Monday, July 22, 2013

Jewish Men Discuss Circumcision. What do we really think?

The Intact Male Foreskin and Human Rights:
Groups of Jews who chose to keep their sons intact are starting up in the United StatesIsrael and elsewhere. Both Reform Judaism and Humanistic Judaism formally welcome intact Jewish males. Many Jewish Intactivists feel that if true Jewish ethics were adhered to, circumcision surgery would be outlawed.
Hundreds of thousands of Jewish males worldwide remain intact. Most Eastern European and South American Jews remain intact, and many Western European Jews have bypassed circumcision, seeing it as a needless, violent leftover of a bygone history. Some Jewish scholars and Rabbis believe that it is time to interpret the covenant in a symbolic and metaphoric way. Some other Jewish scholars think that surgical circumcision is against the ethics of Jewish law. Some Jews who were raised in the Orthodox tradition such as Jonathan FriedmanEliyahu Ungar-SargonMark Reiss, MD, and have become especially vocal Jewish intactivists. Some religions like Buddhism and Hinduism consider surgical circumcision a violation of another person and the holy body, and a terrible misdeed.
The human body is a delicate biological eco-system and surgery on any part of it has an effect on the whole system. Theintact male foreskin is an innate part of the human anatomy with a valid protective purpose. The presence of the Intactivist movement has thankfully brought these human rights issues to the forefront of the American consciousness. Many Jewish Americans and Israelis are active leaders in the Intactivist movement.
Judaism has evolved enormously over the last two hundred years. Jews were active in the early civil rights, peace, women’s, gay rights, and environmental movements, making huge advances for human rights in many areas. The prevalence of female Rabbis and the acceptance of gays and lesbians in most Jewish communities shows just how quickly Judaism can evolve on issues of fundamental human rights. The intactivist movement is quickly gaining worldwide social acceptance.

Jewish Men Discuss Circumcision:
"The practice of circumcision is something I've been aware of from a very young age. I grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and my family is Orthodox... Whether it's the Victorian-era doctors, bent on perpetuating their own sexual repression, or during the Maccabean Period where the Jewish priestly ruling class instituted the more severe form of brit milah that is practiced today, which includes brit peri'ah (complete foreskin ablation), we are made to suffer and cause our children to suffer in an endless cycle of trauma. It's high time we stop" - Jonathan Friedman, On Circumcision, Authority and the Perpetuation of Abuse.

“I'm 37, and have been sitting on a mountain of grief and rage for 17 years, since I discovered what was stolen from me while reading a critique of circumcision in a hip, underground, alternative Jewish newspaper I found at a campus Hillel, of all places… In the Torah, God also commands us to stone people to death, burn animal sacrifices, and take slaves from neighboring nations. Jews have given up those unholy practices, why shouldn't we give this one up too? The majority of Swedish Jews are intact, and guess what? They're still Jewish! Judaism, whether a cultural, ethnic, or religious identity, does not require circumcision. Jewishness is solely defined by parental lineage or conversion, not by genital cutting. Today, there are Jewish baby welcoming ceremonies for all genders free from genital cutting…" - Matthew Taylor, The case against circumcision, MondoWeiss, August 4, 2011.

"Let me ask you, Bent, since you are the head of the Jewish community in Denmark. What should I do if I want my foreskin back? I never wanted a stranger to touch me in the crotch without my permission. I would NEVER IN LIFE allow anyone to cut some of my penis. And how would you advise my parents, who did not considered that they had agreed to a mutilation, surgery without clinical indication (and without anesthesia) on their own son" - Leo Milgrom, Can you give me my foreskin back?, (English translation from Danish by Google.)

"I am Jewish, the eldest of 3 children and the son of a doctor… I feel deeply harmed by circumcision, and this view has only been confirmed over time. I do not feel closer to Judaism because of my circumcision. On the contrary, I deeply wish one thing had nothing to do with the other. The genital cutting of infants has driven me away from my religion, and I'm far from alone in this view. Eventually my father understood these issues, and even apologized for having allowed my brother and I to be circumcised at birth… There are hundreds of thousands of men who resent their infant circumcision. There are tens of thousands of intact Jewish boys and men around the world who thank their lucky stars they were not circumcised.” - Brian Levitt, Jewish Intactivist, Testimony at the California Senate Judiciary Committee Public Hearing on Circumcision.

“…It is accepted that he that is not circumcised, but is the son of a Jewish mother, is a Jew. Numerous scholars of Judaism have clearly pointed out that this damaging surgical ritual is inconsistent with all other tenets of the Jewish religion to protect the integrity of the individual and do no harm to another person. The Law Commission would be doing all Jews great service, in fact, to finally recognize the universal harm, the permanence, and the impossibility of informed consent of non-therapeutic circumcision on any infant boy, regardless of religion. To fail to do so, to create a "special exception" for Jewish boys, would be tantamount to governmental discrimination against infants born into the Jewish faith by assuming that their pain is less (it is not) and that they will simply learn to accept their harm. Our pain is real, we are part of the larger society, and we need and expect full protection under the law.” - Brian Levitt, Jewish Intactivist, Statement to the United Kingdom Law Commission, Consultation Paper No. 139 20, November 1996.

"I am 21 years old, Jewish, and opposed to circumcision My Jewish identity was always very important to me growing up. I went to synagogue a lot, spent my summers at a Jewish summer camp, had a bar mitzvah, and in high school was part of NFTY (North American Federation of Temple Youth). I went to Israel for a semester in high school. When I was a child and teenager, I was always proud to be Jewish, to be a part of G-d’s chosen people, to be in a culture that valued life and not death. I’m also a person who finds the idea of permanent body modification disturbing. I feel G-d made us the way we are for a reason. Every organ has a purpose. Even our imperfections are a sign of our individuality. When I found out I was circumcised, I was horrified... How could a religion of tikun olam do something destructive to their newborns?
No matter what, I can’t cut my kids. I will never know the advantages of being intact—how much difference this really makes—but I do know skinning a baby’s penis is wrong. I will give my sons the choice I never had. My boys will feel proud of what they are—Jewish and intact! " - Al Rubenstein, Me But Not My Son: A Young Jewish Man Breaks Rank on Circumcision.

“I wish I hadn’t been circumcised. I could show you studies that I believe demonstrate the deleterious effects of the procedure on infants, the costs to the adults that had the procedure done earlier in life, and the falsity of the supposed health benefits of circumcision, but I won’t. There are dedicated organizations that can convey that information far better than I could. What I have to offer you is my personal experience... I grew up going to shul [synagogue], celebrating the holidays, going to Sunday School, having a Bar Mitzvah [the Jewish coming-of-age, at 13 for boys], and even going to a Jewish Day School, yet today I am in almost complete control over the extent to which Jewish culture and Jewish religion play a role in my daily life. The exception is circumcision…” - Shea Levy, To the Mohel Who Cut Me.

“I’d heard how my uncle had fainted during my bris and what a horrible event it was. This was the thing everyone would talk about at the Passover seder… The ban on circumcision that’s on the ballot in San Francisco is a triumph for intactivists… I'm totally for it. San Francisco has often lead the country in elevating our consciousness. It has already helped spread awareness of this human rights crime to other states and hopefully will lead people everywhere to be more compassionate, thoughtful and rational not only towards their own fragile newborn children but to other fellow men and women as well.” - Jason Paige,Jewish Singer, Blood, Sweat & Tears Lead Singer Protests Infant Circumcision, by Rebecca Wald, J.D.

Jewish Intactivist Resources and Groups
Questioning Circumcision: A Jewish Perspective By Ron Goldman, Ph.D.
Beyond the Bris by Rebecca Wald.
Jews Against Circumcision
Cut: A Movie by A Orthodox Intactivist

Israeli Intactivist Groups (Mostly in Hebrew)
Protect the Child
The Israeli Association Against Circumcision / Intact Son
Kahal (Israeli Group for Parents of Intact Sons)

Peaceful Covenant Texts for Jewish Parents. 
100+ Rabbis who lead covenant without cutting ceremonies
Song for an Intact Jewish Boy’s Welcoming Ceremony
Brit B'lee Milah Ceremony
A Brit Shalom Ceremony

Judaism, the Foreskin and Human Rights.Rabbis on a Covenant without Circumcision
Jewish Law, the Foreskin, and Human Rights | Part 1.
Jewish Law, the Foreskin, and Human Rights | Part 2.
Jewish Law, the Foreskin, and Human Rights | Part 3.

Jewish Parents' Experiences Keeping their Sons Intact.
Humanistic Judaism is Increasingly Intactivist
Dear Elijah: A Conservative Jewish Father's Letter to His Intact Son | Published on Peaceful Parenting.
Moshe Rothenberg: Ending Circumcision in the Jewish Community? | Envisioning an Intactivist Judaism..
Michael Kimmel: The Kindest Un-Cut: Feminism, Judaism, and My Son's Foreskin | Published in Tikkun. 
Sarah Rockwell: Lucking Into Bris Shalom | Published on Beyond the Bris.
Laura Shanley: A Jewish Woman Denounces Circumcision | A Jewish Childbirth Educator keeps her sons intact.
Stacey Greenberg: My Son: The Little Jew with a Foreskin | Published in Mothering Magazine.
Intact & Jewish | Published on the Natural Parents Network.
The Naming | Published on Very, Very Fine
Diane Targovnik: How "Cut" Saved My Son's Foreskin : A Movie Review | Published on Beyond the Bris.
Circumcision Questions (letter from an intact Jew). |  Published in the Northern California Jewish Bulletin.

Jewish Intactivism

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Stop Calling Your Daughters Pretty and Your Sons Tough!

Yes, stop it! And for that matter, take a look at their wardrobe, decor, commercials on TV, etc and think about what everyone else is telling your children. Only the boys are tough, fun, cool and love playing in the mud? Only the girls are pretty, beautiful, sweet and love sitting under the sun?

"But, Guggie, boys and girls are different!" Ya know what, whether you think they are different or the same or some other gradient comparison, I can absolutely, 100% guarantee your children are MORE than merely pretty and tough. More than cool and sweet. And more than pigeonholed activities. I'm not telling you to ignore who your child is, on the contrary, I'm telling you to see all of your child and to let your child know that you value him or her for more than looks and socially acceptable roles.

"But, Guggie, I don't mean pretty like her physical beauty. I mean pretty on the inside." Then start using real words to describe the interior of a person. Start using accurate words, descriptive words, deep words. If it isn't about physical beauty, then you don't need to use the word pretty, cute or beautiful. Bonus: this is also an excellent way to expand and improve your young child's vocabulary!

No matter what the sex, the gender, the orientation or anything else might be, whether imposed upon them or found within them, whether biblical or societal, whether a sign of our era or a sign of biology...our children are human and they are all filled with a variety of traits, talents, skills and qualities. Let's get to know our children below their skins.

Related Articles:

Can you talk to a child without mentioning appearances?

When Boys Don't Cry:

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Before Hitting Your Child, Hit the Rewind Button!

Those familiar with the field of adult relationships and adult communication might recognize this method. It's often called the "rewind" method, a throwback to VHS movies.

Basically it goes like this. When you and your partner start to feel angry towards each other, that means something has gone wrong several steps before the actual anger, so instead of diving into a fight, you hit rewind and try it again. Some professionals even recommend using that sentence to communicate. "Wait, let's rewind and try again."

This has come to make a lot of sense to me when parenting. Almost always, the times when I feel as if my child has done something "bad" and now I have to do something to disapprove of it, are times when my communication/behavior/environment has eroded before my child acted out.

Think about it, if you feel any of the common responses about to pass your lips...the "because I said so" "just do it" "listen to me or else" "I'm counting to three" "NOW" etc etc...something has gone wrong several steps back.

When I pause and then rewind, I can usually pinpoint where something got confused. Or I find where my child did/said something and I didn't respond or I responded poorly, and it went back and forth until it created a dynamic leading us to a fight.

Going back to the adult relationships, think of this example. The woman is tired from staying with the kids all day. In comes her partner, stressed and tired from work. He'll say something short because he's tired. She misinterprets because she's tired. He'll be angry over something else and direct it onto her. She's too exhausted to point it out and redirect him, so she yells back at him. He starts the "always/never" statements and she bangs the cabinet door. All this anger and fighting over nothing, really.

Well, the same thing can happen in the parent/child relationship. The parent is tired. The child is tired. Usually a timer is involved such as being late to an appointment. The parent is distracted with her worries. The child is distracted with the world around her. The parent is hungry and has a headache. The child is hungry and can't talk about headaches. Misinterpretation. Miscommunication. Too many unmet needs. Pressure, anger, frustration and fighting erupt.

Who in the above scenario deserves to be punished? And is punishing one person going to restore the relationship? Improve communication? Bring the parent and child back together? Will responding to the child acting out, thus escalating the situation, get them back on track or steer them farther off road? Will the needs of both people be met or just ignored even longer, derailed by the punishment and angry feelings? Is anything solved other than the parent maybe letting off some steam?

Take time to pause and rewind when you start to feel as if your child is driving you insane or you're pulling someone up a mountain. Take time to analyze what happened a few minutes or even hours before the child began acting out. As you practice this, you'll start to find your answer and once you find the answer, you'll be able to use real tools to help solve the true, underlying problem and restore the relationship.

For younger children, the lava underground is almost always basic needs such as being hungry/thirsty, tired, sick, overstimulated/understimulated, under the influence of dietary triggers (gluten, dairy, additives, dye, etc), uncomfortable such as too hot or cold, or a recent situation of anxiety such as a stranger scaring them at the store.

For older children that list above might still apply but they also might be struggling with big emotions they can't pinpoint or communicate to you such as stress from a school project, embarrassment within a peer group, peer pressure versus inner values, anxiety as they become aware of the big problems in the world, insecurity about their bodies, etc.

What makes you snap at others? What makes you "break a rule" or act rudely to those around you? Put that into the size of a child's world. If you're stressed, hungry and tired, do you operate at your best? If you're having a hard time with your best friend and scared for your mom's health and worried about the bad news you heard on the TV, are you on your best behavior? Why, then would we expect better behavior from children who are still new, still practicing and learning and still struggling with big emotions and fears?

Going back to the adult relationship example, when the adults pause, then rewind, careful communication begins the healing process. It's not enough for one person to think about what went wrong. The two people have to acknowledge it. Having a struggle or unmet need acknowledged by someone you care about is powerful. It can help dissipate negative feelings rapidly. How might this look with a young child?

Parent: Whoa. You're really upset right now and acting out. We don't hit people. Let's rewind.
Child: I'm MAD! *stomp* *cry* *eye roll*
Parent: I can see that. You know, now that I think about it I realize we haven't eaten in hours. Your tummy must be feeling very hungry!
Child: My tummy HURTS, Mama! *cries relieved tears*
Parent: Let's grab a snack before we go to our next errand.

What about an older child struggling with a different situation?

Parent: Those were really disrespectful words you just used. That really hurt my feelings. Let's rewind.
Child: I don't WANT to! I HATE LIFE! I don't want to go back to school!
Parent: I heard that you refused to go along with pranking another kid at school.
Child: I've been banished! The whole school is going to laugh at me tomorrow!
Parent: It's really, really hard for us to stand by our values when others are pressuring us to do things we think are wrong. I'm proud at how strong you are and that you didn't hurt that boy. Those kids might try to make fun of you, but maybe they are just trying to make themselves feel better.
Child: Yeah. Maybe. *subdued*

When you take time to pause and rewind, it not only helps to decrease the friction in a relationship, but it also provides an opportunity to learn a lot more about your child and what's really going on under the surface. This method isn't easy. It'd certainly be easier to just feel angry about whatever the child was doing, spank or yell and move on. But sometimes slowing down and looking deeper will give you both a lot more than any kind of punishment ever could.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

You Think All Religious People Circumcise?

Think again! People of all faiths question routine infant circumcision and you can, too!

Learn more about religion and circumcision:

Circumcision from the Perspective of Protecting Children by Eran Sadeh

By Eran Sadeh, published with permission.

My name is Eran Sadeh. I am Israeli. I am Jewish.

I was born 43 years ago in Tel Aviv, a healthy baby with a perfect body. 8 days after I was born one man held my tiny legs down while another man cut a part of my penis off with a knife.

I was in pain, I screamed, I bled. It’s over. But the part that was cut off from my penis is forever gone.
Thirty-six years later my son was born. Two days before his planned circumcision, while searching online for recommendations on the doctor-mohel we chose, I stumbled upon the following paragraph from The Guide for the Perplexed by Maimonides, the great Jewish philosopher:

“As regards circumcision, I think that one of its objects is to limit sexual intercourse, and to weaken the organ of generation as far as possible, and thus cause man to be moderate. Some people believe that circumcision is to remove a defect in man’s formation; but every one can easily reply: How can products of nature be deficient so as to require external completion, especially as the use of the foreskin to that organ is evident. The bodily injury caused to that organ is exactly that which is desired; This is, as I believe, the best reason for the commandment concerning circumcision.”

I was shocked. I realized that the Jewish motivation for circumcision was diminishing sexual pleasure, the same motivation as the one behind female genital cutting.

I was so amazed by this text, so I went on to read every piece of information I could find about the part that was cut off from my penis. The more I read and understood the anatomy and functions of the foreskin, the more it became impossible to escape the painful and enraging realization that my body was violated, that my penis was damaged and diminished in its capacity to sense pleasure, and that I will never be able to experience and enjoy sex as nature intended it.

The amputation of the foreskin removes a highly erogenous tissue the size of an index card on a male adult. A man who is missing that covering tissue of the penile shaft, feels less pleasure, because he does not have the thousands of nerve endings that went with the tissue that was amputated. The foreskin serves as a protective sleeve that slides up and down the penile shaft, reduces friction and stimulates the specialized nerve endings and the head of the penis and so it makes for more comfortable and pleasurable sex for both partners.
I found reports showing that in Israel alone hundreds of baby boys are rushed every year to emergency rooms and operating rooms to treat complications following the amputation of the foreskin.

I learned that studies show that the pain suffered by the baby during circumcision is traumatic and adversely affects his reactions to pain later in life and I read testimonies by mothers about the screaming of their boys during the healing period, when the open circumcision wound comes in contact with urine.

Thanks to all the information that was revealed to me that day, my wife and I also decided to leave our son intact so I called the doctor-mohel and cancelled the scheduled circumcision.

As you can see, circumcision is nothing but a euphemism for forcibly amputating a healthy body part of a helpless child, causing irreversible bodily damage and pain and putting the child at risk. All this in the name of religion and tradition.

This will not do in a country that protects children’s human rights, especially the right to bodily integrity and the right to equal protection by the law.

A note to doctors: you have no business performing religiously motivated circumcisions. It is a violation of the first rule of your code of ethics, which is: Do No Harm. A forcible amputation of a healthy body part of a non-consenting minor without medical indication is an assault that causes bodily damage and this bodily damage gives rise to both a criminal liability and a civil liability, which cannot be waived. A consent by the parents to circumcision is invalid, because parents cannot authorize an amputation of a healthy body part of their child without medical necessity. Doctors, you are not cutting machines. Your professional obligation is to heal and treat a patient. If the child before you is healthy, whether a boy or a girl, you do not cut anything from his or her body.

Postponing circumcision to an age when a person can legally consent to amputate a part of his penis is the only legal and ethical way out of this conflict of rights. My body – My choice. This solution does limit the freedom of religion. But it is only temporary. If, however, you forcibly amputate the foreskin of a child when he is a minor and cannot give consent, you trump his right to bodily integrity for ever.

I am happy to be a part of a global movement to eradicate forced circumcision of minors. All over the world, men like myself who are hurt by the amputation of their foreskin, are speaking up and letting their voices be heard.

Mothers and fathers – learn about the advantages of a normal intact penis, learn about the disadvantages of a cut penis, and join the 80% of the sane world where parents welcome their sons to life without violating their bodily integrity, without hurting them, and without putting them at risk.

The attached picture is from a press conference held in Berlin on September 12th 2012 by the Deutche Kinderhilfe, a German children’s aid organization, under the title: Circumcision from the perspective of protecting children.

You can watch Eran Sadeh's statement here:


Jewish Intactivist Resources and Groups
Questioning Circumcision: A Jewish Perspective By Ron Goldman, Ph.D.
Beyond the Bris by Rebecca Wald.
Jews Against Circumcision
Cut: A Movie by A Orthodox Intactivist

Israeli Intactivist Groups (Mostly in Hebrew)
Protect the Child
The Israeli Association Against Circumcision / Intact Son
Kahal (Israeli Group for Parents of Intact Sons)

Peaceful Covenant Texts for Jewish Parents. 
100+ Rabbis who lead covenant without cutting ceremonies
Song for an Intact Jewish Boy’s Welcoming Ceremony
Brit B'lee Milah Ceremony
A Brit Shalom Ceremony

Judaism, the Foreskin and Human Rights.Rabbis on a Covenant without Circumcision
Jewish Law, the Foreskin, and Human Rights | Part 1.
Jewish Law, the Foreskin, and Human Rights | Part 2.
Jewish Law, the Foreskin, and Human Rights | Part 3.

Jewish Parents' Experiences Keeping their Sons Intact.
Humanistic Judaism is Increasingly Intactivist
Dear Elijah: A Conservative Jewish Father's Letter to His Intact Son | Published on Peaceful Parenting.
Moshe Rothenberg: Ending Circumcision in the Jewish Community? | Envisioning an Intactivist Judaism..
Michael Kimmel: The Kindest Un-Cut: Feminism, Judaism, and My Son's Foreskin | Published in Tikkun. 
Sarah Rockwell: Lucking Into Bris Shalom | Published on Beyond the Bris.
Laura Shanley: A Jewish Woman Denounces Circumcision | A Jewish Childbirth Educator keeps her sons intact.
Stacey Greenberg: My Son: The Little Jew with a Foreskin | Published in Mothering Magazine.
Intact & Jewish | Published on the Natural Parents Network.
The Naming | Published on Very, Very Fine
Diane Targovnik: How "Cut" Saved My Son's Foreskin : A Movie Review | Published on Beyond the Bris.
Circumcision Questions (letter from an intact Jew). |  Published in the Northern California Jewish Bulletin.

Jewish Intactivism

WHY DID MY CHILD SAY THAT? Whispers Through Time Book Review

So I was excited to get my hands on Knost's first book, which I consider an excellent gentle parenting guide. (You can learn more about the author and her first book here.) And then she released a second book and I'm thinking...what more needs to be said? Is this going to be a complicated book, like a follow up to the first? 

I was pleasantly surprised. Whispers Through Time isn't harder to read or more complicated. It's a simple yet captivating book that guides you through the various forms of communication between parent and child. Using her talent for keeping things simple and clear (which makes for easy mommy reading during baby naps!) Knost lays out each developmental stage of the child through forms of communication.

What a GREAT idea and GREAT resource for all parents! Whether you are new to parenting or think you've spent considerable time studying this kind of information, you will definitely find insight. Positive and negative communication roles are listed, along with discussion on why children communicate in certain ways and how to resolve problematic situations. Or, breaking out of the euphemisms, when your child is whining, shouting, "I HATE YOU" and slamming doors or lying to your face, this book tells you why and how to help.

This is a book that every parent deserves to read. You will not only enrich your parent/child communication but I bet you'll be using these insights to communicate with everyone around you!

Best-selling parenting and children’s book author, L.R.Knost, is an independent child development researcher and founder and director of the advocacy and consulting group, Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources. A mother of six, her children range from 25- years down to 25-months-old. Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages and Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood are the first in her Little Hearts Handbooks series of parenting guides. The next book in the series, The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline is due to be released November 2013. Other works by this award-winning author include the children's picture books A Walk in the Clouds, Petey’s Listening Ears, and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series for ages 2 to 6, which are humorous and engaging tools for parents, teachers, and caregivers to use in implementing gentle parenting techniques in their homes and schools.

L.R.Knost/Parenting and Children's Book AuthorWebsite:
Twitter: LRKnost_Author

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Natural/Vegan Rainbow Dye Cake by Elia

I really wanted a cake that would be delicious, as natural and organic as possible, dye-free and low in sugar. It seemed that I couldn't have my cake and eat it, too. My friend Karen, an amazing baker and pie-maker extraordinaire, was going to make the cake but things got complicated with her shop and had to cancel, so I had a week to get the perfect cake made!

I went to Whole Foods and to our two local health food stores but no store had natural food dyes at the time and even if they had them I knew they cost approximately $20 a pop! And so my kitchen became a lab for four days as I tinkered with our juicer to make perfect colors. I also found a fantastic recipe for vegan fondant out of ricemellow (vegan marshmallow paste) and organic powdered sugar.

I know you must be thinking that it doesn't sound like the fondant was low-sugar, and it wasn't but I figured the kids at the party probably weren't going to eat much fondant anyways. So why go through the trouble of making the fondant dye-free? Because I prefer sugar over chemical dyes any day of the week. They just freak me out!

The downside to using natural dyes is that you can't ever get Elmo to look as red as you want him to, it won't happen! He'll be pastel Elmo but as long as baby girl doesn't mind I'll continue making pastel colors.

Red: I juiced beets in our awesome juicer and then boiled it for just a little while. Be very careful! Stand over it the entire time as it will happen very fast. Then when it cooled I mixed it with a bit of coconut oil to mix it in with the fondant.

Green: easiest color! Juiced spinach (Don't boil! It doesn't improve like the beet juice did!) but it gives a nice green color. I've heard you can also just buy chlorophyll at the health food store and use that instead. -

Yellow: I first used turmeric dissolved in water but it was too runny, so I threw that batch out, read more about turmeric, found out as I suspected, that it's fat soluble, so I mixed into warm coconut oil and was very pleased!

Blue: I boiled red cabbages and found a great blue hue but it was too runny and when mixed with the fondant it looked gray and made the fondant too liquid and sticky. Decided against using that color.

Orange: carrots! It's always fun to juice carrots. Although the juice was a bit too watery and the boiled down trick didn't work. Fortunately I only needed a little bit of orange for the cake. \

Homemade Vegan fondant: (I promise you will have ingredients leftover)
-12 oz coconut oil
-A tub of ricemellow creme
-Half a pound of powdered sugar

Oil hands and work surface thoroughly, no need to measure, but if you must then, get about a tablespoon of ricemellow. Place on one hand and add lots of powdered sugar with the other hand. It helps if the powdered sugar is in a bowl you can reach into. Also place some oil in a bowl so you can dip your hands as you work the mixture in your hand and on the surface. Mix sugar into the sticky ricemellow until it stops sticking and it becomes a malleable paste (this can easily take five minutes! Do not despair!)

Once you make it you can separate it to color it. Make a small ball with some fondant, flatten it and add a few drops of color and work it in. The humidity of the natural dye will probably make the fondant sticky again so feel free to add more powdered sugar, which will make the color paler and will force you to add more natural dye, and on and on you will continue this cycle until you find the compromise between color and texture.

The oily dyes (turmeric) work better because they're not watery (spinach) and you can achieve vibrant color without changing the texture that much. Also, the more sugar you use, the harder the paste will become and the easier it will be to shape it! Now that you have your colored fondant you can shape it!

To make the caterpillar I used the biggest ball of fondant and colored it green, then rolled the ball out into a caterpillar shape and used a blunt knife to make the sections. I used a bit of the red and yellow fondant to make the face. I made one apple out of red and green fondant. Two pears out of green fondant, three plums out of red fondant mixed with green and I may have even used some coffee drops!?

I can't remember now but I was trying to achieve a plum color! Also four strawberries out of red and green for the tops, and five oranges out of the orange fondant mixed with the red (beet) fondant and yellow fondant. I was a bit worried that I was limited by the colors but once I shaped the strawberries different from the apples it didn't matter that they were the exact same color. I even used a toothpick to make tiny little dots on the oranges. Every piece of decoration froze well on a cookie sheet covered with wrap. An hour before the party I took them out of the freezer and popped them out of the plastic wrap and placed them on the frosted cake. Ta-dah!

The cake breakdown: Bottom layer was two vegan chocolate cakes (12" diameter) with chocolate ganache (non vegan) in between them. The top tier was a vegan apple spice cake (9" diameter). The cakes were made a couple of days before the party and frozen to make decorating easier. The frosting was buttercream frosting also made from scratch.

And although my plan was to make the entire cake vegan as possible I forgot to use coconut oil for the frosting and coconut milk for the ganache on the actual day! The day of the party I only made the frosting, the ganache and decorated the cake.

Friday, July 5, 2013

When Breastfeeding is the Edge of Pain and Discomfort

Anonymous upon request:

"My daughter is my fourth child and she was a very difficult nursling. I didn't know why it was so hard with her when I'd had such a great nursing relationship with my three first children.

Nursing was horribly painful for the first month at a minimum. It was bad enough to give me a reminiscent shudder thinking of it just now. I experienced bleeding, cracked nipples and extreme pain through every feeding.

On a side note, the only thing that allowed my nipples to heal and not continue to get worse was the Medela cone like breast shields that allowed air between my breast and bra. Gradually over the next month or two nursing got to that fine edge between pain and discomfort.

The thing is, it never got better than that. I never got that oxytocin rush from nursing her and wondered if my daughter could feel how tense I was while feeding her. Poor thing, she got some serious adrenaline shots from me during that first month or two of nursing!

I also felt that if all the stars didn't align and everything work perfectly, I didn't make quite enough milk for her. I didn't find out why it was so tough until right after I'd finally weaned her, after gritting my teeth for 16 months.

I think my two amalgam fillings are a big part of the reason for her lip tie unfortunately. I removed them last year and have been detoxing, hoping to have more children that won't struggle with this issue! I think it would be amazing to be able to tandem future babies, too."

Have you or are you struggling to breastfeed with a tongue tie, and especially the misdiagnosis or dismissive attitude from others that can go along with it? We are looking for guest bloggers to share their journey with other parents and bring awareness to this topic.

If you have a story to share, please fill out the form here:

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Sharing the Bounty: Money and Unconditional Parenting

Unconditional parenting, what some might also call non-punitive parenting or peaceful parenting (it comes in many terms) reaches every aspect of our lives. Academics, religion, biology, neuroscience, emotional wellbeing...let's not forget finances!

I've been very happy with the way my parents introduced money values and developed financial skills in their family. They have an entrepreneurial streak to them and seemed to have passed that along to their children. More important to me now as a parent, though, they also passed along the feelings of empowerment and bounty when it comes to finances.

Frugality without prudence and monetary discipline without a goal only lead to anxiety, to detachment, obviously not what unconditional parents are striving to communicate to their children. How can we guide them to live consciously, without waste as opposed to being stingy or fearful of the future? How can we encourage them to make their money work for them as opposed to becoming enslaved by money? These are questions that can't easily be summed up as they will vary by age and stage in your family.

Regardless of the stage, I've noticed that words are a powerful tool to use in the money topic. Words direct emotions and form values. For example, a common way of telling children no is, "We don't have enough money for that toy." Or even worse, going into judgment such as, "We don't have money to waste on such a useless toy."

I reframe the situation. "We haven't saved up money for that toy. Are you sure this is what you want? Let's put it on our list, look for the best deal and think about ways to earn money to get it." Sometimes, that means the toy stays on the list. More often than not, however, it means that my children talk about the toy which inevitably leads to talking about why they want that toy.

What is that toy promising you? Fun with friends? Entertainment? Looking pretty like a princess? Just a thrill for 5 minutes? Can you create your own, similar game instead of buying it? Can you find other ways to enjoy the promised emotion? Reframing what I say to them opens up the channels and I learn a LOT about my children, their desires and inner thoughts. And they, by communicating these things to me, learn about themselves and come to a greater understanding of what they really want.

Sometimes after much discussion, the child decides the toy is right. My daughter reached this conclusion about a Dora swimming doll back in May. I cringed at the $22 price tag for what I considered a cheap, plastic toy. But I smelled a lesson so I went with it. First, we practiced patience. It's frugal to wait until something goes on sale or clearance. Sure enough, a month later it was marked down to $10.99.

She went to work, earning the money doing odd jobs. (Granted, she didn't work very hard since there's not much a 4 year old can do for money haha, but I created the situations for her to learn from). I then asked my daughter, "How can we make our money work for us?" We listed some ideas and put them to use. We looked for a coupon and found a 20% off Dora Target coupon. Then we looked in the cartwheel app and found a Dora 5% and she paid me the money, and I used my Target debit card for another 5%.

You could not have found a more excited little girl that day, as she proudly chose her doll, walked to the checkout and paid. She told everyone who would listen all about her patience, her hard work and her coupon deals.

A lot of things can develop when we as parents stop to reframe our statements. Instead of automatically limiting our children by communicating restriction and a lack of power, with a little encouragement, our children can gain a sense of empowerment and develop skills that will last them into adulthood.

Quick Crunchy Hack: Cloth Doll Dipes on a Budget

We are always losing the little diapers that come with their dolls. So I decided to make some doll diapers with the kids. I'm on a budget, I have 3 toddlers to entertain and zero home ec skills. Obviously the fancy, deluxe diapers weren't an option. You can find cloth doll diapers for sale on etsy or ebay starting at $4-5 and going to, um, astronomical levels.

So I hashed a quick plan. We stopped into a store to buy some fabric. For a mere $3 each, the kids picked out their favorite characters. Then I picked up pre-cut velcro tabs.

The rest was easy...simple enough for my toddlers to help out with and take pride in the finished project.

1) Trace the existing cloth diaper (this does require you to have one lol).
2) Cut out the pattern.
3) Apply the tabs and test to make sure they line up.

This is a waterbaby from Target.

I bought the press-on tabs thinking it would be easier but they didn't last long at all and I had to stitch them on anyways, so go for the sew-ons to save more money.

Project total for 12 doll diapers: $8.

Why Parents Yell's ineffective but it's also a sign that parents and children are growing apart. If life is getting crazy, if your child "isn't obeying" and if you find yourself yelling or even escalating to other punitive methods, find a way to bring the hearts together.

"Why We Shout In Anger"
~Author Unknown

A Hindu saint who was visiting river Ganges to take a bath found a group of family members on the banks, shouting in anger at each other. He turned to his disciples, smiled and asked, "Why do people shout in anger at each other?"

The disciples thought for a while and one of them said, "We shout because we lose our calm."

The saint responded, "But, why would you shout when the other person is right next to you? You can as well tell him what you have to say in a soft manner."

So the disciples gave some other answers but none satisfied him. Finally the saint explained:

"When two people are angry at each other, their hearts are far apart. To cover that distance they must shout to be able to hear each other. The angrier they are, the louder they will have to shout to hear each other over that great distance.

What happens when two people fall in love? They don't shout at each other but talk softly, because their hearts are very close. The distance between them is either nonexistent or very small."

The saint continued, "When they love each other even more, what happens? They do not speak, only whisper and they get even closer to each other in their love. Finally they reach a point where they need not whisper, they only look at each other. That is how close two people are when they love each other."

He looked at his disciples and said, "So when you argue do not let your hearts grow distant. Do not say words that distance each other more, or else there will come a day when the distance is so great that you will not find the path to return."