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Written by Mama Monday

Blog posts written by mamas on cloth diapering, green living, natural parenting.

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One of the things I love about being a parent is how it brings back memories of my own childhood. It’s a chance to see the world once again through new eyes. Simple things like Lauren’s first pony ride at the pumpkin patch, Kate fishing for the first time with Grandpa or Cooper turning over a rock and finding a beetle are exciting and new again. When my children are naughty, bickering or otherwise causing trouble, I find myself sheepishly remembering certain instances from my youth in which I behaved the same (or worse) and a voice in my head pipes up “Karma!”

I was not an easy child and my mother has made sure that I’ve not forgotten this. She has told me plenty of stories that have kept me humble. These tales also help to put my own parenting struggles in perspective. For instance, when my children are running away from me in the grocery store, I remember that when I was three I got away from my mother at church and ran up and stood behind the priest during a sermon. Blushing, she slunk up behind him to retrieve me wondering why I couldn’t just sit still like my friend Julie, who at three, sat quietly next to her mother swinging her patent leather shoes and looking at books.

How about the time my mother had several bags of groceries and a toddler to carry up to the house when I was five? Our driveway was at the bottom of the hill and our house was at the top. I was feeling mad and sorry for myself because my little sister got to be carried and I had to walk and so I stood at the bottom of the hill in the driveway and screamed. And screamed. And screamed. Until a neighbor came over to find out what the emergency was and if I or someone else was hurt. Nope, the only thing that was hurting was my ego after suffering the incredible injustice of being expected to walk up the hill when my sister was carried. Not fair! Not fair! When my kids pull this kind of stunt, it is absolutely infuriating so I can only imagine how my mother was feeling. I comfort myself with the knowledge that I turned out to be a decent, polite and friendly law-abiding citizen so perhaps there is hope for my children as well.

When I’ve caught Kate or Lauren doing something unnecessarily dangerous like climbing on top of the refrigerator for no reason whatsoever or sliding down the stairs headfirst on a stuffie, I become frustrated that my repeated attempts to warn them of the possible dangers—black eyes, broken bones, stitches, trips to the emergency room—do little to convince them that it’s not worth trying anyway. Then I remember being five and entertaining myself on a cold Vermont winter day by knocking giant dagger-like icicles off the side of the house. My mother came out and scolded me, telling me I could poke my eye out (and truthfully, those icicles were so heavy, so large and so sharp I probably could have poked my brain out right along with my eye) but as soon as she was out of sight, I went right back to knocking them down. Lo and behold, a very large icicle fell and hit me in the face, right near the tear duct of one of my eyes. I ran in crying to my mother scared, but not hurt. How many times has a similar scenario played itself out at my house?

One of the single most terrifying things about parenting is the fact that at a certain age, your children learn to talk. Their first words are charming as they point at and name familiar objects: dog, cat, ball, Dada. And then suddenly, their newly acquired verbiage is a liability, likely to leave a parent sweating, blushing and stammering awkward apologies while trying to exit the scene before the child can come up with another loud and obnoxious (and worst of all, completely accurate) comment about someone’s physical appearance, body odor or bad breath.

When I was four, I began to worry about “dying.” I don’t remember what prompted it but I was trying to comprehend the fact that I would die someday and so would my parents. My dad tried to comfort me by telling me that I wouldn’t die until I was very old with white hair and neither would he or my mom. Obviously enlightened, the next time I saw our very sweet, very old and very white haired neighbor Elsie I asked “Why aren’t you dead yet?”

It seems as if my verbal skills, combined with an advanced tendency for critical observation, peaked when I was four years old. My social skills however, were right on par with my age: blunt. Picture me as a scrappy four year old with long brown braids eating lunch at restaurant with my mother and my mother’s friend, Rita. A man in a nearby booth started an innocent conversation with me. He asked my name and I told him. And then I asked his name and he told me. Then I asked “And what’s the name of your fat friend?” looking pointedly at his plump dining companion. My mother says at this point, he began ignoring me so I repeated the question, only much louder. My poor mother was horrified and embarrassed and decided to pretend that I was actually Rita’s daughter. Who could have predicted that such an innocent conversation with a friendly stranger could take such a socially catastrophic turn. Sorry Mom!

Do you have any memories of your own mischief that keep you humble as a parent? Or has your child made you wish you could make yourself faint on command rather than being left to repair the damage done by your own socially disastrous offspring?

some of that tea

My five year old daughter Kate has eczema, and when it’s flaring up, it’s pretty severe. It covers her back, stomach and shoulders and hides behind her knees and under her arm pits. We’ve tried everything to get rid of it, including elimination diets and allergy testing. We’ve followed her pediatrician’s suggestions of short baths, using very little soap and covering her in petroleum jelly afterwards. We’ve used prescription steroidal creams and ointments, and in fact, when the eczema flares up, we can’t use any type of cream on her at all–it stings and she screams in pain. She seems to tolerate ointments much better. At first I balked at the idea of putting petroleum jelly on her skin but unlike the most natural, even organic, eczema creams I’ve bought OTC, it doesn’t sting when we put it on.

Treating the eczema wasn’t ideal. I wanted to prevent it from happening at all. But how? Much of what I’d read was related to food allergies and I hoped the answer was as simple as eliminating eggs, dairy or gluten and voila! Clear, soft baby skin that didn’t want to make my baby scratch til she bled. Despite my best efforts and both skin tests and blood work to check for allergies, as well as elimination diets, nothing seemed to indicate a cause and effect relationship between anything she ate and the appearance of the itchy menace. My best guess is that it’s your garden-variety eczema that’s common in people with Irish, English or Scottish heritage and very fair skin. Check, check and check!

My mother, who has sensitive skin herself, sent me a link to an article about how many people find their eczema either disappears or improves greatly while drinking at least one cup or more of Chinese Oolong Tea a day, probably due to the polyphenols in the tea and it’s anti-inflammatory properties. When I first began blogging for Thirsties over two years ago, I became more and more interested in more natural and environmentally friendly options for everything from cleaning products to personal health–I was amazed at the multitude of uses for things such as colloidal silver  and Tea Tree Oil and how they seemed to work better for clearing up infected cuts (and even my cat’s pink eye) more quickly than anything I had ever been prescribed by a doctor. My mind was already open and so I thought, what the heck, let’s give it a try.

I started brewing large batches of tea, mixing in honey and lemon for taste, and storing them in the fridge. Instead of sending Kate to school with a bottle of water, I’d send her with her “tea.” Sure enough, after a week, her eczema was improving and soon her skin was looking better than it had in months. I was amazed. I also read that you can add the tea to bath water and that the anti-inflammatory properties may work topically on the skin. The tea does contain caffeine so this may be a good way to try it for young children and babies first, until you talk to your doctor. The amount of caffeine the tea contains doesn’t seem to affect Kate at all so I feel comfortable that it’s safe for her and in fact, I much prefer her drinking Oolong tea than being covered in steroidal ointment.

Do you or your children suffer from eczema? What do you use to treat it?

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Bert Anderson who writes our Thirsties blog, “Written by Mama Monday”, gave birth to a beautiful baby girl on Sunday afternoon.  Keira weighs 7 lbs 8 oz and is 18″ tall.  Congratulations to Bert and her family!!

Mental Health Awareness Month

Did you know that May is Mental Health Awareness month? If you watch TV and don’t skip the commercials (unlike my parents who never watch commercials) perhaps you’ve seen the commercial with the man and woman sitting down for what looks like a meal at a restaurant. The gist of the commercial is for the viewer to understand that a personal struggling with mental illness needs to be able to talk about it if he or she chooses. Don’t stay silent, that’s the mantra for the campaign and I couldn’t agree more.

The statistics from 2011 stand clear: One in five adults struggles with a form of mental illness; one in ten young people will experience a period of major depression. As someone who struggles with depression I cannot tell you how freeing it is to speak openly about it. I’ve always been the kind of person who lives my life like an open book but not everyone is like this. The last thing that a person who is struggling with mental illness, whether it’s depression, anxiety or even bipolar disorder, needs to think about it hiding the darkness that they’re living in; unfortunately, that often what happens. Society has a stigma that comes with mental illness and trust me, if you struggle with it there’s no way around feeling like an outcast, like a woman walking around a small Puritan village wearing a scarlet “A” or in my case, “D,” across her chest.

If you don’t struggle with mental illness how do you support someone who does? That’s a great question and really at the heart of May’s Mental Health Awareness month. There are a lot of really helpful websites out there and I’ll share them with you in a little bit. The theme this year for the month is Community. People struggling with mental illness need a safe and supportive community to lean on. As someone who actually struggles with this, however, I’m going to tell you how I would like to be supported:

Allow me to talk about the bad days; you don’t have to offer any suggestions or “fix” the problem. Just give me a safe place to share who I really am.

Don’t treat me like I’m frail and can’t handle anything. I have good months and bad months. I can handle real life problems; don’t treat me like a frail little bird. Let me make that choice.

Understand that it’s not as simple as “snapping out of it.” When I’m stuck in my depression, whatever the trigger may have been, please know that I don’t like feeling like this and living this way. Tough love is not going to make me snap out of it. It’ll actually make me retreat deeper inside of myself.

Believe that I am not a danger to myself or to you; become educated on what mental illness really is rather than assuming it’s what you see on the big screen or you TV screen.

Visit these websites for more information and to better understand mental illness:

National Alliance on Mental Illness

Bring Change 2 Mind.org

Mental Health.gov

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Flats & Handwashing Challenge

Since 2011, Kim Rosas, the blogger behind Dirty Diaper Laundry has coordinated and hosted the Flats and Handwashing Challenge. Originally, she created the Challenge as a series of blog posts to spread awareness that using cloth diapers does not have to break the bank. Discouraged by a news report she saw that depicted the high costs of diapering a child with disposable diapers, Kim wanted to prove that any family can use cloth diapers economically and still have the funds for their other every day needs. Kim writes on her Dirty Diaper Laundry blog,

“A quote from the LA Times: ”Cloth diapers are often not an option because they require frequent and expensive trips to the laundromat.”  Ask the thousands of families making cloth diapers work who are considered “low-income” before making such statements.  It can work, with a washer and without!”

Now, she’s into the fourth Flats Challenge and it has turned into so much more. Each year participants collect and send data back to Dirty Diaper Laundry with tutorials and other information on how to use flat diapers, handwash diapers and airdry diaper efficiently. The wealth of knowledge that’s accumulated over the last three Challenges is amazing. Much of the information Kim has received has been turned into free downloadable pamphlets to aid new cloth diaper users and those considering using cloth diapers.

So why should you participate in the Challenge? I had to ask Kim why it would be beneficial for a person, who isn’t a blogger, to join in the cause. Kim responds,This year, the same as in years’ past, bloggers from around the continent are participating in the Flats and Handwashing Challenge. They’re blogging about their experiences, what they’ve learned, the victories and the failures of their week with no washer and dryer using anything simple as a cloth diaper. This year Kim is also looking raise money to help the non-profit organization Giving Diapers, Giving Hope; a charity that lends cloth diapers to low-income families.

“At the heart of the Flats and Handwashing Challenge is the message that anyone can cloth diaper under any circumstance. Participation teaches you more than just how to handwash, it shows you how affordable diapering can be and makes you appreciate the things you may already have. Washing machines look really miraculous after handwashing for a week.”

If you’re interested in participating in the Flats and Handwashing Challenge sign up on the Dirty Diaper Laundry blog by clicking here. There you’ll find a registration form, helpful videos about using flats and prefolds, making your own camp style bucket washer and of course, the rules for participation. And don’t forget…we have some great prefolds and covers for you to use!