Home Home About Zen Mama Contact

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Homemade Goods

Recently, I posted this on the Facebook page:

"What do you make instead of buy?
Here we make our laundry soap, all-purpose cleaner, cold remedy, vapor rub, weed killer, apple butter, spaghetti sauce, salt scrub, peanut butter, almond milk, Ranch dressing, 'Corn Nuts,' and flu remedy. When Zen Son was in diapers, we made our own wipes solution, too.
If you make something cool, tell us and give us the recipe/instructions, too."

I'll be honest, I was just looking to stealing the good stuff from you all, but instead got a bunch of questions and was eventually roped into posting the recipes for what I make instead. No fair! (I better get some new recipes and ideas in these comments. Come on, give up the goods!)

Oh, and one more thing: I am SO not spending a ton of time, energy, or money on anything here. I'm no Superwoman. I have way better things to do than this beeswax (you know, like blog about this beeswax...). My son helps me with all of it (except for the laundry soap), we have fun doing it together, and we're learning with each other and about each other as we go. Score!

So, here we have a list of what I make at home instead of buy from the store and how I make it.

Laundry Soap

2 bars Ivory soap, grated
2 C washing soda
2 C Borax
few drops of tea tree oil
Melt soap in a pot with enough water over it to cover. Do it on a fairly low heat or it will boil over. (The bonus of this, though, is that you get a really clean stove top afterward. Don't ask how I know.) While melting, combine other ingredients in a bucket with water. Stir until dissolved. Mix in melted soap. Add more water. Mine always gets gloppy and gelatinous, but it cleans fine. Use 1/2 C for each load of laundry.

All-Purpose Cleaner
6 oranges
white vinegar
Peel oranges and put in Mason jar. Pour vinegar over and up to the top. Cover and leave it for 10 days. Pour the liquid into a spray bottle and use for anything and everything.

Cold and Sore Throat Remedy
a lemon or two
a piece of ginger
Slice the lemon and the ginger. Throw them in a Mason jar. Cover it all with honey. Put it in the fridge. When you need it, put a glob in some hot water for tea and drink up.

Vapor Rub
I've blogged about this before. You can find it here along with some other tips.
- 10-15 drops eucalyptus oil
- 10-15 drops lavender oil
- 10-15 drops rosemary oil
- 1/4 C coconut oil
Mix ingredients thoroughly. Do the sniff test. If needed, add more eucalyptus. Slather liberally and cover with clothing to avoid getting in little eyeballs.

Weed Killer
white vinegar (yep, that's it - not exactly something I make)
Spray as needed. I use a big atomizer. Broad-leafed weeds carry the "poison" through the leaves, so no need to get to the root system. Make sure you do it on a sunny day, because the sun helps with the reaction. Don't bother in rainy weather. May require a few applications.

Apple Butter
1 dozen apples of different varieties; peeled, cored, and cubed
1/4 C brown sugar
1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 t allspice
Toss everything in slow cooker. Cook on low 12 hours. Prop lid open a bit and increase setting to high. Cook for another 1-2 hours. Puree to desired consistency in food processor. Store in refrigerator.

Spaghetti Sauce
2 28 oz. cans crushed tomatoes
1 6 oz. can tomato paste
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
several cloves of garlic (depends on how garlicky you like things), minced
2 bay leaves
1 T dried basil
1 T brown sugar
1 T balsamic vinegar
1 T olive oil
Mix everything together in a slow cooker. Cook on low for 8 hours. Remove bay leaves. Puree in food processor until desired consistency. Store in refrigerator.

Salt Scrub
1 C sea salt
1/4 C coconut oil
1/2 t lemon juice
1/2 t lemon zest
1/2 t orange zest
Mix it all up and put it in a container that can be stored in your shower. (Hint: Don't be a dork like me and use a Mason jar. Don't ask, just take my word for it.)

Peanut Butter
3 C honey roasted peanuts
1 t safflower oil
Blend in food processor until desired consistency. Keep in refrigerator.

Almond Milk
a bunch of almonds (I don't know, like, a bag full when you get them bulk)
filtered water
vanilla (to taste)
honey (to taste - pretty specific recipe, huh?)
Soak the almonds in water overnight. Drain and rinse. In a food processor with a ratio of 1 part almonds, 2 parts water, blend until smooth. Line a large bowl with cheese cloth (Oops. Did I forget to mention that you need that? Sorry. A thin, clean dish cloth would work fine, too.) Pour almond mixture into lined bowl. Squeeze all the milk out. Squeeze some more. Squeeze the heck out of it. No, really. Squeeze. Keep making batches until you're finished with your almonds. Mix everything in a pitcher with honey and vanilla. Shake before serving. Store in refrigerator.

Ranch Dressing
1 C plain Greek yogurt
1/2 C milk
packet Ranch dressing mix
Whisk together until smooth. Store in refrigerator.

"Corn Nuts" (or, Baked Spicy Chickpeas)
2 14 oz. cans of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 T olive oil
1 1/2 t ground cumin
1 t cayenne
1/2 t garlic powder
1 t chili powder
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Set the chickpeas on a towel on the counter to dry and blot the tops with another towel. You want them as dry as you can get them. In a large bowl, mix chickpeas and olive oil with your hands. Sprinkle with spices and mix thoroughly with your hands again. Spread into a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes. Move them around. Bake for another 15-20 minutes. They'll come out crunchy, crispy, and just like spicy Corn Nuts when they're cool.

Flu Remedy
2 onions
bulb of garlic
2 jalapenos
piece of ginger
raw, organic apple cider vinegar with the "mother"
Chop everything up roughly. Throw it in a couple Mason jars. Cover it with vinegar. Shake daily for 6 weeks. Strain. Use the vinegar as salad dressing or just take a teaspoon of it every day as preventative care. If and when you get sick, it'll knock it out quicker than normal.

Wipes Solution
1/2 C aloe
1/2 C baby wash
1/2 C coconut oil (liquid form)
8 C filtered water
Mix and store in pitcher. Put in spray bottle and spray on wipes as needed.

I make more. Of course, I do. I'm always trying something new. Sometimes it turns out great, sometimes, uh, not so much. But I'm not afraid to fail. Nothing good ever came from just sitting back wishing you had tried, so jump in there and get crackin'!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Attachment Parenting According to Dr. Sears (You Know, the Dude Who Coined the Term...)

There has been some confusion lately as to what Attachment Parenting is and is not. I'd like to help clear it up, not by making up my own definition, but by reminding us all that Attachment Parenting is a term coined by Dr. Bill Sears, a style of parenting defined by the one who made up the term.

Let's delve a little deeper. I'm not going to interpret what Dr. Sears has said in order to fit my own style of parenting, merely lay it out in the simplest of words.

1. Birth Bonding

"The way baby and parents get started with one another helps the early attachment unfold. The days and weeks after birth are a sensitive period in which mothers and babies are uniquely primed to want to be close to one another. A close attachment after birth and beyond allows the natural, biological attachment-promoting behaviors of the infant and the intuitive, biological, caregiving qualities of the mother to come together. Both members of this biological pair get off to the right start at a time when the infant is most needy and the mother is most ready to nurture" (Sears).

What does this mean? Get that babe in your arms, at your breast, skin-to-skin ASAP. Now, sometimes, due to interventions, c-sections, or other complications, this is possible later rather than sooner. Here's where natural birth comes into play. We all know that the more interventions that take place, the greater the risk of complications for mother and babe, the greater the risk of a c-section. Certainly, there are times when these are emergent and necessary. Certainly, there are times when these are not. If the goal is to get that babe on your chest immediately, then the goal should be for a natural birth. If the goal is to have a natural birth, one might wish to research and strongly consider home birth, since we also know that, for the normal pregnancy, a home birth is safer than a hospital birth and far less likely to end with intervention-caused complications.

Is the way one births laid out in Dr. Sears' Attachment Parenting model? No. But bonding is and if we follow the dotted line, we can make our own decisions based on the outcome we wish to achieve.

2. Breastfeeding

"Breastfeeding gives baby and mother a smart start in life. Breastmilk contains unique brain-building nutrients that cannot be manufactured or bought. Breastfeeding promotes the right chemistry between mother and baby by stimulating your body to produce prolactin and oxytocin, hormones that give your mothering a boost" (Sears).

What does this mean? There is no substitute for the boob. I love seeing APers use donor milk and SNS if, for whatever reason, they are unable to directly breastfeed. It's all good. Boobie juice is boobie juice. Formula is not boobie juice. It's not even close. Your breastmilk is made specifically for your babe. And it is important in forming that attachment (among other miraculous things). Bottle feeding parents can help create this attachment by ensuring they hold babe in arms through the whole feeding, engaging with babe, preferably while skin to skin.

3. Babywearing

"Babywearing improves the sensitivity of the parents. Because your baby is so close to you, you get to know baby better. Closeness promotes familiarity" (Sears).

What does this mean? Since most of us cannot spend all day every day holding our babes in a tight embrace (though, that does sound lovely), the next best option, the only really viable option for those of us who wish to, you know, move is to wear those babes. Sling, wrap, carrier, what have you...find what works best for you and get those babes in there. Good for babe, good for you - it's a win-win!

4. Bedding Close

"Co-sleeping adds a nighttime touch that helps busy daytime parents reconnect with their infant at night. Since nighttime is scary time for little people, sleeping within close touching and nursing distance minimizes nighttime separation anxiety and helps baby learn that sleep is a pleasant state to enter and a fearless state to remain in" (Sears).

What does this mean? Babe should be somewhere in your room. This doesn't mean in your bed, per se, but in your room, within your easy reach, within ear shot. To make life easier on all of us, in bed with us has been where our son has always slept. He loves it, we love it - another win-win. I would get no sleep if he were in a crib in another room. First, I'd always be worried. Second, I'd have to get up a few times a night to breastfeed him and instead of just rolling over, sticking a boob in his mouth, and falling back asleep, I'd have to stay up until I could put him back down. No thank you. I value my sleep. Further, if my son rustles in his sleep or has as bad dream, I am able to simply reach my arm out, lay it on his stomach, back, or arm and he is instantly comforted without ever waking up. I wouldn't be able to do that if he were elsewhere. He feels safe, he feels secure, thus I feel safe, I feel secure.

5. Belief in Babe's Cries

"A baby's cry is a signal designed for the survival of the baby and the development of the parents. Responding sensitively to your baby's cries builds trust. Babies trust that their caregivers will be responsive to their needs. Parents gradually learn to trust in their ability to appropriately meet their baby's needs. This raises the parent-child communication level up a notch. Tiny babies cry to communicate, not to manipulate" (Sears).

What does this mean? Allowing a child's cry to go unanswered is not only counterintuitive (anyone who has tried CIO can tell you that they had to fight their every instinct that told them to go in and pick up that babe), it is damaging to babe and the bond you're trying to create. Love your babe, trust your babe, believe that when your babe tells you something the only way they know how, they're telling you exactly what they need.

6. Beware of Baby Trainers

"Attachment parenting teaches you how to be discerning of advice, especially those rigid and extreme parenting styles that teach you to watch a clock or a schedule instead of your baby; you know, the cry-it-out crowd. This 'convenience' parenting is a short-term gain, but a long-term loss, and is not a wise investment. These more restrained styles of parenting create a distance between you and your baby and keep you from becoming an expert in your child" (Sears).

What does this mean? All those people who say they can teach your babe to sleep through the night in three days (or whatever claim they make), are fighting to break your bond in the long-term. Aren't we in the parenting "business" for the long-term? Then making decisions based on short-term goals is unwise. Yes, if we allow our children to "self-soothe" (read: cry until they pass out), what we're teaching them is that we are not there for them, they cannot count on us, they are all alone in this vast world as they have been abandoned by the very people who are supposed to care for them most. Buyer beware. If the claims of these baby trainers seem too good to be true, they probably are. Babes aren't supposed to sleep through the night. Very few of us truly do even in adulthood.

7. Balance

"As you will learn the key to putting balance in your parenting is being appropriately responsive to your baby – knowing when to say 'yes' and when to say 'no,' and having the wisdom to say 'yes' to yourself when you need help" (Sears).

What does this mean? Attachment parenting is not the same as permissive parenting. Nobody ever said to say "yes" to every little wish your babes have. If my son wishes to run out in traffic to play, the answer will be a resounding "no" without guilt or reservation. It also means that sometimes we need help, lots of times we need help, and it's OK, it's healthy and wise to ask for it. Perhaps this help comes in the form of a therapy session every couple of weeks, a parent coming over to play with babe while you take a long-overdue shower, taking your friend up on his offer to bring over dinner Tuesday night. Whatever your need, it's what you need, so it's OK to ask. Parenting should be enjoyable. It can't be if you're miserable, because you've so neglected yourself. Happy parents make for happy babes make for happy parents, which make for happy babes - it's cyclical and it's every bit as important as the other Bs.

There is an 8th B that is not yet, but will hopefully be added soon: Be Confident in Keeping Babe Whole

"Circumcision is not in line with Attachment Parenting. It interferes with birth bonding, breastfeeding, infant sleep, and belief in baby’s cries. It is painful, medically unnecessary and welcomes our newest citizens by violating a basic human right" (Our Muddy Boots and The Whole Network).

What does this mean? There's no way to amputate a healthy, vital part of the human body without interfering with the natural process that is attachment parenting. Babe is taken from the safety and comfort of mama's chest, arms, breast in order to be strapped to a cold, plastic board where strangers will hurt him in a way no human should ever be hurt against their will. We know that circumcised babes will very often not wish to breastfeed after the procedure. After such trauma, they will likely do much sleeping as their bodies try to shut down unnecessary functions in order to heal. If we believe in, trust in our babe's cries, we have to do that, too, when they scream in fear and pain at the hands of their genital mutilator. Finally, 80% of babes are unable to achieve the optimum amount of REM sleep post-circumcision. As we know, REM sleep is vital to normal human function. I will leave out the other myriad arguments against genital cutting and leave them for another post. Suffice it to say, there are no pros, only cons and those cons are plentiful and major.

(If you'd like to sign the petition for Dr. Sears to add this 8th crucial B to his list, click here and don't forget to share it far and wide.)

"AP is an approach, rather than a strict set of rules. It's actually the style that many parents use instinctively. Parenting is too individual and baby too complex for there to be only one way. The important point is to get connected to your baby, and the baby B's of attachment parenting help. Once connected, stick with what is working and modify what is not. You will ultimately develop your own parenting style that helps parent and baby find a way to fit – the little word that so economically describes the relationship between parent and baby" (Sears).

For the record, I do consider myself an attachment parent, but, like Dr. Sears says himself, AP is a starter style until we can all find our own parenting style. I am more of a APer by happenstance. I practiced the Bs long before I knew there were any Bs to be practiced. It felt right to me and my son. I add a lot to my parenting style that is not a part of attachment parenting. I work to fight gender biases, I choose to unschool, I do not vaccinate, I will never spank, and a number of other things that make me the parent that I am. More than anything, I consider myself a Zen Parent. I am reflective, I am in constant search of enlightenment through research and education, and most of all I follow my and my son's guts. That's Zen Parenting, not attachment parenting. When they overlap, that's great. When they don't, that's OK, too. I believe strongly in both, but am aware that there are differences. Ultimately, I don't believe it's important to define one's parenting style as long as we're all doing what is right for everyone who really matters, but I do feel it is important to understand a definition of a term one chooses to use (or not).

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Want to Slut-Shame Someone? Here I Am.

My goal at Zen Parenting is to awaken, to enlighten. Let me enlighten all of those who see themselves as moral compasses for the rest of us, those who feel their individual morals should be everyone's morals, those who love to tell anyone who didn't "save" themselves for marriage or has had sex with more than a handful of people that they're promiscuous sluts who should close their legs: you're talking about, you're looking down on, you're judging me. That's OK. It's your prerogative to do so. What you think of me is none of my business, though I know many will feel the need to share regardless. Also OK.

What is slut-shaming? According to Finally, a Feminism 101 Blog, "slut-shaming, also known as slut-bashing, is the idea of shaming and/or attacking a woman or a girl for being sexual, having one or more sexual partners, acknowledging sexual feelings, and/or acting on sexual feelings. Furthermore, it’s 'about the implication that if a woman has sex that traditional society disapproves of, she should feel guilty and inferior' (Alon Levy, Slut Shaming). It is damaging not only to the girls and women targeted, but to women in general an society as a whole. It should be noted that slut-shaming can occur even if the term 'slut' itself is not used."

Now that we have the definition clear, let me tell you a bit about my sexual past. Before I do, let me tell you why I'm writing this. I am writing this, I am opening myself to the inevitable fall from grace (in some people's eyes) and harsh judgement because it needs to be shown that those who have sex with many, those who have sex for fun, those who have sex because that's just what they want to do are every bit as good as those who don't.

Let me also first share that I was raised Mormon, as some of you know. That being the case, an incredibly high value was placed on my virginity. As I mentioned in a previous post, even masturbation was shameful and, boy, was I ever shamed for it. I spent 18 years believing that I would wait until marriage to have sex. My first boyfriend came at 17 years old and while we had oral sex, we didn't succumb to our instincts and feelings until I had graduated from high school. After that first time, I spent days in a deep, deep depression as a result of how "shameful" my act was, how I had completely ruined myself body, mind, and soul. I almost broke up with my boyfriend, because I no longer felt I was good enough for him. I felt hollow and ill and abysmally ashamed. Why? Because I had sex before I was married. Clearly, I was Satan's spawn.

It wasn't until a few months later, when I was away at college, that I realized how ridiculous all that hoopla really was. I liked sex. It felt good to my body, it felt good to share that with someone I loved, it just felt good all around. I promptly marched myself off to the local Planned Parenthood, got myself some birth control pills, and hid them in my room. (I was living with my dad and his new family, so heading to the family doctor was never an option, since we were all in the same ward and would see each other that Sunday.) I felt smart and strong and empowered. My body was my own, not the church's, not my family's, not my boyfriend's. I had taken control over myself and my body. I became a woman, not because I had sex, but because I was no longer afraid of having it.

That boyfriend was a loser (not a term I use lightly, trust me), so he eventually had to go and I was onto others from there. All told, and I'm estimating here, because I stopped keeping track at some point, I believe I had sex with around 30 people. Oh, ya, "people," because there was one woman in that mix. The horror! Most of those were wonderful, fun experiences. The overwhelming majority of those were multiple-time experiences (one-night stands weren't my thing, though I don't see a problem with them if they're you're thing). I wouldn't change most of those experiences.

Here I am. A real, honest, open, sexual being. I am not ashamed of who I am. I haven't always made the best decisions, I haven't always done what was right, but this is who I am and I will not allow anyone to tell me that I or anyone else should be ashamed of who we are. I like sex. Today, I only have sex with one person. I like sex every bit as much as I always did. I had fun then, I have fun now. If I were still single, who knows how big "my number" would be now. And who cares? Not me. And you don't get to, either.

A Fourth 30 Day Block, You Say? Yawn...

Out of the only fourteen months that Zen Parenting has been up and running, I have been blocked for about five of those months (four of those months being full 30 day blocks, the other month being the shorter bans that lead up to the larger sentence). For you mathematicians out there, that's more than a third of my time on the page spent blocked. And it really used to piss me off. At this point, though, I am having trouble even getting motivated to "humph!" about it. I'm just bored with it all now.

Truly, the only reason I'm blogging about it this time is because:
1) many hadn't the opportunity to see the "offensive" post and it's really quite lovely, and
2) to hopefully light a fire under those of you who have yet to see the hypocrisy on our chosen social media site.

Here, we have the offending image:

The resulting punishment...again:

Facebook's policy, vague though it may be, which seems to say that art is not a violation of their standards:

Now, here we have another image (beware, it is quite disturbing):

And the response many, many people who reported it received (courtesy Live With Purpose):

(Note: the image has now been removed, but only after hundreds of reports.)

Take a look at that policy again. You tell me, which one seems to violate it?

So, does Facebook have a problem with women? Uh, that seems to be the understatement of the decade.

Thursday, February 7, 2013


Guest post by Jennifer Parianos of That Crazy Homeschooler

I am not sure the exact moment that it happens but, I can tell you when it opened in me. The gradual and silent unfolding of love that occurs when we become mothers. It's an ironic thing really. The more that our love for our child grows and blossoms, the less they need us. It is a slow and deliberate dance that plays out, not in seconds but in fleeting moments that connect our hearts to our brain in the most delicate of fashions.

I am a shadow of the woman I was before motherhood changed me. I would sit and caress my belly at night. Just a small amount of fascia that separated my baby and I. I would dream and hope and picture his life as I thought it would be. Then he was born, placed on me and we locked eyes. My heart swelled with a feeling I had never felt before. A love so addicting that the rest of the world could have stopped and I wouldn't have noticed. His needs are urgent and fierce. My desires become clouded and my priorities shift.

The instinctual grasp of motherhood tethers me to him. He is walking now. I see a glimmer in his eyes as he walks away from me and I realize that I need to become accustomed to letting go. I silently gasp when he falls and wait for his reaction. He looks to me still, to be his compass. I am just now, learning what this means. I wrap him up inside my protective gaze and I will the world to be gentle to him, to treat him fairly.

Each time he smiles I feel it happening. He tells me "I wuv you Mama". The gaping, unbarred heart of mine is raw and exposed. He has feelings now. Anger and frustration abound because he does not yet have the skills to communicate his robust and unyielding awareness of the world. His pain is mine. He gets sick and I physically hurt for him. His laughter and merriment are infectious. We play. We sing. I rock him to sleep each night at my breast. We are connected in a way I never knew possible.

He storms off with a burrowed brow. Stomping his feet and flailing his arms with a tempered and hostile manner. His words sting. "I hate you mama!" I knew this day would come. I remind myself that he wouldn't share such feelings if he did not feel safe with me. His wrath cools and he's in my lap, stroking my face. Butterfly kisses and salty cheeks. I am his soft place, his island of safety. The world pulls him further and I let go a little more. All the while, I am evolving. The gaping abyss of my most inner self is forced to spread out. The expectations I had before are expansive and always altering with each new stage in his life.

I tickle his back while he ponders the calamities of the world. He is filled with questions, some of which, I myself don't know the answer to. He is a boy of 12. Remnants of his baby self come out when he is frustrated. The pull of manhood is on the horizon. As he navigates the world, all it takes is one look from him and I know what's in his heart most days. Other times, I feel lost and helpless. His emotions become stronger than he is. At times, I want to wrap him in my arms and quiet his mind but, he won't let me. I worry for him. He is susceptible. I muster a strength in me I didn't know I had. I assure him that this too shall pass. It is a right of passage. This time in life is filled with wonderment, if only he will stay open to it. I try to impart the tools he will need. I try...

He walks toward me and envelopes me in his powerful yet tender arms. He is man now. His face lacks the roundness that I remember. In it's place, there are sharp edges and prominent features. My insides swell with pride. He assures me that he is all right, that he's doing well. My love for him is a great chasm that is ever changing. It's a precipice, a gaping and expanding mix of emotions that are ingrained into the deepest part of me. He changed me. His love changed me. Life's meaning and purpose are engrossed in my expectations of what he will become. We embrace and lock eyes and I am, once again, unfolded, encircled, enveloped, entwined, untethered. Such is the life of a mother.