not sure how other parents handle the uncertainty. The scrambling to figure out child care and juggle job responsibilities would be enough to make me pull my hair out.

I support our teachers in demanding fair pay for the hard job they do everyday. I think they are underpaid and stretched far too thin to the point that I have chosen to home school for another year because I want to make sure my daughter gets all the attention she deserves. In over-stuffed classrooms nobody gets the proper amount of attention they need. Teachers in B.C. have cut bureaucratic tasks like hosting meet-the-teacher night, writing report cards and fulfilling supervising responsibilities. Five school districts in BC have already cancelled recess, including the one we just moved from last year. For me this adds up to teachers not being able to spend the extra few minutes needed each day to tell concerned parents how their child is doing, and far too many children being bullied on unsupervised playgrounds (for those who still have recess that is).

2. The above is a nice segue into the second reason I’m happy to keep my child home this year. Recess is disappearing. If recess is going the way of the passenger pigeon and I have the ability to stay home with her and take her for hikes or to the playground or lessons then I will take that opportunity and run with it. (No pun intended).

3. She will learn cursive writing. Did you know that some schools in the USA have stopped teaching cursive writing? While Canada still supports learning to hand write, I see red flags everywhere. If they can get strip physical education down to once per week and remove the emphasis of learning art and music and now recess is disappearing, albeit for a “valid” reason, then who’s to say cursive is going to stick around?

4. We can sleep in. The beauty of home learning is being able to start the day whenever it works for your family. Enough said.

5. She will get to learn at her own pace. My daughter is quite a ways ahead in reading, but slightly behind in math. When you’re home learning there’s nobody’s schedule to follow but your own.

6. I don’t have to pay for school supplies. When my daughter attended Kindergarten at public school in the town we lived in before we moved here, we didn’t have to pay for any school supplies. The school district in that town passed a motion that the district would pay for all essential supplies as a part of a move towards ensuring that public schools are accessible to people from all socioeconomic backgrounds. Now that we live in Victoria, we have to pay for school supplies like everyone else, which is fine, but I do enjoy saving my money and reusing the crayons we’ve had for years that still work just fine thank you while everyone else is out buying 12 new HB pencils when they have a junk drawer full of them already. This is a controversial issue and Annie at PhD in Parenting did a nice job of putting it forward here.

7. My daughter will not get overwhelmed by extra-curricular activities. If my daughter went to public school we’d still want her to take skating and swimming lessons and go to Brownies and possibly even the music class that she loves.  Attending all of those classes would be way too overwhelming for her after a full day at school. When we home school all activities have equal footing. We schedule the “extra-curricular” classes into her regular learning times and on the day of those classes we do less scholastic activities so she has the energy to “do it all.”

8. She will receive the extra assistance she needs. First of all, my husband, my step-son and I can all help her when she needs us. That’s a 3:1 ratio in her favour. Secondly, if my daughter went to public school she’d be very low priority for receiving any special assistance. She doesn’t have a diagnosis of anything, although we have had her assessed for Autism Spectrum Disorder and continue to work with her to get her the help she needs with her social skills challenges and behavioural issues. However, because she is our highest priority and we are her teachers, our home schooling  program, called Self Design, has monies put aside called “low incidence funds.” We get a portion of those funds based on our daughter’s needs, and last year, for instance, she had 20 1 hour social skills counseling sessions completely paid for. We can get Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy, specialized hearing tests or therapeutic riding paid for as well. Basically, whatever we want within reason and a certain dollar amount. We just have to find out own therapist(s). I’ll take that over having her looked at once by a school OT who is stretched between 20 schools and hundreds of children, many with real diagnoses that do deserve extra attention.

9. She will be influenced by her family much more than her peers. She’ll eat healthy foods at lunch time and not be subject to seeing the many types of processed junk foods other kids are allowed to eat. She also won’t be subject to peer pressure, bullying, teasing, latest must-have trends, curse words, or disrespectful behaviours seen in other children. I know she’ll be around this at some point and I don’t keep her home to shelter her from the “real world” but I bet you don’t want your kid to come home from school one day and call you a stupid fart face, only to back it up with the excuse that she heard Tommy calling the teacher that at recess, do you? Oh, that is if recess still exists where you are. Nope, I’m happy to keep her home this year.

10. The best reason to home school is to be one-to-one involved in her learning. I can support her desires to learn about things that aren’t taught in Grade 3. Things like world religions and other languages (French, Mandarin and American Sign Language), cooking, baking and how to play the recorder (which she learned last year). We can also teach her things that are important to our family like plant identification, herbalism, and gardening.

Home schooling isn’t for everyone, for personal, economic and/or other reasons. Until the end of August I didn’t even know if I would home school or not. I had applied for a few full time jobs that I wanted and decided that if I got one of them that I would send her to public school because there was no way I could juggle full time work AND home schooling. (I tried for a week in June and it just about did me in). Alas, I didn’t get any of the jobs so that helped with my decision to home school at least one more year. Now that we’re doing it and all this stuff is going on with the teachers in our province and I’m hearing about more and more of the things that make school fun for kids being cancelled, I am so glad I am at home. It’s not always easy or fun, but it kind of reminds me of breastfeeding. This time of their life also passes quickly. It’s hard sometimes but completely worth it.

*Because I know some of you are wondering – just like the other post I wrote by surprise, this post doesn’t necessarily mean I’m “back.” I just finished an interview with Amber from Strocel.com on the subject of quitting blogging and how my life has gotten better since I stopped spending so much time on line. But with everything going on in our province regarding back-to-school I couldn’t resist this topic. It isn’t very often I get ideas for blog posts anymore. My presence is practically non-existent over at Natural Parents Network where I am supposed to guest post once per month. So, perhaps I will write some more here, but perhaps I won’t. Any of you who are actually still subscribed to me and paying attention – wow – thank you! You’re awesome.

by Melodie on March 28th, 2011

There’s nothing like thinking you might die to get you thinking about all the things you’ve never said to your kids.

This morning when I was having breakfast, I didn’t feel like I had the same motor control over my mouth as usual. It was harder to chew and to swallow and difficult to suck through a straw. The right side of my lips felt numb and flappy, as though I’d just been to the dentist. I went to the mirror and noticed that my face looked funny. I tried to smile. The right corner of my mouth wouldn’t turn upwards like the left side. When I frowned, the right side drooped lifelessly. I ran over to see my next door neighbour, who is a close friend and a nurse. She checked my pupils and tongue, and told me it wasn’t a stroke, but I was still scared. Back at home I went on the internet and googled “signs of a stroke.” The five warning signs of a stroke are:

Weakness Sudden loss of strength or sudden numbness in the face, arm or leg, even if temporary. (check √)

Trouble speaking – Sudden difficulty speaking or understanding or sudden confusion, even if temporary. (In my stress, I found it hard to speak, especially with a numb mouth so I wasn’t sure if this counted or not).

Vision problems – Sudden trouble with vision, even if temporary. (I’ve had blurred vision a few times over the past few days)

Headache – Sudden severe and unusual headache. (I’ve had lots of headaches recently)

Dizziness – Sudden loss of balance, especially with any of the above signs. (check √)

Needless to say, I became blind with panic. I told my husband I was going to call an ambulance, but he insisted he would drive me. I hugged and kissed my kids and told them how much I loved them, and told my friend to take them and meet us at the hospital. Along the way to the hospital my legs went numb and I started panicking even more.

We didn’t take a number and wait to be called when we reached emergency. My husband mouthed to a nurse that I was having a possible stroke and they flew into action. (It is important to assess for and treat a stroke immediately to improve survival and recovery.) I could barely stand at this point and crumpled myself against a post while an orderly fetched me a wheelchair. Then I almost hyperventilated while trying not to cry while telling the triage nurse what had happened. I was in a bed in emergency ahead of what looked like 20 or so people (sorry sick people), and being treated within 10 minutes of our arrival.

The entire time I kept thinking about my kids. (Our friend had brought them in her car to the hospital and then took them to the park while I was being treated). In the car, even though I was busy writing down my email passwords to my husband and the phone numbers of my closest friends should he need them in case something happened to me, I was worrying about all the things I wanted to tell my daughters, and all the things I wanted to tell my husband to tell them for me. But my mind was a blank. I just wanted them in my arms.

The doctor told me I wasn’t having a stroke. If I was, my forehead wouldn’t have moved when he asked me to raise my eyebrows. My pupils did something they were supposed to do too. And I could squeeze the nurses’ fingers and that is positive. Nope, I didn’t have a stroke. But I have Bell’s Palsy, facial paralysis caused by a swelling of the facial nerve. It was most likely caused by the ear infection that I have had for 9 days which caused me to miss my trip to Paris last week. (Yep, lots going on around here with my health!) The doctor I saw back then thought that if I flew I might rupture my ear drum, and if I ruptured my ear drum I wouldn’t be able to fly home and my trip would have been ruined. Two days after I started the anti-biotics and nothing had improved, I was pretty sure I had a viral infection instead of a bacterial infection. Turns out I was right. The doctor thinks I have shingles in my ear! The inflammation caused by the ear infection has put pressure on my facial nerve thus blocking the transmission of neural signals, or possibly damaging it (at this point we don’t know). I am now on prednisone for the inflammation and anti-virals for the shingles. The people reading this who are worried about the prednisone, it’s a large dose but I am only taking it for 5 days.

You can’t really tell anything is wrong if my face is plain, but if I try to smile I look like the above picture. See how my mouth won’t turn up on the right side? My right eye doesn’t close all the way either. I should assume this will last 3-4 weeks and that my ear should begin to feel better soon. If anything worsens over the next two days I have to go in for a CT Scan for them to rule out anything else. Fingers crossed. Good thoughts please.

When I got home I gathered my girls onto the couch with me and we watched The Princess and The Frog and snuggled up with a blanket. Even daddy watched for awhile with us. Afterward the girls dressed up in their princess clothes and I let them wear my lipstick and play outside in their “dry clean only” dresses. I didn’t freak out about the state of their bedroom or give them grief over the fact that they didn’t finish their dinner. Even though my vanity will take a beating over the next few weeks, I’m counting my blessings today and not the number of toys left on the living room floor. I didn’t have a stroke. Hallelujah.

by Melodie on January 15th, 2011

As many of you now know, I am not going to be blogging anymore. The day before my announcement post went up I was treated to a complimentary night’s stay at the Inn At Laurel Point in Victoria, B.C. It was such a wonderful gift and the perfect way to end my past two years of blogging. Bonus that it was the biggest piece of swag I’ve ever received! I left feeling refreshed, almost re-born somehow, ready for a new beginning. And as I walked out of the hotel, it started to snow. I LOVE snow and I have been missing it since we moved. My kids have been asking me “if it is Winter then why isn’t it snowing?” It was like a sign. Like, yes, I am doing the right thing. So, I start off this gratitude post by thanking Avril at the Inn at Laurel Point, and Mother Earth for giving me snow.

Breastfeeding Moms Unite! wouldn’t be the blog it has been without the support and inspiration of a number of people. Many of these bloggers I consider good friends. If we lived in the same town I would invite their kids to my kids birthday parties, bring them chocolate ice cream when they had a bad day, and call them up when I needed help to problem solve my latest parenting crisis.

Gina from The Feminist Breeder. Gina is someone I admire greatly for her honesty and openness about her life and her unquestionable passion and commitment to increasing VBAC and breastfeeding awareness. I appreciate people who are comfortable enough in their own skin to be as real as Gina is. I was completely stoked when she asked me to be the first guest on her Feminist Breeder and Friends Blog Talk Radio – “Breastfeeding Broads” last year. I only wish we could meet in person. One day my friend!

Amber from Strocel.com. Other than CaroLyn from Breeder Brain who I went to high school with, Amber is the one blogger I have met face-to-face. She is as smart, witty and down to earth in person as she is in her blog, and I am forever in debt to her for all the thoughtful comments she has supplied me with. Amber is someone you’d want to make a date with to take your kids for a ride in a wagon down the street to the neighbourhood park, if only to ensure she invited you in later for some of her homemade ice cream.

Annie from Phd in Parenting. Annie’s blog was the first blog I found that immediately clicked with me and hooked me to reading blogs in general. That was about two weeks after I started blogging when I didn’t do what I was doing or how the whole “blogging thing” worked. I approached her and asked if she could put my brand new breastfeeding blog on her blog roll. Not only did she do so but she became one of my loyal readers and commenters too. I’ve watched Annie’s blog soar over the past couple years and have been humbly grateful for every link she’s given me. Her friendship and support have meant a lot.

Lauren at Hobo Mama. Lauren is the most thorough blogger I have ever read. She is super nice and I love pretty much every single post she writes. She is a fantastic writer and her writing has inspired me to do a better job in my own posts. I look forward to someday having a beach date in Seattle with her and her family. Especially since we are practically neighbours!

Dionna at Code Name: Mama. Dionna is amazing. You know how new parents wish someone had written a manual on how to parent? Well, someone should commission this woman to do just that. Not only does she parent in a way that would make Dr. Sears blush, she runs three sites, hosts two monthly carnivals and always finds time to send a kind and compassionate message to her readers. Dionna is my hero.

Alex at A Moderate Life. I need to thank Alex who single handedly convinced me that even though I am vegetarian, I too was a real food blogger. She has been unwaveringly supportive of all of my food-related posts and manages to be one of the most personable bloggers out there.

Melissa at Stork Stories…Birth & Breastfeeding. Melissa has been working as a maternity nurse and lactation consultant for over 35 years. Her wealth and breadth of experience and her gentle, non-judgmental demeanor attracted me to her immediately and led me to ask if she would volunteer to be my Certified Lactation Consultant for my Ask an LC series. I was so thankful she said yes!

I feel like I could go on about a lot of other people… so I guess I’m gonna do just that!

Heather at All About The Hat – Thank you for educating me about unassisted birth. Even though people say I was brave to have a HBAC, your steadfast courage inspires me. If I ever had another baby I know I’d do it differently thanks to everything you’ve blogged about.

Elita at Blacktating. My fellow breastfeeding blogger. What can I say. I love what you do for breastfeeding mothers of colour. You rock.

Heather at Mommypotamus. I was so thrilled to find your site. If I ever start another blog it will look a lot like yours. Real Food, Health, and Natural Parenting. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Alison at Blue Bird Mama. Finding your blog through Amber and connecting with your posts about figuring out schools was one of my best finds ever. I hope we can meet someday.

Jenny at Chronicles of a Nursing Mom. People who like reading about breastfeeding NEED to read Jenny’s blog. I daresay she has the best one out there. I love learning about breastfeeding from a Philippine perspective too. Thanks for being so awesome Jenny.

Sally at Seashells and Snowflakes. I think I’ve been following Sally’s blog longer than Annie at Phd in Parenting. I wish Sally was my next door neighbour. She radiates light and love and has certainly brought some of it into my life.

Betsy at Honest to Betsy. Betsy has made me want to be funnier. I’ve never been the funniest person but Betsy inspires me to pull it out of the bag. I love her blog so much I could eat it!

Hilary at Infinite Learners. You know those blogs that make you slow down and savour the moment? Hilary.

Sara at One Starry Night. Thank you Sara for being the web mistress I really wanted. Thanks for taking the time to show me how to do things myself. I’m sorry I never ended up changing the site. I guess I knew that this might happen. But again, if I ever start another blog I know who I’ll be calling. Hugs.

Jake at Sustainable Mothering. Jake is like my blog mom, but she didn’t know that until now. I have so much reverence for you and your experience. I’m always thrilled when you leave a comment. So thanks for that.

Maman A Droit. My most conservative friend but just as crunchy a mom as the rest of my crew. I always appreciate reading her point of view. Thanks for inviting me to do the Body Image Carnival with you!

Karen Angstadt at Intentional Birth.  Karen had me as her guest on A Labor of Love, her Voice America show where we talked about Breastfeeding a Toddler. It was lots of fun and a great experience. Thank you for inviting me to do that with you.

More people who have touched my life with their blogs: Paige at the Baby Dust Diaries, Judy from Mommy News & Views, Tanya at Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog, Chandelle at Chicken Tender, Summer at Finding Summer, Christina from Spoonfed, Joni from Tales of a Kitchen Witch, Luschka at Diary of a First Child, Dagmar from Dagmar’s Momsense, Tabatha from Tabulous, Kelly from Kelly the Kitchen Kop, Kirsten from Food Renegade, Glenda from Me and Mine in a Small Town, Starr from Taking Time (formerly Earth Mama), Upstatemama from Our Life Upstate, Amy from Crunchy Domestic Goddess, Arwyn from Raising My Boychick, Deborah from Pure Mothers, Bettina from Best For Babes and finally, even though she stopped blogging quite some time ago, Emily from Adventures in [Crunchy] Parenthood was a big influence on my blogging in the early days. Thanks Emily!

Thank you to all the bloggers who linked up at my Vegetarian Foodie Fridays carnival. There are too many of you to list so I will just name a few. Riddlelove, Anktangle, US Masala, Trina of the Beans, Comfy Cook, Food. Soil. Thread., Living Free of Dairy, Gluten and Sugar, 21st Century Housewife, Treat & Trick, Debbi Does Dinner Healthy, Health Food Lover, Girlichef. I know I’ve missed tons of you. I’m sorry!!!

A huge thank you to my sponsors.

To Momzelle Nursing Wear who has sponsored me for two years straight, thank you! I have been proud to represent you and to have a company like yours support me. You truly are a “Liquid Gold” sponsor.

To Snugabell, for sponsoring me for so many months this past year. It’s been a honour. Thank you!

To Little Nurslings. I’ve loved having you as a sponsor month after month too. It’s so great to work with mom-run small businesses.

To Annee Matthew, Wild Mother Arts, and Child Organics. Thank you for your part in helping to keep my blog up and running.

More thank yous to all of the businesses big and small who have sent me products to review and giveaway. While I haven’t been known as a giveaway blog the giveaways I have come from wonderful companies who I have been happy to sing praises of. The perks of increased traffic and freebies was great too!

Extra special thanks to To Bravado who has helped promote my site, and sent me two beautiful nursing bras that I will likely wear even when I am finally done breastfeeding, and who have given me the chance to do two big giveaways. Thank you!

Do I have any regrets?

Yes! One. I never did a review of a book I said that I would do. In fact, if anyone would like to review The Nursing Mother’s Companion (2010) by Kathleen Huggins for me (and the publisher) then I will send it to you free of charge. Just let me know. It comes with the promise of a three book giveaway. Let me know if you are interested and I will choose who I think would be best to do the review to make up for my not doing it.

Also, I said I would do a follow up review of Sweet Songs, a beautiful children’s CD put together by a number of very talented artists in Texas, some who wrote songs specifically for the album. It is our favourite family CD and I am still so impressed that 100% of the proceeds goes to the Austin Milk Bank. If you are looking for a special gift of incredible music for your child or another, please order one (or two). If you still aren’t sure, head to the site and listen to the free clips. You will be glad you did. So I never got around to doing a full length blog post feature, but if I can tempt any bloggers to buy the CD themselves maybe you will post a review of your own. Thank you to Monica Cravotta of Attachment Mama.

Special thanks to my wonderful readers! The ones who leave comments and the ones who don’t, the ones who share my posts and the ones who don’t. If you read me through Facebook or twitter – I will still be there so don’t go away! I’m grateful to you all. It feels amazing knowing I have made a difference in some of your lives. I appreciate everyone who has come out of the woodwork to tell me so over the years. That was why I started blogging and it is a goal I am proud to have achieved.

Lastly, thank you to my husband and my daughters. I got married, had babies, breastfed them, and started a blog about breastfeeding. If it weren’t for you Breastfeeding Moms Unite! wouldn’t be here. I love you all so much!

I hope I didn’t miss thanking anyone. I probably did. If so (and you are feeling bummed out about it), I apologize.

I am going to try to continue to follow everyone’s blog on a somewhat regular basis, so you haven’t necessarily seen the last of me, but I just wanted to say thank you for inspiring me, making me laugh, making me cry and making me think about things in a new way. Thank you for opening me up, teaching me things, sharing your lives, your recipes, your knowledge, passions, hopes, dreams, and sharing mine. Be well my friends.

And I meant it when I said I would send you that book for your blog to review. So let me know if you’re interested and I will get back to you within a few days.

Roses photo credit: Biewoef

by Melodie on January 11th, 2011

Welcome to the January Carnival of Natural Parenting: Learning from children

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared the many lessons their children have taught them. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

***

What you are about to read is the hardest post I’ve ever written in the 2 years I’ve been blogging.

My kids have taught me a brutal lesson in reality. It’s something I’ve known for a very long time, but instead of doing something about it I’ve been happily burying my head in something else. What? My blog. Why? Because when I started blogging two years ago I had finally found a hobby worth pursuing. My blog has been a place where I could come and write and say things that actually make a difference in other people’s lives. Where I get immediate feedback for my efforts no less. It has also been my place of solace – where I get away from it all – the place where I get to stretch my brain cells for a little while and socialize with women whom with I have enough in common to create our own crunchy mama commune! But in the two years I’ve been blogging I’ve been letting a lot of things in my personal life slide. Rules about TV time for one, spending more quality one-to-one time with my kids for two. When I have a self-imposed blog deadline or find myself busy with other “blog things” I am low of patience. Everyone suffers when I can’t cope with all the people I’m trying to please. My kids, my husband, my friends, my readers and myself. What I have learned from my kids is that I can’t do it all, and in order to be the kind of mom I want to be I need to reorganize my priorities.

Let’s be honest. Blogging takes up tons of time. As any blogger knows, blogging isn’t just about writing your own post, it’s about reading other people’s posts, socializing on Twitter, Facebook and other forms of social media, replying to comments, and if you do giveaways, advertising your giveaways on other sites everyday. I’m also not one of those people who can whip out a post in 15 minutes and call it a day. I’m not a speed reader either. In the past year or so I have tried to cut back on blogs I read and comment on, but not socializing gives me a guilty conscience. The people who read and comment on my blog feel like friends so when I just can’t acknowledge them or comment on one of their posts I feel like I’m letting them down. Every once in awhile I decide to do more to promote my blog too, so I go around finding new blogs to make an appearance at and the hours tick away.

I don’t make a lot of money from blogging. The money I do receive doesn’t even pay for blog upkeep. So I’m not blogging to make a living. If I was I wouldn’t even be writing this. Jobs take us away from our kids and that’s just the way it is. But my writing is a hobby. So every time I blog, unless I do it while the kids are in bed, it is taking time away from them. I think it is important for a parent to have a hobby, even more than one! But most hobbies don’t take 5-8 hours a day and don’t include sitting in front of a computer. My time at the computer makes it look like so much screen time is okay, and that’s just not something I am okay with. This is not the type of role model I wanted to be. There are numerous many reasons why I think screen time is bad for young children. For a comprehensive list go here.

And yet….

I currently submit my children to approximately five hours of television a day (that includes when they spend time at other people’s houses). This is well beyond the national average and breaks my heart that I have strayed so far from my values. I used to pride myself that when my oldest was 2 1/2 she still didn’t know who Dora The Explorer was. Now they know all the names of the Disney princesses and have watched Snow White and Aladdin more times than I have ever watched anything. Sometimes I don’t even know what they are watching and find out later that they have been exposed to things that I would never let them watch at 3 and 6 years old. This just makes me want to cry.

Guess when I introduced screens as a babysitter? Yep, right around the time I started blogging. It became a convenient way to get posts written. My oldest would watch a video while I nursed my baby at the computer. I knew better, but I excused it away with the fact that three hundred pairs of breastfeeding eyes per day were counting on me to come through for them. A little bit of Backyardigans or Wonder Pets couldn’t hurt my kids too much.

But oh, they have.

My kids would rather stay home and watch Disney re-runs than go to the beach with me. Instead of the fun adventure it used to be, a walk in the forest is now boring and met with tantrums and tears. My kids regularly engage in bad behaviours (i.e., not listening to me, teasing and/or hurting each other) and I think it’s partly because they think they can get away with it because over time they’ve worn me down and now I don’t react as fast as I used to. I usually finish typing my sentence before I come and deal with them. Walking to town is fun for my youngest who literally runs the entire way but my oldest cries the whole way whining that we’re supposed to drive to town because that’s what cars are for. Somewhere along the way, I’ve stopped being able to teach my kids about my values. Or rather, I haven’t stopped talking about them, but I have certainly stopped showing them. There is never enough time in the day because I allow my spare time to be taken up by the computer. Instead of riding bikes or walking to yoga lessons or the library, we drive because I leave things to the last minute. When I did daycare I used to get up early with the kids and have no TV all day. Now that I start work early in the mornings they get up and watch cartoons for two hours before their dad gets up.

Some of you know that I’ve been grappling with what I should do about my blog. I have really loved writing here, but I put so much pressure on myself to try to be a “good blogger,” and I just don’t feel good about doing things in a half-ass fashion. So I’ve decided to use this carnival as my jumping off platform to say farewell. Instead of just cutting back on posts (because that doesn’t work for me) I’ve decided to make a clean break. If I’m really itching to write something I’ll post as a guest somewhere. I plan to follow up this announcement post with one or two more posts to close up shop, but after that I will be done.

Why did I just push myself under the bus? Why did I just share all of my failings as a mother? Because I think it’s important for everyone who reads blogs to know that none of us are perfect, plus if I didn’t write down my shortcomings for the world to see it wouldn’t be out there in black and white reminding me why I have decided to do this in the first place. I chose this blog carnival as my platform because a) it makes me liable for my decision (when I send this to the moderators a week early), b) it gives me a week to digest my new reality, and c) the carnival topic was too perfect to pass up.

It’s a New Year, and I want to spend more time with my kids and get back to living my values. I want to learn to knit and take long walks in the forest. I want to try hot yoga (because I need to lose the 30 pounds that I have gained while blogging – not to say they go hand in hand, but blogging certainly doesn’t give me time to do anything about it) and play board games with my family in the evenings. In the Spring I want to build and plant a garden and in the Fall learn to can vegetables. Right now, blogging doesn’t give me enough time to do these things. And one thing that’s been reinforced by reading and writing so many blog posts is that childhoods fly by and life is short.

I am comforted by the fact that all the breastfeeding posts I’ve written will remain on line. I get 50% of my traffic from Google, which means that approximately 6000 people per month will still be able to benefit from them. I will also stay on Facebook and Twitter because it doesn’t take much much of my time and I am looking forward to sharing old posts with new followers. But for the rest of it, you and they are just going to have to go through the categories or learn to love my search bar. Having helped numerous women and having made some amazing connections along the way I am ready to embrace what I have accomplished here and move forward.

Deep breath. So here I go.

Epilogue:

I wrote this a little over a week ago and finished up my last post (coming in a few days) a couple days later. I just felt like sharing that after two years of writing an average 3-4 posts per week, this “not blogging” thing is hard. At first I seriously didn’t know what to do with myself in my spare time. I would turn on the computer and just stare at the screen, hopping from Facebook to Twitter to my emails and my Reader, wondering what the heck my life would look like without this daily routine.

But the past few days have been wonderful. I took my kids for a walk in the woods by the beach and they went from whining that walks are boring to skipping along the trails yelling back at me what fun they were having. We went to the museum and spent almost three hours there. Not once did I get that anxious feeling that in the past has told me “I have to get back to check my emails and finish editing that blog post!” I haven’t yet turned off the TV completely. After the number of hours they’ve had everyday I am cutting back slowly. But I’ve been able to sit down, monitor, and watch TV with them, cuddled in a blanket on the couch. I have more patience and the kids seem happier too. I will miss telling all of you about my life and my thoughts on breastfeeding, natural parenting, bed sharing, vegetarianism and my homeschooling experiences, but I look forward to this new chapter. Life is good.

***

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon January 11 with all the carnival links.)

by Melodie on January 7th, 2011

Can you believe I’m ending my Vegetarian Foodie Fridays? (Sad face). I can’t. But it’s true. I have absolutely L-O-V-E-D having you link up your vegetarian recipes and food-related posts each week. I have found some wonderful recipes and excellent blogs to read as a result of this carnival. But I have made a New Year’s decision (not a loosey-goosey resolution, but a steadfast decision!) to start spending less time on the computer and more time with my kids and family. In doing so this means I will also get to spend more time in my kitchen, and I am really looking forward to that too! But because of your contributions I know where to find future inspiration for my cast iron pan! Thank you so much for participating in the last year I’ve been running Vegetarian Foodie Fridays. I’ve loved every week of it! If you do have a recipe you want to share with me because you think I will love it, leave a link in my comments section. For future gifts of recipes please donate them to the Hearth and Soul Blog Hop on Tuesdays. I get lots of my ideas in the middle of the week from the bloggers who host it.

In good vegetarian, real foodie, and sweet-toothed health,

~Melodie~

P.S. I did post one last recipe. It’s one from Mollie Katzen’s Enchanted Broccoli Forest that knocked my socks off – it’s called Influenced Vegetable Stew. Head on over to read its story and taste it through the list of ingredients.

by Melodie on January 6th, 2011

Influenced by whom you wonder? Mollie Katzen again. While everyone else I know is loving up and “Tackling Mark Bittman” (blog hop anyone?), I remain in a state of Bittman ignorance and find kinship with my old pal Mollie instead.

I had no idea what to make tonight. All I knew is that I wanted to make something different. I decided to take the first cookbook that jumped out at me and work my way through them until I found something that a) I would like to eat, and b) I could make with the ingredients I had on hand. Luckily, I only had to make my way through 40-some pages of Mollie Katzen’s The Enchanted Broccoli Forest before I found Influenced Vegetable Stew.

It’s a strange name for a recipe and Mollie doesn’t provide any sort of illumination on the matter except to say “…similar to a Greek ‘stifado,’ but with Mexican-style seasonings.” I have no idea what a stifado is (do you?), but the seasonings looked intriguing so I thought I would give it a try.

Oh good mother I am glad I did. It took about 40 minutes to prepare but it was worth my time. Everyone said it was delicious. Me, my step-son, my kids, and my neighbour whom I gave some to because this recipe makes so, so much. (Hubby wasn’t home to try it). It was so flavourful that my taste buds are already craving it again only a couple hours later.

So here you go. If you have a large family (of 6 or more) and want to try something a little bit different, this recipe is for you.

Influenced Vegetable Stew

3 cups sliced potatoes

1 Tbsp. olive oil

2 cups sliced onion

2 tsp salt

2 tsp cinnamon

1 Tbsp cumin

3 Tbsp fresh lemon or lime juice

1 large cauliflower cut into 1″ florets

2 large carrots (I used broccoli)

8-10 medium cloves garlic, minced

1 1/2 cups water

1 Tbsp honey

1 1/2 cups tomato puree/canned crushed tomatoes

2 cups cooked kidney beans (or a 15 oz can, rinsed and drained)

freshly ground black pepper

cayenne pepper to taste

minced fresh parsley

squeezable wedges of lemon or lime

Directions:

Place the sliced potatoes in a saucepan and cover them with water. Boil until tender. Drain well and set aside. (You can save the water to use later).

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or large wok with a cover. Add the onion and 1 tsp. salt, and sauté over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the cinnamon and cumin and sauté for a few minutes longer.

Stir in the lemon juice, cauliflower, carrots, and remaining salt. Cover and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add the potatoes, half the garlic, and the water (saved from the potatoes if you remembered). Stir, cover, and cook until the vegetables are just tender (8-10 minutes).

Stir in the remaining garlic, honey and tomatoes (or purée). Cover and cook about 5 minutes more. Stir in the beans, season to taste with black pepper and cayenne. Serve hot over rice topped with parsley and garnished with wedges of lemon or lime.

Shared at Fight Back Friday, Foodie Friday, Food on Friday, Wholesome Whole Foods, Friday FavouritesFresh, Clean and Pure Fridays, and Friday Potluck.

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