Holiday Survival Strategy Sessions – Small Business Saturday Special!

The holidays are here.

Halloween kicks off a sugar binge that only pauses briefly after New Years. You haven't even adjusted to the freaking time change when family obligations, gift lists, and weather-fraught travel knock you on your butt.

Whether this is your first holiday season as a parent (and whooooo, game changer, guys) or not, it's easy to get overwhelmed and have everything feel impossible.

Setting boundaries with your family or friends, trying to force a new dynamic into an old tradition, or starting new traditions entirely, and just trying to get your overstimulated kids to go the eff to sleep are just some of the possible challenges of the next six weeks.

Sound terrible?

What if it didn't have to be?

If you've ever been tired of adulting and being responsible and just wish someone else would think for you, this is the next best thing. It's called coaching.

I know, it sounds like something for athletes and rich people, but it's truly something everyone should experience at least once. Coaching isn't therapy. I don't really care why you and your mom don't get along, I DO care about how you're planning to handle it at Christmas dinner. If you have no idea, that's OK, we can figure it out together.

Here's how it works:

  • Schedule your session. Thanks, Internet magic!
  • Fill out the questionnaire in the process to let me know what's going on for you. Vent away!
  • Call me at the appointed time (pants optional). Phone or Skype, your choice, wherever you can focus.
  • We'll set up a game plan for how you're going to accomplish what you want to in the next month or so. This could be anywhere from "Keep self and kids alive while retaining sanity," to "Move entire family to live in a yurt." It's your life.
  • At the end of the session you'll get an email with some notes, your action steps, and any resources I mentioned on the call.
  • You go forth and kick ass.

45 minute session for just $50 through Sunday 11/27

Normally a single session runs about $200, but I want this to be easy. You probably have travel expenses, new shoes to buy because children just keep growing at inopportune times, and you picked your sister-in-law's name this year who will only wear socks knitted by indigenous women who are paid fair wages out of the fur of free-range heritage-breed alpacas named Ewan.

Give yourself a gift this holiday season. Give yourself 45 minutes - you don't even have to put on pants or pretend you showered. We'll focus on YOU.

Having an outside perspective really listen to what's going on and helping you map out a clear path is invigorating and powerful.

Give it a try.

Price goes up to $75 on Monday. I can't wait to support you - you're worth it.

A Crash Course in Feminist Parenting (the Cliffs Notes version)

Feminism often gets a bad rap as something for lesbian femi-nazis, so suggesting you consider feminist parenting could sound extreme.

That is, until you realize that this craaaaazy idea simply mean that women should have the same social, educational, and economic opportunities as men.

Whoa, right?

It might be easy to see why people would want to raise feminist daughters - girls have a pretty vested interest in their own futures - but what may not be as obvious is how imperative it is that we raise feminist sons, as well.

As the mother of two boys, 2016 has been a rough ride. When my youngest was a baby I was relieved that I didn't have to deal with all the "baggage" that comes with a daughter and all the media pressure about weight and body image and clothes and all that. Then I learned that rape culture was so prevalent that raising a son who wasn't a rapist was more challenging that I must think.

At first I didn't realize that some of the things I did were feminist, they just made sense. Instilling a sense of body autonomy and teaching consent were practical things to do, but the more I understood about them, the more importance they had. When you have young kids it sounds like a slippery slope to compare haircuts and hugging grandma to rape culture, but it's not.

I'm no expert in this area. Intersectionality still makes my head spin a bit. I'm white and straight raising white sons, so this technically impacts them least of all.

And that's why it's so important to me.

A Crash Course in Feminist Parenting

You practically need a new college minor to sift through the literature around this, so here's a Cliffs Notes version of a crash course - a compilation of list articles with enough info to get you started. We're all making it up as we go anyway, but at least you'll have a foundation.

“DEAR IJEAWELE, OR A FEMINIST MANIFESTO IN FIFTEEN SUGGESTIONS” by Chimamanda Adichie

10 Ways Feminist Parents Raise Strong-Willed Boys To Be Amazing Men by Sabrina Joy Stevents

10 Things Feminist Moms Do Differently Than Any Other Parents by Jamie Kenney

11 Way to Raise a Feminist Son Because Feminism Is Good for Everyone by Britni de la Cretaz

5 Ways I Practice Intersectional Feminist Parenting by Akilah S. Richards

Why I Am Raising My Child to Be a Feminist and Why I Think You Should Too by Dan Arel

21 Ways to Raise a Feminist Child by Lyndsay

Want to Be a Feminist Parent? 4 Goals to Consider by Paige Lucas-Stannard

9 Way to Teach Consent to Your Toddler Before They're Old Enough to Explain It by Sarah Bunton

This is not exhaustive, but if we make an effort to listen and learn, and model that for our kids, we're on the right track.

My Birth Story – Fast Natural Water Birth at Home

My first birth almost three and a half years ago was an unmedicated vaginal birth in a hospital. We had a doula and everything went well. He was born just under 12 hours from my first contraction which got steadily faster and stronger until he was born.

My birth mantra banner Birthing attendant cat

I'll post more about the process of deciding on a homebirth another time, but this baby was born in our bedroom. I loved birthing at home. I'm also glad I hired Ariel Dolfo Photography to capture our birth since it went by so fast I barely remember it!

My first son was born at 40 weeks and 6 days, so I wasn't in a rush. I didn't feel "ready" yet when my due date rolled around.

Sunday I was 40+4, and the first time I felt like the baby was coming very soon was at 4am when I woke up to a few mild contractions. I didn't bother waking my husband up as they subsided and I went back to sleep.

We got up fairly early and I let him know that I thought "today is the day."
[Read more...]

Playful Parenting Techniques That Work

If you've ever found yourself sweating and on the brink of tears in the back of your car trying to shove your child as gently as possible into their car seat after 30 minutes of struggle and hysteria, you're not alone.
I've been there more times than I care to admit.

Then I read the book Playful Parenting by Lawrence Cohen. I tried a few of his suggestions. Within a few days, it got easier. He didn't struggle as much. It didn't take as long. I wasn't crying.

Sold.

Cohen is both a play therapist and a dad. I appreciated his perspective as a professional mixed with his personal experiences at home with his own daughter.
[Read more...]

Why We Chose Baby Led Weaning

How is your relationship with food? Do you get enough veggies? Do you stress eat? Are you a sugar addict?

This isn't to judge you - most of us struggle with food in some way or another. I'm not immune, either, I just have more tools than the average person.

After working with health coaching clients who still struggle after twenty or thirty years, when it came time to feed my son solids, I wanted to do it "right." Time for some research.

When most of us picture introducing solids, I'd imagine this is the image that comes to mind:

Eat What For Thanksgiving?

Most parents start their babies on solids waaaaaaaaaaay too early

Most pediatricians recommend introducing solids around 4 to 6 months. The American Association of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization recommend exclusively formula or breastmilk until 6 months.

A 2013 study from the AAP showed that in a sample of over 1300 people, "40.4% of mothers introduced solid foods before age 4 months. The most commonly cited reasons for early introduction of solid food were as follows: “My baby was old enough,” “My baby seemed hungry,” “I wanted to feed my baby something in addition to breast milk or formula,” “My baby wanted the food I ate,” “A doctor or other health care professional said my baby should begin eating solid food,” and “It would help my baby sleep longer at night.”"

I started my son a little after 6 months (he had a cold so we waited until he wasn't congested). In retrospect I would have waited even longer. He was sitting up decently but didn't have a developed pincer grasp (ability to hold something between two fingertips). I was planning to offer a mix of purees and finger foods, but he threw up applesauce and I got tired of cleaning it up.

So we went with straight Baby Led Weaning (BLW). And I'm so glad we did.

Why Baby Led Weaning Was Best For Us

Stealing Mimi's apple at 8.5 months old
The "weaning" here is the British term. Americans tend to think of weaning for babies as "stopping breastmilk consumption" as opposed to "gradually reducing breastmilk consumption by introducing solids." So if you prefer the term "baby led solids," go for it.

Our decision came down to a few things:

  • I'm lazy. I was skeptical of commercial baby food but didn't really want to make my own. BLW meant we could offer the same (or very similar) foods to what we ate.
  • I have strong feelings about bodily autonomy for kids (and everyone), so giving my son control over how and what he ate held a lot of appeal.
  • In my coaching practice I've spent a lot of time helping clients re-learn how to listen to their own bodies, so it made sense to me to let my son tune into his own hunger signals instead of me trying to guess.
  • A major reason to start with purees is because babies push food out due to their tongue thrust reflex - their natural protection against choking. If you wait until their tongue thrust reflex is gone (a sign that they're developmentally ready to eat solid food), they can simply eat table food.
  • When you start with purees, babies learn to swallow first, then chew. With BLW they chew first, then learn to swallow. They'll eventually get chunky or finger foods, so why not just start there?
    • Now at 3 years old, my son eats a wide variety of foods. He loves fish, mushrooms, and seaweed just as much as macaroni and cheese. He eats chlorella tablets like they're candy. He also eats candy, but asks for a few pieces and then moves on.

      Is it because of his personality, or because of how we introduced and offered food from the start? I don't know for sure, but there isn't much I'll change this fall when it comes time to start our second baby on solid food.

      Want to know more?

      Baby Led Weaning Class on October 19
      If your baby is 3-9 months, I have Baby Led Weaning resource page and am offering a virtual class on Wednesday, October 19.

      If you're local to San Diego I am teaching three classes in November - two on introducing solids, the other on continuing this path for toddlers ages 1-3.

      I would love to see you there.

7 Reasons You Should Have a Doula

dou·la
/ˈdo͞olə/

noun: doula, plural noun: doulas

1. a woman who is trained to assist another woman during childbirth and who may provide support to the family after the baby is born

I've only had 3 major fights with my husband in over a decade spent together. One was about artichokes. Another was about fabric scissors. The third was an actual shouting match - 5 years before I was even pregnant - while walking down the street in downtown Minneapolis about doulas.

"I don't like doulas," my husband sniffed.
"What? Why? What do you even know about doulas?"
"What do they even DO? I think they're annoying. Why would you need one? Isn't that what the doctor is for?"
"YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT."

Fast forward to 2013.

"Honey," my husband chirped, "my co-worker's wife is pregnant! I asked if they had interviewed doulas yet. He had never even heard of them, so I told him they have to have one."

Doula literally comes from the Greek term for "woman servant," and a doula serves as support for you (AND your partner) during pregnancy, labor, and the postpartum period.

Why would you want a doula?

The presence of a doula has been shown to reduce labor times and improve birth outcomes for both mother and baby. My favorite statistic is that even a doula simply sitting in a chair in the room without actively doing anything else has improved outcomes! Amazing.

The real question is why wouldn't you have one?

A big factor for us was that we didn't know which midwife or OB would be at our son's birth. Knowing my personality and my desire for an unmedicated birth, I knew that having someone I trusted and felt comfortable with would be key for me to relax. We had also never experienced birth before and wanted someone on our team, not the hospital's, to help guide us through it.

7 Reasons You DO Want a Doula

What does a doula do (and not do)?

A doula does NOT advocate or speak for you. She is there to support you. Some doulas are massage therapists and may offer bodywork, give counterpressure during contractions, offer aromatherapy options and other comfort measures. Our doula was instrumental in guiding us through early labor and helping us decide when to leave for the hospital. What was most valuable for us as first time parents was her experience of witnessing birth to let us know what was normal.

I still say she was 80% for my husband and 20% for me.

A doula does not speak on your behalf. She may say something like, "You said you didn't want an epidural. The nurse is offering one. Do you want to try to get through a few more contractions before you decide?" Or she may say, "You said you didn't want an epidural, but it's been a long time and you seem really tired. Do you want to discuss your options?"

Where do you find a doula?

A trusted friend or family member can be a doula, but it should be someone you're comfortable with since they'll be present when you're in a vulnerable state during labor.

DONA is the group that certifies trained doulas, and you can search for a local match who is available around your due date at DoulaMatch.net. It doesn't make them a better choice necessarily, it just verifies that they have training and some experience.

How do you pick?

We found a list of local doulas, visited their websites, contacted several to make sure they were available, and interviewed 3 doulas. We really liked them all, but we chose the one who provided what we felt was the personality we needed in the delivery room. I'm very organized and responsible, so I wanted someone with a softer presence.

Many cities have doula meet-and-greet events so you can mix and mingle with a group of doulas and decide who you might want to interview. Then of course their schedule and pricing needs to be a good fit.

People are sometimes surprised at the cost of doula support, but they can only take so many clients due to the unpredictability of birth. Most also offer prenatal and postpartum support, may have additional lactation training, and probably need childcare for their own kids for the potentially long-haul of your labor.

Some may work on a sliding scale, offer payment plans or trades, or there may be student doulas in your area with less experience and a lower cost. Several we met offer discounts for homebirths since they're not always covered by insurance. The earlier you make a decision, the earlier you can budget for it.

When my husband and I started talking about trying for another baby, one of his first questions was, "Do we just have the same doula again? Is that a thing?"

But do I NEED a doula?

Of course not. And some women prefer their mother, sister, or friend to act in a similar capacity.

But if you have the option, I can't think of a reason NOT to have that additional help.

Did you have a doula at your birth?

Want to stay in the loop?

Let's be honest - you'll forget to check back. Because mom brain is real.

The Paradox of the Lonely Mother

After becoming a mother you're rarely alone. My son's favorite place has always been pressed against me at all times.

(I'm not sure how dads get a free solo pass to the bathroom but there has to be some mystery left in the universe.)

Yet, at the same time, motherhood can be extremely isolating.

We no longer live in village communities where extended multi-generational families care for each other. I'm not romanticizing this idea, but as someone whose immediate family lives thousands of miles away, there is a certain appeal.

We feel pressure to bounce back, whether it's into our pre-baby jeans, fitness routine, work schedule, or other obligations.

Yet we have no idea how motherhood will change us. No matter when (or if) we fit back into those jeans, a different person is putting them on. Our lives revolve around different needs and priorities, few of which are our own.

I have over 1,000 friends on Facebook, yet do I really know what's going on in their lives? I talked to a friend recently on Skype and said, "I know all about your kids' sleep schedules, but how are YOU?"

I love all the connections I have on social media to share experiences, yet how deep do those connections go? And what experiences do we actually share?

I'm guilty of this myself.

Every night I post three "daily positives" on my Facebook wall. They range from moments of gratitude to fun things we did or silver linings I experienced that day. Some days I truly have to dig deep.

Those posts are for ME.

But when other people look at them, they may think everything over here is sunshine and roses all the time.

I don't post about the breakfast my son threw on the floor that I had to clean up, or the potty accident he had, or how he ran out the back door naked while I was trying to clean up the afore(not)mentioned messes. I don't want to dwell on those moments in my own life.

I don't want to constantly read about those moments from others, either, to be honest.

Like I mentioned to a friend, people don't get dogs so they can pick up poop, but that's also part of the deal.

But I know that my posts play into the idea that everything is going well all the time. And that's not true.

Parenting Secret: None of us really have our shit together.

After this topic came up multiple times in a week, I organized my first mama circle here in San Diego. I have never led anything like this before and wanted to make sure it worked like I thought it would. It ended with everyone in tears and a group hug. It was amazing.

The most voiced comment? "I thought I was the only one."

You're not the only one.

It's hard to be vulnerable at all, let alone when we're chasing our kids at the park or trying to stop our toddlers from eating food they found on the ground or changing a diaper. It's hard to maintain a complete train of thought when we're parenting, let alone finish a sentence - or truly listen to one. It's hard to truly connect.

Humans are social animals. Even introverts need to be heard and understood.

I'll be holding more Mama Circle events soon, and eventually offer virtual events, too. It's important to connect, speak, and be heard. Being our best selves makes us better moms. Together. We're not alone in our struggles.

My last circle before maternity leave will be on May 6th, or get sporadic email updates by entering your contact info below.

Want to stay in the loop?

Let's be honest - you'll forget to check back. Because mom brain is real.

One Month of Meal Planning (Gluten-Free and Vegetarian)

When I ran my January meal planning challenge, it was as much for me as for everyone else. I loved seeing what everyone else was making, what their goals were, and what changes they saw during the month.

At our house, our goal was to save time, energy, and money - plus try to use up some languishing pantry items stuffed in the mysterious depths of the cupboards or freezer. And we did! Sure there were a few days that we had to switch around due to life happening, but it was a relief to avoid the last minute decision making of what to make for dinner.

Overwhelmed at the prospect? I have an online meal planning workshop coming up. Or for more tips, check out my meal planning Pinterest board!

I only plan 4 dinners each week since we usually have enough for leftovers at least once, plus we have dinner at a friend's house most Thursdays. My husband works weekends and we often have activities, so I keep those nights open.

We also get a CSA (community supported agriculture) box of local veggies each Thursday at the farmers market, so we incorporate those as much as possible. We eat a little seafood at home, otherwise I'm vegetarian, and I'm currently not eating gluten, either.

Week 1

Polenta with Peppers and Mushrooms
Broccoli Cheddar Soup
Spinach and Artichoke Quinoa Casserole
Homemade Gluten-Free Pizza

Week 2

Chickpea and Mushroom Polenta (we didn't love this one)
Lentil and Hominy Chili
Gluten-Free Crispy Orange Cauliflower
BBQ Tempeh Tacos with Shredded Cabbage

Week 3

Black Bean Enchiladas
Wild Rice Soup
Cold Vietnamese Noodle Bowls
Grilled Veggies

Week 4

Homemade Gluten-Free Pizza
Black Bean Tacos
Vegetarian Chili with Gluten-Free Cornbread
Stir Fry

What are some of your go-to meals?

If your best meal planning intentions end up in a mess of recipes and guilty takeout, you're not alone. Join me from home (wear your PJs, I won't judge) and we'll cover strategies to finally get you started with my online meal planning workshop.

The Biggest Secret of Parenting

Before my son was born I read a lot more about birth than parenting. Considering that information only covered about 12 hours from my first contraction, I had a lot of catch up to do once he arrived.

And wow, the learning curve felt steep. When he was around 10 months old I finally read this article about features of a high needs baby. My son met 11 of the 12 criteria.

I just thought all babies were like that because he was the only one I had.

Other moms' mentioned their high-needs babies and I thought about how terrible that sounded - my son wouldn't sleep longer than 37 minutes, had to be constantly held, and went from 0-to-hysterical in 3 seconds flat. And they had it worse?

Apparently not. Whew.

(Looking back I have no idea how I survived those first two years with my sanity relatively intact, though that's up for debate.)

Entering my third trimester of pregnancy with my second child I vacillate between peace and panic. On one hand, at least I have some idea of what to expect.

On the other hand, I have some idea of what to expect -- plus a 3-year-old. Hold me.

Parenting Secret: None of us have ANY IDEA what we are doing

With my first I felt intense pressure to "do it right." I wanted to read all the books and articles and expert opinions.

Then I learned that anyone who tells you there is one way to do anything is selling you their book.

Do I give weight in to experienced professionals say and what studies can show us? Yes. But the most important thing is doing what works for me and my family. I am the expert at my children.

So I'll stock up on strategies for smooth transitions for siblings, but this time I will have fewer expectations of myself. Because I don't know much about THIS baby yet.

In a class with Pam England (author of Birthing From Within) she explained her philosophy of "B+ Parenting."

She said that none of us can ever be a perfect parent. When we think we can, we set ourselves up for failure. Instead, she says, aim to be a B+ parent. Better than average, but without the pressure of never screwing anything up.

We will inevitably screw up.

That's what parenting is about. It's picking our battles and trying not to screw up too bad while loving the crap out of these little imperfect humans. We're learning along with them.

You're doing the best you can with what you have available at the moment. That's enough.

You're enough.


Not feeling like it lately? Motherhood can be an overwhelming hamster wheel of laundry and trying to remember what else you need to do.

If you're feeling stuck and don't even know where to start, you're not alone. If you need a hand to make the leap, I'd love to offer mine.

CLICK HERE to book a FREE Save Your Sanity Session

Want to stay in the loop?

Let's be honest - you'll forget to check back. Because mom brain is real.

February Self Care Challenge

I had so much fun doing the #mealplanningmama challenge in January that I'm hosting another one in February!

This Valentine month is all about love, right? We all love our families, even when it's tough. Even when we have to dig deep in the moment. Even when we feel like we're drawing from an empty well.

But what about ourselves?

It's hard enough before having kids. Women are told not to be selfish, to take care of other people, to put others' needs ahead of our own.

And part of having small children often means putting their immediate needs (which they cannot fulfill themselves) first.

The downside is that when we spend all of our time taking care of other people, we run out of energy to take care of ourselves. With all the work we do caring for others, it seems reasonable that someone else would step up to take care of us.

But they won't.

This is where self-care comes in.

February Instagram Challenge with SemiCrunchymama

  • When I notice I'm resentful or bitter, I know -- I need some self-care.
  • When I blame my husband for my grumpiness or can't make decisions because I'm out of brain cells, I need some self-care.
  • When I'm having trouble handling my toddler because I'm having trouble handling myself... you guessed it. Self-care time.

Sometimes we over complicate, though, and think self-care needs to mean a spa weekend, a massage, or some retail therapy. There's nothing wrong with those things, but sometimes they seem out of reach and we tell ourselves we don't have time/money/resources for that kind of thing. And we might not!

Self-care can be as simple as listening to the music YOU like while you cook dinner. It can be a hot shower or bath. It can be working out, a yoga class or quick routine at home, or even a simple walk.

What can you think of that recharges you and makes you feel more "you?"

Join me on Instagram to stay accountable and get more ideas this whole month.

We'll start small and work our way into making sure we feel more loved so we can be more loving to those around us. I'll check in each week with the hashtag #selfcaresunday and prompts to get you going. Answer in the comments, or post your own photo on your account to show what you're up to.

Stretch yourself! (Maybe literally AND figuratively.)

And hey, I wouldn't turn down a massage, either.

I can't wait to see what happens. CLICK HERE to follow me on Instagram and check there on Sundays!

Want to stay in the loop?

Let's be honest - you'll forget to check back. Because mom brain is real.