Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Laundry Tarts Review and Giveaway!

Rounding out Detergent Giveaway Month today, I am pleased to be able to give one lucky reader the chance to try a fabulous detergent that isn't very easy to come by here in the US. The Laundry Tarts is a Canadian company with a limited number of US retailers, but I can only hope that changes soon! I would very much like to see this soap featured on the shelves of my local cloth diaper store!

When I first came across The Laundry Tarts detergent while browsing around on EcoFriendlyGreenThings.com, I was intrigued by three things: first, the eco-friendly list of ingredients; second, the pretty, biodegradable, compostable packaging printed with vegetable inks; and third, the list of scents offered on that website: Key Lime Pie, Lemon Meringue, Orange Dreamsicle, and Plain Jane Unscented. As a woman who will usually only use scented versions of anything if they smell like food, the idea of a detergent company that only uses fragrances you'd find in a bakery definitely appealed to me! And the offering of an unscented version for babies with more sensitive skin is always a plus.

Naturally, I had to find out more, so I went on their website, and was amazed by not only the long list of delicious-sounding scents offered, but the company's clear commitment to being environmentally responsible. Not only do they feature a long explanation of why it's best to use environmentally friendly alternatives in your washing machine, they also feature an "Eco-Corner" with recommendations for eco-friendlier and healthier alternatives for toothpaste, menstrual relief, cleaning products, facial care, so on and so forth. This is a company that clearly is passionate about being eco-conscious!

Also, I can't even tell you how much I love the name and the logo: "The Laundry Tarts" is not only indicative of the delicious smelling pastry-inspired scents they offer, it is also how the founders, Jessy Cooke and Tanja Warren, refer to themselves - The Tarts. At least, this is suggested by the pair of coy, "tart-ish" ladies featured on the package, hanging a gigantic diaper out to dry behind a sudsing, cup-cake shaped laundry tub with a cherry on top. It just doesn't get much cuter than that!

Ingredients: Sodium Bicarbonate (Baking Soda), Sodium Carbonate (Soda Wash), Sodium Percarbonate (Powdered hydrogen peroxide), Sea salt, Saponified coconut/canola oil, rosemary extract, phthalate free essential and fragrance oils.

So how well does it work? It works quite well even in our cheapo, lukewarm-water toploader. Every bit as well as Eco Sprout or Rockin' Green, and I must say I have a personal preference for the scents that The Laundry Tarts have to offer (I tried samples of Red Velvet Cake, Peaches 'n Creme, and Brown Sugar Pie...and though I just bought a 4 lb. bag of Plain Jane Unscented, I am sorely tempted to purchase at least a few samples of Cinnamon Bun, Gingerbread, Lemon Meringue, Key Lime Pie, and Mint Chocolate Chip...yum!) They actually put a warning on the package that the detergent is not edible, that's how good it smells! The scents wash out completely, and though heavy stains should be pre-soaked, pretreated and/or sun-bleached (as with most diaper-specific detergents), poopy smells and urine/ammonia smells do wash right out. My RearZ fitteds still do have to be washed twice, but I've basically resigned myself to that...we'll see how they do in our new machine!

I also had the opportunity to try The Laundry Tarts in my mother-in-law's HE front-loader, using half the amount of detergent as I use in my machine (dissolved into a bit of warm water). Her machine is much more powerful than mine (and gets much hotter water), and I was so impressed by the results! There was definitely less staining. I cannot wait to try this detergent in our new HE toploader when it arrives! I'm really just so eager to be rid of our current machine.

The Giveaway - How to Enter
Jessy and Tanja have generously agreed to give away a 12-24 load sample pack of The Laundry Tarts in four yummy scents, plus a Sweet Spots stain remover stick (which I have not tried but am very curious about)! To enter, please use at least one of the mandatory entries below (use more than one for additional entries). You may also use one or all of the optional additional entries, but none of these entries will count if you do not include a mandatory entry! PLEASE INCLUDE YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS WITH EACH ENTRY. I will never use your email address for any purpose other than to contact you if you are the winner.

MANDATORY ENTRIES (pick one or do them all!):
~ Follow Jem's Room on Google Friend Connect (by clicking the "follow" link at the top of this blog page or going to the GFC box in the righthand column). Leave a comment here that you have done so (if you already do, it counts!)
~ Follow Jem's Room on Facebook. Leave a comment here that you have done so (with your Facebook name).
~ Follow Jem's Room on Networked Blogs. Leave a comment here that you have done so.
~ Follow Jem's Room by email by entering your email address in the box in the right hand column of this blog page. Leave a comment here
that you have done so.

Additional optional entries:
~ Visit the The Laundry Tarts website, then come back to this blog post and leave a comment to tell me which of their scents sounds the yummiest to you!
~ Like The Laundry Tarts on Facebook. Come back to this blog post and comment that you have done so (with your Facebook name, please!)
~ Visit The Laundry Tarts distribution partner, MonkeyDoodlez. and comment here to tell me which of their products you'd most like to try!
~ Leave a link to this contest page anywhere on Facebook or your own blog or website. Leave a comment here that you have done so (and tell me where to find the link!)
~ Grab my button and post it on your blog (on the main page or other permanent page, not in a blog entry). Leave a comment here that you have done so (and tell me where to find it!) You may use this for 4 separate entries.
~ Add Jem's Room to your blogroll. Leave a comment here that you have done so. You may use this for 2 separate entries.

Sweet Spot stain remover

This giveaway is open to residents of the US and Canada and will end on Wednesday, September 14. Winner will be picked by a random number generator. Good luck to all!

***I received a small sample pack of detergent for review. No other payment was received for this review, and all opinions expressed here are my own.***

Saturday, August 27, 2011

New winner!

I am pleased to announce that the winner of the NaturOli soap nuts giveaway is #23, kmogilevski from All Natural Katie! I will be emailing Katie and she will have until Tuesday evening to claim her prize.

I apologize for the lack of a random number generator screenshot, I picked the winner from my iPad, and if there's a way to save a screenshot on here I don't know about it yet!

Going to try to pick up some Freecycle furniture today before Irene makes her way here! Stay safe my friends!

Thursday, August 25, 2011


Hi all! Don't forget that tomorrow is the last day for the Naturoli Soap Nuts giveaway! Low entries, give it a shot! The winner will probably be posted on Saturday.

We'll be rounding out Detergent Giveaway Month with one last review and giveaway this weekend...it's a good one. Hint: they're a Canadian-based company, and they're serious about keeping things green! Trust me, you want to enter this one. :-)

I'll be spending my weekend with the hubby celebrating our second wedding anniversary! That is, if Hurricane Irene doesn't have other plans for us. :-) It's been a wonderful two years! I never thought two years ago that I'd become such a hippy. It's amazing how getting married and having a child will change your life in ways you never expected!

Have a very happy Friday everyone!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tidy Tidy, Swishy Swashy, Kissy Kissy!

I need to clean up this blog! I mean, I've known that since I started it, you have to have a good design, right? And I definitely do not. I'm torn between wanting to get creative and try to do it myself (see if I could actually make the image in my head a reality) and having someone do it for me. The problem is I'm cheap, and it's not as if I'm making a profit from this blog to begin with! :-) Oh, I could do the ad thing, but I'm not quite sure I want to take that step...advice from other mama bloggers would be most welcome! Even if you don't have your own blog, I'm definitely open to ideas about blog design from anyone!

In other news, I do believe I have picked an HE washing machine. I'm planning to go with the most updated version of the GE Profile Harmony. It's kind of a leap of faith, since it's gotten rave reviews but they're all very recent reviews from very new users. We will be getting a two year warranty with the machine. I'm thinking we should buy an extended warranty but hubby isn't sure we should cough up so much extra money for it (it is a lot of money to begin with). Thoughts? Experiences? I'm new to this HE machine thing, so I'd love some advice! I know I've been asking for tips more lately than I've been giving them, but it seems when buying a house you start to figure out just how much you don't know!

Well, tomorrow is supposed to be Wordless Wednesday, but I apparently blew Turn-it-Off Tuesday today (it helps when you actually keep track of the days of the week, which for some reason my mommy brain finds increasingly difficult), so tomorrow will be my computer-free day. Therefore I shall leave you with the photo you would have received tomorrow (and I believe this means all you email subscribers will actually receive this photo on Wednesday for a change!) It's an older one, but a goodie! Jem was quite a little guy in this photo.  :-)  I think Blue is blushing...

Have a wonderful Wednesday, all!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Busy busy busy

I'm sorry I haven't posted much in the past week, we've just been busy busy busy cleaning the house, building a half-wall in the living room (well, that was hubby's job) and trying to arrange to pick up Freecycled furniture (we need a truck and a babysitter...finding babysitters when you need 'em can be such a challenge)!

I've also just been poring over reviews of three different HE topload washing machines: the Fisher & Paykel AquaSmart, the GE Profile Harmony, and the LG Wave. I think I'm leaning away from the F&P at this point but I'm hesitant to take it off the table completely (since I think it's the only one definitely not manufactured in China, and so many cloth diapering mamas love it). The newer GE and LG models both get rave reviews, I think it will be just a matter of figuring out which model gets the hottest water! Very important for cloth diapering! Apparently these days they're making HE toploaders in such a way that many of them don't get hot enough water. I guess it has something to do with maintaining the Energy Star rating, though if your clothes don't get clean because the water isn't hot enough and you have to run another cycle I don't see how that's very energy efficient. Looks like the GE might be the winner in the hot water department, but it's hard to say for sure. Oy, decisions, decisions! Thanks to Virginia Lee for bringing the GE Profile series to my attention! Perhaps one of these days they'll design a washing machine specifically with cloth diapering mamas in mind. Wouldn't that be cool? :-)

Speaking of CDing, my friends over at EcoBabyBuys are having a big diaper giveaway when they hit 9000 Facebook fans! Check out their blog for details on how to enter, and if you don't already like them on Facebook go check them out! I've gotten some amazing deals through that website, and I can't recommend them highly enough (and no, they didn't pay me to say that)!

Have a great, productive week everyone! :-)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

It's Official!

On Tuesday, my hubby and I officially became homeowners! Woo-hoo! I am so excited to get the house ready for move-in day. And of course I'm looking forward to all of the great greening we'll be able to do that we haven't been able to do in the apartment community we're currently in. Figured I'd make a little "Green To-Do List" to help keep my eye on the ball!

1) Paint any areas that must be painted with non-VOC paint. VOCs (volatile organic compounds) are gasses emitted from paint and other household chemicals and are a major source of indoor air pollution and a contributor to asthma and other childhood respiratory problems.

2) Seal the deck with an eco-friendly, VOC-free sealant to limit Jem's exposure to the pesticide-treated wood.

3) Pick up secondhand furniture and wall-to-wall carpeting from Freecyclers. :-) Thank you, fellow Freecyclers!

4) Install HE washer and dryer (I'm thinking of a Fisher & Paykel AquaSmart washer, I hear it's a good one for cloth diapers...any thoughts? I really want to keep using a top-loader!)

5) Make a vermicomposting bin and buy some red wigglers (we had one in our previous apartment but the landlord tossed it on the curb for trash pickup...English wasn't his first language and he didn't understand our label "Compost." Bye bye worms!)

6) Put a bucket under the faucet in the shower to catch access water to use for flushing toilets and cleaning.

7) Install a rain barrel to water indoor and outdoor plants.

8) Plant some fruit trees and start a container garden (someday I might have a backyard garden, but I've never had one before and you have to start somewhere!) I'm also seriously considering planting a soap nut tree. Apparently you can grow them here! It might take a couple of decades to bear fruit, but how cool would it be to have organic laundry detergent growing in your own backyard!

Eventually we also want to install solar panels, but that might take a few years to accomplish!  Do you have any other great green suggestions we could try in our new home?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Monday, August 15, 2011

NaturOli Soap Nuts Review and Giveaway!

Back from my refreshing little computer hiatus and ready for another giveaway!

Yes, this August is Detergent Giveaway Month here in Jem's Room. We started the month with an Eco Sprout detergent giveaway, which gave me the opportunity to try and review a great cloth diaper-specific detergent. Now I've been informed that the good folks at NaturOli Soap Nuts, a wonderful product I recently bought for my regular (non-diaper) laundry, have agreed to give away one 40 load bag of their product to my readers! Plus a little added bonus prize!

After I bought some of these little gems last month on Amazon and tried them to clean our clothes and cleaning rags, I was hooked, and promptly contacted NaturOli (pronounced "naturally") to see if they'd be interested in doing a giveaway. I was so excited when they agreed, because I really would love for one of you guys to get to try them! For those of you who don't know what a soap nut (also called a soap berry) is, they are actually little "nuts" that grow on the sapindus tree, and produce a cleansing resin called saponin, which literally is a soap: the most natural soap on earth! NaturOli soap nuts are specifically of the Sapindus Mukorossi variety that grow in India and Nepal. They are USDA certified organic by EcoCert! I was very skeptical about how they would work on my laundry, but they actually work amazingly well!

How to use soap nuts: Place a few soap nuts (about 4-6...I've been using five) in the little muslin bag included with your order. If doing a hot or warm wash, throw the bag in the washer before your laundry. If doing a cold wash, first soak the bag in a few ounces of warm water for several minutes, then throw the bag with the water in the washer before your laundry. (I find it helps to place the bag in a zippered mesh lingerie bag, particularly if you are doing a load of whites, so it's easier to find the bag when the wash is done...otherwise it might get lost in a pant leg or pocket somewhere!) The bag can be reused about 4-6 times before changing the soap nuts, making this an incredibly economical choice for laundry! Even more economical is the fact that soap nuts are very lightweight, so shipping costs, no matter where you order from, tend to be very low.

You don't have to pull the bag out of the wash before the rinse cycle. Saponin cleans very well but, unlike most commercial detergents, is not so soapy or gummy that it will leave residue on your clothes.  In fact, if you leave it in for the rinse cycle it acts as a natural, non-irritating fabric softener (though some garments may still develop static cling in the dryer...I recommend using dryer balls for this problem)! My clothes have been coming out incredibly soft and clean, and smelling like, well, absolutely nothing!

As with most natural detergents, it's highly recommended that you pre-treat any tough stains. You can do this by soaking a few soap nuts in a tiny amount of hot water and rubbing the liquid into the stains, or you can do what I do, which is sprinkle the stain with baking soda and then spray it with vinegar. Usually works like a charm. :-)

Included with my order of NaturOli Soap Nuts from Amazon was a small sample bottle of their Extreme18X "award-winning, eco-friendly, ultra-concentrated extract," which is basically a really effective liquid version of soap nuts with some other added, natural ingredients. I used this on my whites and yes, even on my cloth diapers a couple of times when I was in a pinch, and I was incredibly pleased with how well it worked! Just one teaspoon cleans a full load of laundry! It left no residue on my diapers or irritation on Jem's bum. I also used tiny amounts of it to clean my dishes a few times, which worked as well as any dish detergent! I am very pleased that in addition to the 40 load bag of soap nuts that NaturOli is providing for this giveaway, they are also including one of these sample bottles of Extreme 18X!
(A note about using soap nuts on cloth diapers: though they can be used for cotton diapers and other natural fibers, like prefolds or fitteds, they are not generally recommended for synthetic fabrics like microfleece and microfiber, since the saponin may clog the diapers over time and cause repelling. Since the Extreme 18X washes out in the rinse cycle I felt comfortable using it on my pockets a few times, but I would not recommend the soap nuts themselves for use on pockets, particularly not for long-term use).

Please visit the NaturOli website for complete washing instructions, other uses (there are many!) and additional product information.

The Giveaway - How to Enter

To enter to win one 40 load bag of soap nuts and a sample bottle of 18X Extreme liquid concentrate, please use at least one of the mandatory entries below (use more than one for additional entries). You may also use one or all of the optional additional entries, but none of these entries will count if you do not include a mandatory entry! PLEASE INCLUDE YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS WITH EACH ENTRY. I will never use your email address for any purpose other than to contact you if you are the winner.

MANDATORY ENTRIES (pick one or do them all!):
~ Follow Jem's Room on Google Friend Connect (by clicking the "follow" link at the top of this blog page or going to the GFC box in the righthand column). Leave a comment here that you have done so (if you already do, it counts!)
~ Follow Jem's Room on Facebook. Leave a comment here that you have done so (with your Facebook name).
~ Follow Jem's Room on Networked Blogs. Leave a comment here that you have done so.
~ Follow Jem's Room by email by entering your email address in the box in the right hand column of this blog page. Leave a comment here that you have done so.

Additional optional entries:
~ Visit the Naturoli website, then come back to this blog post and leave a comment to tell me one other product of theirs which you might like to try (or have me review!), or any of the other uses for soap nuts that you might try if you won!
~ Like NaturOli on Facebook. Come back to this blog post and comment that you have done so (with your Facebook name, please!)
~ Leave a link to this contest page anywhere on Facebook or your own blog or website. Leave a comment here that you have done so (and tell me where to find the link!)
~ Grab my button and post it on your blog (on the main page or other permanent page, not in a blog entry). Leave a comment here that you have done so (and tell me where to find it!) You may use this for 4 separate entries.
~ Add Jem's Room to your blogroll. Leave a comment here that you have done so. You may use this for 2 separate entries.

The contest will end Friday, August 26th. Winner will be picked by a random number generator. Good luck to all!

**Note: I purchased this item myself and received no compensation for this review. The opinions expressed here are entirely my own.**

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Turn-it-Off Tuesdays

I've decided to take a little computer break for the rest of the week. I think it's good to unplug once in awhile to devote a little more focus to other things, especially when you're mired in bloggyland! :-) In fact, I'm hereby declaring every Tuesday from now on computer-free. So this will be my last Tuesday blog post...ever! I'll catch up with you all again Sunday night or Monday morning, when I'll be announcing a new giveaway! Stay tuned, and thanks for following! Now go stop and smell the roses...or the coffee...or the organic hummus...mmmm....hummus...

Monday, August 8, 2011

Homemade Baby Food: Avocado, Nature's Near-Perfect First Solid Food

Is your baby ready to start on solids? Congratulations on this milestone! Before you automatically reach for that box of powdered rice cereal, consider this: some pediatricians have now started recommending avocado as a first solid food. It was one of Jem's first solids and my only regret is that it wasn't his very first! He loves it, and it gives him many of the healthy fats and nutrients essential to his little growing body. Many of the nutrients found in rice cereal are supplemental (added) nutrients, which tend not to be as easily absorbed and used by the body as nutrients found in fresh fruits and vegetables.

Avocado is also incredible easy to serve, no cooking required. It can be pureed, mashed or, for slightly older babies, diced and served as a finger food. Even when not organic it is generally very low in pesticides, which is always a bonus when organic options aren't available!

Avocado can easily be combined with other pureed or mashed foods, like applesauce or bananas, for a little extra sweetness. However, it's wise to try all foods by themselves for several days to keep an eye out for sensitivities (allergic reactions, tummy troubles, diaper rashes, etc).

The healthy fat content of avocado makes it a great food for plumping up undernourished babies. If your doctor feels that your baby really needs the extra carbs (for instance, if he or she is losing weight instead of gaining) by all means use the rice cereal! I would, however, encourage you to use the rice cereal in conjunction with avocado or other nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables, like bananas, pumpkin, and cantaloupe.

For a full list of the nutritional benefits of avocado, visit WholesomeBabyFood.com, a wonderful resource for learning to make your own baby food! Stay tuned to Jem's Room for more simple baby food tips and recipes!

**Please Note**
This information is not intended to encourage mothers to stop breastfeeding exclusively if that is what they feel is best for their babies. Many babies are able to breastfeed exclusively with no weaning at all, baby-led or otherwise, until they are a year or older. If this is the case for your baby, go for it, you are already giving your child the perfect food! The information in this post is intended for mothers who cannot continue to exclusively breastfeed or were unable to/chose not to breastfeed for any reason.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

And the Winner of the Eco Sprout Giveaway is...

Entry 49, Brittany H. of Lookin for the Good Fluff! Congratulations Brittany! I'll be contacting you and you will have until Tuesday evening to claim your prize. Thanks to everyone who submitted entries! We will have another giveaway very soon, so stay tuned!

Winning Entry:

Brittany H said...

I blogged about this giveaway! http://britsthegoodstuff.blogspot.com/2011/08/eco-sprout-giveaway-ends-86.html

britbakow at gmail dot com
August 1, 2011 8:27 PM

Saturday, August 6, 2011

My Cute Green Kid

Okay, I hate to be one of those annoying braggart moms, but apparently it's been confirmed: my kid is pretty darn cute. As parents we all hear this a lot ("Your baby is the cutest baby EVER!") because, by their very nature, kids are cute! Each one cuter than the next, and if you think your kid is the cutest, then you are right! :-) I just get the additional pleasure today of announcing that Jem was selected as the winner of The Cute Green Baby photo contest over at ecofriendlygreenthings.com, an awesome shop with some very cool green items. They have a big sale going on right now, hop on over and check them out! I have a few choice items there I've had my eye on for Christmas presents. Thanks to the gift certificate we won, I may just order them a bit early. Jem also won a reusable Elmo tote bag from Envirosax. We are all just pleased as punch over here!

Here is the winning photo with the caption I sent (you can click on the photo for a larger view):

"This is my son Jem doing what he loves best, playing barefoot in the grass. He is wearing a Fuzzibunz cloth diaper and a 100% organic "Go Green" onesie that mommy converted into a t-shirt (since it wouldn't fit over the diaper...the leftover fabric with snaps is going to good use as an extender for his other onesies). He is carrying his much-loved "popper" which he received from a nice lady on Freecycle, and a Wonderworld Toys eco-friendly wooden sound block. (He sure likes making noise!) He refuses to keep a hat (or pants) on, but his fair skin is protected by Loving Naturals non-nano zinc oxide sunscreen with organic oils."

Don't forget that our own contest for a bag of Eco Sprout detergent ends today! You have till midnight EST to get your entries in, I will pick a winner tomorrow morning. Enjoy your weekend, everyone!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Homemade Fruity Goat Milk Yogurt

Since we started Jem on purees at six months we've been making our own organic baby food. Because I was breastfeeding and had dealt with thrush a few times we'd been using probiotics for both of us (luckily, probably because of this, he never got the thrush, just me...ow), so pretty quickly I decided to start giving them to him in the form of yogurt. Since he'd shown signs of sensitivity to cow milk formula, I decided to try using goat milk to make the yogurt (though even some milk intolerant babies do just fine on cow milk yogurt, I preferred to be on the safe side). Unfortunately I found it very difficult to thicken up the yogurt using goat milk. I tried everything: adding tapioca powder, powdered pectin, gelatin...the only thing I don't think I tried was agar agar powder (an apparently wonderful thickener), only because it was so expensive. The yogurt would thicken up a little bit, but stay pretty much the consistency of kefir.

Then a thought occurred to me. If certain fruits naturally contain high amounts of pectin, wouldn't pureeing them up and incubating them with the yogurt help to thicken things up a bit?

After a bit of experimenting with some of Jem's favorite pureed fruits, I came up with the following recipe, which not only thickens beautifully, it tastes great!

Homemade Fruity Goat Milk Yogurt


1 quart goat milk (we use whole Meyenberg...evaporated milk does NOT work for this recipe)
1 medium sized banana
1/8 to 1/4 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen...if frozen they must be thawed)
Yogurt starter - Powdered starter, 1 teaspoon storebought yogurt, or 1 packet/capsule Culturelle probiotic

Heat the milk in a pan on the stove just until the milk starts to climb the walls of the pan, not to boiling. Remove from heat and allow to cool to about 100 to 110 degrees F (use a candy or meat thermometer). Pour about half of the milk into your blender. Add the yogurt starter, banana and blueberries and blend well (pureeing the blueberries by themselves first might help this step go quicker). Add the rest of the milk, stir, and pour into sterilized yogurt containers (we either use the jars that came with our yogurt maker or a quart sized pyrex bowl, which fits quite nicely). Make sure your yogurt maker is CLEAN and incubate for 12 hours or more (I usually do about 15).

If you do not own a yogurt maker you can make your own using a heating pad and a cooler, your stove or a crock pot. There are various instructions found online on how to do this, just do a Google search! I have never tried these methods for this recipe so I personally couldn't attest to the effectiveness of any of them, but I do have a friend who has used her crockpot to make cow milk yogurt with great success.

I plan to post more of my favorite baby food recipes and suggestions in the coming weeks! Making your own baby food is so easy and can actually be quite cost effective. Have fun experimenting with yours!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Building Your Own Support System

This doesn't really fall under the "green" category, but bear with me. In Tuesday's post, I shared with you about how some parents on online forums can be very snarky and hurtful to one another. Around the time I wrote it, someone pointed out to me that the reason behind this is simple: anonymity. On an online parenting forum, particularly the really big popular ones, no one knows anyone. As much as the group's purpose may be about community and support, once the community becomes large enough, with hundreds or thousands of members who don't know one another personally, the rules of social graces fall to pieces. People become less concerned with what they say because, heck, if they say something hurtful, who are they hurting? Some faceless screenname who clearly doesn't share the same viewpoint and therefore must not have feelings?

When Jem was born, we had a rough first few months. Breastfeeding low supply issues, colic, reflux, sleep deprivation, probably a touch of PPD, so on and so forth. I needed a lot of support, but unfortunately my mom and my closest friends lived three states away, my sister worked full time and had kids of her own, and I really hadn't been living in the town we were in long enough to make other mama friends. Facebook became a godsend, because it helped me keep in close touch with my other mama friends who lived so far away. When I had a problem they couldn't help me with, I'd sometimes turn to one of those online forums, and was often horrified by what I saw there.

Then, while chatting with two mama friends on Facebook about flavoring homemade yogurt (recipe to come!) an idea was born. It wasn't a big idea. It wasn't even a particularly novel idea, since I'm sure it's been done many, many times before. It was simply the idea for a private mom's support group on Facebook. The catch was that it would not be anonymous. Everyone in the group had to be invited by someone they knew personally who was already a member. We would have an honors system: only invite other moms you trust to be supportive and encouraging, not judgemental and critical.

I set the group up and went about inviting friends. They invited their friends. Now, nine months later, we have about 75 members with a small group of regular posters. Everyone knows someone else, everyone is "a friend of a friend," and that makes all the difference. And I have to tell you, these women are amazing! Even though I'm the "moderator," I've had to do very little in the way of actual moderating. Moms in the group post about all kinds of topics - problems, ideas, recipes, frustrations, happy and funny anecdotes - all with a great deal of compassion, respect and encouragement. I am so happy and proud to be a part of such a wonderful group of women and to have them as my support group!

We have since moved closer to my mother and many of my mom friends and live in a community with several other moms and babies in the area, and it is a joy to have that interaction. But I know what it's like to feel that loneliness, to wonder where to turn for support without having your decisions called into question at every turn. I would encourage other moms in this situation to reach out for support from people who can be trusted, who aren't faceless and nameless but who will respect you and recognize you are a person with feelings!

One place to start is by looking for moms' groups in your area. Maybe there is a Meetup.com group near you. Your community library may also have information about such groups in your area. Lactation consultants, pediatricians and ob/gyns sometimes will also have some info. Your local newspaper may have ads for such groups in the classified section. If not, you can make your own! Or, if you're like me and transportation can be an issue, you can start an online group. Facebook is a great way to do this, because so many of your friends probably already use it. If you go to your FB homepage, in the lefthand column you should see a "Create Group" link. You can then pick the friends you want to add to the group (I recommend messaging them first to find out if they'd like to join), pick a name for your group and set your privacy settings (our group, ShareMamas, is a "secret" group, meaning only the members can find it and see the posts). Have your friends invite their friends and voila! Your own private parenting forum. No trolls allowed! :-)

I wish you all a world of support, encouragement, and friendship.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Attachment Parenting with Empathy

See if you recognize this scenario: Parent A reads up on some tenet of attachment parenting - co-sleeping, breastfeeding, babywearing, natural sleep methods, etc - and decides this is what she is going to do with her baby. She has read all the research in favor of it, read all the research against the alternatives, and decides it's the only way to go. She tries it, it works brilliantly, she and her baby are both happy and bonding beautifully, and she becomes an advocate for that technique. Meanwhile, Parent B, an equally loving parent, also does her research and decides she will also try the attachment parenting technique. She tries. It fails. She tries again, and again it fails. She keeps trying and trying, for weeks and then months, and eventually becomes exhausted and drained. It isn't working for her and her baby, and she feels guilty and berates herself, because now she is going to break down and try the technique she never wanted to try - store-bought formula, the cry-it-out-method, etc. This method actually works! She and her baby are happier, healthier and better rested for it, and it actually improves their bonding. However, her happiness is short-lived, because she stumbles onto an online parenting forum and meets Parent A, who chastises her for her choice and calls her a "child abuser." Does any of this sound familiar to you?

If it does, read on. I wrote the following in my Facebook notes several months ago when Jem was only about six months old, before I started blogging. I unearthed it today and thought it might be appropriate to share with you all. I'm sorry if it seems a bit preachy, I was in a bit of a tizzy that day!

It seems whenever I go to an online parenting forum for advice or information I run into a series of heated and rather unkind debates, in which one or several parents verbally (or, I suppose, textually) rip another parent apart for a decision they have made or are trying to make for their child. It really blows my mind how cruel and thoughtless parents can be to one another. Shouldn't we be supportive of one another?  After all, we're all in this crazy, sleepless state of things together.

Several years ago, my parents became foster parents, and since then our family has had an up close and personal look at the effects of real neglect, abuse and abandonment of young children.  I'm pretty sure this gives me a fairly accurate perspective on these topics, so let me tell you right now a few things which do NOT constitute neglect, abuse or abandonment.

~ The decision to use formula rather than breast milk.  Yes, I breastfeed and am a huge proponent of doing so, and I wish more mothers would at least try it out, but there are at least a dozen very valid reasons I can think of for ultimately choosing not to do so.  Throughout history, our foremothers have always had to come up with some necessary substitute for breast milk for those mothers who were unable to feed their kids at the boob.  I personally suspect the way we evolved to stand upright rather than walk around on all fours might have something to do with the human struggle to breastfeed naturally, but that's just a sort of random theory of mine. Anyway, give 'em a break, ladies. Formula isn't my choice, and it may not be yours, but it isn't arsenic.

~ Having your child vaccinated, or not having your child vaccinated.  Or choosing a delayed vaccine schedule. However you feel personally about this issue, whatever the research has led you to believe, the decision to do the opposite of what you yourself have chosen is in no way a form of abuse.  Beating your child for being a couple of minutes late for curfew, that's abuse.

~ Circumcision.  I'm talking about male circumcision as it's commonly practiced in the US.  Now some of you guys (albeit a minority of you) claim to miss your foreskin, and I don't begrudge you that.  Also, I understand that every surgery has its risks and its resultant horror stories. However, we are talking about a one-time procedure with a low rate of complications in which the baby is almost always properly anesthetized, the doctor is skilled, the instruments are sterile, at least one parent is almost always present before, during and after to provide comfort, and which is actually an effective preventative measure (talk to a mother who has to have her child circumcised at age 9 because he refuses to clean himself properly and gets repeated infections, or the elderly man at the nursing home who has to have it done then.  It hurts more for them and they actually remember the pain).  The choice not to circumcise is an EQUALLY valid choice. No one really wants to put a little baby through any discomfort, and the thought of removing a piece of an appendage may seem really strange and unnecessary to you. Either decision is usually made with a great deal of love and consideration for the child.  So let's try to leave words like "barbaric" and "obtuse" out of it, okay? An abusive circumcision would be one where the instruments are not sterile, the doctor is of questionable skill, there is no anesthetic and afterward the kid is left with a gaping open wound with no treatment or comfort.  This does happen in the world.  Let's keep some perspective.

~ Using only Western medicine, or only homeopathic remedies.  I personally think there is a time and a place for both.  Regardless, if a parent is trying as hard as possible to relieve a child's suffering using whatever means they deem necessary and appropriate within their own belief system (by this, of course, I do not mean smothering the child with a pillow to put him out of his misery), I don't see how anyone could possibly claim abuse or neglect. Leaving a sick toddler alone in a playpen with a bottle of Jolt cola while you go out with friends to get high: that's abusive and neglectful.

~ Using the Cry-It-Out method, or variations thereof.  I've heard everything which "the research indicates."  Let me tell you, there's a lot of research to sift through on this topic, and half of it contradicts the other half.  Could letting your child cry so you can get some sleep leave emotional scars and possibly cause anxiety down the road?  Maybe.  Some studies say yes, some studies say no.  Now let me tell you what can really do some damage to a baby: a sleep-deprived parent who has tried everything else he or she can think of to get the child (and themselves) to go to sleep and is gripped, at 4 in the morning, with a sudden urge to throw that child across the room.  Do what you have to do, my friends, to keep your child safe and to keep yourself from a lifetime of regret and self-loathing.  Do what you have to do.

~ Co-sleeping. Or not co-sleeping.  Does co-sleeping reduce the risk of SIDS? Absolutely! Does it also run the risk of a parent rolling over onto the child, smothering the child, or accidentally pushing the child onto the floor?  Yes, indeed.  The rule here is "know thyself." Are you a fitful sleeper? Do you thrash about in your sleep? Will you even be able to sleep knowing there's a fragile little baby next to you? Can you sleep if you modify your bed properly to make it a safe place for baby?  Make the decision based on your own answer to those questions, and remember there are children out there whose parents leave them alone in the house at night, or with dangerous strangers, or for whom the dark of night is a time of unspeakable horrors.

~ Using bumpers, blankets, hats, or stuffed animals at night.  Yes, all of these things can pose suffocation hazards. I'd personally love to use a hat on Jem at night, but I don't quite trust him to wake up if it falls over his face (though he probably would).  Again, know thyself, know thy baby, make sure if you choose to use them that you can check on your child frequently, and if you choose not to don't rag on the parent who does. There are babies who freeze to death because the parents don't care enough to remember to pay the heating bill, don't clothe the child properly, and don't provide so much as a cuddle for body heat.  

Keep everything in perspective, and be forgiving of one another!

...Aaaaand that's my soapbox speech for the day.