Finding Priorities in Changing Environments

Welcome to the January 2014 Carnival of Natural Parenting: The More Things Stay the Same

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have talked about the continuity and constancy in their lives. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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IMG_5117As a military family, we are not strangers to change.  Orders change, duty stations change, daddy leaves, daddy comes home. Mommy’s happy; mommy’s overwhelmed. Change is just a part of our lives and we have adapted to it as our family grows.

But this Christmas, 6 months after our big PCS move from Kittery, Maine to Kodiak Island, AK, I noticed just how much an environmental change had impacted our family dynamic, and the truth was startling. It would seem insignificant to someone in the lower 48 states, but we are totally limited to the food, activities, and events that occur ON Kodiak Island, AK.

Family Changes

When we watch TV, we see commercials for places, restaurants, and activities that occur all over that State of Alaska (which is BIG, if you’re not familiar). But unlike Alaskans that live on the Mainland of AK who can reach these different places by land, we say to one another, “well, we can’t even drive there” or “wouldn’t Pizza Hut be yummy? Too bad we’re here on the island.”

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You see, the only ways off of Kodiak Island are a 9 hour + ferry ride, or a plane ride to Anchorage. And plane rides aren’t cheap for a family of four. Through our military base, we can take a Space-A flight on one of the Coast Guard planes to Anchorage for a day trip once a year (or more times, if we put our names on the list and wait for availability) – and we do plan on doing that in the Spring. But it’s a huge change from anywhere else in the United States in that I can’t say “I need to run to target” or “Let’s go to the mall and walk around.” This is so different for us and for our Silly Bears, because driving to the mall to walk around and visit the play place on a rainy day was commonplace, and we enjoyed going to Target and Joann’s Crafts and all the restaurants that just aren’t available here. . . the kids would look forward to earning a special eating-out trip, as long as they didn’t accumulate three strikes for unruly behavior during the week. Their favorites: The Grapes and Chocolate Spagetti Store (Olive Garden) and the good ol’ House of Mouse (Chuck-e-Cheese’s). Neither of which is available here on the island (and if anybody on Kodiak is reading this, wouldn’t a Chuck-e-Cheese franchise here make BANK!? Just saying. . . )

Fitness Frustrations

The most impactful issue facing me regarding this change from mainland life to a secluded, limited island life is the issue of fitness. When we were in Maine, I had gotten into a really solid workout routine at the YMCA in the neighboring city to ours (a 20 minute drive at most) and 5-6 days a week, I would take the kids with me to the Y, and they would enjoy an hour and a half playing in the KidsZone child care center while I worked out, got a shower, and enjoyed some peaceful, mood-boosting exercise, un-hurried and unencumbered.  It was good for ALL of us. Kodiak Island has no YMCA, and no gym with childcare that I know of. I tried taking the kids to the “Parent Room” in the gym on base, but honestly, I hated it. I would’t get a good workout because I was constantly stopping to parent my kids. And by the end of however much time the kids allowed me to have, I was more stressed than before I went to go exercise.

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There’re more things that I tried to do in order to get exercise while mommy-ing my little Silly Bears here on Island. But the time that Abbey is at preschool (and Joe is home with me) is the best time for me to have work/college time, and at night, after the kids go to bed, is just not a productive time for me to exercise. I’m tired, and usually, I’m also facing deadlines for college or writing or sewing for my shop, so I use that night time for those tasks as well. Hiking and jogging outdoors is only feasible during a few months out of the year. Playing in the snow is fun exercise, but it seems like we get more icy rain than snow here (at least this Winter so far).

As a result of moving here and not having access to the community amenities (like the YMCA) that I had at our last mainland duty station, I’ve gained at least 5, if not 10 pounds, and most importantly, my mood and energy level has suffered as a result of not getting the exercise that I was accustomed to.

Changing – To Stay the Same

But it really is true – the more things change, the more they stay the same. Even facing a really frustrating situation and suddenly realizing the issues it was causing for me, I was still the determined, multi-faceted, creative thinking person that I’ve always been, and after telling my husband that I needed to have his support in creating a way for me to get exercise (preferably kid-less at least a couple days per week), I set out to make a plan to get it done. We’re a week into 2014, and I have been exercising consistently 5 days a week for the past 2 weeks. It feels SO GOOD. I missed it SO much. I’ll write more later on the ways I have achieved this.

I really don’t care how many pounds I lose, or the fact that exercising will make my clothes fit better again (of course, that will be nice for my self-esteem!). I care that I FEEL GOOD AGAIN. That’s always been a priority of mine, and it will continue to be.

I thrive on stability in exercise. I’ve definitely realized this as a result of our move here and the environmental change that took our normal “fun activities” out of the house off the table along with my beloved YMCA with a child care area.  I pretended for the first few months that island life wasn’t much different from life in the lower 48, but I’m not pretending anymore. It’s different here, and it’s vital to stay consistent in my priorities and adapt them to my environment in order to make sure that I, mommy, am feeling good.

Have you ever gotten out of a good habit as a result of a change in environment? How did you reconcile your needs and your new environment?

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be updated by afternoon January 14 with all the carnival links.)

  • The making of an artist — Some kids take longer than others to come into themselves, so you have to stick with them, as a parent, long after everyone else has given up, writes Douglas at Friendly Encounters.
  • Not Losing Yourself as a First Time Mom — Katie at All Natural Katie continues to stay true to herself after becoming a new mom.
  • Using Continuity to Help Change {Carnival of Natural Parenting} — Meegs from A New Day talks about how she is using continuity in certain areas of her life to help promote change and growth in others.
  • Staying the Same : Security — Life changes all the time with growing children but Mother Goutte realised that there are other ways to ‘stay the same’ and feel secure, maybe a bit too much so!
  • Harmony is What I’m AfterTribal Mama gushes about how constant change is really staying the same and staying the same brings powerful change.
  • A Primal Need For Order and Predictability – And How I Let That Go — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares how she overcame her primal need for order and predictability once her awareness shifted, opening her eyes to the impact this had on her young daughter. Take a short journey with Jennifer and she bares her soul, exposes her weaknesses and celebrates her new outlook and approach to living life, even in the face of total chaos.
  • Breastfeeding Before and After — Breastfeeding has come and gone, but Issa Waters at LoveLiveGrow finds that her relationship with her son is still just the same and just as good.
  • A Real Job — Back in high school That Mama Gretchen had a simple, but worthwhile career aspiration and today she is living her dream … is it what you think?
  • Comfortingsustainablemum never thought she would want things always being the same, but she explains why it is exactly what her family wants and needs.
  • The Other Mums’ and The Great IllusionMarija Smits reflects on the ‘great big magic show of life’ and wonders if it will continue to remain a constant in our lives.
  • Unschooling: Learning doesn’t change when a child turns four — Charlotte at Winegums & Watermelons talks about the pressure of home education when everyone else’s children are starting school.
  • Finding Priorities in Changing Environments — Moving from Maine to a rural Alaskan island for her husband’s military service, Amy at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work found that keeping consistent with her priorities in changing environments can take some work, but is vital to continuous health and happiness.
  • Keeping it “Normal” — Kellie at Our Mindful Life has moved several times in the last two years, while doing her best to keep things stable for her kids.
  • The Evolution Of Our Homeschool Journey — Angela at Earth Mama’s World reflects on her homeschooling journey. Homeschooling is a constant in the life of her family but the way in which they learn has been an evolution.
  • Sneaking in Snuggles: Using Nurturing Touch with Older Children — When Dionna at Code Name: Mama’s son was a toddler and preschooler, he was the most loving, affectionate kiddo ever. But during the course of his 5th year, he drastically reduced how often he showed affection. Dionna shares how she is mindfully nurturing moments of affection with her son.
  • Steady State — Zoie at TouchstoneZ writes a letter to her partner about his constancy through the rough sailing of parenting.
  • A Love You Can Depend On — Over at True Confessions of a Real Mommy, Jennifer has a sweet little poem reminding us where unconditional love really lies, so it can remain a constant for us and our children.
  • Same S#!*, Different Day — Struggling against the medical current can certainly get exhausting, especially as the hunt for answers drags on like it has for Jorje of Momma Jorje.
  • New Year, Still Me — Mommy Bee at Little Green Giraffe writes about how a year of change helped her rediscover something inside herself that had been the same all along.
  • One Little Word for 2014 — Christy at Eco Journey In The Burbs has decided to focus on making things this year, which is what she is loves, as long as she doesn’t kill herself in the process.
  • The Beauty of Using Montessori Principles of Freedom and Consistency — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares the continuity of her teaching, parenting, and grandparenting philosophy using a combination of freedom and consistency.
  • My Husband’s MiniCrunchy Con Mom shares which of her sons looks more like her husband’s baby pictures — and the answer might surprise you!
  • Growth Happens When You Aren’t Looking — Lori at TEACH through Love is treasuring these fleeting moments of her daughter’s early adolescence by embracing the NOW.
  • A New Reality Now – Poem — As Luschka from Diary of a First Child struggles to come to terms with the loss of her mother, she shares a simple poem, at a loss for more words to say.
  • Making a family bedroom — Lauren at Hobo Mama has decided to be intentional about her family’s default cosleeping arrangements and find a way to keep everyone comfortable.
  • New Year, Same Constants — Ana at Panda & Ananaso takes a look at some of the things that will stay the same this year as a myriad of other changes come.
  • I Support You: Breastfeeding and Society — Despite how many strides we’ve taken to promote “breast is best,” Amy at Natural Parents Network talks about how far we still have to go to normalize breastfeeding in our society.

Colds, Christmas, and Christianity: Our December

IMG_4909Wow, this December has been a mad rush of Nutcracker ballet rehearsals, preschool parties and presentations, Christmas shopping, family outings, and all of us trying to overcome the yuck that has poured down upon us from a cold virus Hubs brought home from his specialty Coast Guard school in Virginia earlier in the month.

I mean, really: just call us the ill Willas. At this rate, we’ll still be using 6 boxes of tissues per week and filling humidors with water, salt, and Vicks vapo-pads long after Christmas has passed.

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Oh, yes, Christmas. The most wonderful time of the year. Actually, this year has been pretty low key for us, which is nice, considering Christmas really isn’t about presents or feasts or what Santa’s going to bring. . .

we’re finished with shopping for one another, the kids are appropriately jazzed for Santa’s visit, and in order to keep Christmas about Christ in our household, we have been doing weekly Advent Family Nights, led by a lovely book that my sis-in-law sent us in a care package, and I have included the birth of Jesus in every conversation that we have about Christmas, emphasizing that He is the best gift we could ever get, and I let Abbey tell me why.

IMG_4911Her responses are sometimes adorable

“because I get to color him pink on every picture I want”

“because he is GOD!”

and sometimes miss the mark

“um, because he’s such a cute little baby?”

But amid the fuss of rehearsals, the cloud of sickness, and our seclusion in a small town environment in rural island Alaska, we’re having a pretty great December.

If you and your family are Christian, tell me: How do you keep Christmas about Christ and downplay the commercialism? Do you have specific family traditions for giving, feeding the hungry, or serving others?

My friend and fellow Natural Parents Network author Laura has a wonderful tradition of bringing seasonal joy to families who have babies in the NICU in her town. And this post on The God Article really hits the nail on the head with reminders on avoiding Christmastime excesses that go against what we actually believe as Christ-followers.

ThankFULL Weeks 2 & 3

ThankFULL

Wow – the rest of November really got the best of me! I am finally finishing this post . . . the day after Thanksgiving.

But, really, every day should be a day of giving thanks. So, I’m not late. No. . . totally not. *wink*

Every day, I fill my tank FULL with the blessings that I have! And it makes my outlook so much more free and anticipatory.

These past two weeks, I have been thankful for:

9. My Health

While I’m still trying to lose weight that I gained throughout my two pregnancies, I am thankfully able to cook healthfully for my family, understand how to snack wisely, and keep my weight and overall health at a good point. There are so many in this world that are either underweight or overweight, under-nourished or gluttonous . . . and I am glad that neither I nor any of my family members are in those places. Because no matter how you get there, by choice or by chance, being unhealthy is a giant burden to overcome. So this week, I am so glad and full of thanks for my health and my ability to attain knowledge and skills to keep myself and my family healthy.

10. My Kids’ Development

My kids are so smart and funny and well adjusted, and I am so grateful for that. No, this does not mean that we don’t have disciplinary issues, or tantrums, or bedtime struggles. . . we have all of those in the Willa house. But when I interact with them, I can tell that they are healthy and growing and that their brains are full of curiosity and brightness. When Joe babbles on about helicopters and fire engines and steamrollers and concrete trucks. . . and Abbey – oh, Abbey. That bright little girl keeps me on my toes constantly. From practicing penmanship to making up stories and games, to having a strong curiosity regarding Jesus and his sacrifice for us. . . she keeps me on my toes and I am so grateful for her cheerful (well, sometimes not so cheerful) zest for life and learning!

11. My Embroidery Machine.

Seriously, I can get so crafty with this thing. It brings my creativity to the next level.

12. My friend Melly for teaching me how to knit.

Because knitting is so awesome and productive and satisfying. It mellows me, and I’m glad that Melly took the time to sit by me while I tried and tried and tried again when I was learning!!!!!

13. New Friends

Because wherever you go (or wherever life takes you) you need friends. Real ones.

14. Old Friends

Because friends that you leave behind should never be forgotten!

15. Neonatal Intensive Care Units

Without a NICU, our sweet Abbey might not be here today, and the staff that works in the NICUs of this world are extraordinary people. I hope to be one of them someday!

8. The Internet

For the way that it connects people, especially the way that it opens doors for knowledge, learning, and collaboration.

9. Coupons

Because seriously, a dollar (or even $0.40!) is something saved. Especially when added up.

10. Meal Planning

Because it limits my impulse buys at the grocery store or commissary, and it allows me to make a detailed list and know exactly how much of our grocery budget will be spent!

11. Compassion

Feeling for another and actually doing something about the needs and pains of others is so rewarding. Sometimes, just by looking at another’s struggle and really listening, we can unearth hidden strengths and weaknesses that benefit us and those around us. Compassion is totally cool.

12. Natural Parents Network

What’s not to like about a group of like-minded (and yet totally diverse!) group of parents actively participating in the spread of fact-based, compassionate information to grow healthy families and inspire a commitment (small or large!) to a brighter and more informed generation of families! LOVE.

13. Parent Coaches and Social Workers

Without whom Hubs and I probably would have been lost in the grief and helplessness of having our two-day old sweet firstborn go under for major surgery in 2008. . . and the parent coaches with whom I have crossed paths that have imparted such simple wisdoms to me that, shared with my Hubs, have brought us closer to success in this really really trying parenting gig ;P

14. Charity

I love introducing Abbey and Joe to the idea of doing something for someone out of love for our neighbors, not for any other reason. It was hard for Abbey when we first introduced the idea that there are people that have literally NOTHING in this world. But she cheered up a lot when we explained that everyone in the world has the opportunity to be charitable and help out those in need, no matter what the need might be, and without expecting anything in return but the joy of giving.
15. Hot baths

16. The amount of laundry chores I have. . .

Because that means that we are blessed with enough clothing to wear in all seasons, for all the days of the week. Some people cannot say that (see #14 for what we try to do as a family about that injustice).

17. The dishes in my sink

Because, again, this means that I had the food to prepare for a meal, the utensils and appliances to cook it healthfully, and the plates and cups to serve food and drink to my family for the entire day! How blessed we are to have that!

18. The magic of the Christmas season

Doesn’t need an explanation.

19. The anticipation of the birth of Christ!

Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to you! It’s so thrilling to look forward to celebrating the birth of our amazing savior Jesus Christ!

20. My extended family

Because they care so much about us, and are always thinking of us and caring for us by sending love and prayers, taking phone calls whenever I call, and sending lovely little care packages that just warm my days and encourage me always!

21. Snail Mail

It’s always fun to get a REAL letter.

22. Student Grants and Federal Loans

They allow me to pursue my education, and apparently they boosted my credit as well.

23. My IRA fund, and our monthly contributions to it.

Someone (eghem, Mom?) taught me that you need to start one of these sooner rather than later, and it feels stellar that my retirement account grows every month. It’s one more thing not to worry about!

24. Military life

Because what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

25. Integrity

Because real and honest people are the best.

26. La Leche League

An amazing organization that not only bolstered my family, but now gives me the opportunity to bolster the families of others – through leading La Leche League group meetings and spreading fact-based information and compassionate support for breastfeeding and expectant moms. Whoot!

27. Tradition

Amen.

28. Forgiveness

Amen.

29. Collaboration

Amen. Just thank you Lord for all of these blessings in my life! Some of them seem like challenges at first glance, but I always am drawn to see the good because I know that you have plans for me, and I am blessed to be on the path you have drawn out for me!

What are you thankful for this month?

How was your Thanksgiving Day?

Easy Crockpot Homemade Mac & Cheese

Welcome to the November 2013 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Feeding Your Family

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared recipes, stories, and advice about food and eating. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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While I shop with the health of my family in mind, buying as many foods in a state as close to their natural state as possible, and making sure we all eat a balanced diet that fuels our bodies and encourages us to try new healthy foods. . . one of our favorite dishes is mac and cheese. I mean, who doesn’t LOVE mac and cheese? But the boxed varieties are full of preservatives, and not very creamy anyway, and the homemade kind is too difficult, with too many steps to mess up along the way – right?

WRONG!

If you don’t have a slow cooker (crockpot), run – not walk- to the nearest retailer to buy one (or borrow one from your neighbor) and collect the ingredients below, and voila! (as Abbey would say): Homemade mac and cheese that is the creamiest, most balanced, most amazing additional treat to your menu will be so so easy. I promise! You don’t even have to make a roux (which is how I have been making my homemade mac and cheese for the last few years, and if you’re saying “what’s that?” don’t worry. You don’t have to make one!!!!).

This recipe, which is one adapted from one that I found through Big Bear’s Wife, was received with great accolades and cries of “it’s so good!” from everyone in the house, ages 2 through well, daddy-age. It’s some of the best mac and cheese I have ever had myself.  It is a super simple recipe that is great for nights when time is scarce immediately before dinner. You can prep the crock pot at lunch time or slightly after (nap time anybody?), and then the mac and cheese is done, and warm and ready for you at dinner. Though I do have plans to figure out a way to replace the condensed cheese soup with something less processed, it really is delicious, comforting, and nearly preservative free just the way I made it.

The Recipe

I have re-written the recipe to the way that I prepared it, which is different from Big Bear’s Wife’s recipe in that my adaptation has fewer cans of condensed cheese soup, a smaller amount of sour cream and grated cheese, and adds an optional partial substitution of muenster cheese along with the cheddar. You can also use whole grain pasta with this recipe. I have not tried a gluten free pasta variety with this recipe, though I would love to hear feedback from any of my lovely readers that DOES decide to try!

16 oz Elbow or Shell pasta (or any small pasta) * This also works great with whole grain pasta!
4 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese
1/2 cup grated muenster cheese **I love the mix, but 2 cups of only cheddar works, too!
8 oz sour cream
2 can (10oz cans) condensed cheese soup
2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon brown mustard
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon pepper

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta for 6 minutes. Make sure NOT to overcook it! It will cook some more in the crock pot. Remove the pasta from the heat, drain and set aside.

In a saucepan, melt the butter and grated cheese on medium-low. Stir this until all of the cheese is melted. Be patient. It may take a few minutes. This may seem strange at first, because the cheese doesn’t look very creamy after this step. Do not worry. The crock pot does it’s magic well.

In a medium to large crockpot combine the condensed cheese soup, milk, salt, mustard, sour cream, paprika and pepper. Stir. Add in the melted cheese and stir well.

Add in the drained pasta. Mix well to combine. Set your crockpot to low, and let the mac cook on low for 2.5 – 3 hours, stirring occasionally.

And as Abbey would say. . . VOILA!

Joe's Apron and Chicken

Enjoy your delicious, creamy, not too cheesy, but just exceptionally amazing (and easy!) crockpot mac and cheese! (Joe thinks it goes really well with chicken fingers and fruit – or applesauce.)

Did you try it? Let me know how your family liked this recipe in the comments!

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be updated by afternoon November 12 with all the carnival links.)

  • Nut Free Desserts for the Holidays — Becky at Crafty Garden Mama will be talking about navigating the holidays with peanut allergies in the family.
  • Making Peace with My Picky Eater — Once upon a time, there was a boy who would try anything. And then he turned 3. Thus began the dinner chronicles at Dionna at Code Name: Mama‘s house.
  • Foodie Morphed by Motherhood — Rosemary at Rosmarinus Officinalis reflects on the changes of her family’s food culture since becoming a mother, and shares a snapshot of their current food rhythm.
  • Introducing First Foods — Wondering what your little one should take a bite of first? That Mama Gretchen explains baby-led weaning/baby self-feeding and answers a number of questions that may come to mind!
  • Feeding Your Family — Coconut Oil!!! — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama is a coconut oil devotee. In this post, she shares her favorite ways to include coconut oil in her family’s diet as well as why she feels it is important to do so.
  • We Thank the Earth for its Food! — Terri at Child of the Nature Isle spends hours in the kitchen each day trying to make medicine in the form of food.
  • Focusing on Healthy, Gluten-Free Foods for My Family — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares what her family is doing to eat healthily along with her recipe for gluten-free peanut butter oat bran muffins.
  • Intolerancesustainablemum laments the misunderstanding surrounding food intolerances.
  • Don’t Let Food Sensitivities Ruin Your Holidays! — Rachel, the Titus 2 Homemaker, talks about ways to enjoy the holidays even if you wrestle with food sensitivities.
  • Losing grains, keeping empathy: Paleo and fat acceptance — Lauren at Hobo Mama vlogs about her family’s decision to cut grains to improve health — and hopes she can retain her position as a proponent of size acceptance even as she loses weight.
  • Easy Homemade Crockpot Mac & Cheese — Amy W. at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work, shakes off the blue-box blues with an easy crockpot mac-and-cheese recipe with no artificial dyes or excessive preservatives … just creamy, delicious, comfort-food goodness.
  • Extended Family Dinners — Shannon at Pineapples & Artichokes talks about sharing family dinners with housemates and why it works for her.
  • Five Suggestions for Eating Healthy During the Holidays — No need to feel powerless when it comes to our highly sugared/processed food culture during the holidays &emdash; Andrea at It Takes Time offers tips to stay on track.
  • How to feed your family — no food required! — Jessica at JessicaCary.com is kind of obsessed with food. But, lately she’s realized there’s more to nourishment than what she cooks up in the kitchen.
  • Food as family medicine: living gluten-free and beyond — Jessica at Crunchy-Chewy Mama sticks to her gluten-free guns but sees room for improvement in her pursuit of a real-food family table.
  • Feeding My Family — Challenges and Growth — Susan at Together Walking shares what has been most challenging about feeding her two kids and how she has grown in the kitchen since becoming a mother.
  • How I Lost 75 Lbs — What I Eat & My Top 5 Tips — Abbie at Farmer’s Daughter shares how she and her family became healthy, happy and active.
  • The Weight of Motherhood — Revolution Momma at Raising a Revolution rethinks her relationship with food after struggling with post-pregnancy weight gain.
  • Geek Food: Pumpkin Pasties — While Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy and family might have food sensitivities, their geekery knows no limits. So, when faced with a desire to recreate Pumpkin Pasties from Harry Potter, they do not shy away!
  • Pumpkin Harvest Muffins — This summer Mama is Inspired and family grew pumpkins, and this autumn they are baking scrumptious, healthy muffins out of those pumpkins.
  • Reintroducing Meat to the Vegetarian Tummy — Ana at Panda & Ananaso shares some of the considerations she explored before transitioning from a vegetarian diet to reintroducing meat as a protein source and a few tips on making it an easy one.
  • Thanksgiving Meal, Thankful? — Jorje of Momma Jorje has never felt terribly thankful for Thanksgiving itself. Perhaps that could change if she’s a little more invested?
  • 5 Ways to Use Healing Bone Broth — It’s that time of year again, when unpleasant little bugs make their way into our homes. For Megan of The Boho Mama, guest posting at Natural Parents Network, homemade stock or bone broth is a natural remedy.

ThankFULL – Week 1

ThankFULL
Original Photo Credit: Andrea 44 on Flickr

I’m seeing so many people jump onto the “thankfulness bandwagon” this month, leading up to Thanksgiving.

I think it’s fantastic, because, literally, one of the things that gets me UP in the morning is giving thanks. It puts a different perspective on each day for me, saying “thank you” and “I’m grateful for the blessings that I have.”

There are so many times in life that we can feel empty. But, I can choose to feel FULL because I am full of thanks. I get up each morning and I can refill my “gas-tank” with thoughts about the things that are good in my life, and that’s really cool.

So, this week, I have been very thankful for:

Faithfulness

My husband is truly a faithful person. Not in the religious sense, but in the truly loyal, constant, and steadfast way that he provides for our little family and perseveres through struggles, irritations, or let-downs. He may not be perfect, but he is perfect for me. If I were married to a less faithful man, I would definitely be unhappy, but Hubs keeps loving me and our little Silly Bears with so much gusto even if he’s a major crab-apple because he had a bad day at work or dealt with an annoying person, or if there’s some sort of struggle we’re going through. He’s loyal, he’s steadfast, and his love is constant. I’m very thankful for that.

Honesty

This morning, as I was lying in bed pretending to still be asleep and listening to the children chatter away in the living room, I overheard my 2 year old and 5 year old having the following conversation.

Joseph (in his 2 year old voice): Abbey, will you plug this in for me please? I made a mess.

Abbey: No, Joseph, mommy has to plug the vacuum in. Go ask her. But don’t worry. She won’t be mad. Just tell her truth and she won’t be mad. She’ll help you.

Joseph: Oh. Okay.

Abbey (in her little mommy voice): Joe, telling the truth is the right thing to do.  If you say you didn’t do it, she might get mad. But don’t lie – just tell her the truth, and she’ll help you. Go get mommy, Joe, and tell her what happened. 

Joe had spilled cereal all over the kitchen, and just as Abbey said, when he came to tell me, carrying the mini vacuum and asking me to plug it in, I wasn’t mad. I was actually near tears because I was so proud of them in that moment. I value honesty highly, and Abbey has definitely picked up on it, and is now teaching her brother. Trust is a sacred thing, and I’m really grateful for honesty and the sense of trust that can be garnered between people that love and respect one another.

Pomegranates

Do we need an explanation for this one? Pomegranates are the bomb, and I love them.

My Intelligence

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Okay, this one seems a little trite, right? Man, that Amy is such a pompous person, writing that she is thankful to be intelligent. LOL. But it’s true. I’m really really grateful that I have the academic ability and cognitive skills to learn new things, to seek out challenges, and further my education toward a distinct goal of helping others with lactation and public health. If I didn’t have the academic ability or the cognitive skills, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy learning as much as I do. So, I’m grateful for my intelligence. God created me with a mind to learn and expand, and be creative, and that’s really awesome. Thank You, Lord!

My Parents

I was on the phone today with representative after representative trying to get something accomplished – for at least an hour. And I have been doing this for about three months now over one certain issue that needs to get resolved. Oh, you know the feeling. The dreaded beaurocracy. But thankfully, I have the skills to deal with his kind of challenge. My mom and dad taught me. They also taught me that tact is important in other social situations, not just when dealing with clerks and supervisors, etc. They taught me that learning is awesome, goals are important, and passion is vital. And they taught me that I’m great for who I am. They taught me all sorts of things, from how to tie my shoes to how to deal with being on the phone for hours trying to get somebody to do something. And for all of their imparted knowledge, I’m really grateful.

Educational Organizations

This month, I have been extremely grateful for iLactation.com, at which I registered for (for less than $200) and am participating in an online lactation education conference.  The conference is certified to help me earn CE credits for my Lactation Specific Education component that I need to be eligible for the IBCLC Exam that I plan on taking in 2015, and it’s been really fun to learn more about the most recent information out there on birth, breastfeeding, and lactation-specific public health issues.  I’m also grateful for the ability to take college courses online through AMU.  I can’t imagine trying to finish my bachelor’s degree while traveling so much as a military spouse and going through semesters while Hubs is on deployments if I didn’t have the option to attend online. I’m really grateful for the educational opportunities that I have right now, and the organizations that make them possible!

Deep Breaths

Mothering a 2 and 5 year old is a hoot most days, but also incredibly stress-building.  Deep breaths are my lifeline.  They save me from most (not all) moments when I just want to SCREAM and even moments in which I feel like I might break down in tears.  They teach my children to stop and think and respond calmly to situations (when I remember to use them), and they don’t cost a thing!  Just taking a second to breathe deeply IN and OUT. . . super grateful for that.

Amazingly Kind People at Church

Those of you who read my posts a few months ago about going to mass with my children in New England know that I had a pretty hard time of it. So many people (including the priest) suggested I use the cry room, which I am against using because it enables children to behave in a way that is not appropriate at church.  When we go to mass, it’s a quiet time, to think and pray about what Jesus did for us and to worship joyfully about God’s love for us. It’s not playtime, and it’s not put the families in a plexiglass box time.  I need to teach my children to behave appropriately in church, and with practice, we are making good strides in that direction!  Here in Kodiak, we have been attending mass on base and everyone is so supportive and loving and accepting of families in the chapel where we hold mass.  My fellow mass-goers are happy to see us, and give support, not suggestions, advice, or criticisms when I have both kids with me with no back-up (eghem, daddy, who doesn’t go to church *sigh*). I’m just really thankful for the kindness that my brothers and sisters in Christ are pouring out toward myself and my family here. It’s really warm and encouraging.

So, that’s what I’ve been thankful for this week. What are you feeling in your life that’s filling you FULL of thanks?

Mamatography Week 44

We have finally started settling into a good, healthy rhythm here in our new home at Coast Guard Base Kodiak in Kodiak, AK. Just in time for winter to blow in!

Abbey Ballet 2013

Abbey has been enjoying preschool Monday through Thursday and dance class on Friday afternoons!

Joe Oct 2013

Joe has been busy doing lots of toddler stuff. . .

throwing birthday parties for Thomas the Train and taking pictures of his toes, to name a couple.

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We have also been busy with crafts. . .

I’m pretty sure I caught Joe red (rem, green) handed in this pic!

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Abbey LOVES the perler beads craft set Grandma sent her on her birthday!

Daddy and I have also been enjoying crafting with her.

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I have been getting crafty myself. . .

now that my college semester is over, I can focus again on my Silly Bear Handmade shop.

Pumpkin Carving 2013

Halloween found us carving pumpkins

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And trick or treating! Abbey was a Pumpkin Fairy

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Joe was Leo from the Little Einsteins.

Though lots of people guessed Harry Potter.

Mya October 2013

The week wouldn’t be complete without capturing some canine portraits. . .

POttery Painting Datesy

And I had to photograph the masterpieces that Hubs and I painted on our date-afternoon to the coffee house and painting’ place.

I cannot WAIT to see them after they are fired, all bright and glossy and beautiful! It was so fun to leave the kids with a sitter and go do something relaxing and creative with my love.

Joe's Apron and Chicken

I also made Joe his own apron for helping in the kitchen this week.

 I’m not sure how much he likes it. . .

. . . but he sure likes homemade chicken fingers and mac and cheese! Who doesn’t?!

That was our week – how was YOURS?!

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That was our August. How was YOURS?

mtbadge2This post is part of the Mamatography 2013 Project with Diary of a First Child and Momma Jorje.

We are taking (at least) a photo a day to keep a record of our year. Join us at any point during the year and start sharing your own daily photos!

Wordless Wednesday

Abbey has been picking me a bouquet of wildflowers from our upstairs neighbors’ garden plot every time we go outside – “before the flowers wilt and drop their seeds for winter!”

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Natural Parents Network 2nd Annual Holiday Gift Guide & Giveaway!

Natural Parents Network’s 2nd Annual Holiday Gift Guide & Giveaway! {12/6, 26 winners, US, ARV $2,587}

Second Annual NPN Holiday Gift Guide and Giveaway {12/6, 26 winners, US, ARV $2,587}

Welcome to the Second Annual Natural Parents Network Holiday Gift Guide!

If you need to complete your holiday shopping, find a birthday present for a friend, or just treat yourself to something special, the NPN Holiday Gift Guide has something for everyone. But what’s even better, the NPN Holiday Gift Guide is a great opportunity to shop consciously and to support many naturally minded small businesses.

The companies that have provided items for review and giveaway are almost exclusively made up of work-at-home shops or companies that are dedicated to supporting eco-conscious choices. Below you will find information on 54 companies from 22 of our NPN volunteers. The companies are giving away over 58 products, subscriptions, and gift certificates, for a total combined value of over $2,500! As you scroll through the Gift Guide, we encourage you to click on the links for each of the reviews — look for the links to our volunteers’ blogs in each heading and read their full review! Our volunteers have crafted thoughtful posts on each participating company with pictures of and links to products that are simply perfect for our natural parenting families.  You can enter to win every giveaway by using the Rafflecopter system below or via the reviewers’ site.

Even if you don’t win one of our fabulous prize packages, please consider spending part of your gift-giving budget at one of these small businesses. By supporting small businesses, you are helping families, boosting local economies, and supporting ethical practices of manufacturing, production, and selling. We know that budgets are tighter and finances may be difficult, but by purchasing from small, family-owned businesses, you know you will be receiving quality items made with appropriate business practices and personal customer service, all while supporting another family’s endeavors.

Many of the companies have included coupon codes — take advantage of them! You can find the coupon codes in the heading of each company listing. (Please note that coupons are not good on shipping fees unless otherwise stated.)

We’ve broken the Gift Guide down into two sections (click the links below to jump to either section):

Perfect For Kids

and

Perfect For Families

And after you’re done checking out the incredible companies, jump down and enter in one or more of the six Rafflecopter widgets below!

 

 

Perfect For Kids

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5 Minute Recess

5 Minute Recess is a babywearer’s dream shop! Julia from A Little Bit of All of It shares with us the gorgeous handwoven wraps, ring slings, wrap bags and even wrap scrap creations she found on their site. If you love unique colorways, beautiful fringe and a super supportive but thin weave, the Inda Jani handwoven wraps from 5 Minute Recess will be perfect for you! They also carry a thicker weave as well with a little more cushiness. The best part is how affordable they are! If you have a babywearer in your life, any of the Inda Jani wraps, ring slings or wrap creations would be a lovely and special gift.

Use coupon code bwing10 at checkout for 10% off!

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Alphabet Glue

From Lauren of Hobo Mama, check out Alphabet Glue, which is a delightful e-magazine filled with activities and inspiration for families who love books. Each seasonally thematic PDF issue is full of charming photographs, exciting science experiments, literary-themed crafts, story-building activities, and related booklists to further the love of reading. The set of 5 e-issues included in this giveaway include projects such as pinhole viewboxes, shoebox string instruments, animated cartoon cards, incredible inflatable eggs, monster toothpaste, story starting pods, homemade bouncy balls, DIY natural history museums, Morse code messages, and many more! This e-magazine would be a perfect gift for a family interested in homeschooling or extending natural learning into their everyday lives.

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Appleseed Lane

Lauren of Hobo Mama shares how Appleseed Lane will spark a lifelong love of learning with monthly boxes full of science experiments and lesson-based crafts. Geared toward ages 4-10, these boxes are perfect for homeschoolers and natural learners. Boxes can be purchased a la carte or at a discount with a 6-month or 1-year subscription, and there’s an optional sibling add-on for extra supplies so no one has to squabble over the fun! Each box has a theme (such as Halloween, Mystery, and Electricity) and an educational children’s book full of fun facts and colorful illustrations, and all the supplies for the experiments and crafts are included, with easy-to-follow illustrated instructions. Have fun learning and playing with an Appleseed Lane box surprise every month!

Use coupon 5off for $5 off for “Join” or “Gift” Subscriptions!

In addition, orders between now & December 6th will be part of the ”Get 1, Give 1″ campaign to support children in need! Purchase a subscription or gift certificate & Appleseed Lane will donate a box to the Arlington-Alexandria Coalition for the Homeless for the holidays on your behalf! Homeless children represent 60% of AACH’s clients. Read the full review.

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Artterro

From our reviewer, Jorje of Momma Jorje, a Collage Jewelry craft kit from Artterro. Jorje’s teen daughter, Tyler, helped her review this product for content variety, fun and sturdiness. The kit includes a great variety of materials for designing 6 unique jewelry pieces, which is a fun family activity for older kids, and no two kits are exactly alike. Jorje and Tyler also thought having the box turn into a frame for finished artwork was ingenious! Artterro offers a huge range of kits for younger kids all the way up to teens.

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Baby K'Tan

Baby K’tan

The Baby K’tan Baby Carrier is a unique baby carrier that offers the comfort and support of a stretchy wrap without the wrapping. It is safe for use with newborns and safely supports babies up to 35 pounds in multiple carrying positions with ergonomic positioning for baby and comfortable support with even weight distribution for the wearer. Made from 100% cotton knit fabric, there are no buckles or straps and no confusing wrapping techniques to master. With its ease of use and variety of gender-neutral colors, Baby K’tan is a great carrier for moms and dads alike. The K’tanCloth 3-in-1 can be used as a burp rag, a nursing cover, or a blankie. It features easy on-and-off Velcro to attach it to baby carriers, nursing tanks, stroller handles, and an open-pocket design to catch messes. This breathable cloth is made from absorbent microfiber on one side and soft cotton on the other. Check out Joella of Fine & Fair and read her full review.

And just for NPN readers, use coupon code BKNPN15 for 15% off your order between now & December 31.

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Back To Blocks

Back To Blocks

Back To Blocks is an awesome US based company that makes handcrafted, all natural building blocks for children of all ages, and each set comes with its own storage bucket for easy clean up after play. Whether you are looking for a small starter set perfect for a preschooler, or a large building block set for your child’s classroom, Back To Blocks has natural hardwood blocks that are smooth and sliver-free, and will last for generations. Check out Megan of Boho Mama and her full review!

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BarefootBooks

Barefoot Books

Barefoot Books was born over twenty years ago by two young mothers who wanted to make a difference in the world while keeping their children at the center of their lives. Barefoot Books opens a child’s mind with their one of a kind stories and breathtaking artwork. Barefoot Books offers books for babies all the way up to advanced readers, they also offer singalongs, puzzles, games, and puppets. Angela of Earth Mama’s World tried out Barefoot Books with her family and found that the products offered at Barefoot Books not only spark a child’s curiosity and creativity, they also help a child develop a respect for cultural, social, and ecological diversity. Barefoot Books is also an environmentally conscious business that believes that the welfare of our children is dependent on the welfare or our planet. They recognize social accountability and implement many practices that help to reduce their carbon footprint.

Now through November 16, NPN readers can use coupon code NATURALPARENTS at Barefoot Books for 25% off their entire order!

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CalicoCritters

Calico Critters

Come meet the Calico Critters! These are an adorable, fuzzy, lovable series of miniature animals and their world full of adventures. Marybeth of Natural Mom Reviews tried out Calico Critters with her daughter & loved the Koala family: mother Sheila owns her own eco-friendly shop; the papa, Bruce, is the leader of the Cloverleaf Corners Environmental Awareness Society; sister Adelaide wants to start her own eco-fashion company when she grows up; and baby brother Joey is very attached to his mother and loves playing outside and being worn on his mom & dad’s backs. They live in an adorable adventure-filled treehouse!

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Carry Me Baby Carrier Rental

Carry Me Baby Carrier

Carry Me Baby Carrier rental service offers parents the opportunity to try out baby carriers before investing in them. High-quality baby carriers truly are an investment, and this service allows for the chance to try a variety of styles out to help parents determine which carrier best suits their needs for much less than purchasing a full line of carriers new to try! Options include buckle carriers, Mei Tais, ring slings, and woven wraps and come in sizes that will accommodate babies and wearers of all sizes. New wearers have the option of receiving a free e-mail consultation to help choose the best carrier to try, and clean and sanitized carriers are shipped within 48 hours of completing the rental agreement. The renter uses the carrier as if it were their own for the duration of the rental period, then returns it  when done. A gift certificate from Carry Me Baby Carriers makes the perfect gift for new parents or parents new to baby wearing. Check out Joella’s review over at Fine And Fair.

And just for our readers, enter code NPNdiscount for 15% off any rental or purchase between now and December 25. Discount can be used for any carrier rentals or gift card purchases.

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ErgoCarrier

Ergobaby: The Ergobaby Organic Baby Carrier

From our reviewer Abbie at Farmer’s Daughter, the Ergobaby Organic Baby Carrier is a soft structured carrier. It’s versatile enough to use from infancy on up to four years old, with three comfortable carries. I’ve carried both of my big boys in front carries so they could snuggle to sleep while out and about, or on my back for big adventures, or to soothe an overtired child so I can get some housework done in the evenings. Made of 100% Oeko-Tex certified organic cotton, it also comes with a hood that’s UPF 50+. Enter to win an Ergobaby Organic Baby Carrier for a very comfortable babywearing experience for baby and parent!

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Ergobaby Swaddler

Ergobaby: The Ergobaby Swaddler

From our reviewer Shannon of Pineapples and Artichokes, a review of the ErgoBaby Swaddler: The ErgoBaby Swaddler is an easy to use and safe way to help your baby sleep more peacefully. Recommended by moms and medical experts alike, the Ergobaby Swaddler’s innovative features help prevent your baby from startling awake while the ergonomic design allows for natural movement of baby’s hips and legs as recommended by the International Hip Dysplasia Institute.

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Freshly Picked

Freshly Picked

That Mama Gretchen and her little one can’t get enough of Freshly Picked’s beautiful handmade leather moccasins. With a great fit and adorable colors, Freshly Picked moccs are the perfect gift for babies, early walkers and more (available in sizes 1-10). These Moccasins are soft-soled shoes that will make sure your baby stands out in a crowd! But with so many lovely colors, how will you choose just one?!

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GDiapers

GDiapers are an ecofriendly hybrid diapering system that offers the flexibility of using cloth or disposable, biodegradable inserts in their reusable gPants covers. Abbie from Farmer’s Daughter has used gDiapers with both of her sons for over three years, and she loves that she is able to use either cloth or disposables, without all the plastic and chemicals found in a conventional diaper! Disposable inserts can be flushed, composted (wet only), or thrown away. Matching clothes and baby legs complete the adorable look! Enter to win a gVeggie ensemble including gPants, a tee and gLegs, a set of 6 gPants reusable covers, a case of disposable inserts and gWipes!

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Highlights for Children

Highlights for Children has the perfect magazines for any child: Hello for ages 0-2, High Five for ages 2-6, and Highlights for ages 6-12, plus puzzlegeography, hidden pictures, and math magazines as well as educational books and toys. Highlights has been publishing “fun with a purpose” since 1946, and today’s editions include engaging illustrations and enjoyable extras like stickers and cut-outs to engage any kid’s interest. A subscription to one of Highlights’ many magazines would make a perfect gift for a child of any age and a family interested in home learning. Check out Lauren & read her full review on Hobo Mama!

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Jupiter's Child

Jupiter’s Child

Jupiter’s Child is a small company of three multi-talented women. They bring a collective background of experience in woodworking, handwork, and graphic design. The talents of these three women come together beautifully in their etsy shop which is full of extremely high quality toys, children’s clothing, and Waldorf craft supplies. Kellie got the privilege of reviewing their organic cotton “Peace Chicken” toddler tee and carved wooden hedgehog. Read the full review over on Our Mindful Life!

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Organic Gugguli Doll

Käthe Kruse

Käthe Kruse has over 100 years experience making quality handcrafted dolls. These charming dolls are all made from hand, not mass produced, and have a unique design that encourages creativity and promotes cooperative play. These dolls are made to last generations, not years! All of the Käthe Kruse products are made with handcrafted detail and environmental consciousness. Angela of Earth Mama’s World tried out the Mini Me Waldorf Doll with her lovely family and shares the joys of their beautifully crafted toys in her review. Read the full review!

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Little Pim

Little Pim offers an Entertainment Immersion Method to make learning a foreign language fun for kids 0-6. Little Pim the panda guides kids through immersion DVDs in one of 11 languages, giving children useful vocabulary and simple, grammatically correct sentences for everyday living, on topics such as Eating and Drinking; Playtime; In My Home; Happy, Sad, and Silly; and more. The Discovery Set that’s part of the giveaway contains 3 DVDs featuring over 180 basic words in the winner’s choice of language, a panda plush toy, and a Little Pim poster. Lauren from Hobo Mama tried out Little Pim with her family and shares her experiences in her review.

NPN readers can use code LPHOLIDAY
for 20% off any product on their website.

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Mama Made Them

From our reviewer Laura Burns of Pug In The Kitchen, Mama Made Them is a fantastic Etsy shop that is dedicated to handcrafted wooden toys that are both beautiful and durable. Mama Made Them offers a huge selection of wooden toys your children will love, from wooden swords, dollhouses, animals, and lovely keepsake ornaments. Laura’s children loved their new toys & are sure to play with them for years to come.

NPN readers can use coupon code GIVEAWAY for
10% off a whole order through December 31.

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MrsC'sGlutenFree

Mrs. C’s Gluten Free

Kellie of Our Mindful Life reviews Mrs. C’s Gluten Free gluten free playdough, Make & Play playdough, and watercolor paints set! Kellie’s family had fun with the Halloween Eye See You gluten free playdough in vibrant, fun, nibble safe colors, the Make & Play playdough, and watercolor paints from Mrs. C’s Gluten Free. Mrs. C’s Gluten Free stocks organic, gluten-free, chemical-free, and petroleum-free school supplies you will love!

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MyChickadeeMiniCarrier

My Chickadee

Janina from My Chickadee Designs, learned to sew when she discovered she was pregnant with her daughter. She now creates diaper bags, wet bags, totes, reusable snack bags, and a mini carrier for children. My Chickadee caters to families that live a natural and greener lifestyle. This lifestyle inspired the creation of the Mini Carrier. This wonderful children’s carrier allows a child to carry their doll or animal just like you carry your child. The mini carrier is wonderful for a child welcoming a new sibling and makes a perfect gift! My Chickadee products are easy to clean, machine washable and lead & phthalate free. All of the products offered by My Chickadee are designed by a mom and made in the USA. Read Angela’s full review at Earth Mama’s World.

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Nova 2

Nova Natural

At 9 feet long and 4.5 feet wide, Nova Natural’s beautiful rainbow silk is big enough to turn your play structure into a fairy castle or your floor into a rainbow river. And because it is hand-dyed in the United States, each silk is one of a kind. Bring magic and beauty into your home with your own Silk Rainbow from Nova Natural. Free shipping on orders over $100! Read more from Dionna of Code Name: Mama.

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Onya Baby

From our reviewer, Julia of A Little Bit Of All Of It, Onya Baby makes going anywhere with your baby a breeze. Comfortably wear your baby, toddler or preschooler on your front or back and securely and ergonomically carry them wherever your journeys take you. The best part is this unique baby carrier has an integrated chair harness that transforms pretty much any seat into a safe place for your baby to sit. Carry all you need with you in the two zippered double entry pockets and entertain baby by using the toy loops on each shoulder strap. With a weight limit of 75 pounds and an extra high back, this carrier goes well into preschool-hood comfortably. And with the new addition of the Onya Baby Booster, you can even wear your newborn in this carrier! If you have anyone on your holiday gift giving list that takes care of a young child, the Onya Baby Cruiser would be the perfect way to give them hands free mobility with their young one.

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Pomegranate Kids

Pomegranate Kids

Pomegranate Kids is sharing from their series of Charley Harper Nature Discovery Books with us! Drawing from Charley Harper’s Birdicopia comes a wonderful book and sticker set that not only introduces children to the artist’s interpretation of things in nature along a walk through What’s in the Woods, identifying plants and animals along the way. Jennifer from True Confessions of a Real Mommy shares how her bird-loving children reacted to the story and sticker book.

From now through November 16, use code naturalparent for
20% off your entire purchase at Pomegranate Kids!

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Rainbowsouffle

Rainbowsouffle

Rainbowsouffle is a colorful, whimsical Etsy shop created to fill the gap in the children’s’ toys & clothing market for gender neutral items that will bring hours of play and joy to your children. This shop is geared towards the more colorful families amongst us. Rainbowsouffle offers wearable children’s toy JetPacks, Handmade wishing Star& Moon mobile sets, Handmade Ribbon Dolls, and more. Each item is carefully designed and handcrafted with love & a great attention to detail to create a one of a kind product your child will cherish for years to come.  Read the full review from Lauren of Hobo Mama!

Use code naturalparents for free shipping in the US until December 31.

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Make 'n Break Junior

Ravensburger: Make ‘n Break Junior game

On your blocks, get set, go! In Ravensburger’s Make ‘n Break Junior game, kids ages 5-99 will have fun racing to build structures. Each player has a set of blocks. In each round of play, players try to build structures as shown on game cards. There are different cards for different skills levels. Ravensburger’s created Make ‘n Break Junior to develop children’s fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, shape recognition, and more. Read more from Dionna of Code Name: Mama.

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On the Farm game

Ravensburger: On the Farm game

Toddlers and preschoolers will love Ravenburger’s 3-dimensional game with a colorful farm scene and sturdy game pieces. You can adapt game play to your child’s skill level and interest. On the Farm was designed to help toddlers develop association and deduction, build vocabulary, and learn social rules such as turn-taking. Most importantly, playing games like On the Farm with your children will create opportunities for connection that will last a lifetime. Read more from Dionna at Code Name: Mama.

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SparkleStories

Sparkle Stories

From our reviewer Shannon of Pineapples & Artichokes, a review of Sparkle Stories! Sparkle Stories is a resource for original, high-quality online stories. Sparkle stories are designed to be fun for kids and adults, and encourage imagination and creative play. With a subscription to Sparkle Stories, you will get new seasonably appropriate story magic each week, to be enjoyed online or downloaded and taken with you wherever you go! This is the perfect gift to give to long distance friends and families you love — every time they log on to enjoy a new story they will certainly think of you.

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Sparro & B

The mom duo at Sparro & B understands kids. They have created a fabulous array of bright and exciting children’s costumes and accessories which encourage imaginative play. You won’t be disappointed when your child’s face transforms into smiles at the sight of these costumes. Using a mix of new and upcycled materials, these Australian moms make fun and funky hand-made items certain to delight. Read Mandy’s full review over on Living Peacefully With Children!

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Stubby Pencil Studio

Stubby Pencil Studio is a wonderful online shop for families of small children. It is Marybeth of Natural Mom Reviews’ go-to shop for any birthday (they have everything you need from inexpensive lovely gifts to eco-friendly party supplies), stocking stuffers, tooth fairy treasures, and more! Stubby Pencil Studio has a carefully curated selection of wonderful products to stimulate any child’s imagination, including games, books, puzzles, and of course, art supplies. One lucky reader will win $75 worth of awesome art supplies & toys from Stubby Pencil Studio for their family, including these awesome Crayon Rocks!

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Umi Ring Sling

Umi Sling

From Stefanie of Very Very Fine comes our review of the awesome Umi Ring Sling. This sling is an organic and handwoven cotton ring sling perfect for wearing your babies. Each ring sling is a collaboration between Project Baby Bilum and Umi Sling that is a catalyst for change, giving women the tools they need in impoverished parts of the world to improve the health of their babies by providing access to their mothers and to the life-giving breast milk that they need to survive. Each Ring Sling is a well-made, durable, single-layer ring sling sold at an affordable price and made with the highest quality fabrics. When customers purchase an Umi Sling, Boho Mama sews another one and they are all shipped to the women in Bamio and the surrounding areas.

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Totter Tower

UncommonGoods: The Totter Tower

If your child is tired of the same old wooden blocks, the Totter Tower will be sure to re-pique her interest. These uniquely angled cylinders are made of bamboo, and their flocked edges will make building incredible structures possible – the lining keeps the blocks from sliding around. Designed for children ages 3+ (but sturdy enough for my toddler!), your child will have endless hours of fun building everything from towers to arches and more. Read more from Dionna of Code Name: Mama.

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UncommonGoods: The OgoBild Hub

Do you have a budding inventor? The OgoBild Hub, only $20 from UncommonGoods.com, will spark your child’s imagination for hours on end. Manipulate the flexible and interchangeable pieces to create creatures, robots, vehicles, and other crazy contraptions. Read more from our reviewer Dionna of Code Name: Mama.

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Woolino Pajamas

Woolino

Woolino Pajamas are beautiful merino wool and silk blend pajamas for your little ones. These pajamas are smooth and lightweight to touch, breathable, warm in the winter, and cooling in the summer. Marybeth of Natural Mom Reviews lives in snowy Colorado and has tried out these beautiful pajamas with her 5 year old. Since it’s already snowed there a few times already this winter, and her little one won’t keep her blankets on (ever), snuggly pajamas are a wonderful gift. These pajamas are so soft they feel like cuddling with a lovey, and in addition to being great pajamas, they make a wonderful layer beneath her snow pants & coat for extra warmth.

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Yum Earth

YumEarth

YumEarth is an organic candy company, born out of the creators’ desire to “feed our families a diet rich in delicious healthful foods free of high fructose corn syrup and artificial dyes. YumEarth tastes better because we choose real fruit extracts and planet friendly ingredients grown on sustainable family farms to sweeten our lives and yours.” Enter to win a great prize pack of organic, natural and allergy-friendly lollipops, sour beans, sour worms and gummy bears in this review from Laura of Walden Mommy!

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Perfect For Families

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Door to Door Organics of Kansas City

Door to Door Organics of KC delivers local, organic produce (and more!) directly to your door step. Their customizable produce boxes make eating fresh, healthy foods easy and affordable. The on-line store allows you to shop for all your food needs in one spot and it is easy to find GMO, Kosher, organic, local, and/or grown in the USA products- all without the hassle of the grocery store! Enter to win a $50 credit towards anything in their shop! Read Laura’s full review over at Walden Mommy.

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For My Children

For My Children: A Mother’s Journal of Memories, Wishes and Wisdom

As a mother to four, I have many years of memories of my children. When we are so immersed in our day to day, we don’t often have time to sit down and recount the little and big events that make up our lives, but that our children and future generations will cherish deeply. For My Children: A Mother’s Journal of Memories, Wishes and Wisdom is a truly wonderful gift. It is the gift of a mother giving her thoughts and feelings and her total self to her children in a way that is far more intimate than many of us tend to express. Read more about the journal from Destany at They Are All of Me.

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Kidecals

Kidecals

Have something you love enough to put your name on it? Does your computer need brightening up? Maybe even a wall? Time to check out Kidecals! Their fashionable decals are just the thing. The name labels stick to anything, including clothing, and are waterproof and washing machine safe. The canning labels are dishwasher safe. And the wall decals are re-positionable. Jennifer at True Confessions of Real Mommy of shares the personalized canning labels she used to adorn her homemade goodies for easy gift giving!

Use code teamawesome at checkout for
10% off your entire order at Kidecals!

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Libre Tea

Libre Tea

Libre Tea is inspiring tea moments everywhere with their lovely tea glasses. Now you can enjoy hot loose leaf tea wherever you go. The Libre tea glasses are not only very practical, made with glass on the inside and durable poly on the outside, but also beautiful to look at. People always take notice of this unique tea glass as your brewed leaves float and create an elegant view in the glass. Choose from the original size, large size or handy mug. Give the tea drinker on your holiday shopping list a truly unique gift with the Libre Tea Glass. Read the full review over on A Little Bit Of All Of It!

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Lucy Locket Creations

From our reviewer Lyndsay of ourfeministplayschool, a review of Lucy Locket Creations‘ Yoga Bag: Lucy Locket Creations makes stunning textiles for your home and life. The yoga bag is a colorful testament to the great fabric items to be found in the Lucy Locket Creations Etsy shop. The attention to detail and sturdy nature makes this bag a yoga essential. But don’t think for a second that you are limited to yoga gear, Lucy Locket Creations is bursting with quilts, totes, throws and pillows you will love! Read Lyndsay’s full review.

Use code Holiday2013 for 10% off your order
from now until December 20.

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Mighty Nest

Mighty Nest is an awesome eco-conscious company where all products are free of lead, BPA, PVC, phthalates, parabens, formaldehyde, melamine, chemical flame retardants and more. They choose products made of stable non-leaching materials such as glass, food grade stainless steel, silicone, natural wood and bamboo, organic cotton and natural rubber. Our reviewer Kellie of Our Mindful Life reviews the Amalfie Mug and the Jardin silicone coasters that are perfect for your family!  

Use code NPN10 from Nov 24-Dec 7 for 10% off your entire order (excludes mattresses & air filter systems).

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Natural Herbal Living Magazine

Natural Herbal Living Magazine is a fantastic way to learn about herbs and all of their amazing properties. With the addition of the Herb Box, you can go in depth and have all of the ingredients to make several recipes from the magazine for the herb of the month. Focusing on one herb a month, the magazine will allow you to really hone in and focus for a month on just that herb and develop a relationship with it via the Herb Box. Build up your natural medicine cabinet with the herbs right for you and your family by learning what works and what doesn’t! Read Julia’s full review over on A Little Bit Of All Of It!

Use code NPN2013 for 10% off your first order!

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No Junque

No Junque Skincare

No Junque Skincare has created a nourishing, long lasting body lotion that is truly a luxurious, all natural treat for the skin. It is gluten free, GAPS friendly, not tested on animals, and only created with ingredients found in nature. The lotions are not greasy, fast absorbing, and smell delicious! No Junque Skincare has easily become one of my favorite whole body lotions. You can read Jennifer of Hybrid Rasta Mama’s full review!

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paisley place

Paisley Place

Paisley Place is a growing Facebook business that creates adorable, custom clothing items for your every need. Visit Paisley Place for personalized bags, outfits for the whole family,snap mats and more. Enter to win a soft chevron infinity scarf, personalized with your initials. Our reviewer Laura enjoyed trying out her lovely orange chevron monogrammed scarf in the recently chilly fall weather! Read the full review at Walden Mommy.

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Paperless Kitchen

Paperless Kitchen

Paperless Kitchen was founded as a way to help those families looking for ways to go green and lower their environmental impact, while providing a healthier lifestyle. Small changes can help save the world. You can make a small change yourself by switching out your paper towels for reusable clothes. One eco-friendly skoy cloth is the equivalent of 15 rolls of traditional paper towels! If you are looking to make other environmental changes or are just looking for some fun gifts that won’t hurt the planet (or your family), check out Paperless Kitchen, a company that cares – about the environment and their customers. Read Mandy’s review over on Living Peacefully With Children!

Use coupon NPN10 for 10% off your order at Paperless Kitchen!

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Pixie Glassworks

Pixie Glassworks

You will find only true artisanship at Pixie Glassworks. These hand-blown glass pendants are not only beautiful to look at, but they hide a secret. They hold all natural essential oils inside, slowly diffusing the oil as you wear it around your neck. Choose an essential oil which works for you and bask in the scent of these gorgeous aromatherapy pendants.

NPN readers can use code Pixie$5off for $5.00 off their order through December 13. Offer only valid outside the US.

Read more about the fantastic essential oil pendants from Pixie Glassworks from Mandy of Living Peacefully with Children.

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Prana

prAna

prAna started back in 1992 with clothing that worked well for climbing and yoga. If you are an outdoor enthusiast, prAna has a full line of activewear and outdoor wear that you’ll love. But their clothing doesn’t stop there! From casual wear to dresses and skirts, you’re bound to find something that fits your lifestyle. It’s easy to find Fair Trade Certified clothing, too, which is great. Their line of sweater dresses is perfect for the cooler months and perfect for gift giving! Worn on their own or paired with boots and leggings, it’s a great way to stay warm in style. prAna’s clothing would be perfect for anyone on your gift giving list. Read Julia’s full review over on A Little Bit of All of It.

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Radiantly You

Radiantly You

Our reviewer Laura of Pug in The Kitchen reviews Radiantly You’s Dead Sea Mud Whipped Face Wash, Vanilla Mint Lip Balm and luxurious Vanilla and Lavender Bud Sugar Scrub. Radiantly You uses only raw and unrefined products, which means they have  never been bleached, added to or stripped of their natural vitamins and nutrients.  Their organic ingredients are sourced from reputable, certified organic vendors and  they take great care in making sure our ingredients are both ethically traded and  sustainably harvested. If you’re one of the many individuals suffering from eczema or a gluten allergy, these products are free from any additives and beneficial for your skin.

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Redmond seasoning

Redmond Trading

You diligently decide on meal. Make the effort to get to the store, get it home, prep and cook. So, why use any old table salt in it? Time to give Redmond Trading’s Organic Seasoning set a chance to bring out the natural deliciousness in your food, and find out how they add a new dimension to your food. Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy put them to the test, find out what her family thought.

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Redmond Clay

Redmond Clay Bath Salts & Facial Mud set are an awesome addition to your beauty routine. Redmond Clay is a completely natural bentonite clay, extracted from the earth and brought to you in its pure, natural state.  Not only are these products made with the highest quality ingredients available, they are also healing for your skin. Read about Amy’s experience on Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work.

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Riverview Naturals

Riverview Naturals

From Lyndsay of ourfeministplayschool comes a review of Riverview Naturals skin care products: All items made by Riverview Naturals have a shelf life because they contain absolutely 100% all-natural ingredients. With enchanting hints of vanilla and lavender, these products are nourishing to the skin and the soul. Made by a mother with a passion for ecology, and a sense for what our bodies really need, these products are a welcomed addition to any skincare regime.

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SmartMomJewelry

Smart Mom Jewelry

From Stefanie of Very, Very Fine, Smart Mom Jewelry is a unique company that offers stylish, fun, and pretty jewelry for mom that is perfect for teething babes. Not only will you love this jewelry, your teething or nursing little one will too! Their whole line is safe for teething and makes a great nursing necklace if you have a “twiddler.” These would be wonderful keepsake pieces to hold on to after your little ones grow up, as well.

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Strawesome

Strawesome

Strawesome is a family owned company dedicated to helping customers go green. All of their reusable glass straws are handmade right in their Michigan shop and include a lifetime guarantee! From plain to colorful to funky and in a range of sizes, Strawesome has glass straws to meet your needs. Switch to environmentally friendly and toxin free glass straws and stop throwing your money into the landfill. Read more about Strawesome from Mandy on Living Peacefully With Children.

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Terramor Jewelry

Terramor Jewelry is a lovely company that creates one of a kind jewelry pieces that are both ethical and gorgeous. This jewelry is handmade in Ireland with a mixture of twisted silver work and beautiful beads such as garnet, pearls, and carnelian. Each piece is a one of a kind piece of art and you will love them so much you’ll want to wear it all the time! Shannon of The Artful Mama shares her experience with us.

Just for NPN readers, use code NPN10 for 10% off Etsy purchases!

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KnitMitts

Texture Clothing

Texture Clothing is clothing with a conscience! Made in the US from under- represented fabrics, like hemp and soy, these high quality clothing items are made with curvy women in mind. Functional, flattering and fabulous, their clothes are worth the spurge. Enter to win a pair of Knit Mitts to keep your hands toasty warm and fashionable this winter! Read the full review from Laura over on Walden Mommy.

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Vintage Tradition Body Balm

Vintage Tradition Body Balm is deeply nourishing, whole body care for face, lips, hands, feet, and everything in between. It can be used for all manner of skin conditions including dry, chapped, calloused, cracked, and sun-damaged skin, rashes, burning, itching, wrinkles, and more! This whole food for skin is how people cared for their skin before chemicals. The body balms are light, penetrate quickly, and have a very light scent from the essential oils! The tiniest amount goes a long way, making these very economical as well. You can read the full review from Jennifer of Hybrid Rasta Mama!

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Makeup Front

Willow Tree Minerals

Laura at Pug In The Kitchen brings us her review of the lovely skincare products found at Willow Tree Minerals. These products are beautiful, all natural makeup from a company that is family owned. The integrity of our Willow Tree Minerals’ ingredients far surpasses any other organic or natural line on the market- not only are they extremely luxurious but affordable as well. These products never contain preservatives, chemicals, dyes, synthetic fragrances, parabens, or other toxins. This is makeup you can feel as good about inside for using as you will wearing it.

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Enter to win in one of our six Rafflecopter widgets!

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For entries that require a blog comment, please include your email address with the comment so we can match up entries. If on Blogger, you can write it like this to foil spambots: mail {at} naturalparentsnetwork {dot} com

For actions like following and subscribing, if you already follow or subscribe, just tell us with your entry.

Tweets must be a minimum of 24 hours apart — you can return to update your Rafflecopter entry without losing any of your previous entries. Your Tweets must be unprotected (publicly viewable).

You don’t have to do any of the bonus entries, but you do have to complete the first mandatory one.

Rafflecopter will pick the winner through Random.org after the contest closes, and a representative from NPN will send an email notification. Leave a valid email address as you enter so we can contact you if you win. If we can’t reach a winner, we’ll draw a new name at random.

The winner will have 48 hours to respond by email; otherwise, NPN will select another winner.

No purchase necessary. Entrants must be age 18 or older and be residents of the United States. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Winners agree to hold Natural Parents Network and the giveaway hosts harmless for any problem with receipt and/or use of prizes. Winner must contact the product seller or manufacturer directly if there is any problem with the prize or prize delivery. Winners are responsible for any taxes or customs fees related to prize winnings. NPN and the giveaway hosts reserve the right to publicize the winner’s first name. Void where prohibited by law.

 

Contest closes December 6
at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time.

 

Disclosure: Reviewers received sample products for review purposes,
and consideration was given to NPN for hosting the giveaway.
Amazon and other links may be affiliate links.
We try to seek out only products we think you would find relevant and useful
to your life as a natural parent. If we don’t like a product, we won’t be
recommending it to you. See our full disclosure policy here.

 

NPN Holiday Gift Guide! Review&Giveaway of Redmond Clay Bath Salt and Facial Mud {ARV $16}

Second Annual NPN Holiday Gift Guide & Giveaway (12/6, 24 winners, US only ARV $2587.26)
This review is part of the Second Annual Natural Parents Network Holiday Gift Guide!
If you need to complete your holiday shopping, find a birthday present for a friend, or just treat yourself to something special, the NPN Holiday Gift Guide has something for everyone. But what’s even better, the NPN Holiday Gift Guide is a great opportunity to shop consciously and to support many naturally minded small businesses.

The 55 companies that have provided items for review and giveaway are almost exclusively made up of work-at-home shops or companies that are dedicated to supporting eco-conscious choices. I’m featuring one of those companies in my review below. When you get done reading my review, please click on over to the full Second Annual Natural Parents Network Holiday Gift Guide, where you’ll find information on 58 products. In total, we’re giving away goodies worth more than $2500!

Even if you don’t win one of our fabulous prize packages, please consider spending part of your gift-giving budget at one of these small businesses. By supporting small businesses, you are helping families, boosting local economies, and supporting ethical practices of manufacturing, production and selling. Take advantage of coupon codes provided by many of the companies, you can find them at the full Gift Guide at NPN. To make browsing easier, we’ve split the Gift Guide into sections with products that are Perfect for Kids and Perfect for Families. And you can find all 6 Rafflecopter widgets there, too.
Without further ado, here is my review – thank you for reading and entering!

 This is a Joint Review and Giveaway of the Real Bath Salts and Facial Mud from Redmond Clay between Natural Parents Network and Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work.

About Redmond Clay Real Bath Salts and Facial Mud

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Redmond Clay prides itself on using real natural elements from the earth to create its healing products.  The Redmond Trading Company has natural remedies and enjoyable products from bath salts to edible clay to toothpastes! Having had a mud facial before, I was excited to try out Redmond Clay’s facial mud at home.  All in all, I really enjoyed the experience! Especially for the price, the products I tested definitely made me feel like I was having a mini spa experience!  I tried out both Redmond Clay’s Real Bath Salts and Redmond Clay’s Facial Mud, and loved both of them.  Put together, and add in a little essential oils and candles, you can really give yourself a mini spa day in the comfort of your own home!

My Experience

facialmud-400x400The quality of Redmond Clay’s products is fantastic.  The bath salt and mud facial products that I have bought at the drugstore before haven’t been the best. Facial pastes that you can buy at the drug store are usually sticky, not very effective, and they aren’t always actually made of all natural ingredients.  But Redmond Clay’s bath salts and facial mud are 100% natural, and have a high quality feel to them. The Facial Mud went on smoothly, and came off with no residue.  My face felt very clean and refreshed.  The bath salts are high quality as well. Adding in some essential oil (I used rosemary, but lavender would have been nice, too), I felt as if I was lounging in clean, warm, ocean water.  It was lovely!  Both of the products are useful for relaxation as well as self-care.  We mamas need to remember to take time out to relax and rejuvenate our spirits, and Redmond Clay’s products definitely helped me do that, without worrying that I was submerging myself or my face in something that might make me break out or cause a skin reaction because it was all 100% natural.

Redmond Clay’s bath salts and facial mud would be a great gift for anyone from family members, to friends, and even for teacher gifts for your little ones to bring to school or extra curricular activities.  And the price is not very steep, compared to relatively similar non-natural products.  So you can afford to order a few of each for gifts.  Redmond Clay’s online ordering website, Redmond Trading Company, even offers free shipping for orders over $40 (excluding bulk items)!

Other Natural Products from Redmond

If bath salts and facial mud is not quite your thing, Redmond also makes natural electrolyte replacement capsules called Re-Lyte Capsules that look like an interesting and healthful substitute for sugary electrolyte drinks. And I already mentioned they make toothpaste from the Redmond Clay, too! The natural ingredients plus the flavors that they advertise make me want to try it for sure! They have positive user ratings and reviews on all of their products, and I can tell that their items are a great fit for someone looking to live a healthful, natural lifestyle.

Buy it!

You can purchase your own Redmond Clay Bath Salts and Facial Mud at Redmond Trading Company starting at $7.99 and $9.99, respectively. But remember, natural spa products are not the only products Redmond has for a natural lifestyle: Re-Lyte capsules are $11.99 for a 60 ct. bottle and they also have multiple gift packages to choose from.

WIN IT!

For your own chance to win bath salts and a facial mask from Redmond Clay, or one of the 26 huge prize packages we’re giving away, come back to this post on November 6th when our Rafflecopter widgets will go live for your chance to enter! The Redmond Clay products I reviewed will be in a prize package with some great knitted mitts reviewed by a fellow NPN volunteer! You can also visit Natural Parents Network on November 6th to see and enter to win all of our fantastic prize packages at once!

Disclosure: Our reviewer received a sample product for review purposes.
Amazon links are affiliate links.
We try to seek out only products we think you would find relevant and useful to your life as a natural parent.
If we don’t like a product, we won’t be recommending it to you.
See our full disclosure policy here.

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Mamatography October 2013

I cannot believe that October is coming to an end. What happened to Fall? It sped right by me!

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I think my little man has an idea where it went. . .

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Nope, mama. It’s not up there. . .

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It’s not in the water, but we’re getting close. . .

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Oh THERE’s the culprit that made fall fly by so fast! Our new home!

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Kodiak, Alaska!

I mean, really.  I feel like yesterday we were on the ferry and now we’re finally settled into our new home and making the adjustments needed to get acclimated to living 1) in Alaska and 2) on a semi-isolated island (and by semi-isolated, I mean it’s relatively easy to hop a plane to Anchorage if you have the time and money to do so).

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Meanwhile, while we haven’t had the opportunity to jet set off to the Mainland yet. . . We’ve been hiking and exploring with new friends,

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Growing bigger and bigger each day. . .

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And loving each other wholeheartedly

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Oh and we can’t forget to mention the wild blueberries we picked this fall. YUMMY!

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It looks like Kodiak is a pretty cool place.

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We’re just going to keep rolling with the punches and continue growing with each new opportunity.

That was our month. How has yours been?!