Google+ Authentic Parenting: November 2012

Friday, November 30, 2012

Are You Truly Grateful? 8 Steps to Gratitude as a Way of Life

Welcome to the November 2012 Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival: Gratitude and Traditions This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival hosted by Authentic Parenting and Living Peacefully with Children. This month our participants have written about gratitude and traditions by sharing what they are grateful for, how they share gratitude with their children, or about traditions they have with their families. The Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival will be taking a break in December, but we hope you will join us for the great line up of themes we have for 2013!


 I have been thinking a lot about gratitude lately, as I feel that it's an important part of leading a balanced life, a content life. And that's what I'm striving for, as I'm tackling this depression head on. I do not think one should live a life of happiness, that's an overstated Western notion - for in the pursuit of happiness, we lose sight of what's important and tend to forget that life happens as we're pursuing happiness - happiness is the white spots among the many grey and couple of black ones. It's the grey ones we should aim to create: contentment, balance, mindfulness, call it what you wish.

When I lived in Ivory Coast, my cook was a Nigerian woman who permeated gratitude. Gratitude for her was not just an act as we Westerners seem to think it is, it was a characteristic, a way of life. She would truly surrender and accept life with a smile, even it's nasty sides when they stuck up their head.
I think partly, this attitude was due to the fact that she was religious - she was a devout Muslim, but that cannot be the sole denominator, as I know many muslims who do not live a life of acceptance and gratitude.
Another part of it may be that this woman had known many hardships. She had fled her country of origin at a young age, had lost her father early on, and lived in a country that had been torn by war twice in just over a decade.
And yet another part of the explanation is that she was raised by one of those extremely strong women I have oft had the pleasure to meet in Africa. This woman had fought to avoid her daughters from getting the tribal tattoos which were tradition in her Yoruba culture, she had fled her country of origin with her many children and started a new life for herself. She had lived an arranged marriage with a much older man and had managed to live it happily - sorry! - content. She had survived and healed from miscarriage before getting her last miracle child, Mariam, who ended up being my cook. At age 76, when I met her, she would still walk all the way to the city to get her merchandise to sell at her (flourishing) shop.

I have also found that - like many other Westerners - I do not permeate gratitude. I question life, what I get, I wonder if there's something better out there for me, I am not content. And this is a great way to set oneself up for frustration, anger, and ultimately, depression.

So how does one go from our Western notion of always wanting more, where gratitude is an act we commit a couple of times a year, when we're reminded of it, to living a grateful life?

8 steps to gratitude as a way of life:

  • Accept every day as a gift
  • Don't think that you're entitled to anything
  • Delete all of your expectations
  • Be present
  • Express gratitude everyday, make it a mantra at meditation. You can wake up and just say: "I am thankful for this day", "I am thankful for my children, my family..." If you're completely uninspired, just repeat "thank you" a couple of times.
  • Accept that you are part of something bigger (here it is up to you to see this as religious, or spiritual or just nature) and that you don't have all the answers, and surrender to this fact.
  • Let go of control.
  • Surround yourself by inspiring people. If you're around people you're grateful to be with, people who light your spark instead of dampen your spirits, you'll be more inclined to be thankful.

Thank you for reading!

APBC - Authentic Parenting ***

  Visit Living Peacefully with Children and Authentic Parenting to find out how you can participate in next year's Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival!   Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants: (This list will be live and updated by afternoon November 30 with all the carnival links.)


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Finding Gratitude in the Simplest of Things

Once a week, our family has a meeting where we share appreciations, compliments or things we are thankful for - we do this year round - it's simply a great way for us to build memories while giving each family member a time to reflect and have their very own chance to share (if they want) their thoughts with the whole family about, well, anything really.

Thinking of the past few meetings some of the things my children have expressed appreciation for have varied from being simple, sweet, profound, touching, funny and beyond. Where I don't mean to label or value one thing over the other, I just mean to say their appreciations are varied in so many ways. For example:

"I appreciate all broccoli of the world because I like to eat it." 
"I appreciated when you helped me find my lost playmobil dude"
"I appreciate that we have nice family and healthy food and toys"
"I want to say thank you that you took us to the circus - the acrobatics were cool"
"I say thank you to my brother that he let me borrow his bike"
"I appreciate you had the medicine kit when the wasp stung me, it was good you were prepared, it hurt a lot and you helped me feel better"
"Thank you for the cheese."
"Thank you for listening to my story about what happened at school"
"I appreciate my sister cleaned up the lego, I was too tired and she knew that"
"Thank you worms for making the earth better and sharks for not biting us in the ocean"

Hearing my children appreciate the smallest of things is such a spark for me to appreciate everything, to feel incredibly grateful and blessed.  Finding gratitude in the simplest of things and sometimes even in the hardest moments, each and every week truly connects us and is so special.

How do you encourage gratitude in your family?

Peace & Be Well,


Friday, November 16, 2012

Journalling - How To

Image: Lisa Anne Paul
Journalling can be a good way into emotional healing and dealing with difficult feelings. It's also inexpensive and you can do it on your own.
Here are a couple of ideas to help you on your way.

First of all, successful journalling depends on routine.

  • Keep your journal in a fixed place
  • Keep craft items like glue, glitter, markers, pencils, different colors of ballpoints next to your journal
  • Set aside a moment every day to create your journal
I personally like mixed media journalling because art can really tap into your soul, into places where words can't go. But I also think it's important to write and find out - in words - what's going on in our inner world.

Depending on how you feel at the time you create your journal, you can choose to just write, create or write on a prompt.
Some prompts to get you going:
  • I am angry because...
  • Today I feel...
  • I wish I could
  • My body is
  • When I was little I...
Creating prompts can sprout from the feelings you are struggling with, or from the things you feel like you should be dealing with. Just let your feelings and words spill on the paper, don't sit and think. You should enter a sort of meditative writing spell, where the words just flow through your pen. The same when you are art journalling.

If you take up the challenge, please, take a moment to share how it's going!


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Parenting with Depression

I have been depressed for quite some time now.

I didn't realize it was depression until Lauren from Hobo Mama pointed int out in a conversation on Facebook. She thought it was Post Partum depression, and even though the aftermath of our Buddha's birth was traumatic to say the least, in all honesty, this has been going on for way longer.
I began to research depression online and yes, I fit the bill. In every imaginable aspect.

Some of the signs:
- inability to cry
- unable to feel emotions
- thinking about or attempting suicide
- anger
- feeling like you might harm yourself, your kids or a family member

Image: Yuliya Libkina

Acknowledging this is what made me write the Overwhelm series. You can find lots of useful tips in the series to overcome depression, and to avoid it. But sometimes, self help just isn't enough to overcome your illness.
I have long known that I will not get out of this on my own. This long lasting depression goes deeper than birth trauma, or difficulties adapting to our new family unit, or even the different trauma's I went through the past couple of years. This depression taps into much deeper hurts? Things I have tucked away and repressed. Things I need to deal with in order to heal.
My aversion to myself and the sheer distance between me and any other human being - both physical and emotional - makes it impossible to have a healing conversation, to allow myself to have an emotional outpour.
So I started searching for a therapist or councilor, but it seems impossible in the situation I am in, so for me, I guess i have to drag this burden along a little further.

As a parent, depression takes a toll on the family is extra hard to bare, as you are responsible for your children. This knowledge can drag you down further and entail guilt.

  • am I hurting my children?
  • what kind of example am I setting
  • I'm stealing my children's youth
  • I'm bothering my children, they would be better off without me...
Depression is an illness that is frowned upon. Most people see it as a sign of weakness, or not even an illness at all. Something you can easily overcome if you just 'suck it up' and 'get it together'. It is a taboo and we tend not to want to talk about it. 

I wanted to write this post for others who might recognize themselves in these writings.

Image: Yuliya Libkina
  • If you feel stuck and all of the things I have suggested in the Overwhelm series aren't enough to get you out of this, please, find someone you can trust and confide in. This can be a coach, a councilor or a therapist, or even a friend or family member, if you are confident enough to confide all to someone you know. 
  • If you need instant, profound healing, you might want to jumpstart your healing with a retreat, there are many different retreats out there, in all budget ranges.
  • Start a journal, where you can let your feelings pour out. I will write another article on journalling later on. 
  • Make sure you have a support system in place where you can turn to whenever you need it. The most important thing is that you and your family are safe, so if you feel like it's too much, call on someone to take your kids. Don't worry about 'imposing' or being inconvenient. Your health and safety should always be the top priority


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Calming Meditations: Coping with Parental Stress

This article is part of the Mommy Overwhelm series. We looked at the signs of overwhelm, and shared self-care activities to lower parental stress , food, herbs and supplements to strengthen your resistance to stress and battle depression and some positive parenting affirmations.

Parenting without stress – what a feat that would be! Is it actually possible?
As parents we are responsible for so much…and so stress it seems will always be somewhat part of life.
Stress however doesn’t need to consume us or rule how we parent – we can learn to parent calmly and peacefully even through stressful situations, like discovering poop on the bathroom wall or answering questions about genitals in the middle of the store.

Stress affects both our minds and our bodies and so learning to deal well with our own stress we can better accept the feelings that come if stress starts to affect our parenting responses. Being rested, eating well and taking small breaks can help manage stress, and yet that is not always possible, especially if the children are ill or if we have unplanned circumstances…So what I find that helps me a lot no matter what is going on is to end each day with a calming meditation.

Calming meditations can help improve sleep, focus and help us remain
calm throughout the day.

Short meditations to calm the mind are easy to do and the more I use them, the more I find calmness and inner balance. It's a wonderful way to start and end each day but they can be done anytime really. I like mantra meditations which is simply repeating a calming phrase or even just one word silently and focusing thought on that.
Some helpful phrases are:

  • Calm is welcome
  • Love heals
  • Choose Peace
  • Stillness is within me
  • I am kind. I am Calm.
Really you can choose any phrase you want, mantras are there to give your mind something to do and focus your thoughts away from things like “oh what madness! poop on the wall!!?? You have got to be kidding me, why did I have kids…oh right because I love them…but really poop..on the freakin’ walls…I wish that had never happened…ever...”
Not that having those thoughts are bad or wrong, but ending the day with “I am kind. I am Calm.” definitely feels more serene.
So…what’s stressing you out and how are you coping?

Photo credit: premasagar / Foter / CC BY-NC

Ariadne Brill is a certified positive discipline parenting educator. She has three children, loves chocolate and is passionate about helping parents and children create harmony at home. Find Ariadne on Facebook and at the positive parenting connection, a resource for gentle and positive parenting.


Monday, November 12, 2012

APBC Call For Submissions - Gratitude and Traditions

This month I have teamed up with Living Peacefully with Children to host the Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival. With winter coming in and magical holidays getting closer, we wanted to take this carnival to take a look at traditions our families hold, new or old, and at how we express gratitude.

Feeling inspired?

Please fill out the form below and send your full text to mamapoekie {at} yahoo {dot} com and mandy {at} livingpeacefullywithchildren {dot} com

Next month we'll be taking the month off, but we'll be back with new and exciting topics in January. Keep an eye on the carnival page to keep up to date.


Friday, November 9, 2012

The Girl I Used To Be

Eurico Zimbres on Wikimedia commons

I’m not the girl I was before,
It’s something quite bizarre
I am not less, I am not more
I resemble from afar.

But once upon a closer look
You’d see the way these changes took
My hips got wider, feet got larger
belly loosened too,
I got some wrinkles and some marks,
‘cause I gave birth to you.

I’m not the girl I used to be
Yet do not frown my brow,
‘cause though that girl’s no longer me
I am a woman now.


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Television, Guilt and Jumping Jacks.

(This post is a Rerun)
So my children watch television and often I feel guilty about it. It’s not so bad that it keeps me up at night, my little Bella nursing is the one doing that, but I digress. I don’t really think my children are being too terribly damaged by watching television; the truth is I just feel guilty because I didn't really want them to watch until much later in life and it did not fit with my original pre-baby (perfectionist) parenting goals.

With just one child, it was pretty easy to avoid the tv. My first was very content in a carrier or stacking wooden blocks or looking at books while I tended to the floors and dishes that would just not scrub themselves no matter how much I wished for that, plus there was nap time to get everything else done.

With two children, it started to get a bit tricky to resist turning on the telly. For one thing, most of our friends were letting their little ones watch and talked about all the shows. Peer pressure, non-withstanding  those wooden blocks were no longer being just stacked but also being knocked down by the younger sibling and tears and screams would ensue. Those floors and dishes were still not scrubbing themselves and sleep deprivation compounding over two years, twenty minutes of animal rescue hardly seemed like the end of the world – but to me, I confess it was and I even cried about it.

image credit: digitalart
Now, there are three of them, two dogs and only one of me. If I were to turn the TV on every time I wanted to rest or prevent a squabble it would be on all the time and I don’t want that. I confess however that I have realized after loads of research to ease my guilty conscious, that it’s not all that terrible either. I have learned that content, amount and attitude about watching is really what matters.
Pre-screening shows for content and messages is really important, if I cannot watch a show with the boys, I like to know what they are watching. We use DVD's and the DVR to avoid commercials and as a bonus it give us the freedom to start and stop the show when needed. I have no doubt that what they watch does influence them greatly.

Recently the boys have been watching a show about dinosaurs and the different episodes have some nice messages about not being a bully, sharing, being unique to name a few. After they watched they started pretending they were a triceratops and a velociraptor. They decided to build caves and dinosaur nests and even pretended to hunt and prep dinosaur food.

Visitng a triceratop at the Senckenbergmuseum in Frankfurt.
A twenty minute show led my boys to play creatively together for nearly two hours, as a team. Then they asked to look at dinosaur books, worked on coloring pages and had so many questions about paleontology, extinction and even contemplated becoming herbivores, although that was short lived when they realized fish would be off the menu.
The amount of television watched each day in our house is pretty varied. Ideally I would limit it to thirty minutes, however, as the boys get older, their interest and show choices are becoming diverse, to be fair they usually each get to choose one show a day. That could mean one chooses a five minute show and the other a twenty minute show, for now they are not comparing times but rather the ability to make a choice.
One time, Maxi (5 yrs old) wanted to watch a show that was about forty minutes in length, and I remarked it was quite long. Very quickly he suggested that he would pause and exercise during the show so he would not make his body too tired. His idea has stuck and now whenever the boys watch something longer in length we pause and do jumping jacks, crab walking or some other silly exercise before resuming the show again.
Some days, we make exceptions and watch a little more, other days like yesterday we don’t watch at all. Truth is, I love watching a good movie or a fun television show myself. I don't want the television to become a coveted and prohibited item, I think that will make it worse down the road. Its not a reward or taken away as punishment either. It's just something we can choose to do, best of all if we do it together.
There are so many other things to worry and stress about as a parent. The reality is we play, read, sing, go on fun outings  then we read some more. We laugh, invent build and bake together too. So I am resolved to calm this television induced guilt and embrace my children’s enjoyment of these shows and most of all how they spin these experiences into games and creative endeavors, jumping jacks included.

Is there something you do as a parent that makes you feel guilty even if you know it's not all that bad?
Peace & Be Well,

Ariadne has three children, she practices peaceful, playful, responsive parenting and is passionate about all things parenting and chocolate. She believes parents and children should try to have fun everyday and love life. Find her on Facebook and at the positive parenting connection!


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

10 Super Foods and How To Use Them

Nature has a way of putting the best things for us humble humans in the natural foods it creates. Generally speaking, weeds, nuts, seeds and berries are the most nutrient dense foods one can find, so it's only smart to add them to our daily regimen.

  1. Dandelion: this common weed can be eaten from flower to root, it's lovely in salads or herbal pesto, you can make coffee from it's roots. You can easily harvest it yourself. Use it raw in salads and soups or dry and store for later. 
  2. Nettle: again a lovely nutritious weed that just grows in our gardens for free. Nettle is the most complete source of nutrients for man.
  3. Chia seeds are a good souce of omega-3 fatty acids, it's high in energy and lowers blood sugar levels. Get a couple of recipes here.
  4. Sesame seeds have one of the highest oil content of any seed, its oil has the highest antioxidant value of any oil.
  5. Spirulina is a saltwater algae. Rosemary Gladstar lists it as one of the supplements women should be taking every day. It looks and tastes very green, so it might take some getting used to. Spirulina is a complete protein and is a serious nutrient bomb. It's also a powerful antioxidant.
  6. Maca is a root, used as a vegetable and a medicinal herb. It is very beneficial for the central nervous system. It is shown to tighten libido and improve semen quality, among other things.
  7. Turmeric: This is truly a little miracle, traditionally used in curry mixes, turmeric on its own gives a nice yellow color to your dishes. It is fat soluble, so mix it in oil for optimal absorption. Turmeric is a cure for inflammation, The more turmeric is researched, the more we find results of its virtues.
  8. Green tea: Green tea is a great antioxidant, it slows early aging symptoms and even inhibits the growth of cancer. It's also shown to lower cholesterol.
  9. Goji berries or wolf berries have been long known in chinese herbal medicine. They are these long wrinkled berries that taste more savory than sweet. The berry's high nutrient value and antioxidant qualities have made it come to Western attention in recent years.
  10. Honey is an amazing food. It has so many health benefits and is a natural medicine on its own, among other things, it relieves throat ache and it heals burn wounds. If you just consider how honey is made, you realize it can't be other than magical.
Buying remarks
To me, the nicest way to use super foods is to use them as foods, instead of supplements, because it can get quite tedious to take a whole set of pills at every meal. Moreover, the quality of your super food is often a lot better in it's original form then when you get it in pills.
It's also a good idea to buy organic, and from a reliable source. You wouldn't want your superfood to be a super poison, would you!
Another good tip is to buy in bulk, as you will be consuming them on a daily basis for the whole family, this will also cut the tab a little.

How to use
Now you've spent some money on these lovely nutritional bombs (or you spent he afternoon harvesting them in your back yard), best use them too!

Here are a couple of ideas on integrating super foods into your diet on a daily basis. It will take some experimenting and some getting used too, but try a couple of these ideas and find out what works for you:

  • Adding your superfood to a smoothy: oils and powders can easily be added to delicious smoothies. You don't need much to create a lovely smoothy: a banana and a cup of coconut oil can do the trick, but there are lots and lots of flavors and textures to experiment with. Start out with a little bit of your superfood, because some (like spirulina or chlorella) have a very overpowering flavor. It's also a good idea to use same colored fruits when you're using brightly colored additives. Remember, the eye eats too!
  • Food sprinkle: lots of dry herbs and small seeds can be added into a herb sprinkle bottle. Much nicer to have this on the table then the traditional salt and pepper. And have a pot of your mixture  close to your cooker too, so you can ameliorate your omelets and stir-fries. Right now, I have a sprinkler with chia seeds, sesame seeds, nettle, dandelion leaf, thyme, turmeric and oregano sitting on my table. Again, experiment with the flavors until you find something you like.
  • Olive oil with a boost: powdered and dry leafy herbs can easily be added to olive oil. This is another great mix to have on your table, it can act as a ready made dressing for any salad, or a quick flavory bread spread.
  • Pesto: Use your green herbs and powders to boost your pesto. Never made pesto before? It's very simple, check out this slide for lots of inspiration!
  • Making pesto is so easy and delicious, and it's so nutritious. Image: PhylB
  • Broth: adding roots, herbs and seeds to your broth will give you a magnificently healing broth.


Monday, November 5, 2012

Hitting the Road with Kids

content provided by Alex S. 

Every year thousands of families hit the road for a trip. They may be going to grandmas for the holidays, seeking out adventure through camping and outdoor fun, or heading to any number of vacation hot spots. No matter where they are traveling, with a few simple and fun ideas the trip there can be just as exciting as the destination itself. Something that can be done ahead of time would be to have the kids help plan the trip. While they do this the kids can study about the destinations and know more about where they are going and what they will be seeing. Each child could even pick a roadside attraction or something fun along the way to do. The kids will look forward to these stops and really feel a part of the road trip process.

Image: mamamusings

Planning and preparation will be a big part making the road trip enjoyable. Everything from snacks, to comfy clothes, to the car you travel in will be important to think about ahead of time. Having a vehicle that will hold all the luggage and supplies you need, as well as something that gives the kids room to squirm and move a little is great. Larger vehicles like SUV’s or even GMC conversion vans are great. These types of cars will be roomy and comfortable as well as safe and sturdy for any terrain or area you plan to travel.

The more ways that kids can take ownership and be more interactive on these trips the more successful the ride will be. Plan a simple scavenger hunt along the way. This may include natural items from the areas you will be traveling, like sea shells from the beach or rocks from the mountains. Or the hunt may be bit more fun like finding the goofiest gift shop items along the way. Having the kids in charge of taking pictures for a future family album can be creative and enjoyable too.

Kids may want to take friends or others along for the ride. This can be fun, but make sure you have all the information you need about your guest to ensure their safety as well as their entertainment. And if you end up having a few more kids along for the ride, take advantage of the extra numbers by playing games or even relay races at the rest stops. This will not only be amusing, but it will let people stretch their legs and get some exercise as they go.

A car trip can be a really pleasurable experience with just a little planning and thought put into it. Having good snacks in a handy place, preparing a playlist that has a little something for everyone, and making sure the car is set up inside for a long journey are just a few things to help. Road trips are a rite of passage for every family and should be done as much as possible. With these and other simple ideas a families can build great memories to last a lifetime.


Friday, November 2, 2012

Five Real Alternitives to Threats

Most of us have grown up with threats galore... some real, some not. Threats has been a go-to parenting for a long while. It seems reasonable right: threaten your child with the punishment so he'll behave and hopefully you won't have to resort to punishment at all. Now, in punishment free parenting, it turns out that - even having thrown out punishments - many parents still resort to threats.
On the one hand because threats have become a knee-jerk reaction, fostered by our own education, and on the other hand because we lack the tools we need to do something else.

Threats are yet another way to impose our already huge will onto our tiny children, fostering not real cooperation, but shame, submission and fear. As a positive parent, this is something we try to avoid and instead we focus on self direction and real collaboration.
Parenting peacefully starts with parenting from a place of inner balance, so if you find yourself struggling on a daily basis, take a moment to review the mommy overwhelm series.

So here goes; five real life alternatives to threats:

Image: Job Earth

  1. Explain the consequences: "If you don't clean this spilled, you might slip over it and everything will end up being sticky." "If you hit your brother, he'll cry and will not play with you any more." Even though the format of what you are saying is pretty much the same, these are just the real result of your children's action... It's very important to maintain your calm when you are explaining the consequences, because otherwise, you can easily turn a natural consequence into a threat. Remember that everything can be made into a real threat, depending on how you bring it, so the most important thing is to evaluate the emotional charge you are bringing to the situation. 
  2. Fake threats: "If you don't stop pulling my hair, I will stick you to the ceiling and paint you blue." I like fake threats because they often lead to a lot of hilarity and you can catch yourself in the middle of a sentence. The 'good' thing about threats is that they're often very long sentences, so they leave you the time to catch yourself and make it good. My daughter gets the game now and we will 'threaten' each other with the silliest things. This takes the tension of the situation and generally clears up whatever was going wrong in the first place.
  3. Get involved. Threats generally emerge out of parental non-involvement. You're doing one thing, your child is doing something you don't agree with and instead of diving in there, you yell a threat at them. Really getting in there and instead of saying 'don't', saying 'let's', will get your child to engage in a more constructive activity.
  4. Catch yourself in the act. Another way to catch yourself when you start threatening is to start singing, or making silly noises: "If you don't ding dang dilly dilly dang dang..." Go with the moment, do a little dance. Again, this will probably be hilarious enough to stop your child right in the act. 
  5. Freeze! Like a cop in a mediocre action movie, yell: 'freeze'! Asses the situation, if necessary, separate children, or gently remove your child from the object of destruction. Don't do this too often though, because it would loose it's value to your children (they simply won't listen any more and continue their mayhem). 
What do you do instead of Threats? Do you find it hard to parent without them.