parenting

THE LOVE SERIES #11: Booby Love

This 10th installment of The Love Series is dedicated to breastfeeding aka Booby Love. 😉 I drew this picture only a couple weeks after my daughter finished weaning so it’s a bit bittersweet. My goal was to make it to at least 2 years old and we made it to 2 years and 3 months. Did you know that there is a such as thing as post-weaning depression? I had no clue (despite many La Leche League meetings and breastfeeding blogs) and was a little blind-sided when I decided to reduce my daughter’s free-for-all nursing schedule to only one nursing session in the morning. I wasn’t even ‘weaning’ in my mind, just putting down some boundaries. But not long after we made the change, I felt awful. I was moody, crying all the time, anxious and depressed. I had no idea what was going on and was obsessing about why I was feeling this way and how I might ‘fix’ it when I stumbled upon post-weaning depression online.

After knowing why this was happening to me, I was able to relax and just accept that this was a temporary hormonal shift and to give myself a little break. A few months later, when I decided to wean fully, I was prepared. Thankfully, going from a 5-minute nursing session per day to no nursing wasn’t as large of a hormonal shift (I’m assuming) as I didn’t have such severe symptoms – only mild depression and anxiety that lasted a couple of weeks.

While I was pregnant, I’d heard many women recount their experiences of postpartum depression and anxiety, but I’d never heard a woman discuss post-weaning depression. So this is my little PSA. Post-weaning depression is a thing. Maybe if you know it’s a possibility and that it could be coming, you’ll have a better system in place to cope until it passes.

These 2 years of breastfeeding have been quite a journey. Those first couple of months of figuring breastfeeding out were complete hell (the postpartum depression and anxiety didn’t help either!) but I’m glad we persisted.* There have been some truly wonderful moments – one of which is captured in the drawing below. It was in those first two months of hell that my daughter was nursing and laid her hand upon my chest with her pointer finger, pinky and thumb extended forming ‘I Love You’ in sign language. The significance of this is that my husband and I had made that sign to each other since first saying “I Love You” to one another. We still make that sign to one another and now my 2 year old daughter does too.

Marker and colored pencil.
© 2017. Angelle Conant. All Rights Reserved.

*This statement is not meant to judge, criticize or shame any mother who could not or didn’t want to breastfeed. Every person fights their own battles and must do what is best for them and their baby and I 100% recognize that was is ‘best’ for me may not be ‘best’ for you. You do you. I’ve got your back.

THE LOVE SERIES #10: Mama Love

This is the 9th installment of The Love Series and it’s a celebration of the love a mother feels for her child. I did this painting when I was pregnant with my daughter and in complete awe of how much love I felt for someone I hadn’t even seen with my own two eyes.

My love for her now is the same as it was then: powerful, fierce, and deep. Any person is capable of feeling this kind of love whether they are a biological parent, adoptive parent, step-parent, animal parent, grandparent, auntie, uncle, or friend. May we all know the joy of giving and receiving such a love.

Acrylic Paint on a tiny canvas. © 2017. Angelle Conant. All Rights Reserved.

P.S. This post happens to coincide with the e-book release of my new book of poetry – Hummingbird Heartbeat: Poems of Pregnancy and Beyond. You can find it on amazon.com for $3.99. It’s also available on Kindle Unlimited and the Kindle Lending Library. I hope you enjoy it. <3

 

How Different the World Might Be…

I visited a historic battleground monument and museum today. As usual, I was quite bored. As my 2 year old took a break in a hand-carved wooden chair, laid against a well-maintained marble wall, I breathed a sigh of relief that I didn’t have to pretend to look at all the war memorabilia, at least for a little while. As she started to squirm indicating the break was over, I said to her, “Well, are you ready to look at more old, white dudes?”

An over-simplification, to say the least, but a fairly accurate generalization (there were a few photos of white women hidden among the displays as well). As we gazed at the guns and swords and rifles and pistols and military uniforms, my 2 year old asked what they were and it was difficult for me to give her a clear, but appropriate answer. “These are weapons to kill other humans” was accurate but a little much for a 2 year old (and even for me). So I simply told her this was a ‘sword’ or ‘rifle.’

Even that felt a little wrong to me. I want to shield her from the violence that we humans commit against one another or the fact that we’ve created machines to perfect it. I don’t let her watch something so violent on television so why would I show her this shrine of violent instruments?

As we continued on, it became apparent that the museum was severely lacking in color. As in people of color. There were no indigenous people or African-Americans in this war of the Americas according to the museum’s display (although they surely had been there). No, the largest and most prominent displays were of old, white men and their weapons.

The old, white men and their weapons. That seems to be all I hear about these days. And I wonder if perhaps these shrines to violence that we’ve built all over this country don’t contribute a small part to all that is going on today. There are towering monuments to war and the heroes that fought them. There are entire museums that document the wars and their weaponry in great detail. Even my history classes in junior high and high school talked mostly about ‘the great wars.’

I understand that wars are huge, world-altering events that take many, many lives and those lives must not be forgotten. And I understand that, sometimes, we must fight for justice and what we believe in. But I wonder if we were to build more statues and monuments of peace and less of war, if things might be a little different. If we had more museums of peace and fashion and science and food and love instead of war, if things might be a little different.

I wonder how different the world might be if my 2 year old and every 2 year old were able to go to a museum of kindness today and be shown the great acts of kindness that humans are capable of. I wonder if things might be just a little bit different and a whole lot better.

Strawberry Fields in Central Park, New York City – A Tribute to John Lennon

A Poem for My Mother

I wrote this poem for my phenomenal mother.

ON MOTHER’S DAY
If my mother was a heart
she’d be curvy and full
and soft ‘round the edges

She would be oozing love
(sometimes a little too much)
and she’d smell of earth & roses

She’d be the deep red of knowing:
passion, love, loss, pain,
the interconnectedness of all things

She’d have cuts and scars and nicks
(perhaps that’s why she oozes so)
And she’d have healed, time & time again

She’d beat in time to the Universe
ba-dum, ba-dum, ba-dum, ba-dum,
Steady and loud and unafraid.

© 2017. Angelle Conant. All Rights Reserved.

My Toddler Helps Me To Be MORE Productive

A few weeks ago, I wrote about being afraid of ‘hard work.’ In my research for that post, I came across a lovely piece called “Learning to Work” by Virginia Valian (which can be read for free as a PDF here). In it she discusses trying to complete her thesis and overcoming her own mental obstacles. She decides to commit to a certain amount of ‘work time’ every day. The only amount of time that doesn’t overwhelm her is 15 minutes. And so she works on and eventually completes her thesis in small, manageable chunks.

This was unbelievably eye opening for me. Before my daughter was born, I could only work on my creative pursuits in large, uninterrupted chunks of time. I had to be in the right ‘mood’ and feeling ‘inspired.’ I also had to be feeling exceptionally well physically. As you can imagine, not a whole lot was completed or even worked on. Just as Ms Valian would procrastinate on her thesis by volunteering and sleeping, I would procrastinate by cleaning, running errands, organizing, etc. Whatever creative project I was trying to work on was just too overwhelming – not to mention the many mental obstacles I faced about worth and value.

After my daughter was born, it was pure survival mode for months. Then we moved. More survival mode. Then we slowly crawled our way out of survival mode and into the adjustment period of having a new, wonderful little person in our lives. It was here that I started to want to work on my creative projects again. And at first, I tried to go back to my old way of working – large, uninterrupted blocks of inspired time. Ha! My time was now such a hot commodity I knew that if I ever wanted to do some of ‘my things’ I would have to prioritize my time. One by one, ‘priorities’ and distractions fell off my list. Bye constantly clean house. Hello messy, fun times with my daughter. Bye folded laundry, hello haphazard pile of clean clothes. Bye 20 blogs that I follow, hello cherished few. Goodbye filler TV and movies, hello books I want to read. Now I at least had my priorities straight and some time to myself, but the ‘hours’ of creativity I still felt I needed to complete anything were elusive.

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As I contemplated how to get anything done, my urge to be creative grew and I was drawing or singing or writing in the small moments here and there that I could find. In my mind, these small stolen moments were satiating but not enough to ever complete anything. And then I read “Learning to Work” and it changed my little world. No longer were these 15 minutes of creativity just scraps to feed the hungry beast inside me. They became wholesome, fulfilling sustenance that not only filled me up but would allow me to create AND complete something. Ms Valian created her 15 minutes for herself with a timer and increased her productivity. My 15 minutes are created by my new life as mom to a toddler and I’ve been more productive than ever.

As prolific author Nora Roberts says “I can fix a bad page. I can’t fix a blank page.” I might only write a couple of paragraphs, or create just the melody to a song or paint a small corner of a canvas but it’s at least progress. And it’s progress without all the mental anguish and endless procrastination because if I’m ever going to get anything done, it has to be in the small moments and I kind of like it like that.  Afterall, all these little moments will eventually add up to something big. 😉

Why Am I So Afraid of ‘Hard?’

What do I have against hard? Ever since my daughter was born, all I’ve been looking for is easy – the path of least resistance. I’ve shunned hard hard. So what is it about hard that I’m so afraid of?

My dear husband makes my life harder in many ways. I’m a neat freak, he’s…not. I love veggies and tofu, he… doesn’t. I’m a saver, he’s…not. But sharing my life with him is so worth the ‘hard.’ There has been so much joy and healing and fun and unconditional love because of him. And it’s only the beginning.

My daughter makes my life harder too. But she is so unbelievably worth it as well. Owning a home makes my life harder but it’s worth it. Being a stay-at-home mom, in many ways, makes my life more difficult, but it’s also worth it. Breastfeeding. Cloth diapers. Co-sleeping. Trying to get my daughter to nap on her own. Cooking unprocessed, whole foods. Eating low sugar. Self-care. Exercising. Meditating. Creating memories. All of these things require substantial effort and make my life ‘harder.’ But they also, in many ways, make it much easier at the same time. And they’re all things that I have chosen consciously and created within my life. And they are all worth it. And somewhere along the lines of exhaustion and fatigue, I’ve forgotten that hard isn’t a bad thing. I’ve forgotten that just because the path is hard doesn’t mean it’s the wrong path for me. If I’m presented with a hard path and an easy path, the universe isn’t telling me to take the easy path just because it’s easier. Giving birth to my daughter was hard but so worth it. So worth it, in fact, it didn’t even register as hard. It registered as a challenge but one I was happy to meet. And somewhere along the line I have stopped being happy to meet these challenges. All I want is easy. All I want is effortless.

Sometimes I think about my life if I had never gotten married and had children, almost as a fantasy. And when I’m in a dark place, so weary,  tired and run-down, it seems like a wonderful fantasy. But thinking about it now when I’m only slightly weary and exhausted, it just seems sad and devoid of the chaos and mess of life. This life that I have, that I have chosen for myself and created consciously, it’s hard but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Mission San Jose

It is time for me to stop choosing the easy path simply because it is easy. Sometimes that will be all I can do and that’s okay and forgiving myself for that and being gentle with myself will be the hard part. Because even when I take the easy path there is always a hard part that goes with it. So no matter what I choose I’m taking the easy/hard path or the hard/easy path. Writing a book while being a stay-at-home mom to a rambunctious 1 year old who doesn’t seem to want to sleep without her mom next to her will be hard. But it will be so worth it. Unschooling my daughter for the next 17 years will be challenging but it will so be worth it. Making time for my self care is freaking hard but it’s worth it. And making time for dates with my husband is hard but worth it. Making time for friendships and family is hard but worth it. It is time I stopped running away from hard.  It’s not something to be afraid of – it is something I have chosen consciously, to create a life full of love, chaos, fun, mess and even challenge. Because an easy life, though seemingly wonderful at times, is boring for me and not the life I will choose for myself. This is the life I choose – time to go live it.

Open Letter to An American Teenager

One of my teenage relatives was recently having a rough time of things.

This is what I would say to her (and my high school self).

Dear Teen,

I’m going to tell you something you don’t want to hear and already know: life isn’t fair. And sometimes, I think, a teen’s life can have extra bits of unfair-ness. First, there is school. Don’t even get me started on school. You can read about why school sucks here, here, and here. Then there is the fact that you’re almost sort-of an adult but not really. You are given tastes of freedom and independence but none of the trust or respect to go with it. “Be an adult. Stop acting childish” but also “Listen to me. Do what I say. You live under my roof, you have no rights.” This is in addition to the pressure and expectations of everyone around you: friends, teachers, parents, relatives, your church, your culture, the media, etc. And as the cherry on top are all of the ‘normal’ things in life that suck: trauma, abuse*, hardship, death, etc. What I’m trying to say here is that, generally, a teen’s life can really suck. And when your life has a tendency to suck, you tend to have a few bad days (or weeks or months or…).

This is for those times. The bad days. First, I’m going to give you some advice my mom gave me (yes, parents do actually know something from time to time): you can’t change anyone but yourself. Another gem from the old lady: what other people think about you is none of your business. And lastly: don’t compare your insides to someone else’s outsides (this includes the crap people post on Facebook). These three statements have profoundly changed the way I look at myself and the world. 

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© 2016 Angelle Conant. All Rights Reserved. 

Secondly, when I’m having a bad day, I know it’s time to get back to the basics:

  • FOOD :  Am I eating often enough? Am I eating good, healthy foods? How can I prevent ‘hangry‘ moments?
  • WATER : Am I drinking enough water? How can I always have water accessible to me?
  • SLEEP : Am I getting enough sleep? Is it good quality sleep? How can I improve the quality of my sleep?
  • MOVEMENT : Am I moving my body almost everyday? Is it enjoyable? If not, how would I enjoy moving and strengthening my body?
  • OUTDOORS : Am I getting enough time in the sun (and therefore, Vitamin D)? Am I getting enough time in nature? How can I get outside more?
  • MEDITATION : Am I spending enough time alone? Do I make time to deal with my big emotions? Do I make time to get in touch with myself and figure out who I am and what I want? Do I listen to my inner wise voice?
  • SELF-EXPRESSION : Am I making time to express myself in a way that feels true to my soul? Even if I’m not going to share it with another living person, it still needs to be expressed.

What I’ve just listed is essentially radical self care. And contrary to popular belief,  caring for yourself is not selfish. It’s like they say on an airplane: you have to put your oxygen mask on first before you can help anyone else put on theirs. And let me tell you – self care isn’t easy. Change takes time and you will fall off the wagon. Be kind and gentle with yourself and just get back on. And don’t be afraid to ask for help or get creative.

And if all else fails, get some perspective: read a book, make a list of what you’re grateful for, help someone else, give back, focus on what you do have. The world is so much bigger and more beautiful than high school and you are stronger, wiser, braver, and more resilient and powerful than you know. Hang in there – I promise you it will get better.

Oh, and one final thing:

YOU ARE VALUED.

YOU ARE NEEDED.

YOU ARE ENOUGH.

YOU ARE LOVED.

All my love,

Angelle

*If you are currently in an abusive situation, I urge you to seek help. Please call one of the hotlines on this page. You will get through this. You will survive.

Positive Affirmations for Motherhood

A while back I wrote a post of positive affirmations for my first pregnancy. Recently, I’ve been struggling and overwhelmed with Motherhood in general and when the original paper I wrote my pregnancy affirmations on fell out of my journal, I knew what I needed to do. Some of the affirmations are the same but many are new. We mothers have the most amazing and, at times, overwhelming, job around. May these affirmations remind us to be kind and gentle with ourselves and, in so doing, teach our children to do the same.

  • I am enough. I am strong, wise, grounded, kind and patient.
  • I respect my need for alone time.
  • I ask for help easily and with an open heart.
  • I respect my limits and needs.
  • I love and accept myself just the way that I am.
  • I focus on the things that truly matter and let go of the rest.
  • I embrace an imperfect and messy but happy and love-filled life.
  • I am doing the best that I can and my best is good enough.
  • I am a great mother.
  • No matter what happens, everything is going to be alright.

Motherhood

 

Our Elimination Communication & Cloth Diapering Adventure

First and foremost: if you don’t know what elimination communication is, you can read about it here, here, and here.

Second, I don’t feel like I can talk about our elimination communication journey without talking about our ‘diapering system.’ I really don’t like that name for it because it makes it sound intimidating and complicated when it’s really quite easy.

Our ‘Diaper System’ includes:
osocozy unbleached prefold diapers (about 24-36): about half of our stash is size 1 and half is size 2. At around 15 lbs the size 1, according to my husband, are too small but I think they’re fine.
-homemade flannel wipes (about 24): I followed this tutorial here. This was a great first sewing project for me because it was easy and if I messed up it was okay because they were just going to be wiping a butt anyways.
-1 squirt bottle of water: I use this for wetting the wipes
-2 homemade fleece prefold belts: I followed these instructions. I only have two of two different sizes but I should probably make another bigger one.
-4 thirsties duo covers: before Ellie was born, I bought one of every cover I could find on Amazon. Thirsties ended up being the one that worked best for us. Because of the gussets on the legs, we’ve never had any spills outside of the cover. We have two of the small size and two of the bigger size (which she isn’t in yet).
-1 container of coconut oil for diaper rash: Y’all, it really does work.
-1 backpack aka diaper bag: this includes one wet bag for holding soiled diapers while we’re out and about and 1 peribottle for wetting wipes if there isn’t a sink handy.

homemade flannel wipes with hipster robots

homemade flannel wipes with hipster party robots

On a regular day at home Ellie wears just a prefold and diaper belt, no cover.

Ellie in her prefold and diaper belt (we use the 'angel wing fold')

Ellie in her prefold and diaper belt (we use the ‘angel wing fold‘)     Also. NOM NOM NOM TOES.

Having hardwood floors throughout our new home (we just moved last week) makes this easier since the prefold soaks everything up but the outside still becomes wet. Our old home had mostly carpet so I kept Ellie on a towel or playmat. But now that Ellie is in the pre-crawling stage and moving about quite a bit, I’m extra thankful for the hardwood floors.
Having just the prefold and belt at home is so much easier than having the cover on as well. This way, I just pull the front part of the diaper out of the belt and flip it backwards and she’s ready to EC.
At night, we put a cover over the prefold and belt to protect our bed. We used to only have a prefold and belt and her bottom half was on a folded up towel but we were going through 3-4 towels a night so we switched. We still use the towel method for naps even though she almost never goes during a nap. It’s more just a back up. We also put a cover on any time we leave the house.

Mmmmm. Grass.

Ellie in her Thirsties duo cover and T-shirt (btw, baby t-shirts are so hard to find!)

Now onto our elimination communication (EC) adventure. I didn’t start EC in earnest with Ellie until I emerged from my post partum fog around 1.5 months. I started out using mostly bowls and had a fair amount of success at night. I also had many misses. I guess you would have called us part time ECers.

After a while, Ellie started to use the restroom every two hours or so at night. Although cosleeping made it easier to respond to her needs vs a crib, we were all so exhausted. Eventually, exhaustion won and I became a lot less responsive at night and Ellie started to pee in her sleep and not even wake up for her diaper change. This is where we are currently with nighttime EC – nonexistent. And I am perfectly okay with that because it means we all get more sleep. Ellie still wiggles when she wets herself so her diaper is changed fairly quickly. She’s also gone down to only a couple of changes at night instead of 5 or 6. She’s also stopped having bowel movements at night which is awesome. She saves those for first thing in the morning now. 😉

Our EC during the day has also changed quite a bit. When we started looking for a house and then packing and moving, EC got put on the back burner and I would only catch once or twice a day, if that. We did, however, still change her diaper as soon as it was wet so she wouldn’t lose her sensitivity. And how would we know it was wet, you might ask. Ellie let us know… Loudly. 😉 At that point, we also switched to ECing over the toilet as this was easier than rinsing out bowls. The position I find easiest is a cradle hold while I sit backwards on the toilet. Although, as Ellie gets bigger, I think I’ll have to start using the tiny potty seat insert instead because I’ve nearly fallen off the toilet a couple of times. :/

Back to the story: The EC ‘slowdown’ went on for at least a month and coincided with Ellie’s new grunting noises which the husband and I found very perplexing. After the move a week ago, I have finally been able to get back to a more dedicated EC practice with Ellie. I was worried that Ellie would resist or have forgotten EC but I am happy to report that that is not the case. 🙂 In fact, sometimes after she’s gone, she’ll look at me and smile as if to say, “Finally!” And those ‘mysterious’ grunting noises? Yeah, she was trying to tell us she had to go! Some of the new rules I’m using and having success with are:
1. offer potty before and after sleep (including naps)
2. offer potty when I change her diaper (often times, she’s not done!)

Overall, I’m still thinking of EC as a fun experiment that has the added bonus of (usually) making our life easier and our daughter happier.

 

Top Unschooling Blogs

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© 2015 Angelle Conant. All Rights Reserved. 

One of my good friends is looking into unschooling her son and asked for more information about it. My husband and I knew we would unschool before we even had kids and will definitely be doing so with our daughter. These are, in my opinion, some of the best unschooling blogs out there (in no particular order).

1. Freedom to Learn: on Psychology Today. Usually very evidence based. A while back he did a survey and analysis of adults who had been homeschooled/unschooled. Very informative.
Latest post: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freedom-learn/201507/k-preschool-teachers-last-stand-in-war-childhood
Survey post #1: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freedom-learn/201406/survey-grown-unschoolers-i-overview-findings
Another survey post: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freedom-learn/201202/the-benefits-unschooling-report-i-large-survey

2. Unschooling the Kids: blog by a fun, unschooling family in Italy. It’s mostly the mom who posts but the kids and dad also post too. They’re also working on an unschooling book.
Latest post: http://unschoolingthekids.com/2015/07/11/great-websites-for-homeschoolers-unschoolers-and-in-fact-for-everybody/

3. Verde Mama: this is a unschooling mom and her 3 daughters. She does mostly pictures which I kind of love because I’m a visual learner and it really gives me a sense of what everyday unschooling would look like.
Latest post: http://verdemama.blogspot.com/2015/07/june-days-part-i.html?m=1

4. Penelope Trunk: work at home unschooling mom. I used to read her blog for about 3 years – there is a lot of good info here. She uses a lot of studies and science. Be warned: she is very frank. She’s not afraid to overshare or offend people (which is part of the reason I like her. lol)
Her website: http://education.penelopetrunk.com/
If you look at her menu under education, she has things like ‘why I homeschool,’ ‘Curriculum or not,’ etc.

5. Yes I Can Write: this is by someone who was unschooled. I just recently added this blog to my feedly but the content I’ve seen so far looks good.
Blog: http://yes-i-can-write.blogspot.com/?m=1

Unschooling info: http://yes-i-can-write.blogspot.com/p/new-to-this-blog-new-to-unschooling.html?m=1

[OCTOBER 27, 2015 EDIT: After having this blog in my feedly for a few months now, I can tell you with certainty that she has great content.]

6. Beyond Moi: this is by the founder of theleakyboob.com and her husband. This is not actually a homeschool blog but they do homeschool some of their kids and most of what they talk about aligns with unschooling, i.e. trust your kid.

Latest post: http://www.beyondmoi.com/circumnavigating-the-media-black-hole-as-parents-part-4/

Extra:

Mr Money Mustache: this is a finance blog I read and he just decided to homeschool. See the post below:
http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2015/02/16/if-i-ran-the-school-things-would-be-different/

If you have any others that you think are great, please post it in the comments – I’m always looking for new content to add to my feedly! 🙂

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