Category Archives: General

Who am I?

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Recently, my “paying” job required me to learn a new skill to complete a project. I wasted no time in getting the appropriate materials and going through the training – I don’t want to become irrelevant at my job; I need to stay current with my skills!

That got me to thinking about being a parent. Some days, particularly after reading about horrible things happening around the world – school shootings, bombings, murders, rapes, etc – I am so incredibly struck by the immense responsibility that we have as parents. Yes, I know that sometimes it doesn’t matter what we do as parents – we don’t have complete (or sometimes even much) say in who our children become.

But there are plenty of studies that show how parents and those closest to children are the biggest influences on who they grow up to be. If we’re such an important influence on our children, shouldn’t it be a priority to learn as much as I can about how to be a good parent? And to practice it daily?

So why is it so much easier for me to stay current with my skills for my job as a consultant than it is to sit down and read up on parenting?

Yes, some of it has to do with money. If I don’t keep up with my skills, I may lose my job and therefore part of my family’s income. But the thought occurred to me that it could also be because I’ve never considering being a parent as a “job” or a “career.”

Maybe thinking of it that way gives being a parent more of a negative connotation – some of us may think about how we dread getting up in the morning and going to work, and we don’t want to think of dreading spending time with our children. (Let’s be honest… we all have days where we probably would rather stay in bed than deal with a tantrum-throwing toddler!)

But what about looking at parenting as being a “job” for more of growth aspects of it. I spend time learning skills to be a better web developer – why wouldn’t/shouldn’t I be spending time learning skills to be a better parent? Obviously I was never  a parent before my first was born… and I’ve never been a parent to a 3 year old until a month ago.

I feel like I had great examples with my own parents, but all kids are different and the world is a constantly changing place. In the same way that there are new technologies in my job to deal with every day – there are new  issues parents have to deal with today that my parents may not have ever even thought about when I was a child.

So then the issue for me becomes time. There’s always the war for my time between my family and my job. And you know what? Probably neither of them get the amount of attention they should be getting.

Would it be better for one of them (my family, obviously) to get all the attention, than for both of them to get less than what’s required? And really, would it be so bad if I answered someone’s question of “Who are you?” with a simple:  “I’m a mom!”?

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The Great Cloth Diaper Change

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The Guinness World Records Diaper Changing Challenge – The Great Cloth Diaper Change – was today. I’ve heard of this in the past but hadn’t ever paid much attention. This year it happened to coincide with my latest cloth diapering experiment, so I signed us up and told my husband last night that we were all going – lucky him!

Great Cloth Diaper Change 2013

Great Cloth Diaper Change 2013

So what is this, exactly? Basically just a way to spread word about cloth diapering and get your name in the record books. The object was to change your child from cloth to cloth, or from a disposable diaper into a cloth diaper, at 11am in your local time zone. You had to be at the event to qualify.

I didn’t realize this was such a big event – as of April 2nd, 285 hosts had registered to hold world record events in 17 countries including Australia, Belgium, Canada, Switzerland, Chile, Germany, Spain, Finland, Great Britain, Hong Kong, Ireland, Iceland, Italy, Mexico, Malaysia, the Netherlands, and the US. That’s a lot of places – and our location had over 700 people registered!

The closest location to us was only a 20 minute drive, and was in a shopping center, so it wasn’t exactly a hardship – we made it into a family outing and won a few things too!  We were one of the lucky families to receive $100 towards Photography by Heidi Marie and two “5-in-1” diapers from Rock-a-Bums.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to participate in the actual diaper changing event because my 14-week-old son, who I signed up with, happened to be very happily asleep in his Infantino Sync wrap. I might have woken him for this special occasion, but he’s fighting off a bug right now and I wanted him to get his rest. However, it was kind of fun to be off on the sidelines and see all the different kinds of cloth diapers people were using, and have the opportunity to take a few pictures in the process.

What will you do today?

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What we do today makes a difference in tomorrow. Yeah, it sounds a bit corny and even cliché – but I really believe it’s true – from every-day-little-things to the big-you’re-a-hero kinds of acts.

We saw a lot of those hero acts yesterday in Boston. That’s all I really want to say about what happened yesterday – it was terrible but a lot of good showed through the bad, and that’s what we should focus on. Let law enforcement focus on getting whoever did this, and our courts can focus on bringing justice.

Just as important as those hero acts are the little things we do every day. I’m reminded of this daily with my children – slip up once with a word you don’t want them repeating, and you’ll be hearing it for a week or so until the novelty dies down! This is just a trivial example; however, small things add up. It’s a heavy weight of responsibility as a parent!

We can see examples everywhere of people focusing on themselves. Drive down any highway and you’re likely to see someone texting or distracted in some other way while they’re driving. Social media tends to be filled with people making status updates complaining about something. Commercials on television are constantly trying to convince us to buy a product to make us look better, smell better, do-something-better.

So before I get lost in thinking about how horrible it seems  humanity is becoming… I want to make a point to every day think of at least ONE thing I can do to make tomorrow (or even today) better for someone else – and I want to involve my children in it so they learn to do the same thing. One thing shouldn’t be too hard, right?

What will you do today?

BPA: Not welcome here…

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I’ve mentioned that overall I’m not into the all-natural trend. However, because I’ve chosen to try to eliminate as much BPA from our lives as possible, a lot of times my only option for certain BPA-free things is to go with all-natural options, or to simply make things myself.

Why have I specifically chosen BPA as the chemical that I’m trying to eliminate from our diets?

Well, according to Wikipedia, BPA, or bisphenol-A, is thought to be an endocrine disruptor – in effect it acts like a hormone in the body (specifically estrogen). There aren’t really any concrete studies that show this to be true, at least not for humans, but in the animal testing that’s been done, several icky effects of elevated BPA levels have been noted:

– Links between high levels of BPA and obesity
– Interference with brain cell connections vital to memory, learning, and mood
– Increases dopamine activity, which makes one more likely to have ADD, ADHD
– Heightened sensitivity to drugs of abuse
– Increased risk of breast cancer and prostate cancer

Wikipedia.org

There are plenty of other items on the list, but the above are the scariest/most concerning to me. Almost daily we can find a news story about the obesity epidemic in our nation, as can we find an article about cancer.

Do I think BPA is the sole cause of these things? Likely not. But if I can reduce the chances of my family having to experience any of those negative effects, I will – and it’s really not that difficult, thankfully!

So, what are the biggest sources of BPA in our diets/lives?

– Plastic containers, specifically reusable containers (microwave dishes, storage containers, etc).
– Soda cans. Yep… just another reason to kick that soda habit!
– Canned foods, especially tomatoes and green beans

For someone like me, who initially wasn’t interested in cooking beyond what I could prepare from a package (and who also really enjoys her soda!), seeing that list almost made me want to cry. My cupboards were stocked with canned foods – especially tomatoes; we usually had several 12-packs of soda on hand; and plastic microwave dishes were all we had.

To be honest, my journey into learning to cook more, and be more “domesticated,” stemmed mostly from my research and desire to eliminate/greatly reduce the BPA in our lives. And it really hasn’t been so bad. Yes, we still use plastic containers, but typically heat up our food with our Corelle dishes. I have all but eliminated canned food – and I’ve found that once you switch to freezer or fresh (or a combo, which is necessary here in the winter) – canned food has a distinctively metallic taste (gross!) anyway. As for soda? Well… I still like it too much to give it up, so I’ve tried to switch to bottled as much as I am able – though cans still show up in our house from  time to time.

Some of the harder things have been finding a substitute for canned food items that aren’t available fresh all year. Pumpkin? Try finding a pumpkin in a grocery store in Minnesota in the winter or spring. Tomatoes? Yeah, you can find them all year round, but they aren’t always so great (looks- or taste-wise). How about the Thanksgiving staple of cranberry sauce – the jellied kind that comes out of the can with the lines still molded into it? Well, after an experience trying to make my own – I did some research and was SO happy to find that the linings of cranberry cans DO NOT contain BPA (yay!)

As I continue on this search for BPA-free items, I’ve found that we end up reducing our exposure to other non-desirable things in food as well. Soy (a phytoestrogen possibly linked to breast cancer), MSG, food dyes, preservatives, etc… a lot of those things are gone or nearly eliminated from our diets. I’ll detail some of my choices for replacements and some of my struggles in making or obtaining BPA-free replacements in future posts.

Parenting: a big experiment

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One of the things I marvel at almost daily since becoming a mother is that there are so many different choices to be made: parenting styles, products, where your baby will sleep, breastfeeding or formula… You name it – just about every aspect of parenting has a gazillion options. Because of the numerous choices and how different each child is,  I find parenting tends to feel somewhat like a science experiment.

One such experiment for me has been in the area of diapering. Due to a horrible reaction to the (then new) Pamper’s DryMax diapers with my first, I went on a quest to find the perfect diaper, and two children later, I’ve yet to come up with an answer. I have tried everything from the “all natural” disposables, to hybrid systems, to all out cloth diapering. Sometimes I would find a brand of disposables that I would love, only to find that as soon as we moved up a size, that brand no longer worked as well or had as good of a fit. I’m finding with our third baby that I am very sensitive to the chemical smell of disposables when they get wet, so the diapers we’d been pleased with before are really bothering me now.

Another aspect of our lives that I’ve been experimenting with is the elimination of BPA from our diets. I realize there are many chemicals that we consume, and some may feel that reducing/removing BPA is an odd choice, but I have my reasons for this being the main chemical that I focus on removing from our lives. Part of this particular experiment has involved getting rid of all canned foods* and using either fresh or frozen options. As someone who hasn’t had a ton of experience with cooking, this was initially very challenging for me, but I think we’ve become a much healthier family for this experiment (and we’re still working on it!).

In future posts, I hope to talk a bit more about my experiences and trials of cloth diapering, and also ways I’ve been able to reduce our BPA exposure.

* There are a very small number of food items sold in cans that don’t contain BPA – but they do exist!

Welcome!

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Finding a title for a blog was a difficult task for me. I don’t find myself to be a very “out-of-the-box” thinker, and everything I came up with sounded so corny or just a mishmash of words.

I settled on “Blooming Canvases” because of a concept that has been floating around in my mind for several years. Before we had children, I always told my husband that I was excited to become a mother because I felt that children were blank canvases, and as their parents we have such an amazing opportunity to “paint” on those canvases, and to help them paint the story of their lives.

Obviously, and sometimes unfortunately, we are not the only painters on these canvases – and that is where the responsibility of parenthood comes in. Can we give our children the tools to prevent something from marring the painting, or to change the parts of the painting they don’t like into something that they do? And what exactly are those tools? And how do we show them how to be positive painters on others’ canvases?

Well, I certainly don’t claim to have the answers. What I’ve discovered from the day our first was born is that there really is no single answer anyway. With the birth of our second and third children, that discovery has been revisited over and over.

So, beyond waxing philosophical, the purpose of this blog is to share a few things with whoever happens to find me:

– the discoveries I’ve come across from being a parent
– ways to survive this marathon of parenthood
– products and services that I’ve used, both the good and the bad*
– the odd recipe or craft idea  (again, I’m not the most creative person!)

Feel free to leave comments and/or suggestions! One of the things I’ve come to value as a parent are the ideas from other parents from different cultures and backgrounds. You just never know when you might learn something that could change the way you do things!

* Disclaimer: No one is paying me. The companies/products/services that I’ll choose to write about will be ones that I have experience with – they likely have no idea who I am or really care what I have to say.