Month: June 2012

Breastfeeding Around the Globe: It’s Time the U.S. Caught up with the Rest of the World

A beautiful breastfeeding photo from the Xingu region of Brazil. Source: fbcdn-sphotos-a.akamaihd.net via Kate on Pinterest

Breastfeeding in public is not a novel concept. It’s covering up and hiding the act that is a recent development. Here are some anecdotal insights into breastfeeding around the world.

For instance, did you know that: 

  • In Iran, “Even though women are forced to wear head covering in public, people breastfeed everywhere in public and it is considered not a sexual act. Similarly women breastfeed in front of their family members and friends openly.”
  • Ghana is a very conservative country, yet women breastfeed “without cover and without shame.”
  • In Ghana, If you don’t breastfeed your baby in public when it cries people will think the baby is not yours.
  • In Egypt “Not breastfeeding is sometimes frowned upon.”
  • In Ghana, “Bottlefeeding is for orphans, babies whose mothers cannot produce enough milk, upper class wannabes and expatriates. Ghanaian women breastfeed – everywhere and anywhere.” And that “…this is not the ‘Africans run around naked’ thing. There are very high levels of decency and even tight pants are frowned upon. But your baby’s gotta eat!”
  • In Kenya, “Breastfeeding in public is normal” and that “Breasts, especially of a nursing mother, are not regarded as sexual.”
  • In Kenya, Breastfeeding until 2 years old is quite common.
  • In Liberia, “People don’t have problem with mothers breastfeeding their kids anywhere in public. Mothers breastfeed wherever the baby request for food, they feed him/she to be satisfy. Our babies Mother don’t have problem of breastfeeding their in public.” They are proud of the fact that they are a mother.
  • In China “Breastfeeding is viewed as a positive thing, and breastfeeding in public is fine.”

As I mentioned, we (meaning those of us in the U.S. that feel that breastfeeding women need to hide in the bathroom) really need to catch up with the rest of the world. Economic and technological advancment should not result in behaviors that are actually backwards in movement. Sexualizing the breast to the point that feeding your child in public or in uniform, be it military or otherwise, is discouraged and looked upon in disdain is a social, ethical and moral crime.

For more anecdotes on breastfeeding around the world, visit http://www.007b.com/public-breastfeeding-world.php

Related Posts:
Kissing Kids on the Lips (www.singlemomontherun.com)
What is a Doula and Why Do I Need One? (www.singlemomontherun.com)
The Power of Breastmilk: Kills HIV Virus! (www.singlemomontherun.com)

Edible Play Dough – Oatmeal Flavor!

Everytime my little girl puts store bought playdough into her mouth, chews it up and swallows, I cringe. Icky!

So I decided to try an edible playdough recipe that I found on Inspiration Laboratories:

Oatmeal Play Dough:

  • 1 cup of oatmeal
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1/2 cup of flour

Directions:

Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl.  Knead with your hands and enjoy. If the dough is a little too dry, add a touch more water.  If it’s too wet, add a bit more flour.

Here’s what happened when WE gave it a whirl!

1. First we added the flour into the bowl. She liked to shift her fingers through the flour.

2. Then  I added the water. She wasn’t a fan of the sticky feel of this so grandma helped out.

3. Next came the oatmeal. I didn’t have plain oatmeal so I used packets of Apple Cinnamon and Peaches and Cream. The dough smelled great!

4. For a little bit of fun I brought out the food coloring.

5. This was her favorite part. It was a great hit! She really liked taking the different colors and putting them into the dough.

Her hands reflect the great pleasure derived from the food coloring:

We made birds and squirrels and bird baths and had a whole imaginary garden going on. It was great fun; I would definitely do it again.

Breastfeeding My Toddler: A Mamapedia Repost

Photo

Photo by: Shutterstock

Breastfeeding My Toddler—Why I Let My Children Decide When to Stop, Not Society!

June 13, 2012
I was 23 when I had my first child, and 41 when I gave birth to my last. Fifteen years separate my second and third. While much had changed during the intervening 15 years, one thing most certainly has not—the stigma attached to breastfeeding. More specifically, breastfeeding a child over the age of one.
 
Just as I did with my first two children, I let my youngest daughter decide when it was time to stop nursing, not society!
 
When I was pregnant for the first time, I lived 500 miles from both my mother and my mother-in-law. In this case, it worked out well for everyone involved because I have never been particularly inclined to listen to well-meaning advice on anything, and I was not about to start when it came to motherhood. Not that I didn’t value their experience, I just didn’t want to be pressured to do things as they had done.
 
As I do with everything else important, I read up on the subject, and decided early on in my pregnancy that I would breastfeed my child. At the time, I gave little thought to how long I would breastfeed. Little did I know that in years to come, it would be the focus of much controversy.
 
As my first born grew, he ate everything in sight. At 21, he is now 6’3” and about 200 pounds, so I guess he was getting an early start! He took the breast, the bottle and baby food by the time he was about 6 months old. By about a year and a half, he essentially weaned himself off of the breast.
 
My second child, who came along when my son was almost three, would have nothing to do with a bottle. Nothing! It didn’t matter what I put in there—breast milk, formula, juice—she was only interested in the breast. As she neared her second birthday, I listened to more than my fair share of advice from people who informed me that she was far too old to be breastfeeding.
 
I’m not sure when we—meaning Americans—came up with the idea that there is a ‘cutoff’ age for breastfeeding. Breastfeeding past the age of two is far from uncommon in many other countries. According to the World Health Organization, the world average is 4.2 years and they recommend breastfeeding until at least two years of age. Additionally, anthropologists tell us that weaning naturally takes place for humans somewhere between two and a half and seven years. Obviously, I am in good company and not alone in my beliefs.
 
For the record, I did make some effort to wean my older daughter close to her third birthday. I made no such attempt, however, with my youngest. She weaned herself of all but bedtime nursing shortly after she turned three, and continued at bedtime for about six months more.
 
About the time each of my children turned a year old, I began to feel pressure from well-meaning family members to stop nursing. I also learned to brace myself for a debate if the subject of breastfeeding came up in conversation with other mothers. Aside from healthcare providers and a few very close friends, I think just about everyone thought I was crazy to continue breastfeeding a toddler. The bottom line is that it was the right for me, and for my children. Going against the grain isn’t always the easiest thing to do, but when it is something you truly believe in, it suddenly becomes much easier.
 
Have you had a similar experience to mine? Glad you continued or sorry you stopped? I would love to hear your thoughts.
 
—Proud mother of three happy, healthy children.

Thank you, Leigia, for sharing your experience with the Mamapedia community.

Six Week Bran Muffin Batter – Yum!

Image

These muffins are not only yummy but you can divide the batter up into four batches and use the different batches over the course of six weeks. Of course, you can divide it into as many batches as  you want or just leave it as one batch. My little girl was gobbling these muffins right up!

Six -week Bran Muffins

Yield: 4 dozen; 1 dozen per quart jar

3 cups All-bran
3 cups Raisin Bran
2 cups boiling Water

Pour boiling water over brans.  Let soak.

Cream:

3 cups sugar
1 cup shortening

ADD: 
4 eggs
1 quart buttermilk*
4 tsp. soda
2 tsp. salt
5 cups flour

Raisins, dates, nuts, or blueberries may also be added.

Mix all ingredients with a hand mixer.  Store in a glass container with a tight cover in the refrigerator.   Can store in four,  quart canning jars, which makes it easy to pour into muffin tins.  One quart of batter makes 12 muffins. Use batter as needed; batter will keep for six weeks. 

Bake at 400 degrees for 20 – 25 minutes in greased muffin tins.

*If you don’t have buttermilk on hand,  add a couple tsps. of apple cider vinegar to a quart of milk.

THANKS FOR THE RECIPE, CHERYL!

Being the Best of Ourselves as Women: What does it Take to Promote and Empower other Women?

One of The MissRepresentation “Assignments” to Help Women Support Women

As women it is so important to encourage and motivate and to support each other. Too often we are put in a position of competing against each other. Take for example the Time magazine article with the title “Are you Mom enough?” This article, even though it was written by a woman, pitted women against each other.

I would hazard to guess that the competition that is fostered among women stems from a male-dominated society that leaves little, if any, room for women in power, or women who achieve high status. Women know that their chances of being successful or of getting a position are less when competing against a man; however, when competing against a woman, one still has a fighting chance. By eliminating the weakest of contenders, then the only contenders left are men.

MissRepresentation, in a task designed to help women support each other, asks each woman to identify her unique strengths and weaknesses so that she can draw on these qualities when mentoring or supporting other women:

“Take five minutes to write down three characteristics you like about yourself and three you’d like to improve upon. Then use the lists to focus your time and energy on being the best version of yourself!”

They go on to state:

“This action is not just about self-improvement, it’s about acquiring the skills necessary to inspire those around you. By first acknowledging your shortcomings and then being purposeful about your actions, you can work efficiently towards your goal of being a transformative mentor and model in your everyday life!”

I think the point here is that if you can recognize the value that you have in you and also recognize those areas that you might need to improve then you will be a better person, a better woman and, in turn, better able to put yourself forth as an example or mentor to other women and young women.

What are my strengths that I can use to mentor other young women?

These are the first things that came to mind.

1. I am a good writer.
2. I am a good scholar.
3. I am a good educator.

I was happy to see my list when I was done because much of my professional work is in the field of education. I teach men and women at both the undergraduate and graduate level.

Next I need to identify my growth areas:

This is more difficult because of the vulnerability that accompanies it. But here goes. In order to grow we need to be able to speak of the ways in which we can grow.

1. I can become better at teaching students and individuals the skills they need to be successful.
2. I can be more supportive so that people feel validated and encouraged.
3. I can do more to inspire people in ways that I feel inspired and I can help them to find ways to feel inspired.

How can I use this knowledge to help myself be a better mentor or to be a better leader or to be a better role model? That is a good question.

I think identifying my strengths helps me to feel more confident that I do have the skills to help other people and, in particular, to serve as a role model and mentor for other women. Along these same lines, the areas that are growth areas will only make be better at what I do. Casting competition aside and focusing on empowerment is one of the keys to growth and to the furthering of women’s success in the workplace and her place in society.

As a mother, my job is to continually support and further my daughter’s intellectual knowledge as well as her confidence and self-assuredness. These are the skills that are going to lead her down a path of success and independence. Hopefully the skills that I teach her will allow her to compete with men on an even playing-field and that she will hold her own in a male-dominated society.

The Challenge for You: Can you do the same? Are you willing to set aside a few minutes to think about your strengths and weaknesses? Can you examine how these two things affect how you currently are mentoring and encouraging women? Does this reflection change the way you think about how you could be mentoring and encouraging other women to reach their potential? What are your thoughts on this exercise in self-reflection and self-evaluation?

Proper Breathing

An Exercise in Proper Breathing

http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/wellness_articles.asp?id=328

Take a Good Breather

— By Mike Kramer, Staff Writer

Proper breathing is an underestimated, but critical building block of good health. Slow, deep breathing gets rid of carbon dioxide waste and takes plenty of clean, fresh oxygen to your brain and muscles. More blood cells get the new, oxygen-rich air instead of the same old stale stuff. Experts estimate that proper breathing helps your body eliminate toxins 15 times faster than poor, shallow breathing. You’ll not only be healthier, but you’ll be able to perform better (mentally and physically) and, of course, be less stressed and more relaxed.

Here’s an exercise that will help you get the full benefits of good breathing. The techniques in this exercise are ones you should try to develop in your normal breathing, and that could take practice. Try to take about 10 minutes, but it can happen in five by cutting the time for each step in half. Most of it can be done anywhere you need to relax or clear your head:

  1. Get Ready (2 minutes) Make the room dark, or at least darker. Lie down flat on your back, or sit against a wall. Use a pillow for comfort. Make sure no part of your body is strained or supporting weight. Close your eyes. Just pay attention to your breathing for a minute or two. Don’t try to change it, just notice how it feels. Imagine the fresh blood flowing through your body. Listen to your surroundings.
  2. Stage I (2 minutes) Practice breathing in and out of your nose. Exhaling through the mouth is okay for quick relaxation, but for normal breathing, in and out the nose is best. Take long breaths, not deep breaths. Try not to force it, you shouldn’t hear your breath coming in or out. You’re drawing slow breaths, not gulping it or blowing it out. Feel the rhythm of your breathing.
  3. Stage II (3 minutes) Good breathing is done through the lower torso, rather than the upper torso. Each breath should expand your belly, your lower back and ribs. Relax your shoulders and try not to breathe with your chest. Put your hands on your stomach and feel them rise and fall. If it’s not working, push down gently with your hands for a few breaths and let go. Your stomach should start to move more freely. Relax your face, your neck, your cheeks, your jaw, your temples, even your tongue.
  4. Stage III (3 minutes) Feel the good air entering your lungs and feel the stale air leaving your body. “In with the good, out with the bad” is definitely true here. Make your exhale as long as your inhale to make sure all the bad air is gone. Remember, long slow breaths. Most people take 12-16 breaths per minute. Ideally, it should be 8-10. Now try to make your exhale a little longer than your inhale for a while. Pause after your exhale without taking a breath. Focus on the stillness and on not forcing an inhale. Your body will breathe when it needs to.
  5. Wake Up!!

Article created on:  4/13/2004

Meditation

Meditation For Winter Blues

http://www.mamapedia.com/voices/meditation-for-winter-blues

February 21, 2012
 

Meditation has transformed my life, especially during the winter with its long and dark days, when most of my time is spent indoors. During the winter months, the absence of light and fresh air can impact a busy mom’s mood, making her more prone to feeling tired, irritable, and mentally checked out. Rather than turning to sweets, carbs, and caffeine to counter the effects of the winter blues, why not try meditation? Mediation is a great way to bring more energy, joy, calm, and mental vitality into these long, dark days. And, making an investment in a regular mediation practice will benefit you long after winter has passed.

To reap the physical benefits of meditation you need only invest 20 minutes a day, three times a week, which has been shown to help to fight disease, ward off hypertension, and resolve digestive imbalances, not to mention stress and anxiety. And there are profound effects beyond the physical. The presence, peace of mind, and the ability to not get caught up are major assets for moms. Words alone cannot capture meditation in its entirety; one must experience all of the benefits that a regular practice brings to day-to-day life, especially the personal transformation. The impacts are subtle, yet profound. So I invite you to try it and here are some helpful tips to get you started and keep you going.

You CAN meditate.
If you can breath, you can meditate. Don’t worry about getting it right. Just do it. I can’t begin to tell you the number of people that have told me they can’t meditate. They think they aren’t doing it right. The thoughts just keep coming and cannot be stilled. That’s okay. Actually, that’s the point. In the same way the lungs must breath, the brain must think. That is simply what the brain does. If your lungs aren’t breathing, and your brain isn’t thinking, you probably aren’t alive. Both are vital functions. The real opportunity lies not in stopping thought, but rather in observing it, getting to know it a little better. Becoming aware of its nature and befriending it. That way you don’t have to be so swept away or caught up by whatever random thought happens to pop into your head in a given moment. You gain awareness, that this is just what the mind does. And with awareness comes choice. You always have a choice. You don’t have to become carried away with negative thoughts and excessive rumination. You can choose to let them go, in a friendly, gentle, and loving way. Meditation practice trains you to be able to let them go.

Make the time.
I often hear people say they can’t find the time. Well, there’s no such thing as finding time. Time cannot be found. We all get 24 hours in a day, for however many days we get. Time is spent. It’s a really valuable resource. If you ask me, it’s the most valuable. Because it’s finite and none of us really knows how much time we have. What we do know is that once time is gone, we can never get it back. The time we’ve got is all that we have. We SPEND time for that which we value. Or we don’t. Some of us choose to squander our time away with distractions and in many other ways that don’t support us in having a more fulfilling life. But again, we always have a choice. To get started all you need is five minutes, three times a week. That’s 15 minutes a week. Commit to that and work your way up from there. If 15 minutes a week feels like too much, then your life has become really squeezed. You would greatly benefit from meditation.

Keep it simple.
I am going to share a really simple practice to get you started. But do what works for you. This is simply a recommendation. Keep in mind that whenever you start something new, complexity is the enemy. Complexity just creates more opportunity for resistance to creep on in. With meditation, as with anything in life, when creating change, keep it simple. Make it workable. Set yourself up for success. So, here we go.

1. Start small. If you are brand new to regular meditation start with five minutes three times a week. That is because this is manageable. As you begin to reap the benefits you will want to do more and you will be motivated to find ways to spend more time.

2. Pick a time. Think about your life and your normal routines. Think of activities you do every day, or almost ever day – like wake up, go to sleep, eat lunch, take a shower, brush your teeth, take your kids to school, go to work, etc. Think about before or after which of those activities you can spend an extra five minutes, three times a week. Make that your standard meditation time. Pick the activity and pick the days. Create a basic structure and adapt on an as needed basis.

3. Pick a place. Based on your standard meditation time, pick a place that is easy and makes sense. Don’t think you can only meditate on your special cushion, next to your personal shrine. You can meditate practically anywhere. In your car (not while driving, though), in your bed, at your kitchen table, or on a park bench. Make it workable. If your time is after dropping the kids from school, then do it right in your car. The less opportunity to get sidetracked, the better.

4. Sit or lie down. It is best to sit or lie down. The key is to keep your spine as straight as possible and to be comfortable. A straight spine allows energy to easily flow between the energy centers along your spine.

5. Breathe. That’s right. All you have to do is breath and focus on your breath. You will experience thoughts. That is unavoidable. Once you notice a thought, or that you are caught up in thought, simply acknowledge the thought, let it go, and return to your breath. Do this with gentleness, compassion, and loving kindness. Meditation trains us to be kind and accepting of our humanity, our perfect imperfection, and ourselves. To remain focused on the breath I find it helpful to say IN during inhalation, and OUT during exhalation. But do what works for you.

6. Consider using a timer. But don’t let this be a complexity that gets in the way of meditating. If you want to keep time, there are creative ways to do so. You can use an alarm on your phone, your watch, or the digital clock in your car. I used my iPhone to record five minutes of silence and at the end of five minutes I use my own voice to bring myself back. You can even call a friend and ask them to phone you in five minutes.

Consider guided meditation.
For some people, when first starting out, focus can be a really challenge. Especially for those with a quick mind, who are often caught up in thought (and these are often the people that are most in need of meditation and receive the most benefit). I was one of those people and I found it really helpful to work with guided meditation and brain wave sound technology. You can find all sorts of guided meditations on audio. There are even audio meditation apps for your phone or other device. I also love some of the new brain wave technology products, which are special music/sounds that bring your brain waves into an ideal state for deep meditation.

Seek support and fellowship.
For those that don’t want to go at it alone, there are many meditation groups. Some are associated with a Buddhist or Tibetan tradition, and there are non-affiliated groups as well. The Internet is a great resource to find a meditation group in your area. If you can’t find one, consider starting your own. And if a group seems to daunting, partner with a friend that is also interested in meditation. Along with joining a group or partnering with a friend, comes the benefit of accountability. This can help foster commitment to a regular practice.

Start now and stick with it.
Waiting for the perfect time to get started often results in nothing happening. Don’t fall victim to that mindset. Start now. There will never be a perfect time. Life is always happening, and with it comes all sorts of unexpected surprises, which can sweep away the best of intentions if you let it. And once you do get started, stick with it. Although meditation is magical, it doesn’t have instant results in the same way a magic spell might. It takes time and commitment. It is a practice. And I promise, practice won’t make perfect, but it will make for an experience of personal growth, transformation, and a happier and more fulfilling life.

That’s all it takes, so enjoy!

Tara Harkins is The Busy Mom’s Energy Coach and a certified meditation instructor. Tara combines coaching with various energy techniques to help moms stay balanced and energized. For a FREE report on The Best Kept Secret to Balance for Busy Moms go to Working Mother Coaching.

Aunt Valerie’s Baked Beans

My mother’s friend Cheryl made these beans for my daughter’s birthday party and everyone RAVED about them. Here’s the recipe!

Aunt Valerie’s Butter Beans                  

Wash 3 ½ cups (about two lbs.) of dry beans—Navy, Great Northern, Lima, or whatever., and soak in a gallon bowl overnight covered with water three and one half inches above the beans.

Drain beans in the morning and place in a large oven-proof pot  or roaster.

Stir in:

1 cup of brown sugar        

1 tsp. of dry mustard

½ lb. of butter, cut in one- fourth-inch slices

Cover with hot water and stir in the above ingredients.

DO NOT STIR THE BEANS AFTER THEY START COOKING!!!

Bake in 300-degree oven covered for four hours.  Remove cover and continue cooking for two to four hours until the beans are soft.  Cooking uncovered will give the beans a darker color.

Enjoy!

—-CAKiklas

–CAKiklas

Vaginal Birth after Caesarean – The Key is Finding the Right Doctor and Hospital

The article below states that: “Most doctors or hospitals don’t have access to 24/7 hospital coverage by physician services in obstetrics, gynecology, anesthesia, neonatology with a neonatal intensive care unit, operating room availability for emergent Caesarean deliveries, massive blood banking and expert nursing.”

When I delievered my baby as a VBAC, at the age of 41, I did so in a small hospital in a small town, about 20 miles from the closest NICU. My doctor told me that their hospital had recently become approved for VBACs. My understanding of his explanation was that certain measures had to be taken in order to be allowed to perform VBACs. For instance, an anesthesiologist needed to be present in the hospital at all times in case of an emergency C-section. Hudson Hospital, where I delivered, did not have a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). I was told that if a baby were to need immediate care it would be transferred to a hospital with these facilities.

A friend of mine gave birth to her second and third child vaginally in a birthing center in Wisconsin, attended by midwives, after having had her first child via Cesarean. Although I did not see the birthing center myself, I was told it was across the street from a hospital in the case of a need for emergent care.

She ended up giving birth the first time by Cesarean due to a diagnosis of “failure to progress.” She told me that she believes had she been in a hospital that her second two babies would also have been delivered by Cesarean. She believes that the midwives were more tolerant of a longer labor and helped while she progressed through the early stages of labor.

Here is the article to which I was referring:

Vaginal birth after c-section is option for women, not for some doctors, hospitals.

ScienceDaily (May 11, 2012) — Melissa Lunsford wants a vaginal delivery for her fourth child. Following a series of Caesarean and vaginal deliveries for her other children, she couldn’t find a doctor or a hospital willing to give her the vaginal birth option for her current pregnancy.

Unfortunately, too many women like Lunsford face the same challenge, says an advocate of vaginal births after Caesarean (VBAC) from Ben Taub General Hospital, one of the top VBAC-delivery hospitals in Texas.

“For some clinicians and hospitals, the prospect of offering a trial of labor after a Caesarean delivery is too risky. While risks exist, the possibility of delivering vaginally is still a viable option for many women,” says Dr. Christina Marie Davidson, chief, Obstetrics and Gynecology Services, Ben Taub General Hospital, and assistant professor, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Division of Maternal Fetal Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine.

Finding a physician and hospital that offers VBAC procedures can be difficult. Most doctors or hospitals don’t have access to 24/7 hospital coverage by physician services in obstetrics, gynecology, anesthesia, neonatology with a neonatal intensive care unit, operating room availability for emergent Caesarean deliveries, massive blood banking and expert nursing. At the Harris County Hospital District, the health system that operates Ben Taub General Hospital and Lyndon B. Johnson General Hospital, the Women and Infant Services has all medical coverage needed to make VBACs a viable option for women even after more than one Caesarean delivery.

In fact, Ben Taub and LBJ hospitals share the state’s highest VBAC rates of all hospitals, respectively 27.86 percent and 29.58 percent, according to a 2009 report by the Texas State Department of Health Services. The rates of Ben Taub and LBJ hospitals are routinely three times higher than the national VBAC rate of 8 percent.

“We believe women should have that choice. We can’t guarantee that they’ll have a VBAC delivery every time, but we can certainly plan for it,” Davidson says.

Factors associated with an increased likelihood for a successful VBAC include:

• Not facing a similar condition for the previous Caesarean

• Successful vaginal delivery or VBAC in past

• Previous Caesarean not for cervix complications or infant not descending through birth canal

• Labor starts on its own

• Younger than 35 years of age

After being repeatedly told of the inherent risks and dangers, Lunsford sought answers and comfort on the Internet. Her research of successful testimonials gave her hope. She next began an arduous search for a VBAC-friendly doctor.

“Everyone I talked to, including my friends, basically told me it was silly to think of delivering vaginally again after a Caesarean. But, it is important to me and something I knew I wanted,” she says.

After contacting 10 doctors to deliver her baby, Lunsford finally found Davidson, who not only had the expertise, but who’s also an impassioned supporter of VBACs.

“Women who choose to have a vaginal birth after Caesarean should have that option and not be discouraged because of a lack of knowledge or resources,” Davidson adds.

For Lunsford, the chance to deliver her son as naturally as possible is worth the effort.

“It is important to me and important to my entire healthcare team,” she says.

The Perfect Gift for Your Child—Something of Yourself

It may sound trite to say there is no greater gift than something that expresses love and a piece of oneself, something beyond a store bought gift, but I have recently found that to be very true.

For my little girl’s third birthday I was inspired to do two things for her:  One was to write a letter and one was to create a painting. Neither was originally meant to be a present; the ideas and the opportunity just happened to present themselves at the same time.

After I wrote the letter, I pulled up my blog and showed a friend of mine what I had written (“I Have Two Names Now: Mommy and Christina”). She paused thoughtfully and after a moment said, “You are leaving such a gift for her.”

My friend is a mother of two grown children and a grandchild that she also raised for the first three years of his life. This feedback coming from her meant something.

It was then that I knew I had written something meaningful; something that my daughter would carry with her through time.

My letter recaps the last few years as a mother and in particular how much my life has changed since I gave birth to my daughter. It also describes to her, while my memories are still fairly fresh, what her birth was like and what our relationship has been like these past three years.

I am thinking that perhaps I can print it out somehow and put it, with other such letters or essays, into a book that she can keep and cherish for a long time to come.

The comment that my friend made caused me think about the importance of gift giving and how ethereal the types of gifts we normally give are.

If one thinks back on it, the things we really hold onto the longest and the closet to our hearts are the photographs and memories of family and friends.

As one of her “real” presents, I gave her a very cute, Elmo playdough machine that talks in an Elmo voice and tells you whether you should make a square or a circle. It’s cute but in a few years it will most likely be long forgotten, as will the stickers or some of the other toys she was given. Many will end up in the donation box for other young children or will break after a few years of use.

These gifts will become distant memories, if memories at all.

But the letter will live on, even as she grows into an adult herself, or has children of her own.

The two paintings were inspired by Eric Carle’s illustrations in two of his books. The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See?  From the The Very Hungry Caterpillar I chose the beautiful butterfly that the caterpillar turns into at the end of the story. Carle’s rendition of this butterfly is simply beautiful.

The second painting is of a crane in Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See?  I chose the crane for my daughter’s Godfather to paint because there is something about that crane that draws my child in. Whenever we read the book she always insists on turning back to that page.

Because she likes the crane so much, I thought it would be lovely to have a painting of it hanging on the wall behind her bed. We could look at the painting and talk about it while we read the book.

The paintings did not take much effort – even for two novices to acrylics. I had bought some canvasses and I sketched the outline of the animals onto the canvas. I had learned this technique from a local art studio that offers one night classes to adults who would like to paint. To actually create the paintings we then went to the studio for another one night class. The studio provides everything one needs: brushes, paints, easels, gentle instruction. It was quite enjoyable.

(There is an art studio in town called Simply Jane where you can go for a one night class called Paint with a Pint. Off we went with our bottle of wine, bags of chips, cookies and unpainted canvases. I had attended a class there before called Paint the Greats and the Sharpie idea came from there.)

We spent the next three hours with our bottle of wine, chips, easels and acrylics painting our pictures. The teacher then sprayed them with a glossy spray to protect the paint.

Here are the final products of our work. I think they look wonderful and I am so happy that I have them to offer up as a special gift.

Eric Carle’s butterfly:

My butterfly:

Eric Carle’s Crane:

Randy’s Crane:

I love these painting and I am sure my daughter will come to love these paintings as much as I do. Both will be hanging in her bedroom over her bed and hopefully she will cherish them forever.

But at the same time, it has occurred to me that although these paintings are a gift to my daughter, they are also a gift to me. For a brief moment they stop the clock at the age of three and they will hold a special meaning for me that even she will never be able to understand.

No matter how old my daughter becomes, whenever I look at those paintings I will remember what she was like as a three year old and how meaningful those images were to her at that time in her life.

I will remember parenting my little three year old girl and I will remember how she looked at them and said “Butterfly!” and “Geese!” when she was asked what they were.

They started out as a gift for her but in turn have become something even greater, a wonderful reminder of the fleeting moments of childhood and the special times we enjoy.

In the future, I hope that I am equally inspired to create some special gift that will stay with her for a lifetime and that will carve out a special place in my heart for me to revisit as my baby grows up and becomes a young woman.

Minneapolis Resources:

Here is Simply Jane’s Facebook page if you would like to see more:

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Simply-Jane/19831748624