Thursday, December 25, 2014

Why I'm Glad She Expects More Gifts

Sometimes I feel as if I am the only one going the other direction when it comes to small children and their egos, worldview, and self-images.

Since it's Christmas season, we're generally seeing a slew of articles on how to MAKE our children be grateful, humble, and unselfish. You can quickly find plenty of articles telling you how to reduce, how to minimize, how to repress, and overall how to deliberately change the hearts and minds of your children. The message is clear: children NEED you to change them or they won't turn out "good" by societal standards.

Meanwhile, before Christmas, Dear Daughter (DD) snuck into the closet to "oh and ah" at all the wrapped gifts. I was watching her quietly. She then counts only two gifts with "her" wrapping paper. I pause, don't say anything. She mulls it over, then she declares, "All the rest of mine must be hiding behind that stack because I know you're getting me tons of gifts."

And you know what? I was cheering for her in my heart. I teared up at the situation. I know it was a tiny glimpse, but it was precious to me, to know that my little child automatically ASSUMED she was being given an abundance and that she was SURE the universe had more for her.

Right away, I know parents out there are already confused or even judgmental about this, asking how in the world she's going to show empathy for others, or how she's going to withstand difficulties in life.

Here's the thing...knowing her...if she only opens two gifts, she will turn to her stocking and be happy about how full it is, or turn to the "all kids" gifts and be excited about games to play with her siblings. Life cannot "beat her down" because in her heart she is SURE that she is loved. She doesn't have those damaging, insidious scripts that many of us adults carry around from our childhoods, such as, "I got hurt because it's what I deserved" or "Life is hard because I'm not worth anything."

What I've come to realize is that those who have the inherent expectation that they are good, worthy, and that abundance is coming their way will not only weather the tough spots in life better, but they will somehow *find* what they expect out of the world and from others. It's a contradiction, similar to what we see with attachment parenting. The more you GIVE to your children, the more you fill up their cups, the more they are able to be that humble/grateful/unselfish person that society demands. Whereas, people who feel deprived, denied and neglected end up feeling too much pain and neediness to easily help others. They are too busy licking their wounds to spread goodness to others.

I was thinking about this using the analogy of Cry it out (CIO). Think about how parents believe that their babies have to CIO to learn to self-soothe, when in reality, babies need responsive parenting to establish security and they need time to develop skills as they get older. CIO doesn't make them mature and self-regulated, it just breaks them enough to be quiet for the parent. The outcome looks the same, but internally, the landscape is very different.

Similarly, many parents want to push that J.O.Y. concept (Jesus, Others, You), or they promote the twisted versions of humility and gratitude. They think they have to deprive, and hurt, and break their children to somehow get wholesome, loving, giving, grateful children.

Stop. Think about it. It just does not compute. You can't break something and expect a whole piece from it. You can't break the extremely complex and unique personhood of your child and realistically piece together the jagged leftovers to build your own masterpiece. Nor should you want to do that. Your child is already a masterpiece.

The truth is, a joyful, loving, giving person comes from a place of knowing joy, love and unconditional giving.

Children learn to be grateful by watching their parents model gratitude in daily living.
Children learn to be unselfish by receiving unselfish behavior from their parents.
Children learn to give unconditionally by receiving unconditionally in their family.
Children learn to empathize and think of others when parents empathize with and think of them.
Children learn to respect others when they are shown respect.
Children learn to appreciate life and to see the wonder of every tiny bit when the adults around them appreciate life and share the wonder of it.

If you fear that your children are selfish, spoiled, entitled, and arrogant, then the place to look first is in their hearts. A heart filled with unselfish, unconditional, unlimited love has no room for being entitled or selfish. A child who is not showing love to others is a child who needs her heart filled to the brim with more love. If a child does not have enough to go around, you cannot magically make more by subtracting love from her.

This Christmas, celebrate giving and loving others by giving to and loving your children.

More on this topic...

Seeing your child in a positive light:

Sharing the bounty:

Safe emotional expression:

Thursday, December 4, 2014

1 thing you need to do if you survived sexual abuse, assault, rape...

I was chatting with someone today about the experiences I've had in sexual violations. And it turned out the person I was chatting with had also been violated in a certain way. She asked me, "What helped you the most? Why are you functioning?"

Hands down, the most important factor in healing and being able to live, was DH learning about sexual violation and being a supportive partner. I highly, highly recommend that if you are in a relationship with someone or intend to be in a relationship, you ensure that the person is:

OPEN to learning about the topic and becoming educated enough to understand basic related concepts, treatment and healing options, normal emotional experiences, and other things that are part of the journey

SENSITIVELY HONEST so that frank and important discussions can be had with tact, while still being clear so that unintended hurts don't occur.

100% RESPECTFUL of every iota of your being, committed to healthy boundaries physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Do NOT sacrifice these aspects because the feeling of violation can linger such as by being triggered from unintentional behaviors, or by fighting to be acknowledged, or by being misunderstood. Smaller cycles of unhealthy behavior, such as threats, harshwords, gaslighting, etc, can all cause an amplified feeling and bring back past hurts quickly.

From being in this discussion with many people, one thing I frequently note is that survivors tend to think they can close the door on that experience, and completely black it out of their romantic relationships. Many of them do not tell their partners anything at all happened, or if they do, it's a very brief description devoid of tangible meaning and influence.

Unfortunately, sexual violation of all kinds impacts us, and plays into the way we act, think, and love in our relationships. If your romantic partner is unaware of your experiences and how they influenced you, then it can lead to a lot of misunderstandings and unintended harm to both people. Even if it's hard, it's really important to develop radical honesty in this area.

If you're unsure how to go about it, relationship therapy could be a great way to feel safe and to have a 3rd party guide you. If you feel unsafe sharing, this might indicate a need to carefully evaluate the relationship.

There are a plethora of books available on ebay and amazon, and probably at your local library right now written just for the partner of survivors. Consider ordering some and having an open discussion with your loved one soon.

Support for Partners

Secondary Survivors

Primer for partners of survivors

A guide for intimate partners

Survivor Parents

Saturday, November 29, 2014

How to Stop Helping Pedophiles

Grr, someone just asked me why sexual abuse continues, if it's genetic, a sign of our times? Those might be worthy discussion topics. But, I couldn't help wanting to get the main issue out of my system.

Why is sexual abuse rampant? How is it that a sexual abuser can have several, even dozens of victims? How do sexual abusers continue to find new victims?

Children continue to be sexually abused because the adults around them don't give a shit about them.

There, I said it.

Oh, they might think they care. They might say they care. They might get angry if accused of not caring. And yet, sexual abuse continues at epidemic levels. It's time to stop saying we don't know what to do or we can't do anything. It's time to stop being apaths and bystanders. It's time to take the initiative, to break through the discomfort, to shout above the silence and to change for the children.

Adults around the children being abused care MORE about other things than protecting the children.

They care more about image than they do about a child crying himself to sleep every night, knowing what's coming, They care more about their feelings of discomfort than they do about a child who thinks she deserves abuse and that's why everyone ignores her signs for help.

They worry more about involving authorities than they do about a child dropping into depression, self-harming, considering suicide to escape. They more about upsetting their smooth little lives than about the child's life which is being destroyed. They care more about "what the neighbor might think" than they do about what children are being taught to think about sex, boundaries, dignity and suffering.

Then if the abuse is finally forced into their faces, if they can't hide from it, twist it, or otherwise ignore it, they start with the excuses. "Oh, he was such a nice man!" "But, she's a good Christian woman. She donated to the needy!" "I never thought anything like that was happening. I thought he was a problem child." "I thought she was just copying what she saw on TV." Blah blah blah...deep down they know they are lying to themselves.

You've decided you don't want to be like this. You disagree with protecting the abuser. Maybe you experienced abuse and subsequent dismissal at the hands of other adults and have vowed to stop the cycle.

So, how can you STOP abuse?


Stop camouflaging what you see, stop turning your head, stop closing your mouth, and stop walking away. When everyone is talking freely and openly about grooming, about parental abuse and neglect, about gaslighting, and more, when everyone is open and honest about boundaries, when everyone is INVOLVED, AWARE, and ACTIVE in children's lives, then the monsters slink away because they know the children are not vulnerable prey for the taking.

Pipe up in conversations. Bring up the topic of abuse. Talk about respect for children, regarding sexuality or anything. Talk about your parenting methods. Say penis, vagina, prepuce, vulva. When monsters see that the adults around children are informed about parenting dynamics, oppose abuse, and can speak freely and comfortably about sexuality, they know these adults can't be manipulated into working for them.

If you observe new, unusual, erratic, or compulsive behavior, don't quickly jump to any answer EXCEPT abuse. Go ahead, consider it. RULE IT OUT as opposed to ignoring it or refusing to think about it. Here are some examples:

 Anxiety and depression, self harming, anti-social behaviors, emotional/sexual maturity beyond years (knowing and talking about things you or a teacher didn't share with them), acting out sexual play, genital stimming beyond exploration, fear of being alone, fear of being with certain people, control issues especially surrounding bathroom and eating habits, screaming and crying over using the bathroom (not talking about illness here are we? AGAIN, RULE IT OUT), fear of certain objects/toys (from being used on them), porn addiction, substance abuse, etc.


How can you PREVENT abuse?

Tell your children or any children you interact with that you will listen to them. Model listening to them. Show them that you are listening and caring. Tell them if they feel something is wrong, or if they hurt in their tummy, or if they are scared of someone, that they can talk to you.

Name their body parts. Say the names out loud. Name their emotions. Out loud. Practice acknowledging and protecting a child's no. Carefully use methods such as wrestling and tickling to build boundaries by practicing no and stop instead of incorrectly using them to break down a child's space. Read books about body boundaries with children. Work on your own boundaries.

Remind them that their no is powerful and shouldn't be ignored. Demand healthy boundaries from other adults around the child, such as friends, relatives, teachers, and people around town in authority positions. Stop the grooming even if the person doing it is not an obvious abuser. Show children that their bodies and feelings are important, that you care about them, that they have a voice and permission to use it. Monsters don't like children with a voice.

They don't like it when children are comfortable with their bodies and comfortable discussing issues with adults. They don't like it when children are bonded with a caring adult. Bonded, confident, unashamed, educated children are not weak, vulnerable, easy to manipulate, or easy to groom for abuse.

Adults, stand tall. Stand strong. Stand together. Make it clear that your home, your school, your playground, your community is not going to idly stand by in silence while your children are eaten by monsters. Show them your teeth, show them your intelligence. Raise your children with the same qualities. It's time to stop helping pedophiles. This isn't a fairytale castle and you aren't a flying monkey working for a witch.

Learn more about signs of an abuser and signs of a victim here.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Secret Soup for the Sick

When children are sick, especially with the vomiting variety, you want to get some nourishing foods into them during the recovery period. But, whether from normal toddler finickiness or from recently puking their guts out, often children refuse to eat what could benefit them the most.

A mama asked me what I do when faced with children who refuse to eat healthy after being sick. I, too, have heard of the super-kids who beg for cod liver oil or happily chew on raw garlic like candy. I don't have children like this. My kids see a spoon of manuka honey and run screaming. My son says manuka honey tastes "like sparkles" for that matter. Garlic is spicy. Vitamin C is tart. Elderberry is eyed very suspiciously. And you get the picture.

So here's my secret soup recipe, tailored for tummy bugs:

1 can of Campbell's chicken noodle soup with a character they like such as Mario or Frozen. (Basically any soup you know your child loves.)

3 cups of bone broth

1 tablespoon manuka honey

4 large cloves of organic garlic: raw, peeled, crushed and minced or grated to activate the antibacterial properties

2g lipospheric vitamin C

Bring the soup and bone broth to a boil together. AFTER IT COOLS DOWN to a tepid/lukewarm level, stir in the manuka honey, garlic, and vitamin C.

If your children balk at garlic, grate it to reduce the size even more while still getting the crushed chemical reaction.

Remember to tweak according to your needs and preferences. For example, I can use one can of soup and several cups of bone broth, along with adding my own finely chopped veggies, to make a big enough pot for the whole family. The cup of soup is just enough of a concession to look appealing to the kids so they taste it, realize it's delicious, and slurp it up instantly.

You can also customize what you put into the soup. Soups will generally take a lot, such as DE for parasites, clay for detoxes, chia, fiber, flax, cell salts, elderberry syrup, OLE/OoO in powdered forms, etc. Choose what you need and mix it in to taste. The manuka honey, besides being antibacterial and healing also adds sweetness to cover any of the harsher things you add.

Are you exclusively breastfeeding a baby and want to nurse her to health? I also have a list of things to do in this case (along with links to studies on why these ingredients are helpful). Read here.

Friday, November 7, 2014

No Means No - Birth Rape Trigger Warning

We seem to have a problem when it comes to basic comprehension of what birthing women say during and after labor. Despite being sentient, adult humans who can usually speak or communicate in some way, people seem to think the definitions change once labor starts. Let's refresh some basics.

No means no mean no. No matter the circumstances or excuses.

No means no regardless of location. If she's birthing at home, at a birth center, at a hospital, in a car, no still means no.

No means no regardless of where she is laboring. If she's in the shower, or in a pool, or on a ball, or on the OR table, no still means no.

No means no regardless of her mood. If she's crying, or screaming, or angry, or scared, or at peace, no still means no.

No means no regardless of her pain level. If she's in a little pain, or searing, unbearable pain, or no pain at all, no still means no.

No means no when she says she'll consider a medical intervention later.

No means no even when you feel you have a good reason.

No means no even if you feel tired, rushed, or impatient.

No means no even if you think it's something she'd like.

No means no even during an emergency.

No means no when she asks to stop offering an intervention to her.

No means no when she crawls away from you during a contraction.

No means no when she kicks at you as you force her legs into stirrups.

No means no when she cries and screams as you force your hand into her vagina.

No means no when she tries to turn her head away from a spoonful of herbs or a syringe of medicines.

No means no when she squirms and pulls back as you attempt to pull on her baby or cut her body.

No means no when she's too medicated to talk and tries to moan and hit your hand away.

No means no when she says to stop touching her and you hold on tighter.

No means no when she pushes you away and you lean onto her with all your weight.

No means no when she screams out and you cover her mouth so as not to scare the other laboring moms.

No means no when she tries to get off the bed and the nurses hold her down.

No means no when she's rolling away from you on the bed and you're moving after her.

No means no when her partner tries to step in to protect her and you get annoyed.

No means no when she clearly has no written all over her birth plan.

No means no even if you scare her by claiming she's an evil mother or pulling the dead baby card.

No means no when she desperately holds onto her baby and you grab the baby without medical reason.

No means no when she screams that she can feel the scalpel or the needle and you keep going.

No means no when she gives you vaccine exemptions and you vaccinate anyways.

No means no when she writes no formula on his bassinet card and you give it to him in the nursery.

No means no. Always has and always will. Your excuses don't change it. Your desire doesn't change it. Your intent doesn't change it. Your medical degree doesn't negate it. The cost of your services doesn't reduce it. Your OR privileges or dedicated home visits don't entitle you.

No means no. Review and remember.

Photo credit: Kirsten Sargent

Kirsten shares her experience:

"Things changed very quickly after this photo was taken. This is my first baby, a home birth, hospital transfer due to a retained placenta and severe hemorrhage. I was held down by 4 nurses while the retained placenta was removed manually, without communication/consent or pain medication after a 28 hour long natural birth. Nothing was explained to myself or my husband. I was separated from my baby for 12 hours because he wasn't born at the hospital and therefore was a liability. This was a little over 4 years ago and I still have horrible nightmares of that night."

When Big Family Comments are Reversed

Photo credit: Joanna Higgins

If you have more than 2.1 children, chances are, you've heard something strange, rude, crude, or overall inappropriate. While the chuckle and elbow poke might have been funny the first 500 times, and while you try to forgive and forget, telling yourself that you're just being sensitive and that the other person means well, in reality, many of these unsolicited comments are disrespectful and wouldn't be tolerated in another scenario.

What happens when you take some of the common quips aimed at big families and reverse them? See how many you can recognize. When it's turned around like this, how do you feel? Do you think the person asking this mom is kind? Just trying to make a friend? Secretly loving her small family but saying something silly? Do you think they are acceptable comments to random strangers? Do you think adults should say these things in front of children?

Well, I bet you're an atheist now, aren't you?

He must've been planned.

I guess you're building a figure skating family, huh!

Maybe you should try taking off your clothes once in awhile.

Are you sure she is yours?

You only have sex with ONE man?

I bet you feel empty handed!

You hands sure are empty!

I bet your husband is one unlucky guy!

Why did you only have two children?

What in the world made you stop at two?

Don't you know how unhealthy birth control is for women?

Aren't you scared of dying from your tubal ligation?

You must be so bored!

I guess you read a book on what causes that.

Maybe if you told your husband yes once in awhile...

If you would just open your legs, you'd have a larger family you know.

Women's bodies weren't made to go years without children.

You aren't trying hard enough to impress others.

Did you stop because you got an ugly one?

Doesn't your child ever feel lonely?

Hey Kid, tell your mom to get to work with your dad!

Sleep naked, it will get him interested in you.

Try spending more time with your husband, your family is too small.

You must've stopped at one to protect the environment!

Are you sure you aren't an atheist? Maybe a satanist?

I guess the Lord didn't bless you!

You must laze around all day.

It must be really quiet at your home.

I can take care of 13 kids just fine, I don't know why you'd stop at 1!

At least you're not on welfare.

I'd go insane with only one child.

I'll say a prayer that God inspires you to have more children.

I know you're not busy, so could you....

Your child is SO well behaved for being an only child! I'm surprised!

Your child can talk well for being an only child!

Wow, only one child? You look tired!

Photo credit: Nicolle Young
Gonna build your own soccer team, eh?

Thursday, November 6, 2014

7 Ways to Prevent Homeschool, Stay At Home, Natural Mom Burnout

I'm still on the young side, and only have 4 children as a mother. But, I've been MY mom's helper since a child, raising 10 children to adulthood, going through countless experiences in the natural, SAHM, homeschooling worlds. I've grappled with things from ECing while teaching older students to changing math curriculums to help a struggling student, to juggling multiple dietary needs in one large family.

Basically, having been homeschooled in a large family and now raising my own children in a similar community, I've seen more than my fair share of parenting burnouts and wrong turns that lead to moms breaking down and families experiencing chaos. I've watched train wrecks occur in families while growing up, and I see some happening now as an outcome to those childhood experiences, too. And I've made my fair share of oopsies (sorry, little siblings!)

I look around sometimes and see a lot of people in the early stages of burnout. What can you do to prevent it?

1) Stop trying to fit you and your family into a perfect picture on a harsh deadline. It doesn't exist. Start loving you where you are right now. Start loving your children for who they are right now. Stop comparing yourself to other moms. Stop comparing your children to other children. Stop looking at other homeschool set ups merely for the goal of feeling emotionally negative. If you don't feel inspired and positive when looking at others, then it means you're in a damaging loop.

And if you're focusing on constantly comparing yourself to others, chances are you've said some things in front of or to your children which can be very harmful. Such as, "Look at the Smith Family! THEY all entered the science fair!" or "I wish you guys were like the Johnson family. Those kids are always studying." Stop. Just don't do it. It benefits no one and harms everyone.

Photo credit: Chrys Kirby

2) Change your goals from unattainable to realistic. For example, instead of saying you will have the family on hardcore GAPS for a year, try slowly moving each food group to a higher quality over a year, or testing the GAPS intro for 2 weeks.

Instead of wanting all the the kids lined up in homemade school uniforms at your kitchen table, happily studying 3 grades ahead, focus on providing enough time to transition from traditional school to homeschooling. Focus on each child and the individual needs. Focus on one lesson at a time if needed.

Feeling as if you are constantly failing can be a red flag that you need to change your goals. Taking on too much, too quickly, won't make you feel more accomplished. It'll make you feel more incompetent. Make small goals. Map out a large, end goal for inspiration, but ensure you have several small and realistic goals to get there.

3) Stop trying to do it all. Your value as a human being and your parenting are not measured by how much busywork you pound out in a day. Effective parenting and homeschooling is efficient and prioritized. It's not how long your to-do list is, but rather how you organize it and complete it. Start to question where your time is invested.

Several hours trashing the kitchen, yelling at the unsupervised kids in the other room while you cook for a party? Time to let go of your insecurity or pride and buy premade or request a potluck.

Are you spending hours each week organizing schedules, working out assignments, putting together a curriculum? Have you reviewed your state law recently to find out exactly what is required? Have you reviewed your homeschool family plan to see exactly what your goals are and what's required to meet them? Spending hours stressing out on paper pushing means hours not spent on your family.

And for what end? If you counted all the hours spent on making cute invites instead of emailing or pre-mades for a birthday, on all your home ec projects, on sewing instead of buying, on trying to make something instead of looking for something secondhand that will work, would you really feel your time spent in this way is truly beneficial to your family? Do your children really view it as beneficial, or do they feel second to the household projects and homeschool paperwork?

Photo credit: Kirsten Sargent
4) Speaking of focusing, focus. Focus on the task at hand. No more, no less. Don't accept new projects until your current projects are completed. If you find yourself constantly rotating through endless fermented recipes, the latest natural diet fad, the new canning idea you saw on Pinterest, ten different knitting jobs, five potential curriculums, a book report idea you heard from a mom at school, and you feel that familiar sense of whooshing along in the current of chaos, it means you need to stop and go back to steps 1, 2 and 3.

Remember your self worth. Remember that your children are lovable as they are at this moment. Less is more. Less ensures quality, not half completed quantity.

5. Address the anxiety. If you realize you're constantly in a loop of taking on too much, scattering it around in a mess, and then fighting with the kids, it's time to look for the root issue and address it immediately. Is it buried grief over the loss of a loved one? Is it something from childhood? A chain of mother-daughter narcissism or a mother-wound? A chronic physical situation such as thyroid issues or gut health issues?

Stop trying to climb out of a muddy hole with your bare hands. Reach out. Ask for help. Build a firm foundation. 

If you experience symptoms of anxiety or depression, stop pinning the plates faster and faster. You cannot distract these issues away. Life must be slowed down for self-care and restarting on firmer footing. Stop looking at your newsfeed if you constantly feel inferior or anxious. Stop browsing pinterest if it makes you get off the computer angry, ready to bark at the kids. Stop signing up for events and activities if you or the children end up with meltdowns, or even physical illnesses.

6. Enlist your partner. I'm not talking about a vague, inclusive idea here. I put this one on the list for a common and specific problem: married, stay at home, homeschoooling mothers who are slowly killing themselves and harming their children while the husband is at work all day and then comes home and sits in front of the TV.

He works too hard already? He can still help. He doesn't do it the way you like? He can still help. He complains? He can still help. The kids complain? HE can STILL HELP! (You're afraid to ask? Get marital assistance and domestic abuse help ASAP.)

Parenting, running the home, implementing natural practices, and homeschooling all your children on your own is not a recipe for admiration and success. It's a recipe for complete disaster, burnout, emotionally neglected children, and a trashed mom.

Stay at home moms tell me here, "But, I have a single friend who works and homeschools!" Yes, and she has help, such as someone to watch her child for 8 hours a day. Does your husband watch his children for 8 hours a day? (And if she doesn't have help, she can easily burn out, too, and that is a common concern for single parents.) At any rate, go back to step 1. Stop comparing yourself to others.

7. Evaluate. Just as children have minor regressions or go through stages, our homeschooling and parenting can have dips and go through stages. But, if that stage is lasting too long, impairing the health of family members, or otherwise interfering with your family life, it's time to take a second look. Don't tell yourself to just try harder when you might be beating yourself senseless against a brick wall.

Remember, the goal is to prioritize, to be effective and prudent. Throwing yourself into something for years because you are scared to admit a mistake, a perceived failure, or address financial or other costs wasted, etc, only means that many more years of damage to your family.

Please, stop the exhausting work of being a super mom. Stop the endless job of trying to make yourself feel as if you are enough. Good enough. Smart enough. Mom enough. Parent enough. Cool enough. Accomplished enough.

Stop letting this black hole of inferiority bleed its way into your children's hearts. Don't raise them worried that they aren't enough, that they can't be enough for you or others. Don't let a suspicion linger that somehow what's important is how we look in the eyes of others.

The busywork will always, always be there. The house will always need just a little more cleaning. The second you finish every scrap of laundry, someone will poop in a cloth diaper.

You can bury your nose in school schedules, but in 16 or 18 or however many years, when you're done making schedules, what will stand before you? What will be the sum worth of those papers?

Where are all your hours going during the day? Every strand of your life is woven deliberately, and it flows from you. Sometimes we feel helpless, as if we are blindly stumbling through the chaos, trying to pick up a cup here or put on a sock there. And yet, if we really could pause time and stand outside of it, looking at the entire tapestry for one moment, would we not quickly pick out the strands running towards some end? Would we not instantly see the pattern we're knitting daily, knot by knot, as precisely as the instructions we follow when making a pair of booties for a baby?

Every day is a fresh start. Every day is a new chance to put a knot in the link with our children. Each new morning is our chance to undo the knots chained down with anger, fear, anxiety, and inferiority. Each day that closes is a day we can close by putting one foot in front of the other, pointed towards our family and not away from them.

When you feel as if you aren't enough, when you feel as if you must do something more, rush instead to your children. Hold them, hug them. Play with them. Smile, laugh, and sit in the middle of the chaos. And be enough simply as you are in that moment. That's what your children need from you.

After all is said and done, the kids will learn. They'll potty train, believe it or not. They'll figure out how to read. They'll balance a checkbook. They'll even go out in clean clothes and matching shoes someday. All of that will happen, and it won't happen any sooner or better just because you pour your entire self and soul into those things. Instead, you'll miss the fleeting opportunity to connect with your children and build up your family.

There's a common warning about midlife divorces, that couples spend their lives overly absorbed in raising children and working, choosing to neglect their marriages. They choose to weave a tapestry, knots leading away from their relationship. You've heard the quip: "When your children leave the nest, your marriage still remains. Is there going to be anything left?"

Similarly, when school is over, the family still remains. If you spend your best talents, your brightest peaks of energy, your emotional investment and more by focusing on busywork, when your children graduate, will their family still be there? Their mom?

Monday, October 13, 2014

Does the voice in your head berate you or affirm you? Start noticing the good.

Ever have a day where you catch yourself thinking you've failed? Do you ever go to bed at night running through all the things you failed to do and all the things you messed up or skipped?

Although I can say I love motherhood, I still grapple with the general cultural messages that parenting is some kind of lowly, unproductive waste of our time. I have a doer personality and the grind of parenting young children can make me lose sight of what's most precious.

This past week, I took on too many projects and said yes too many times to too many people. Unsurprisingly, my house is a mess and most of the projects are overdue or half done. Let's not even talk about the activity of my blog lol. (Thank the FB Gods for the ability to schedule links at least?)

I was really feeling a good pity party coming on when I decided I needed to calm down with some mental affirmations. I decided to go to bed thinking about all that I had done, and all that had gone right.
Here's what I worked out:

I didn't list my box of items to sell last week. The box is still sitting here, staring at me. Am I disorganized and inefficient? That's what I could call myself, sure. Instead, I choose to remember that I committed to going on not one but three playdates with a new mom group, meeting new moms and introducing the children to potential new friends. I choose to call myself friendly and open to new experiences instead.

I didn't finish redecorating the living room. I had a whole plan, including new furniture, securing the TV to a different wall, building a table top for the train table, hanging photo frames, and more. Am I just flighty, unable to finish what I start? Or, could it be that I was prudent and went over the finances carefully with DH, and decided to halt the project until a later time? I choose to say that I can moderate my desires and communicate honestly with my spouse instead.

Once again, I forgot to pull out the fancy paints I bought ages ago and to do special stenciling with the children. I was going to go through the alphabet with them, and their numbers, and incorporate rhyming songs, and be a superstar home educator! I failed. But, did I? Today, we ran around the woods for hours, and the children excitedly ASKED to learn about tree identification. And we found an orb spider and talked about building spider webs and spinning silk. And then we climbed a hill to see a beautiful view of the lake. Learning happened, just not in the perfect and fancy way I was trying to create.

Another day went by and I didn't write the articles I promised to write for some people. I felt embarrassed. Unreliable. An annoyance to others. But, I know I answered some heartfelt PMs today and worked with someone who was really feeling alone and scared. I choose to remember that I can be trusted when someone is in need.

I barely skimmed over the house before bedtime, wiping down surfaces, shoving toys into piles, sweeping pathways. I started a load of laundry, but there are 3 more behind it. I washed a load of dishes, making room in the sink for the dishes waiting on the countertop lol. I could wallow in the self-loathing hatred of not being a primadonna housewife. Or I could realize that we painted Hallowe'en photos while waiting for their daddy to get home, and laughed together, and talked about costumes and made plans. The kids didn't go to bed thinking about laundry and dishes, so why should I?

No, I'm not saying to justify weaknesses or ignore mistakes. The thing is, when it comes to mothering and wearing all the hats women tend to don in their lives, the issue is not denial or justification, but rather too much criticism and a focus on failure.

If that voice in your head isn't motivating you to be a better you the next day, then it's time to change that voice. If you don't feel uplifted and inspired when you're talking to yourself or about yourself, then it's time to change the wording. Go to bed remembering all the good things and see how it changes you the next morning.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Kids at play. Shoes not required. Why I choose the kids over your fears.

I've learned something, having helped my siblings from birth to adulthood.

You know how your child pulls his shoes off in the car? Someday, all on his own, he won't do that. Freaking out about it isn't going to make that time arrive any sooner, and only serves to stress you out and damage your relationship with him.

The same goes for the Christian audience and church. Take a look around the next time you go to church services. What do you see? Hundreds of adults standing, sitting, kneeling, hands folded, reading, singing, or being silent. ALL on their OWN. It will happen.

Neurotypical toddlers without underlying conditions grow into children who use underwear. You wouldn't believe it by the way your toddler screams at the toilet or hides behind a potted plant to poop, but soon enough, she will refuse to soil herself.

So, when my toddler is prancing with joy on the playground bench, I'm happy to oblige. When they throw off their shoes to better experience the park, I'll pull my shoes off and experience it with them.

When they get down on the ground to look at worms, I'll smile and remember what it was like to love insects instead of worrying about disease transmission, poison, stings, and the like. (Such as LYME LYME LYME! LOL).

An odd bug! RUN FOR THE HILLS!

You might give me the evil eye. You might call us uncivilized. You might suggest I'm a crappy parent. You might display stroke symptoms when my children run up the slide. You might loudly tell your children, "We don't do THAT" when mine all jump on each other, a huge pile of giggles and love.

Barefeet, breaking the posted rules, swinging AT ALL during infancy.
How will these kids survive?

We're busy exploring, learning, loving, and growing together. The thing is, when it comes down to choosing between a random stranger's approval or supporting my children in their joyful exploration, my children will ALWAYS win.

Soon enough, they will put on their shoes and leave them on for long periods. They will read the posted rules and (usually) abide by them. They will sit still in church and read the scriptures if they have the gift of faith. They will bake without throwing flour. They will walk quietly down a path instead of shrieking and throwing out cartwheels.

This time right now is ours. I will not threaten it for your emotional satisfaction.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

5 Ways to Make Your Keurig Addiction Healthier

It turns out my husband is pretty crunchy. In some ways, he's got more crunch than I do, such as his continued attempts to do Elimination Communication and his constant research about electronics, environmental toxins, and IR/EMF exposure.

He remains super uncrunchy (is this oatmeal-y?) when it comes to one thing, though. Caffeine. Coffee, energy drinks, super-expensive-drive-thru-flavored-cups-of-cancer. He loves them. He appreciates the careful methylation support and b-vitamin tinkering I provide him, but still wants a hot cup in the morning on his way to work.

So, it didn't surprise me when he begged for one thing for his birthday. He wanted a Keurig machine. I laughed. I rolled my eyes. I pointed out, "You had a regular coffee machine and never used it!" He insisted this was different. He insisted it was perfect for lazies like him.

I obliged. (With this deal, who could really say no?)

Let's say you can't keep away from the caffeine. You might have methylation concerns or MTHFR, but you still reach for that cup. Adrenals and thyroid be damned, you want your coffee! What are ways you can make that Keurig machine a bit crunchy?

I mean, stop and think about it. Those disposable plastic cups aren't breaking down anytime soon. And they are filled with chemicals, endocrine disruptors, and all kinds of goodies that are more easily transferred to your body when activated by heat/steam. The coffee pods available are typically filled with "flavoring" and other junk ingredients. It's not exactly something you should be spending money on to consume daily. What can you do?

1. Clean it regularly. Use distilled white vinegar and water, and perhaps a drop or two of your favourite antimicrobial essential oils, to clean through the tubing and reservoir regularly. This will prevent mold/bacterial growth since some of the models cannot be adequately emptied or cleaned.

2. Buy a reusable k-cup filter. Actually, it's $5 right now on Amazon, roughly 50% cheaper than retail prices. (Not a referral link, just being helpful.) Then you can fill it with organic, fair trade coffee or teas.

3. Buy compostable and organic k-cups. If you don't want a reusable cup, at least upgrade your disposable ones to the compostable, fair trade, organic options. Especially if you buy them at a big box retailer such as Costco or Sam's Club, you can get them at a discount. (Or clip the numerous coupons, or wait for a sale and stock up.) The difference in price is not that extreme to ensure you are reducing pollution and avoiding toxins, along with supporting fair trade commerce.

4. Keep healthier ingredients on hand. DH likes to put a splash of raw milk and a sprinkle of stevia into his cup. Nix that cancer-creamer or fake sugar and use this area as an opportunity to boost your health. Think of what can go into a cup of joe. You could do your daily DE or clay without even noticing it. Or some raw honey if you feel under the weather. Organic protein mixes or powdered vitamins, too.

5. Brew healthy drinks. Get creative. The machine is perfect for brewing up your favourite herbal mix. You could make a quick cup to dump into a hot bath for nightly detoxing/healing. Or make organic herbal teas.

I guess with a little bit of legwork, convenience can still be crunchy. At any rate, I don't think I'm going to separate these two anytime soon, so I'll do what I can to work around it! LOL.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The day I told my husband to self-soothe

My husband arrived home from work, but as he stepped through the door, I could see that he was clearly upset. He shared with me that he was tired. He'd been dealing with some indigestion because his lunch was rushed. Then he sat down to share some more. He began talking to me about some concerns he had at his work.

That's when stopped him in his tracks. I shushed him.

He looked up at me with confusion, then started talking again. I cut him off again.

I told him, "Look, you need to take a time out. You need to sit in the other room and learn some coping skills and self-soothing skills." At this point, his confusion changed to anger. I could tell he was clearly upset now, but I continued to hold my position.

I was irate now. "You ate, right? The bills are paid? You have a roof over your head? You need to understand that your basic needs have been met. None of this whining about other things. You're on your own for those. You need to figure out how to deal with them alone."

His flash of anger had finally turned to hurt and sadness. With tears in his eyes, he looked up at me and asked me why I was doing this to him. He started to cry openly and reach out to me. I took a step back and set him straight.

"You need to stop manipulating me! You are way too old for that kind of clingy, whiny behavior! You need to figure out how to calm down by yourself. I'm just being a good wife. This is for your own good. What will the neighbors think? Stop crying now or I'll really give you something to cry about!"

Do you have a problem with the way I treat my adult husband? Do you see a problem with interacting this way in an intimate, caring relationship? Tell me, why is it okay to set these standards with our infants and children, even teens?

We demand that our infants and children do things that we don't expect from grown adults. We refuse to listen to them when they are having a bad day, insisting instead that they deal with it, and quietly!

We brush off their attempts to reconnect with us, sometimes physically pushing them away or removing them to separate rooms and time out spaces. We invalidate their negative emotions or punish them for expressing any sign of vulnerability and hurt.

WHY!!!???? If you wouldn't treat a grown adult this way in a loving relationship, don't force your infants and children to experience it either.

Relationships are about being there for the other person, not only during wonderful times, but most especially during the hardest and darkest of times. People find the strength to keep going when they are supported, validated, and respected. Their fears are soothed not by being hidden behind closed doors, alone, but rather by being welcomed with a warm heart and open arms.

How would you have treated your husband if he walked through the door upset today? And how will you treat your baby when she cries out in the middle of the night? Or your 4 year old when he whines for food? Or your teen when she gets angry to hide her hurt over a disagreement?

Instead of focusing on laying down the law and obtaining power over the other person, shift your focus to restoring the relationship. Stop focusing on invalidating the other person. Start reconnecting. Affirm. Uplift. Listen, truly listen with a caring heart. Empathize. Relate. Build rapport. Support. Share honestly if giving advice, but with kindness. Be there for the other person.

© 2014 Holly Paz

Holly Paz, mother to four, puts her mothering where her mouth is when it comes to perspective and experience. She's walked many roads including a c-section birth and VBAC. She used the CIO (Cry it out) method with her first child and has made a complete 180, learning the value of responsive parenting along the way. She wants others to also be inspired to change, to better their parent/child relationships and to raise children in tune with their needs and feelings. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The van with stickers all over the windows

Do you sport stickers on your windows? Crayon in your carpet?
Crumbs in every crack? Scratches on the door? This post is for you!

We're not rich. I don't often focus on that for several reasons. First, I believe in the process of encouraging abundant thinking and grateful living. Second, I feel wary about complaining or being negative when I know we are lucky as it is that my husband has a fulfilling job to cover the bills, that we have a safe home, and that we have healthy food to put on the table. I know that's more than many in this world.

Still, every now and then I feel the swirling doubts, fears, and discontent in my mind. It's hard to be a stay at home mom counting every penny, and not look down the other pathway in the medical field and think, "What if I had chosen a lucrative career instead?"

Maybe the ingratitude slipped into my heart innocuously, on the backs of all those extremely fit, shiny beach bodies in the vacation ads that seemed to have cropped up with the turn of the season recently.

Whatever silently crept into my day, it was there, hanging over me as I took the kids grocery shopping. I felt it as I pulled my sputtering old van into a parking lot and pulled open the squeaky doors. I felt it as I painstakingly calculated unit prices and stacked coupons with mobile rebate offers, noticing as others simply grabbed what they wanted off the shelf and hurried on their way.

I felt it as I got to the checkout and spent a frazzled few minutes trying to gently wrestle 4 shrieking monkeys while keeping an eagle eye on the cashier and the total to make sure everything was perfect. I felt it in the sigh of relief as I ended up 30 cents under my budget. Another successful shopping trip.

By the time I was pushing my full cart out to the van, I let those negative thoughts float freely in my head. We're poor. We're not keeping up with the Joneses. Our house is tiny. The van is going to die any day now. I'm tired of the stress.

Distracted by my self-pity, I let the kids get ahead of me and missed a beat. In an instant, I had unlocked the door without noticing my 3 year old was up by the passenger side. He loves to open the passenger door and climb into the front seat. I jumped around the van, words caught in my throat, and it was too late. With the energy of a 3 year old boy, he flung open the door, slamming it into....

Shit. Yes, a shit was required here.

He slammed it right into some kind of black, shiny, convertible sports car filled with two wealthy looking people. I stood there, my mouth not even able to fall open, watching what was almost like a Matrix-style scene, as the van door bounced off the side of this beautiful car, the thunk reverberating through my head. Holy cow, I thought to myself. The repair for that is going to cost more than our van is worth!

I grabbed my son and stood there, waiting in shock, as the man climbed out of his convertible and turned towards me. "I'm so so sorry. Does it look like there's any damage?" No response from him, so I kept at it. "I should've kept an eye on him! I can't believe this happened. I'm so terribly sorry." Before the man could respond, my 5 year old daughter decided to add her voice to the situation. She rang out loudly, "Wow! You must be really rich! You have a cool car!"

The man was older, maybe in his 40s, and looked pained. He put his hands on his hips, and stared at us all, my 4 monkeys practically vibrating with energy. A huge kid-cart filled with groceries, foam swords sticking out, open snacks, water bottles, and two ergos. All next to my dinged up, scratched up, rusting old car with the missing license plate.

Then he changed my life that day.

"Little Miss. I'm not rich. I'm actually quite poor. Your mom here is the rich one."

He looked at me. "See, my wife and I wanted nothing more than children, but we didn't know it at the time. We sought riches first. We worked hard to be rich and we were rewarded. But, we didn't know what it meant to be truly wealthy. Oh, yes, we had our big home and our vacation home. We had our careers. We had our fancy cars. We didn't have bills to worry about or budgets to follow. We thought we had it all. And now I know we have nothing at all. We are the poorest of the poor."

He waved at my van. "I would trade you my three cars, my big home, my vacation home, my timeshare, my gadgets, my chef, all of it. I would trade you the nice clothes off my back and the shoes I'm wearing, for just one trip in this van, this happy van with stickers all over the windows. I would climb into your old van and drive away a happy man, the richest and wealthiest man in the world."

Then he smiled and said, "Don't worry about that scratch. Just do me one thing and remember how blessed you are today. Don't squander your riches."

I buckled in the children, put in the groceries and climbed into my seat. I started to sigh at the familiar sight of the yellow empty sign on the gas gauge. And then I caught myself. I didn't have money to spare. Or the career I thought I deserved. I didn't have a big, fancy home or a nice car. But as the kids started to sing along to their preschool CD and I heard their loud, giggling voices, I realized I was driving home wealthy.

It's true, we don't have a lot of treasure in our family. But, we do have each other to treasure. I'm forever grateful to that man for his reminder. I hope his words ring true against any negativity that pops into my heart and mind in the future.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Parasites in your bum howling at the moon? Tidbits on melatonin and immune modulation of parasites

Everyone has heard that parasites become more active with the full moon. A quick google search brings up plenty of articles and discussions on this phenomenon, but no clear answers. Some people have theorized that gravitational changes are the cause, but this doesn't make a lot of sense in regards to parasitic behavioral changes. So, what's causing the bugs to go out for a romp when the moon is hanging in the sky? Is this a myth? Psychosomatic?

I was browsing available medical literature on human sleep during lunar cycles when something caught my eye. Researchers observed human sleeping patterns during full moon activity and discovered that melatonin rates drop during the full moon. (Read about the study here.)

This immediately piqued my interest because a frequent talking point in the natural community is that children with gut issues...damaged guts, leaky guts, food intolerances, allergies, and the resulting behavioral labels that come with this situation such as autism, ADHD, SPD, etc have very hyper sleep patterns and are unable to fall asleep or stay asleep. Parents desperately turn to melatonin supplements in these cases.

Then I remembered something from my college days. Parasitology 101: melatonin in the host can influence the parasitic-host relationship. See, melatonin might be known as the sleep hormone, but it has immune system functions, too. It makes sense that if children are exhibiting immune system issues, they might also have low melatonin. (And it's chicken or the egg: could low melatonin be causing the immune system issues? And what caused low melatonin in that case?) At any rate, the wheels started turning.

I quickly typed in, "Melatonin parasites" and began reviewing the current medical literature on the topic. Sure enough, I found several references to the influence of this indolamine on parasitic infections. Melatonin mediates immune responses to parasites, controlling their reproductive cycles, their population levels, and host "fighting reaction" to infection. (See the studies here and here for examples.)

So, if you notice a change in your health during the full moon, especially regarding parasitic infestation and gut issues such as flatulence, constipation, and bloating, or mood changes such as irritability, insomnia, and brain fog, consider supporting your neurochemical balance in the brain, along with healing your gut. Research healthy foods that support serotonin and melatonin. Brush up on amino acids needed for neurochemical health. If you suspect parasites, touch base with a health care provider for testing. Depending on the type of parasite, things such as minced garlic, diatomaceous earth and various essential oils can help.

And the next time your kids are jumping off the ceiling, refusing to sleep, and running around like crazed zombies during the full moon, you might have an interesting answer for onlookers. "It's the parasites! The melatonin hormone has dropped and those parasites are howling at the moon!"

And you thought it was just the red hair!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

When Dog Ownership is Violence and Cutting Your Son is Freedom

I learned something new the other day. I casually mentioned my dog, Butters, while at the playground. I laughed a little and said, "I never thought I would be a dog owner, but he sure is cute!" The lady I was talking to did not respond with amusement. Her face remained flat as she sternly rebuked me. "Dog ownership is a form of violence. It is wrong to own another living being. I am an animal companion."

We have reached a fascinating step in mankind's development. We have reached a time where we are dedicated to eradicating any form of violence against any living being. To smack a dog on the nose is abuse. To cut its tail is an unspeakable horror.

And I certainly find nothing wrong with that stance. Hurting another living being does not receive defense from me. I do not punitively care for my dog, despite the inadvertent use of a politically incorrect label. I guess my doggie companion will forgive my verbally violent labeling even if this society cannot.

What I find most hysterically concerning is actually the inconsistency in applying an affront to violence. Are we actually opposing violence because it is violence? Or do we select specific forms of it and specific victims to suit our own emotional needs?

I have an analogy, one that I have shared during those terse and unpleasant times when human violence activists begin to pick and choose what violence they oppose and what violence they support. They make bold attempts to oppose violence while still loudly supporting it in another way.

Let's say, within the expanding field of prenatal surgery, that a mother is now able to choose elective circumcision surgery on her son while he is still in her womb. Thanks to the miraculous advance of technology and medical precision, at the mere gestational age of 17 weeks, doctors can use a delicate laser to accurately remove every bit of the male's foreskin long before he is born.

Would someone who opposes circumcision but supports reproductive choice still support the mother in this situation? Would someone who opposes surgical abortion but supports parental circumcision choice still support the mother in this situation? Or will their heads merely explode after reading this analogy, as they refuse to acknowledge their hypocrisy and lash out at the messenger? Perhaps, then, the two parties will find unity in their contradiction.

If you oppose a mother electing to have a surgeon cut a piece of flesh off the body of her son after he is born, will you still oppose the mother electing this if her son is inside her womb? Is it not her reproductive choice to do as she desires while pregnant?

Will you only attempt to educate or dissuade the mother if the organ being destroyed is the foreskin? What if she decides to pay for other cosmetic changes? What if she decides to surgically alter her daughter in the womb?

If you say that circumcising a small, defenseless human being out of preference, desire, or misinformed and uneducated reasons is wrong, is painful, is violent, is inhumane, is you only feel this way when the flesh removed from him is a foreskin? And only after he is born? What about if an arm is removed? A leg? At what gestational age is it repugnant? At 12 weeks? Or 22 weeks? Or maybe only the last trimester?

Oh, I do not hold only one party to the wall here. Let us not overlook the screaming, red-faced activists who vehemently oppose abortion. Life is precious! Unless you are a baby boy. Abortion is violent! But cutting a newborn's genitals is loving. We are pro-life! Except for when we want to risk our sons' for sexual preferences. She's a person, not a choice! He's my son, it's my choice! Ah, how the gaps grow wider.

If people are only now becoming aware of the level of violence against completely defenseless living beings, I see nothing wrong with giving them space to continue to soften their heart and adjust their ethics.

If someone has not stopped to think about what it means to dig a sharp tool down between the prepuce and penile shaft, to rip the two apart, and then to clamp and cut the organ off as the newborn is tied down to the circumstraint board and fully conscious, I hope she stops to think now.

If someone has not stopped to think about what it means to locate the being inside the womb, cut him into pieces small enough to vacuum out, reconstruct his body to ensure no pieces of him were left behind, then send him nameless and forgotten off for incineration, I hope she stops to think now.

What underlying need is more important than the plight of these tiny living beings? To be esteemed by friends? To be accepted into a group? To look as if you are saying the right thing and doing the right thing? What would cause a person to oppose violence against him in the womb, but then turn a blind eye to his bloody genitals after birth? What would cause a person to rally against the scalpel when applied to the penis, but fall silent when applied to his entire body?

I think back to an incident after the birth of my third son. For the first time in my mothering journey, I flinched while clipping the fingernails of my baby. I barely clamped down on the top of his finger, not even breaking the skin. He awakened immediately, eyes wide with fright, and began screaming. I felt a wave wash over me as I held him. What kind of wave must parents harden their hearts against when they sign the papers for something that cuts as deep as circumcision and as final as abortion?

If I cannot stand to clamp the tip of his finger accidentally, if I cannot so much as clamp the flesh on my son's penis after he is born, I certainly cannot clamp his arms and feet, nor crush his skull, nor have his tiny body sucked up into a tube to be incinerated. Circumcision, this thing some people consider to be a "snip" is a severe, deep human rights violation. The concept of dismembering his entire body, then, must be unbearable.

This aspect of ignoring violence has always perplexed me. If a woman, going back to my dog example, refuses to call herself a "dog owner" as she finds the concept of owning an animal to be a form of violence, what then of actual violence committed against defenseless beings?

If uttering a word is violent, if snipping foreskin is violent, what then, is this thing, this choice we can barely utter in close company, this magical "A" word, that involves crushing entire bodies and incinerating them as mere hospital waste?

So, you see, when activists from various topics mingle and begin to shout at each other, asserting who is the least violent and who holds the most important stance, I have to bring up my analogy about prenatal surgery.

Of course, I find that focusing on one topic at a time is sometimes necessary. People need to work through things, they need to reconsider, grapple, learn, and grow. Toss too much at them and it can shut them down or turn them off to your thoughts. I get that. I also think the forest is filled with birds and each bird has a unique song. Focus on what your talent is and share it with the world. If you lack experience or insight when it comes to a particular topic, leave it for others who have their heart in it.

That being said, in the continuum of consistent upholding of living beings' rights, it's clear that we cannot hold contradictory viewpoints on the aspect of violence against defenseless and innocent living beings. Either we oppose forced cutting, or we don't. All this talk about it being just a prick or  it being justified because it's the mother's choice or refusing to enter the debate because whatever parents choose to do is their right  is merely a socially acceptable way to express our apathy when it comes to protecting the bodily integrity of other living beings.

Perhaps, after that lady informed me that she is not a dog owner, I should have smiled brightly and responded, "I understand! I am not a child owner."

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Jewish Intactivist: Miriam Pollack: "That which is not ethical, cannot be spiritual."

Miriam Pollack, MA, is one of the leading Jewish Intactivist scholars. A Jewish mother and active Jew, she was chosen as Intact America’s Intactivst of the Month. Pollack has written for Tikkun, and been interviewed in She has led talks with Eli Ungar Sargon, an Orthodox raised Intactivist on the subject. She is part of a group of Intactivist Jews who've made moral arguments for a shift in Jewish interpretation of the bris.
Pollack has lectured on Jewish Intactivism at conferences as early as the 1990's. She is one of more than 200 Bris Shalom celebrants, Jewish leaders who will hold a bris covenant ritual for intact Jewish boys. Pollack visits Israel frequently, and has also helped to connect Jewish Intactivists in Israel with the American movement. She has joined some Rabbis in making ethical and moral cases for an Intactivist interpretation of the Jewish covenant.

"I have helped a number of parents, particularly Jewish parents, come to the conclusion that they can be good Jews and leave their baby intact."

“Judaism has always been a core piece of my identity, even though my practice and understanding have evolved over the years. I have great reverence for what we hold as spiritual. When the authorities of my tradition define the sacred in a way that violates the most elemental and life-giving forces, mothers and babies, then something is very wrong. That which is not ethical, cannot be spiritual. That is a basic Jewish tenet… It is Judaism that has taught me that reverence for life, the principle of pikuah nefesh, and the mandate incumbant upon all of us to distinguish (l’havdeel) between what is holy and what is profane. It is precisely these fundamental tenets of Judaism that have led me to conclude that circumcision is not holy in terms of Jewish ethics.… What is most satisfying to me is knowing that I have helped a number of parents, particularly Jewish parents, come to the conclusion that they can be good Jews and leave their baby intact.”Miriam Pollack, Defying Convention: An Interview With Miriam PollackBeyond the Bris, July 27, 2011. 
“…many committed and affiliated Jews… are choosing to welcome their male babies with a brit shalom, a covenantal ceremony without cutting…. Circumcision may be an ancient rite, but it is wrong. It is wrong in terms of Jewish values for it violates the most fundamental Jewish principles of sanctifying life. Spiritualizing the wounding of circumcision does not change the damage, nor make it ethical. As Deuteronomy 30:6 teaches, what is truly required of us in order to contact the divine has to do with the architecture of the heart, not the alteration of male genitals.

Over the ages Judaism has demonstrated a remarkable ability to mutate in practice and retain the integrity of its spiritual legacy. It's time that our gatekeepers lead the way, the people of Israel, will demand the gates be opened.
Miriam Pollack, Rite is ancient, but wrongBoulder Daily Camera, 07/27/2014.

"[Circumcision] be it religious or secular, has no place in a humane society, nor in a religion or culture, such as Judaism, that emphatically values the protection of the helpless, the pursuit of justice, and reverence for life.

As a strongly affiliated Jew, Hebrew speaker, and lover of Israel, I will continue to do what I can to educate other Jews about the very serious harms of circumcision. Certainly, no parent intends to inflict damage upon his or her child, but the misinformation, disinformation, mythologies, and deeply held allegiances are profound and widespread. As couples realize how unholy it truly is to hold another individual down and take a knife to their tender genitals, more and more Jews, both in the U.S and in Israel, are choosing to welcome their babies into the Jewish community with a non-violent ceremony, a brit shalom.

As secular Jews, and even, some orthodox Jews, question and reject circumcision in greater and greater numbers, a tipping point will occur. Certainly, no amount of scientific evidence documenting the suffering of the newborn, or the anatomical importance of the foreskin, will dissuade many of the orthodox from changing this practice, but, hopefully, in the not too distant future, they will be the anachronistic few; the rest of us will have moved on to a more enlightened, gentler and kinder embrace of our precious, newborn baby boys, and redefinition of the most fundamental mitzvah: above all, choose life."
Miriam Pollack, NORM News, 
Winter 2013/2014. 

"Circumcision, both male and female, is a relic from our ancient past... Challenging circumcision inevitably means challenging the ancient notion of what is sacred. Re-naming the sacred is the task which awaits us as we enter the Twenty-First Century. It must be for life."
Miriam Pollack, REDEFINING THE SACRED, Presented at the Fourth International Symposium on Sexual Mutilations, University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland, August 9-11, 1996.

"We must envision a Judaism that can welcome all of our children, nonviolently, into the brit b'lee milah, a covenant without circumcision. We need to support and affirm men's struggle to revise the old notion of masculinity which is rooted in fear of women. We invite men to explore ways to ritualize and celebrate masculinity and the critical passages of male bonding in ways that are life-affirming, nonviolent and protective of the sacred wholeness of men. Only in these ways will we begin the restoration of the holy and establish tikkun, healing, between the sexes.... Opposing circumcision is men's work; but it is also most profoundly, women's work. Our babies know and we know: it begins with us."
Miriam Pollack, Circumcision: A Jewish Feminist Perspective, Jewish Women Speak Out, p. 171-185, Canopy Press, 1995.

compromising either our children’s identity or the survival of our people, we can invite all of our Jewish children, our baby girls and our baby boys, into a brit b’lee milah, a covenant without circumcision, and school them in the wisdom, love, and beauty of the Jewish tradition. Unlike Christianity, which teaches that a child is born into original sin and must be redeemed, Judaism teaches that the soul is pure — only the penis needs “redemption.” The truth is that the whole baby is pure, body and soul, including his tender genitals, and it is both a mitzvah and our most sacred duty to protect him."
Miriam Pollack, Circumcision: Identity, Gender, and Power, Tikkun 26(3), 2011.

Intactivist Movement Spreads in Israel

Jewish Intactivism. A Jewish Male Human Rights Movement!
Expanding the Rights of Mankind.