A Texas Politician and a Colorado Mama...

As a kid I saw my father enter into, and subsequently lose, two elections in the mountains of Colorado. One for Garfield County Sheriff and again for County Commissioner of the same county. Garfield County, especially in those years, but even still now, is a a rural, aging, “For Love of God and Country," type of place. As a kid I experienced my white peers using some of the most vile and racist terms imaginable in everyday conversations. My parents, like my grandmother before them, were “Yellow-dog Democrats” and still are to this day. For a time my dad chaired the county’s democratic party, both my parents were involved in civic life, trying to make our town, our community, and our county a better place.

As mentioned, we lost. To be honest he didn’t stand a chance. I think my dad didn’t even believe he’d win the Sheriff’s race, but I know he thought he had a shot at commissioner - and he worked his ass off to get there. And nevertheless we couldn’t pull off a victory. By the time my dad was running for Commissioner, I was in college at The University of Texas (the greatest university on the planet - as stated by the commencement speaker at my graduation). I had become a citizen of Texas and would cast a ballot that November in hopes of Al Gore becoming the next president of the United States - mind you, W was governor of the state I was voting in at the time - talk about having no shot of winning - poor Al, not in Texas, buddy. That didn’t stop myself or my friends from voting for him, and later driving past the Governor’s mansion shouting “Gore Got More,” every chance we got.

I have believed in the power of free and fair elections and our civic duty to vote since before I was able to cast a ballot myself. I believe in people and that while I don’t agree with their views on certain things, those beliefs come from somewhere, some experience that means something to them. I believe in Democracy, fair discourse, and good old Southern manners. I have never skipped an opportunity to vote, I’ve voted absentee when needed, by mail, by early drop off, and by showing up at the polls. This is all to say, I hold dear that all people have a voice - and using it is important.

Early in this midterm election cycle an inspiring young Democratic Congressman from the great state of Texas began to get attention due to his bid for the much despised by people in my party, Ted Cruz’s seat in the US Senate. Now, y’all, Texas has been Red for a hot minute, and while he was so inspirational I, like many others, thought there was just no way. No chance, not in Ted Cruz Texas in Donald Trump America. Then this campaign began to pick up speed, and the name Beto O’Rourke began to be recognized by people all over the United States, not to mention the world. People like myself began to follow diligently, donate money, and pin our hopes for the future of Texas and a beam of sunlight for the United States Senate. In short, I became part of the Beto base - and followed his race more closely than some races in my home state of Colorado.

Here’s what I learned about myself watching this campaign, this man and his team, and Texas. While in the shadow of the America we allowed, the Trump America, the Cruz America, the Kavanaugh America, myself, like so many other people had become beaten by the destructive evil of our America. The racism and bullying have become a daily occurrence that starts at the top and trickles down. However, there are still people like Beto O’Rourke out there. People who still believe in others, even in the red state of Texas. There were the hopeful faces seen through his open sharing on Facebook Live where we got to meet the people of Texas and see exactly what and who he was fighting for.

And he lost. And I was heartbroken for Texas and America and what future I had to explain to my boys when once again, fear and divisiveness, bullying and lies, defeated hope and good.

Then the Wednesday after election day, Beto did another Facebook Live, this time in a t-shirt and ball cap, in his family kitchen, with his amazing team and kids all hanging around and he said:
“Losing this election doesn’t diminish my faith in Texas or in this country.”

It’s then I realized, neither does it mine. My brother-in-law once said (and I’m paraphrasing here), "It’s not our job to diminish evil in the world, it’s our job to go on being good people in spite of it."

I had forgotten that, and thanks to Beto O’Rourke and his family, his community in El Paso, and his team, I remember.

So I vow to not be diminished and not in a “Smash the Patriarchy” way that I had been raging, but in the way I was raised: Lift your head and your voice and your hope and the hopes of others around you. Because Beto’s vision and leadership is what I want to see more of in our communities and especially in our leaders. So, thank you Beto, and Texas, for showing me and my kids there is still hope in the world and there are good people going on doing the good work in spite of all the obstacles we face. And to all of the good people out there, Democrat or Republican, thank you for committing to serving your communities, whether I agree with your policies or not.

The Screen and the Babies

The increase of screen time the children are seeing is shocking, toxic, bad for mental health, and to me, a bit sad. It’s such an addiction for these littles there are neighborhood kids who don’t want to hang out and play at our house because we don’t allow any video games in the summer. And that’s a problem. Not for my husband and I, but for our kids. While the youngers are usually happy to play outdoors, go to the park, run through the sprinkler, or figure something out to do (I’m in the camp of it’s good for kids to be bored - if you’re in the other camp, that’s totally cool too and I can see that side - idle hands and all that) it’s the olders, the pre-pubescent age group that are seriously unable (or unwilling) to play other than on some kind of console.

Lookit. I get it. It’s really difficult to regulate screens when all the kids have some kind of device or other situation and that’s what all the kids talk about and even when they are playing not on the device they’re playing the make believe version of the game! It’s also really convenient when your kiddo gets to an age they can stay home alone to be able to leave them. And aside from taking the thing with you or locking it up in a cabinet, it’s going to be difficult to regulate screen time whether it be television or gaming on a console, a device, or a computer.

At the end of the last school year, my older son told me, “It’s embarrassing - I have to lie and tell my friends I’ve played it,” (it being the horrible and disgusting Fortnite). To which I replied, “Too bad, tell them your mom is mean and strict.” And that’s just exactly how I feel. Too bad and maybe I am sometimes mean and strict - but they don’t get unregulated access to crap games and they also can’t eat Oreos for breakfast.

Ok, so now you’re like - oh great, another mom mom-shaming and judging and that’s exactly what I thought this blog wasn’t. So I want to acknowledge - I have judged and judged heavily, although silently. The mama I see with her toddler in the shopping cart and instead of teaching the little about the fruits and vegetables or listening to him ramble on and on about hermit crabs, she hands him her phone and plugs him in so she can shop in peace. The families who are on vacation, but are each plugged into their own device, even leaning over to share the screen with one another over a funny video or meme. My judgement in no way makes me right and them wrong. Maybe the mama in the store has a husband who is deployed and she’s so exhausted even getting to the store was a challenge and this is the only screen time the toddler will have all week. Maybe the teenagers on the family vacation are so used to their parents being plugged in they have no other version of normal, and that’s just what they know and if they didn’t have their face in their devices, they wouldn’t be getting any attention anyway. I don’t know their stories. What I do know is it starts with us adults. I take my phone everywhere - and will turn my car around to go back and get it should I forget it. I look at it while waiting for my cup of tea, or my hair appointment, or if I get self-conscious while waiting for someone. I have pledged when I am out with friends to never have it sitting out on the table and always to make sure it’s not a part of our family’s evening time. But my children see both my husband and I plugged in all of the time, and it’s just showing them this is how the world works, this is how adults are - we’re busy and you don’t matter unless you can post on Twitter or Insta.

The staggering numbers of depressed kids, kids that can’t connect, suffering from ADD, obesity and any number of other ailments comes from us, the parents. While we won’t let them eat Oreos for breakfast why do we let them have unlimited access to Vines and memes? Not to mention elementary school kids with smartphones and Instagram accounts. It’s not healthy for them and it’s eventually going to be not healthy for us.

I want my kids, just like most parents do, to grow up and be engaged, interesting and interested, and have the ability to form real connections. I also acknowledge the world is changing and we have to keep up with it. Hell, most of the young people migrating to our city work in some kind of software position. Maybe the personal connecting and the love of the outdoors and the want to ride on a real roller coaster and not a virtual reality roller coaster will be so outdated by the time they’re setting out on their life it’ll be as antiquated as asking someone out for a drink instead of swiping right.

I don’t know - the whole damn world’s going to hell in a handbasket. But what would it be if you didn’t even try - you have to try - so I’m putting my phone away, keeping the console locked up until the end of summer or maybe until it snows, maybe even giving the shit away. Because that’s all I know to do to avoid all of the pitfalls that seem to come from not being able to just get outside and play ball with your buddies.

And thank you for reading this on your screen of choice, I appreciate the time. See what I did there?

Benefits of Prenatal Yoga

Congratulations on your pregnancy and for making a commitment to yourself, your health, and your baby by practicing yoga during pregnancy and motherhood. There are many benefits to a consistent yoga practice during pregnancy. Rather than just taking my word on this though experience and embody these benefits within yourself. Roll out your mat and devote 5, 10, or 20 minutes a day or every other day to your practice. Yoga is meant to be a living practice not only physically but also mentally and emotionally. I guarantee you with some dedication you will experience first hand the beauty and grace yoga has to offer us.

1. Relaxation Skills.

Through physical movement, breath, meditation, and mindfulness practices you will expand your capacity to slow down, breathe, and bring more awareness to the present moment. With increased demands on women and families, pregnancy often becomes an experience of “doing” more (prenatal visits, gift registries, preparing a nursery, classes, etc.). Prenatal yoga however, beautifully invites you to practice “being” in addition to the demands of life. “Being” includes practicing softening, receiving, and allowing yourself to go within and notice sensation, emotion, and breath. It’s definitely a practice though and prenatal yoga provides a much needed invitation to slow down and receive.

2. Self and Body Awareness

During pregnancy you are much more connected to your intuition (higher self, inner voice, greater pulsation of energy) than other stages of life. Your intuition will guide you in making the many decisions inherent in pregnancy and motherhood. Your intuition will guide you in how to care for your body physically. Your intuition will guide you in deciding where to receive your prenatal care and deliver your baby. Your intuition will guide you in navigating shifts and refinements that naturally occur in relationships both during pregnancy and post baby. Your intuition will certainly guide you with navigating any complications that might arise during your pregnancy and it will guide you in setting up your prenatal and postpartum support system. The practice of yoga will serve to strengthen your connection with your inner voice. To begin to hear the whispers of your intuition. To trust your gut feelings and honor a greater knowing that is often awakened during pregnancy.

Physically there are many shifts that occur in the body both during pregnancy and postpartum. Through the practice of yoga we bring awareness to common movement patterns that profoundly influence how your pregnancy unfolds. How are you sitting? How are you standing and walking? How about getting in and out of bed, showering, holding your toddler, etc.? The practice of prenatal yoga will naturally bring more awareness to these everyday movement patterns and slowly make shifts to bring your body more into alignment.

3. Deeper Fuller Breath

The further along you get in pregnancy, the harder it is to take a deep, full breath. Your diaphragm will often become more constricted and there is just less room for your lungs to expand fully. That combined with common patterns of chest breathing versus deep diaphragmatic breathing contribute to a shortness of breath. Through the practice of prenatal yoga you will learn how to sit or stand in alignment to support your body’s natural breathing patterns and the synergistic relationships between your diaphragm and pelvic floor. Once students practice and embody alignment in sitting and standing postures, more advanced breathing exercises can be incorporated to invoke different states within the body.

4. Present Moment Awareness

Let's be honest! How much of life are we living in autopilot mode? How often do we go through the rhythms of life, but not really being fully present with any of it? How often do we pause and connect with ourselves or fully see others around us? How often do we fully connect with this beautiful soul growing within us? Inherent within the practice of yoga is present moment awareness. Awareness of both your inhalations and your exhalations. Awareness of the pause at the top of your inhalation and at the bottom of your exhalation. Awareness of this moment as your entire life has led you to the here and now.

5. Empowerment

It is our birthright as women to be beautiful. To be powerful. To be pure grace and abundance. But often like the layers of an onion we lose sight of our own inner strength. We lose sight of the bounty that lies within. Yoga becomes a practice of slowly peeling back those layers to tap into the sweetness that has always and will always be there. Yoga becomes the invitation to connect with not only your physical strength but also a mental, emotional, and spiritual strength that is just waiting to unfold within you.

6. Community

Motherhood was never intended to be done in isolation. It is within our collective being to be surrounded by women (mothers, grandmothers, sisters, doulas, etc.) during pregnancy and other divine rites of passage. But so often women find themselves working long hours, tending to the home, dealing with external affairs and struggling to develop the supportive community she needs. Through open dialog and group discussions (with seated supportive movements weaved into these discussions) women are able to share and support one another on their individual and yet collective journeys of motehrhood. They are able to share from an open heart and feel heard and seen and then hold this space for others. It is powerful medicine to know you are not alone, you are held, you are seen, you are supported and loved just as you are.

Welcome to prenatal yoga!!! May you continue to reap all the benefits of yoga during this sacred journey of pregnancy, labor/delivery, and your postpartum journey.

xoxo

Sara

5 Amazing First Foods That Nourish

Breast milk is universally accepted as the perfect first food for your baby, but what about the perfect next food? This sparks much more debate and general confusion.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends mothers worldwide to exclusively breastfeed infants for the first six months to achieve optimal growth, development and health. They recommend breastfeeding for up to two years, and beyond if so desired, along with nutritious complementary foods. No matter how long you’re breastfeeding or using infant formula, nutritious complementary foods are key to infant development.

So, what are those nutritious complementary foods and what is the science behind why those foods are best?

  • Best for mitigating nutrient deficiencies
  • Best for neurological function
  • Best for growth and development
  • Best for the development of a robust immune system
  • Best for the development of a healthy gut microbiome

That in mind, here are my top 5 picks for amazing and nourishing first foods to try with your little one:

1 BONE BROTH

Bone broth makes an excellent first food for babies. It helps support a developing digestive system because it contains gelatin. Gelatin stimulates and supports digestion, making it easier for baby to digest and absorb the nutrients from any food eaten with it. Bone broth is packed with minerals - especially calcium, magnesium, and potassium - in a bioavailable (highly absorbable) electrolyte form. The collagen in bone broth helps create healthy tissue throughout baby’s body for strong bones, tendons, and connective tissue. Baby can sip it, or you can mix it into other foods like scrambled eggs or any purée. Recommended for babies 6+ months.

2 LIVER

Liver is hands-down the most nutrient-dense superfood - for babies and adults. It’s a powerhouse of nutrition packed with vitamin A, B vitamins, vitamin D, vitamin K2, folate, betaine, phosphorus, potassium, copper, manganese, selenium, zinc, and iron. Zinc and iron are critical for healthy growth and development, particularly during infancy. At around six months, levels of zinc in breast milk naturally fall and baby’s iron stores deplete, so sources of these nutrients are especially important1. Liver also has brain-building choline, anti-inflammatory omega-3s, serotonin-making tryptophan, and is rich in antioxidants. It’s truly a whole-food daily multi-vitamin. Very little liver is needed for a super nutrition boost for babies. You can start with just ½ to 1 tsp. Due to the high quantity of vitamin A found in beef liver, I suggest 1 oz. (28g) of beef/calf liver every other day. For travel or on-the-go, desiccated beef liver in a powder form transports well and easily mixes into a paste with breastmilk or formula. The powder also mixes well with avocado, sweet potato, and other soft foods. Recommended for babies 6+ months.

3 SAUERKRAUT BRINE

Probiotic foods, beverages, and supplements help establish healthy gut flora to promote normal digestive function, protect against infection, regulate metabolism, and strengthen the immune system. More than 75% of the immune system is housed in the gut - so good health really does start with the gut! Both probiotic supplements and fermented foods are critical for a healthy gut. Fermented foods are beneficial because they contain good diversity of healthy bacteria from foods grown in different locations/soil, the organisms in the soil, etc. Probiotic supplements supply a high quantity of healthy bacteria yielding 20, 50, or 100+ billion CFUs (colony forming units) in a single capsule. A daily combination of both is ideal. The liquid/brine can be mixed into baby’s cool or room-temperature purées or sipped from a spoon. Recommended for babies 6+ months.

4 WILD SALMON

Cold water fatty fish like wild salmon are a good source of vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA. Salmon has the highest DHA content of any fish source, which is a critical nutrient for neurological development. Once baby moves beyond puréed salmon and on to finger foods, salmon roe (eggs) are a fun, fascinating, and nutrient-dense superfood to develop baby’s pincer grasp and self-feeding practice. Salmon roe is an even more concentrated source of DHA and EPA than salmon fish.2 Recommended for babies 6+ months.

5 EGG YOLKS

Egg yolks contain a powerhouse of nutrients, chief of which is choline. Choline is critical for the development of the brain, specifically the formation of connections between the neurons, called synapses3. Eggs are a rich source of cholesterol, an important nutrient for the brain, nervous system, and GI tract4. Additionally, egg yolks are packed with vitamins A, D, K2, and E, as well as folate, biotin, iron, zinc, and selenium. Just look at the deep, saturated yellow/orange color of organic, pastured eggs and you can see that the combination of sunlight and foraging increases their nutrient density, as compared to hens eating in a hen house. Egg yolks are introduced before egg whites because an allergic reaction is less likely to occur. Recommended for babies 8+ months.

Take heart if your little one doesn’t immediately take to these new foods. It’s fine! Just keep offering and your consistency will pay off. As with anything new, it takes time. Avoid forcing or pushing so your child has a positive experience and trust is maintained. Avoid being emotionally attached to the outcome, remember it takes many tries. Embrace where you are today, celebrate the small victories along the way, and always keep in mind that food should be fun and enjoyable!

Andrea Laine White, MNT Bio Andrea White is a Functional Nutrition Therapist with a clinical practice in Castle Rock, CO. Additionally, she is the in-house nutritionist and Chief Marketing Officer for http://www.babyfreshorganics.co. Follow @nutritionmovement.

Healthy Gut, Thriving Child

[thrive: To grow or develop successfully. To flourish or succeed to one’s full potential.]

THE BEST GIFT

If there was one single gift you could give your child that would make the biggest impact on their long term health and ability to thrive, it would certainly be the gift of a healthy gut. Gut health truly is everything! The gut is responsible for the absorption and assimilation of our food and food is information that tells our cells how to express themselves. The gut also houses more than 75% of our immune system, so gut health is essential to overall health.

GUT MICROBIOME

The gut microbiome is a hollow tube beginning at the mouth and ending at the anus. It’s a mucosal surface, much like the inside of the nose, that protects the gut lining. It runs through the entire GI tract and houses the trillions of bacteria in the gut.

GUT HEALTH

There are two factors that determine a healthy gut: the gut barrier (integrity of the intestinal tract) and intestinal microbiota (gut flora). The function of the gut barrier is to allow nutrients to enter the body and, just as important, prevents harmful foreign substances from crossing into the body. The human gut contains an incredible 100 trillion microorganisms. In fact, there are 10 times more bacteria in the human body than our own cells!1 So, it would be true to say that we are more bacteria than we are human!

The gut is intimately connected to the brain. Almost all of the neurotransmitters are made in the gut. Approximately 90% of serotonin, the feel-good hormone (stay relaxed, calm, avoid depression, become more resilient, manage stress/anxiety, etc.) is made in the gut.2 Serotonin is the precursor to melatonin, the sleep hormone. Dopamine is the reward and motivation neurotransmitter. It’s what gets us going and keeps us on task, helps us stay organized, and assists in all executive functioning. Nearly 50% of dopamine is produced in the gut.3 The importance of gut health simply cannot be overstated. If you only do one thing to make the biggest impact on improving your child’s health, work on the gut.

MAMA/BABY DYAD

The mama/baby dyad is a powerful connection. Traditional Chinese Medicine [TCM] doesn’t separate the mother from the child, they’re intertwined. The health of the mother is the health of the child so maternal and child care is one. Modern science and research continues to confirm this ancient wisdom as we now know that the mother’s microbiome passes through the placenta and establishes the child’s microbiome.4 The microbiome the child inherits plays a critical role in determining which genes are or aren’t expressed - something called epigenetics, the study of how environment impacts genetic expression.

THE FIRST 1000 DAYS

After the first year of life, the infant gut microbiome achieves a more complex structure, and it becomes similar to that of adults by age three.3 The gut microbiome is responsible for properly assimilating nutrients, educating the naive immune system, and programming the metabolic system.

PROBIOTIC SUPPLEMENTS

A 2012 study found that one particular strain of beneficial bacteria, Lactobacillus rhamnosus helped maintain a vaginal microbiome free of pathogenic microorganisms (including Candida albicans) and helped maintain a low vaginal pH.5 Lactobacillus rhamnosus has also been shown in clinical trials to reduce the risk of allergies in children by as much as 50% when taken during the last trimester and early breastfeeding.6

Probiotic supplementation of the mother during and after pregnancy has been shown to alter the infant's microbiome. Randomized trials provide evidence that L. rhamnosus given during and after pregnancy can colonize the intestine of vaginally delivered, breastfed infants until 1–2 years of life and can increase the abundance of Bifidobacterium spp. in the infant gut.3 Administration of Lactobacillus reuteri to both mothers in late gestation and to infants throughout the first year of life decreased the infants' levels of IgE antibodies to food allergens at 2 years of age.7

NUTRITION FOR A HEALTHY GUT

So much can be accomplished in restoring and maintaining good gut health just through diet and nutrition adjustments. Here are my top tips:

  • Eat a nutrient-dense, whole food/real food diet.
  • Aim for macronutrient balance (high-quality protein + whole food carbohydrates + healthy fats) in every meal.
  • Eat and drink probiotic foods and beverages regularly, in addition to taking probiotic supplements.
  • Eat a variety of phytonutrients from plant food - all the colors of the rainbow. The fiber in vegetables is a prebiotic (feeds the beneficial bacteria of the gut) to help create a diverse and healthy gut.
  • Eat organic/non-GMO (glyphosate-free) because glyphosate wrecks havoc on the gut microbiome.
  • Respect the tiny, still-developing digestive system of your infant. Babies have limited enzyme production, which is necessary for the digestion of foods. It takes up to 28 months, just around the time when molar teeth are fully developed for the big-gun carbohydrate enzymes (namely amylase) to fully kick into gear. Foods like cereals, grains, and breads are very challenging for little ones to digest.

1 Clemente, J., Ursell, L., Wegener Parfrey, L., Knight, R. (2012). The impact of the Gut Microbiota on Human Health: An Integrative View. Cell, 148(6), 1258-1270.

2 Yano, Jessica M. and Yu, Kristie and Donaldson, Gregory P. and Shastri, Gauri G. and Ann, Phoebe and Ma, Liang and Nagler, Cathryn R. and Ismagilov, Rustem F. and Mazmanian, Sarkis K. and Hsiao, Elaine Y. (2015) Indigenous Bacteria from the Gut Microbiota Regulate Host Serotonin Biosynthesis. Cell, 161 (2). pp. 264-276.

3 Eisenhofer G, Aneman A, Friberg P, Hooper D, Fåndriks L, Lonroth H, Hunyady B, Mezey E. Substantial production of dopamine in the human gastrointestinal tract. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, Volume 82, Issue 11, 1 November 1997, Pages 3864–3871.

4 Mueller, Noel, Bakacs, Elizabeth, Combellick, Joan, Grigoryan, Zoya, and Dominguez-Bello, Maria. The infant microbiome development: mom matters. Trends Mol Med, 2015 Feb; 21(2): 109-117.

5 Stojanovic N, et al. Normal vaginal flora, disorders and application of probiotics in pregnancy. Arch Gynecol Obstet. 2012;286:325–332.

6 Barthow C., Wickens K., Stanley T. The Probiotics in Pregnancy Study (PIP Study): rationale and design of a double-blind randomised controlled trial to improve maternal health during pregnancy and prevent infant eczema and allergy. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2016;16:133.

7 Abrahamsson TR, et al. Probiotics in prevention of IgE-associated eczema: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2007;119:1174–1180.

Andrea Laine White, MNT Bio Andrea White is a Functional Nutrition Therapist with a clinical practice in Castle Rock, CO. Additionally, she is the in-house nutritionist and Chief Marketing Officer for http://www.babyfreshorganics.co. Follow @nutritionmovement.

Smart Supplementation for Kids

As a nutrition therapist, my philosophy of practice is to adjust food first and use supplements strategically and wisely when necessary. As their name suggests, supplements are meant to be supplemental to a healthy, nutrient-dense, whole foods based diet. That said, it has become increasingly difficult to get all of the vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, amino acids, and antioxidants our bodies require purely from diet alone. Multiple factors have contributed to the need for high-quality supplementation in addition to a nutrient-dense diet. Most notably, a decline in soil diversity and quality have negatively impacted the nutrient density of our foods. For adults and children alike, aim to obtain as many nutrients as possible from food, and then use targeted supplementation to make up the difference.

While every individual is biochemically unique and supplementation is best when customized for your child with the assistance of a health practitioner, there are several basic supplements that are beneficial for most kids:

1 PROBIOTIC

Probiotic foods, beverages, and supplements help establish healthy gut flora to promote normal digestive function, protect against infection, regulate metabolism, and strengthen the immune system. More than 75% of the immune system is housed in the gut - so good health really does start with the gut! Probiotic supplements differ in the unique variety and combination of Lactobacillus and Bifidofactor species offered. Each strain has a different and unique impact on the gut, immune system, brain, metabolism, mood, hormones, and detoxification pathways. For example, strains such as Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Lactobacillus reuteri help reduce the risk of food allergies.1,2 To get maximum benefit from your child’s probiotic, choose a brand with as many different strains as possible and a CFU (colony forming unit) count of 5 - 10 billion/day for infants and 10 - 25 billion/day for children 2+. Probiotics are especially important for babies born via Cesarean section, on infant formula, or have thrush or reflux. The infant gut microbiome is predominantly comprised of Bifidofactor species, while the adult microbiome is mostly Lactobacillus species. After the first year of life, the infant gut microbiome achieves a more complex structure, and it becomes similar to that of adults by age three.3 Use an infant probiotic for the first two years of life, and after age three children can use the same probiotic as an adult. Recommended at birth for babies born via Cesarean section and 6+ months for babies born vaginally.

2 LIVER

Liver is hands-down the most nutrient-dense superfood - for babies and adults. It’s a powerhouse of nutrition packed with vitamin A, B vitamins, vitamin D, vitamin K2, folate, betaine, phosphorus, potassium, copper, manganese, selenium, zinc, and iron. Zinc and iron are critical for healthy growth and development, particularly during infancy. At around six months, levels of zinc in breast milk naturally fall and baby’s iron stores deplete, so sources of these nutrients are especially important4. Liver also has brain-building choline, anti-inflammatory omega-3s, serotonin-making tryptophan, and is rich in antioxidants. It’s truly a whole-food daily multi-vitamin. Very little liver is needed for a super nutrition boost for babies. You can start with just ½ to 1 tsp. Due to the high quantity of vitamin A found in beef liver, I suggest 1 oz. (28g) of beef/calf liver every other day. For travel or on-the-go, desiccated beef liver in a powder form transports well and easily mixes into a paste with breastmilk or formula. The powder also mixes well with avocado, sweet potato, and other soft foods. Recommended for babies 6+ months.

3 VITAMIN D

Vitamin D is a critical fat-soluble vitamin synthesized from sunlight exposure. It’s not just a vitamin though, it’s a neuroregulatory steroidal hormone that influences almost 3,000 genes in the body! Vitamin D receptors have been found in almost every type of human cell influencing heart health, neurological function, the nervous system, bone strength, and immune system function. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all babies receive 400 IU per day of vitamin D supplementation. The primary source of vitamin D for babies, other than sunlight and supplementation, is what they stored from mama prior to birth. The vitamin D status of mama during pregnancy directly affects baby’s vitamin D stores at birth so it’s of utmost importance that pregnant women optimize their vitamin D levels. Be sure to have your Vitamin D, 25 Hydroxy tested during pregnancy. Anything less than 50 ng/ml is deficient and a range of 60 - 70 ng/ml is optimal. It does take considerable effort/dosage to raise serum levels above 40 ng/ml but once there, a maintenance dosage is 2,000 IU daily. For breastfeeding mamas, a 2015 study concluded that maternal high-dose vitamin D3 supplementation (6400 IU/day) or conventional infant vitamin D3 supplementation (400 IU/day) lead to similar vitamin D status of healthy exclusively/fully breastfeeding infants by 7 months of age.5 Recommendation is either 400 IU daily for babies or 6400 IU daily for exclusively breastfeeding mothers beginning at birth.

4 VITAMIN C

Vitamin C is well known as the nutrient for strengthening the immune system, however it’s essential for so many other reasons: supporting energy production, making collagen for healthy skin, and production of the master antioxidant glutathione, just to name a few. For vitamin C supplementation, I prefer a natural, wildcrafted source with ingredients like camu camu berries - one of the richest whole food sources of vitamin C (30 - 50x MORE than an orange)! Amla and acerola berries are also excellent natural sources of vitamin C. Amla is super-charged with vitamin C and known for assisting in the digestion and absorption of nutrients as well as liver support and detoxification. See the Brands & Resources section below for my product recommendation that includes these, as well as the naturally-occurring vitamin C co-factors buckwheat berry sprouts to improve assimilation and black pepper berry to increase vitamin C uptake into the cells. Recommended for babies 6+ months.

5 OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS

A common theme runs through good infant and child nutrition and that is nutrients that support neurological function and overall brain development. A child’s brain undergoes an amazing period of development from conception to age three. At birth, the infant brain already has nearly all of the neurons it will ever have. It doubles in size in the first year, and by age three it has reached 80% of its adult volume.6,7,8 Even more significant, synapses (the connections between the neurons) are formed at a faster rate during these years than at any other time. Choline is a critical nutrient for the development of the brain, specifically the formation of these synapses. Egg yolks are an excellent source of choline, both for pregnant mamas and as a first food for infants. Omega-3 essential fatty acids are another critical nutrient for brain development. They are called essential fatty acids because our bodies cannot make them from scratch, we must consume them in our diet. Two important omega-3 fatty acids are eicospentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). EPA is important because it directly reduces inflammation in the body. DHA is important for proper neurological function, specifically important for brain function. I recommend supplementing with both EPA and DHA because, unless your child is eating cold water fatty fish 3 - 5 times per week, they are probably lacking in these essential fatty acids. Recommended for babies 6+ months.


1 Barthow C., Wickens K., Stanley T. The Probiotics in Pregnancy Study (PIP Study): rationale and design of a double-blind randomised controlled trial to improve maternal health during pregnancy and prevent infant eczema and allergy. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2016;16:133.

2 Abrahamsson TR, et al. Probiotics in prevention of IgE-associated eczema: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2007;119:1174–1180.

3 Eisenhofer G, Aneman A, Friberg P, Hooper D, Fåndriks L, Lonroth H, Hunyady B, Mezey E. Substantial production of dopamine in the human gastrointestinal tract. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, Volume 82, Issue 11, 1 November 1997, Pages 3864–3871.

4 1 Dewey, K. G. (2013). The challenge of meeting nutrient needs of infants and young children during the period of complementary feeding: an evolutionary perspective. The Journal of Nutrition, 143(12), 2050-2054.

5 Bruce W. Hollis, Carol L. Wagner, Cynthia R. Howard, Myla Ebeling, Judy R. Shary, Pamela G. Smith, Sarah N. Taylor, Kristen Morella, Ruth A. Lawrence, Thomas C. Hulsey Maternal Versus Infant Vitamin D Supplementation During Lactation: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Pediatrics. 2015 Oct;136(4):625-34. doi: 10.1542/peds.2015-1669.

6 Gilmore JH, Lin W, Prasatwa MW, et al. Regional gray matter growth, sexual dimorphism, and cerebral asymmetry in the neonatal brain. Journal of Neuroscience. 2007;27(6):1255-1260.

7 Nowakowski RS. Stable neuron numbers from cradle to grave. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2006;103(33):12219-12220.

8 Rakic, P. No more cortical neurons for you. Science. 2006;313:928-929.

Brands & Resources

Here are some of the brands and resources I love and trust.

Infant Probiotics

Klaire Labs Ther-biotic for Infants

Jarrow Baby’s Jarro-dophilus

Seeking Health ProBiota Infant

Organic3 GutPro Infant

Children’s Probiotics

Klaire Labs Ther-biotic Complete

Klaire Labs Children’s Chewables

Metagenics MetaKids Probiotic

Desiccated Liver Powder

Radiant Life

Dr. Ron’s Ultra Pure

Vital Proteins

Vitamin D

Nordic Naturals Baby’s Vitamin D3

Vitamin C

Pure Synergy Pure Radiance C

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Dropi Cod Liver Oil

Rosita Extra Virgin Cod Liver Oil

Metagenics OmegaGenics EPA-DHA 750

Andrea Laine White, MNT Bio Andrea White is a Functional Nutrition Therapist with a clinical practice in Castle Rock, CO. Additionally, she is the in-house nutritionist and Chief Marketing Officer for http://www.babyfreshorganics.co. Follow @nutritionmovement.

Celebrating Mother's Day

I have thought about sharing this story so many times. But it is hard to share it. It makes me vulnerable, exposed, and maybe even seen. But it’s been a year and there has been so much healing, and I think I am ready, and yet I am scared. I share this story because I hope that other moms, other people, find a bit of hope in their struggle. I hope they find a bit of brave, strong, and resiliently.

This week, this Mother’s Day, is very important to me. This Mother’s Day is a celebration for me, because I have come alive. I have come into my strength, power, and self-love. But before finding my power, there was a lot of pain and suffering and feeling alone. A lot of hopelessness.

This year I am so grateful to be alive and so grateful that my 2 beautiful boys are healthy and doing well, and here is why. A year ago I had called my therapist on a Sunday and asked if I should go to the ER and admit myself to a 48 hour hold. Partly because I thought maybe I could sleep for a few days, partly because I felt like I was out of options. My almost 1 year-old kid was wanting to nurse all night and not at all during the day. And still not gaining the weight I was told he should. My thoughts were, I am up all night with this kid and up all day with my 3 year old and have nothing else to give and still feeling like I was failing. In addition to the depression and helplessness, I had a ton of anxiety. Most days I wanted to crawl out of my skin. Scratch myself out of my skin.

People who loved me were worried about me.

So because sleep seemed to be one of the main issues, I walked to a sleep group at the mama ‘hood Denver. And thank God. I could hardly talk because I was crying so much, but Allie, the person leading the group was beyond sweet. She looked at me and said, “We are going to figure this out, we are going to get you the help you need.” And they did. They saved my life and helped me to start living again. Allie referred me to the director of lactation, who looked at me and said, the depression is lying to you, your baby is healthy, small, but healthy, and I think you would benefit from an anti-depressant. My therapist and doctor agreed. I had been fighting and fighting depression/post-partum depression/anxiety for 10 months and I had tried everything. It was time.

And the real problem with my depression and anxiety was that I was tying my worthiness to my mental wellness. When the depression and anxiety was there I could not see that I was a good mom, doing my best. All I could see was that I was not enough. I was not doing enough. Didn’t have enough love. Energy. Or time. I could not see any impermanence.

The first 2 weeks of being on Zoloft was hard and almost harder than the depression. It was hard to get off the floor, I was a zombie mommy and my kids were so patient. I won’t tell you how much T.V. the kids watched in those first few weeks.

But slowly the depression and medicine fog lifted and found a more patient, loving, calm mama inside myself. The medicine gave me a pause before reaction, slowed down the anxiety and allowed me to be a much better mom – like really. And medicine is not the answer for everyone, but for me, for now it was and is an answer.

With the Zoloft on board I was able to have energy to start exercising more often and with more sleep I was starting to eating better. Even with these lifestyle improvements, on this medication I have gained 15-20 lbs.

For the last year I have been ramping up exercise, with two intentions: finding my strong, and of changing the scale number. I took a self-defense class. I ran 2 5k races. These two things helped me to relieve stress, feel powerful, and feel strong. Finding strong was so important. I needed to reclaim some power. I needed something to root down to. I needed to experience some resiliency so that when it got hard, as they do, I had something to ground down to. I need to know that I can do hard things. You can do hard things too, you know.

And it’s very hard to lose this weight. I have been eating clean, and well, and tried different diets. My core, my physical core and the core of who I am as a woman and mom, is stronger than it’s been in a long time. I can run more miles than I did before babies. I am training for a sprint triathlon and half marathon. And the scale isn’t changing. So that has been another challenge. Surrender. A challenge of self-acceptance and love – which may be a lifelong battle. Because it turns out I also tie my worthiness to that number on the scale. Which doesn’t actually serve me. So now I am on a new journey, a journey of surrender, and strong intentions, and yet again having more questions than answers.

How do I make movement a ritual? (thanks Finding your Strong with Sara for those words). How do I exercise to feel good? To build habits of health and wellness? How do I exercise to feel strong, not thin?

How do I make self-care a ritual? How do I create a lifestyle that gives me enough energy that I can make self-care a priority? I start with spending 2 min every morning with my hands on my heart and gratitude. And that’s a start.

How do I eat with the intention of nourishing myself? How do I eat to feel sustained and satisfied, rather than trying to change the scale? I am learning to eat intuitively and listening to my body (thanks Michele for recommending Food Psych Podcast).

It’s a process and thank god it is not perfect. Because if it was I would have missed out of some sweetness and struggle and learning.

And thank you. Yes you. For your support, love, and connection. Even if you didn’t know you were giving it. For all the ways you showed up for me. Thanks for all the mamas that showed up to my yoga classes. You were my saving grace. You got me out of my head, and into my heart.
Now I ask you. How do you move your body in ways that make you feel good? What makes you feel nourished? What is your struggle (because we all have one) and where are you going to find your strong? How are you going to make self-care a ritual? If you feel safe, send me a message and let me know.

When it’s good allow the joy and gratitude to fill every cell in your being.And when it’s hard, because it will be, root down. Root down to your strength, resiliency, and community.

Taken from Kaitlin's blog, Venture Mama. You can also find her on FB and Instagram: @KaityJYoga

How did the cave baby sleep?

Sleep is a truly tricky thing for all new families. It can be a really polarizing topic for many parents as well as professionals who support them.

While I can understand a practitioner's stance to not want to be included due to different approaches being represented, it is of the utmost importance that parents do know their options across the board. This may be a bit long-winded, but take as much or as little of this as you like and I'm happy to elaborate more as well as put you in touch with our Sleep Consultants.

Although the AAP's stance is that an infant should be in the same room with parents for at least 6 months and optimally one year, the policy is very clear that the infant has a separate sleep surface, i.e. not in the parents' bed. Due to this recommendation and the fact that most pediatricians follow these recommendations, it is very difficult to get proper research on co-sleeping and infant safety due to the fact that parents who may be co-sleeping are reluctant to share this information with care providers.

The true research on co-sleeping comes from Dr. James McKenna who is running a sleep lab at Notre Dame University. His research is based in breastfeeding and co-sleeping and supports co-sleeping with breastfed infants as not only safe, but important for development and attachment. That's the academic way to look at this and we could dive into that research as it's fairly new and really interesting, but I'm going to give you the answer we give the families. (Here is a link to more about Dr. McKenna: https://cosleeping.nd.edu/)

At the mama 'hood we base everything we recommend based on what the family wants to do. If a family comes to us looking for sleep training, while we don't do that, we are happy to help them understand different methods and locate a professional who may be able to help with a sleep training program. We try to always remind the mama that the infant is a tiny mammal that lacks cognitive reasoning. The reason an infant left alone will cry for it's mother is not because it's spoiled, it is simply because it is a mammal and it is alerting it's caretaker that it is alone and it needs to be retrieved before the wolves find it. Human infants are born more premature than any other primate. We are underdeveloped at birth due to evolution - when we started walking upright the pelvis narrowed, therefore the birth canal narrowed, therefore human infants heads had to be smaller to come thru the birth canal safely, and human infants were born before reaching a mature gestational age. Babies aren't ready to be left alone, can't take care of anything for themselves, and must use their cries to communicate their needs with their caretakers. Realizing this about our babies is very helpful for parents to realize, a human baby is not equipped to be left alone for a significant amount of time - it is truly not safe. When appropriate I will use the anecdote that if you walk into an orphanage that has babies lined up in cribs, it is eerily silent. The babies aren't crying as a defense mechanism. Because they were crying and no one came to them, in order to defend themselves from predators they stopped crying so the wolves couldn't find them. In essence, they gave up, their mammalian brain took over and knew how to keep itself safe.

Now, are there cases where it may be absolutely necessary to sleep train a baby? Perhaps. If mama is suffering from postpartum depression and anxiety, a lack of sleep can simply exacerbate this and in some cases lead to postpartum psychosis. Therefore making a sleep plan that works which may or may not include sleep "training" makes sense. There is only anecdotal evidence of long term effects of sleep training on infants. However, the parenting style that would seek out rigid sleep training may also lend itself to accept it's outcomes.

As with everything, we ask parents, "What do you want to do?" If they say I want to sleep - we discern what that means for the family. An infant has to eat every few hours, it's just how it works biologically. Expecting a tiny infant to sleep "thru the night" is unrealistic and can be harmful. So we work with the family to define what "thru the night" means. We work on the environment for sleep for the entire family. And if the conversation comes about that what a mama really wants to do is sleep with her baby in bed with her, then we talk about how to do that safely.

From the approach of anthropological parenting we can discern what we could have done "in the cave." However, we don't live in the cave anymore so how can we take what we've learned from how infants and their caretakers have slept for thousands of years and apply it to what we do now. Understanding the infant as a tiny helpless mammal makes a lot of sense to parents once it's broken down for them. Giving parents access to the research, an anthropological perspective, and permission to follow their instincts, generally leads them to an outcome they can feel happy with and empowers them to know they are doing what is best for them and their family in their crazy lives.

Top 5 Ways for Moms to Meditate

Are you interested in establishing a daily meditation practice but are struggling to carve out time to practice? Are you craving more peace and quiet within but every time you sit down to meditate your mind goes crazy? Do you want to slow down the busyness of your life and be present in this moment but are always coordinating schedules, caring for children, doing laundry, preparing meals, cleaning the house?!?! Do you recognize the importance of self care but just don’t know where to start?

Yup, I feel your pain and see the obstacles that to easily interfere with our sincerest intentions of self care. And you are not alone! Let me repeat that…you are not alone! Remember, meditation (insert motherhood, life, etc.) is NOT about perfection but rather PRESENCE.

What is Meditation?

Meditation is a technique for resting the mind and attaining a state of consciousness that is different from our normal waking state. Pema Chodron summarizes meditation beautifully in the passage below:

“In Nepal the dogs bark all night long. Every twenty minutes or so, they all stop at once, and there is an experience of immense relief and stillness. Then they all start barking again. The small mind set can feel just like that. When we first start meditating, it’s as if the dogs never stop barking at all. After awhile, there are those gaps. Discursive thoughts are rather like wild dogs that need taming. Rather than beating them or throwing stones, we tame them with compassion. Over and over we regard them with the precision and kindness that allow them to gradually calm down. Sometimes it feels like there’s much more space, with just a few yips and yaps here and there.”

Remember, we are not trying to completely get rid of the dogs through meditation. Rather, we are embracing the pauses between the barking or the pauses between our mental chatter. It is not about perfection. It is all about compassion and increasing our capacity to be present in each and every moment.

Loving Kindness

Before you start a meditation practice commit to the practice of maitri, the practice of developing loving-kindness and unconditional friendship with yourself. Cultivate unconditional friendliness toward whatever arises in your mind as you meditate.

Top 5 Ways for Moms to Meditate

1.) Start small

Commit to meditating for 2 minutes a day twice a day. Schedule your meditation practice in your phone and have a peaceful alarm set to remind you to meditate. Initially it’s more important to develop a daily meditation ritual than to focus on the amount of time you are meditating for.

2.) Practice walking meditation

Incorporate meditation into your daily activities such as walking. In a walking meditation it’s not about arriving anywhere, it’s all about being present and walking just for the sake of walking. Allow yourself to slow down the pace of walking, feel the soles (souls) of your feet on the ground, and just breathe. That’s it!

3.) Name your breath

Come to a comfortable seated position and bring your awareness (a light and gentle attention) both to your inhale and your exhale. As you breathe in silently repeat to yourself “IN.” As you breathe out silently repeat to yourself “OUT.” When we name our breath it’s like greeting a dear friend, it increases our connection with breath and hence our connection with our Highest Self. Allow whatever comes up to arise without judgement. Let your thoughts simply dissolve, and simply come back to the oneness of this moment. When you find yourself in another world planning, worrying, and fantasizing label your thoughts “thinking” and let them go. Come back to just being present. Simply bring your mind back home.

4.) Bring affirmation into your practice

From a seated position, bring your awareness to your breath. As you breathe in and breathe out silently repeat an affirmation or mantra that resonates with you. Breathe in “peace” and breathe out “stress.” Breathe in “be” and breathe out “present.” Or breathe in “Sat” and breathe out “Nam.” Be creative with your affirmations as it gives your mind something to do. It helps to tame the internal chatter in order to settle into our natural state of stillness.

5.) Embrace non-verbal time each day

Embrace small moments of non-verbal time each day. This is time where you do not talk to anyone. You don’t answer the phone, respond to emails, go on the internet, or anything else that engages your liner, thinking mind. It is quiet time where you just hold your baby and breathe. It is quiet time where you walk with your toddler just for the sake of walking and embracing joy and presence in this moment. It is time where you feel, observe nature, be with animals and stare into space. Its a time to allow yourself to be receptive and just go within and listen.

I invite you to take these 5 practices into your life and witness the subtle and sometimes deeply profound changes that unfold. Have fun with it and get creative on how you can incorporate small moments of stillness within your daily life. And remember, it’s not about perfection but all about presence.

With loving kindness,

Sara

Sara is the lead yoga instructor at the mama’hood. She leads several weekly yoga classes in addition to our prenatal and postnatal yoga teacher trainings, our mother daughter yoga and date nights, and our birth story healing circles. To learn more about Sara and her offerings visit www.begraceyoga.com or email Sara at sara@themamahood.com.

Metal

I literally have no idea what I’m doing. My current parenting goal is to prevent my sons from coming home from school when they are teenagers and when I ask how their day was they grunt and head into their room and the next thing I hear from behind their closed bedroom door is heavy metal. I know, it’s good to have goals. Especially such lofty ones.

But seriously, I have no idea what I’m doing. I want them to be happy and feel secure and also teach them to be responsible and kind and generous and blah blah blah. But, and I’ll say it the third time because it’s been proven that things in threes work out somehow (check out the Holy Trinity or if that’s not your thing, the Three Stooges) I have no idea what I’m doing.

And who amongst us does? Parenting experts? Depends on what their expertise says. And P.S. To quote a parent, “Everyone’s a parenting expert, until you have kids!” It’s like that Jillian Michaels writing a book on how to get your body back after having a baby - and um, y’all, she never had a baby. Her wife had the baby. And I’m not saying it’s not a fabulous book or workout program or whatever. I simply prefer to hear from a woman who had to actually “get her body back” and I don’t even know that I agree with all that, but I digress.

Pretending to know what’s best for the children, or how to help them properly and age appropriately navigate life’s challenges, is a total crap shoot and I don’t care who you are. There will be a Sunday night when I have nailed the weekend, and I mean killed it. I mommed the shit out of the weekend. Everyone had all the right uniforms and plenty of snacks and got enough rest, got along splendidly, we ate at the table all together Sunday night and the children are clean and tucked happily into their beds, and I’m like - yeah I could write one of those parenting books. Then, for some unknown reason, perhaps it’s because his sock wrinkled up the wrong way during the night or the planets decided to realign whilst we all slept, but the older wakes up on Monday and hates EVERYONE - but mostly his little brother and no one will get dressed or put on their shoes or brush their teeth and now we’re running late and I end up yelling, “Why do I always have to yell to get things done? Why can’t y’all do it the first 5 times when I ask nicely?!?!” Then the car ride to school is silent and I remember I actually, yes you guessed it, have no idea what I’m doing.

Let’s just put all the cards on the table here. No matter what parenting “philosophy” we subscribe to, we’re still just winging it. Sometimes we know for sure we aren’t doing something the way our parents did - because it was traumatizing or just felt wrong. Sometimes we take a page from our parents’ book and model a certain parenting behavior around theirs. But even then, they were winging it. For several generations parenting wasn’t a verb as we treat it now. Kids were had, they were fed and clothed and bathed and maybe they played sports in school, maybe they took band, but they certainly weren’t “built” with a specific brand of parenting involved.

I’m happy that we are all so invested in how our kids are doing and if we’re parenting “right.” It’s terrifying to know that a good portion of the child’s college savings may have to go into the pocket of a therapist, but hey, that’s a reality I’ve resigned myself to. I have a good friend who has a magnet on her refrigerator that reads, You aren’t managing an inconvenience. You’re raising a human being. That seems about right to me. She also happens to have one that reads, Parenting: When screwing up your own life just isn’t enough. And that’s it - both of them. Because while it’s a really important “job” it’s also a total rodeo where you’re not the cowboy nor the bull, but the rodeo clown whose job it is to make sure the bull doesn’t gore the cowboy while risking being gored yourself.

We have to laugh at ourselves because we’d cry our eyes out if we didn’t. That’s what I’m getting printed on a magnet for my fridge. I’ll put it next to the one gifted to me several years ago: Choosy moms choose beer. And I’ll try to remember to laugh every day both at myself and with the boys.

As far as the heavy metal goes, maybe I can learn to love it and we can listen together and talk about the lyrics? No, never mind that’s a terrible idea. As a mom I reserve the right to hate heavy metal and as teenage boys they reserve the right to their angsty teen years. Ugh. Let me go find my kerchiefs so I’m more attractive to the bull.

Weaning... What's normal?

“If baby is thriving, but Mom is completely burned out… something has to change.” - William Sears

The true definition of weaning means the moment a baby is eating anything other than mother’s milk - the weaning process has begun.

Weaning means changing the relationship a mother has with her child. Weaning will not immediately help a child sleep through the night, nor decrease night waking. If a mother has been breastfeeding the baby back to sleep it may mean that someone will have to walk or rock the baby back to sleep and that may mean a partner can help. Breastfeeding is definitely not egalitarian, only the mama can do it.

If a mother is feeling ambivalent about weaning she might try asking herself if stopping breastfeeding will make her life harder or easier. If the idea of weaning makes a mother feel sad, she may not be ready to wean. If the baby is resistant, it may help to delay weaning and try again in a few weeks.

Once the mother has decided the time is right, and really because the work of breastfeeding is solely the mother’s work, the decision to wean is hers to make. In our culture, few women are able to meet the AAP and WHO recommendation of breastfeeding exclusively until 6 months and then continuing to breastfeed until age one and as long as is mutually desirable. Breastfeeding is incredibly challenging, and a mother should be applauded for any amount of breastfeeding. If a mother successfully breastfeeds until the baby is 6 months old, breastfeeding is usually the easiest part of her parenting relationship. We also need to remember that breastfeeding is not the only way to bond. A parent holding their baby skin to skin is bonding. It is the place that bonds not the milk. Lack of societal understanding of the importance of breastfeeding means that women are frequently convinced that breastfeeding is a bad habit that needs to be given up. Often, people look at how hard a mother is working and suggest that she should stop breastfeeding to make her life easier. This may or may not be true - it can also be a powerful tool in a mother’s parenting toolkit. For example, breastfeeding contains melatonin and can quickly get the baby back to sleep, ensuring everyone is getting as much rest as possible. It is also a comforting way for a baby or toddler to reconnect after being away from its mother.

If there is a situation where a mother must wean abruptly for medical reasons, then she should continue to pump or hand express enough to keep her breasts comfortable but not enough to empty the breasts. The mother should know that depression is much more common with abrupt weaning and that if the depression is persistent, she should seek help from her doctor. It is easiest on the mother’s body and mood to slowly decrease the number of times per day she is breastfeeding. Weaning too rapidly can cause a rapid shift in the hormones prolactin and oxytocin which can lead to depression.

One myth is that there is no benefit to breastfeeding beyond a year. That is silly, the body doesn’t know how old the baby is and the antibodies and the perfect nutrient content are present as long as a mother continues to breastfeed. Ideally, the decision to wean is made by both the mother and baby.

Most babies, if given access to the breast or pumped milk do not self-wean before age one. It is also normal for babies to need to nurse during the night through the first year of life. The baby’s blood sugar starts to drop in the early morning hours and those are the feedings that are usually non-negotiable. If a tired mama has a partner willing to give a bottle during those hours that may be a way to get a stretch of uninterrupted sleep. Babies fall back asleep more easily at the breast than with a bottle and research shows that breastfeeding mothers get more sleep than bottle feeding parents. Breastfeeding to get the baby to sleep is not the wrong thing to do, it is how we parented for millennia.

Weaning before age one will mean replacing dropped feedings with formula. If a baby is close to a year and loves solids, it may be possible to replace the calories with heart-healthy fats and nutrient dense food. Some examples would be avocado, nut butters, coconut oil on vegetables and meat especially dark meat which is a good source of zinc and iron.

A mother should decide which feeding the toddler cares least about and drop that feeding. A mother can also shorten the length of the feeding by telling the toddler that they will nurse while the mother sings a song and then they are done with that feeding.

When nursing a toddler, the conventional advice is to not offer the breast and to allow the toddler to nurse when requested. A mother can try delaying by saying “Yes, we will nurse after (we get home, we finish this game, we have lunch etc.) If the toddler becomes upset, it means the child was asking to breastfeed because breastfeeding reboots the baby’s mood when their world becomes too frustrating.

Most mothers who have nursed into toddlerhood at some point become frustrated by night feedings. It is easier to wean at night when the child is over 18 months and they can understand concrete concepts. One method is to put a nightlight on a timer and set it for a reasonable time in the early morning. Telling the toddler, “we will nurse when the night light is on and you can have some water if you need something when the light is off”.

A mother should not be made to feel guilty for weaning when she has made the decision to wean. No mother needs to be given permission to quit breastfeeding. It is her body and baby and her decision to make. It is up to health care providers to help solve feeding challenges and support the mother to meet her feeding goals.

Amanda Ogden RN, BSN, IBCLC

This Ain’t South Padre, That’s For Sure

The end of Girl Scout Cookie season is a really bittersweet time for me. Over the years, I’ve developed the perfect strategy - four boxes of cookies - but the children and the hubs only know about three. See where I’m going with this? Yep, that fourth box is a hidden treasure. Just for me. Each night after the goblins have (finally) gone to sleep I delicately enjoy my Thin Mint with either a cup of hot tea or alongside my Cabernet - both combinations are heavenly. Well, the Thin Mints are gone - have been for a few weeks and now I’m morose as I sadly slip into bed without my chocolatey minty delight - and neither Safeway, nor Whole Foods, nor Target can help - it’s just not the same. However, there is hope! It’s Spring Break and due to the fact that I suffer from dreadful mom-guilt (because there are all those pictures of amazing families on the beaches of Mexico while my kids are stuck in their Denver bungalow during Spring snow storms) it’s the perfect time to bake cookies!

Scene: Small Kitchen in an Urban Denver neighborhood. The trappings of cookie making lay on the counter - powdered sugar covers every surface, including the floor where we can see tiny person powdered sugar footprints leading off SR. Enter woman SR - covered in powdered sugar with fresh streaks down her face and cheeks - it’s unclear if she’s been crying or sweating. From off-stage we hear:

Child 1: (screaming almost hysterically) HE GOT TO DO TWO SCOOPS OF FLOUR AND ALL I GOT TO DO WAS ONE SPOON OF THE OTHER STUFF AND IT WAS A TINY SPOON!!

Child 2: (also from off stage, also shouting) GROW UP YOU BIG BABY!

Woman: (also shouting) I said no talking and stay in your rooms!!!

Woman looks at wall clock which reads 2:50, sinks to the floor, her back resting on the cabinet, buries her head in her hands and sighs the sigh only a mother with children on Spring Break can understand.

Slow fade to black.

This scene is from a biographical play based on real events. (Read: it’s an excerpt from my actual life.)

And the thing is if it weren’t for the Spring Break Guilt of trying to be so FUN! And CREATIVE! And MAKE MEMORIES! I probably could have happily (or begrudgingly) settled for some of the very delicious overpriced gourmet cookies from the gourmet grocers. Had I simply learned my lesson with the koolaid pancakes over Winter break or the Mud Pudding last summer. But noooooo. I refuse to accept that cooking projects with my children are neither fun, nor memory makers, nor a good chance to bond and learn. And again, the reason? Guilt. Mom-guilt. Kids-out-of-school and pinterest-makes-it-look-easy mom guilt.

Truthfully, they’re just as happy to go to the jump-til-you-barf place, get a slushy and play some video games. While these activities cost money and don’t necessarily involve us doing it together (but I will jump like a mo-fo), at least they have a good time and I don’t turn into an irritable mommy-monster who is now wishing it were bedtime and who hates cookies and baking cookies and chocolate and sugar and everything!!

Working mamas and stay at home mamas and part time mamas and single mamas and young mamas and old mamas and all of us experience this at some time or another. It’s just kind of hard wired. We so want the kids to be not only entertained but to have fun memories of doing things with their hands with their parents. I think our generation has it the hardest, because while my mama got Southern Living in the mail for most of my life, she didn’t have Facebook, and Instagram, and Pinterest to remind her all the time of all the things she wasn’t doing with my sister and I. Plus, she was good with plants and not only am I not a baker I sure as shit am not a gardener. (Don’t get me started on the fact I can’t keep a succulent alive.)

This Spring Break I’ve worked every day so far. Not full days, but the boys have been enrolled in full time Camp Daddy. And while no one has been hospitalized, let’s just say I don’t think we’ll be getting any applications from other parents for the summer camp. Tomorrow I’ll stay home with them all day and yes, we’ll go to jump-til-you-barf, and yes before that we’ll attempt to make Animal Faces toast (which then the little won’t want to eat because it’s all touching). I’ll think next year we’ll plan ahead and we’ll get to Mexico finally or we’ll VRBO it in Vail. And who knows? Maybe we will. But most likely we’ll be right back here and I’m going to have to say - f*ck it. They can be bored and learn to get along and play some video games because next week they’ll be back at school with the tests and the homework and so for now, it’s ok just to veg.

And I’ll need to repeat this mantra that it’s ok again and again. Because I need reassurance and cheerleading to help me thru this guilty feeling I have of not making memories. That then evolves into making cookies, that then evolves into yelling, that then evolves into feeling guilty for yelling, and then evolves into feeling guilty that I hate making cookies with my kids.

Ugh. The guilt.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to google that new place where they get to train to be America’s next American Ninja Warrior - because it’s Spring Break and we’re going to have fun, damn it.

Sticks and Stones

I’ve heard so much lately, “I suffered from Postpartum.” “My girlfriend is really struggling, I think she might have Postpartum.” “I had Postpartum with my second child.” Postpartum is not something you have, it’s not something you can suffer from. Postpartum simply means that you just had a baby. That’s it. Postpartum is a stage in the childbearing year. It does not in any sense of the word mean that you are suffering from Postpartum Depression. And here’s why this matters:

All mamas need support postpartum. All mamas, all daddies, all partners, and often all older siblings. Postpartum is the time after the baby is born that things seem crazy, out of whack, completely different, new, and maybe kinda scary. These feelings are normal, expected, and none of them mean something is “wrong”. The postpartum period often includes the "baby blues," again totally normal, and again nothing is wrong. If we put too much weight into the word, "Postpartum" itself, it makes something totally normal and expected seem like something that needs to be treated or fixed.

Postpartum does not mean Postpartum Depression or Postpartum Anxiety. These two are perinatal mood disorders and are not simply the time after you’ve had the baby. Mamas who fall into this category may need more support than mamas not suffering. However, (and I’ll beat this point over the head until it’s unconscious) postpartum mamas - all postpartum mamas - need support.

That support comes in many forms, food for the new family, help with the laundry, holding the baby so mama can shower and get the baby poop breast milk smell off herself. It also means having people around who are supportive and loving so the mama can say, “This is hard.” “I’m exhausted, and I can’t even find my slippers much less that $70 nursing bra I was so excited to use. (Probably wouldn’t fit anyway, what with my boobs the size of cantalopes.)”

We need to connect so other mamas know that their partner isn’t the only idiot in the world who, for some reason, has recently lost the ability to recognize the trash is full and needs to go out and the dog hasn’t had an actual walk since the child was born, but somehow you’re the only one who’s aware of that? Not sleeping is frustrating, and being a milk machine is frustrating, and baby poop on everything is frustrating, and bottle washing is frustrating, and my haircut is frustrating, and the toddler’s loud breathing is frustrating, and whose idea was this anyway?! That, my friends is postpartum.

Partners and grandparents and well-meaning neighbors have all become stuck in thinking the word “postpartum” somehow means a mama is suffering from a mood disorder. No, she’s suffering from being in the fourth trimester of a pregnancy. She’s suffering from all the frustrations mentioned above. Ok, maybe not the haircut, but most of the other things. Support is necessary. So, if mama says she’s going to “Postpartum Support Group” don’t wig and call the therapist - be thankful she’s going - then she can get all her frustration out and come home feeling more human.

If, on the other hand, a mama is suffering from Postpartum Depression or Anxiety, it’s no big deal. She needs the same support, just a little extra. She may need a visit to a doctor on top of support group, she may need extra sleep, or more time to herself. But let’s make sure to stop - all new parents are in the postpartum phase, and that is in no way a heavy word - it’s just what it is. Help the new parents in your world by lending a hand or an ear or some arms to hold an infant. Let the new parents know they aren’t alone, and if they are suffering, they don’t have to suffer alone. And if the mama is your partner and she seems to need a little extra help, educate yourself and don’t make her feel broken. She’s not broken, she’s exhausted and that fourth trimester is a bitch.

YAWN.

Parenting a new infant is something else. It’s really just Something Else. It’s so difficult to explain to non-parents exactly what it’s like to bring home a tiny helpless human whose wellbeing is your sole responsibility. Plus you can’t get over the fact that there’s a tiny person here that is yours. As in your kid, your baby, yours forever and ever.

And when you bring the baby home, you have no idea what to do with it. You have to feed it all the time, and then it sleeps. But it won’t sleep in the bassinet, it won’t sleep in the bouncy thing your cousin Suzy swears by, it won’t sleep in it’s crib, or that doc-a-whatever, or the co-sleeper or ANYWHERE BUT ON YOUR CHEST!! And you think, this can’t be right. There’s just no way that all these people all over the world who have tiny infants just hold them all the time. How do they do things like eat, or bathe, or I don’t know, pee?

Truth be told, our infants as humans are born severely underdeveloped. And I mean that in the nicest way. They are literally born these premature little creatures when compared to other primate babies. This means their brains continue to develop at embryonic rates for a year after birth. Did you hear me people? Embryonic rates. Embryonic.

Why is this so, you may ask. Well it’s pretty simple. When we began to walk upright our pelvises had to change to accommodate this new modality. The pelvis became smaller and therefore the birth canal could no longer accommodate a fully formed head. Enter evolution and babies being born earlier in gestation and that means for a year after birth they’re completely not gestated. (Ok, gestated is ridiculous and I get that, but you catch my drift.)

So think of it this way - the damn thing should still be inside you. In its hot tub, floating around with food and drink on demand, being lulled to sleep by you walking around. Once we think about it - newborns like to be bounced and shushed. Remember what it sounds like in that pregnant belly from hearing it on the doppler? Member when the baby in your belly only “woke up” at night while you were laying still and not moving. TA-DA! The baby just wants back in, and can you blame it? In addition she wants to smell you. Hear your heartbeat and the sound of your voice. He wants your warmth and to know that he hasn’t been left for the wolves.

There are so many products that promise to lull your baby back to sleep for you so you don’t have to do that work. One in particular is extraordinarily expensive and will put the baby back to sleep with rocking, vibrating, and any other number of bells and whistles. I gotta say y’all, no. Just stop it. Now, there are the babies who never stop crying. Like never. And they drive the parents to tears and the edge of beyond. If that baby needs to sleep in a swing so it can stay asleep and let the poor tired mama get some much needed sleep - more power to you. The deal is, the parenting of the waking infant is not only necessary for that baby brain to continue to develop properly but it’s necessary training for the rest of parenting life.

Yes, it’s difficult with the baby up in the middle of the night. You’re exhausted and hopeless and frankly, helpless. But you have to do it. You must persevere. Because while they can develop a product to help rock a baby back to sleep I don’t think they have one yet to talk to your teenager about sex. Or one to prevent their first heartbreak or loss or to keep them from taking stupid risks and drinking at a party. Nighttime parenting is necessary parenting time. It’s necessary that you rock your baby thru the difficult nights. It’s necessary that you get up and change the diapers and attend to their needs for so many reasons.

Parenting is hard - just ask the parents of the teenagers in the High School down the street from you. It’s hard to be the parent. It’s hard to do all the things all the time. But you gotta do it, because they need you. They need you now and later and always. They need you and they’re crying out for you to tell you so. Remember, this first year you are completing the gestation of this tiny human. Remember, the baby is just a tiny helpless mammal. It needs you for literally everything, especially to make it feel safe.

But girl, let me tell you, if you need to get that damn rocker - soother thingy to keep yourself sane, get it. It’s better that than a really sad, tired, and crazy mama.

I Love Myself

I’ve been on a mission lately to plant seeds of authentic, profound self-love in every woman I meet throughout my weekly classes and trainings and most importantly within myself. This seed was planted for me several weeks ago during a Valentine’s Day toddler yoga class (well let's be honest I think about love all the time… haha). All the children were jumping up and down… 1-2-3 MEDITATE! We then sat down in a seated meditation, massaged our third eye and repeated the affirmation, “I LOVE MYSELF! I LOVE MYSELF!!! I LOVE MYSELF!!!!!!!!" How incredibly sweet to witness a room full of toddlers screaming, "I LOVE MYSELF!"

I then asked the women in the room, “What do YOU love about yourself?” One brave soul raised her hand and shared she loves the enthusiasm she brings to life. Amazing! I could feel her enthusiasm throughout the class and was honored to witness her journey of self-love. Then the room became completely silent, well as silent as it can get with toddlers roaming about. I asked myself, “In a class of this size how can only one woman love something about herself?” So I got really curious and decided to call upon someone. And I asked in the most compassionate way, “What do you love about yourself?” Her response was “NOTHING.” That was it. In that first moment she was unable to think of a single thing she loves about herself. She then looked lovingly at her toddler and you could see in her eyes a moment of recognition that she was planting seeds here and needed to be a positive role model for her son. She then went on to say, “I love that I am a great mom.”

"YES, you are an amazing mom!" I wanted to scream. I can feel your compassion and your unconditional love for your child. You are an amazing mom AND you are so much more. You are absolute beauty and abundance and bliss. You radiate beauty and truth and inner sweetness. Oh how I wish you could see within yourself everything I can see within you!!!

After that encounter I decided to get even more curious. I posed this question to multiple students during my classes that week… ”What do YOU love about yourself?” The answers I received were so very honest and so incredibly sad. “I can’t really think of anything I love about myself. I need to think about it some more.” “There are a couple things I like about myself but I can’t really think of anything I love about myself.” “I haven’t really thought about it much.”

Yup that was me even 1-2 years ago. I could rattle off in a heartbeat everything I loved about my children and my friends and my family but if anyone were to ask me what I loved about myself, I would have had absolutely nothing or very little to offer.

Today I can honestly tell you I love myself. I love my open heart. I love my commitment to my personal practice and deepening my connection to spirit. I love my enthusiasm for life and ability to continuously grow in this world. I love my ability to listen to myself and to others. I love that I am planting seeds for my own children of self-love. I love how I am a forever student always asking myself how can I rise up in this world? I even love my body. I love my curiosity and desire to create change. Shall I keep going?!?! Sure this is an ongoing process for me but I can honestly say I LOVE MYSELF!

If we want our children to love themselves we have to start by loving ourselves. If we want our relationships to grow and evolve we have to start loving ourselves and allowing ourselves to grow. If we want to create deeper levels of love within our lives we have to start loving ourselves in deeper ways.

So, I challenge you to contemplate, “WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOURSELF?” Journal it. Meditate on it. Comment below. Tell your kids everyday what you love about yourself. Ask them to tell you what they love about themselves and what they love about you. Go ahead, give yourself permission to bathe in unconditional, authentic, profound self-love. Have a self-love fest. It may not come naturally at first but with time and with lots and lots and lots of practice I know you will also fall completely in love with yourself!

xoxo

Sara

Sara is the lead yoga instructor at the mama’hood. She leads several weekly yoga classes in addition to our prenatal and postnatal yoga teacher trainings, our mother daughter yoga and date nights, and our birth story healing circles. To learn more about Sara and her offerings visit www.begraceyoga.com or email Sara at sara@themamahood.com.

The Helicopter Parent

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So, the Winter Olympics just wrapped up, and let me say, holy shitballs, people - those athletes are amazing. They train for their entire lives and sometimes go home champions and sometimes just go home with stories. However, if you want to see some everyday Olympic caliber amazingness, watch a parent change the sheets on a bunk bed, or wrestle a toddler into a pull-up - sorry, Shaun White - I’m just sayin’, I haven’t even had time to train for this shit, but here I am making magic happen.

A fascinating event that some parents tackle with Olympic level focus, training, and voracious dedication is Other Parent Judgment. Listening to some of these Olympians (aka parents), you’ll hear all kinds of technical terms like “Attachment Parent”, “Free-Range Parent”, “Tiger-Parent”, and my personal favorite, “Helicopter Parent” being thrown around. Our everyday Olympians are experts on these terms much as I heard Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski call out a “Triple Toe Loop” or “Double Sow Cow” (or whatever the hell it’s called) like it was nothing. Now Johnny and Tara earned their licks to be critiquing the figure skaters but the question I have for the parent-athletes is: Where does this desire to label come from? Is it ingrained in them much as the desire for a gold is etched into the being of Mikaela Shiffrin? Or does it come from somewhere else? Somewhere less admirable?

Here’s the thing - parenting is hard. It’s really hard and having other parents, or even better grandparents, or even better than that non-parents judging our every move is so not helpful.

I could go on and on about all of the parenting labels that parents put on themselves as well as are bestowed upon us by others whether deserving or not. But I won’t. I will however address the one that I have been guilty of throwing around like an insult until I came to understand it better: The Helicopter Parent.

You know what I’m talking about - the mom who follows little Jimmy all over the playground equipment making sure he’s safe. The dad who won’t let the kids ride anywhere with their grandparents because the carseats haven’t been checked by the fire station. The mama who makes sure you’ve triple washed your hands and then still asks you to use hand sanitizer one more time before holding the baby, even though it’s August and flu season was over months ago. We’ve taken comfort in labeling these parents helicopters - hovering about their little person constantly so as to protect them from every scrape, bruise, unkind word, and unpleasant smell.

However, when we take a step back, we need to realize what we’re actually witnessing is something deeper. It’s not just care and concern for the tiny person these parents are in charge of keeping alive, but it’s quite possibly, and most likely, a perinatal mood disorder called postpartum anxiety.

The mama’s too anxious to just relax and chat at the playground, not because she’s uptight, but because her brain actually won’t let her. Daddy can’t enjoy a day at the pool with the kiddos because his mind won’t stop racing to the terrible “what ifs”. Leaving the baby with a sitter can be the single most stressful moment for these parents not because they’re worried that the baby might not get a nutritious meal or to bed on time but because they're terrified the sitter might strap the baby in the carseat and leave town. They can’t help it. Their mind won’t stop and it’s not their choice, it’s also not their fault.

Parents get to come at this lifelong Olympic event any way they want. So here’s what I suggest: as fellow parents we take a step back. As with everything in life, we have no idea what’s happening in someone else’s world. If you see a daddy hovering over his daughter all around the zoo, it’s not your place to label him. Have compassion, show him kindness, and know this parenting thing is not the same for any of us. I take solace in the fact that when I was suffering from postpartum depression I didn’t have to wear an armband to show I was not doing great. On the other had, it would have been extremely helpful if I had worn one so then people would maybe have had more compassion for me or at least more patience.

Let’s do this for one another - as a parenting community - as a tribe. Respect our fellow little-person-keeper-alivers and save the commentary for Johnny and Tara. Your fellow Olympians may be gold medalist mac-n-cheese makers while you don’t make the podium in that event, but they can’t hold a candle to you in bedtime story telling. We’re all aspiring to be the best at something (read magical bandaid application). We all have dreams, people.

Now, can we talk about Johnny’s hair?

Because I'm a Badass. That's Why.

Allison Schneider

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I’ll be the first to admit it, I don’t play with my kids enough. There’s always something to do. Some meal to make or room to clean, somewhere to be or conversation that has been put off and needs to be had. My answer is often, “Just a minute, baby.” “I need to just finish this one thing.” “I’ll be right there.”

And I don’t think I’m always wrong. I do have meals to make and shit to clean, because ps even though there are rules about only eating at the table - every-damn-thing is sticky! All the time! Why? How did this happen? How are you and your hands and your face and your knees always covered in some disgusting gooey substance? Someone needs to keep us from living like a bunch of frat boys, because you small people are the reason we can’t have nice things!

Then, once in a while there is time and not vacation at a resort time, but good old fashioned time to spend with them just to play. Not at Jump-til-you-barf, not at the movies or an organized activity, just to actually play. And when these moments happen, they are magic.

We had a rare moment - we were away from the world, we had no internet and cell phone access, we had feet of fresh snow, tons of sleds, and two bad-ass mamas to play with these four little kids and boy did we play! We didn’t only play with them, we played along side of them. The daddies took off for the day and the mamas were tubing, sledding, building jumps, hauling kiddos behind the snowmobiles, and laughing our butts off.

We only went inside for hot cocoa and a bite to eat - plus a quick game of Guesstures (which by the way is way more fun with two adults) before heading back out for more. More tumbles into the powder, more doubled over in laughter, more freezing fingers and toes, and more play. And when the kids were too done for more, us mamas got the daddies fresh back from the river to suit up and pull us behind the snowmobile. We wanted our turn to try and make it around the track just once! (Mostly to show the children how it’s done.) And our kids watched from the warmth of the cabin in the picture window. They watched their mamas be bad asses. Have our own fun and teach them by example how life is to be lived.

Now we’re back, and while the wind burn has vanished from our cheeks and we’re back to changing sheets and cleaning toilets, and trying to get a meal on the table that everyone will not only eat but no one makes gagging sounds during, the play will stay with all of us. In our muscle fibers, in our laughter, and hopefully the kids will remember their mamas not only as the toilet cleaners and butt wipers but as the bad ass mamas who can whip the kids around a corner while they hold on for dear life and laugh like wild banshees.

Mama life is tough. There are schedules to keep and humans to keep alive. Mamas don't get enough time to be the "fun" ones. We have to be rules and regulations while so many others get to be the fun ones. Grandparents, auties and uncles, babysitters, and often our partner get to have all the fun. So, every once in a while with no guilt say fuck it. Get out in the snow or the sand or the grass and roll around with them. Get dirty, eat junk for lunch, let them have cookies first, and do it with abandon. You’ll thank yourself (and they’ll look at you just a little different - because who knew mama could be so WILD!?!?)

Enough.

Allison Schneider

This morning I had to drop off my 5th grader’s homework. Because, mom-life. And as I left the school I suddenly felt an overwhelming dread for my friend, Miriam who volunteers in the office. Miriam’s daughter and my younger son have been in school together since ECE. They are buddies, attend one-another’s birthday parties, and like to play together on the playground.

I thought about the button I just had to push to gain access to the school, the fact that I stopped into the office to grab a visitor’s badge even though I’d only be in and out, said good morning to Miriam and our amazing secretary Teresa, and saw the sweet little faces of all the kiddos settling in for the morning. And I thought to myself, What if Miriam had buzzed in a visitor who didn’t stop in the office for their badge, and when Miriam stepped out of the office to ask the visitor to come check in, he turned around with a gun. What if just for being a great mama and community member, sweet Miriam’s girls lost their mom, and a husband lost his wife, and parents and in-laws lost their daughter, and the hospital lost one of their best new nurses.

When our kids first started school I was horribly nervous about the “lock-down” and “lock-out” drills that had become the norm in schools across the country. As a kid we had fire drills, for sure, but this scary new world of drills was foreign to me and I didn’t have many tools to help my kiddos navigate what they were being drilled on. Their early teachers were great about telling a story to the littles about being quiet tiny little mice who have to hide and not make a peep until the teacher said the magic word. As they grew older, of course, they were exposed to more and more reality as well as the reality of what they were hiding from and why they had to be so quiet. Then one day, after a drill, my sweet young boys came home and said they were scared, what if someone came to their school with a gun? What would happen?

My answer was swift and full of confidence because it’s my job as their mama to be the rock for them, to let them know that it’s going to be ok, I’ll always protect them. I told them that they never had to worry, ever. Because I would find out about it right away, the news would get to the parents immediately, and all they needed to do was follow the instructions of their teachers and to know that mama was on her way and I was coming to get them, and there is no one I would let stand between them and me. I told them they didn’t have to be afraid, because their mama would be there and they could know that I was coming.

Truth is, I can’t protect them. I can’t protect them, or Miriam, or Teresa, or Ms. Brown, or Coach Howard, or their friends. I’m helpless against the nonsense and the violence. I have to pray that the drills prepare them from (heaven-forbid) the real thing. I have to leave them in the care of amazing people who have dedicated their lives to preparing the nation’s future, and cross my helpless fingers that it doesn’t happen here. Or at my niece and nephew’s school, or at my friends kids’ schools, or at my coworkers kids’ schools, or any damn school.

I’ll always tell my kids that they don’t have to be scared, because all they need to know is mama is on her way. And heaven knows I will be, but there’s nothing more than my vote that can actually help or protect them, and as far as I can see it, that has done nothing to help.

And while I tell my boys not to be scared, because mama is on her way and nothing can stop me. Truth is, I’m terrified.

Please Welcome to the Stage...

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So, we have this turtle. It’s an orange eared African slider or some such something and truth be told I have no idea how or why we have the damn thing.

That’s not totally fair. We have it because I, yes I, in my infinite wisdom decided a turtle was a great pet! It lives in my older son’s room, very low maintenance, and it’s a pet - so we have a pet. Turtle. A pet turtle, which really isn’t a “pet” at all.

Let’s back up.

Before I had kids, I was fiercely independent. I had an idea about the person I was going to be and in most visions it didn’t necessarily include a house, husband, two kids, and a pet. I every-so-often thought about “if” I ever had a kid what kind of mom I’d be. I’d be strict, firm, a hard-ass, but still fun, silly, and a little bit wild. We’d have grand adventures and I’d teach them all about independent films, music, literature, dance, theatre, and football. I’d teach them to have an allegiance to the University of Texas Longhorns, and an appreciation for a perfectly executed Boeuf Bourguignon. We’d live in an apartment in a fabulous city that had arts, culture, and great parks and we’d laugh and argue and navigate life on my terms.

Then, on February 13th, 2007 my first son arrived and I became a pile of mush, but the kind of mush that can turn into Wonder Woman and shoot laser beams from its eyeballs if needed to protect this tiny boy. Willing to make any sacrifice necessary - including travel, my career, and sometimes my own happiness. That tiny little mess of a human taught me about love like I’d never known. I had a vague idea of how tragic love can be, how painful and terrifying. I’d known before his arrival that just because I love something doesn’t mean it’s safe or will stay. And now, with his arrival, I knew even more deeply that neither love nor life is on my terms.

So, we grew him a brother, because a built in playmate is super convenient for a mama. Then we got them a house, and two cars, and playdates, and a zoo membership, and a teeny tiny toilet, and little veggie flavored puffs. I discovered a career that would never have been known to me had I not had them. We made doctor’s appointments, enrolled in preschools, then ECE programs then, sniff Kindergarten, and are now looking at Middle Schools. We travel to exotic places like Woody Creek to see their cousins, and Lubbock, Texas to visit their second cousins, and Phoenix, Arizona to attend Spring Training because as it turns out football is terrible for brains and as luck would have it their daddy is a baseball guy and therefore so are they.

We do live in a great city with abundant culture, beautiful art and history museums, amazing restaurants, and fabulous parks - and we visit them all. We go see, “Sing” instead of “Get Out” or, “A Christmas Carol” instead of “Chicago” but hey, there’s time for that. They like pizza and hamburgers, but also love our neighborhood Moroccan restaurant and can navigate a pair of chopsticks (with those little plastic helper thingies).

Before I was mama, part of my plan was to live in hotel rooms in Paris and Tokyo and Rome. To pick up at a moment’s notice and move where the wind and the job took me. Live wildly, freely, and without knowing the word, “no”. Now, I’m the one saying “no”. No more oreos, no you can’t have a hedgehog (or a sloth), no you can’t play the Xbox, no I won’t sleep in your bed tonight. So, when on a scribbled letter to Santa, a sweet little seven-year-old asked for a turtle for Christmas I said yes. In fact I thought “F&*$ Yes!”

And now we have a turtle. Which, if you touch it you have to wash your hands RIGHT AWAY because, salmonella. And while I wouldn't have life any other way, I do occassionally like to check into a hotel downtown and order room service, all by myself.