Mothering http://www.mothering.com/articles The Home for Natural Family Living Mon, 05 Dec 2016 18:08:37 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.2 The Home for Natural Family Living no The Home for Natural Family Living Mothering http://www.mothering.com/articles/wp-content/plugins/powerpress/rss_default.jpg http://www.mothering.com/articles D.C. Proposes New Paid Leave Law http://www.mothering.com/articles/d-c-proposes-new-paid-leave-law/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/d-c-proposes-new-paid-leave-law/#comments Mon, 05 Dec 2016 17:41:06 +0000 http://www.mothering.com/articles/?p=172218 New legislation is being proposed in Washington D.C., and if it goes through, it could mean 11 weeks of paid leave for parents.

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This is a step in the right direction. New legislation is being proposed in Washington D.C., and if it goes through, it could mean 11 weeks of paid leave for parents.

Newly proposed legislation in Washington D.C. could set an unprecedented standard in the US. A coalition of close to 200 businesses and advocacy groups are pushing for a better paid family leave law.

This month, the Universal Paid Leave Act of 2015 was introduced to the D.C. city council. Under this bill, families would have 11 weeks of paid parental leave for both parents after the birth of a child or the adoption or fostering of a child. It also includes eight weeks of paid caregiving leave for a sick, injured or dying loved one, and up to 90% pay replacement for low-income workers on medical leave. The cost would be offset by a 0.62% employer-paid payroll tax increases, and as a result, 65% of D.C.’s residents would be covered.

It’s no secret that the US is behind of much of the industrialized world in terms of paid parental leave. Other countries recognize the health benefits to parents and children when they are given time to bond and adjust, but so far, ours has not been prompted to make serious changes. Women report lower rates of depression postpartum and later in life. Infant mortality rates are lower, breastfeeding rates are higher and home environments are less stressed and yet, many women are unable to reap these benefits.

When mothers around the world were asked recently what they thought of the United States’ parental leave practices, many expressed astonishment and contrasted it with their own experience. Most were given weeks or months of paid leave prenatally and after they gave birth.

As several pointed out, it often takes weeks just to heal from the birth, much less to establish breastfeeding and set up a childcare system. One Chilean mother said, “Some people think paid leave is a benefit for parents, but it isn’t, it’s a child’s right.” There is so much more involved than just the health of a mother and child – this is about establishing each family’s foundation for health and stability.

I read an article recently that contrasted the postpartum experience in the US versus other countries. In many cultures, it is common for a mom to stay in bed for weeks while her family and friends nurture her and take care of household so she can make a full recovery. Dutch mothers are visited at home for eight days after delivery by a postpartum nurse. Mothers in China and Mexico are confined to their home for 30 days or more while they recover and get help with breastfeeding. These cultures expect women to take their time recovering and support them through that transition time.

But here in America, we are not so inter-connected. Because so many mothers muster the strength to get back to work at 6-8 weeks postpartum out of necessity, many of us have a false sense of how easy it is to bounce back after childbirth.

Of course, the truth is that companies have to be able to afford to hold jobs while parents are out and still meet the business obligations on a smaller or interim staff. It is a difficult balance, but as other countries have proven, it can be done. Bills like this one in D.C. may be just what other states need to see in order to prompt broader change.

Photo credit:grisguerra

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Charitable Holiday Gift Ideas For Kids http://www.mothering.com/articles/charitable-holiday-gifts-for-kids/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/charitable-holiday-gifts-for-kids/#comments Mon, 05 Dec 2016 16:19:38 +0000 http://www.mothering.com/articles/?p=171138 Here's our list of companies that give back to the community.

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‘Tis the season to be generous. It’s also a wonderful time to introduce your children to the concept of giving to others in need. Here’s our list of companies that give back to the community with every purchase you make.

Charitable gifts are a great way to cut down on consumerism this holiday season while making a positive impact on the world, but a donation in their name to a charity may be difficult to conceptualize for children, and opening a certificate thanking them for their help doesn’t quite have the excitement of ripping open a new toy. Luckily, there are many companies that give back a portion of their proceeds, and for an ever bigger impact, here are some places that match a donation with a bonus gift for your chosen recipient, or else utilize a buy-one-give-one model with a focus on long-term sustained approaches to alleviating social issues.

The Sierra Club: Join The Sierra Club and help save the environment—from pushing for clean energy to protecting endangered species to preserving America’s public parks—and in return for a gift membership, receive a messenger bag and a one-year subscription to Sierra magazine. For younger kids, adopt a wild animal to help with conservation efforts to protect them and their habitat, and get an adorable plush animal stand-in, a sticker, and information booklet about their animal.

National Audubon Society: Similar to The Sierra Club, symbolically adopt a bird to support conservation and protection efforts for wild birds, and receive a plush version of the one you’ve chosen, along with an adoption certificate and bird photo. For older kids, or the committed bird enthusiast, give the gift of membership and receive a year of Audubon magazine.

Smile Squared: Think of it as a last-ditch effort to fight the onslaught of holiday sweets and give a toothbrush as a small gift or stocking stuffer. Smile Squared is more than just as toothbrush; with every natural wood toothbrush purchased, one is donated to a child without access to basic oral healthcare, and helps support needed dental hygiene programs in these communities.

SoapBox Soaps: For those hard-to-buy-for teens and tweens forget the gift cards, give them fancy soaps instead. And these fancy soaps do a lot of good, not only providing soap to help combat contagious diseases, the company is also committed to empowering communities and creating long-term, local-based change.

Cuddle + Kind: The concept is simple: the purchase of one hand-knit doll provides 10 meals to a child in need, but the commitment to alleviating child hunger goes deeper. The dolls are crafted in Peru by women artisans, providing a fair-trade income, and the company has also partnered with the World Food Program, the Children’s Hunger Fund, and the CHF Mercy Network to make an even larger impact.

The Mauro Seed Company: “Grow One, Give One,” is the motto of the Mauro Seed company; for every pack of organic heirloom seeds purchased, a pack is donated to a family or community in need. Give the gift of a spring veggie garden, and make a long-term impact on food instability by empowering people to grow their own.

Bears for Humanity: These beautiful certified organic bears are fair trade, made in the USA, and hand-sewn by at-risk women. With every bear purchased, one is donated to a child in need.

This Bar Saves Lives: Another great stocking stuffer or small gift, the purchase of these healthy snack bars provides food packets for children suffering from acute malnutrition. The company is also committed to helping combat hunger beyond emergency food packets, partnering with organizations that work locally in at-risk communities, and provide sustainable solutions to food scarcity.

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Can Breastfeeding Barbie Be A New Role Model for Girls? http://www.mothering.com/articles/breastfeeding-barbie-gives-girls-even-choice-future/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/breastfeeding-barbie-gives-girls-even-choice-future/#comments Mon, 05 Dec 2016 16:12:45 +0000 http://www.mothering.com/articles/?p=172098 One creative woman has turned the iconic doll into a breastfeeding advocate - maybe she can be a role model for girls.

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What can’t Barbie do? One creative woman has turned the iconic doll into a breastfeeding advocate – maybe she can be a role model for girls.

It’s about time that Barbie reflected what real women and womanhood looks like — and that includes breastfeeding!

Barbie dolls, sold by Mattel, were designed in 1959 by a mother who wanted to open doors for her daughter, both in terms of her toys and her dreams:

“My whole philosophy of Barbie was that through the doll, the little girl could be anything she wanted to be. Barbie always represented the fact that a woman has choices.” ~ Ruth Handler

At the time, only baby and toddler dolls were available to children in 3D form. Pretend-play with adult themes were limited to paper dolls. The original Barbie doll was a tough sell in the early years, but has now been Mattel’s most profitable line for much of the last 55-plus years.

Technically called a fashion doll, Barbie is and continues to be popular among children. Many versions have been released over the years with an array of wardrobe options, doll houses, and other accessories.

But Barbie is not without controversy. The doll’s ridiculous dimensions have been accused of influencing body image ideals for girls, including raising the risk for eating disorders. In the same vein, boys who played with or watched their sisters play with Barbie dolls could just as easily internalize the concept that women are supposed to look at a Barbie doll — when in actually, its thought that only 1 in 100,000 women match Barbie’s proportions, and this doesn’t include women who purportedly suffer from “Barbie syndrome” and undergo plastic surgeries to become a Barbie in real life.

Regardless, I can imagine that Barbie dolls have been successful in broadening the horizons of children through the decades, considering that back in the 1960s, expectations of women were rather narrow. Among the various versions of Barbie released over the years have been dolls representing career women in more than 180 traditionally male-dominated professions, such as firefighters, astronauts, health care providers, game developers, and and scientists.

But never a breastfeeding mother.

Perhaps Mattel felt that putting the spotlight back on mothers in the home would undermine its emphasis on career women? Or maybe Mattel’s executives just never thought about a breastfeeding doll, but it’s apparent by the response that Betty Strachan — doll artist and owner of All the Little Dolls in Brisbane, Australia — has received for creating a Barbie look-alike that simulates breastfeeding, that Mattel may be missing the mark.

bf barbie 2Betty is currently sold out of her Barbie look-alike, “Mamas Worldwide Barbie,” that she created to represent the real mother: breastfeeding and without all the make-up that the real Barbie is known for. Her breastfeeding mother doll looks about as real as real can get in a Barbie.

Mother to 2 boys, Betty hopes the doll can help promote to all children to the idea that breastfeeding is normal:

“A woman’s body is an incredible thing. It sustains and brings life over 9 months, but it doesn’t stop there. The act of breastfeeding continues to sustain a child from birth into toddlerhood, sometimes beyond, and these breastfeeding dolls have been created to celebrate breastfeeding in an educational and comprehensive way for children.” ~ Betty Strachan

She also makes Barbie look-alikes that are pregnant, sport tattoos, and depict same-sex couples, and represent adoptive mothers.

Betty’s work almost makes me want to rethink my stance of not purchasing Barbie dolls for my children to play with — though as tempting as a breastfeeding doll is, I don’t think I could bring myself to buying one until we get to the point of a Barbie or look-alike made to body proportions that are actually realistic.

Despite the body dimension issue that Barbie dolls have going on, I like the idea of using a hugely popular toy to not only continue normalizing breastfeeding but also soften the tone of mommy wars. Girls don’t have to grow up to be either one or the other: We can choose to be both a career woman and a mother, and creating a breastfeeding Barbie truly showcases just how much choice women now have. We can choose to work outside the home, or not…to stay at home, or not…to work from home, or not…to be a mother, or not…to marry, or not…and any of these options can be fulfilling and give dignity to a woman. This opportunity for choice is what was important to Barbie’s inventor nearly 60 years ago, and Betty Strachan is filling in the gaps that Mattel has left behind.

Photo Credit: All the Little Dolls/Etsy 

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Important Lessons I Learned From Homeschooling My Kids http://www.mothering.com/articles/important-lessons-learned-homeschooling-kids/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/important-lessons-learned-homeschooling-kids/#comments Sun, 04 Dec 2016 02:00:24 +0000 http://www.mothering.com/articles/?p=167834 Here's why I think homeschooling is an extension of our "natural-minded" lifestyle and a beautiful opportunity I feel fortunate to provide for my children.

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I never imagined I’d homeschool my kids. Here’s why I think homeschooling is an extension of our “natural-minded” lifestyle and a beautiful opportunity I feel fortunate to provide for my children.

“The moment a child is born, the mother is also born.  She never existed before.  The woman existed, but the mother, never.  A mother is something absolutely new.”  -Osho

This is one of my favorite quotes about motherhood. It’s so very true: when we give birth, we shed the skin of our former selves and are born anew as a woman forever connected to her child. Our selfish selves can no longer exist, for we are physically, mentally and emotionally bonded and responsible for this new little human who has come from our body.  This happens with each subsequent birth – when a new life enters the family, life resets and a new dynamic takes shape. Motherhood is a constant evolution and the most intense and thorough form of self discovery. We can’t possibly know how we’ll feel, what we’ll believe or what choices we will make until that baby is birthed from our body and in our care.

There are many things in my experience of motherhood that I never imagined doing:  homebirthing, breastfeeding until my children outgrow the need (my oldest son weaned in his 5th year), and adopting a holistic, natural-minded lifestyle are a few.  But the biggest surprise of all would have to be homeschooling.

I never imagined that “homeschooling mom” would be part of my motherhood identity.  I always carried the typical stereotypes of homeschooling in my head: isolated, anti-social kids who seem to be missing out on life.  I probably thought it was strange and certainly never imagined that it would become part of my own lifestyle.  In all of my parenting choices, I have let my instincts guide me and have made educated choices that feel right for my family.

Homeschooling has become an extension of our “natural-minded” lifestyle and a beautiful opportunity that I feel fortunate to provide for my children.  It was when my oldest son (now 6) was around 3 that we started doing “circle time” on a daily basis.  As an only child, “playing school” was something I did on a regular basis and throughout my life, I’ve worked with children in various ways (babysitting, volunteering at daycare centers, working at KinderCare).

It felt natural to me to begin doing learning activities with my son at home and I began reading and researching homeschooling.  A couple of close friends felt similarly and we often discussed the concept together. My husband didn’t immediately understand or agree- we are both products of public school and we turned out fine, didn’t we?  But after many discussions and exploring the idea together, he was on the same page and supported my feelings.  It was a natural evolution to arrive at the decision that I would homeschool our kids.

Homeschooling has been an amazing journey so far:  to see my kids learn together… to learn along with them myself… to give them enriching experiences that are “outside of the box” of traditional classroom education- I feel so lucky to be doing this wonderful work! I feel that if I have the means and desire to provide my kids with this enriched lifestyle, our whole family benefits.

I couldn’t really imagine sending them to school where they are one of many – every child learns differently, at their own pace, has different styles, strengths and weaknesses. I couldn’t imagine them spending the majority of their day sitting down and having to share the focus of their teacher with 20-some other children their age. I can’t imagine my boys not being able to spend their learning time together and missing out on the many ages of kids (and adults) they interact with.

At this point in our experience, I have seen so many benefits to our homeschooling lifestyle that I can’t imagine it any other way! I don’t think that all aspects of public school are negative – there are pros and cons to everything.  But I do know that it’s a different world than when I was in school and I can’t confidently say that public school would be the best I can offer my children.  I want more for them.

Homeschooling isn’t easy – it’s downright hard at times – but it’s beyond worthwhile.  Many moms (realistically, probably all of us!) experience times of doubt. We often question if what we’re doing really is the best option… if we’re “good enough”… if our kids are getting enough out of what we’re offering.  Asking those questions alone shows that you ARE doing it right…that you are selflessly giving to your children the invaluable gift of your time, your energy, your desires to want the best for them.

Isn’t the easier choice to just send them off to school?  By homeschooling, we’re providing our children with a way of learning that’s enriched, well-rounded and personalized – something that simply can’t be found in even the “best” of the public schools.  You don’t need a degree or special certification to offer this – your love, devotion and time is more than qualification.  As a mother, you provide a standard of care that can be matched by no other.

I’ve found that SO many families are choosing to homeschool these days.  It’s far more common now than ever before (well, except when it was the norm back in the pioneer days!).  In wanting to connect with like-minded moms and kids to join us on our journey of learning, I decided to start a group which would serve to provide the social aspect that both the children AND the moms thrive upon.

We all need and benefit from the connection to others and the circle of amazing women whom I’ve become friends with has enriched this experience so much for me.  The friends my boys have made through our homeschooling circle has given me the reassurance that they’re not missing out on any of the social benefit of public school.  We do academic and learning activities as a group, as well as fun parties and adventures.  I am a better mom through the friends I’ve made through homeschooling.  The women I see on a regular basis through our group classes and get-togethers truly inspire me to be the best mom/wife/woman/friend I can be.

I’ve learned as a mom – in all aspects, not just homeschooling – that my time is no longer my own. Someday when my kids are grown and don’t need me as intensely, I’ll have it back to myself. But for now, I’m learning to be ok with not accomplishing everything exactly when I want.

In life, our best laid plans don’t always turn out exactly as we hope (and sometimes, that’s for the best!) and the same is true with homeschooling.  Our lesson plans and learning activities may not always unfold exactly as we plan. We might not get to something on the day we intend. We may go weeks without accomplishing certain topics or activities that we had hoped to cover.  Life has a way of getting in the way of our plans and I’m constantly trying to be okay with that.

There is a reality of not “getting it all done” that feels like a common theme in motherhood.  It can be frustrating but also awesome at the same time- sometimes not accomplishing everything leads to the spontaneous adventures that make the best impressions.  Life can be a beautiful, chaotic mess and when we embrace that fact, we make the real memories that are what we and our children will someday recall.

I am so thankful that I have the chance to homeschool my children and to be part of their learning adventures.  I know that when I doubt myself and need a boost of confidence to keep going, I have the encouragement and support of a husband who believes in me, friends who share my values and goals and my amazing little humans who think I’m a great mom no matter what.

Republished from Neighborhoodhomeschool.com 

 

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Poll: Parents Say Daycare Benefits Their Family’s Well-Being http://www.mothering.com/articles/poll-parents-say-daycare-benefits-their-well-being/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/poll-parents-say-daycare-benefits-their-well-being/#comments Sat, 03 Dec 2016 20:10:49 +0000 http://www.mothering.com/articles/?p=167498 A recent poll finds that most parents think outside child care improves their own well-being.

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pixabay - daycare centerA recent poll finds that most parents think outside child care improves their own well-being, and that of their child. But does that mean there’s a growing low parenting confidence problem?

A friend of mine recently shared that she felt her son’s child care provider taught him much more than she ever could. Her son is a year old.

I asked her to elaborate on what the daycare has taught him, and she referred to him sitting up, crawling, and learning how to eat solids — behaviors that, as I assured her, are the results of normal infant development that don’t need to be taught but rather would unfold naturally in any nurturing environment.

This conversation was really about an overall lack of parenting confidence and knowledge of infant development more than anything, but it reminded me of what I read recently on NPR about the results of a recent poll on child care: Most parents surveyed claim that child care improves their own well-being, and that of their child.

A total of 69% of mothers and 53% of fathers said their well-being was improved by having their child in daycare. Similar statistics — 64% of mothers and 49% of fathers — show that parents feel that daycare improves their relationship with their child.

Apparently, child care isn’t just for job purposes anymore. There appears to be real benefit to families to have a third party involved in the care and upbringing of their child, though this sounds a lot like a low parenting confidence problem to me.

Whether it’s an actual feeling that they can’t teach their child as well as a child care provider, or that they can’t find balance without a child care provider, or a whole other reason, I find it alarming that putting their children in substitute care carries more benefits than simply keeping a job.

It brings in the idea that parents don’t understand their value to their children, of what being a parent is all about. Sure, it’s good to strive for life balance and to find support in child-rearing, but daycare isn’t designed to provide parenting support. It’s designed to be a temporary substitute for the parent when Mom or Dad have unavoidable, child-unfriendly commitments.

Moreover, the NPR poll found that a strong 86% of parents feel that child care in early childhood has a major, positive impact on their child’s long-term well-being. Another benefit identified by parents in the survey was the link between daycare and school readiness, long-term health, and even job success in the child’s adult life.

When children are coming from low-quality homes, especially where hunger and emotional unavailability exists, I can see where there would be strong benefits to putting a child in daycare — and research backs this up.

But the research also backs up the reality that not even the best non-parental child care arrangement trumps the benefit of high-quality homes. So for parents to be so certain that substitute child care is so much better for their child’s well-being than a strong parent-child attachment nurtured in a high-quality home, this to me is heartbreaking.

In light of talk for universal preschool in the political arena, I hope that there is a voice of reason somewhere that points instead to the benefits of universal parenting support — an increased emphasis, or an emphasis at all, on the value of improving parents’ parenting know-how and confidence in how they themselves can create the best learning and development environment for their children.

At-risk populations have historically received more public health funding to address their parenting challenges, and that’s what the hope is from universal preschool — to benefit at-risk populations and improve their child outcomes — but we cannot forget the parents who fall in the majority. What will best benefit their children: putting their children in child care that can’t measure up to spending time at home with involved parents, or instead creating programs and opportunities to educate parents that their value far outweighs that of daycare?

For parents who feel that the benefit of school readiness is enough reason to choose child care over home care, I would like to suggest a change in perspective: Let’s consider not putting so much emphasis on academic performance that we forget about the well-researched need for a secure attachment foundation that all children — whether at-risk or not — require for short- and long-term health, emotional well-being, academic success, and job performance as adults. That secure attachment base, if available to a child at all, can only be found at home.

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Holiday Gift Giving Ideas: Ad-Free Magazines For Children http://www.mothering.com/articles/5-lovely-ad-free-magazines-children/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/5-lovely-ad-free-magazines-children/#comments Fri, 02 Dec 2016 17:25:10 +0000 http://www.mothering.com/articles/?p=170618 Consider one of these ad-free magazines that arrive right in your mailbox.

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Looking to give your child a gift that’s delivered throughout the year? Consider one of these ad-free magazines that arrives right in your mailbox.

As an adult I enjoy the experience of getting fun items in the mail, namely my favorite magazines.  I enjoy sharing the same joy and excitement of finding something new and fun to read delivered in the mail with my children.   When considering unique gifts for your holiday giving – or anytime – consider these lovely ad-free magazines for children:


Cricket Media

Cricket-Media-Bug-MagazinesSince 1973, the magazines in the Cricket family have sparked curiosity, inspired creativity and opened worlds of possibility in kids ages 3-16.

Cricket publishes a large variety of magazines including:  Babybug Magazine (for ages 6 months to 3 years); Click Magazine: (for ages 3-6); Ladybug Magazine: (for ages 3-6); Spider Magazine: (for ages 6 to 9); Ask Magazine: (for ages 6 to 9); Dig into History Magazine (for ages 9-14); Faces Magazine (for ages 9-14); Muse Magazine (for ages 9-14); Cobblestone Magazine (for ages 9-14); Cricket Magazine (for ages 9-14); & Cicada Magazine (for teens ages 14+).

Cricket Media is currently running a “Double the Giving” Campaign.  Any gift-giver purchasing an annual print subscription to one of four different Cricket publications will also deliver the gift of reading to a child in an underserved community through two award-winning, charitable partners: Libraries Without Borders and Parent-Child Home Program, both 2016 Library of Congress Literacy Award Winners.  Each subscription bundle to BABYBUG, LADYBUG, SPIDER, or CRICKET is priced at $29.95 (regularly $33.95), and is guaranteed to spark a life-long love of reading.


New Moon Girls 

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New Moon Girls 
is a wonderful bi-monthly magazine created for girls ages 8 and up.  The magazine’s content and online features are written primarily by girls and selected by the Girls Editorial Board, a group of about 30 girls ages 8–14.

Regular departments include “Language,” which explains the physical changes that happen during childhood and puberty; “Global Village,” which introduces readers to girls from other countries; “Women’s Work,” which profiles a woman in an interesting profession; “Herstory,” which introduces readers to little-known women from history; “Girls on the Go,” which covers girls’ activism and adventure stories; and “Science Side Effects,” which contains a science experiment intended for trying at home. Other regular departments are “Ask a Girl”, where girls give each other advice on problems, “Voice Box”, where girls debate topics like allowances, “Luna’s Art Gallery”, art submissions from readers, and “Girl Caught”, intended for improving girls’ media literacy by identifying ads and products that they believe are respectful or disrespectful to girls and women.

New Moon Media member benefits includes access to a moderated internet forum for girls to share their stories, ideas, art, photos and videos and to meet other girls around the world in a safe online environment.


Root and Star Magazine

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Root and Star Magazine is a gift-quality bi-monthly magazine that brings beautiful art, stories, poems, and activities to young children and those who love them.  Founded by two mothers, Root and Star Magazine was created and developed into a collaborative labor of love, with hope to inspire families to see the beauty in their children and in the world, and to inspire children to be their whole selves—to feel all of their wisdom and their wildness.

As a family, you can enjoy Root & Star magazine together—which is peaceful and silly and thoughtful and gorgeous. As you flip through the pages, you and your child have the chance to feel more grounded, thoughtful, and uplifted by the beauty and wildness of true art and quality children’s literature.  Root and Star is offering mothering.com readers 10% off with the code SMALLBUS.


Highlights For Children

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The Highlights brand includes a diverse and inclusive family of products for kids from birth to 12.  Highlight publications are grounded in the philosophy that children become their “best selves” by using their creativity and imagination; developing their reading, thinking, and reasoning skills; and learning to treat others with respect, kindness, and sensitivity.

Highlights for Children publishes:  Highlights Hello (for ages 0-2); High Five (for ages 2-6); and Highlights magazine (for ages 6-12).


Ranger Rick Magazine

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The National Wildlife Federation publishes three high quality, educational magazines for children: Ranger Rick Cub (for ages 0-4)  Ranger Rick Jr. (for children ages 4 to 7), and Ranger Rick Magazine (for children ages 7 to 12). These magazines are full of stories and captivating photographs of nature and animals.  The National Wildlife Federation also has a website with resources for parents and interactive activities for kids where they can watch videos play games, get fun facts.

Image Credits: Cricket MediaNew Moon GirlsRoot and Star MagazineHighlights For Children & The National Wildlife Federation.

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12 Blissful Reasons to Practice Prenatal Yoga http://www.mothering.com/articles/12-reasons-to-practice-prenatal-yoga/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/12-reasons-to-practice-prenatal-yoga/#comments Fri, 02 Dec 2016 16:53:23 +0000 http://www.mothering.com/articles/?p=170706 A beautiful opportunity for self-growth, the positive effects of prenatal yoga are both immediate and long-lasting.

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Yoga is valuable to everyone, including expectant mothers. A beautiful opportunity for self-growth, the positive effects of prenatal yoga are both immediate and long-lasting.

I went to my first prenatal yoga class at six-weeks pregnant.

(I am pretty sure the other mamas-to-be thought I had stumbled into the wrong class.)

I had yet to tell many of my friends and family members that I was expecting, but was extremely motivated to have the healthiest pregnancy possible. I believed yoga was a low-impact way to stay active and help with fatigue, but it was not until I started my own yoga studies recently, that I made a connection to just how beneficial this time spent on my mat was.

I believe yoga (which is so much more than asana–or yoga postures!) is valuable to everyone, including the parents among us. The time right before we become parents is a beautiful opportunity for self-growth, and cultivating a yoga practice will be extremely beneficial for all—mother, her partner and baby. The positive effects are both immediate and long-lasting, revealed only after your little one is born.

12 Reasons to Practice Prenatal Yoga:

1) Improved Mindfulness

Practicing yoga encourages us to slow down and connect to our breath. When practiced often, along with meditation, you may develop improved clarity of mind—or a sense of mindfulness. Pregnancy and parenthood come with many difficult decisions and stressful moments, all of which may be better handled while staying attuned to the present moment.

2) Enhanced Self-Awareness (of Body)

The last few months of pregnancy beg for enhanced proprioception—a.k.a large baby bump awareness. Yoga requires us to acknowledge how our body is moving in space and a prenatal yoga class will give you tools to move gracefully (well, as gracefully as possible) with your growing figure.

3) Increased Patience (& Acceptance)

The first time you step on your yoga mat might be difficult. You may lack balance. Or strength. Or focus. That is okay! Be patient with yourself and accept where you are practicing, not how the experienced yoga-mama with seemingly effortless movement is practicing next to you.

You can pull from this practice in patience later on when you need it. When the grocery line is long and your newborn is crying. When you are waiting for your toddler to climb into his car seat by himself. Maybe even years later when your child is learning to drive.

4) Self-Reflection 

Svadhyaya is one of the ethical guidelines gifted to us from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. It refers to self-study, or paying closer attention to ourselves. I like to think of it is as recognizing my own habits and beliefs, and then determining whether or not they serve me, on and off the yoga mat. Recognizing our own less than desirable habits can improve parenting skills, and prevent these habits from being passed on to our children too.

5) More Stamina for Labor

I recently read an article by a yogi who shared that, “during labor, I reminded myself that each contraction was simply a difficult yoga pose and that breathing, relaxation and persistence would get me through it. (1).”  I believe that #1, #2, #3 above will also be helpful for enhanced stamina during labor. In addition, many child-birthing positions are similar to yoga poses (squats, on hands and knees etc.).

6) More Stamina for Motherhood

Motherhood is demanding! Holding and practicing yoga postures often will strengthen your body so carrying your child will be a breeze (my nearly three-year old still requests to be carried long distances and I simply cannot resist).

7) Relaxation

Savasana*. That is all I will say about that.

*During pregnancy it is NOT recommended to practice corpse pose lying flat on your back. See #8. 

8) Less Fatigue

A sidelying relaxation pose can assist with fatigue and is a great option for savasana during pregnancy. Taking a little “nap” in this pose for 20-30 minutes per day may help fight fatigue. To try it, lay down (on your side) on a soft surface. Place a pillow under your head and neck and drape your upper arm over the pillow. Bend your knees and place a blanket or pillow in between them. A qualified yoga teacher can assist you into this pose so that you feel completely comfortable, without any lower back strain (1).

9) Reduced Nausea

Reclining Hero Pose has helped many women reduce the nausea and indigestion that unfortunately often accompanies pregnancy. A qualified yoga teacher can assist you into this pose so that you are well supported and comfortable (1).

10) Less Pain

Learning simple wall stretches can help reduce the misery of calf camps (that often visit during the night), while other yoga postures (such as Cat-Cow pose) can assist with reducing lower back pain (1).

11) Bonding with your Baby

You can read an article that I shared on the importance of prenatal attachment here. Yoga is just one way to do that.

12) Community and Connection 

A regular prenatal yoga class may very well just introduce you to your new circle of friends. You will bond over pregnancy symptoms and birth stories. You may even choose to connect later on for play dates or a yoga class (with or without baby)!

What benefits have you gained from prenatal yoga?

**It is recommended to discuss starting a prenatal yoga practice with your healthcare provider. If you are new to yoga, start slow, and be sure your class is specifically designed for pregnancy (many poses must be modified).

 

Photo Credit: Brian Tomlinson/Flickr.com

Reference: “Yoga for Pregnancy” by Judith H. Lasater. The Yoga Journal (January/ February 1994).

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Creative DIY Gifts Kids Can Make This Holiday Season http://www.mothering.com/articles/diy-gifts-kids-can-make-this-holiday-season/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/diy-gifts-kids-can-make-this-holiday-season/#comments Thu, 01 Dec 2016 18:05:17 +0000 http://www.mothering.com/articles/?p=171154 Children have so much creative energy - why not put it to use by making holiday gifts that will be cherished for years to come!

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Children have so much creative energy – unleash it by making holiday gifts that will be cherished for years to come! We’ve put together a list of gifts your child can make and give this holiday season.

At our house, we enjoy making gifts. Spending the season talking about what you’re going to give instead of what you’re going to get has made the time pass with a much more magnanimous atmosphere and considerably less whine. Little kids get big poster-sized lists, sometimes with a picture of each person they want to make a gift for, and big kids write up their own lists with much enthusiasm.

Want to give them a try? Here are some of our standard gift-making categories.


Family Tree

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Fancy a little genealogy? You can take this as far as you (or junior) would like. There are a number of wonderful family tree blanks available online that you can print and fill in. A more artistic approach, of course, could be used and an original tree painted. An older child can be tasked to find older, forgotten family members through online search tools and present this new information, perhaps in the form of a little book.

For young children, consider drawing/painting a tree and helping them make finger/thumb prints on the branches. Add faces and maybe arms and legs to the prints and then write names of family members below each print.

You may also like: 10 Unique and Unplugged Activities for Holiday Travel


Fancy Framed Picture

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Among my most prized kid-made gifts are these frames. Get a wooden frame with enough space to glue things (available at your local craft store). Give your kids an assortment of stuff and some glue. Again, I find it works best when you curate the offerings a bit. My mom made these with the girls – she didn’t just hand over the stickers, buttons, beads, paper flowers, pipe cleaners and google eyes. She taught them to be selective about their artistic medium. “This frame is for Daddio. Do you think he would like buttons, googly eyes, or pipe cleaners?”

These frames so perfectly capture the personalities of each of my daughters; they make me smile even a year later. You can let the little crafter choose the photo to go in the frame as well.


Canvas Painting

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This is one of my favorites for the younguns. You can buy these mini canvases, and give your baby a paintbrush with a little paint on it. Talk about the person it is for or show the baby a picture so it inspires their amazing little mind.

It’s best if they are naked and you cover everything else. As soon as it goes south, you can snatch the brush! I have also done this by taping a paintbrush to non-mobile baby’s foot (best with bigger paper/canvas).

You may also like: 5 Simple Toys For Toddlers That Will Hold Their Interest

A toddler can also get in on the fun, choosing their own color paint and a small paintbrush. When I do it with medium kids (5+), I let them pick one or two colors, while I pick one or two complementary colors so that the composition comes out sharper. If they pick a hideous shade, I just don’t put as much of that on the palette. I know, I’m stifling the little Rembrandts! Big kids can make whatever they want.


Beaded Jewelry or Keychain

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Little kids, big beads. Big kids, little beads. Let them pick or just set them to stringing on sturdy string. The obligatory gaudy necklace for Gram, perhaps a few small wine glass markers for grape-enthusiast Aunt Clara, a bracelet for big sister. “What colors does Gram like best? Let’s pick those out. Do you think she would like a necklace or a bracelet best? Does Gram wear necklaces? Hmm…”


Clay Figures and Decor

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My kids love to work with Sculpey. I let them go to town using a few colors to make a centerpiece, mantelpiece, or… whatever piece. Grammy still treasures a small nativity set crafted by my three year old. The pieces were barely identifiable, but I must say it is pretty rad (although, my view is biased!). We once made a toothbrush holder for Gigi. A small catch-all bowl for spare change or earrings would be nice. You can use a ceramic bowl as a guide and cover it as seen above. There are no limits.


Simple Sewing and Stitching Projects

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A few years ago, my then-four-year-old helped sew a turtle pincushion (all her idea) for our elderly neighbor. The neighbor still talks about it… and still uses it for pins!

Using the sewing machine together is fun and helps build skill. Simple, straight-line items are best: baby blankets, pillow cases, throw pillows, a set of placemats. The 8+ set can sew some by hand or do a little cross-stitch.

You may also like: 10 Children’s Clothing and Toy Companies That Give Back

If you’re feeling up to shopping for the materials, 4 to 10 year olds will enjoy making neat designs on their own without a needle! Get some burlap fabric and put it in an embroidery hoop. Purchase some big fat yarn needles (we like the plastic ones) and a few colors of yarn. If you have yarn-type friends, make sure to tell them that you’re a great recipient for their ends and extras. Start the yarn by stitching back and forth a couple times yourself to anchor it in one place in the burlap. Show them how to go over and under with their stitches, not around the side of the frame. Then let them make designs! The possibilities are endless.


Photo Calendar/Collage

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You can make a photo collage digitally or with paper and scissors. Five to eight-year-olds will love looking through a stack of old pictures, cutting and pasting. Walgreens has an easy interface for making photo collages and gifts, calendars. Mess free! Let your kids do it or help choose the pictures and composition. A calendar of photos from the preceding year is Great-Grandma’s favorite gift every year.


Memory Books

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There are many ways to make simple books at home, or you can purchase a small blank one.

My favorite way to do kid-made books is to purchase a small photo ‘brag book’ and give the kids a few 4×6 index cards each day – do one a day or three a day, something small so it stays manageable.. When they complete each card, slip it into one of the pockets. If they “mess up,” you just toss that index card and try again. It’s much better than having to start all over or help a frantic child fix it. There are endless options for topics that can be done. For example, a book for grandma could detail the ways they have fun together or the things the child appreciates about her grandma. Each page would be one of the items with an accompanying picture.

Possible topics include:

  • How to be happy
  • Things that make _(recipient)_ happy
  • Me & _(recipient)_
  • All about __(a topic the recipient likes)
  • Advice for life
  • Field Guide to ___(a topic the recipient likes)
  • Biography of _(recipient)_
  • About our family

Have fun making and giving! And please, feel free to share your ideas and photos in the comment section so we can try your awesome ideas!

Image credits via Flickr/CC: VanessaKathryn CartwrightRuth HartnupLouisa ThomsonKristen L

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How To Stop Judging Your Relationships Based on “Expert” Opinion http://www.mothering.com/articles/how-to-stop-judging-your-relationships-based-on-expert-opinion/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/how-to-stop-judging-your-relationships-based-on-expert-opinion/#comments Thu, 01 Dec 2016 13:00:59 +0000 http://www.mothering.com/articles/?p=141986 It's easy to look at our relationships and mistrust our own judgements based on what others are telling us.

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It’s easy to look at our relationships and mistrust our own judgements based on what others are telling us.  But never forget to celebrate your imperfections with compassion and love.

There are times when I want to collapse from the overpowering wave of not-knowing that washes over me in moments of conflict or overwhelm: my boys at each other’s throats or my husband and I in an argument or a temporary falling out with a soul-sister or the state of the world or the homeless man on the corner. The world seems to storm around me like the fluttering of a thousand moths, a hurricane of emotions tipping into a flicker of despair from the awareness that we all struggle and nobody has the answers.

Where’s the magic wand? Where’s the ultimate parenting manual that teaches us in the trenches how to ensure that our kids will get along like boats sailing on a lake as smooth as cream? How do we solve the world’s pain? Does anyone have the answers?

Related: Couples Share Their Best Relationship Advice

But then something else takes over. It usually arrives in the aftermath of repair when someone has come forward with the courageous act of true accountability and the other person receives. These moments of vulnerability soften me into submission, an acceptance that while we don’t know what we’re doing, maybe we don’t have to know. And then the awareness that we’re not supposed to have the answers and, in fact, that there are no answers filters in, another warm breeze of softness. It reminds of Rilke’s famous quote:

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

Part of what trips us up is that we expect life and relationships to be easy. There is nothing easy about life, and relationships especially seem to stir up every hidden demon, every dusty complex, every latent, unshed tear from our own life and our parents’ secret histories hidden away in the attics of their psyches.

Relationships ask us to grow in ways that nothing else does or can. And yet when we don’t feel like kissing our partner, we wonder what’s wrong. When our kids are struggling socially or academically or spiritually we wonder what’s wrong. We search for answers and usually end feeling worse about ourselves, falling prey to the implicit message that’s filtered into our daily life that says, “If you follow my advice, your kid or relationship or life will be conflict-free and effortless.”

A more comforting and realistic mindset is to know that every moment of flow is a small miracle. When my open heart aligns with your open heart and we want to experience closeness together; when the kids find their way to a creative game that satisfies them both; when friendship flows for weeks or months or years on end without a blip… to me, this is evidence of Spirit at work.

Why?

Because there are so many ways that our hearts close, when fear or jealousy or negative habits prevail and prevent others from merging with your river, that when two open hearts meet in a cosmic, joyous collision – when your desire to kiss aligns with my desire to be kissed – it’s a holy moment of grace.

But instead of celebrating those moments as miracles we’re conditioned to expect them. And when they don’t occur, we invariably wonder what’s wrong: What’s wrong my relationship, with my kids, with my parenting skills, with my ability to be a good friend? The culture trains us to expect perfection, and reinforces that expectation with endless books and blogs that pretend to carry the treasure map to the Holy Grail.

Related: What is your Relationship to … Life?

Fifty percent of relationships are repair, a friend once shared with me after a session with her therapist. Those words stuck, a rudder in the sometimes rocky sea of relationships. This same friend and I used to talk for hours as young mothers about our irritation with parenting books that deigned to assume that they could provide the answers to every question we struggled with: sleep, food, temperament, sibling issues, marriage challenges as young parents. We read the books and only felt worse about ourselves because we inevitably came up short compared to the examples in the books: Do this technique and your child will sleep through the night! Follow these steps and your kids will never fight! We did and we followed and still the challenges prevailed.

We quickly learned to stop reading the books, and considered writing one ourselves that would have said: There are no definite answers. Trust yourself. Nobody knows your kids like you do. This worked for me and it might work for you, but if it doesn’t, just try something else.

And there may not be an answer to your problem. It may be that the answer is to allow for the struggle and to know that not all questions have answers. And to trust that, with time and enough compassionate love toward yourself and your kids, most challenges resolve with time. Your kids will sleep. They will eat vegetables. They will play with other kids and learn to share. Give it time. It’s their timetable, not yours.

It’s the same conversation my friend, Carrie, and I have today about what we read in most marriage and meditation books and blogs: Follow these tools and you’ll live a pain-free life. It doesn’t work that way. It doesn’t work because there is no way to live on this planet and not experience pain and struggle. It doesn’t work because there is no “there”, there is no “complete”, there is no perfect life.

We are all unformed: you, me, our partners, friends, and kids. I believe now that even people we hold up as figures of completion or perfection – the Dalai Lama, Pema Chodron, Jesus – are and were raw as well. The difference, I think, is that as a result of years of dedicated practice, they’re able to move toward their raw spots with love and compassion. They probably react less impulsively than most people do, but when they do “act out” they move toward the reaction with curiosity. But I’m guessing they are as imperfect as the rest of us.

We derive such comfort in knowing that we’re not alone in our imperfections. The path of comparisons in unhelpful at the least, dangerous in most cases. The path to liberation lies in cultivating a daily, moment-to-moment relationship to our most uncomfortable places, trusting that when life grabs us by the ankles and drags us into the underworld, that is when we grow the most.

When we shift our mindset from lamenting to learning, we step out of the victim role – “why did this happen to me?” – and into the hero’s saddle, where we remember that our entire life, from birth to death, is one long transitional interlude that is designed to help us learn and grow our capacity to know and be known, to soften into compassion, to love and be loved. We remember that there is no finish line, that we are all raw and unformed, and with this remembrance we stop fighting life and bring a little more self-love to ourselves as we journey through this painful, glorious planet we call Earth.

Photo credit: Nicolee Camacho/Flickr

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Want to Eat Mindfully This Holiday Season? Here’s Your Game Plan http://www.mothering.com/articles/want-eat-mindfully-holiday-season-heres-game-plan/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/want-eat-mindfully-holiday-season-heres-game-plan/#comments Tue, 29 Nov 2016 21:19:55 +0000 http://www.mothering.com/articles/?p=170098 Concerned that your holiday food choices are in danger of getting out of hand?

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Want to Eat Mindfully This Holiday Season? Here's Your Game Plan

Concerned that your holiday food choices are in danger of getting out of hand? Here are the strategies that I use to help my family eat mindfully throughout our end-of-year celebrations.

Overcome the scarcity mindset. So many of us look forward to enjoy specific dishes only once or twice every year. You know the ones I’m talking about — sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, pumpkin cheesecake pie,  Aunt Margaret’s homemade dinner rolls… Is your mouth watering yet?

Since we know these are not recipes on our typical menu rotation, we may have a tendency to overindulge. This sense of scarcity is, in most cases, false. There are several occasions, even just in the weeks around Christmas, to enjoy rare treats: work parties, school parties, hosting dinners and going to Grandma’s house — and it can add up! Plus, if we really wanted to, we could make these at any time throughout the year. I’d bet Aunt Margaret might even share her famous dinner roll recipe (okay, maybe not, but you could ask.)

Fill your plate with foods that are nourishing and try to limit the quantities of the foods that are tasty but lack much nutritional value. Slow down, savor each bite and listen to your body. When you feel content, give yourself permission to be done, even if you haven’t yet enjoyed a slice of pie. I’d bet there will still be a piece a few hours later or even the next day. Just be sure to take time to enjoy your food without feeling rushed.

Make healthy alternatives to traditional dishes. There are so many incredible recipes out there for healthy holiday dishes. The main idea of most of them is to make our recipes from real foods.

While a lot of traditional foods have condensed soups or are saturated in salt and sugar, you can substitute and amend them to have natural sweeteners, no additives, whole milk or nut milk and season to taste.

Check out these ideas for healthy holiday dishes. Roasted veggies, desserts made from dates or sweetened with honey, hot drinks made from real cocoa or fresh fruit, grain-free pie crusts — the possibilities are endless! Danielle Walker from Against All Grain just released a new cookbook and I bet it’s just full of inspiration!

Keep up with your water intake. Sometimes when we are so busy cooking, prepping, visiting and eating, we forget to stay hydrated. I know I’ve been at family get-togethers and hours will go by while I stay thirsty.

We probably need even more water than usual because we are consuming more sugar, salty foods and hot drinks. Make a plan to keep your water bottle with you. Even if you have cocoa or cider, keep taking sips of water, too. Don’t forget the little ones need water too, so remind them during and between meals to stay hydrated.

Don’t stress. If you feel stressed and nervous while you eat, you won’t feel good about it anyway. Decide on your plan, contribute some good options to the table and enjoy! Don’t let food be a burden on your body or your mind. Tis’ the season for joy and comfort!

photo courtesy of karriezhu

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