Tag Archives: carnival

Learning to be a Mother

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.


Spending my days and nights with Joshua for the past ten months has taught me about myself and about how to be a mother.

My first lesson was in patience.  I always thought of myself as patient, since I’m a teacher and patience is necessary for survival, but also because I am willing to work and wait in hopes that my patience will pay off.   We may have saved for years to build our house, we may have waited five years after getting married to start a family, I may have earned multiple college degrees, but I didn’t know what real patience was until I became a mother.  Real patience, I learned, is pacing the floors in the middle of the night, rocking my baby to sleep.  Real patience is nursing my baby for four hours straight each evening for the first three months, and learning to eat my dinner with one hand (even the left one).  Real patience is changing my baby’s diaper or clothes or my own clothes for the fifth or sixth or seventh time that day, before noon.  Real patience is what enabled me to do these things quietly, calmly, even happily.

I also learned to trust my instincts.  Experts, both respected and self-proclaimed, are contstantly telling me how to feed my son, how often to pick him up, what to dress him in, how to lay him down to sleep, how to get him to sleep through the night, when to start solids, when he should reach each milestone.  After some self-doubt early on, I realized that nobody knows my baby better than I do.  So far, my instincts have led me to breastfeed on-cue exclusively for the first six months, nurse in public, cosleep, respond to my baby’s cries, hold or wear my baby, feed him real foods, and allow him to achieve milestones on his own developmental timeline.  I’ve learned to smile, nod, and discard advice that doesn’t meld with my instincts.

Finally, in these last ten months I’ve learned what it means to love a child.  I always knew what it was like to love my parents, siblings, other family members, friends, and of course my husband, but I now know what the love of a mother for her baby feels like.  It is unconditional, unwavering.  I understand why mothers in nature can be the most formidable, fearless, and dangerous protectors of their babies.  My resolve to live sustainably has strengthened since becoming a mother, since I see it as an extension of protecting my son and providing for his future.  Joshua owns my heart and my soul.

P.S. This is my 800th post!


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:



Filed under Home, parenting, Sustainable Living

Greening Back to School

This post is my contribution to the Green Moms Carnival.  This month’s carnival is hosted by Mindful Momma and the topic is “Back to School.”

Last night, a family friend asked me about what we teachers ask students to purchase for going back to school.  He had heard a radio story about people being asked to bring in rolls of toilet paper, paper towels, hand sanitizer and other non-educational items.  Can I just say that this is ridiculous?

Now, I may have a different perspective because I teach high school and my only requirements are that each student covers his or her book, has a notebook of his or her choice, and brings some sort of writing utensil.  I’m easy to please.  If kids want highlighters, colored pencils, a fancy trapper keeper (do they still make those?) or a TI-86 calculator, good for them.  But those aren’t REQUIRED items in my classroom.

As an environmental educator and an environmentalist, I encourage kids to skip purchasing new items and use the ones they have at home that are perfectly good.  At the end of each year when kids clean out their lockers, I inevitably see them throwing out binders, notebooks, folders, etc.  I spend much of my time standing by the trash, asking them if they’d like to donate it to my classroom instead.  I’d much prefer that they’d save it for next year, and I’m sure their parents would like that, but teenagers don’t always think cost-effectively.  Fast-forward to the next school year and I offer students my “salvaged” binders on the first day, first-come-first-served, and explain that they’re reusing, an important part of Reduce-Reuse-Recycle.  Since I was on maternity leave at the end of last year, I have no binders to give away this year.  But I’ll encourage kids to check out what they have at home before buying new.

Some ideas: Do you have any idea how many partially used spiral notebooks there are? You probably have many in your house.  Why not cut out the paper and put it in a binder instead of buying new? Or simply rip out the used pages and you have a brand new notebook! Why not use scrap paper or junk mail instead of buying post-it notes or pads? Do you really need to buy new pens, pencils, crayons, rulers, calculators? Why not shop around at home before heading out to the store? It’ll save you some money and reduce your impact on the planet.

Finally, when it comes to buying toilet paper, paper towels and hand sanitizer (my school doesn’t do this),  I think it’s crazy, but I can understand wanting to use as much of the budget for education as possible.  However, as a taxpayer, I don’t want to have to go out and buy these things that the school should provide.  It would make much more sense for the school to buy these items in bulk, and thereby save money, packaging and a lot of aggravated parents.  If your child’s school is asking for these items, I’d encourage you to contact the teacher, principal, superintendent or Board of Education.  It just makes no sense for children to bring these items to school.  (It reminds me of a story my grandfather told about being required to bring wood for the wood stove to his one-room school house, and that the kids who brought the most wood got to sit closest to the fire.)  Maybe you can explain that your family chooses to use cloth wipes instead of toilet paper? That would be a fun way to introduce yourself to the new teacher!

Do you have any tips for going back to school without being a mega-consumer?


Filed under Sustainable Living

Cucumber Yogurt Dip

This is a quick and easy, healthy summer recipe.  Contrary to what I post here, I don’t subsist solely on pie! I just happen to like posting those yummy recipes.  Anyway, I have been trying to consume a more healthful diet for a variety of reasons, and a couple of weeks ago, I was introduced to tzatziki at a picnic at my parents’ house.  I’m a dip fiend, whether it be my mom’s standby sour cream/cottage cheese dip, layered Mexican dip, onion dip, or creamy fruit dip, I will stand there and eat dip until it is gone.  So when I read the label on the tzatziki and saw that its base was yogurt, I realized it could be a really healthy dip!  I’ve been experimenting and have come up with a recipe that I really like, so when Ruchi challenged everyone to post healthy recipes, I knew I should share.  Since I can’t properly pronounce “tzatziki,” I just call this “Cucumber Yogurt Dip.”

cucumber yogurt dip 005

  • 1 cup Greek-style yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp reduced-fat sour cream (optional)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 pickle cucumber, or 1/2 a regular cucumber
  • splash of lemon juice
  • fresh chives and dill, to taste
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • fresh veggies or pita chips for dipping

Peel the cucumber and chop it finely.  Lay on paper towels in a bowl, sprinkle with a pinch of salt and allow to drain for about 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, combine the yogurt, sour cream, garlic, a splash of lemon juice, chopped fresh chives and dill, salt and pepper.  Stir in the cucumbers, then arrange on a platter with veggies from your garden and a few pita chips.  In the photo above, the snap peas and multi-colored carrots are from my garden, the green and yellow summer squash is from my family’s farm, and the tomatoes are from the grocery store, though we should have our own soon. 

So what qualifies this as a healthy recipe? Well, yogurt has active cultures and calcium, and the veggies have vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and all those other phytonutrients that are so good for us.  The garlic in the dip is good for your heart, the carrots are good for your eyes… I could go on and on.  This recipe is also healthy for the earth, since the veggies are as local as possible.

If you’ve got a healthy recipe to share, please join in on Ruchi’s carnival at Arduous Blog!


Filed under Food, Gardening, Living from Scratch, Local Agriculture, Recipes, Sustainable Living

Conscious Environmentalism

This post is my contribution to the January APLS Blog Carnival, which will be hosted this month by Cath at VWXYNot and posted on January 22.

Sometimes it’s hard to make the right decisions in favor of the environment.  Sometimes it’s hard to even know what the best choice is for the environment.  Cath from VWXYNot posed the question about what kind of “Mind Games” we play to help us make those right choices. 

When I was a teenager and faced with a tough choice, I would think about my parents.  Would they be proud of my decision? I’d also think about how I would feel when I looked back on the situation as an adult.  Would I be proud of myself? These questions helped guide me to the right choice.  Well, usually.

Now, as an adult, when I have to make tough decisions about anything, including the environment, I still wonder: Would my parents be proud of me? I know that my parents are proud of the choices I make.  Sometimes, they think I’m a bit extreme, especially when they come over and our house is too cold.  But they know that I make conscious decisions to better the environment.  My dad offers advice about wood furnaces and apple trees, and my mom has even gone to the Island School Teacher’s Workshop with me.  (The Island School is a sustainable school in the Bahamas.  Read about our experience here.)

Part of living more sustainably is living an old-fashioned, simpler lifestyle, like our predecessors.  I’ll often think of my grandmothers and great-grandmothers when I think about living sustainably.  I’ve been very fortunate to have strong relationships with both of my grandmothers throughout my whole life. 

Mema (my mom’s mom) lives simply on a former dairy farm/current horse farm.  When I was growing up, I loved to go to Mema and Pa’s house to visit.  Growing a garden for much of their own food, drinking the milk from their cows, and sewing much of their own clothes is a part of Mema’s life.  Mema cooks on a woodstove and makes the best soup I’ve tasted, and doesn’t forget to save all the kitchen scraps for the barn cats or the chickens.  Mema taught me how to sew, knit and crochet, and I remember watching her freeze corn and can tomatoes when I was little.

Golligol (my dad’s mom) is also a farmer’s wife, and we all lived on the farm as one big family: Golligol, Pa, my parents, my brothers, various aunts, uncles and cousins, and us, until Ed and I moved off the farm a year ago.  I’ve spent many hours alongside Golligol working in our family’s farm market.  She taught me how to wait on customers and make change in my head.  She taught me how to bake pies and sort through all kinds of different produce, making the displays of corn, strawberries and tomatoes look appetizing.  She’s been a proponent of local food since way before the locavore movement, but she’s happy it’s bringing in new customers.

My great-grandmothers, Grandma Rose and Grandma Gedney, were also a big part of my life.  Grandma Rose was what I would imagine to be the traditional farmer’s wife.  She sewed quilts for us, was an excellent cook, kept a neat house despite all the kids and dogs that visited, and loved to get outdoors to her garden and walk around the farm.  Grandma Gedney was very different from Grandma Rose: she had a driver’s license.  She loved to have fun and drive around town, and she wore the most beautiful jewelry.  I admire both of them for what made them different: Grandma Rose’s traditionalism and Grandma Gedney’s independence.  I miss them both, but I realize I was very lucky to know them, especially since Grandma Rose lived until I was in high school and Grandma Gedney lived until a few years ago.  Most women don’t get to know their great-grandmothers that well and for that long.  I like to think that the way I live my life now would make them proud.

What does this all have to do with environmentalism? These women are my role models.  When I try to make an important decision, I wonder what they would do.  All four of my grandmothers and great-grandmothers would live simply, avoid being wasteful, value the work that goes into growing , cooking and preserving their own food, and have a strong love for animals and the outdoors.  I think those are pretty good guidelines to follow.


Filed under Sustainable Living