Breastfeeding Is Life

This Mother’s Day, I will be performing in the production Listen to Your Mother at the World Cafe Live in Delaware. I’m sharing an original work that highlights my humorous, semi-non-fictional experience of breastfeeding. At just $18 per ticket, it costs roughly the same as a store-bought bouquet of flowers and is a much more unique gift option for your Mom. I hope you’ll come see the show.

I wrote about breastfeeding because it’s something that I do every day, many times a day. There are times when it’s hard and sad and painful, but there are also times when it’s downright funny. It was important for me to get the word out that Breastfeeding is real. It’s not something that happens in a big, comfy chair every day. In my house, breastfeeding happens while a toddler smears poop on her potty chair. Sometimes it happens and I’ll forget to button up my nursing tank back over my exposed nipple. Most nights I fall asleep while nursing my baby because it literally drains me. But, at the end of it all, this has been one of the most amazing things I’ve ever done. I’m also not stopping any time soon, so I thought I would put my happy, breastfeeding experience into the spotlight before it becomes a NATIONAL FIASCO when I feed a baby who is old enough to ask for milk. At least, I won’t have any spilled sippy cups.

Photo Credit: Autumn Rishty Photography

Photo Credit: Autumn Rishty Photography

 

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Potty Training

Last week Hannah decided she was done with diapers. I was hoping to put off potty training until this summer for the ease of wearing dresses and going bottomless. When she started handing me her soiled diapers, I knew it was time to bite the bullet and dive right in. Kids have windows of awareness and curiosity. When you catch it just right, you’re golden… for the most part.

I got some great advice from my Facebook fans about potty training. The next morning, I set a potty chair in our playroom on a blanket and let her roam. We talked about the potty now and then and if she started to go, I scooped her up and over to the potty and cheerily exclaimed, “Go potty!” She caught on really quickly. I’m not going to say there weren’t any accidents or it wasn’t messy, because it was totally gross, but I got over it. Just like the first time I pulled off a cloth diaper and threw it into the washing machine, it wasn’t that bad. In all honesty, I’m really excited about the progress because it means that I’m down to one kid in diapers!

The thing that really worked for Hannah was getting a book with a potty theme. I kept it next to her potty chair and reading helped her stay focused on the task at hand. Once we had the action and the vocabulary down, it was really just a question of if it would work out of the house. We took a chance and ventured to the nursery. I wore Hannah and when she started to fidget I asked, “Go potty?” She replied, “potty” so we walked to the parking lot and I let her sit on the potty chair in the front seat. She was a little nervous about it so I put it away and packed her back up. I asked again, “potty?” and when we set everything back up she sat on the chair and thought it was the bee’s knees. She laughed, quickly went potty and we caught back up with her Dad inside. I was so proud of her!

She was really happy, too. I feel like I have been holding her back the whole time. She’s known about her functions and has used squeals and escape tactics to let me know. I just wasn’t taking the opportunity to help her use the potty because diapers were easier for me. Let’s face it, anyone who has taken a picture of a toddler knows that catching any action in the moment is nearly impossible. I’ve hidden behind Audrey in the carrier for long enough, so I finally gave Hannah the attention she needed to develop her potty awareness.

This wasn’t our first trek with potty training. When Hannah was 4 months old, I read about Elimination Communication and held her over a potty while she peed. I thought it was the greatest idea in the world, but the process didn’t stick because I created a lot of barriers between a convenient potty and an infant. From the way I dressed her to the errands we ran each day, it just wasn’t going to happen for us. When she turned 12 months, I was eager to help her learn because she showed a lot of curiosity. Most likely, that was because I had to pee 25 times a day in my ninth month of pregnancy. That’s why I really liked the idea of Potty Learning. There were no expectations for her to go. If she wanted to try, she could. At 15 months she showed more signs of curiosity, so I bought her a potty chair. We made some real progress and had a few great days. Those were often followed by a week or a month of total indifference to the potty. By 18 months, I completely gave up. That child flushed the toilet more times than I can count each time we walked into the bathroom. When she lost interest, I decided to give our water bill a break until further notice. I’m happy to report that after months and several different attempts at different phases of growth, I really feel like we’re on the right track.

Potty training was a happy experience. It was positive and upbeat and it gave Hannah the chance to show her independence. If she uses a diaper tomorrow, that’s ok. If she doesn’t, that’s even better because I take a chocolate chip each time she has her potty reward, too. (Ok, I take 5, but I’m nursing!) This is an awesome age for potty learning because Hannah is motivated by her discoveries. She’s learning how to control her body functions and she’s learning about rewards. Luckily she is also too young to remember that I let her fall into the toilet. I can hardly forgive myself for laughing at that one, but she took it like a champ.

potty trainingIn all fairness, potty training a kid who wears cloth diapers is an easy task compared to using disposables. Not only do they feel the sensations easier, but we also have some great supplies for the task. If I don’t feel comfortable that I’ll catch her cues, I can put one of Hannah’s Gro-Via cloth diapers on her bum. She’s been keeping them dry during outings for a while, so she understands they’re more of a backup now. I have a diaper sprayer attached to the toilet which makes the messy cleanups a little better. Since I’m already doing diaper laundry for Audrey, I just use cloth wipes for her cleanup and pre-fold diapers as towels to clean up the potty chair. Baby Legs are also really popular in the cloth-diapering circles. These leg warmers come in lots of varieties for boys and girls and work great for cool-weather potty training.

For as difficult as it can be to wrangle Hannah, she’s been really great through this whole habit shift. How was your potty training experience?

5 Kid’s Meals I Don’t Want to Order from KFC

I grew up eating a lot of fast food. Even at stand alone restaurants, I still opted for chicken fingers 9 times out of 10. I realized in my late teens that I wasn’t making healthy choices and that I felt a lot better physically and emotionally when I ate fresh, wholesome meals. Finding a healthy diet hasn’t been easy for me because there is a lot of marketing jargon to sift through. Sadly, I’ve spent years disregarding healthy professional advice because it seemed conflictive and rattled with words like, “toxic”, “rancid”, or “poisonous.” Who, in their right mind, wants to believe that something they have eaten since childhood could be so bad?

Recently, there has been a shift at fast food restaurants to offer side dishes that marketers consider “healthy.” Last weekend, KFC invited a group of bloggers to visit the headquarters with their children to sample these meals. The popular bloggers touted the delicious 210 calorie lil buckets with tweets and photos. It quickly caught the eyes of Moms who do not agree that these are healthy options.

kfc kid's meals

I sympathize with both sides. Two years ago, I could have easily created that marketing campaign. I would have looked at the new menu options and thought, “Fruit water is healthier than soda because it doesn’t have caffeine. Mashed potatoes are better than french fries since they’re not fried. Look at the cute food pouch! Now kids can have applesauce with their meals. I bet Moms will LOVE this.” I remember seeing the first ‘healthy’ kid’s sides available at McDonald’s a few years ago and being excited to take my kids to eat them. I don’t feel that way anymore.

Just because a food isn’t fried, doesn’t mean it’s healthy. There are important issues about preparation, cultivation, and transportation that effect the food before it even gets to our plates. KFC has missed the mark on a lot of those things. Some very smart people have realized that the foods contain toxins and dozens of ingredients that are linked to obesity. They created a Real Food Infographic to share the message. Yes, even the smart waters and food pouches are culprits, too. The same thing is happening at places like McDonalds, Chic-fil-A, and Wendy’s. As much as I want to applaud the Colonel for trying to do something different, I’m still not sure it’s better.

It’s really a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it would be great if truly wholesome foods were more readily available for kids. Sadly, I don’t think the fast food places are going to make that happen. I think it would be better if we just call a spade a spade and let the fast food chains do what they do best. Supersize it. Glorify the calories and the gluttony. Can we get a dessert with that kid’s meal? Some people will make the decision to eat less frequently at those places. Others won’t, and that’s their choice. At least there will be truth in marketing, especially marketing targeted at kids. How else will they learn what is truly healthful and nutritious?

I’ve been confused on where to start on the road to healthy eating, so I decided to grow food in my own backyard. Through that simple act, I’m learning so much about cultivating and preparing foods. The definition of a meal has changed for me. So has the definition of fast food. I can’t think of a faster way to grab a bite than to walk into my yard and pluck a plump, sun-ripe tomato into my mouth.

Kegel Exercises Are Not What is Wrong with This World

As I’ve been making eco-friendly changes and learning more about childbirth and my body, I’ve realized that there will always be opposition to these topics. I feel lucky to live in a time when I have so much access to what I consider important information. I am also glad that I have a network of like-minded supporters for my choices.

The fact that this poster, about KEGELS, is turning into a controversy is mind blowing to me. The ad is part of a greater wellness campaign by Veria Living, a health and wellness cable network. I think the original ad is great. However, telling a woman that it’s wrong to do kegels is like telling a runner that it is wrong to exercise his or her legs. We were made to have babies and it takes a muscle to push out those babies.

pc muscles

(Courtesy Kara Rozansky)

An article on Gothamist hastily declared that this poster is making some wonder, “What is wrong with this World?” I couldn’t disagree more. If anything, I think that this poster should be in every midwife or Doctor’s office as a friendly and funny reminder to squeeze. I think that a sex-ed class that focused on this topic instead of how to select a tampon would be much more effective for the next generation. I wish someone had said to me in my teens, “There is nothing wrong with your body. This is what it can do. It’s beautiful, natural, and you don’t need a man to use your parts. Also, try a menstrual cup instead of a tampon so that you stop having cramps and headaches.”

First of all, we need to stop sexualizing Kegel exercises. When I was pregnant, I desperately searched for an app to find out how to kegel, what to kegel, and why to kegel. My best option was called, “Sex with Emily.” I think that this is sad for two reasons. How, at 25 years old, did I not know anything about kegeling besides Cosmo’s hasty instructions to ‘squeeze like you have to pee’? The other reason it is sad is that a 8 months pregnant, the last thoughts I wanted to combine were sex and exercise. If someone developed a Kegel App that ended with a nap, I would be all over that.

Since we’re on the topic, I’ll tell you what I know. Kegels are important. You need to do them or your vagina will fall out. I don’t know if that is exactly true, but I know that kegels are exercise and they are good for you. When you stretch and tighten muscles they work better in the long run. Exercise is a key component of pregnancy, too. Many workout videos suggest a few kegels in the middle of the program. I imagine that is why my step-mother chose not to do her videos in front of me and the additional teenagers in the house during her pregnancy. But, so what if she had? We could have all giggled about it the first 19 times and then, by the end of it we would be well on our way to being strong enough to give birth. It takes effort to push out a baby. This is why we call it labor.

How do you Kegel?

I don’t know how you kegel. Maybe you squeeze at every traffic stop. I’m truly asking a question here. I kegel infrequently, but I wish I remembered to do it more often. I love that Lindsay Brin reminds me to do them during toning exercises so I truly feel that I get a full-body workout. There are some serious kegel experts in this world and I would welcome the opportunity to learn more from them. Again, a kegel class would have been much more beneficial than AP calc at this point in my life. I plan to have more babies. There is no more space in my mind for differential equations.

Kegels aren’t just for Hippies

Women who give birth naturally aren’t plagued by stretchy vaginas. We can all tighten, relax, and rebuild our muscles prior to birth and after. Having a c-section also doesn’t prevent pelvic floor injuries. The benefits of kegeling reach far beyond the bedroom. We need these muscles to have more babies, to jump on trampolines, and to sneeze. Think of all the sanitary napkins we would save! While we’re on the topic of sanitary napkins, maybe it’s time to talk about mama cloth, too. There are helpful resources all over the internet on how to have a “greener” period. The experts in the eco-friendly world of feminine care are certainly less patronizing than Kotex. It’s true- you can run while you have your period!

Will Learning about Kegels Make my Teenager More Sexual?

I’ve made a decision to be a willing and honest resource for my girls when they are older. We’ll talk about kegels, natural labor, childbirth, sex, periods and I’ll answer their questions as honestly as possible. I will probably giggle because I am very immature about the topic. In my experience, the friends that I have known with open-minded parents have very reasonable attitudes about sex.

If you are offended by this post in any way, I would encourage you to start kegeling right now. Be sure to hold your breath while you hold your vagina. Keep holding… keep holding…

Make Money with a Blog

It’s no secret that I make money and receive compensation for my blog. In fact, it’s illegal to keep this a secret and it’s only fair for you to know that sometimes the products that I write about are purposefully handed to me so that I will show them off. Nobody really seems to mind that this is the case and I’ve realized recently that some people are interested in how this whole mythical blogging land works behind the scenes. How do you really make money behind the veiled curtain?

Easy Money from Blogging

There’s no such thing as easy money when it comes to blogging. Basically, the more time and effort you put into something, the better payout you will have… most of the time. I’m familiar with a lot of the ways that people can make money on the internet because it used to be my job to entice people to get involved on the internet to make money. My first post-college job was with 1&1 Internet, The World’s Largest Webhost, and the brainchild of this ad-tastic mutt:

make money with a blog

My time at 1&1 was spent surfing the internet for work-related projects, searching the internet for non-work-related-projects, paying my bills online, and learning how other people use the internet very effectively while waiting for the leaders of my company to do the same thing. At the end of my 18 month tenure, I felt that I had learned very little. Consequently, I knew just enough to pique my interest about starting a blog. I simply had to wait for the right inspiration for what to write.

At first, I wrote about money. I was fascinated with green back then, too. I could have made a lot of money on that blog with the right motivation, but it wasn’t there. When Hannah was born, I started writing for another blog to earn ‘cloth diaper bucks’ to help pay for some of the stash that turned me onto green living. It was fun and my family liked reading the posts, so I decided to write my first Mom blog to share everything that I was learning about being a Mother. At the time, it was mostly a journal, until one night I had an epiphany for a fun name and Eco Incognito was born.

Starting out in the blogging realm was exciting. I dove headfirst into Twitter as a way to connect with brands and other successful bloggers. I built my network and I began to build my brand following what I felt was a good path. I’ve taken some advice along the way and mixed it with what I know from the corporate world (which is much less than what Mommies know) to create my own blog plan.

Right now, I don’t make very much money on my blog. I also don’t get very much stuff in comparison to other blogs. But, I do get more than people who don’t have a blog that spend exactly the same amount of time as I do on the internet… if not MORE. So, it got me thinking, what is keeping everyone else from blogging? I know there are fears for privacy issues, and I respect those, but I put them aside for the most part. There are also TROLLS that can potentially write nasty things about you on your very own blog! To them, I say, whatever. I would rather have my great blog where I share about my kids and my life than worry about tip-toeing around everyone’s feelings forever. I have offended people with my writing. I have also helped people find life-changing information and confidence that they might not have found otherwise. The thing that keeps me going is having a network of friends, frenemies, and colleagues that all participate in my blog-o-sphere. My blog isn’t going to be the #1 blog on the planet, but people still read it and that’s enough for me.

That’s also all it takes to make a few bucks here and there. The possibilities for making money through blogging are endless. However, there is one KEY to making money on the internet. Respect your network. When you have an opportunity to join a network, take it and foster that. The internet works in strange ways and the coding on the backend works best to support those who support others. There are many other amazing features of these ‘secret societies’ that offer bloggers the type of support you just can’t buy.

A few weeks ago, my favorite blogging network, the Philly Social Media Moms hosted a workshop on monetizing blogs. Three very smart ladies shared their advice for making money from their blogs. The key takeaway? Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

First, Mindi Cherry of Moms Need to Know explained affiliate marketing. If you have ever read a coupon blog and wondered how they post so often and find out all the great deals, it is through affiliate networks. By signing up for these, the bloggers get the information delivered directly to them and then make money from the people who click those links. There are big bucks in couponing blogs, but you have to earn every penny. This is a huge time commitment without much leeway because readers expect to find the information at a quick pace. If not, they will find it elsewhere.

Next, I learned from Tina Seitzinger of Life Without Pink how to build a blog as a demonstration of social media skills. By staying connected with an influential group and keeping up-to-date on social media trends, parents who stay home have plentiful opportunities to return to the workforce when the time is right. Even better? Many of the available positions are home-based or offer work-from-home opportunities especially when it comes to freelancing.

My inspiration for blogging is Colleen Padilla of Classy Mommy. Although we blog about very different topics, her enthusiasm for each post and effort in delivering a positive message make her a great role model for bloggers. She even wrote a book called The Digital Mom Handbook. Colleen suggests finding multiple ways to build relationships with brands. Bloggers can begin as influencers by joining networks like Mamavation or The SITS Girls. These early blogging connections can start as sponsored posts or participation during Tweetups and progress to becoming Brand Ambassadors. Companies use a group of ambassadors to help deliver their message and often compensate the bloggers with money or sought-after products. The highest tier of brand sponsorship is to deliver a message as the Brand Spokesperson. In this role, the blogger benefits from being the face of the organization and signs on for a long-term commitment to share the best of what the brand has to offer for a year or more.

Green companies take note – Eco Incognito is actively interested in partnering as a Brand Spokesperson!

Altogether, there are plenty of opportunities to make money blogging. The blogging community also works as a team to help one another in finding and creating these opportunities. The next time you post to Facebook, pin, or tweet something, stop and think. Could I be making money on this? The answer is yes. But, you have to create your blog as your home base so that the brands who want to work with you can find you.

If you don’t know where to start ask a question, leave a comment, or connect with another blogger. Are you inspired?

Toddler Games: An Indoor Bear Activity

One of Hannah’s favorite books is, “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt.” This was also one of my favorite stories from childhood, so it has inspired me to bring the story to life in our playroom. I can still remember tapping out the beat on my knees and swishing my arms through the grass when I was a kid. Maybe this will be one of Hannah’s first memories, too. If so, I hope she will pass along the fun to the next generation.

toddler activity bears

We start our bear hunt with Hannah’s favorite Teddy. The sign for bear is easy to remember, simply cross your arms across the chest and mimic dragging your fingers in a scratch. She also likes to practice making growl sounds. When I read the story, which is pretty much memorized at this point, I lay the book down so that I can make motions for each of the delays. The best part is when we find the bear and ‘race’ quickly back through all the detours. Hannah loves to hear me animate the fear in finding the bear and the excitement of the race.

After the book, Hannah helps the bear search for food from our brightly colored boxes. Each box contains two non-food items and one fruit. When she gives the bear food, I make him eagerly gobble it up. If she gives him a ball or crayon, he enthusiastically spits it out and asks for more food. He also sniffs around to help Hannah find what he likes best. She gets a huge kick out of hearing him snort. I’m not sure if she knows that it’s me making the noise, but she laughs and laughs about the silly sounds.

Next, Hannah sorts all the objects back into their boxes with my help or encouragement. She completes more of the task on her own if she’s not overly excited from bear tickles and snorts. Then I sing the song, “The Bear Went Over the Mountain” while moving the teddy up and down my arms. He perches atop my head for a little while, too. Those actions are silly, but they have helped me tell when Hannah wants to sing the song because she’ll bring the bear over to my head.

To round out our bear activity, we read the book, “Brown Bear Brown Bear, What do you See?” I found a great demonstration of all the signs that go with the animals and colors on YouTube, so I’m slowly learning the collection. Even though the bear hunt book ends with the line, “We’re Not Going on a Bear Hunt Again” we always end up repeating this activity.

Shop the Best New Toy Store In the Philadelphia Suburbs

Monkey Fish Toys opened their doors for a sneak peek for bloggers in preparation for the Grand Opening in April. They are currently open daily to the public in their new space in The Shops on Eagleview Boulevard. The new shop boasts 19 eco-friendly or sustainable toy brands in addition to the mix of popular toys like Legos and Gund. They have done a really great job identifying brands that parents can trust and value. The best part is that I didn’t see a single toy in the shop that required batteries.

monkey fish toys

Going to the shop is an awesome experience in itself because there are stations where kids (and adults) can test out or play with the products. For special occasions, parents can book the shop for an unforgettable party featuring their children’s favorite toys. With themes like Legos, dinosaurs, pirates, dress up, crafts, or Holidays, every kid is sure to have a great time.

All the craft supplies are from a new brand called Eco Kids that boasts products made from natural materials. This is huge for me since my kid always puts crayons directly into her mouth. We picked up a pack of the exploratory molding dough. I like that it is an appropriate toy for kids 2 and up since it is non-toxic. Some of the brands I’ve seen in stores recommend waiting till kids are 3, but age 2 is the perfect time to squeeze and press the dough into shapes. Hannah loves the stuff!

For me, seeing how hard Monkey Fish Toys worked to find new brands that fit the eco-friendly lifestyle is a huge motivator for me to help get the word out about their shop. It’s encouraging to see that a company who chooses toys that increase in value over time (like Legos) has honed in on this niche. I’m inspired to pick out the educational toys that will foster a love of learning through play in our home from their great selection and I would encourage you to visit the shop, too.

monkey fish toys exton pa chester tounty toy store

How to find Monkey Fish Toys:

This part gets a little confusing since they are in the transition phase, so I’m going to give as much information as I can.

Shop Address: 264 Eagleview Blvd, The Shops on Eagleview Boulevard, Exton, PA 19341

Phone: (484) 341-8367

Email: KerriR@bullmarkettoys.com

Monkey Fish Toys on Facebook

Monkey Fish Toys on Twitter

The Online Shop – Bull Market Toys 

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. I received compensation for sharing this information. All thoughts and opinions are my own.